It was early April 2018 and I was on the prowl for a new smoker. Being an avid member of the barbecue community on Instagram, I was intrigued by all the barrel/drum type cooking I noticed, from homemmade ‘ugly drum smokers’ to the Pit Barrel Cookers I saw everybody posting.
One of my all-time favorite people from the aforementioned BBQ community, monstrous sandwich constructor and all-around good dude John Alselmo (@bigjohns_bbq on Instagram) began barrel cooking sometime early last year (maybe the year before). I may be iffy on the timeline, but I noticed he was hanging ribs in his barrel cooker. When I started to look into those types of cookers, of course I reached out to him, given the immense level of respect I have for the man’s cooking prowess and knowledge. The people who I admire and love in the barbecue community are the ones that I will continue to seek knowledge from if I have questions.
“That looks awesome, John!” I stated in one of the comments on a post he made that was a video of him checking out the progress of a rack of ribs he was smoking in his 18C Barrel House Cooker. “Yeah, Troy, the ribs out of this cooker is the best I have ever had; the flavor is amazing and rich from the way the juices from the meat drips onto the coals” (paraphrased).
I am going to admit my naivety: when I first messaged Big John about the Barrel House Cooker, I… didn’t know it existed. I thought everybody just used the Pit Barrel Cooker. He is currently not on Instagram, so I cannot go back and check out the message at this time, but based on my memory of the conversation I told him I was interested in buying a PBC and basically asked him to, well, enable me to go ahead with the purchase. He told me, “I have a BHC instead of a PBC and I love it”. He went on to tell me about its hibachi feature and easy charcoal access. I was mindblown. Immediately I went into researching the BHC and found out about the alleged legal side of things the company is in with PBC (again, I am not a lawyer nor experienced enough within legal matters to comment on this, as I stated in my review of the Barrel House Cooker 18C). However, the superior features of the BHC wooed me. I told John I was going to pull the trigger on the cooker, and he — again, paraphrasing — said, “Hell yeah! Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about it.”
After becoming a full-blown Barrel House Cooker addict for almost four months and owning both the 14D and 18C models, here are the top five reasons you should buy a Barrel House Cooker instead of PBC:
1.) The Barrel House Cooker costs less than the Pit Barrel Cooker: $250 for the BHC compared to $300 for the PBC.
2.) Easier access to modify your coal/wood positioning or remove ash. On the Pit Barrel Cooker, access to your charcoal basket is rather limited, since you have to sit the basket inside the cooker, at the bottom, and being able to access the basket of coals while in the middle of a cook is next to impossible barring some unnecessary, aggravating inconveniences. With the Barrel House Cooker, you can remove the middle base of the cooker from the bottom, remove the charcoal basket and empty ashes (using some heat resistant gloves) and resume cooking once placing the base back onto the cooker
3.) Perhaps it is the bigger competitive advantage of the two, but the Barrel House Cooker has made the bottom part of its cookers to where you can place the cooking grate over top of where you have your charcoal and use it as a hibachi! As far as I know, this cannot be done on the Pit Barrel Cooker. There is nothing like smoking a tri-tip until you hit about 120-125 degrees on the internal temperature before removing the base, adding the cooking grate to the bottom, over top of the coals, and searing that delicious tri-tip to perfection. The options are virtually unlimited as far as what you’d like to reverse sear by par-smoking a particular piece of meat(s) and finishing on the hibachi insert..
The better, added features are why I chose the Barrel House Cooker over the Pit Barrel Cooker. If I could get my hands on a PBC, would I? Absolutely; I’m always looking to add to my cooker collection, although I want to add a pellet grill (eventually) next. If BHC shut down tomorrow, would I look into getting a PBC? You bet. The Pit Barrel Cookers are damn fine cookers, I’m perfectly sure of, given how popular they are, but as of now I prefer the BHC due to the extra features. I just believe, plain and simple, that it is a superior cooker given what it can do vs. the PBC based on the features stated.
