PDA

View Full Version : Pit Barrel Cooker PBC 3 Week Review


Stlsportster
09-05-2016, 05:07 PM
I have had the Pit Barrel Cooker for about 3 weeks now. In that time I have done about 8-10 cooks and have learned a ton. This review attempts to provide a fairly comprehensive summary of my opinion at this time for anyone that cares.

Prior Pellet Experience

I cooked on a Traeger Jr pellet grill for about 18 months prior to getting the PBC. I struggled to get a deep smoke flavor and had several electrical issues that culminated in me tossing the Traeger off my deck and throwing away. Mind you everything I cooked on that pellet fired convection oven came out tender and moist and flavorful….just not like wood smoke…or barely. I swore I would never be reliant on electricity again and also would jump into charcoal and wood to get the flavor profile.

Cooks

So far I have done 5 racks of baby back ribs, a 13lb prime packer brisket, 3.5lbs of smoked salmon, 4 chicken halves, 20 chicken wings, a naked and a stuffed fatty, burgers and Italian sausages, dozens of ABTs and even tofu burnt ends.

Taste

For the most part, outstanding. Most cooks I have added a few hickory chunks to the Kingsford original briquettes. The fatties, brisket, ribs and salmon have been outstanding. The first time I did the chicken halves they were the best I ever made. The second was tough, dry and not as flavorful. The chicken wings were done on skewers in order to fit them all. A bunch slid off the skewers into the fire and the skin on the rest turned out rubbery and hard to bite through although the flavor was good.

This cooker imparts a good deal of smoke flavor and with very little wood.

Temp Control and Fuel Consumption

To be honest it has been more of a struggle to maintain the temps I want than indicated by the manufacturer and on various forums. I have had trouble with temps too low and others too high as I have tried to adjust the intake, the lighting procedure, the amount of charcoal. By design there are very few levers to play with. When you start off too hot or too cool it is hard to adjust mid stream. Finally for my last cook or two I managed to get it to settle at the 275-280 range for the entire cook.

I have only used the Kingsford Blue Briquettes so far, but have some Stubbs in the garage for the next cook. A full pan of charcoal will easily last 8 hours or more…I have had to put magnets over the intake and rebar holes to snuff out the fire when done. One of the problems I see with this cooker is the lack of adjustable vents. I know the design is to light and forget, but I wish it had the option to open a bit more for higher heat, close a bit for lower heat and close them all to snuff out the fire. I often want to do a short cook of 2-3 hours for some salmon and ABTs and I find the whole pan is a waste of charcoal. I have seen posts by people using firebricks to cut the pan in half and use less charcoal. I will have to try that at some point.

Low temp cooking….unless you mess with a baffle or deflector you can't really do it. I want to do some jerky which needs a low temp…and on the PBC I am smoking salmon at 275 or above….but the salmon turns out better if done at 225. The PBC just doesn't have that low of a range.

One other limitation is access to the charcoal pan to add more wood or charcoal. If using either of the grates it's not practical. Whatever you load at the beginning is it.

The burn pattern of the pan of charcoal has been interesting. One of my first smokes I tried to use lighter fluid. One side of the pan of charcoal caught better than the other and it acted like a minion burn…slowly rotating around the pan catching a little as it went and the pit stayed about 225 or so. Could get it to increased of about 275 by cracking the lid but would settle back to 225 when I pit the lid back on tight. As I have adjusted my lighting procedure it has leveled out about 275-290 during early phases of the cook but always seems to drop to 255-265 after a couple of hours. Not that the lower temp is a bad thing as I know lots of guys strive for 225-250 smoking but that's definitely not what PBC claims is normal temp.

Space vertically

Using the hanging meat method this thing is a beast. I can literally hang 8 racks of ribs or 3-4 full packer briskets. Pork tenderloins or half chickens would also hold 8 hooks. I do worry a little about things getting overly tender and falling off. I had an issue with some skewers and chicken wings falling off although the ribs I cooked have been fine.

Space horizontally

Huge limitation. I often cook ABTs and salmon and fatties at the same time. There is no room. I can fit 14 ABTs on one side if they are mashed together and about 2 lbs of salmon on the other or 2 fatties. I bought some Frogmats and the smallest is still too large to fit on one side.

I have seen some mods to install a second shelf but that would limit access and I'm not sure it's a good solution.

When I use the optional hinged grade then the horizontal space is severely limited and to be honest it reduces the amount of space to hang. 4 hooks is a tight fit in between the sides of the grate.

Fit and Finish/Accessories

So far the fit and finish are good. I do have a small spot on the bottom rim of the barrel that is showing rust after 3 weeks. I have the barrel set on some paver stones on my wood deck and it's possible it got slightly scratched while dumping the ash. May have to touch it up with some high heat paint.

