Weber Smokey Mountain vs. Pit Barrel Cooker – Comparison review
Gilling is a favorite outdoor activity for many American families. The choice of the perfect grill is essential to make this activity pleasant and with tasty results. Charcoal grills are one of the most inexpensive grills on the market that can produce food with a nice smoky flavor.
There are many types of charcoal grills with direct and indirect heat zones, with different shapes and types. This article will review two famous competitors: Weber Smokey Mountain vs. Pit Barrel Cooker.
Main differences between Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker
There are many Internet requests asking what the difference is between Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker, as both these grills are in the same price category and have the same size. So, first, please check the main differences between models.
- Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker have different shapes with the same grill diameter. Weber is a bullet shaped grill; Pit Barrel is a barrel.
- Weber Smokey has a water pan inside to work as a heat deflector; because of that, you can work with a temperature below 275oF for low and slow BBQ (also you can grill without the pan). In a Pit Barrel grill, you have only the direct heat mode, so you cook only hot and fast.
- Weber has a dome thermometer on the lid to check the temperature when you can start cooking; Pit Barrel grill does not have one.
- Weber grill provides many cooking choices – it is a versatile grill. You can work on top or low cooking grate, install a rack and cook vertically, remove the middle section and cook on the grate just above the coals, and cook with direct or indirect heat. Pit Barrel only has the option to cook with direct heat and on the grate or the rack.
- Weber has two cooking grates, so the cooking area is twice more extensive than for Pit Barrel’s grill, but you can purchase a hinged grate for combined cooking – grate + rack.
- The Weber grill has a removable door in the middle section for easy refueling or adding wood chunks. You must take the food out if you want to add charcoal to Pit Barrel’s grill.
- Pit Barrel grill cannot control the temperature, but in Weber’s grill, you can control all four ventilation assemblies.
Face-to-Face Comparison Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker
To compare in more detail, the grills will be reviewed by their design and performance (cooking, assembling, and maintenance). As grills are designed to prepare food, it is better to evaluate the cooking process, its simplicity, and convenience to understand which grill to choose. The cleaning process is another aspect of grill convenience in use; please see below the description of the leading cleaning steps for both models.
Pit Barrel is a young and small American company founded by the Glanville family. The construction of its grills is straightforward and based on the personal grilling experience of the owners. The Company produces only three vertical cookers: 22.5-inch, 18.5-inch, and 14-inch. They look the same; the difference is only in size.
There are a lot of accessories available for each type of food on the official website, in addition to the one already included in the package. These grills are the best-sellers among drum grills. In this grill, you may cook 8 racks of ribs, 2-3 pork butts or briskets, and 2 turkeys. The chimney starter is also strongly recommended for the start-up of this gill.
To control the temperature, you may purchase any meat probe inserted through the hole where the rod is installed.
Weber is a big company with a long history, and Pit Barrel is a small home company. But both produce good quality grills and with many positive reviews. There is no winner.
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is designed to work outdoors with low temperatures of about 225-250oF because of its unique shape and construction. The broad working temperature range is 100-350 F. It has a bullet shape form with three sections.
It can work in three modes:
- smoking (all vents are partially closed);
- barbecuing (all vents 100% open);
- and steaming (with water and top vent closed, bottom vents open).
The bottom section is for the charcoal burn. The charcoal is put evenly on the charcoal grate in the charcoal ring with holes – that created the charcoal chamber. As fuel, you may use two types of charcoal: briquettes or lump (lump is not recommended). Some owners recommend buying additional charcoal grates to put on top of the existing one in the cross to prevent charcoal falling on the bottom longer.
The middle section is for a water pan, preventing any fat from dripping on the coal and, more importantly, keeping the temperature on the low level and grill grates. The water pan also works as a baffle or deflector, that radiant energy from the charcoal deflects from the pan and goes around it as indirect convection energy. This prevents your food from burning. But if you need to prepare steaks with direct heat, take out the pan. Two grill grates in this section are installed on the water pan in this section (the lower one is slightly smaller). For grill grates, there are two sets of hooks. Finally, in the middle section is an easy-access removable door with a handle assembly to add charcoal during cooking and control the burning.