These opinions are my own. I am simply an advocate and an enthusiast. I do not work for Barrel House Cooker in any way. I’m just a barbecue fanatic expressing opinions of my own.
I originally wrote the above back in August 2018. I have a couple of updates, now that I finally have a chance to publish this post.
The cost of the Barrel House Cooker 18C has gone up to $300. I found that was unfortunate to see. Allegedly it is because the inside now features a ‘rough’ porcelain coating. I didn’t see anything wrong with the original ‘innards’ of the 18C that I have, but there must have been complaints emanating from some source. However, I have my suspicions as to why the cost was driven up.
The feller behind Pit Barrel Cooker sued Barrel House Cooker a while back. I mentioned this in a previous post on here. I am not educated in law, therefore I’m not going to give any opinions on what has gone down, the reasons behind the lawsuit or anything like that, but I will post about the conclusions of the lawsuit being settled, which happened sometime last year:
Pit Barrel Cooker Co, LLC, the world’s leading premium vertical barrel cooking brand, agreed to settle a lawsuit concerning Pit Barrel’s confidential business information and trade secrets filed in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in December 2015. In the lawsuit, Pit Barrel also alleged that the Barrel House Cooker infringed upon its U.S. Patent (No. 8,919,334).
The lawsuit was resolved on May 25, 2018 with the entry of a joint stipulation to dismiss the case. As a part of the settlement, Barrel House Cooker, LLC and its parent company M.D. Manufacturing, Inc. of Bakersfield, California agreed to make a financial payment and then future royalty payments under a licensing agreement.
Pit Barrel’s President Noah E. Glanville stated, “We’re pleased with the results that we achieved in this case. We will continue to defend our innovations and intellectual property which simply cooks some of the best food you’ve ever tasted, with no hassle. Amber and I appreciate the support of our loyal customers and the dedicated fans of the PBC.”
That is my personal two pennies as to why BHC raised the price of its 18C cooker to $300, especially if Noah, the feller behind PBC is receiving royalty payments on all Barrel House Cooker sales.
I don’t have an opinion on the findings. I will continue to support Barrel House simply because I find their cookers to be superior in comparison.
I have a simple philosophy: always, always, always buy the better product. I’m sure there may be folks who read this, roll their eyes and have a counterpoint that involves the reasons behind the lawsuit making one of the two companies out to be painted in a negative light, and whether or not that is a valid thought is not up to me, but ‘picking’ with my wallet, I’m voting for what stands out as a better cooker.
My journey with Barrel House Cooker Company started with the 18C model, which was — from what I gather — released in January of this year. Not long after I bought my 18C in April, I got the 14D.
Initial differences? Of course the 14 is the little’en and the 18 is the bigg’en, but what else? The 14D is the original Barrel House Cooker, and I’m not going to make you wait until the end of this post to hear my penultimate belief: the 14D model is a superior cooker compared to the 18C. There are features the 14D has that are completely missing from the 18C.
For a tiny cooker, the 14D is a beast. I believe that I read that it can hold up to 6 lbs. of charcoal. That makes it sound like a lot, but it really isn’t, and that is something I love. As someone who also owns a 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain, which is an absolute terror of a charcoal hog, being able to get multiple uses out of a bag of charcoal for several smokes is an amazing feature for a tiny cooker like this. Even though it is small, I’ve cooked four racks of ribs in it, and I’m sure you could fit six racks of baby back ribs in there if you wanted to.
When I first received the 14D and removed it from the box, I noticed the gasket seal under the lid. I had a, “D’uh, stupid!” moment when I was wondering what the hell it was. I knew it was a piece of gasket tape, but I still reached out to Barrel House Cooker rep, and my de facto brother from another mother, Jeremy Cunha, and asked him, in simple terms, “What the hell?” I guess I was surprised by its addition to the lid on the 14D because it is missing on the lid for the 18C.
