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Pit Barrel PBX Review: Huge 55 Gal AND Simple To Use?

It’s been YEARS in the making but the Pit Barrel PBX is finally here!

If your dreams consist of 20 racks of ribs, 16 chickens or 4 whole packer briskets all cooking together at once… this is the answer to them.

Boasting a very generous 22.5″ diameter, the 55 gallon PBX says one thing loud and proud, this thing is huge!

But, it’s literally taken Pit Barrel YEARS to refine this larger version of what they originally stated was the optimal 30 gallon size that is their Classic Cooker.

So, have they managed to get it right?

In our Pit Barrel PBX review we’ll cover how this beast performs to give you all the info you need before you buy.

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Table of Contents

The Quick Version of our Pit Barrel PBX Review

We’re going to say a massive thanks to Pit Barrel for sticking this one out and actually waiting until this beast was really ready for the market!

The PBX is everything we’d hoped it would be.

It holds a massive amount of meat, it’s still simple to use and it’s still got that same top quality you expect from the ever-popular Pit Barrel.

In fact, if you’ve got a PBC already, you shouldn’t even find it that different to use.

With 3 hanging rods, you can smoke up to 20 racks of ribs or 16 whole chickens at one time.

Use it at home for large parties, to preserve your latest kill. Or, hit up your next competition with the PBX. You could even use one or multiple units in a restuarant setting.

The PBX runs a little hotter than your typical low and slow smoker does. But because it’s using natural convection and there’s no top vent, all the moisture is kept in the barrel to stop your meat from drying out. Instead, it just cooks a bit faster than you’d expect while keeping all of that charcoal-smoked goodness locked right where you want it.

Suitable for anyone who wants quality on a budget and/or who doesn’t want to have to babysit a smoker all day, the PBX makes seriously large seriously easy.

A Bit About the Pit Barrel PBX

The PBX is the Pit Barrel Cooker Company’s long-awaited extra-large 22.5″ drum smoker.

Created by US Marine veteran, Noah Glanville, the Pit Barrel range includes 3 differently sized porcelain-enameled drums that have been very carefully designed and tested to make charcoal smoking simple.

With one vent that you set based on your altitude you can literally set it up and forget about it until it’s time to eat.

Originally Pit Barrel launched their 18.5″ Classic barrel stating it was a more optimal size for easy charcoal smoking. But after years, they’ve fine-tuned the larger version, the PBX, to super-size simple charcoal smoking too.

If you don’t need the huge capacity but are still keen on the set and forget nature of Pit Barrel, read our review of the Pit Barrel Cooker Classic here.

How the Pit Barrel PBX Works

In the PBX you sit a basket full of lit charcoal at the bottom of the drum.

From there, you can either use the included regular grate to place your meat or hang it on the supplied stainless steel hooks.

Heat naturally rises and circulates inside the drum, creating an even temperature throughout.

Because there’s no upper vent, the lid locks the moisture in negating the need for a water pan.

The only thing you need to set is the single air intake vent at the base of the drum. At sea level, it’s 1/4 open and increases until fully open at 8000 feet and above.

Features of the Pit Barrel PBX

Construction:

  • Durable and rust-resistant porcelain-enameled 18-gauge steel
  • Stainless steel hooks for hanging meats to maximize space
  • Heavy-duty porcelain-coated charcoal basket

Ease of use:

  • Light according to the instructions and leave it to do the cooking – there’s no vents to mess around with
  • 2 grate heights let you smoke or grill
  • Lid hooks onto handle while you’re loading and unloading
  • Single piece design makes it easy to move

Included extras:

  • 16 hooks with 3 hanging rods
  • Standard grill grate
  • Stand
  • Wooden hook remover
  • Charcoal basket
  • Upgraded packages available through PitBarrelCooker.com

Build Quality

Just like the rest of the Pit Barrel range, the quality of the PBX is exceptional – especially when you consider the price!

The barrel is made from 18-gauge steel that’s been porcelain-coated for improved rust-resistance and durability. The horse-shoe side and top handles give the PBX it’s authentically original look while being strong enough to handle the weight of the large barrel. And, the stand is sturdy on most surfaces.

Other than that, it’s such a simple, fool-proof design that there’s not much room for anything to go wrong in terms of it’s build.

You’ll notice that there’s no built-in temperature gauge. Yes, you can add one but no, you really don’t need one.

Pit Barrel’s run at a fairly fixed temperature of between 250 and 300°F. By simply setting the single bottom vent and you really don’t need to watch how hot it’s running. Trust it to do it’s thing while you reclaim yor time.

