Good write-ups on both the "First Look" and "First Cook" threads. This cooker appears to be a convenient size, well made, affordable (more on this comment later), and has a very BDS/UDS like design which is user friendly. For what it's worth I've been cooking on BDS's for 6 years, love the "drum flavor", portability, ease of operation...I just like drums. And for the folks that want a custom model they are easy to build. (more on this later)
I like the coal basket design, but would not even consider using lighter fluid. The use of pony shoes and rebar is clever and it keeps the cost down. I'm curious what the dimensions are, I thought 30 gallon drums were something like 20 X 30?? At one time I thought this would be too small for me, but after I did the Smokey Joe Tall Boy mod, a smaller cooker has some advantages. After seeing your photos of hanging meats, I want to give that a try since I have a hanger mod for my drum. I thought the video on the website showing the turkey hanging horizontal was clever.
They are built in Colorado.... Colorado is close-by, (I'm in Wyoming) so this is a bonus. Of all the folks that have seen my drums in action (in the thousands) at least 100 have said "heck I could build one of those.... none have to my knowledge. So the Pit Barrel price is a good value for a cooker you could unpack in the afternoon and have dinner off of that night. I especially like the shipping price of $30. This might be something to look at for a Christmas present for one of my buddies that is retired, loves smoked foods but does not want a huge smoker.
However, in the FAQ on the website they say the PB is not a smoker. I'm a little confused at this statement. They also shy away from using wood chips, which doesn't make sense to me either. Is this because this cooker is designed to be more for grilling raised direct? Or is it a drafting issue?
Like you I cook in the 275* +/- range, but I always start off near 200* for smoke flavor and ring formation. Please let us know how the intake performs.
As far as owners manuals, cooking instructions, and recipes... I take all of them with a grain of salt and make my own adjustments. My BDS instructions were good and 1 page long. The older book that came with Big Green Eggs years ago was so bad at one point everyone said "read the page on how to light your Egg, remove the registration/warranty card, then throw the manual away.
KCBS - CBJ
Big Green Eggs, Big Drum Smokers, Big Chiefs, Weber Smokey Joe "Custom Tall Boy"
Oil Patch Horizontal
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Barbecue is not rocket surgery