Furthermore, the 14D features a shelf attachment that goes onto either handle on the side of the barrel and, best of all, latches that connects the bottom charcoal base to the barrel itself. I’ve complained in my 18C review that the barrel on it does not sit snug on the charcoal base. It is not a dealbreaker, but as someone who is kinda OCD about desiring a snug fit on the cooker sitting solid, it bugs me. I love the latches on the 14D, because even during the middle of a cook you can pick the cooker up in its entirely and move it. Furthermore, the latches keeps the barrel sitting snug on the base. Another great feature that the 14D has that the 18C doesn’t is the lid has a hinge! I know that you can take the 18C’s lid and hang it on the side of the cooker, but it is far more efficient on the 14D to be able to open the cooker’s lid and not have to spend a few extra seconds sitting it on the top of the barrel like you do on the 18C. I know a few ‘extra’ seconds are inconsequential, but I’m a proponent of efficiency.
Yes, you can make mods on the 18C that will mirror the features the 14D has, from the latches to the lid hinge to the gasket that goes around the lid, but I’m not a particularly crafty guy. I still love my 18C cooker, don’t get me wrong, but I wish it already had these features built into the current model. I get the feeling that the company wanted to rush out this model, just to get it out onto the market, because I don’t understand why they went astray from the features that are pretty much the blueprint on the 14D. They even changed the air intake elevation setting on the 18C. For the 14D, you have the standard open/close vents that includes the ‘dots’ for the elevation recommendations on the side, but on the 18C the air intake is on the very bottom, and I don’t see that as a particularly efficient air intake setting, because ash buildup can far easily hinder the 18C’s long cooks versus the ash buildup in a cook for the 14D. However, I’m not an engineer nor do I have an engineer’s mind (going back to the fact that I’m not crafty), so you can take what I say with a grain of salt, but those are my two lil’ pennies.
I don’t write these criticisms as a ‘hater’. I’m a full-force Barrel House Cooker loyalist at this point. I’ve had my Weber Smokey Mountain for over a year, and I’ve already used these barrel cookers double, or maybe even triple (I haven’t taken count) the amount of times I’ve used the WSM. I fully believe in the company and its vision. The customer service is incredible. You get treated like a valued customer straight from the beginning. I am immensely happy that I chose this company over Pit Barrel; I have no disparaging remarks to say or beliefs to emit in regards to Pit Barrel, as I said in my review for the 18C: I know for a fact that it is a fine cooker given its following and users. However, I feel like these Barrel House Cookers are ‘next-level’ cookers, as the ease of charcoal access and the ability to have a thermometer on the lid (I know you can mod a PBC with one) are superior assets on the BHC, which one cannot objectively deny. But I digress. Point being, I love Barrel House Cooker Company and my two cookers.
14D vs. the 18C in a nutshell:
The 14D has the features (lid hinge, gasket seal, latches, less charcoal use) I mentioned above that the 18C lacks. It isn’t a big deal at all, but if you are like me and not particularly ‘crafty’, it can be slightly disappointing. Again, it is not a dealbreaker at all nor is it even a big deal, but I do believe it worth noting for a comparison like this. The 18C can hold multiple whole chickens and even more racks of ribs. I like the space the 18C offers over the 14D, but that is a no-brainer. I like cooking up a good bit of food, as oftentimes I host family/friend get-togethers and I also enjoy having leftovers. I’ve used both cookers at the same time, as well, and they make for a great team that still doesn’t use as much charcoal, even while used together, as the 22.5″ WSM, which I am thankful for.
While I am thinking about it, it also seems like the top portion of the 14D, where you sit the H-frame or O-ring, sits lower from the lid than what the top part of the 18C sits from its lid. For example, if I place food on the top part of the 14D and the same type of food on the top part of the 18C, it sits lower from the lid. This can be an issue on the 18C if you have food in the middle as the lid thermometer probe might touch or go down in your food, giving you inaccurate readings on your temperatures. Realistically, it can happen with the 14D as well. I’ve cooked a couple of pizzas on the 14D and the probe has gone down into them. However, that still hasn’t prevented me from creating some delicious woodfire pizzas in these incredible cookers!
