WSM 18 vs PBC - Newbie research summary

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by jdelage, Oct 1, 2015.

  1. All,

    I'm in the process of researching my first smoker and I am gravitating towards the WSM 18 or the PBC. I have been reading everything I could on those two, and I am trying to list the advantages the two models have on each others. I would probably buy from Amazon or direct, so the prices are the same (both are $300 on Amazon). So both have the same price, both make (apparently) very good food, both have 5 star review on Amazon, with plenty of satisfied users.

    We're a family of 3, and we already have a Weber Summit gas grill, so I'm really looking for a good smoker.

    Please review my list below and tell me what I'm missing if any.

    Advantage to PBC:

    - No need to season

    - No learning curve

    - Higher max capacity when using the hooks

    - No need for add ons

    - No need to fiddle

    - 100% US made

    Advantage to WSM 18:

    - Huge community of users & 3rd party providers

    - More flexible temperature range

    - Two layers of grates

    - More flexible humidity control (water pan)

    Thank you for your comments!
  2. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I had your debate and went with the WSM. You can get a lot in it you can hang stuff in them as well just use a little imagination! Only things I wasn't a fan of with the PBC were hanging meat possibly falling and not being able to control the temp like you can on the Weber. That said I could see myself getting a PBC for another toy!
    jdelage likes this.
  3. krubby

    krubby Smoke Blower

    wow, I went through all the same things as well.  In the end I went with the WSM as well.  And I love it.  But I have two different friends that have the PBC, and they both love their PBCs

    I guess I went for the WSM because I was not as sure about all the 'hanging meat' logistics.  Not that it is rocket science, it just seemed easier to open a lid and toss meat on a grate.  and I just made a judgement call and plowed ahead.

    both work almost the same in concept, but the PBC (I believe) gets hotter and cooks faster.  And as mentioned below you kind of lose the 'control the temp' part of the experience.

    I will say on your last bullet about humidity control with the WSM - I don't think the water pan controls humidity (adds to it, or not based on usage) as much as it is there to regulate temps and keep steady temps.  Just saying I am not sure I would put thast as a plus or minus, I don't think we control humidity that much.

    finally, I don't think you need many (any...) add ons for the WSM.  At least a year into using mine and I haven't.  finally if capacity is a concern, there is a 22.5 WSM, which would be more than enough.

    anyway, both work great.  the PBC is pretty amazing, as I said my two pals swear by it.  I love my WSM as well though.  tough call..
    jdelage likes this.
  4. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I have the PBC and I love it.  I have learned that there are different ways to regulate the temp with a little creativity that I picked up here and on other forums.  The thing about the PBC is that you have to be willing to abandon the smoker's urge to chase temps.  Light it and walk away.    I couldn't do it myself at first.  Kept monitoring temps with my maverick and if it wasn't where the instructions said it should be I panicked. Then one day I cooked a brisket (which I am usually only somewhat happy about) and just lit the PBC according to the factory instructions and walked away.  It was great. The PBC works with the same top down minion method that the WSM does.  So adjusting the initial load of lit coals can reduce the overall cooking temp.  Sure you can't control it like you do on the WSM with multiple vents but temps can be regulated.

    As far as the fear of falling, you can always use the PBC grate if you'd like and what I sometimes do when I am smoking a large number of hanging meats, I push the grate down over the charcoal basket.  That way if it falls, at least its not directly in the coal and spent coal ash.

    That being said, I just picked up a used WSM 18.5 on craigslist.   Only cooked a tri tip so far in the 275 range which is about what the PBC cooks in.  It was great, but different.  Whether you fill it with water or not, the WSM water pan is both a heat deflector and drip pan.  One of the main things that makes the PBC or any ugly drum smoker unique is the flavor you get from fat dripping on the coals.  You could achieve that on the WSM if you removed the bowl all together.

    hahaha I probably made your choice even more confusing.  I like them both.  If I wasn't an insane bbq junkie I would realize that they both do or can be modified to do the same things and not need both of them.  Wow,  I didn't help at all.
    jdelage likes this.
  5. What's the difference in taste? Sometimes I get the impression from reading posts that the PBC is more of a cooker whereas the WSM is more of a smoker (obviously they have a big overlap). Is that true?
  6. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    The difference in taste is hard to describe.  The dripping grease creates kind of a fog or vapor that comes up over the food.  You wouldn't get this in a WSM because the water pan (in most cases) is preventing this from happening.  For comparison's sake, think about the way a burger tastes when grilled over charcoal rather than a gas grill.  There is definitely a flavor difference. You almost taste the charcoal, but in a delicious smokey way, not a bitter or acrid way.  As far as the cooker vs. smoker opinions, it all depends on what you feel smoking is.  I know a lot of traditionalists might feel that if it's not low and slow it's not smoking.  In my opinion if you are applying flavor to the food using some form of wood, it's smoking.  Doesn't matter if its at 100 degrees or 500 degrees, charcoal, gas, electric or stick burner.  They all use heat and wood to make smoke causing the meat to take on a unique flavor.  Just like the WSM, when I use the PBC I bury some chunks of wood in the coals so in my opinion it's a smoker.
  7. trip4f

    trip4f Newbie

    You can use your WSM just like a PBC, that's how I cook ribs now. 2 hrs. and they are better IMHO than any other way. Get the WSM!
  8. I ended up placing an order for a PBC yesterday. Thank you everyone for your help.

  9. shockwave

    shockwave Newbie

    As someone who just purchased a PBC and used it for the first time yesterday with success, I'm happy with my choice of the PBC over the WSM.  It truly is set it and forget it.  If you're concerned about ribs or whatever falling off the hooks, there's plenty of room to set whatever you're cooking on a grate.  I was hung up on the fact that there is no water pan but the PBC keeps a good amount of humidity contained within the barrel during the cook so producing tender, moist food isn't a problem.  You won't be disappointed with your purchase.  

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