The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) has been around for a few years and I recently decided to get one and try it out. As you can see in the photo above, it's not very big. It can, however, hold eight racks of ribs hung vertically.
The PBC is a charcoal fueled variant of the Upright (or Ugly) Drum Smoker (UDS). Unlike most UDSs, it's purpose built and made to be used literally right out of the box. In the box you get the cooker body with lid, a horseshoe stand, a sturdy charcoal basket, a grill grate, two pieces of rebar, eight hooks, a hook pulling tool, and two jars of seasonings. You get all that for $300, including Fedex ground shipping. You can get an optional cover for an additional $30.
To set up the PBC, you just have to take everything out of the box, set the barrel on the stand, fill the basket with charcoal, then add the grill grate or rebars. The first time, you need to adjust the damper near the bottom to control the airflow. It's meant to be set once and then left alone. The size of the gap varies with altitude.
My first attempt with the PBC was a pork shoulder. I dry brined it overnight. About an hour before cooking I rubbed it with olive oil and Meathead's Memphis Dust. I used two hooks, one below the shoulder bone and the other through a thick portion of the meat. I did not use any twine to tie it up, I just hung it as-is.
This is when I added the pork to the PBC. You'll note I didn't do the best job of spreading the coals evenly over the unlit charcoal. This time I put the basket of unlit coals in the bottom and shook the lit ones out of the chimney. I'll either need more practice at that or to pour the coals outside of the cooker before adding the basket. You can also see the two probes from my Maverick grill thermometer. The grill probe is just hanging through the rebar hole on the right.
During the course of the cook, I monitored the grill temperature. At first it was in the 240-250 range. Ambient temps were in the 40s with a slight to moderate breeze. After a couple of hours I readjusted the intake and temperatures went up to 250-260. An hour later I adjusted it again and started seeing 270. I final adjustment, after it started getting dark brought the grill temperature up to close to 300. I'll probably want to back that off a little for my next barbecue.
In total, this ~3 pound pork shoulder took 8:15 to cook. Some parts measured 207 degrees, some as little as 190. Most of the meat just fell apart when I used a couple of forks on it. It had an amazing bark and a good smoke ring. It was quite delicious.
Lessons learned: I need to get better at setting up the coals. I need to dial in the air intake. I probably should have tied the roast up. That would have resulted in a longer but more even cook.