18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package review

I love Ugly Drum Smokers. They are the American staple to smoke meat slowly – in an entirely rustic, almost primitive way.

If you’re anything like me and want to experiment with an old-fashioned style of smoking, you can try a UDS to smoke meat for several hours.

But, which is the best UDS? I’ve heard a lot about the 18-½-in Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package, and I had to try it.

So, is it really the best Pit Barrel smoker if you’re looking for a classic barrel cooker? Find out in my Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package review.

Product18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
ColorBlack Porcelain enamel coating
MaterialSteel
Power SourceCharcoal

An Overview of the Product

The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package is an Ugly Drum Smoker that brings you the functionality of an old-school smoking device. It’s designed to cater to those who are looking for a vertical cooking experience.

It’s literally the “set-it-and-forget-it” smoker, as you hang the meat inside the drum and set it to cook for the next 9-12 hours. When you want to get succulent smoked meat, slow cooking in a drum smoker is an excellent procedure.

The UDS is engineered to allow short sessions of cooking the meat. You don’t have to worry about regulating the smoke or temperature.

Now, if you have been considering buying a smoker and know anything about them, you probably know about Pit Barrel, one of the best manufacturers of smokers and grills.

It is recognized for providing the best value grilling and smoking devices. Pit Barrel is often placed in the same category as luxury cookers – not because of the price tags but on the merit of quality.

Today, in this Pit Barrel cooker review, I’m going to discuss the Classic Pit Barrel Package and its features. Read more to find out if it is really the best drum smoker by Pit Barrel.

Features that stood out for me

  • Designed for a classic experience of cooking in a vertical smoker 
  • Perfect drum smoker for outdoor settings
  • Cooker dimension – 21” x 21” x 31.1”
  • Comes with 8 hooks and 2 hanging rods, among other accessories
  • Charcoal-powered smoker for an authentic aroma 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Large capacity of 3,500 cu. in. to accommodate 8 ribs/2 turkeys
  • Comes with a coal basket to fuel the smoking process appropriately
  • Unique rotatable steel vent and four small exhaust vents for airflow regulation
  • No need to check or do anything else for the next 9-12 hours
  • Yields impressive results through minimal hassle and easy operation
Cons
  • Restricted control over temperature changes while cooking
  • Better as a smoker, as flipping while grilling can be a hassle
  • No temperature gauge; better to buy a digital thermometer if unsure

Who is this Product for?

The Classic PBC Package is for anyone who wants to experience the vintage style of cooking in an outdoor setting. It is portable and easy to use, and you’ll enjoy a unique smoking experience.

You’ll be able to enjoy the authentic charred aroma in your food because it is fueled by charcoal. All you have to do is to put the meat in the grill and forget all about it.

You have to be ready to cook without precise temperature control. You’ll need to adjust the vent for airflow, depending on your elevation from the sea level.

Whether you’re trying to perfect your smoking skills or a pro planning to start a local eatery in the neighborhood, this smoker can be an excellent choice.

Key Features and Benefits of the Product

Let me walk you through the features of the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package.

Product’s Performance

Cooking Salmon and Meat in SmokerWhat stands out for me about this unit is its enormous capacity. Compared to the horizontal cookers of the same price range (if not higher), it’s capacity is double.

I guess that’s one of the reasons it is one of the top-selling Ugly Drum Smokers in the world. Of course, you can’t ignore the fantastic food it cooks with minimal effort.

All you have to do is to set the foods inside and forget all about it for the next 9-12 hours. The smoker will do the rest of the work – and give you smoked food with an addictive smokiness.

I have to say: the briskets, racks, and brats smoked in this cooker are some of the best that I have ever tasted or cooked. Thanks to the 360-degree heat dynamics, I’ve always gotten even and consistent cooking.

I also love that the package includes everything that you need to start your smoking journey – hooks, hanger rods, hook remover tool, charcoal basket, and grill gate.

Design

This drum cooker is just like what vintage smokers used to look like. Once upon a time, when there were no digitally operable cookers and electronically powered vertical smokers, drum smokers used to do the trick. 

Hooks:

The package comes with 8 hooks made of stainless steel. You have to fix them on the holes of the smoker wall and hang the meat on them.

Grilling Grate:

This smoker doubles as a grill, and you can place the meat on the standard grilling grate to sear and grill your meat. But I didn’t particularly like how you have to reach out a little too much to flip the meat unless you’re using long tongs. 

Vent:

There’s one adjustable vent near the bottom for the inflow of air to increase the heat and four small exhaust vents. You can install an automatic controller if you want precise temperature adjustment. However, I recommend controlling the airflow by opening the vent properly.

It’s a unique design that will grab some eyeballs, and the perfect charcoal-smoked meat will make your guests drool. From assembly to cooking, this PBC makes everything super-simple.

Material

The PBC drum is made of high-quality 18-gauge steel and is coated with porcelain enamel. The tools in the package, too, are made of sturdy materials.

The hooks and hanging rods are made of stainless steel to ensure safe cooking. On the other hand, the hook remover is made of wood to prevent burns.

Set-Up Process

Compared to many offset smokers, this smoker is surprisingly easy to operate. I suggest you go with the minion method, i.e., add just a couple of lit coats to an unlit pile instead of pouring a large number of hot coals.

These few lit pieces will slowly ignite the rest of the pile and prevent repeated refueling. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy several hours of cooking. 

Watch this video to see this smoker in action:

Smoking Set-up

The PBC comes with a stand with three legs, and you have to mount the drum on that. Then, fill the charcoal basket with fuel and fit the hooks inside the barrel.

That’s all you have to do! The assembly doesn’t call for any complicated equipment.

To set the airflow level, you need to adjust the vent near the bottom and open it according to your elevation and the amount of air you want to let in.  

Heating Capacity

The barrel, made of 18-gauge steel and coated with porcelain enamel, can achieve incredibly high-temperature levels. It enables the circulation of heat at 275-300 F inside the drum.

How To Clean

I love it when my cooking devices do not demand a lot of cleaning and maintenance. The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker is one such device that needs minimal cleansing.

I find it easiest to clean the cooker when it’s still a little warm after cooking. Start by removing the debris off the grate and racks to prevent them from becoming stubborn, before cleaning out the ash.

All you need to do to maintain the cooker is to brush it often. Pit Barrel recommends that you leave the juice and grease instead of cleaning it.

While cooking, the unwanted deposits get burnt off, but majorly, the barrel gets seasoned by all the buildup! I was as surprised to hear about this as you are.

It’s a good idea to oil the racks and grates. This will prevent food bits from sticking to them and prevent rust.

Don’t forget that the outside of the barrel may be rusted if it’s exposed to rain and snow. So, the one tool of maintenance, in my view, is a cover for the smoker. 

Final Conclusion

Pit Barrel has collected some rave reviews for the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package. Having tried and tested the cooker, I guess I understand what all the hype is about.

You can become a master smoker in no time with this Pit Barrel BBQ smoker. It’s straightforward and hassle-free – and a super-fun way to experience the classic style of smoking meat by adjusting the air.

You have to remember that if you are looking for an advanced smoker that only looks like a classic bucket smoker, this one is not for you. There’s no way to monitor or adjust the temperature with precision as you can only open a vent enough to let the oxygen in the air increase the heat.

But I am still going to recommend this. Whether you’re trying to learn the art of smoking or have reached a pitmaster level, this charcoal smoker can cook delicious food, almost entirely on its own. Or you can check out other starter smokers to find out which best suits you.

I’d suggest you keep this for smoking purposes only, while you perform your grilling work on a separate device.

TYLER LACHANCE

Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled. Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.