Another flaw that the 18C has by itself is that if you are hanging meat, the meat will sit closer to the fire. If you are hanging a brisket, depending on its size it will hang into the coals, so you will either have to sit it flat on the grate in the middle of the cooker or separate the point and the flat from the brisket and hang them separately. The 14D is taller than the 18C, so it has an advantage here as well, that is… if you don’t have the new extension kit that Barrel House Cooker Company recently released for its 18C model.
The new accessories for the 18C include a cover, an O-grate (the packages may include the slotted grate, half-grates and/or the drumstick grate), a stainless steel base and charcoal basket as well as an extension kit! I am honestly the most stoked about the extension kit! This will allow a big ol’ brisket to be hung in the 18C with no problems, a la the 14D, so if you have the extension kit, the above paragraph becomes automatically nullified. I have not used the extension kit for the 18C yet, but soon enough I will be doing so!
*****The two above pictures are not mine! These are pictures from the Barrel House Cooker Company website, which you can view here!*****
I’m not a professional pitmaster, but I am a wannabe in that arena. I love cooking for my family and friends or simply people in general, because I love seeing the smiling faces of those who taste my flavorful concoctions. The Barrel House Cookers have simply done it for me here. I post this type of feedback because I know this is the type of company that will read it and truly listen. When you are using a product from a company that has already been given a slew of your hard earned money and they listen to what you have to say, you know you are in for a treat. That should be an American standard for businesses, but alas, not all of them are in the same vein as Barrel House Cooker Company.
*Full disclosure* Barrel House Cooker Company sent me the following accessories for the 18C at no cost to me: the cover, the O-grate, a slotted half-grate, drumstick holder, stainless steel base/charcoal basket as well as the extension kit. I am incredibly grateful, honored and appreciative that this company decided to do this, and I am more than happy to explain more about this, in detail.
I bought not just one, but both cookers, the 18C and the 14D respectively, with the money out of my own pocket as well as the beautiful gray hat and pizza pan. No, I do not feel like just buying these items entitles me to anything whatsoever. However, I point this out in conjunction with my brutally honest posts, thoughts and comments both on here and on Instagram where I have offered and extended my love for the company and well thought out constructive criticism on the cookers that I feel could be improved in the future. I am not the type of person who looks or expects handouts. In my review of the 18C, I did mention the (at the time) impending release of the stainless steel base.
I keep writing about how this company will take care of you. They will. I keep hammering the point home, but it is also because it is near and dear to my heart: customer service should be the number one priority (asides from standing behind a quality product or service) for any company in the world. I also know I’m shoving the following story down people’s throats: my father owned a successful coal mining parts company in southwest Virginia. I’ve witnessed, first hand, what top notch customer service looks like. I feel like it is in my blood, in a way. I also feel that I get that wanted customer satisfaction from Barrel House Cooker Company every time I talk to anybody from there.
Finally, I am not going to go around parading in the halls and shouting about how I was ‘given’ these items. Yes, again, I appreciate the accessories more than I can convey in these limited-choice-of-words formats, but what I am going to do is this: I’m going to use the accessories as to how they are expected to be used. I’m going to write about how the extension kit affects the cooks on the 18C as well as how the new stainless steel base/charcoal basket acts, looks and holds up after multiple cooks as opposed to the old base. I’m going to test these accessories to the max. Yes, companies need to test their products prior to release and I know they have, but your customer base is your single greatest population for feedback search.
Bottom line: Too many companies reel you in with that first or second big sell and then they forget about you since they already got the mighty dollar out of your pocket as they look for new customers and appeal to a new buyer base. That is NOT Barrel House Cooker. Once you are a customer, you are a part of the team, of the family. You are valued and welcomed. That is the vibe I get. I am exceptionally appreciative, grateful and honored.