I purchased the fitted cover and while it covers the entire smoker it is a bit tight and I have to wrangle it to get it over the horseshoe handles on the side. I wish it was a bit looser.

The hinged grate should come standard. Kinda sad it's an option as it seems that's just a money grab. No reason not to make it the standard shelf.

The optional ash pan is kinda the same way. I smoked the first two weeks without one and cleanup with it is so much easier I don't know why it's not just included.


Next Steps

Doing a pork butt today and am using some Stubbs instead of the KBB. At some point I'd like to try lump as well to see what that does. The idea of a deflector to lower the heat is interesting and I may try to figure that one out too.

Summary

Overall this is a good little cooker. I love the smoke flavor and it is fairly easy to set and forget once you get it going. It does ribs exceptionally well.

However the lack of horizontal rack space and the inability to cook at low temps when desired make me believe I'm still looking for a reverse flow horizontal offset or a vertical cabinet for the long term.

Bacchus2b
09-05-2016, 05:27 PM
I almost sold mine after three months because I couldn't stand the charcoal taste which to my palette overwhelmed the taste of the meat. (Kingsford original Blue as recommended).

Once I switched to Stubbs charcoal the magic happened and I understand why so many folks like these cookers. Kingsford to me tastes like chemicals.

I use lighter cubes to get the fire going, and let it ash over before covering with the lid. Let that sit for ten minutes or so until the white smoke has dissipated and you are ready to go!

Irrivirsible
09-05-2016, 05:33 PM
I had some issues too so I finally started monitoring the cooker temp. There are some people on the Amazing Ribs forum who also use different methods for lighting to get the temp right. Not sure why some cookers don't work according to company instructions but they don't.

SeaSalted
09-05-2016, 08:38 PM
The hinged grate should come standard. Kinda sad it's an option as it seems that's just a money grab. No reason not to make it the standard shelf.

The optional ash pan is kinda the same way. I smoked the first two weeks without one and cleanup with it is so much easier I don't know why it's not just included.

I agree with you on all accounts. I can't see why those items are not included as standard, especially considering that you can purchase all manner of cookers for less than $300 (mind you that this one is delivered to your door for that price.) My experience has been very similar to yours and I've enjoyed this cooker. As you no doubt know I use the PartyQ to control temps so going low 'n slo isn't a problem although I've not tried lower than 225. A PartyQ solved any temperature issues I was having. I would suggest you try that route prior to writing the PBC off.

Bob C Cue
09-06-2016, 08:17 PM
I almost sold mine after three months because I couldn't stand the charcoal taste which to my palette overwhelmed the taste of the meat. (Kingsford original Blue as recommended).

Once I switched to Stubbs charcoal the magic happened and I understand why so many folks like these cookers. Kingsford to me tastes like chemicals.

I use lighter cubes to get the fire going, and let it ash over before covering with the lid. Let that sit for ten minutes or so until the white smoke has dissipated and you are ready to go!

A few questions for you if you don't mind:

Do you fill the charcoal basket, place it in the barrel and then add the lighter cubes?

How many cubes to you normally use? I assume you space them out across the basket.

How long does it usually take to ash over before you put the lid on?

Do you add any wood chunks?

Just thinking if it works well for you, it's another option that others may want to try! Thanks!

qposner
09-06-2016, 08:38 PM
I agree with you on all accounts. I can't see why those items are not included as standard, especially considering that you can purchase all manner of cookers for less than $300 (mind you that this one is delivered to your door for that price.) My experience has been very similar to yours and I've enjoyed this cooker. As you no doubt know I use the PartyQ to control temps so going low 'n slo isn't a problem although I've not tried lower than 225. A PartyQ solved any temperature issues I was having. I would suggest you try that route prior to writing the PBC off.

How did you adapt the PartyQ to the PBC? I'm curious.

Bacchus2b
09-06-2016, 09:43 PM
[QUOTE=Bob C Cue;3642125]A few questions for you if you don't mind:

Do you fill the charcoal basket, place it in the barrel and then add the lighter cubes?

How many cubes to you normally use? I assume you space them out across the basket.

How long does it usually take to ash over before you put the lid on?

Do you add any wood chunks?

