March 17, 2013

My First Cook (Ribs) on the Pit Barrel Cooker

pit barrel cooker review, ribs on the pit barrel cooker.

On the Pit Barrel Cooker, you hang your meat from rods placed at the top. There is also a grate for grilling.

I’ve been hearing about the Pit Barrel Cooker for a while from my BBQ BFF John Dawn (PatioDaddioBBQ), so I was really excited to test it out when I was approached by Noah Glanville, founder of PBC. It is important to note that John Dawson and Noah competed at a BBQ comp a few months back in Colorado, and using the Pit Barrel Cooker, they beat Johnny Trigg in Ribs. (For those of you who don’t know, Johnny Trigg is a 2 time Jack Daniels Grand Champ, and is known for his ribs). So, that is kind of a big deal.

pit barrel cooker, pit barrel cooker review

The Pit Barrel Cooker comes with a “basket” that you fill with Kingsford Briquettes and place in the bottom. They recommend using lighter fluid to get them started.

If you look online and are one of the people who frequent the BBQ forums, there is always talk about the “UDS” or ugly drum smoker. There are kits you can buy, etc to do this and they seem to have a cult following of sorts. I think the Pit Barrel Cooker is an out of the box, ready to go version of this. If you follow the directions on it, you really can’t go wrong. Let me take the time to tell you about the PBC: it is a barrel cooker, designed to be easy to cook on, that comes with a grate for grilling, as well as 2 rods for hanging meat on hooks. There is a basket for charcoal briquettes that goes at the bottom- fill to the top with Kingsford briquettes, no guesswork on the amount required. Evidently, if using the Pit Barrel Cooker correctly, you don’t have to fuss with it. They’ve designed and tested it to take the guess work out for the average user. According to Noah, the people who have the most trouble with these cookers initially are the BBQ people that are used to hyper-intensive cooks where every second of the cook temp is monitored, etc. So, let that be the theme for my first cook on the PBC. Truly, the parts that went wrong were when I didn’t follow Noah’s easy directions as found on his video, and when I got a little antsy and micromanaged the temp.

Being the ambitious gal that I am, I decided to do ribs on my first ever cook on the PBC. Step one as directed by Noah’s video is to remove the charcoal basket, fill with briquettes, and then douse with an ample amount of lighter fluid. Please note, I never use lighter fluid for doing charcoal, so I was a little freaked out, but I didn’t want to not follow directions, so I did it anyway. My mistake was that I didn’t use enough lighter fluid and had to go back and add more. So, just douse the hell out of the briquettes with lighter fluid outside of the grill, put the basket back into the cooker, and then safely add a match.

You will let the charcoal basket char-over halfway, and then you need to add your meat. If you let it get all the way ashed over, you risk getting the cooker too hot and overcooking your meat. As the directions state, after the charcoal has been lit, let it go for 20 minutes and then add your meat. During the cook, I was worried that my charcoal wasn’t totally lit on the outside and tipped the lid open for about 15 minutes. I think this was a mistake. I came back and the flames were high and I was like “Oh crap, I think I screwed up”. While Noah’s vid said to just add the rub and put the hooks through the ribs, I slathered mine in olive oil, added my  rub, and then sliced the St Louis Style pork spare ribs in half before adding the hooks where the meat will hang. (FYI, I did 2 racks of ribs). While you can hang the whole rack as Noah demonstrates in his video, I was worried they would be too near the charcoal, AND, I wanted to have 4 different sets to do a sauce comparison so I sliced them in half so I had 4 separate rib slabs to hang.

BBQ sauce reviews, Shed BBQ sauce, Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Marinade, Stubbs BBQ, Stubbs Honey Pecan, Drapers BBQ sauce

Since I had 4 rib portions, I decided to do a BBQ sauce comparison on each, consisting of: Stubbs, WalkersWood Jamaican Jerk, The Shed’s Sauce and Drapers BBQ.

On Noah’s video that has been embedded here, he states 3.5 hours on the smoker, and in the last 30 minutes you will add your sauce. I did 3 hours on the smoker, and did the sauce at 30 minutes. I think 1) tipping the lid open contributed to my overdone ribs. The outside was very caramelized, as if the sauce had kind of burned on. However, my husband said they were still really good and I wasn’t too hard on myself for a first time cook. ON the inside the ribs did have a really nice pink, smoke ring look about them, it was the outside that was over-done (which I believe was because of the rub). I really believe if I hadn’t committed a cardinal sins- playing with the temp and getting the cooker too hot, that these ribs would have turned out perfectly.

bbq sauce reviews

I did a BBQ sauce comparison with these ribs. Drapers is always my favorite go to stand alone sauce, while Stubb’s is always a clear choice as a back up, easily available sauce that I can find at the grocery store. When I don’t make my own Jerk marinade, Walkerswood is the way to go. I did a mix of stubbs and Walkerswood to cut the heat for a Jamaican inspired BBQ sauce.