When deciding which cooker you would like between the 14D and 18C, consider the above as well as how many people you plan on feeding or, if you are similar to me, love leftovers. Both cookers have their place in my heart, as sometimes I’m just doing something simple, don’t want to use an excess of charcoal but still want that rich, smokey flavor without any fuss — the 14D fits the mold for me in that area. On the flipside, when I want to throw down some more food, I’ll go with the 18C. For me, it is worth having both, but if you have to choose between one of them, consider the thoughts above.
Yes, Barrel House Cooker Company features a comparison between the two cookers on their site, but I think a comparison made by someone outside the company who uses the two products may make a potential future consumer possibly feel more at ease when making a decision. These are strictly my thoughts and do not reflect those of Barrel House Cooker Company.
Caribeque is the rub that started it all when it comes to my barbecue fetish. It is only natural that I continue to return the love and pay it forward all the same as I continue my barbecue journey. Kurt Halls, the man behind the company, released the new rub — the first one in a series of three — last week: Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub. Sure, the name isn’t flashy, but who needs flash when you have substance? The name tells you what it is, and that’s good enough for me. This is a full-fledged chicken seasoning and a half. If you were expecting anything else, go home, you are drunk.
Waiting for this rub was like being a child and waiting for Christmas day to arrive but it only being the 23rd of December. As in, a couple of days felt like forever. I only tout products I believe in, and I’m a huge supporter of Caribeque, so I couldn’t wait to greet my tastebuds with this creation.
The story is simple: I was firing up my Barrel House Cooker 18C with a little bit of wood in order to clean off the outside of the unit (the heat makes it easier). I received a notification that my Caribeque shipment had arrived at the post office. Immediately, I left my house, bought some chicken breasts from the grocery store, picked up the package from the post office and as soon as I made it home, I added some cherrywood in my Barrel House Cooker that was still stoked, cut the chicken breasts thin, rubbed ’em with the almighty Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub, added them to the BHC, cracked the lid and cooked these babies at about 350 (according to the lid temps; actual temps were probably closer to 400) degrees for around 20 minutes. No charcoal. Straight cherrywood.
The sandwich construction is simple:
Brioche bun (toasted optional)
Thinly sliced chicken breast
As many pickles as you can stand it
If you have a Barrel House Cooker, trust the process:
I’m a firm believer in Caribeque because every rub or seasoning I have had from Kurt Halls has been top notch, and I’m not spewing this in order to receive anything or something like that. It’s just that the flavor concoctions he has created have amplified my food and encouraged me to up my game in the culinary side of things. The best thing about Kurt is that he will take the time to engage in a conversation with you. I could reach out to him right now and hear back, and it doesn’t matter if you have thousands of followers or 700 like I do or less. I’m not sure why other rub companies don’t do this. I definitely understand being busy, but as someone who engages in both marketing and advertising on virtually a daily basis, having a social presence and engaging the people who have not only spent their money on your products but are also posting about it? That is crucial and should be a goal for everyone who ‘configures’ a business. Sheepishly, I’d like to believe that business is in my blood, as I watched my father build an extremely successful business, once upon a time, selling coal mining parts in southwest Virginia. I saw first hand how the personality of an owner and how he engages customers can make or break a business. It seems like a lot of these companies in the barbecue world fail to do this, for whatever reason. (Apathy?) Kurt does it right, and I see the man as an incredible asset to the world of ‘Q.
Kurt personally told me over the phone that his ultimate goal with his new Signature Series line with Caribeque is to go back to the basics. He expressed concern over how too many of these seasoning/rub companies are coming out with bizarre flavors that are kinda mucking up (my words here; paraphrasing) the cabinets of kitchens, and how he wants to go back to the basics. For example, if you want to season up your chicken with something, it’s a no-brainer to go with the new chicken rub, because it is tailor made for chicken.
