Pit Barrel Cooker vs Weber Smokey Mountain: Is One Best?

Pit Barrel Cooker vs Weber Smokey Mountain

Man… they are both GREAT smokers! Like really… You’re choosing between two of the most highly rated barbecues on the market. They’re both very well-made, hold a similar amount of meat, can turn out competition quality food, are in the same price brackets, and, are suitable for any experience level. So, how are you going to choose?

This is where we come in.

While there’s a lot that’s the same between the Pit Barrel Cooker and the Weber Smokey Mountain, there’s a few differences that are probably going to sway you either way.

So, in this comparison of the Pit Barrel Cooker vs Weber Smokey Mountain, we’ll go over everything you need to know about both smokers to make the best decision about what’s coming to your backyard.

Best thing is that, either way, you’re making a great decision. But, if you want to do more than flip a coin, read on…

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The Quick Version: PBC vs WSM

Both the Pit Barrel Cooker and the Weber Smokey Mountain are high-quality, well-built, dedicated vertical style charcoal smokers. But, there’s a few crucial differences.

The Pit Barrel Cooker is designed to hang meat and cook at a fixed temperature with the natural convection process looking after creating an even cooking environment for consistent results.

The Weber Smokey Mountain has a regular rack system where the temperature can be adjusted by moving the airflow vents and a water pan keeps the meat moist throughout longer, slower cooks.

What that means in terms of using the PBC and the WSM is that the Pit Barrel Cooker is a set and forget smoker. It’ll cook food hotter and faster with less effort while the Weber Smokey Mountain can do lower and slower longer cooks, but, you’ll need to watch the temperature, adjust the vents and add more charcoal along the way.

The PBC also has the edge when it comes to larger, longer cuts because you can hang a whole brisket, even on the smaller version. But, the WSM has a much longer warranty even though the quality of both are pretty on par.

Whichever you choose, both are great smokers that really do deserve their top ratings.

A Bit About the Pit Barrel Cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker (also known as the PBC) is a high-quality, everything is done for you ugly drum smoker setup. Made by a US Veteran, it’s the top-rated and best-selling drum smoker in the world.

The body is porcelain-coated 18 gauge steel. It’s super solid and holds a heap of food, because, unlike most vertical smokers, you hang the meat inside, maximizing the usable space while taking advantage of it’s 360° heat dynamics.

They’re really easy to use and with a bit of practice can turn out some of the best barbecue in town.

The Pit Barrel Cooker comes in two different sizes; the Classic 18.5″ and the more portable 14″ Pit Barrel Junior. Both come with a whole host of accessories including all the racks and hooks you need for smoking. But, there’s also some package prices that deliver even better value with add-ons like the branded cover, turkey hangers and vertical kebab holders.

A Bit About the Weber Smokey Mountain

The Smokey Mountain is Weber’s only dedicated smoker. Made with the same porcelain-coated steel as their ever-popular kettle grill, they’ve basically added an extra section of pipe plus a water pan to create a vertical charcoal smoker that’s affordable, easy to use, and, cooks some great food.

Up there with the Pit Barrel Cooker as one of the equally most raved about smokers ever, the Weber Smokey Mountain (also known as the WSM) is frequently used on the competitive circuit but is easy enough for beginners to get the hang of as well.

WSM’s come in 3 different sizes; the most-popular 18″, the more portable 14″, and, the super-sized 22″ giving you a whole heap of choice.

Unlike the most commonly used setup in the Pit Barrel Cooker, the WSM racks sit horizontally, stacked one above another. You can buy optional hanging kits to convert the Weber Smokey Mountain to a similar setup to the Pit Barrel Cooker too.

A Quick Comparison of the PBC vs WSM

They might look similar from the outside but there’s a few critical differences in how each of these smokers performs. The table below gives you a quick overview.

Set and forget

Requires regular monitoring

250 - 300°F

200 - 350°F+

 240 sq. in. of cooking space on 18.5" grate, but, fits a lot more by hanging

481 sq. in. of cooking space on 18" model

Whole brisket done in about 7-8hrs

Whole brisket done in about 12hrs+

14" Junior and 18.5" Classic sizes available

14", 18" and 22" sizes available

1 piece design is easy to move

3 piece design means it breaks down to fit in smaller vehicles

1 year warranty

10 year warranty on body, 5 years on plastic, 2 years on other parts

An In-Depth Look at the Weber Smokey Mountain vs Pit Barrel Cooker

Build Quality

Both the Weber Smokey Mountain and the Pit Barrel Cooker are made from porcelain-enameled steel. The PBC is a confirmed 18 gauge while Weber don’t specify what spec of steel is used. But, Weber’s is the same durable shell as their been around forever kettle barbecues so you know it’s good.

