We live in a beautiful time when we get to ask the question, “Which is better, a Pit Barrel Cooker or a Weber Smokey Mountain?” The Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker are both excellent smokers that can turn out incredible barbecue and are priced about the same.
Despite the initial similarities between these two cookers there are also some massive differences that make the decision easy for me. I believe most people will enjoy owning a Pit Barrel Cooker more than a Weber Smokey Mountain.
Let me show you the primary differences between these products and why I like the PBC.
Differences Between the Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker
The table below lists some of the major differences between these cookers.
|Model||MSRP||Carry Handles||Precision Temp |
|14 inch Pit Barrel Cooker Junior||$249||Yes||No||Yes|
|14 inch Weber Smokey Mountain||$229||No||Yes||No|
|18 inch Pit Barrel Cooker||$349||Yes||No||Yes|
|18 inch Weber Smokey Mountain||$349||No||Yes||No|
Look, I realize that you could make up a list of a hundred differences between these brands but the only ones that really matter are that the WSM gives you precision air and temperature control while the PBC is easy to use and move.
Pit Barrel Cooker Video Review
One of the thing that makes the PBC fun and special is that is is designed to cook meat that is hanging from hooks directly over lit charcoal. You also get a traditional cooking grate with a PBC so you can grill hamburgers and steaks.
There is no heat diffuser in a PBC which means all of the grease drips directly onto the coals and you get an extra layer of incredible flavor.
The PBC only has a single air vent and once you make the initial setting, based upon your elevation from sea level, then you never need to touch it again.
Weber Smokey Mountain Video Review
Here is a great video walkthrough of the Weber Smokey Mountain by barbecue legend Harry Soo. Harry competes exclusively with this style of cooker and has won over 30 Grand Championships.
The WSM has four air vents that you can tweak to your heart’s content as you dial in your ideal target temperature.
Why I Prefer the Pit Barrel Cooker
I spent a lot of years working with a Weber Smokey Mountain and, while I am grateful for all of the amazing barbecue my cooker provided I think a lot of folks will prefer the PBC.
In the Pit Barrel Cooker vs Weber Smokey Mountain showdown, there are the four reasons that I suggest buying a PBC instead of a WSM.
Reason #1: I am old and over it
The mixed blessing of a WSM is the ability to precisely control temperatures. The Pit Barrel Cooker only lets you cook in one temperature range. You do NOT have anywhere near the temperature control on a PBC as you do on an WSM.
When I was younger I spent years pursuing the secrets of barbecue. I was convinced that precise temperature control at “magic temperatures” was fundamental to creating great barbecue.
I bought an 18.5 WSM because it was the best smoker that I could afford. I experimented with ribs cooked at 225F vs 275F. I got obsessed with determining the optimal charcoal configuration for the longest burn time.
After obsessing over temperature I switched over to the other usual suspects. I compared apple juice in the water pan vs foiled sand. I went down the dark hole of fat side up or down. I was determined to understand the flavor profile differences between hickory and pecan.
I wasted a lot of time trying to perfect my craft with tiny details that really didn’t matter.
I am older now and have figured out what is and isn’t important to my barbecue. While I appreciate and respect the temperature control offered by the WSM it is something that I no longer need.
Reason #2: I like Hot and Fast
There is something seductive and authentic about the phase, “fourteen hour smoked brisket”. This is the type of phrase you get to use when you smoke briskets low and slow on a WSM.
There is something seductive and comforting about sleeping in on the weekend and still having time to smoke a brisket for dinner. This is the type of thing you get to do when you smoke briskets hot and fast on a PBC.
Again, I am getting old. I am a big fan of sleeping in and taking naps.
Reason #3: Set it and Forget it
There are some folks who will tell you that the WSM is the ultimate “set it and forget it” smoker. I disagree.
After you arrange the charcoal on a WSM and pour some lit coals on top you are going to spend about 45-60 minutes watching it slowly come up to temperature and then tweaking the air vents to get the smoker running just where you want it.
After you put the meat on the WSM you are going to come back and check the temperature for the first couple of hours just to be sure. You probably wont have to make any adjustments but still…let’s go check that it is still running exactly where we want it.
After the first couple of hours have gone by with smooth sailing then you will be comfortable walking away and letting the WSM work its magic.
In comparison when you use the PBC you fill up the charcoal basket, get it lit and wait 20 minutes for the coal bed to establish itself. You put the meat on the smoker, close the lid and walk away.
There is no thermometer on the PBC to make you paranoid. There is no need to tweak the bottom vent. The cooker is going to go where it is going to go and your meat will be tagging along for a delicious ride.
To me the PBC is the ultimate “set it and forget it” smoker because there simply is nothing left for you to do except wait once the meat goes on the pit.
Reason #4: Easy to Move
The WSM has three sections that I had to move individually and I typically had to make a forth trip to get the grates and water pan.
Moving the clean, cold smoker out of the garage was annoying. Moving the warm, greasy smoker back into the garage was unpleasant.
I eventually caught myself firing up my gas grill instead of my WSM because I couldn’t be bothered to deal with the hassle of moving it around.
The PBC has single body construction and comes with….wait for it…..HANDLES for picking it up and moving!!!
WSM or PBC: Which One is Right for You?
If you have any interest in competition barbecue or are the type of person who wants to have complete control over all aspects of your barbecue then the choice is a no brainer. Here is my full Weber Smokey Mountain Review.
If you already have a WSM and are considering switching over to a PBC then I would not bother. You can take out the water pan and cook directly over the coals. This is what I am doing with my 18 inch WSM that I use as my dedicated chicken cooker.
If you are at a point where you are a little more laid back and just want to cook some great barbecue in a reasonable amount of time in a stress free environment then you can’t go wrong with the PBC.
Let me give you one more reason to buy the PBC. The company is veteran owned by Noah and Amber Glanville and they are great people. I was fortunate to spend a long weekend with them a couple of years ago. They have a sweet family and were extra nice to my wife. I am proud to be an affiliate for the Glanville’s product.
And of course, if you just want to get your baby running like new again here is a full list of replacement Weber Smokey Mountain Parts.
If you are interested in learning more about this cooker then here is a more detailed review of the Pit Barrel Cooker by King of the Coals.