One more tip about the chicken rub: I added it to freshly fried potatoes last week and I ended up making several batches among five people. Ten pounds of potatoes were gone faster than you can believe. This rub is not just for chicken, folks. This adds a tremendous amount of flavor to crispy potatoes.
Yes, I am biased: when it comes to rubs, I have what I call the ‘Mystical Six’ that I consistently go back to: Caribeque, Reload Rub, The Killer Cook, Grill Your Ass Off, Meat Church and Code 3 Spices. However, Caribeque is my favorite, because those rubs are the ones that truly started it all for me in my journey of barbecue. Not when I first began to throw down some grilling and barbecue goodness but when I started to delve deeper into Instagram. That is why I can’t help but to constantly return to those rubs over and over again. Can you blame me?
So much has changed since I began this site.
It all started with a STOK drum grill, and then a Weber Smokey Mountain. Now? I’m using a Weber kettle and still rocking out with my Weber Smokey Mountain, but the Blackstone griddle has joined in on the fun and I’ve added two Barrel House Cookers to my outdoor cooking arsenal. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future for this site and the culinary side of things.
I thought I would write a brief update here before making some much needed changes to the site.
Maybe I have a smoker fetish. It started when the little lady’s family gave me their old stick burner — a vertical offset Brinkmann Trailmaster. Her dad switched over to a horizontal offset and the one they gave me had been sitting out and not being used. Rather than allowing it to just sit there, they fixed it up and gave it to me! I will always be grateful and appreciative of that act of generosity. I loved using it, but the effects of weathering produced rust and eventually holes and cracks that rendered it unusable for long smokes. Sometimes I feel like I let them down by not being able to take better care of it. I digress.
In June 2017 I bought a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker. It is the holy grail in terms of set it’n’forget it smoking that involves charcoal and wood (I specifically mention that last part because pellet grills might be the ultimate cooker for those in the game for set it’n’forget it cooking). My appetite for collecting different types is insatiable, however.
The rise of barrel cookers seem to be on the up and up, but the UDS (“Ugly Drum Smoker”) design has been around for seemingly eons, with people creating a smoker from the ground up. However, there are two UDS style smokers on the market right now that are more popular than the others. There is the Pit Barrel Cooker, which is the most popular if you count the amount of people touting it on social media (namely Instagram, which is my favorite), and then there is the Barrel House Cooker. There is some kind of legal bullshit going on between the two companies. I won’t get into it because I’m not a lawyer and feel no obligation to talk about the nitty gritty, but apparently whoever was working on the Pit Barrel Cooker, originally, decided to go and assist in the creation of the Barrel House Cooker — that caused shit to hit the fan, and that’s all I know. I don’t really care, and most of the people you see on the web proclaiming they do are drama lovers who enjoy spinning their wheels from what I can discern.
The main attraction to the barrel style of cooking, for me, was the prospect of hanging meats, faster cooker time and less charcoal (compared to the 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain cooker that I have; I love my WSM, but it is a charcoal hog and a half). Basically, you hang meats above the charcoal and, in the closed cooking environment, the drippings (read: grease!) from the meats fall onto the charcoal and the smoke from the vapors give the meat a flavor to die for.
For me, it came down to either the PBC (Pit Barrel Cooker) and the BHC (Barrel House Cooker). As you can see by the title of this post, you already know which one I purchased. It basically came down to the ease of adding charcoal during a cook or getting it started more efficiently (the removable middle section from the charcoal base makes it extremely easy) as opposed to the PBC. Furthermore, you can take the grate that the cooker comes with and use it as a hibachi insert by removing the middle section and sitting the grate directly over the coals. For my very first cook, I hung a 3.8-lb. beef Tri-Tip that I purchased from Appalachian Meats in Lebanon, Virginia (hi, Brandon and Victoria! Great people! If you are in the area, check out their shop), cooked it until about 120-125 degrees and then seared it over the grate, hibachi style.
