Archive for ‘Reviews’

Bear Smoke BBQ Review

Bear Smoke BBQ sauces

A new company based out of Charlotte, North Carolina recently dropped with a line of barbecue sauces, hot sauces and a rub. Bear Smoke BBQ.

I saw the name on social media and knew I had to check them out. It is only naturally, given that my handle features ‘Grizzly’ in it that I would check out a brand with bear in the name. I contacted the person, or the people, behind the brand to let them know my intention of giving their products a go.

One thing about brand new barbecue brands like this is that, when they first begin, a lot of them send out their sauces to certain big wigs in the barbecue community, not only for feedback but for the ‘big wigs’ to help spread the word of the new brand in order to help their marketing efforts for the said brand to become more prominent in the world of social media.

For the record, Bear Smoke BBQ did not supply me with these sauces. I ordered two of them on my own volition, fueled by the motivation to give them a fair shot of my own, much like I did for Reload Rub when they first arrived to the party in the summer of 2017.

I ordered two sauces and a t-shirt on a Friday evening. Immediately upon ordering, I contacted the person (or people) behind Bear Smoke BBQ to let them know of my overwhelming excitement to try their sauces. To my surprise, the owner of the brand had already boxed up my order virtually by the time I had contacted them, and it was ready to go in the mail! This was close to 10 p.m. I was blown away by the quick response to my order. The Bear Smoke BBQ owner stated that he usually boxed up all the orders during the mornings, but since they were still awake at such an hour, they went ahead and fulfilled my order. I appreciated that.

By the following Monday, my order had already made it to my local post office and was available for pickup. No surprise, since Bear Smoke BBQ — to me — is basically a local company with them being based out of Charlotte while I’m in southwest Virginia (only about a three and a half hour distance apart).

The two sauces I ordered from Bear Smoke BBQ:

— Bear Smoke Recipe No. 1: Everyday BBQ Sauce
Description from the site: “Bear Sauce Recipe No. 1 is our take on traditional BBQ sauce with a mix of Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and Eastern and Western Carolina style sauces all wrapped into one. Hand crafted in small batches to ensure quality in every bottle.”

— Cam Cam Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Description from the site: “Previously known as our Chipotle or Grizzly Sauce. This is a chipotle version of the Bear Smoke No. 1 Sauce infused with chipotle pepper to give this sauce just enough extra heat and smokiness to stand out in the crowd. Cam Cam Chipotle Sauces was a collaboration between myself and Campbell, my oldest daughter, so in return for her contribution to the sauce, all profits from this sauce will go to the charity of her choosing.” That’s nice.

Bear Smoke BBQ Cam Cam Chipotle BBQ Sauce

The first of the two sauces I tried was the Cam Cam Chipotle barbecue sauce. How could I not? Asides from the fact that I always relish the prospect of adding any kind of spice to virtually all my meals, there was no way in the world I could pass up the opportunity to try out a sauce given that its name was once known as ‘Grizzly Sauce’ once upon a time. Grizzly Troy had to give the once-known Grizzly Sauce a shot.

With the smoked chuck roast I posted about previously, I tossed some in a plate along with a heaping dollop of Bear Smoke’s Cam Cam Chipotle sauce and gave it a try. The consistency of the sauce is not too runny and not too thick. Perhaps a perfect balance in a sauce. I don’t mind a sticky sweet sauce, but when it comes to barbecue sauces in general, I always prefer something smooth and dip-worthy.

In the first couple of bites of the Cam Cam Chipotle sauce, I didn’t detect any heat, but I definitely tasted the chipotle pepper note right off the bat. As for heat detection, I wasn’t expecting it, as chipotle pepper — to my tastebuds — is more mild than a regular jalapeno, but what I noticed after a few more tastes is that the heat began to build and settled into a comfortable level of spice that pleasantly lingered on my tastebuds as I continued eating.

