We live in a beautiful time when we get to ask the question, “WSM vs PBC…Which is better?”
The Weber Smokey Mountain and Pit Barrel Cooker are both excellent smokers that can turn out incredible barbecue, are priced about the same and both made the list for the best smokers under $1,000.
Despite these similarities there are also some massive differences that make the decision easy for me.
I would take take the Pit Barrel Cooker any day of the week.
I know there are probably a few Weber owners out there whose heads just exploded. Let me walk you through why I like the PBC better than the WSM and you can decide which cooker is right for you.
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 reason I eventually got rid of my WSM was that I HATED moving it into and out of the garage. 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. That is when I knew the WSM was no longer the smoker for me.
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. Get the WSM.
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.
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.