I have both of these smokers and they are both great cookers. To answer your questions the best I can:
Originally Posted by blat
I have decided to give up on my homemade electric smoker and get a charcoal smoker. I am considering a Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) or a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM)
So I start with a general question, is there a difference between a homemade Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) and the (PBC) Either way I doubt I would build a UDS, because I know me. I will go buy a drum and 6 months late I will still have a ... drum.
So I have gone to the PBC website and found a few things that bothered me, but in reading opinions on the cooker seems it that everyone that owns one seems to like it, even those that also own WSM. In fact I found no opinions in favor of a WSM of someone that also owned a PBS.
1) Myth or Truth # 1, DO not pierce the muscle. I usually smoke for several hours on a Butt before I will put a temperature probe in. I thought it was a contamination risk to pierce the meat before getting around 140 degrees. With PBS you pierce the meat with the hangers first thing.
You wouldn't want to pierce the muscle and then let the meat sit between 40-140 degrees for too long. On the PBC that won't happen because the higher temps yield faster cooks. So even a giant brisket will get to 140 in a few hours.
2) Myth or Truth #2, TBS. I have always sought to achieve TBS, but on the demo videos I see on the PBS website I see thick white smoke billowing up. So I can only infer that is what they are trying to achieve or why show it.
My first cook on the PBC I had the same concern as I watched white smoke billow out. I callled Noah from PBC and he explained that the white smoke is not due to poor combustion but to the grease dripping directly on the coals. That actually imparts a flavor that makes cooking on the PBC much different from other smokers that have a pan or bowl catching the drippings or a completely seperate smoke chamber all together. That "grease fog" as some call it really gives a unique flavor that I love without the meat tasting bitter or oversmoked. Keep in mind, you can achieve that same flavor by removing the water bowl from the WSM but you may have to adjust your charcoal usage because it will cause it to run hotter without the bowl in place
3)Myth or Truth #3 Cleaning, While I am not a neat freak I do like my food safe, on the PBS website the only cleaning they recommend is cleaning up the ashes. While I understand a smoker needs some seasoning I thought it was good practice to clean the inside of your smoker periodically with warm water and a little mild detergent (dawn) to cut the grease buildup so you would not have rancid grease dripping on your food.
Like everything in the BBQ world, different answer from different people. I fall in the school of clean the grates, the hooks (PBC), and just to make it shiny maybe just wipe down the outside of any cooker. But I have never washed the inside of any of my smokers.
4) Myth or Truth #4. I thought the point to "low and slow" was to give the fat and collagen time to break down on tougher cuts of meat. A butt in 5 or 6 hours on the PBS? Ribs in 3.5?
@bmaddox gave you great advice on this one. IT is more important when it comes to meats tenderness and juiciness. Some insist on low and slow, others do hot and fast but it ultimately comes down to whether or not you like the final product. This question gives a big pro to the WSM because overall temp control is easier. You can cook low and slow, or you can cook hot and fast just by making a few minor changes to your set up. Cooking temp can be changed on the PBC too by adjusting the amount of lit coal you start with but once you dump it on the unlit, you are at the mercy of the cooker (for the most part...you can find mods on this site and others for just about any cooker that will make it do whatever you want it to).
I'll give you some pros of each.
Easy set up
Easy heat control
One load of charcoal can last 10-12 hours
Versatile (It can go hot and fast, low and slow, be used as a grill, used for cold smoking)
Great cooking capacity. (You can hang 8 racks of ribs, Iv'e done 2 butts, a brisket, and and a rack of ribs at the same time)
Easy set up
Great customer service (call with a question and you will talk to the owner or his wife)
Faster cooking times when used according to directions (we are all busy, at least I am haha)
Unique "grease fog" flavor
So after probably confusing you more...the major difference to me is this. If your thinking is, "The food is done when its done and I don't care what temp it cooked at to get there as long as it tastes good," the PBC is for you. If you are a cooking temp chaser and you like to set your maverick to certain range and lock in at 250 for hours and hours with only a few degrees variation, get the WSM.
Hope this helps. If I were you, I'd buy one and if you can swing it, search craigslist for the other hahah But then again, that's why I have about 12 smokers and grills on my property.