I really appreciate the presence of the chipotle pepper flavor in this, well, chipotle-based barbecue sauce. It isn’t an overwhelming ingredient that dominates it to the point of making the base of the barbecue sauce unrecognizable. It is a prominent note in the flavor, yes, but it is there with enough purpose without overpowering the entire sauce, if that makes sense. It is a really natural flavor, too, so it doesn’t taste like it was infused with some cheap extract that may be in the usual run of the mill mainstream barbecue sauces at your local grocery store. You can tell that the person, or people, behind Bear Smoke BBQ worked hard to create this one and went through thorough testing to get it right. This is what I enjoy about small batch products, especially in the realm of barbecue, because the people involved are going to put their personal time and effort into creating the highest quality product they can concoct.

So, Cam Cam Chipotle is a win for me. It will definitely be a staple in my cabinet of sauces for the foreseeable future. I can’t wait to give it a try on chicken wings, as I feel that the natural flavor of the chipotle peppers is going to lend themselves to grilled wings in the future when I throw them down on my Weber kettle.

Bear Smoke Recipe No. 1: Everyday BBQ Sauce

As for the Bear Smoke Recipe No .1: Everyday BBQ sauce? I gave it a go shortly after trying the Cam Cam Chipotle sauce, which may have been a mistake. Remember, I have a natural proclivity to prefer spice in my food, so when I gave the Everyday BBQ sauce a try, I knew better than to expect spice. Keep in mind that the Everyday BBQ sauce features the same base as the Cam Cam Chipotle sauce, but it is more palatable and easy on those guests who prefer little spice in their sauce.

Lacking the chipotle pepper flavor in the Everyday BBQ sauce, it features the same smooth texture that the Cam Cam Chipotle sauce does. It is rich in flavor and delivers a nice, complementary hit to food. This is going to be the one that I serve my friends and family going forward in the next couple of barbecues I host. I imagine that it is going to be well received on an upcoming cook of a big batch of pork spare ribs that I plan on smoking for a friends-and-family get-together. However, between the two sauces that I ordered, the Cam Cam Chipotle is unabashedly my favorite because I cannot under-emphasize the beautiful way that Bear Smoke BBQ incorporated the chipotle peppers as an ingredient in it.

In total, Bear Smoke BBQ features five barbecue sauces to choose from: Everyday BBQ sauce, Cam Cam Chipotle, Swine Sauce (North Carolina vinegar style BBQ sauce), Sticky Sweet (a thicker version of the Everyday BBQ sauce) and S.C. Mustard.

I would like to try the other sauces soon, although I’m not crazy about vinegar-based barbecue sauces, so I may save the Swine Sauce for last to try.

Bear Smoke BBQ also features three hot sauces:

— M.C. Hot Sauce
Description from the site: “8 pepper hot sauce aged with the finest toasted Hungarian Oak. Yes, the same toasted oak that some of the world’s finest wines are made with. Hand crafted in small batches to ensure the finest quality.”

— Meesh Bear Pepper Sauce (a whopping $15.99 price point — yikes)
Description from the site: “This hand crafted limited edition sauce is made in small batches of only 12 bottles at a time. Meesh Bear is a thick Roasted Red Pepper base touched with a speck of Heat, Mint and other ecret ingredients; it is the perfect compliment to almost everything. We recommend it to be served with Lamb, Chicken, Steak or Salmon.”

— Angry Bear Hot Sauce
Description from the site: “This Hot Sauce is made with 10 different peppers including the 3 hottest peppers in the world — the Carolina Reaper Peppers, Chocolate Bhutlah Peppers and Trinidad Scorpion Moruga Peppers along with 7 other peppers for added flavor layers, that is if you still have a tongue left after trying it.”

I would definitely like to try out the Angry Bear hot sauce in the future. It sounds delicious and packed with enough heat to satisfy my tastebuds’ addiction to a high level of uncomfortable spiciness.

All in all, based on the two sauces I have tried up to this juncture, I feel comfortable in recommending Bear Smoke BBQ sauces on here as an official mode of advocacy. The Everyday BBQ sauce is a fantastic general barbecue sauce that is sure to please not only your tastebuds, but the palates of your hungry guests as well. The Cam Cam Chipotle sauce is also another one that you could get away with serving most guests, as well, since the level of heat will not overpower them (in my opinion) unless they have a natural aversion to a mild level of spiciness.