Just thinking if it works well for you, it's another option that others may want to try! Thanks![/QUOTE/)



I use four Weber lighter cubes spaced out in the charcoal basket with a full load. It takes twenty plus minutes to get going with the lid off and my air intake at 1/4 open (I'm in Dallas). I use one small piece of Hickory for flavor and I add it right before the meat. I put the lid on for about ten minutes before adding the meat to stabilize the temp. For chicken I crack the lid in the last ten or twenty minutes to crisp the skin. I find you have to be patient with the PBC as it's just not as fast as a kettle cooker. 1/2 pound Burgers are still rare, mid-rare after 15 minutes because you are pretty far away from the heat. Ribs on the other hand, 3 hours for Loin backs!

Stlsportster
09-06-2016, 09:53 PM
How did you adapt the PartyQ to the PBC? I'm curious.

Full credit to SeaSalted as I asked him the same question in PM. His response below.

From BBQ Guru in answer to my inquiry:

"PIT BARREL ADAPTOR

We have a pit barrel here in the showroom and I was able to use our XL grill dome adaptor. I bent it a little by hand so that it mimics the radius of the barrel then I put the bottom lip of the adaptor inside the barrel and it sits down into the small groove that goes around where the bottom and side walls of the cooker come together. The adaptor port goes outside the cooker then I drilled a hole where the existing damper door screw goes and then just used the screw and nut that came with the cooker and it pulls up nice and tight.

Sincerely,
Lori DiPalantino"

SeaSalted
09-07-2016, 05:52 AM
how did you adapt the partyq to the pbc? I'm curious.

132854

qposner
09-07-2016, 11:08 AM
132854

Do you leave it hooked up all the time or do you remove it when not in use?

SeaSalted
09-07-2016, 11:44 AM
Do you leave it hooked up all the time or do you remove it when not in use?

As soon as the cook is done I remove it. The adapter is actually a flange mounted socket. The PartyQ simply plugs into this female socket. The PartyQ male end has an o-ring on it to insure a good seal. It takes all of 5 seconds to install or remove; the adapter stays in place. If you want to snuff out the coals simply insert the rubber plug that comes with the unit.

132864

132865

132866

qposner
09-07-2016, 11:54 AM
As soon as the cook is done I remove it. The adapter is actually a flange mounted socket. The PartyQ simply plugs into this female socket. The PartyQ male end has an o-ring on it to insure a good seal. It takes all of 5 seconds to install or remove; the adapter stays in place. If you want to snuff out the coals simply insert the rubber plug that comes with the unit.

132864

132865

132866
Looks great! Thanks!

Bob C Cue
09-07-2016, 05:39 PM
I said it before, but the PBC sure looks cool with the BBQ Guru attached!

TealStBBQKing
09-07-2016, 06:39 PM
"I purchased the fitted cover and while it covers the entire smoker it is a bit tight and I have to wrangle it to get it over the horseshoe handles on the side. I wish it was a bit looser."

Do you cover your PBC with the rods in their holes? I did this at first and also found the cover tight then I switched to storing the rods in the barrel and the cover fits much better now.

SeaSalted
09-07-2016, 08:40 PM
"I purchased the fitted cover and while it covers the entire smoker it is a bit tight and I have to wrangle it to get it over the horseshoe handles on the side. I wish it was a bit looser."

Do you cover your PBC with the rods in their holes? I did this at first and also found the cover tight then I switched to storing the rods in the barrel and the cover fits much better now.

I put the rods in the barrel. The cover fits fine on mine, a bit tight but I like it that way.

Stlsportster
09-07-2016, 11:05 PM
"I purchased the fitted cover and while it covers the entire smoker it is a bit tight and I have to wrangle it to get it over the horseshoe handles on the side. I wish it was a bit looser."

Do you cover your PBC with the rods in their holes? I did this at first and also found the cover tight then I switched to storing the rods in the barrel and the cover fits much better now.

I've been laying the rods on the pavers under the PBC.

Regular Guy
09-08-2016, 07:15 PM
I had a PBC for a little while. I liked the novelty of hanging the meat to cook it. I made some decent meals on it. I used it about 6 times or so. To me, the overpowering taste of charcoal was a turnoff. I love the story behind the cooker itself and hope that they continue to make them and are successful against the jerks that stole their ideas. Love the fact that he started off small and it has caught on. I am rooting for them. With that said, the PBC wasn't for me. I did learn to put just a half basket of coals all on one side and hang chicken on the opposite side to get true indirect cooking. This eliminated the chicken fat from dripping into the coals making bad smoke. Chicken was much better after that. I never did achieve true crispy skin and that was THE main reason I bought a PBC.

TedW
09-08-2016, 07:19 PM
http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=231293 For chicken, consider a modification to a 007. That's what I'm doing in pursuit on the perfect chix

Bob C Cue
09-08-2016, 11:31 PM
Never had a problem getting crispy skin. Just crack the lid for a last 30 minutes or so of the cook.