The top section is porcelain-enameled, and the lid includes the ventilation hole, the thermometer, and the handle. The finish prevents rusting and cracking and has high-temperature resistance.
To control the temperature, you need to open or close the top and bottom ventilation holes (dampers). There are four places for ventilation holes: one vent on the top to let the air out for controlling the airflow inside the smoker and the rate at which the charcoal will burn, and the amount of heat that will be produced (pressure difference); the three bottom vents suck the air into the mix with charcoal and wood chunks and create combustion, convection, and direct heat. The smoke and heat go from the bottom to the top, where it heats the water pan and then the lid for gentle circulation inside the grill.
- No electricity is required
- Special water pan for indirect heat (if required) (steam mode)
- Can work with direct heat in barbeque mode
- Different wood chunks could be used to create flavors
- Door in the middle section to add charcoal and wood chunks during the cooking
- Stable temperature for hours
- Large (481 sq in) cooking area
- Simple cleaning process
- Easy assembling with a few steps
- Wood chunks are required for cooking
- You need always monitor the grill and add fuel if required
- Manual temperature control
- No built-in temperature probe
- Lump charcoal is not recommended by Weber
Pit Barrel Cooker is another drum-style cooker that will be compared with Weber Smokey Cooker. Pit Barrel makes unique 30-barrel drums for charcoal grills; it is not a restyled drum. These grills are unexpansive and set-and-forget style. In this grill, you can cook differently – on a cooking grate or hooks and rods. To hang between these two reinforced rods, you can purchase many additional accessories, such as turkey hangers or sausage hangers. There is also a separate hinged cooking grate available for purchase, where you can use half for brisket and another half for hanging food.
The construction of the barrel allows for hanging the meat almost through the whole 30 -inch length, but the direct heat from the coal will not burn the lower part of the meat, and it is still moist. When you start cooking, the maximum temperature is about 450oF, but then it will stabilize at about 315-330oF. The food is prepared thanks to hot air circulation inside the barrel quickly.
The meat is prepared in its juice that comes down during the cooking. When it drips down, it immediately vaporizes back up. The flavor is intense.
The grill is not separated into three pieces like the Weber grill, but the inner components are similar. At the bottom part is located the charcoal basket with a handle. In addition, you can buy an ash pan separately to simplify the cleaning.
You cannot set the temperature in this grill; you control it by opening or closing the airport at the bottom. The port should be adjusted according to the elevation under the sea level in your region (for example, 5000-8000 Ft ¾ Open). The air outtake holes are located only where the rods are installed. You need to follow the instructions to set the grill correctly, no adjustments in the cooking process are required.
The drum is closed by a flat cover with a stainless steel cover. On two sides of the drum, there are two handles for easy transportation of the grill.
- Good flavor of meat grease
- Big space for vertical cooking
- A lot of accessories for different types of food
- No control for cooking is required
- Possibility to add flavors by adding wood chunks
- A stable temperature for cooking is ensured
- No often cleaning is required
- No assembly is required
- One long piece without doors
- No possibility to set the temperature and only manual control
- No temperature gauge
- Complicated procedure for fuel adding
- Only direct heating is possible
- Only one cooking grate
The Weber grill is more versatile and has some room for temperature control. It is much easier to add fuel or turn the food. The Pit Barrel has a simple construction, but no possibility to change the mode of cooking to indirect heat or control the temperature. The Weber grill is the winner.
Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package – 18.5 Inch Drum Smoker
You do not need to assemble this grill; it is shipped almost ready to cook. In five minutes it will be ready. The assembling procedure includes only several steps:
- Take the barrel stand out from the barrel and place the cooker on it (it was put inside for shipping purposes only);
- Assemble the handle to the flat lid with the screw from the package
- Put the rods in the unique holes.
The Pit Barrel grill is the winner as no assembly is required. You can start cooking after 5 minutes after you receive the grill.
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
To prepare food in Weber Smokey, you must put all three sections with all inner details in the correct order.
- Install the bottom section on a flat surface. If you are cooking on the wood deck please put below the three legs aluminum shield.
- Install the charcoal grate (one or two) and the charcoal ring.
- Set your three bottom vent assemblies in a 100% open position.
