Question/Help with new Pit Barrel Cooker

Discussion in 'Pork' started by cayts, May 12, 2015.

  1. cayts

    cayts Newbie

    Hello all - first time posting. Hoping I can get some help and feel a little better Bout my purchase.

    I fired this thing up for the first time this weekend. Cooked a shoulder on Saturday that turned out pretty well. I wasn't blown away by it like a lot of reviews I had read, but it was good. Took longer than expected but that was my fault. Cooked ribs on Sunday that we're not good. Followed the recipe on the pbc website, and they were tough and chewy.

    I know a little about what I'm doing. I'm only a year or two into smoking, but have been cooking for a long time. I say this to clarify that I know food, I'm not a complete newcomer to this whole thing. I checked all the obvious things that could've gone wrong. I had the intake set right, right amount of charcoal, etc. My thinking though, has lead to me believe I may have used too much wood for smoke, and created too much additional heat. I cooked the ribs roughly 3.5 hours which is inline with the pbc website, but they just didn't turn out. I put a handful or two of wood chips, and 3/4 small 3 in blocks of applewood. Could this be my issue?

    I was excited for this cooker. Read nothing but great reviews, I knew it would be a big upgrade over my regular horizontal barrel grill I had been using to smoke. But so far I'm not 100% sold.
  2. scorchedporch

    scorchedporch Fire Starter

    You bought a great cooker.  Any time ribs are "tough and chewy" they haven't been on long enough.  That being said - the PBC videos say 3.5 hours, but I don't think that's long enough.  Not sure if you already know this, but I'll say it anyhow - Take the ribs with a set of tongs at one end.  They should bend like a diving board with a fat man on it and have slight cracks in the crust here and there.  The meat will have shrunk back from the bones about 1/4 to 1/2 inches.  In my experience, baby back ribs take around 4 hours on a PBC and Saint Louis a little longer - but it depends on a lot of other factors - namely, the way you lit the barrel.

    I fill up the basket and remove exactly 40 coals to the chimney.  Light the chimney and when they have ashed over add them to the top of the basket (in the cooker of course).  Leave the lid off for 15 to 20 minutes and hang your meat then cover.  This stabilizes the temps much better.

    Most of all, don't worry.  You have purchased a great cooker and will have a lot of fun with it.
  3. cayts

    cayts Newbie

    So you went against the add chimney and immediately begin cook like website says? Do you not see the added wood as an issue?
  4. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    No bro the wood wasn't a problem....cook ribs until toothpick tender or passes the bend test. NEVER go by time.
  5. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Im with FWI... Can't cook by time. They are done when they are done. I did spares on the PBC the other day and I know I pulled them a little too soon and was passed 4 hours. I didn't give myself enough time to let them get to the point they should have been. They were bending but not starting to crack. I got busy and yanked them off too soon. Alwqys go by the toothpick or bed test.
  6. scorchedporch

    scorchedporch Fire Starter

    No, the added wood is not an issue.  I bury the wood chunks in the coals.   Wait 20 minutes after dumping (been doing it this way for at least a year) the coals and then hang.  Temps get spiky at first in the PBC.
  7. cayts

    cayts Newbie

    Thanks for the input. I hope things get better with it. Like I said, I was really looking forward to this thing and want it to be good. The burying of the wood is a really good idea! Also...when waiting the 15-20 after dumping the coals, lid on or off? I'm guessing on.
  8. scorchedporch

    scorchedporch Fire Starter

    I just leave it off, but some say 10 Minutes Off, 10 Minutes On.  Gets things lit.  See what works best for you - I'd also use a pit temp probe if you have one (like a maverick) to get a feel for what those temps are doing.  I can almost guarantee you'll love it once you make friends with it.  Please let us know!
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
  9. cayts

    cayts Newbie

    I got shoulders down with it. Haven't tried ribs again yet, but hopefully will be this weekend. I think I'm going to try skipping the foil wrap on the shoulder next time. I miss that crust, and wrapping it just steams the crunch out of it. Anyone done this?
  10. scorchedporch

    scorchedporch Fire Starter

    Yes. If you wait until the bark is set it should be fine. Don't go by temp as much as appearance and feel. Foiling is a tool to have but not part of a formula. I honestly think that this is where barbecue becomes more of an art and less of a science. Wrapping too early does the same to me. By the way, the PBC excels at ribs and chicken more than just about anything else.

    That being said, try it without foiling and see where it gets you. You might like it better that way. It takes a while to get it where you like it best, enjoy the journey!
  11. stevek142

    stevek142 Newbie

    I'm still having issues with the heat. Doesn't anyone know the exact number of briquettes to use? I'm getting temps in the 400s...I fill the basket, take out 40, let them ash over, add to the basket, keep the lid off for 10 minutes and then start. Within 20 minutes, the temp is 350+. What am I doing wrong? Vent is set at factory setting, about a quarter open.
  12. jjdomingo

    jjdomingo Newbie

    Not sure if you ever got an answer but as a PBC user I NEVER leave the lid off after lighting. I will fill the basket about 2/3 full.. pull out ~30 coals (it really does not matter EXACTLY what number), light them, wait 12-15 min (not much longer, they might not look totally ashed over, who cares), then pour them on the unlit coals and CLOSE THE LID. I wait maybe 5 min (not much longer) and then hang the food and start my cook. I find the more you let the charcoal heat up in the chimney or keep the lid off the worse the initial temp gets. With my above method I am starting around 300 and it settles in at about 260-270 for the next 5+ hours. I think your problem is leaving the lid off 10+ min at the lighting stage. I know if I did that I would easily be 350+ temp wise. The PBC is very easy to get temps cranked (just crack lid for 10 min) and very hard to get temp down once its high. Try this message and feel free to ask me anything else. This method worked great for me in the past. My inital cook I had issues with temp being too high and it was due to letting the coals overheat during light or keeping lid off for no reason. 
  13. stevek142

    stevek142 Newbie other issue. I am a competitive cooker and as such, I take some meat off and put others one during the length of the cook. During that process, the lid is off for five minutes or more and the temp will jump to as high as 450-475. Any way to avoid that. Just do it quicker? Not sure what the answer is. I tried the other day taking off some steaks and putting on another item. I may have left the lid off and the bars out too long. Suggestions?
  14. jjdomingo

    jjdomingo Newbie

    The less time the lid / bars are out the better..if I am switching meats and need to re-position i will usually put the bars back in and put the lid on until I am ready to QUICKLY change the meat. If its open 5 min total that's probably okay but any longer you will spike (at least for a little while). Out of curiosity, did you check your sea level were you are and adjust the little hole? I am near zero and have it less that 1/4 open. When you are settled, what is your  typical temp? I use a probe and see I maintain ~ 260-270 for the majority of the cooks (might spike to 350 or something when I open lid but settles back down). Also, what charcoal are you using? Are you using KBB like they suggest or something else?   
  15. millerbuilds

    millerbuilds Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I agree, it sounds like your have your lower damper open too far.  In addition I never leave my lid off during the heat up process.  I always use a mini chimney from weber and let the coals heat up in the chimney for 12-15 minutes.  I am in Texas and on hot days I make sure my PBC is in the shade during the cook, when it is 100 degrees out and in the sun, it will jump my cooker temps up big time.  

    Smoke ON!

    - Jason
  16. I am having the identical problem, PBC temps with a full coal basket, rising to 375 - 400 deg.  So, what I should do is immediately on igniting the coals with what is in the chimney lighter, shut the lid and let it sit for 15 - 20 min before adding the meat?  

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