Pit barrel cooker review: best drum smoker in 2023?

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In this Pit Barrel Cooker review we look at the simple top-loaded drum smoker that takes its inspiration from the Ugly Drum Smoker(UDS). The cooker is made by Pit Barrel®, whose founder is Noah Glanville.

While drum smokers have existed for many years as a cheap alternative to expensive smokers, Pit Barrel cookers come with a huge cooking capacity, additional features, and excellent cooking potential right out of the box. 

Since it’s so easy to use and portable, it’s often called the “set it and forget it” smoker.


Simply cooks some of the best food you’ve ever tasted, with no hassle, due to the 360º All-Round Heat Dynamic.

  • Versatile & and great to cook with
  • best selling drum cooker in the world
  • Includes all of the accessories to cook an enormous variety

Is the pit barrel cooker any good?

In most cases, yes, the pit barrel cooker is a great charcoal unit for delicious barbeques.

Although it’s not called a smoker, it has features of both a smoker and an enclosed grill. Safe to say that it carries the good of both and still has effectiveness.

It comes with two bars fitted through holes at the top of the barrel and includes eight hooks and a lifting tool for hanging meat on the bars. It also has a single cooking grate where you could cook smaller items.

One of the best features of a pit barrel cooker is its high-temperature capacity. The cooker can reach up to 300 F.

It includes a vent at the bottom to adjust the airflow depending on your area’s elevation.

One downside could be its heat capacity because for people who love low and slow cooks. The pit barrel cooker might be a let-down.

How does a pit barrel cooker work?

A pit barrel cooker works similarly to a drum smoker, and due to its simplicity, most of us will find it easy to understand.

You load everything in through the top because of the barrel-style shape. At the bottom there is an ashtray and a charcoal basket.

Next, you can add either the grate or the metal bars depending on the type of barbeque you want. If it’s the bars, you can hook the meat, hang them onto the bars, and cook with the lid closed.

The barrel does not come with any damper or thermometer (but it can easily be modified).

According to the official instructions, the barrel’s bottom area features a vent with which we can control airflow depending on the altitude that we live in.

How do you light a BBQ barrel?

Lighting a BBQ barrel can be pretty straightforward; you place the charcoal in the fire basket and then put it into the barrel’s bottom.

Once you’re done with that, you can use a fire starter, old crumpled newspapers, etc., to light the charcoals.

After about 15 minutes or so, the barrel will be ready for BBQs, and you can start the process.

You can also check this official tutorial to know more.

What temperature does the pit barrel cooker at?

Pit Barrel cookers are well-known for their high heat capacities. These cookers cook around 225-310F and can run for roughly 8 hours. 

Some users claim that they could use the barrels in high temperatures even beyond 10 hours, but this is not the same for everyone.

How much charcoal do you put in a pit barrel cooker?

The standard recommended charcoal for PBC is the Kingsford Original Briquettes, but you can also work with lump charcoal.

We have to fill the charcoal basket, then remove a quarter of it (roughly 40 coals) and put it in a chimney starter. Then light it and let the charcoal burn and dump it back into the basket.

If you fill it with Kingsford Briquettes, it can be roughly 120 charcoals. But according to Glanville himself, you start with eight pounds of charcoal.

What kind of charcoal do you use in a pit barrel cooker

Although the official instructions may recommend Kingsford Original Briquettes for the charcoal, you can also get away with using lump charcoal like Royal Oak Lump.

For most people, lump charcoal is a good alternative, but briquettes are better preferred for the best results.

Can you use lump charcoal in a pit barrel cooker?

Yes, we can use lump charcoal in pit barrel cookers, but you have to understand how it works to know when to use and when to avoid.

For starters, the recommended ‘briquettes’ are charcoal made from the by-products of wood. It often carries a chemical smell at the start.

Briquettes can burn at a close to a constant temperature for extended periods.

On the other hand,  wood burning in the absence of oxygen creates lump charcoal. These types of charcoal can catch fire faster, but at the same time, it also burns out more quickly than the rest. 

Lump charcoals carry high heat, but we need to replenish it often to maintain the heat level that we desire.

In a pit barrel smoker, we can use lump charcoal whenever we want quicker BBQs, but if you’re going to go for low and slow techniques, it may be better to avoid this type of charcoal.

How do you hang a turkey in a pit barrel?

Once you have the turkey rubbed and ready to hang, you can use the help of a turkey hanger rod and poke it right behind the turkey neck and out through the center. You can then insert the at-bar into the hanger’s loop and successfully hang the turkey in the barrel.

In the case of a stuffed turkey, you can use the skin above the turkey neck as a flap to seal the opening using the same hanger method.

You can check out this video for a visual understanding.

How do you clean a pit barrel cooker?

Whether it’s grease or ash, there’s plenty of ways to clean pit barrel cookers. But here are some simple ones you can follow.

If you maintain a good ashtray underneath the charcoal basket, you may not need too much work cleaning the ash.

But if you don’t use it, once cooking is done and the barrel has cooled down, you can lift the barrel and dump the residue in a suitable trash container.

If there’s grease buildup over time, you can use a slightly wet rag to wipe it off while the barrel is moderately hot.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.