- Add the charcoal and wood chunks. You may use different flavors of chunks to add flavor to your food.
- Light the coals in the middle of the pile. Do not use lighter fluids, gasoline, alcohol, or other volatile fluids. The preheating stage starts.
- Install the middle section. Put inside the water pan. For food preparation with indirect fire use the pan, if you want direct fire take out the pan.
- Place the lower and upper grill grates. In the middle section, there is a particular port for a temperature probe.
- You must closely control the temperature for the first 30 minutes by partly opening or closing vents until the temperature reaches the ideal 225-250oF.
- After that, you need to shut the vents on 50% each to create a steady cruise temperature inside the smoker.
- Please put the food in the middle of a cooking grate. The temperature is higher on the lower grate, and on the upper grate is lower.
- The smoker keeps the temperature constant for hours, but if it starts to fall, you need to open the one below the vent to 100%. To boost your grill with fire, in the middle of the cooking process you can add some burning charcoal through the door in the middle section.
- Cook the food according to the recipe for the required time, and enjoy!
Do not open the lid frequently. It is enough once in several hours to spray water, apple juice, or beer to prevent crispy edges and check the internal temperature. Every 3-4 hours, you can add 12-14 briquettes. Otherwise, you significantly prolong the cooking time. For briskets, you can use butch paper.
Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package – 18.5 Inch Drum Smoker
Pit Barrel Cooker does everything by itself; no cooking guidance is required. So, the cooking process is much easier than for Weber’s Smoker.
- As with the Weber grill, if you use a Pit Barrel Cooker on a wooden deck, glass, or any other potentially flammable surface, you need to put the grill on the bricks or stones. Even though the cooker comes with a 5-inch 3-point stand, protection is strongly recommended.
- Put the charcoal and some wood sticks on top of the basket to make it full. To start the fire, you need to use a chimney starter (purchased separately).
- Put food on the rack or the cooking grate. Unfortunately, if you need to use the rack, you must move rods all the time. You cannot take them away during cooking.
- You do need to add charcoal during 6-10 hours of cooking.
- You do not need to control the temperature; you can only turn and spray the food from time to time.
- Wait for the required time of cooking and enjoy!
Lit some charcoal in the chimney (use a quarter of charcoal required for a charcoal basket), then spread them on the charcoal basket inside the barrel.
The grill is designed only for outdoor cooking.
As you see cooking with Pit Barrel Cooker is more accessible, and several life comparisons showed that the result is almost identical. So, it is the winner.
Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package – 18.5 Inch Drum Smoker
The simple construction of Pit Barrel significantly makes things easier with its maintenance. As there is no water pan inside, there is not so much moisture and grease on the inner surface.
You do not need to wash or rinse the inside of your grill; just wash the outside surface with a towel and soapy water.
If you use the ash pan (purchased separately), it is simple to throw away excess ash after each cooking. Otherwise, you need to turn the barrel upside down or use a vacuum.
Regular cleaning after each or several cooking is required for hooks, racks, or the cooking grate.
The Weber grill requires more frequent cleaning and more details, while the Pit Barrel grill’s maintenance is much easier. So, it is the winner again.
To summarize the comparison, it is clear that the choice of any charcoal grill, in addition to individual characteristics of the brand, should be based on the following parameters:
- Grill configuration (freestanding, built-in, vertical, kettle, barrel, Kamado).
- Size of the grill (based on the amount of food for preparation).
- Temperature management (temperature controller, airflow control, or no control).
- Choice of methods for food preparation (on the rack, on the grate).
- Easy to cook and clean.
- Type of charcoal used and simplicity of adding fuel into the grill.
- Availability of accessories.
The comparison of Weber Smokey Mountain vs. Pit Barrel Cooker showed how all these parameters are essential for grill convenience and the pleasure of cooking.
The comparison of Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker showed that the first grill provides more options for food preparation, and it is easier to change parameters during meal preparation. In contrast, the second one is easy to cook and clean, as no maintenance or change of parameters is required. So, if you prefer to control the grill and like different cooking styles, the Weber grill is the perfect option; for those who prefer to set and forget, the Pit Barrel Cooker is a better option. Anyway, the perfect result in both cases is ensured.