I look forward to cooking on the PBC again and again and getting to know the intrinsic, unique flavor that only a Barrel cooker can provide. There is a reason these grills have a cult following. At $250 retail, and a flexible cooking experience that you can both grill and do slow cooks on, I think it’s a practical investment. It’s also an easy cooker for someone newer to Que, if you don’t over think the cooking process, it should yield quality cooks with minimal effort.   I’ll be cooking and reviewing this cooker with more recipes in the future- stay tuned!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


My focus is on healthy, simple and creative recipes on the grill. I encourage women to learn to grill as it is a great way to create healthy, flavorful dishes without all the fuss and clean up in the kitchen.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Chris - March 17, 2013 Reply

John has me very interested in one of these. I almost pulled the trigger two months ago, but Alexis said no, until I got rid of some grills and cleaned out the garage so we could park two cars in our two car garage, lol.

It was good getting to see your insights about the cooker, during and after your first cook on it. Those meat hangers sure are different, but John swears by them. I was thrown off by the not being able to use high sugar content rubs, since I’ve been using one with good results. I wouldn’t want my rub choices limited by my cooker. Other than that, I like everything I have heard about the PBC.

Robyn - March 24, 2013 Reply

Chris, I’m just getting to know this grill so I’m sure there is a learning curve and once you’ve figured it out there is more leeway with different types of rubs. Scott is the same with me- he said- NO MORE GRILLS! 🙂 The shed is starting to fill up as is the patio. I think you would dig this one though. I’ll keep you posted of my progress!

Troy - April 26, 2013 Reply

sounds Like its pretty much an ugly drum smoker thats not ugly that you hang the meat in. Am I wrong?

2013 Holiday Gift Guide for Fire Obsessed Foodies | Grill Grrrl Blog: Grill Girl, Big Green Egg Recipes, Healthy Grilling Recipes, Tailgating Recipes, Paleo Recipes - December 7, 2013 Reply

[…] makes everything you cook on it turn out amazing. And it cooks really fast too! You can read my original review here as well as the recent spatchcocked turkey I did on the Pit Barrel Cooker. Another bonus in addition […]

Bob Haavisto - July 5, 2014 Reply

Yesterday I used my barrel smoker for the first time, WOW does it cook or what! I followed the directions but could not bring myself to soaking the charcoal with fluid so used my chimney lighter instead which worked perfectly. After pouring the lit charcoal over the unlit charcoal I let it sit with the cover on for 20 minutes. I hung two racks of beef ribs and let them go for 2 hours without opening the cover, I then checked them and gave them another 30 minutes. after 2 1/2 hours I took them out and put a glaze on them and returned them to the smoker along with two 3 pound Tri Tip roasts. After another 30 minutes I took the ribs out and glazed them again and wrapped them in foil. I let the Tri tips go for another 15 minutes and checked the internal temp and it was 125 so I took them out and wrapped them in foil. I then put in the grill grate and 3 pounds of salmon that had olive oil, salt and pepper on it and let it go for 45 minutes. Everything was fantastic. My family said that the Tri Tip was the best smoked meat they have ever tasted, the ribs were fantastic, and the salmon was juicy and wonderful. I cant wait to do a pork shoulder and brisket.

Robyn - July 17, 2014 Reply

Bob, I don’t know the science behind it but this smoker/grill produces amazing results. I think it’s in the air flow in the length of the barrel. Whatever it is, I really enjoy this grill. My friend John Dawson beat Johnny Trigg in ribs in the PBC at a bbq comp out west!

Nick - July 28, 2014 Reply

I have a question… I just purchased one of these barrels and even though I had the vent open only a quarter, I still think it was burning too hot. Have you noticed the need to close the vent a bit since you have used it more?

Robyn - July 30, 2014 Reply

Hi Nick, I think it varies by your altitude. I thought the same thing and wanted to take out a screw driver and adjust the vents but never did. If you do this let me know what you think.

Leave a Reply:

Receive new blog posts in your email inbox! Click here to subscribe