Comparing the 3 horses in this race: The contenders are in no specific order;

  • Weber Smokey Mountain 22”, AKA WSM22

wsm

  • The Pit Barrel Cooker, AKA PBC

pbc

  • And The Charbroil Offset Smoker, AKA CHAR

offset

The CHAR is the version I have been using for a couple of years and have had good success with. The WSM is a favorite of a good friend of mine who swears by it. And the Pit Barrel Cooker is a newer concept to me.

First the Stats:

  • The Char
    • The Char-Broil Offset Smoker represents a great option for the “beginner” smoker or those who don’t need to feed an army every time you cook.
    • Classic indirect cooking through the transmission of smoke, flavor, and low heat, through the cooking chamber.
    • 288-square-inch porcelain wire cooking grate. There is a simple door for easy ash removal as well as a convenient side shelf.
  • WSM
    • Great option for the beginner or intermediate smoker
    • 726 sq. in. cooking area, 22.5″ diameter, 2 cooking grates
    • Porcelain enameled finish *Deep water pan *Two heavy duty plated steel cooking grates *Easy to read outside thermometer *Heat shield *Newly improved access panel
  • Pit Barrel Cooker
    •  22″ Dia, 36″ tall, 2 steel rods to hang the meat on
    • The Pit Barrel Cooker combines the best qualities of smokers and slow cookers to create a unique “vertical cooking experience”
    • It is designed to allow shorter cooking times without the need to regulate temperature or smoke.
    • AmazingRibs.com declares Pit Barrel to be the “best bargain on a smoker in the world”, and gave it their top Best Value Gold Medal Award.
    • Famed writer and TV host, Steven Raichlen, added Pit Barrel to the lineup of grills and smokers at his Barbecue University where it stands alongside cookers with five figure price tags.

My opinion on each:

I have used an offset smoker for the past couple years, at first I thought the constant attention the fire required was normal, until I saw my uncle using an electric pellet smoker which was “set it and forget it” simple. I would work diligently to keep the temperature even for over 6 hours to get a good rack of ribs, and I could only fit in 6 racks. I wanted something easier to control and something that took up less space.

I have not used the WSM, but the concept is simple, charcoal in the bottom that you don’t need to attend to very often, a water bowl to add moisture to the cook chamber and 2 grill grates above that for the meat. There are too many accessories to name here, and a vast network of users willing to share tips and tricks. The draw back to this are the 2 layers of grill grates, you would need to remove the top grate to get to the second one. this is not optimal when cooking 6 or 8 racks and need to add sauce. also you would need to cut racks down to fit neat the edges since the middle is 22.5″ across.

And then there is the Pit Barrel Cooker, hanging meat from hooks over a bed of coals, its that simple. I was skeptical about hanging the meat, but people used to hang meat for smoking for centuries so that shouldn’t be an issue, and this bad boy can hang 8 racks of ribs with room to spare. for being the same size as the WSM this can cook far more at one time. All the reviews are good, the product is American made and good quality. Price is less than the WSM and more than the offset smoker. accessories are plenty and the network of users is growing all the time. There are a bunch of YouTube videos on set up and how to cook almost anything you want.

My decision: Drum Roll Please

I purchased the Pit Barrel Cooker at $299 and threw in the Ash pan to easy clean up. This also had free shipping, which is a plus.

Just bought it:

So you might be asking yourself, why a dad site is talking about a smoker, well, some dad’s like BBQ and some dads’ need a hobby, I like BBQ and smoking meat is sort of a hobby of mine. So today I am talking about the Pit Barrel Cooker or PBC, if you have done any research on smokers, surely you have come across this thing, it’s in every “TOP whatever” list for smokers.

Well after months of research I have decided to go for it, no risk, no reward (the reward is delicious smoked meat). I don’t have the smoker yet I bought it last night, it came with free shipping which is always good considering the packaged weights in around 60 lbs. there are a ton of videos showing how to set it up, and how to cook different meats so I won’t go into that in this post. I want to go over the pros and cons I discovered in hopes that you won’t have to research further or fall into the “analysis paralysis” phase where you keep researching but never pull the trigger.

First impression and unpacking:

I received the PBC in about 8 business days, free shipping was great as the unit package weight is around 65 lbs. everything was packaged well keeping it dent free. The instructions on set up and maintenance that come in the package are nothing special basically just a trifold brochure that an intern probably created during a summer internship. But all the set up and care instructions can be found in video form online as well, so that is not really a down side unless you would rather skip going online and just read how to set it up.

First run:

20160820_114333

For my first run I set it up and ran exactly as the brochure and videos say. I was working with 3 racks of baby back pork ribs, below are the steps I took.

  1. Adjust the vent cover (per the instructions)
    1. Different for different elevations
  2. Add the charcoal to the basket (Kingsford – bluebag)
  3. Light one chimney worth, wait 15 minutes
    1. NOTE: wait time is different for different elevations
  4. Dump light charcoal into basket with un-lite charcoal
  5. Hang the meat and Start cooking, wait 3 hours
    1. Different for different meats
  6. Pull out of cooker – sauce if you want
  7. Put back in
  8. Wait 30 minutes
  9. Pull out and lightly wrap for 10 minutes with tin foil
  10. Eat.

After working with an offset smoker for the past couple of years I must say this was the easiest smoker I have ever operated. I was curious about hanging the ribs so I checked in on it twice during the 3 hours and had no issues at all. I prepared the ribs just like I would for any other smoke, however instead of using my own rub (special recipe) I just used the beef and game rub that came with my PBC and my own sauce which has won top prize at a small local rib cook off.

 Pros

The PBC is easy to set up and ready to cook right out of the box, no seasoning of the cooker is required. The entire set up consists of adjusting the vent at the bottom and putting in the rods that the meat hangs from. It doesn’t get any similar than that.

Its light weight, easy to move around the yard; travel with, and for its compact size there is more than enough cooking room inside.

It comes with grill grate so you cook many different things, we like beer can chicken and cedar plank salmon, so the grate will help with that. You won’t need the grate for standard smoking meats like ribs/briskets/or chickens.

For the price point, this thing is top notch. I narrowed my search to the Weber smokey mountain 22” at $399 and the PBC at $299, both were the same price, I chose this unit because of the ease of use. No water to fill, no grates to move to get to other meat.

It held a constant 245 degrees the whole time with no tampering of coals, this is a little high for smoking items like fish but if you light less coals in the beginning or dare I say it, adjusting the vent for less air flow,  I bet you could get this to hold  a lower temp.

 Cons

For a standard rack that I got from Sam’s Club, the PBC is a little short, the tips were almost touching the coals, so I had a couple of crispy tips, they were still tender and juicy just crispy on the outside, which was much better than what I was thinking they would end up tasting like.

They say the juices falling into the coals provides the smoke but I didn’t see as much smoke as I’m used to with the offset style, if you like heavy smoke flavor this could be a problem, however when I looked inside there was enough smoke that I couldn’t really see the coals at the bottom so I got rid of that concern pretty quickly. I thought the smoke flavor was great regardless of not seeing much coming out. you can see from my picture there is plenty of smoke.

20160820_132615

 Results and final thoughts

Easy to set up, easy to cook on, hands off cooking with charcoal which is rare even among some the top smokers on the market. Far better then other smokers at this price point. Also when my ribs were done I wanted to see how long this held its temp with no interference from me. At 11 hours after lighting it was still at 245 degrees and I went to bed, so if you like to do a long smoke you should be good to go.

As always, thanks for reading. If you like what you read please click the follow button on the home page. Next I will be posting about my next use. and posting more pictures I took along the way.