To end this post, I have to admit that I can’t help but feel a level of disappointment. Bear Smoke BBQ, the new brand, recently released its list of ten chosen brand ambassadors, and they did not choose me. At the very least, I was not contacted. I am rather dumbfounded by this, to be honest, because I have to say… consider the match-up. I am Grizzly BBQ. They are Bear Smoke BBQ. I am based out of swVA while they are a mere few hours away in Charlotte, NC. Asides from the relevant bear names apparent in both of our brand titles, our values in the realm of barbecue appear to link up well. Furthermore, I have a larger social following than half of their ten chosen brand ambassadors. I can’t help but raise an eyebrow over this. Not to mention, I can’t help but speculate that the parties chosen were given sauces to review and post about, while I shelled money out of my own pocket to support the company and freely advertise them before I could verify if the sauces were up to snuff. It is simply bewildering. I can’t help but also mention that I am the only person on the entire internet to write a review of any of the sauces on a website, but I suppose that is neither here nor there.

I just feel like there was a monumental opportunity missed out of shortsightedness, but I digress.

I will continue to support Bear Smoke BBQ, as I believe in supporting small companies, and I will only ever support companies featuring products that I believe to be of high quality. That goes for every product I use and post about in my recipes that I have featured and will continue to post about on here. I am excited to feature Bear Smoke BBQ sauces in my future recipes on Grizzly BBQ. In the meantime, you can check out all the products that Bear Smoke BBQ has to offer here.

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools or Seasonings to Make Great Barbecue

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools or Seasonings to Make Great Barbecue

I still remember the first time I knowingly ate good, delicious barbecue. Eric, the man responsible for instigating my passion for the smoked grub, smoked a pork butt. I was blown away by the flavor in each bite. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. The rub, the smoky essence, the tenderness and rich flavor of the meat itself. I thought he must have smoked that pork butt in a $5,000 smokehouse machine, but no — he used an old horizontal offset Brinkmann (a company that isn’t even in business any longer) smoker.

I have to admit my ignorance. Before then, I didn’t know squat about barbecue. Being from southwest Virginia, we have a local barbecue joint in this tiny town, but when I heard the word ‘barbecue’ I thought about potato chips, not things like brisket, pork butt or ribs. What a shame, right? However, after this genuine smoky introduction, I was hooked and wanted to learn more.

So I received an old vertical offset Brinkmann Trailmaster smoker as a gift. This is the smoker I learned how to barbecue on. When I received it, it had received a nice, new paint job, but this pit did not come without pitfalls. It leaked smoke, had trouble maintaining temperatures and was a pain in the butt to use, but I loved it. It was a labor of love to use, and all the hard work paid off judging by the finished product (the food) being delicious. The only reason I quit using it is because it rusted and developed holes. Again, this was an older smoker that had been left out, uncovered, in the elements for years. Its demise was inevitable.

Today, you can buy certain smokers that take the guesswork out of barbecue, from pellet grills offering set it-and-forget it temperature settings and expensive offset ($1,000+) offset smokers that feature heavy gauge steel that works to ‘lock in’ the smoke and maintain temperatures better than cheaper cookers, but let’s face it: both pellet grills and those offset pits tend to be expensive, and not all of us have thousands of dollars to throw at a smoker, and if you do, that’s great. However, if you aren’t down for splurging, you should never fear, because the barbecue you create from a cheap cooker can be just as delicious as any barbecue from an expensive one.

Limited edition Weber kettle

Using a Charcoal Grill as a Smoker

You can use a gas grill as a smoker, but I have no experience in that side of things, as I prefer charcoal grills any day of the week. I have used both a STOK drum grill and a Weber kettle grill to achieve smoky barbecue deliciousness, and they have both worked out for many cooks. Unless you are always cooking for a large crowd, you don’t need a big smoker for the job; you can simply use your grill with some charcoal and a couple of chunks of your favorite smoking wood to do the trick.

Grills can often be overlooked in the realm of barbecue. I know that almost sounds silly to say, but in a world where a lot of people are trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, the elephant in the room that is in the guise of a $100 grill is often ignored despite the fact that the barbecue produced from said grill is truthfully just as good as the barbecue created from a $2,000-$5000+ heavy duty smoker, you know, as long as the pitmaster slinging the meat is adept at what they are doing.