Because the Pit Barrel Cooker is basically a 30 gallon drum, there’s no dampers or other pieces to get damaged or worn.

But, either way they’re both top quality options that are durable, rust-resistant and won’t peel over time.

The winner – When it comes to build quality on the Pit Barrel Cooker vs Weber Smokey Mountain, they playing field is pretty level – BOTH.

Capacity

The Weber Smokey Mountain comes in 3 different sizes. The smallest 14″ gives you a modest 286 square inches of space while the mid-sized 18″ holds 481 square inches and the super-sized 22″ houses 726 square inches of cooking space.

Whether you’re goal is portability, feeding the family, or entertaining a crowd, there’s going to be a WSM size option that suits.

The Pit Barrel Cooker is a bit harder to compare size-wise.

There are two models available, the Classic 18.5″ and the Junior 14″. Both come with 1 regular horizontal rack offering 240 square inches and 154 square inches respectively.

But, the PBC isn’t really designed to be stacked horizontally. To get the most out of it, the basic package for the Classic comes with 8 hanging hooks and the Junior comes with 4. You can add more hooks (and the add-on packages include them at a great price). But, you can essentially hang a whole brisket in the 14″ Junior with space to spare. Or, just fill it with rib rack after rib rack.

The Pit Barrel Cooker will fit a lot more food than you can in a standard vertical charcoal smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain. And, it’s great for longer cuts of meat that you might have to drape over a bowl in the WSM.

The winner – There’s a lot of choice in size with the WSM. But, the ability to use the vertical space in the PBC means it can hold more meat and larger cuts more easily – PIT BARREL COOKER. 

Temperature Control

Temperature control is the thing that makes using the Weber Smokey Mountain and the Pit Barrel Cooker so different.

With the WSM, you’re looking at a more regular setup with a top and bottom damper that you adjust to change the airflow inside and push the temperature up and down as needed. So, put lots of charcoal in and restrict the airflow to keep the temperature lower. Or, open the vents up for more oxygen and a hotter fire. The choice is yours and there’s a temperature gauge to show you how hot the cooking chamber is.

The Pit Barrel Cooker is a fixed temperature smoker. You load it up with charcoal at the bottom, put the meat on top and leave it to do it’s thing. It’ll most likely sit in the 250-300°F range and there’s no temperature gauge to see what it’s doing.

Some people will hate not being able to see how hot they’re running their smoker and want that greater level of control. Sweet, go for the Weber. But, there’s also a bit of peace given in trusting the Pit Barrel Smoker to do it’s thing and not having to mess with airflow and charcoal levels to keep the heat steady inside.

The winner – The Weber Smokey Mountain gives you control over the temperature. The Pit Barrel Cooker can’t be adjusted and is just left to do it’s thing – DEPENDS ON YOU.

Cook Time

Because Pit Barrel Cooker runs at a somewhat fixed temperature and operates more like a convection oven, it’ll generally cook things faster than on the Weber Smokey Mountain. You can easily get a whole brisket done in a day without early wake-ups and you don’t need to be home for as long when you’re smoking.

But, if 14 hour + smoked brisket is your jam, you’re not going to be able to get that on the PBC. The Weber Smokey Mountain can be cranked down lower for a slower cook which some people justifiably prefer.

The winner – The PBC cooks hotter and faster while the WSM does low and slow – DEPENDS ON YOU.

Ease of Use

Fixed temperature smokers don’t have any dampers to mess around with. There’s no temperature gauge to check. And, you don’t need to refill the charcoal mid-cook.

So, the Pit Barrel Cooker is a lot less work to use. You don’t need to babysit it. It’s actually a set and forget charcoal smoker. You can set up wireless meat thermometers if you’re using them, or just come back once your meat should be done.

Simple. Easy.

It might still take a few runs to get the hang of it. But, the Pit Barrel Cooker is the easiest type of charcoal smoker to use.

When it comes to ease of use, the Weber Smokey Mountain is more time-consuming but still fairly easy. The high-quality dampers make temperature control easy, the thermometer is accurate and the separate fuel door makes adding charcoal mid-cook a non-issue.

But, the WSM will need regular care and attention while you’re smoking. You’ll need to watch the temperature, change the dampers and add-fuel every hour or so. At least for the first few hours.

But, it’s still a great smoker for beginners. Not difficult to use. Just a bit more time intensive than the PBC.

The winner – The Pit Barrel Cooker is a set and forget smoker so it is easier to use than the Weber Smokey Mountain – PIT BARREL COOKER.

