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PIT BARREL COOKER -Something ain't right

flienlow

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Per their website, The PBC has 1000 very positive reviews (4 stars and up.) That is why I purchased mine. 10 out of 10 times, I have pulled cringe worthy meat out the PBC. If I am being fair... it all was horrible.
The reason I have the PBC is because my Kamado Joe Cracked. I could go on a diatribe about KJ Customer service, but I digress.
At first I thought that using lighter fluid was the issue even though I have used it on Webers for years without issue. On subsequent cooks I thought I was not letting the coals burn long/hot enough before adding the meat and changed that. I completely stopped adding wood chunks to ensure that was not the issue as well. Then I switched brands of charcoal, then I switched to Lump Charcoal ( same known good bag I had from Kamado Joe.)
SO... Why am I failing? I surely can't believe everyone prefers oversmoked, chared, Acrid tasting meat which is all that I can seem to conjure. I simply don't understand why my results are nowhere near as good as the reviews.
 

drunkenmeatfist

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Probably a good idea that you cut out the lighter fluid and I wonder if it is possible that using it kinda tainted your cooker. However, it seems likely that you just do not like the taste that fat dripping over coals produces. It is an acquired taste and I actually kinda miss it. Next time I fire up my Hunsaker I might run it without the deflector to try that style again.
 

thirdeye

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So you are getting bad flavors, over-smoked food and charring (I'm guessing when hanging?)

I've cooked on larger drums for 14 years and love them, I've been around a PBC a few times and the food turned out fine. A PBC has good draw and draft, I was leery of the lack of vent adjustments, but most users have figured out the sweet spot.

From what you have said so far, I'm guessing you are not letting the fire settle down before adding food. Maybe the charring is due to vent settings? Have you taken internal temps with a cable thermometer?
 

GA Tom

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I had a PBC a few years ago; and only used lighter fluid to start it. At that time they did not have (or recommend) the chimney starter that they now tout (or any chimney). Never had a problem with the dreaded "lighter fluid taste".
Also, again at that time they recommended Kingsford Original charcoal as the ... ONLY... charcoal to ever use.
As you know, they have extensive videos; from how to start the fire to instructions on how to prepare almost every item that you might want to cook on the PBC. I always followed those.
Good Luck
 

noboundaries

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I didn't know that anybody still used lighter fluid.

"Oversmoked, charred, and acrid tasting meat" are the key indicators of your problems. What temps are you running at the start, middle, and end of your session? What's the smoke look like when you load the meat, during the smoke, and at the end?
 

noboundaries

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Another thought. How much hot charcoal are you adding to the cold?
 

flienlow

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Just so I don't mislead anyone. The FLAVOR I get off the PBC is bad, let's just start there.
Here is what I do.
1. prep meat the way I like it.
2. use chimney with paper to get charcoal going.
3. Once the charcoal is going well, I dump it into the PBC Charcoal basket just like Exactly like this video ( https://pitbarrelcooker.com/pages/lighting-your-pbc ) except I wait for the coals to get going more since I have been having nasty taste issues.

4. once all the coals are going, hang meat ( pork ribs)
5. rebar and lid are both inplace.
6.wait, because if you are looking you are not cooking.
7. Once ribs are done, remove from hanger install grate, sauce, flip and caramelize.
8. Rest for a bit then eat.
9. Lament about how bad the flavor is, and wonder why I keep having this issue over and over again.
 

noboundaries

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The solution to your problem? First, don't use lighter fluid. And using as much oil on paper as they show in the video will give you BLACK BLACK BLACK smoke. All it takes is a light spray of oil on the paper, not dousing it with pre-diesel oil. Charcoal starters also work.

Second, bury your wood chunks at the bottom of the cold charcoal, then use a LOT less hot charcoal than recommended, like 6-8 briquettes for a 225-250F smoke. Lump-charcoal will burn hot. After loading the hot and before loading the meat, walk away from the smoker for at least an hour. Blue charcoal smoke is NOT the same as thin blue smoke. Blue charcoal smoke is wood's version of white or gray smoke. That's NOT what you want on your meat.

I'm a WSM owner. If I remove the water bowl, I basically have a PBC with grates, not rebar for hanging. I have smoked meat and roasted nuts several times without the water bowl to see what I'd get. The meat tasted great. The nuts indicated there were hot spots due to no deflector, but they also tasted great. BTW, the WSM instructions for loading charcoal are HORRIBLE if you want near-offset smoker results. They recommend too many hot briquettes and placing wood on top of the cold charcoal. You'll get too hot a fire and ashy tasting black meat if the meat is loaded too soon.

I can't say how receptive you'll be to my suggestions, and here's why. I've had three different Kamado-type grill/smoker owners who kept failing miserably at smoking meats. They'd eat my smoked potluck offerings, tell me what they owned, and when I tried to help them, they could never step outside what the owner manual and manufacturer directions told them to do. Every one of them ended up selling their Kamado or using it only for grilling.
 

thirdeye

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I'm assuming your rib prep is a layer or two of a typical dry BBQ rub, (maybe with a binder) but nothing way out of the ordinary?

And my drum is bigger than a PBC, but the theory of operation is the same.

Regarding the fire and the video: That is a bigger fire than I start for a barbecue fire. I don't use a chimney, but a torch to light one spot dead center about the size of a grapefruit. Then give the coals about an hour to burn off the VOC's, and settle down for a cooking fire. This is the design of my older charcoal baskets, I made new ones that are taller to get longer burn times.
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In between your steps 6 and 7, I spritz my ribs a couple of times and my rack spins, so I rotate it 90° when I spritz. I also keep my meats more toward the edge than dead center.
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My color and doneness is pretty consistent.
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Have you confirmed the actual temperature on the grate, or in the column of heat when you are hanging food? The middle of a drum can be 50° hotter than the edge. Have you verified the calibration of the PBC's thermometer?
 

flienlow

Newbie
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Joined Oct 19, 2020
The PBC does not have a thermometer, so no I have not verified. Stubbornly I was just using it as advertised. My Current thought is to sell this along with my KJ once I get everything and then buy something like Yoder.
 

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