Can you use wood chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker?

Are you a die-hard Pit Barrel Cooker fan who wants to take their grilling game up a notch with wood chunks?

Well, you’re in luck because we’ve got the answers you need. The use of wood chunks in Pit Barrel Cookers has been a hotly debated topic among BBQ enthusiasts.

Some swear by charcoal as the only way to go, while others insist that wood chunks add an extra layer of flavor and aroma. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of Pit Barrel Cooking and find out whether wood chunks are suitable for your cooker.

First things first, let’s get familiar with how a Pit Barrel Cooker works. It’s essentially a cylindrical-shaped barrel that uses convection cooking to evenly cook food.

The food is suspended over hot coals, and the circulating hot air does its magic. Wood chips or chunks can be used to enhance the flavor of your food, but can they be used in a Pit Barrel Cooker?

Get ready for some exciting tips and tricks that will take your Pit Barrel cooking skills to new heights.


What is a Pit Barrel Cooker?

Look no further than the Pit Barrel Cooker – the innovative and versatile vertical drum smoker that has taken the barbecue world by storm.

The Pit Barrel Cooker’s unique design allows for the “hook and hang” method of cooking, where meat is hung on hooks inside the cooker rather than placed on grates. This results in even cooking and a delicious smoky flavor that will have your taste buds singing.

But the Pit Barrel Cooker isn’t just limited to charcoal as its heat source. You can also use wood chunks to add even more depth to your meats. However, it’s important to choose the right type of wood. Hardwoods like oak, hickory, and mesquite are perfect for smoking meat, while softer woods like pine or cedar should be avoided. And remember, a small handful of wood chunks per cook is all you need to avoid overpowering the flavor of your meat.

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To properly use wood chunks in your Pit Barrel Cooker, wait until your coals have turned white and then place the wood on top. This will allow for a slow smoldering process and a steady stream of smoke.

The man behind this innovative cooker is Noah Glanville, a former U.S. Marine and passionate barbecue enthusiast who wanted to simplify the barbecue process and make it accessible to everyone regardless of their level of expertise. The Pit Barrel Cooker’s compact size also makes it ideal for tailgating or camping trips.

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Can You Use Wood Chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker?

Well, you’re in luck because you can definitely use wood chunks in your cooker. But before you start throwing any old piece of wood in there, let’s go over some key things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, not all woods are created equal. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory, or mesquite are the best options for smoking as they burn slowly and produce a rich, smoky flavor. On the other hand, softwoods like pine or cedar should be avoided as they tend to burn quickly and can leave your meats with an unpleasant taste.

In addition, you don’t need to use a lot of wood chunks to get that smoky flavor. In fact, less is more when it comes to smoking. Using too many wood chunks can overpower the flavor of your meat and leave it with a bitter taste. So, a handful of wood chunks should be enough for most cooking sessions.

Lastly, make sure that your wood chunks are dry before using them. Wet wood can produce a lot of steam which can interfere with the cooking process and affect the flavor of your meat. So ensure that your wood chunks are completely dry before adding them to your Pit Barrel Cooker.

The Right Type of Wood for Smoking Meat

Smoking meat is an art form, and the wood you use can make or break your masterpiece. With so many types of wood available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your Pit Barrel Cooker. Fear not, as an expert in the field, I’ve conducted extensive research to help you select the perfect wood for smoking meat.

First and foremost, let’s talk about flavor. Oak, hickory, and cherry are top choices for their unique taste profiles that complement specific meats. Oak’s mild smoky flavor pairs perfectly with beef and pork, while hickory’s strong taste is ideal for poultry and pork. Cherry provides a sweet and fruity taste that’s perfect for pork, poultry, and fish. These woods offer a range of flavors that allow you to experiment and find your perfect match.

However, not all woods are created equal. Softwoods like pine or cedar should be avoided as they contain resin that can leave an unpleasant taste in your food and pose health risks. Similarly, woods treated with chemicals or paints can have harmful effects on your food. Stick to natural woods that are free of additives for the best results.

Now let’s talk size. The size of your wood chunks plays a crucial role in the smoking process. Larger chunks burn slower, providing a prolonged smoke time, while smaller pieces burn faster, offering a shorter smoke time. Experimenting with different sizes allows you to control the intensity of the smoke and find the perfect balance for your meat.

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How Much Wood to Use

As you fire up your Pit Barrel Cooker, the question of how much wood to use looms large. But fear not. With my expertise, I’m here to guide you through this crucial aspect of smoking meat.

The key is finding the sweet spot between too little and too much wood. Too little and your smoke flavor will be lackluster. Too much and the taste can overpower your food – a culinary disaster.

So, let’s start with the general rule of thumb: one to two fist-sized wood chunks per hour of cooking time. But wait, there’s more.

Different woods have varying levels of intensity when it comes to smoke flavor. Stronger woods like hickory or mesquite should be used sparingly, while milder woods like apple or cherry can handle slightly more. It’s all about personal preference, but when in doubt, use less of the stronger woods.

Size matters too. Larger cuts of meat like brisket or pork shoulder can handle more smoke flavor, while smaller cuts like chicken or fish may need less. Be sure to adjust accordingly.

Now, it’s time to experiment. Start with a small amount of wood and adjust as needed until you find the perfect balance for your taste buds. Remember, every cook is different, so don’t be afraid to play around with different amounts of wood until you find your happy place.

Proper Placement of Wood Chunks

To ensure you get the most out of your cook, we’ve compiled some guidelines to help you make the most of your wood chunks.

Firstly, avoid placing the wood chunks directly on top of the charcoal. This will cause them to burn too quickly, leading to an unpleasant, acrid flavor in your food. Instead, place them around the perimeter of the charcoal basket, allowing them to smolder gradually and release their smoke over a long period.