And, Pit Barrel have kitted the PBX out with the same high quality stainless steel hooks, porcelain-enameled charcoal basket and durable grate.

It’s an inexpensive design but they’ve done it really well and do so at a very reasonable cost.

Capacity

The PBX’s 22.5″ diameter grate gives you a pretty modest 380 square inches of cooking space.

But, of course, that’s not really how the Pit Barrel is meant to be used.

To take it from ordinary to extraordinary grab the stainless steel hooks and start hanging your meat.

There’s 16 included with the PBX (you use multiple hooks for larger cuts) and you’ll more than quadruple the capacity of this 55 gallon drum.

Imagine 16 whole chickens, 20 racks of ribs, 5 turkey’s or 4 full-sized briskets smoking away in your backyard. Or, the PBX makes a great competition or restaurant-level barbecue.

You can’t get it yet because the PBX is so new. But, there wil be a hinged grate available for it down the track so that you can use both the vertical and horiztonal cooking space at the same time.

Smoking Performance

Taste what you can cook on the PBX you’ll be impressed. But, if you also know how little effort it took to smoke that beast you’d already be waving your card around at the checkout.

Lighting the PBX is a little different from the Classic model.

Instead of filling the coal basket completely and taking some out to start in your chimney, you’ll fill the basket, fill the chimney starter and once going, just add those coals on top.

The extra fuel capacity will keep it smoking away nicely for on average 8-9 hours. But, we have known people do go longer on the PBX as well.

Word of warning – the PBX is huge and it will use a lot of charcoal for a full cook (about 3/4 of a standard bag). If you’re not planning on using the large capacity, it will be more efficient to go with the Pit Barrel Classic or Pit Barrel Junior. But, if you want to smoke a lot, then the PBX is very efficient.

After it’s lit, load it up and let the PBX do it’s thing!

The temperature of the PBX tends to fluctuate a bit more than the standard-sized PBC. But, the results are pretty much identical to what you’d get on the smaller model.

If you’ve cooked on a PBC you’ll know that the bottom rib or two tend to get a little overdone. But, the PBX barrel is taller so there’s a bigger gap between the meat and the coals, helping to stop the lower bits from drying out.

Although we’re advocates for leaving the Pit Barrel Cooker unmodified and using it as a set and forget smoker, we do recommend using a meat thermometer with it (like we would any other smoker as well).

A meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of when the meat’s perfectly ready.

Check out our review of the best wireless meat thermometers if you need one. Or, just grab the MEATER Plus or Block.

It’s our pick on the PBX because there’s absolutely no wires to get in the way of the lid or to have to feed through the rod holes.

The Block with 4 probes included is a good investment when you’re cooking this volume of meat too.

The flavor you’ll get on the PBX is nicely charcoally without being overpowering.

If you want more of a woody taste then just add some wood chunks to your charcoal basket at the beginning of your cook.

But what you’ll be getting out of the PBX should easily be moist and tender with a good smoke ring and a crispy bark.

Grilling Performance

Before we get onto grilling, just remember that the Pit Barrel was designed as a smoker first and a grill second.

So, while you can smoke on the PBX and the results aren’t bad, it’s just not set up that well for hard and fast.

The PBX is made for grilling with the lid off.

To set it up, place your charcoal in the basket like usual (although you might want less than usual) and move the regular grate on the top level support.

Once the charcoal is going well, throw your meat on or use a cast iron pan.

It does get nice and hot even though the grate is quite a way from the coals. But, without vents, you don’t have a lot of control over how hot it’s running.

Included and Optional Extras

The basic PBX package comes with everything you need to smoke and grill (except a charcoal chimney to get it going).

You’ve got the charcoal basket, regular grate, stainless steel hooks, hanging rods and hook lifter.

You can also get the Pitmaster Package that throws in the chimney, 6 hanging baskets, pit grip gloves, ultimate hook tool, tongs and extra hooks.

At the time of writing this, Pit Barrel still haven’t come out with the PBX range of extra accessories. But, we do know that a hinged grate, ash pan and other popular items are coming so keep an eye on their accessory page if you’re after any of these.

Warranty

The least impressive thing about the Pit Barrel is it’s measly 1 year warranty.

It’s a great smoker that’s very well-built and doesn’t have any working parts so you’d think a longer warranty would be well, warranted.

But, good news is that it’s still a well-built smoker with no working parts so it should well outlive it’s warranty without giving you any major problems.

But, we’re telling you how it is.

Cleaning the PBC

Cleaning the PBX is pretty simply.