Here is a rack of ribs I made on my Weber kettle. Just as good as ribs from an expensive pit:

Smoked pork ribs
Fall off the bone ribs
So, how do you create barbecue using a charcoal grill? You can either shuffle all of your charcoal to one side of the grill, emptying a big ol’ batch of unlit coals onto the charcoal grate while lighting 8-10 briquettes to dump onto the unlit ones for low’n’slow smoking as the unlit coals catch heat slowly over time, with the intake and exhaust vents adjusted accordingly (barely leave the intake vents open), or you can use my favorite method: the Snake Method.

Snake method

Image source: Perth BBQ School — https://perthbbqschool.com/blog/snake-method

The snake method involves creating a line of unlit charcoal briquettes around the edges of the charcoal grates, and it is called the snake method because the look resembles a snake. You simply add your wood along some of the briquettes, and just like the previously mentioned method you only light a few briquettes to add — when adequately ashed over and hot — to the unlit coals to begin your cook. Afterwards, you simply add the meat to the middle of the cooker to get things going. I have smoked ribs, pork butts and briskets using the snake method with my Weber kettle, and it has never failed me. It only takes patience and a little bit of trial and error to do it.

But what if you have a bigger crowd to feed and a charcoal grill won’t cut it?

Offset smoker

Cheap Offset Smokers

There are cheap offset smokers that are available to be purchased, from bands like Char-Grill and Oklahoma Joe offering them. However, what you should understand is that these smokers likely won’t be tremendous right out of the box. They will leak smoke and cause a myriad of frustrations. I recommend picking up a gasket kit to seal off the smoke leaks that occur.

Even with these cheap offsets, much like with a charcoal grill you can create barbecue that is just as good as the expensive ones that may be marketed to you when you are browsing for a pit online. There will be more labor involved — vs. a charcoal grill, too — because with these cheap offsets you have to almost constantly be tending to the fire, making sure your temperatures are being maintained and that the wood is burning cleanly and not creating dark gray smoke. This may sound like an inconvenience to you, which is understandable, but again, it is a labor of love and something I genuinely enjoy.

My old Brinkmann may have died and rusted out, but a buddy of mine gave me his old horizontal offset smoker last summer. He moved on to an electric smoker (no thank you) for the ease of use, and rather than selling his offset — which he could have done — he gave it to me, and I guess a motivation for that is that he knew it would be in good hands. It leaks smoke and has its issues, but smoking burgers, wings, chicken thighs/leg quarters and ribs on it have been a blast.

Offset smokers, or stick burners as they are often called, will offer a different, more pronounced smoke flavor to the barbecue you create with them, and the reason for that is because you will find yourself using logs of wood vs. chunks (most of the time), and the larger pieces of wood is going to create a larger, more pervasive amount of smoke. I have actually met a fair amount of people who prefer a more subtle flavor of smoke (looking at pellet smoker aficionados and their ilk). That isn’t me, though. Give me all the smoke you got.

22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain
Barrel House Cooker drum smoker

Bullet Smokers and Drum Smokers

I have a Weber Smokey Mountain (bullet smoker) and two Barrel House Cookers (drum smokers), and I barbecue with them more than any of my other cookers. I am clearly biased in this camp, but what can I say? They produce delectable barbecue and they are virtually effortless to use once you get the hang of them.

The thing is, what do you consider ‘cheap’/economic for your wallet? A 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain is around $400 while drum smokers range in price (I paid $250 for the bigger Barrel House Cooker, which is now $300). For the price and the ease of use, I find these types of cookers to be of extreme value. I can fit between 60 to 80 lbs. of pork butt in my Weber Smokey Mountain, so there is plenty of room in there for a large cook. If I were to use both of my Barrel House Cookers in one cook session, I can smoke around 12 to 14 racks of ribs (by hanging them) at a time. Keep these types of cookers in mind when you searching for a pit.