Before purchasing, I watched a good bit of videos of the BHC on YouTube. Something I found to be a common theme was that a few of the folks mentioned that Barrel House Cooker Company sent them their cookers for free because they wanted feedback on the cooker. Objective feedback. Well, opposite of the users on YouTube, I purchased mine at the regular price point ($249 plus tax) and feel even more obligated than those users to deliver a full-fledged objective review given that I pumped cash into it. There is no sunken cost fallacy going on here. Just a dude giving his thoughts on the cooker he bought. By the way, there are two models currently available: the 14D (14″) and the 18C (18″). I like cooking a good bit of food most of the time, so I went with the 18, but the 14 sure is tempting in the future.
The first thing I noticed when I was putting my BHC together was there was a weird lookin’ spot on the charcoal base that looked like a spot of rust. Not a huge deal, but it isn’t something you want to see out of your brand new cooker that you spent good money on either. I contacted them over this and
Jeremy Cunha (who I believe is the head honcho of the BHC Co.)* responded by basically saying to use it for a while and, if I run into any problems, contact ’em. I wasn’t so much complaining when I emailed them as much as I was making them aware of a quality control issue. The YouTube user Meathead, who also received a free cooker from the company, told me in a comment that Barrel House is coming out with some stainless steel charcoal baskets and that they would send me one for free if I asked them. I asked Jeremy about this, but he did not address it in the replied email. Hmm… hopefully the stainless steel charcoal baskets aren’t only sent free to the YouTubers who were already sent free cookers… again, I emphasize, hopefully that isn’t the case as that would be pretty disappointing for BHC loyalists who splurged and spent a great deal of moolah, but I digress… the customer service is solid. You can expect responses in a timely manner. I’ve dealt with them via email and phone.
(*Quick retraction here: an embarrassing one, actually, but I’ll leave it since it is hilarious and I can poke fun at myself. I genuinely thought Jeremy Cunha was the man behind the Barrel House Cooker. Alright, alright, I’ve learned from the man himself that he is not. Jeremy is a brand ambassador for Barrel House Co.! So, he is a brand ambassador. Still, a cool dude and you can tell he loves the cooker or else he wouldn’t be doing what he is doing. I bet the BHC team had a laugh about that one. Looking back, I will, as well! Apparently the owner/president behind the product is a low-key guy. Dude must be like Charlie (i.e Charlie’s Angels). Either way, he is the braintrust behind the company and is the man with ideas. I’m probably on his shitlist for getting the ‘head honcho of BHC Co.’ wrong. Ha.)
Assembly was extremely easy and hassle-free. The only thing I hate about putting things together is keeping up with screws, washers, nuts and bolts. I have a phobia about losing small parts when putting things together. Maybe it is just my cooker, but the first thing I noticed is that the middle section does not snugly sit on the charcoal base. Maybe that was the intended design, but I can kinda rock it back and forth on the charcoal base by barely moving it. If it is intended to be that way, fair game, but I thought that would be a point worth noting.
I had to wait four days before I could actually use my BHC, but by cracky, I finally had my chance. First cook: that beef Tri-Tip from Appalachian Meats that I was talking about.
Everything went better than expected. I rubbed the tri-tip with Hardcore Carnivore Black and hung it in the Barrel House Cooker with some hickory wood and Kingsford charcoal (good ol’ KBB — Kingsford blue bag). At 125-130 degrees or so (as monitored by my Thermoworks Smoke thermometer), I removed the tri-tip from the H-frame and removed the hook from the tri-tip, added the grate to the charcoal base and used it as a hibachi to sear my tri-tip on both sides, about a minute and a half per each side. I let it rest, and well, as you can see by the above pictures, it was cooked to a perfect medium rare and it was delicious!