Versatility

Both the PBC and the WSM are versatile in that they can hot smoke any type of meat. Neither are suitable for cold smoking. But, the Smokey Mountain has a larger temperature range so it is more versatile in that regard.

Come grilling, you can grill on the Pit Barrel Cooker. You get the grill grate included and can leave the lid off to fire up some wings, sausages or steaks. The results aren’t amazing and it’s a bit more difficult than grilling on a barbecue that’s designed for grilling first (you’ll definitely need gloves). But, it’s doable.

The WSM on the other hand hasn’t been designed for grilling. Some enthusiasts remove the middle section and balance the cooking grate on top of the charcoal base. But, there’s no lip so it’s literally balancing there and a not great solution when buying a kettle grill isn’t that expensive anyway.

The winner – The PBC and the WSM are pretty much dedicated smokers. Grilling is doable on the PBC. But, because of the WSM’s wider temperature range, we’re giving this one to them – WEBER SMOKEY MOUNTAIN.

Portability

The smaller versions of both of these smokers are advertised as being portable. Both have grates that are roughly 14.5 inches wide so are a pretty good size to fit in the back of a truck or car even.

But, we will note that there’s one big difference between the brands.

The Weber Smokey Mountain is a 3 part smoker. You can break it down to be a separate base, mid-section and lid. This might be handy if you want to store it on a shelf, or, if the height of your trunk is limited.

The Pit Barrel Cooker is one big drum. It’s easier to just pick up and move without the whole thing coming apart so is more portable from that perspective. But, doesn’t give you the flexibility of breaking it down into pieces for transportation.

The winner – We do prefer the PBC when it comes to maneuverability because it’s just so easy to pick the whole thing up – PIT BARREL COOKER.

Price

The WSM and the PBC are really similar in terms of price. So much so that it’s not really a consideration when comparing the Pit Barrel Cooker vs WSM.

The winner – They’re pretty much the same and include similar items – BOTH.

Cleaning

To clean the Pit Barrel Cooker, you’re pretty much looking at washing the hooks and grate if you’ve used it.

The ash at the bottom of the pit will also need clearing out. There’s an optional ash pan you can get with the PBC Select and up packages that’s so worth it! It pops onto the bottom of the charcoal pan and makes it even faster to clean out. You could use aluminum foil at the base of the charcoal basket to do a similar job.

Cleaning the WSM is a bit more time consuming. There’s the 2 grates to wash down, the ash tray to empty and the water pan to scrub. Still not a major, but it does take a bit longer.

The winner – The PBC is slightly faster and easier to clean – PIT BARREL COOKER.

Warranty and Customer Service

Being an industry-leader, Weber offers a superior warranty with 10 years on the WSM bowl, 5 years on any plastic components and 2 years on everything else. You still need to keep it out of the weather to stay in tip top shape. But, it’s a solid smoker that should outlast it’s warranty. Their customer service is great too.

Pit Barrel Cookers only come with a 1 year warranty. Honestly, it’s a bit surprising because it’s a porcelain-enameled drum with metal accessories and their customer service is also great. There’s not much area for things to go wrong. We feel like it’s warranty is well under-estimating it’s useful life.

But, if you’re comforted by the warranty terms, Weber has the edge.

The winner – The WSM has a much longer warranty even though the PBC should last at least as long – WEBER SMOKEY MOUNTAIN.

So, Should I Buy the WSM or the PBC?

Generally speaking we say, if you want a charcoal smoker that’s set and forget, or you like smoking a bit hotter and faster, choose the Pit Barrel Cooker. It’s also a bit easier to cook those larger and longer cuts of meat, although the 22″ WSM will do it (read our super-sizing guide here)

If you want to be able to play with the temperature and experiment with 14 hour + smokes then the Weber Smokey Mountain allows you to do just that.

Either way, they’re great both smokers and you’re going to be making some amazing meat.

Read our full review of the Weber Smokey Mountain.

Read our full review of the Pit Barrel Cooker.

Our Verdict on the Pit Barrel Cooker vs Weber Smokey Mountain

The Pit Barrel Cooker excels at cooking larger cuts of meat in less time with less work. With a fixed temperature range and no gauge to busy yourself checking, you can mow the lawns, paint the house or fix up your car knowing dinner’s going to be good at the end of it.

Because the Weber Smokey Mountain has dampers, you’ve got more control over what temperature you want to cook at. Lower and slower is usually the preferred way to cook on a WSM. You’ll have to watch the temperature, adjust the airflow and add more charcoal along the way.

The Weber also comes with a far better warranty although the quality of both units is pretty much the same.

So, with similar prices, similar sizes, and equally great built qualities, all you’ve to do is ask yourself, how do you want to cook?