The bottom line is this: you don’t need an expensive smoker to create amazing barbecue. I don’t care what is being marketed towards you as you browse online. If you have the cash to afford it, I say you should go for it, but if you don’t, then you don’t, and there are alternatives, as mentioned above. Yes, all these expensive smokers are nice, but that is simply because of how well built they are. That is not a knock on them, because who doesn’t want a well-built pit? But you can doctor up a cheaper smoker to make up for any deficits and disadvantages that you perceive from it. There are people who win barbecue competitions with grills, bullet smokers, drum smokers and cheap offsets against guys using expensive cookers like Lang, Yoder and pellet grills. It happens every year, all the time. It will continue to happen, because great barbecue is more dependent on the person cooking it rather than the smoker used.

With that said, I want to shift gears to this

Expensive Seasonings and Rubs Are Not a Requirement for Great BBQ

This has admittedly been driving me crazy lately, especially in the realm of the barbecue side of things on social media. Let me expound on that.

Let’s say you are browsing the barbecue community on social media and you encounter one of the more popular ‘players’ in the game, someone who has over 15,000 followers and appears to be a brand ambassador for multiple companies. All their posts feature food mentions where they got their meats from (Porter Road has been the latest flavor of the month, it appears), what particular rub and/or sauce they used, and sometimes they will throw in a photo of an expensive chef knife they used, especially if they are being handed a little cash for posting about it.

Ignoring the meat side of thing for a moment, notice how the rubs and sauces (if applicable) they recommend always seem to be from an online company. Both the rubs and sauces are on the expensive side in comparison to what you can buy from your local grocery store, have you noticed?

I will always be down to support small businesses if I like their products in the barbecue side of things. This goes for some of my favorites, as it pertains to seasonings/rubs: Caribeque, Reload Rub, The Killer Cook, Grill Your Ass Off and Meat Church. I will recommend the rubs and seasonings from those companies to anybody who is interested in grilling and barbecuing. However, using those particular aforementioned rubs and seasonings is not imperative to create incredible barbecue. Some of my favorite seasonings are from the Weber brand itself, featured for $2-4 at my local Wal-Mart (garlic habanero seasoning is excellent)!

I just mentioned The Killer Cook in the above paragraph. Their Chow Khan Pan-Asian rub is incredible on chicken wings and in stir-fry, and their Mediterranean Spice blend is the only thing I will use on lamb, but let’s face it: their products are expensive. For a 10oz. shaker of seasoning, it will run you $25 ($20 for the rub and $5 for the shipping in the United States). This is a small company that is using fresh ingredients, but still, it is a steep price, especially when you could buy a seasoning from your local grocery store for 1/8 the price and spend the rest of the money — that you otherwise spend on a bottle of seasoning — on meats to barbecue. I’m not knocking The Killer Cook, because I love them dearly, and I will be an advocate for them until the end, but not everybody can afford to justify spending that much money on a bottle of ground-up spices. I certainly can’t, at least not all the time. I find myself using both the Chow Khan Pan-Asian and Mediterranean Spice rubs sparingly, unfortunately.

I was talking to one of my good pals in the barbecue community in the social media side of things the other day, and we were having a good laugh over some of the product peddlers and lackluster pseudo-marketers in the community and how many of these guys won’t post about using more economic, affordable seasonings from big brand companies because they won’t ‘receive a pat on the head’ for posting about them.

If you are a consumer, a caveat I must offer you is to be very wary of what is being marketed to you at every turn, especially in this hobby. You might be pitched the idea that a $20 rub is automatically better than what you can buy from the grocery store, and that is simply an egregious notion. The expensive rubs/seasonings may feature products that are advertised as being fresh or ‘without MSG’ (even though MSG’s negative health effects are greatly exaggerated and false), but at the end of the day, when it comes to a great flavor, cheaper seasonings get the job done just as well, if not better at times pending on what you are using, than the expensive niche ones.

Heck. If you want to be even more economical, you could always either grind up spices yourself, or you can gather a variety of different singular spices and create your own rub. I actually have a rub of my own that I’ve been experimenting with for a while.

I definitely recommend picking up a high quality thermometer (the one I use from Thermoworks, the Thermapen Mk4, is the best money I have ever spent as far as value is concerned) for not only food safety purposes but for checking what your meat’s internal temperatures are during a cook so you can follow along (important, especially, if you are cooking a brisket and want to wrap it in aluminum foil or butcher paper when it hits 160 degrees).