The next day, I hung a whole chicken and a semi-boneless leg of lamb. Again, I used KBB as my fuel source. I can’t, for the life of me, remember what the hell I rubbed the chicken with, but I was in luck with the semi-boneless leg of lamb. I had never consumed lamb before prior to this experience. I was seeking opinions on what rub I should use, when luck would have it that I received my recently ordered package from The Killer Cook and they, by chance, sent me a sample of their Mediterranean Spice blend. I consulted with TKC on Instagram about this choice of rub for lamb, and whattya know, it pairs perfectly with it (Mediterranean and lamb goes hand in hand anyhow, but I wanted to confirm). The chicken was awesome, but the lamb was fantastic. It was super tender; I cooked it until about 140 degrees, if I recall correctly.
The third day, I hung four racks of spare ribs. On two, I rubbed ’em with Caribeque Honey Heat and on the other two I used Meat Church Holy Gospel. No much to say about these ribs except that they were phenomenal. The smokey flavor was tremendous. I’m used to ribs on my Weber Smokey Moutain. They come out virtually perfect on the WSM, but the smokey flavor that comes from the Barrel House Cooker, with the juices hitting the hot coals and creating a distinct flavor profile, you just can’t beat that.
Since then, I’ve even tried a trial of grilling on the BHC… sat the charcoal ring on the H-frame and grilled some all-natural beef dogs a few days after my first few cooks. It passed the test, but for grilling, I love my Weber kettle.
I used both my Weber Smokey Mountain as well as my Barrel House Cooker for Mother’s Day. Ribs in the BHC and pork belly burnt ends, a pork butt and mac and cheese in the WSM. My family, and some of my family’s friends loved all the food, which is the most important thing to me.
A few cooks in, I noticed some chipping/flaking around the handles on the sides of my BHC… a little disconcerting, but as long as no rust produces from it, I don’t care. Seems to be a bit of a quality control issue, but again, if it is only a superficial mark, I couldn’t care less. This is an outdoor cooker/grill/smoker… it’s going to get filthy even with a cover. I just want the cooker to last several years without any hiccups, because I know I’m going to use the hell out of it.
In the future, I’m going to use lump charcoal in my BHC, for the most part, because it doesn’t handle the ash fallout from KBB as well as my WSM does. The insane amount of ash produced from the Kingsford seems to smother the fire worse than what it does in my WSM. Strange, but it happens. I’m going to try different things. All in all, you have to learn your cooker and its kinks… they (by ‘they’, I mean different types of grills and smokers) all ‘behave’ differently’.
I hung another whole bird in my BHC today, using the brand new Reload Rub seasoning, “Packin’ Heat”. I have come to the conclusion that you can’t have chicken from anything better than this Barrel House Cooker. It was tender, juicy and full of flavor (and delicious spiciness, thanks to the Packin’ Heat from Reload)!
If I haven’t made it clear, I’m going to unabashedly state it now: I’m in absolute love with my Barrel House Cooker. It is everything I have wanted it to be. I’ve been asked by people, “Well, can’t you do the same type of cooking in your WSM by removing the water pan?” Sure, but I like that the BHC is a little bit smaller, and if I was going to consistently do the same thing with the WSM I would have to create some modifications as well as find something, or create something, that mirrors the H-frame or something like it from the BHC, and quite frankly I’m too damn lazy to do that. Also, going back to the BHC being smaller than the WSM, the WSM is a proverbial charcoal hog, while the BHC definitely is not. I love both of my cookers for their own purposes, but I think hanging meat in the BHC is badass and puts it over the top.
I’m sure the other barrel cooker is pretty awesome, but I love my BHC. If you are in the market for a smoker, I absolutely recommend the Barrel House Cooker. The customer service will take care of you if you have any problems, and you’ll have a full-fledged smoker that is about as fail-safe as a smoker can get. I can’t wait to eventually smoke a pork butt and a beef brisket in mine. It’s just too bad that a beef brisket costs 1/4th of a car payment where I live.
Barrel House Cooker: Buy or pass?
BUY. BUY. BUY. Then BUY some meats and HANG IT! (And then buy some beer and invite your friends over.)