You may have often heard the question “Which is better, Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5” or Pit Barrel Cooker?” Today I will try to make it all clear to everyone having a problem with getting the answer to that question.
Someone who is just starting on their adventure with BBQ is certainly going to run into this problem when looking for their first solid smoker. Which is why I decided to take care of that topic knowing that it will help a lot of beginners.
You need to know that both models are on my list of the best smokers which only shows their quality.
I have a lot of experience with PBC and WSM which is why I decided to make an honest and objective comparison between both charcoal smokers in many regards. Each of them has its upsides and downsides but personally I believe that no matter which of them you pick, you will be satisfied.
Pit Barrel Cooker vs WSM
Easy of Use
Both smokers are very easy to use and don’t cause much problem even to beginners. They can simply forgive a lot of mistakes which makes it easier to maintain the right temperature over many hours. They differ in terms of the cooking system ( more on that below ) but both of them are very easy to use. PBC only makes slow & low smoking possible, which means that from the moment you get the right temperature you don’t have to do anything to maintain it so in this regard I believe that PBC is better.
Actually in both cases starting is incredibly simple although in WSM there are many ways to do this. When it comes to PBC, all you have to do is simply fill the whole bowl with charcoal, get it burning and you’re done.
WSM and PBC are available at very similar prices and in similar sizes so in this regard there is no competition. There is a slight difference in what they offer for that price, they differ a little in their cooking systems and structures which is why I encourage you to read the whole article so that you can learn about it.
Regardless of how well both models were built and how high is their quality, it is nice when a product is covered with a decent warranty. It always makes one feel secure, especially if you’re a beginner. Weber Smokey Mountain is covered with whole 10 years of warranty, whereas Pit Barrel Cooker only offers 1 year which is a little disappointing. I believe that they should consider extending the warranty period especially considering that their smoker is really solid and durable.
In both cases there’s a lot of space but there are certain limitations. WSM is limited by the diameter of the grates and their number ( 2 ) which means that long pieces of meat such as ribs won’t fit. In PBC on the other hand there is no problem with that thanks to a system of hooks and having just one grate. The system of hooks is also possible in WSM but it requires buying separate accessories.
Brand & Marketing
Both brands are very valued in the world of BBQ, although it’s Weber that has a definitely longer and richer history ( Weber Smokey Mountain is from 1981 whereas Pit Barrel Cooker is 2003 ). Due to how great those smokers are, both manufacturers have no problem with their marketing. Pit Barrel Cooker as well as Weber Smokey Mountain always appear at many important events and are very well commented on and rated.
WSM and PBC are high quality charcoal smokers with non-complicated structure which makes them unlikely to malfunction. If any problem does occur, however, both brands provide great support for their customer, one of the best in the industry.
The PBC structure was mostly designed with hanging meat by the hooks in mind despite also having one grate. A great option if you want to smoke longer pieces of meat which you are not likely to do in the WSM where the structure is mostly designed with smoking meat on the grates in mind ( two grates ). You can also adapt the WSM to the PBC style but you will have to buy hooks separately.
In both cases it is very easy but in PBC it is incredibly easy. Pit Barrel Cooker was designed in a way that allows it to only achieve a fixed temperature within the range of 250-300 degrees F which means that from the moment of warming it up you don’t have to worry about anything. The WSM structure, on the other hand, makes it possible to smoke in different cognitions within 200-300 degrees F so it requires adjusting the air vents.
Slow & Low or Fast & Hot
Pit Barrel Cooker always creates conditions for slow & low smoking whereas Weber Smokey Mountain is versatile in this regard. WSM makes it possible to smoke slow & low or fast & hot ( it’s up to you which maximum temperature you achieve ).
Seeing both brands, it is easy to come to a conclusion that they both offer a wide selection of accessories. I think that it is PBC that has more interesting accessories available at the official store. However, there will certainly be a lot of useful stuff for the owners of a PBC or WSM.
Judging by the accessories, both smokers are versatile. If we take a look at the temperature control and cooking style, however, it is WSM that is more versatile. PBC only makes slow & low smoking possible whereas WSM makes it possible to smoke meat hot and fast or slow in a low temperature.
Quality of workmanship
There is no doubt that both charcoal smokers are very high quality. They have a great design, and over all those years they have been improved as much as it was possible. Today these are the two most popular charcoal smokers available at a reasonable price. They can certainly survive a lot but if you need a warranty then Weber offers whole 10 years for their product, whereas Pit Barrel Cooker only a year.
The winner is definitely Pit Barrel Cooker, which is much less complicated in this regard than Weber Smokey Mountain. My tip when it comes to PBC, put tinfoil right below the charcoal basket, which will collect all the impurities such as the grease etc. Once you’re done smoking, just throw the tinfoil away and clean the hooks which only takes a while ( the whole thing as short as 5 minutes once you get experienced ). Cleaning a WSM is very easy, but sadly it takes much more time. You have to clean the grill grates, throw out the ash/charcoal, clean/empty the water bowl etc – seems like simple things, but it takes much more time.
In this regard the winner is also Pit Barrel Cooker mostly thanks to its simple and uniform structure equipped with two convenient handles on both sides. It makes it easy to move from one place to another which isn’t quite so simple when it comes to WSM. Weber Smokey Mountain consists of three parts which makes it impossible to move it as a whole. In order to comfortably change its location, one has to move each of its three parts one by one, which also consist of such elements as water pan or grill grates.
Weber Smokey Mountain vs Pit Barrel Cooker – Conclusion
Which one of them to choose, then ?
In this comparison there is no clear winner, as WSM and PBC are high quality products that won’t disappoint you. No matter which you pick, you will be satisfied, both make it possible to prepare the same food but in slightly different ways.
Personally, I own Pit Barrel Cooker and Weber Smokey Mountain and use both regularly depending on situation.
Pit Barrel Cooker is most of all more mobile, designed to mostly smoke on hooks, better for longer pieces of meat, cleaning takes less time, it provides much shorter cooking time, and there is no temperature control (it maintains a fixed temperature between 250-300 degrees F).
Weber Smokey Mountain is the most versatile in terms of temperature, good for low & slow smoking especially if you are a fan of all night smoking, it comes with whole 10 years of warranty and I believe that when it comes to most types of meat it gives slightly better results.
If you have to choose between WSM and PBC then I hope that my opinions will make the choice easier for you. If buying both of them is not a problem to you, though, I really recommend such solution, which is what I went with many years ago.