If you are just beginning your barbecue journey, it is important to not overthink what you are doing. Stick to the basics, because the option to delve into the more advanced side of things is always available to you in the future. Don’t worry about trying to keep up with the big wigs. It is easy to fall into having the mindset, which is like a trap, of trying to have the ‘biggest and best everything’ but it is unneeded. Great food is created by the person behind it.

Hot and Fast Smoked Caribeque Chicken Sandwich

When I began my barbecue journey, Caribeque is the first brand with a line of rubs that I tried. The first time I smoked a pork butt all by myself, with the ‘training wheels off’, Caribeque Honey Heat was my go-to. Ever since, it has been my go-to. It was love at first bite. Despite ‘heat’ being in the name of the rub, it isn’t spicy. It isn’t a sweet rub, but it has a depth of flavor unlike anything else I’ve used for pork. It has a rich umami flavor (the only way I can describe it, so I urge you to try it for yourself) that stands out in the finished product, as it is savory and naturally lends itself to pork more than any other meat. It genuinely is one of the very few rubs that I will use on pork since it is that good.

Caribeque chicken sandwich featuring pepper jack cheese and dill pickle chips on a brioche bun

The finished product: a hot and fast smoked chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese and pickles (an ode to Chick-Fil-A). Between the Caribeque Chicken Series rub and the cherry wood from the cook, this sandwich was over-the-top amazing and put Chick-Fil-A to shame if I do say so myself.

Kurt Halls, the man behind the Caribeque brand, released a new chicken rub in July 2018. That rub was aptly named, “Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub“. This is a full-fledged chicken rub that packs a flavorful punch to poultry. It has a zesty flavor that pumps up the flavor in your chicken whether you are grilling, barbecuing, baking or pan-frying.

When the rub was announced in the early going of the summer of 2018, I felt like a child waiting for Christmas day to arrive. I trust in Kurt’s mad scientist prowess when it comes to throwing together any kind of rub, because each of them from the Caribeque line of seasonings have been phenomenal. There is not a single muted flavor in any of them that fails to stand out. As it were, it stands to reason that I would be excited for the adventure that my taste buds were anticipating with the then-new chicken rub.

As soon as the new Caribeque chicken rub was available, I placed an order, and within a few days (Caribeque always sends its shipments quickly) I had it in my hands. I had a pack of chicken breasts sitting in the fridge, and when I arrived home from the post office, I needed try out the new rub immediately. I was drooling. I opened the lid of the bottle, removed the packaging to smell the rub and get a sense of what it would be, and the strong flavor enticed me more than I can convey. ‘Drooling’ is not a hyperbole in this case.

Barrel House Cooker smoking away

The preheating process of the Barrel House Cooker.

I fired up my Barrel House Cooker 18C with Royal Oak lump charcoal and a chunk of cherry wood, with the exhaust vent wide open, and proceeded to butterfly the chicken breasts by taking a sharp knife and slicing each breast down the middle. I could have pan-fried these breasts, but I wanted to hit them with some smoke. Chicken breasts are delicate, since they are so lean, and typically they do not lend themselves to barbecue, but if you cook them using high heat — in this case I quick-smoked them — then you can finish the chicken quickly, cooking it all the way through while still delivering juicy chicken onto your plate.

The temperature gauge on the lid of the cooker read 350 degrees, but the actual temperature in the cooker was probably close to 400 to 425 degrees as the grate is naturally closer to the hot coals than the lid.

Cracking the lid of the Barrel House Cooker

I sat the lid of the Barrel House Cooker on top of the base, but I left it open by ‘cracking’ the lid off-kilter to allow for more airflow in the cooker in order to reach high temperatures.

When I placed the chicken breasts onto the grate, I did not completely close the lid of the smoker. As you can see in the above photo, the lid is barely cracked, which allows more oxygen into the smoker and increases the temperature by yielding a more fierce burn from the fire produced by the coals and wood. The chicken breasts only took 20 minutes to complete, and I confirmed this by checking each breast with my food thermometer.