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Size matters when it comes to choosing your wood chunks. Opt for chunks that are roughly the size of a fist. Smaller pieces will burn up too quickly, while larger chunks may not fit properly around the perimeter of the charcoal basket. By using the right size chunks, you’ll get consistent smoke release throughout your cook.

Lastly, choose the right type of wood for your desired flavor profile. For a strong smoky flavor, hickory and mesquite are popular choices. If you prefer a milder touch of sweetness, fruitwoods like apple or cherry are great options. Experiment with different woods to find your favorite flavor combinations.

Benefits of Using Wood Chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker

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Not only do wood chunks add a unique and authentic smoky flavor that simply cannot be replicated with other cooking methods, but they also offer precise temperature control and are an environmentally friendly option. Let’s explore these benefits in more detail.

First and foremost, wood chunks add a rich, smoky flavor profile to your meats that is truly unmatched. The natural oils and resins produced by the wood infuse your meat with an authentic taste that is sure to impress your family and friends. Whether you’re smoking brisket, pork shoulder, or chicken, the flavorful results will speak for themselves.

In addition to their amazing flavor, using wood chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker allows for more precise temperature control during the cooking process. Unlike traditional charcoal briquettes, which burn quickly and at high temperatures, wood chunks burn slower and at a lower temperature. This means you can maintain a consistent temperature over a longer period of time, even when cooking larger cuts of meat that require longer cook times. With wood chunks, you have greater control over the heat, ensuring that your food is cooked to perfection every time.

Finally, using wood chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker is an environmentally friendly option compared to traditional charcoal briquettes. Charcoal is often made from non-renewable resources such as coal or petroleum, while wood chunks can be sustainably sourced from renewable forests. By choosing wood chunks for your outdoor cooking needs, you’re making a conscious effort to reduce your impact on the environment.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider When Using Wood Chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker

Before you dive headfirst into the world of wood-fired cooking, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks that come with this technique.

First and foremost, there’s the risk of over-smoking. While wood chunks can add a delicious smoky flavor to your meat, it’s easy to go overboard and overpower the natural taste of the meat. To avoid this, use just the right amount of wood and choose a wood type that complements the meat being cooked. It’s all about finding that perfect balance.

Speaking of wood types, not all woods are created equal when it comes to grilling. Some woods, such as hickory and mesquite, have a stronger flavor than others and can easily overwhelm the meat. Additionally, some woods produce more smoke than others which can lead to greasy residue on your food. Be sure to do your research on different wood types and experiment until you find your perfect match.

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Another potential issue with using wood chunks is the risk of flare-ups. If your wood catches fire, it can create a sudden burst of flames that can burn your meat and ruin your meal. To prevent this from happening, keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the airflow as needed. Don’t let this scare you away from using wood chunks altogether, though – just be aware of the potential danger and take precautions accordingly.

Lastly, using wood chunks requires more attention and monitoring than other fuel sources like charcoal or propane. Wood burns faster and hotter than these other fuels, meaning it needs to be replenished more frequently. As a result, there is a greater risk of temperature fluctuations if not monitored closely. Keep an eye on your Pit Barrel Cooker and adjust as needed to maintain consistent heat.

Tips and Tricks for Getting the Best Results with Wood Chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker

If you’re looking to add a smoky flavor to your meats using wood chunks in your Pit Barrel Cooker, there are some tips and tricks to help you achieve the best results. The first step is to choose the right type of wood for your cooking needs. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and mesquite are perfect for smoking meat, while softer woods like pine or cedar should be avoided. Fruitwoods like apple and cherry have a milder taste that complements chicken and pork, while mesquite and hickory have a stronger flavor that pairs well with beef.

Another crucial tip is soaking your wood chunks in water before use. Soaking them for at least 30 minutes can prevent them from burning up too quickly and producing too much smoke, which can result in an over-smoked or bitter flavor. Soaking them for a few hours or even overnight can help ensure a consistent burn and flavor.

It’s also important to use the right amount of wood. Too much wood can result in an overpowering smoke flavor that can ruin your meat. As a general rule, use 2-3 fist-sized chunks of wood for every hour of cooking. This will give your meat a subtle smoky flavor without overwhelming it.

Proper placement of the wood chunks in the cooker is also crucial. Placing them directly on top of the charcoal may cause them to burn too quickly, so it’s best to place them around the perimeter of the charcoal basket or use a dedicated wood chunk holder. This ensures even distribution of smoke and heat throughout the cooker, resulting in evenly cooked and flavored meat.

Lastly, monitoring the temperature and adjusting airflow is key when using wood chunks in a Pit Barrel Cooker. Too much airflow can cause the wood chunks to burn too quickly, while too little airflow can result in incomplete combustion and a lack of smoke flavor. Keeping an eye on the temperature and making adjustments as needed can help ensure a successful cook.


In conclusion, incorporating wood chunks into your Pit Barrel Cooker routine is a surefire way to elevate your grilling game and impress your taste buds. But before you get too excited, it’s crucial to select the right type of wood, use the appropriate amount, and strategically place them in the cooker to avoid any potential mishaps.

When choosing wood chunks, be sure to opt for hardwoods like oak, hickory, or mesquite for their slow-burning properties and rich smoky flavor. If you prefer a milder taste, fruitwoods like apple or cherry are an excellent choice. To ensure an even burn and consistent flavor, consider soaking your wood chunks in water prior to use.

Remember that moderation is key when it comes to using wood chunks – one to two fist-sized pieces per hour of cooking time should suffice. Proper placement around the perimeter of the charcoal basket will allow for optimal distribution of smoke and heat throughout the cooker.

With these pro tips in mind, you’re well on your way to achieving mouthwatering smoked meats with your Pit Barrel Cooker.

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