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.