One could ask why I did not simply grill the chicken breasts, but the reason is simple: this drum smoker is capable of reaching high temperatures by using a couple of tricks (wide open exhaust vent, cracking the lid, using lump charcoal — which burns hotter than briquettes — and the patience to properly give the cooker a chance to adequately heat up).

Fully cooked chicken breasts featuring Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub

Check out the color on this chicken, not only provided by the Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub but also from the hot-and-fast smoke that was aided by the additional flavor of cherry wood.

A brief summary of the above, if you want to make this for yourself in a drum smoker (if you are using a different type of smoker, be sure to utilize the hot and fast smoking method by opening your exhaust and intake vents for maximum airflow to achieve high temperatures):

1.) Pre-heat your smoker using lump charcoal. You can use briquettes if you would like, but lump burns hotter. Add the coals into the charcoal base/basket of your smoker. Optional: add a chunk or two of your preferred smoking wood for extra flavor.

2.) While the smoker heats up, unless you are using pre-thin sliced chicken breasts, butterfly the chicken. This helps for quicker, even cooking so that the chicken does not dry out. Thoroughly season and rub both sides of the chicken with Caribeque Signature Series Chicken Rub.

3.) Once your smoker temperatures are at around 350 degree degrees, add the chicken. If you are using a drum smoker, crack the lid (see above). It won’t take very long to cook.

As for the construction of the sandwich, you can use whatever bread that you would like, but I used a brioche bun. I say that you can use whatever bread you prefer, but the bottom line is that the bread is the heart of any sandwich. I mean, who wants to eat a sandwich with soggy bread? Not this grizzled foodie.

Here is the way I constructed my sandwich. You are free to use any combination you would like, but I wanted mine to be in the spirit of a spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A, and my promise to you is that this is delicious:

— Brioche bun (toasted with butter spread on it)
— One thinly sliced chicken breast
— One slice of pepper jack cheese
— Four dill pickle chips

You are now ready for an unprecedented flavor journey that may incite irrational dancing on your behalf.

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.

When I spoke to Kurt from Caribeque over the phone in the summer of 2018, he expressed that his ultimate goal with the Caribeque Signature Series line of rubs is to go back to the basics. He emitted concerns over how too many seasoning and rub companies are coming out with bizarre flavors that don’t lend themselves all too well to a wide variety of grub (think of, say, blackberry chipotle java or something off the wall like that). His desire to go back to the basics is motivated by wanting to reach for a seasoning in the kitchen without having to place too much time in doing so — imagine if you are about to cook up some chicken; rather than slinging some kind of artsy blackberry chipotle java seasoning on it, you can reach for the signature series chicken rub and avoid second guessing yourself on whether or not your guests will like it, as the rub lends itself to chicken by not containing any ‘ostentatious’ flavors or a pretentious combination of notes that could repulse the taste buds of a guest.

One more tip about the chicken rub: I have added it to diced, fried potatoes as an experiment, and in that same ‘experiment’, I wound up cooking up several batches for five people. Over 10 lbs. of potatoes were gone in minutes. This rub is not only delicious on chicken, but it is perfect for fried potatoes. Since then, I have made French fries and sprinkled the chicken rub over top of them when they are fresh out of the fryer, and it is always well received by hungry guests.

Yes, I am biased when it comes to Caribeque. Not only is its founder a super nice guy and a good friend of mine, but everything featuring the Caribeque label has been off the charts. I would never spend my time championing the brand if I didn’t believe in the products.

Something to Consider Before Purchasing a Pit Barrel Cooker

When I make a decision on an investment in a product, the first thing I consider is the value of the product versus the price being asked for it. Secondly, and this coincides with ‘value’, I look into the quality of said product: is the brand reputable? Is it durable enough to last? With the time I’ll invest in using it, through enjoyment will I basically receive my return of investment through years of use?

My most viewed post is this one: Is Barrel House Cooker Going Out of Business?

When it comes to already-constructed, available-to-buy drum smokers, the two most talked about options are these two: number one, the most popular, is the Pit Barrel Cooker. Second, it is the Barrel House Cooker.

