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Barrel House Cooker

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  • vandy
    Club Member
    • Aug 2015
    • 611
    • Olive Branch, MS

    Barrel House Cooker

    Does anyone have any experience with the Barrel House vertical cooker and if so how does it compare to the Pit Barrel Cooker?
  • Spinaker
    • Nov 2014
    • 10537
    • Land of Tonka
    • John "J R"
      Instagram: JRBowlsby
      Smokin' Hound Que
      Minnesota/ United States of America

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      Next Major Purchase
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    There was a lawsuit over this one. I am not sure how it all came out. But here is the link to the last topic regarding this cooker.


    • RobertC
      Club Member
      • Mar 2017
      • 163

      I have one, the model with the hinged lid. I got it about six months ago, before I saw that lawsuit that Spinaker mentioned but as IANAL so I won't address that.

      Disclaimer: I've seen but never cooked on a PBC so I can't really compare to it in a detailed way -- but the BHC works pretty much as I imagined a smaller version of the PBC would work when I got it. It's basically a 20-gallon barrel (14" diameter rather than 18") compared to the PBC's 30 gallon volume, so it has roughly 60% of the capacity. We're a four-person family, soon to be three. When we entertain we usually only have only another three or four. For my needs a PBC would have been too much -- the middle-sized WSM was the alternative I was considering. I've done dinner for 10 people, but I don't have to feed 25 people so I don't worry about doing 3 pork butts or 3 briskets at once.

      It has some nice refinements compared to the PBC. Here are four of the nicest:
      1. You can detach the base, making feeding and clearing the charcoal basket easier. You don't need the "ash catcher" that costs an extra $30 with the PBC, nor do you need to load the charcoal basket into the barrel with a long handled rake.
      2. The charcoal basket has a tall collar with a charcoal grate set at about two-thirds of the way down the collar. This means there's a deep side to the basket and if you flip it over, there's a shallow side that holds about half the charcoal. The shallow side is perfect when cooking chicken or a tri-tip, while the deep side holds enough charcoal for at least a six hour cook.
      3. If you look at the pictures of the two, all other UDS are barrels with outward ridges. The BHC has reversed them so the ridges form indentations that you can set the grates on. There are three such ridges. From the topmost ridge down to the charcoal basket is at least 22", so you can hang pretty long items without having them touch the coals.
      4. Sometimes when cooking "juicy" meats like chickens, they can drip quite a bit. In fact, some chickens can drip so much that they can snuff out the charcoal directly below, so PBC owners occasionally rotate or re-arrange chickens so they drip on "fresh" coals. With the BHC, the hooks hang from a circular "H-frame" that sits on the ridge, and you can rotate the frame in the barrel in just a second if you choose to.

      After detaching the base, you can place a grate just inches above the charcoal basket so you can sear after slow cooking -- but I usually sear on my gas cooker, so I've never really bothered with this feature.

      There are a few other differences from the PBC but these were the biggest for me.

      Because the volume is smaller than the PBC I had to learn how to scale down the recommended lighting procedure and play with the exhaust ports. I snake the temperature probes through the exhaust ports. I am getting better at dialing in a temperature within +/-5 deg, and holding it there for several hours.

      I have done a 8-1/2 hour cook @ 260+/-5 deg loaded to full capacity (about 116 briquettes = 2.9 kg = 6.4 lbs) with fuel to spare. Eyeballing the charcoal basket I think it could've gone another hour and a half but that's just a guess. I haven't yet tested what would happen if the barrel were loaded with so much stuff that the air circulation might be affected.

      The "H" frame they use as a substitute for the rebar in the PBC can be kinda cool, as I mentioned above, and sometimes kind of a pain -- because the BHC has only 60% of the surface area, having extra bars that criss-cross the top limits the size the item you can easily maneuver through the gaps. It turns out that if you're cooking something big it's easier to lift the whole damn thing, hooks and items still attached, than to try to squeeze the big item past the openings. You get 8 hooks with the PBC and only 4 with the BHC but 4 turns out to be about right since it's so much smaller.

      The lid seals well and I haven't yet gotten any leaks around it. Some drum smokers have problems with loose or deformed lids, so you often hear of owners weighing down the lid or clamping it with binder clips. The "deluxe" model has the hinged lid so it doesn't get too many stresses than might deform it, but we shall see over time. The hinge has two positions so you can leave the lid either tightly closed or slightly ajar. I sometimes use the "ajar" position when trying to quickly raise the temperature for cooking chicken.

      The deluxe model also has an extra frame you can put half-grates on, and a tiny shelf I use to hold my Thermoworks Smoke. The extra frame can be handy if you hang pork butts from the top frame -- you can then put the grates on the second frame which is installed at the lowest ridge to prevent tender meat from falling off the hooks onto the coal basket. No need to ask me how I know this.

      All-in-all, a one-sentence summary might be: a 60% scale model of the most popular UDS with refinements that address many of their idiosyncrasies.


      • vandy
        Club Member
        • Aug 2015
        • 611
        • Olive Branch, MS

        Well, after reading the lawsuit and finding out some of the unscrupulous business practices (IMHO) I think I will pass on this one and move on. Thanks for the info Spinaker and for making that decision easier. Besides I am still trying to master the new kettle and SNS that I just got about a month ago.




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