The Pit Barrel Cooker has been making its rounds on the Internet and I decided to try one out. I thought that some of the company’s claims were a bit dubious and figured the only way to know for sure was to unbox one and cook on it myself.
True to the videos, this cooker is ready to use out of the box. The only thing that needs to be adjusted is the air intake (you will need a phillips screwdriver for this). The following items are included;
- Three legged barrel stand
- 35 gallon food grade drum with horseshoe handles
- Charcoal basket
- Cooking grate
- 8 stainless steel food hooks
- Two pieces of rebar to hang the hooks on
- Wooden hook handle to remove hot hooks
The only thing you need to do to start cooking is place the stand on the ground, adjust the air intake and get the charcoal going. In their videos they claim that you do not need to burn it in first. However after seeing a video where they light charcoal using lighter fluid, I decided to do a 40 minute burn anyways. I lit the charcoal using my chimney starter, which took about 17 minutes and worked really well. Personally, I would never recommend using lighter fluid in any cooking equipment and I think almost all competitive BBQ competitors would agree. The air intake cover is flat and does not seal the barrel even when fully closed. So shutting down the cooker is difficult if not impossible.
NOTE: There is no thermometer built in so will need a third party device. A digital probe on a wire would probably be best, but I just used my laser thermometer and focused it on one of the pieces of rebar. After about ½ hour the Pit Barrel Cooker leveled out at about 235 F.
The first thing I tried to cook with my Pit Barrel Cooker was a tri-tip. I had a 5 pack I picked up as I was testing several different units this week and boy do I love tri-tip! Personally I prefer a Santa Maria style rub, but opted to use the beef and game rub that came with the cooker. I trimmed the tri-tip, seasoned it with the rub and hung it by the point using one of the provided food hooks. I started temp testing the tri-tip after about an hour. It was at about 103 F internal temperature so I started checking it every 15 minutes. After about 1:45 minutes it was at 125 and I pulled it so I could sear the outside. It already had a bit of a crust but I wanted to brown it up a tad more. I fired up my gas grill and seared it for a couple of minutes on each side. I let it rest for about 15 minutes in the microwave. It was cooked just right. Tender, juicy and great flavor.
This part of the testing made me laugh. In one of the company’s cooking demonstration videos they use a couple of chickens and hang the halves from the hooks. The leg bones are the closest to the fire which hit temperatures exceeding 500 F. I thought that there was no way the legs wouldn’t be blackened stumps by the time the breast meat was properly cooked. I used the all purpose rub that came with the cooker.
The amount provided barely coated the two whole chickens I was preparing. The rub is maybe a 7 out of 10 but I wanted to try and cook the chicken like they do in their demonstration video. I placed the hooks though the chicken halves so they held up the wings.
The legs seemed to hang really low and the connective tissue seemed weak and flimsy. I was highly skeptical and guessed that the leg portions would drop off into the fire or at least be horribly over done. After about an hour I received an emergency call and had to leave to pick up my cat and transfer him to a surgery center. By the time I got back home the chicken had been in the cooker for almost 3 hours. I expected it to be burnt to a crisp. Amazingly enough the chicken was golden brown with a nice crispy skin. I took out the halves and placed them in the microwave for 15 minutes to rest. The skin was like bacon and the white and dark meat were tender, juicy and delicious. Check out the pictures. I was impressed by the forgiveness of this cooker.
- Cedar plank anything works well.
- Cooks chicken and tri-tip really well.
- Easy to setup
- Great price point
- Air vent is held in place by a screw so it is difficult to adjust or shut down
- Even if you close the vent, it is flat and the barrel is round so there is a gap on either side of the opening and your charcoal will continue to burn until it is gone.
- When you open the lid there is a huge heat gain as the air intake can not be easily closed.
- Lid horseshoe handle gets pretty warm.
- While the hooks allow you to cook quite a bit of food, you are limited by the size of the grate when finishing the foods.
THOUGHTS FROM THE REST OF THE GUYS
Mike – The beef ribs I cooked on it, turned out amazing. I was laughing and how good they turned out. I don’t understand how it does not burn stuff but somehow it doesn’t.
JT – The ribs Mike made were really great. I was impressed by what this cooker could do.
Adam – My back hurts.
Melissa – I like this grill. It is light and easy to move. The food made on it, is really tasty also.