If you have been following my site, you will notice how often I have posted about Barrel House Cooker. I own both of their models, the 14D and the 18C. I have not held back from posting criticism when I’ve written about the cookers either, so while I’m an advocate, I’m no stranger to avoiding pulling punches in that side of things.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Barrel House Cooker. I am not knowledgeable enough about the legal side of things to comment abou what happened between them and Pit Barrel Cooker. All I know is that the legal conclusion to such matters resulted in portions of the proceeds of the sales of all Barrel House Cookers will fall into the pocket of Noah Glanville, creator of the Pit Barrel Cooker. Using Google, you can find more information about this that can expound on it better than I can.

For the majority of this year, I have noticed that Barrel House Cooker has not had their smokers on sale.

When I considered purchasing either the PBC or BHC, I went with the BHC because I felt it was a bigger bang for my buck. I have found it to be a superior piece of equipment for getting the job done as a drum smoker in comparison to the BHC. I listed my reasons why here.

I have stated in multiple occasions that, if my Barrel House Cookers ever fall apart, that I will likely go ahead and buy a Pit Barrel Cooker, because.. well.. I’m not sure if Barrel House will ever come back. Until they fall apart, I’m happier than a Texan surrounded by smoked beef brisket with using my two BHCs.

Pit Barrel Cooker has a much larger following than Barrel House Cooker. Asides from being available for a longer amount of time than BHC, one of the PBC’s main selling points is that it is a veteran owned operation.

As an American, I’ve been glad to support veteran owned businesses, but I can’t help but feel irked whenever certain companies try to over-emphasize that point when they are trying to gain business. It feels cheap to me. If your veteran-owned company is making a product that I feel is subpar compared to a competitor that isn’t veteran owned, I’m rolling with the the superior competitor. See the first paragraph of this post to consider why I say that. I am not interested in debating the moral compass guidelines behind these two companies, and neither should anybody else asides from those involved in the legal matters, yet if you Google the comparisons between the two cookers, you will find a horde of people stating their opinions while it is all hearsay.

Speaking of hearsay… onto the matters of the title of this post: Something to Consider Before Purchasing a Pit Barrel Cooker

If you take a look at the PBC website, while you will see the big, bold text in the site’s headlines, A VETERAN OWNED BUSINESS, this may mislead you to believe that the PBC is made in America while apparently the cookers and accessories themselves are made in China!

YIKES.


This information is allegedly only reported on tiny print on the packaging according to David H. from this site.

Others have confirmed. Consider what jfmorris from the Amazing Ribs forum said:


Interesting.

It is sheepish of consumers to lambaste Barrel House Cooker in one breath and place Pit Barrel Cooker on a pedestal in another. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but if you are a consumer who looks at a brand and pretends they can do no wrong, you are the problem. I am culpable, too, in a way, because I will choose the design of the BHC over the PBC any day of the week, but we should all aim to hold companies to higher standards and not give them a free pass just because its creator touts his military service history.

Reasons to Buy a Barrel House Cooker Instead of a Pit Barrel Cooker

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.
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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.

Barrel House Cooker 14D vs. 18C: Which One Do You Need?

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.

The 18C and the 14D respectively.

Both cookers cookin up a storm.

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 options are endless with these Barrel House Cooker accessories. This is NOT my picture! This is a picture from the Barrel House Cooker Company website!

Again, so many options! Creativity is welcome here. This is NOT my picture! This is a picture from the Barrel House Cooker Company website!

*****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.

Barrel House Cooker 18C with its cover

 

The extension kit and stainless steel base and charcoal basket (so you can’t see the basket, obviously, but it is in there, included with the base) attached to my 18C in my garage.

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*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.
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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.

Barrel House Cooker 18C Review

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.

Tri-Tip on the Barrel House Cooker Hibachi.

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 semi-boneless leg of lamb that I hung in my Barrel House Cooker.

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.

Before wrapping spare ribs.

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.

The unfortunate chipping/flaking issue. Hopefully it is simply cosmetic/superficial and nothing that will produce anything that will shorten the life of the cooker such as rust.

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’.

Whole chicken rubbed with Reload Rub Packin’ Heat.

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.)