“Thanksgiving and Christmas is truly a time to celebrate family and friends. And in our house, part of that appreciation comes in the form of good food made with love,” says Noah Glanville, the founder of the Pit Barrel Cooker Co., headquartered in Prospect, Kentucky. Having served combat deployments in the U.S. Navy, Glanville learned to prize the power of sharing great food, a passion which ultimately led him and his wife, Amber, to establish the company in 2010.
The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) looks deceptively simple. Unlike the traditional drum smoker—literally a steel drum, laid on its side and cut in half to form a charcoal grill—the PBC sits on end, like a normal drum, with the standard top serving as the lid.
Keeping the drum whole and vertical opened the possibility of hanging meats to cook instead. “I looked at how in Brazil they have the meat upright at an angle over the coals, and it worked better and tasted better,” Glanville says. “And you could cook more food at once.” A vertical cooker using the hanging method can smoke ten racks of ribs in a single cook.
He also found that the hanging method created a fortuitous outcome. “The juices drip right onto the coals and create a smoke fog of the meat’s flavor. It’s a unique experience,” Glanville says, which makes for an extremely humid environment in the vertical cooker. “All the meat gets so tender and juicy. People are really taken back by it.”
Glanville says his days in combat forged his appreciation of good food shared with others. In fact, veterans make up much of the PBC staff. “Being a vet gives me a different perspective on many things,” he adds. “An appreciation for simple things and simple traditions that we’re losing more and more of every day, like making your own food and being around others.”
That makes Thanksgiving and Christmas a highlight at the Granville home. “There are some dishes that are absolute requirements for our family feast,” he says, listing traditional mashed potatoes and roasted winter squash. “And we always include at least one dish of sweet potato hiding beneath a towering layer of toasty marshmallow.”
The turkey, he states, must be show-worthy. “That’s why we turn that bird into a deep mahogany-skinned, smoked delight. It’s hands down, the best turkey you will ever eat.” And for those wanting to cook one of their own, Granville has shared his simple recipe to creating a worthy centerpiece using the Pit Barrel Cooker’s vertical cooking technique.
Smoked Turkey in a BarrelCourtesy of Noah Glanville, founder of the Pit Barrel Cooker Co.
2 10–15 pound turkeys or one 16–35 pound turkey, fully thawed*
olive oil, enough to rub the outside of your bird
1 jar of your preferred dry rub
1 Pit Barrel Cooker Co. Turkey Hanger
*10-15 pounders yield the most tender and juicy results
Approximate Cook Time:
10 pounds = 3 hours
20 pounds = 5 hours
35 pounds = 7 hours
Fill the premeasured coal basket to the top. Then move about a quarter of the charcoal briquettes to a chimney starter. Place the coal basket at the bottom of the barrel, and light the coals in the chimney starter. Allow 12 to 15 minutes for the coals in the chimney to fire up, then dump them into the center of the prepared charcoal basket (a heat-resistant glove is recommended).
Remove the fully thawed turkey from the package. Remove the neck and giblet bag from inside the turkey. Remove any plastic or wire ties holding the legs in place.
Rub all sides of the turkey with a light coating of olive oil, followed by a liberal dusting of your preferred dry rub (we like our own PBC All-Purpose Pit Rub). Make sure you season the areas under the wings, and inside the cavity.
Hang the turkey on the specially-designed, stainless-steel Turkey Hanger. Start by inserting the rod through the cavity from the neck end. Turn the bird upright so the breast end sits on the double-hook portion of the hanger, and insert the T-bar through the eye on the end of the hanger rod.
Hang the turkey(s) in the center of the PBC so the T-bar straddles the center of the rods. Depending on the size of the birds, you may have to lower them into the cooker before inserting the second rod.
Replace the lid, ensuring it is properly seated, and cook for approximately 3.5 to 7 hours, depending on the size of the bird. For an extra crisp on the skin, crack the lid about a quarter of an inch for the last 30 minutes of the cook.
Look in on the turkey every couple hours to check the internal temperature. The PBC was designed to allow you to peek in regularly without hindering the cooking process.
Remove the smoked turkey and place on a large platter or sheet pan. Check that the bird has reached a final internal temperature of 165°F, then remove the hanger and let the turkey rest 15 to 20 minutes.
Carve, serve and give thanks for an amazing year.