Disclosure: Barrel House Cooker provided me this grill at no charge, so I could provide my honest review of their product. Opinions are my own.
Barrel House Cooker has released a new, larger 18-inch model. It’s so easy-to-use that I took first place in a BBQ competition the second time I cooked on it.
You’re probably familiar with an offset smoker, which is essentially a barrel laid on its side with a firebox on one end and a smokestack on the other end.
The Barrel House Cooker is a barrel standing straight up. There is no need for a firebox because the coals rest at the bottom. A few strategically placed holes around the top allow the heat and smoke to circulate around the meat as it flows out.
It’s kind of like a rotisserie without all the gadgets
With the Barrel House Cooker, you have a couple of options when it comes to cooking. The most common method is to hang your meat. Using their H-frame placed near the top, you can hang eight racks of ribs or a couple of whole birds.
Here, I have two slabs of ribs and four bone-in chicken breasts, and you can see there is still room for more.
The other cooking method is to place the full grate in the middle section. I prefer this placement for larger cuts like pork and brisket because they’re a bit too heavy to hang. You can cook up to two butts on this rack. While three would physically fit, it would be a little too crowded for an even cook.
Barrel House Cooker started on the BBQ scene with a 14-inch cooker. I love my 14D, and use it religiously to hang ribs and chicken. What I like about the 18C is that now I have space for larger cuts of meat, and now I can hang my ribs and then wrap them and lay them on the grate to finish.
Unlike the 14-inch, the 18C does require a bit of assembly. You can’t just pull it out of the box and start cooking, but the assembly doesn’t take long – maybe around 15-20 minutes.
All you have to do is add the three handles with two Phillips head screws each. The grip on these spring handles is really quite comfortable to grab.
Then, add the four legs using the four nuts and a 10mm wrench. After a few times moving the grill back and forth, I did find the legs to wobble a bit, so be sure to get them on there nice and tight.
Next, add the damper to the underside of the coal basket. This just takes one Phillips head screw and a screwdriver.
Lastly, add the thermometer. This also has a nut, unfortunately, it’s a 13 mm, so you’ll need to grab another wrench.
The back of the thermometer has a metal bracket that serves as a lid cleat, so you can hang your lid to the side while you’re checking on your meat. I definitely like this feature. It’s so much better than placing your lid on the ground.
Lighting it up
First thing’s first. You need to figure out your altitude to properly adjust the damper and air flow. I’m in the 0-2,000-foot range here in Vegas, so I move the damper so just one dot is showing.
1 dot = 0-2,000′
2 dots = 2,000-5,000′
3 dots = 5,000-8,000′
4 dots = 8,000-10,000′
I find the settings to be really consistent at keeping the smoker between 250-300F degrees. As my coals start to burn out, I add more coals, if I’m going to be cooking longer. If I’m near the end of a cook, I open the damper a little to bring in more air and create more heat.
This is what my setup usually looks like. I place some unlit lump charcoal in the coal basket. Then, I burn a chimney full of lump charcoal and dump it on top of the unlit coals. I add 2-3 wood chunks and make sure my setting is on one dot.
Next, I add the barrel on top and let it heat up for 5-10 minutes. Then, I add the lid and let it come to a steady temperature. If I’m just cooking in the backyard, I only wait about 15 minutes. If I’m at a competition, I usually give it 30-45 minutes just to be sure she’s in her zone.
At this point, it’s time to hang your meat. The grill comes with 8 hooks and a nifty wand that allows you to easily drop hooked meat onto the H-frame.
In addition to having the full 18 inches of space, I love that the barrel can easily be lifted from the coal basket in the middle of a cook, so you can add more coals. Some other grills require you to remove all your meat and grates to add fuel.
You can also use the coal basket as a direct heat grill. Just remove the barrel and place the grill grate right on top of the coals. This is great for reverse searing or quickly setting barbecue sauce.
I’m a little spoiled by some of the features that the 14 has, and I found that I missed them on the 18C. I wish this had a side rack where I can hang my wand and rest a meat thermometer.
I also love the brackets on the 14 that locks the coal basket to the barrel. This makes moving it around the yard or to and from competitions a lot easier.
If this had a domed lid, you could get more use out of the top level. Right now, you can use it to hang the H-frame, but there is only an inch between that rack and the current lid, so you can’t lay any meat flat at that level.
Girls Can Grill Recommended
Overall, I definitely recommend the Barrel House Cooker 18C. It’s a great value. At only $249, it’s one of the least expensive smokers on the market. But don’t let the low price fool you. It delivers on color, flavor and juiciness every time.
The 18C is available online for $249 with free shipping (the same price as the 14D). It’s also available at select Wal-Mart stores.