As you’d do with any barbecue, scrape the grate (if used) and wash the meat hooks (they can go in the dishwasher).

The only other thing you need to do regularly is clear the ash out of the bottom of the drum. To do that you’ll either need to flip it to pour the ash out or use a shop vacuum. We recommend the shop vacuum approach because flipping it is messy.

When Pit Barrel release the ash pan for the PBX you’ll be able to just lift out most of the ash with the charcoal basket.

Until then, you do still need to clear it out to prevent the air intake from getting blocked which would affect your cooks.

Pros and Cons of the PBX

What We Like About the Pit Barrel PBX

  • It holds a LOT of meat!
  • It’s a set and forget smoker – no babysitting required
  • Cooks a little faster than most other smokers because it naturally runs a bit hotter
  • Very durable build that should last years and years
  • Comes with everything you need to smoke or grill

What We Don't Like About the Pit Barrel PBX

  • The fact that it’s set and forget also means that you don’t have as much control when something throws your cook off (like rain cooling the barrel down)
  • It’d be nice if you could change the height of the charcoal basket for grilling closer to the coals
  • A longer warranty would be nice

Should I Buy the Pit Barrel PBX?

The Pit Barrel PBX is ideal for anyone who wants:

  • To smoke a large amount of meat
  • Wants a set and forget smoker without requiring electricity like a pellet smoker
  • Likes the charcoal flavor
  • Is looking for a budget-friendly yet quality option

If that’s you, the PBX is a great buy. It’s simple to use, very durable and can turn out some absolutely great smoked meat.

If you don’t need the volume, check out the Pit Barrel Cooker Classic or Junior instead (they’ll be more fuel efficient for smaller quantities).

And, if you want more control over your cook or you might be smoking in the rain, try either the Weber Smokey Mountain or a pellet smoker (here’s some similarly priced but good options).

FAQs About the Pit Barrel PBX

Q. What mods does the PBX need?

Some people are pretty quick to modify Pit Barrels but we’re firm believers that it’s best used how it was designed. If you’re primarily smoking on it, you shouldn’t have any issues. A meat thermometer is the only thing we’d recommend so that you know exactly when it’s prefectly cooked.

Q. How hard is it to move the PBX around?

The PBX is bigger and heavier than the other Pit Barrels so it’s not exactly portable (although you can throw it on the back of a truck). But, it is one piece so moving it short distances is totally doable.

Q. Can you use meat probes inside the PBX?

You can run wires between the barrel and the lid, or feed them through the rod holes. We prefer to go wireless with the PBX and our first pick for completely wireless is the MEATER.

Q. How long can you smoke for with one full basket of charcoal in the PBX?

You should easily get 8-9 hours out of one basket of charcoal in the PBX. That’s long enough to do long smokes (remember the PBX runs hotter so cooks a little faster). But, how long you get will depend on the charcoal used and outside temperature. Check out our review for our favorite charcoals.

Q. Does the PBX use lump charcoal or briquettes?

Pit Barrel’s are designed to be used with briquettes. This is simply because briquettes are more uniform and give a more stable burn than you get from the irregular sizes of lump charcoal. We’ve used both and lump is fine as well. We do notice a bit more variance in terms of cook time. Check out our favorite briquettes and favorite lump charcoal here.

Q. What’s better; the Pit Barrel PBX or a Traeger?

Both the Pit Barrel PBX and Traeger’s are awesome set and forget smokers.

The biggest difference between the two is going to be fuel type.

With the Pit Barrel, you get that distinctively charcoal smoked taste while the Traeger gives you a more gentle wood smoked flavor. What’s your preference?

There’s a bit more to it as well. We dive into it in detail in our Pit Barrel Cooker vs Traeger comparison.

Specs for the Pit Barrel 22.5" PBX

Barbecue type: Charcoal drum cooker

Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled, 18-gauge steel

Grate material: Stainless steel or regular steel depending on accessory

Cooking capacity: Varies depending on accessories used

Heat Range: 250 – 300°F

Fuel type: Charcoal

Price guide: $$

Model: PBX

Assembled size (in): 25.5″ W x 33″ H x 25.5″ D

Weight: 84 lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Jared Brown, an avid lover of all things meat has a fearless enthusiasm for experimenting with anything that's grilling, smoking or outdoor cooking. With a wealth of experience across a range different barbecue types, Jared's got a real knack for helping others make a decision they're happy with, ensuring they find the perfect fit regardless of conventional notions of the 'right' choice. This unique approach has made Jared a trusted guide in the world of barbecue.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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