Review – Barrel Smoker

I have seen these smokers in action and now finally got the chance to try one for myself.  The smoker is a barrel smoker, that’s right, a barrel, a 55-gallon drum.  Who would have thought that this would work at all?  We used these drums for trash barrels when I was young.  Let me tell you more about what I found out.

I wanted to find a smoker that was rather simple and easy to use that had good quality and was affordable so that a beginner might enjoy using.  As a beginner, getting into smoking meats can be a bit intimidating and confusing with so many choices on the market today.  I wanted a smoker that anyone could get the hang of quickly and not be scared of ruining that really expensive piece of meat, brisket.

Smoking meat is one of the most satisfying hobbies a person can get into.  It’s relatively easy to pick up and the result is delicious food the whole family and friends can enjoy. One of the keys to making sure your food is consistently delicious is to not get in over your head with an expensive cooker geared towards experienced pit masters. Another pitfall many make with their first smoker is grabbing a $75 offset smoker special from their local big box store. Most of these have poor build quality and even worse air flow control. This can make managing your target temperature a chore resulting in a bad time and ruining that expensive meat, the brisket.

When looking for the best smoker for beginners, here is what I believe is important.

  • Quality:  One of the most important things to consider with a smoker at any price range and skill level is its build quality.  If the unit leaks air or has super thin walls, regulating the temperature can be a huge chore.  Obviously, for charcoal powered units your heating element is as good as the charcoal you buy.  That’s why I only recommend using lump charcoal instead of charcoal briquettes.  See here for additional information.  Also see here for the amount of heat produced by charcoal and the best type to use.
  • Efficiency:  A smokers efficiency is directly related to how much fuel the smoker must use to hold a good solid smoking temperature.  This all goes back to the quality of the smoker.  If a smoker is leaking heat and smoke in places that it shouldn’t be, then it will have to burn more fuel to maintain the temperatures you want to stay at.  This is especially frustrating when using a charcoal unit that requires pulling the food out just to add fuel.  No fun.
  • Value:  As with everything else, we want the best value for the dollar.  It may hurt to spend more than $150.00 for that first smoker but what really hurts is buying that cheap big box smoker special and finding out that it is cheaper than you thought.  It will remain almost unused and end up being sold or finding it’s way to the landfill.
  • Support:  It’s much easier starting with a unit that has a solid community built around it.  Most smokers on the lists have multiple youtube videos and forum write-ups on how to cook certain cuts of meat, how to light and heat up properly and how usually some fun DIY improvements.  This is rarely an issue with charcoal based units because there’s nothing to break.
  • Fuel Source:  Perhaps second only to the quality in importance is the fuel source.  Choosing the correct fuel source can make a huge impact on your food and more importantly, how often you use your smoker.  I personally believe the best flavors come from lump charcoal.  The downside to using charcoal is it is generally messier and it has a slightly higher learning curve along with slightly higher preparation time.

So What is the Best Charcoal Smoker for Beginners?

I’ll make this easy for you. If you are a beginner and want the easiest to use charcoal smoker then go no further than the Pit Barrel Cooker. I was absolutely blown away with how easy it was to use.  What makes the Pit Barrel special is there is no temperature regulation, they have it all set up for you already.  The venting is perfectly set, no bother, no worries.  One other thing I like so much about this unit is most all the meat is hung inside by supplied hooks.  Not long ago the makers of this little unit changed from a powder coat finish to a porcelain enamel finish somewhat like the Weber grills.

When getting ready to cook on this unit, simply remove the charcoal basket and fill it up to the top.  Then remove about a quarter of the charcoal and place them into a charcoal chimney such as the char-griller chimney starter

and light them.  Place the unlit charcoal basket back in the unit and pour the lit charcoal from the chimney on top.  After doing this you can add a couple chunks of wood for smokey flavor if desired.

Depending on the weather outside and the type of charcoal used, this smoker should last up to 10 hours on one load of good lump charcoal.

What Customers are Saying:

  • Super easy to use, even for a beginner
  • Incredible and easy to use
  • Gold standard smoker
  • Worth every penny

I am not saying this is the only smoker for a beginner but it is a great smoker for a beginner.  In my opinion, if you are a beginner in smoking meats, you won’t be disappointed at all in this unit and will be a great unit to start learning all the other things you need to learn about smoking.  This is a great one to start with.  Good luck and don’t worry much about ruining that expensive meat.

2 Comments on "Review – Barrel Smoker"

  1. Yes, I am so glad to find this site. I have been looing at this type of smoker for several months. I have looked at so many sites and got so much information but you have some great content about this smoker. You have presented the information in a wonderful way.
    How much experience do you have with smoking? Are you a competition smoker or just do it for fun? I will check back for your answers soon, before I purchase anything.
    Can I use this for starting a career in competition smoking?
    Thanks for the great education on this smoker. It is the one I want so I will check back to chat with you more.

    • Thanks so much Bill for stopping by my site.
      This smoker is one of my favorites and is a great smoker for a beginner. There really is a lot of information on this site and if you need any more, please let me know I will try to help.
      The amount of experience I have is a great question and I should have covered it on my site. I own and operate a BBQ food truck, I cook almost daily and have for several years. Prior to that I spent many more years smoking meat in my back yard for my friends and family. I now have experience and have tried several types of smokers and many recipes and methods. I think I know a little about smoking meats.
      However, I do not know much about competition BBQ. I have participated in competitions before but I don’t do enough to call myself a professional. The last one I participated in I took
      First in ribs
      First in brisket
      Third in pork
      Third in chicken
      That was good enough to get a pay check on all meats. I think I was just lucky. The competition prior to that one, I placed in the top 10 with brisket and ribs but none of my other meats placed and I did not leave with a paycheck.
      When it comes to competition, you may want to check elsewhere but if you want to know about smokers, I can help. The unit you at looking at is an amazing smoker and I wouldn’t be afraid to do some competition smoking with it.
      This smoker is all I have said and probably more. It can do all you need for your back yard smoking fun.
      If you have any more questions or want more advice or information, please contact me again.
      Check out my business site at
      Burnt Offerings BBQ

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