Ahh….caught you by surprise with that post on Venison Osso Buco? If you follow my Facebook page, you probably thought I was going to do a write up on the Pit Barrel Cooker first? Well here it is!!
Last time we were at the ranch, I discovered that my old trusty, beloved 15 year old smoker had finally rusted through. I was devastated! Even though it had lived out its final years at the ranch, I had always loved smoking on it. The MIL (Mother in Law) told the FIL (Father in Law) that if they ever wanted BBQ at the ranch again, they were going to have to replace it. My FIL agreed and told me to look around and see what I wanted.
I did some searching, knowing that I didn’t have an unlimited budget and with a few goals in mind. I wanted it to be easy. I wanted it to be a no hassle smoker. The Pit Barrel came to mind. I had looked at them before. Hell, one has been sitting in my Amazon wish list for two years, but Mrs. G says we don’t need another one. (Why wouldn’t a person need more smokers?). The thing that really intrigued me were the claims it could do a brisket in 6 hours. We never do a brisket at the ranch because I’m not willing to stay up all night and I’d probably fall asleep after a few too many beverages, the fire would go out and I would ruin it.
I’m sure you are wondering about the capacity of the Pit Barrel Cooker. That is another one of the selling points for me on this smoker. According to their website, “There are endless potential combinations of meat and vegetables, but for example – when hanging, easily fit 8 racks of ribs, 2-3 pork butts/shoulders or briskets depending on their size. Our Turkey Hangers, allow for 2 good size (13-16 pound) birds. Using our Hinged Grate, hang 4 racks of ribs with grill space for fish, burgers, and/or vegetables.” With 8 hooks, you can also do 8 half chickens (that’s 4 whole chickens cut in half for the mathematically challenged out there). I figured that’s plenty for our family which now numbers 15 when the grandparents, kids and spouses and grandchildren all show up at once. At least until the grandkids hit their teenage years and start eating everything in site, but we’ll worry about that bridge when we come to it.
So, I told my FIL what I wanted in October ago and trusted he would order it. November 10th I get a call. “What smoker do you want? Where can I get it? Does H-E-B or Home Depot have it?” my FIL says.
“Wait….what? You haven’t ordered it?” Now I’m worried that it won’t arrive in time for our annual Thanksgiving trip to the ranch. I resend him the link in hopes he will order it right away and that it will get there I time. I’m sure you’ve deduced that it did, smart little blog readers that you are.
Long story short, it arrives bright and early on Wednesday. The only day I have time to smoke something on it. Thank God as we had already bought the brisket.
The directions are pretty simple
- Set the bottom vent according to your altitude.
- Fill the charcoal basket level with briquettes.
- Remove enough briquettes to fill the chimney starter (about 40)
- Place the chimney starter on the grate and light a wad of paper towels sprayed with PAM (that’s how I do it anyway). Let burn for 12 minutes.
- Remove the chimney starter, remove the grate, & dump the lit charcoal into the charcoal basket.
- Place the hanging rods in the holes, hang your meat and put the lid on.
- Pour yourself a cold beverage (if you haven’t done so already) and sit down and wait the meat to be done. Refill your glass as needed until done.
You don’t really need to monitor the pit temp of meat, but since I have the Smoke by Thermoworks, why not use it? The brisket went on at 11:30 with hopes it would be done by 5:30 (remember six hour brisket) and a 30 minute rest before carving.
Mrs. G and my BIL in kept asking if I was going to go deer hunting that night. And then pushing me to go out to the deer stand. I was worried about the brisket. Would it be done in time? Not before I had to head out. Mrs. G asked me what she had to do to finish it and insisted that I go deer hunting. So I told her to take it to 200 at least before pulling it, resting it and carving it.
If you read the last post, you know I got a buck. And we had to bring it back to the ranch to show it off. And then had to skin it and quarter it. So the brisket was done and I missed it.
I was told the brisket ended up taking 7 hours total. More than the website claimed but that might have been partly my fault. I assembled it but failed to totally tighten down the screw on the vent. Before lighting it, I ended up moving it to the porch in fear of rain and the vent moved. Closed more than it should have. So I don’t think it was cooking at its intended target temp. I’ll make sure to fix that before the next smoke.
So how did the brisket turn out? The inlaws from California claimed it was the best brisket they ever had. But they’re from California. And they could have just been being nice. Everybody else said it was really good. My FIL said, “I’ve had many brisket, and this is one of them” which is his long running joke he says about anything he eats. Me? I thought it was pretty good. It was tender and juicy. You could cut it with a fork. I didn’t care for the included Beef and Game Rub on it and would have preferred a simple salt and pepper rub. Not saying the rub was bad, just not for brisket. It had a good smoke ring, but wasn’t overly smoky. In fact, even though I added a few mesquite wood scraps from the pile of cooking wood, I think it could have used more. And it didn’t really have that heavy meteorite looking bark that I am accustomed too. But to take a brand new pit that you have never cooked on and turn out a brisket that good on your first try? In 7 hours? I think that is incredible! I was really impressed! (And want one even more now)
Let’s be honest here now. Since it wasn’t given to me to do a review and our family purchased it, you can trust I’ll be brutally honest about the things I didn’t like. It doesn’t come with a way to monitor the temp. You can get around that with a probe of any type, but nowhere on their site or instructions does it tell you what temp you should shoot for. Should you go with 250F like most smokers? I don’t know. I get the simplicity that they are going for. Set it up the way they tell you too and you don’t need to worry about it. Had I know what temp I was shooting for, I probably would have noticed that the vent was closed too much, adjusted it to bring the temps up and my brisket would have finished in 6 hours. But that’s really just being nit picky. Get a probe. Or drill a hole and install a thermometer if you are really worried about the temperature. These are easy things that anybody can do.
The only other thing that bothered me was on their site it said you could cook a 16 lb brisket. Mine was 15.3 lbs and when I went to lower it in the barrel, the bottom was actually touching the coals!! Maybe my brisket was abnormally long. I pushed the coals to the side a little bit and said “Screw it”, but in the back of my mind it really did bother me throughout the cook thinking it was going to be ruined. How those first slices turned out, I’ll never know as I was out hunting, but I didn’t hear any complaints.
So what you’ve got here is a simple and easy to use smoker that anybody could turn out quality barbeque on, IMHO. It truly is set it and forget it. No need to add more coals (I forgot to mention, it took about half a bag to fill the basket and I never had to add more), no need to fiddle with top or bottom air vents. Solidly made. Easy to carry. Affordable compared to other quality smokers or Kamados coming in at $299. And as I’m sitting here writing this I’m really wishing I had one at my house. I really want to play around with it more. Try another brisket. See how ribs come out. Cook some chicken. I think I’m going to put it on my Christmas list. Hopefully I was a good boy this year…
Oh…I almost forgot to mention. The Pit Barrel Smoker is made in America and a Veteran owned company.