Pit Barrel Cooker Co Turkey Hangers - A First Impression

Recently, the Pit Barrel Cooker Co introduced one of their newest accessories; the turkey hanger. Although it was possible to cook turkey with the Pit Barrel before, the release of the turkey hanger raises the obvious question: Is one worth it?

Background: The Pit Barrel Cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker, or PBC for short.

Some readers may not yet be familiar with a Pit Barrel Cooker. The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) is a friendly take on an “Ugly Drum Smoker” designed to be easy to use and to provide consistent, tasty cooks. The basics of the PBC are a food grade 30 gallon barrel, a charcoal basket, two steel rods, and stainless steel meat hooks. The PBC works by lighting a basket full of coals, placing them in the bottom of the barrel, placing the steel rods across the top of the barrel, and using the stainless steel meat hooks to suspend meat from the steel rods on the inside of the barrel over top of the coals. For anyone interested, a PBC may be procured simply by visitng the Pit Barrel Cooker website.

Turkey Cooking: Old and New

Now that the turkey hangers have been released, there are two different ways to cook a turkey in a PBC. The first way, or the “old” way, is to use four of the stainless steel meat hooks to suspend the bird horizontally, breasts down, in the barrel.

A turkey hanging the "old" way in a PBC-horizontally.

The new way is about 90 degrees different from the old way, literally. The turkey hanger method holds the bird vertically in the PBC, neck down.

A turkey hanging the "new" way in a PBC-vertically. Photo credit: Matthew Paulini.

Which Way is Better?

The new turkey hanger has one obvious advantage over the old method, and that is that you can cook two birds simultaneously if you own two turkey hangers. But is it better beyond that? This calls for an experiment!

Experimental Setup

The goal of this experiment is to identify advantages and disadvantages of both the old new methods for cooking a turkey on your PBC.

For this experiment, two 12-13lb turkeys were cooked, one the old way and one the new way. The turkeys were then compared across a variety of criteria.

Evaluation Criteria

The turkeys were compared according to the following critera:

Each criterion was graded on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best, by the group of four taste testers. The score for each criterion was then averaged to compute a final score.


To keep things fair, each bird was prepared in the same way and on the same day. The birds were allowed to thaw completely and had excess tail and neck skin removed. Each bird was rubbed using two tablespoons of the wet Simon and Garfunkel rub following the recipe on The rub was placed under the skin on the breast and the drums. Each bird was then cooked to a target temperature of 160 degrees F.

Bird A, cooked the "old" way.
Bird B, cooked the "new" way. Photo Credit: Matthew Paulini.


CriterionBird ABird B
White meat4.004.50
Dark meat3.504.50
Final score3.854.60
Final tabulation of the scores for each turkey from the taste testers.

When it came to crispiness, the taste testers preferred Bird B by 1.25. When it came to flavor, the taste testers preferred Bird B by 0.5. When it came to evenness of cook, the testers preferred Bird B by 0.5. When it came to the quality of the white meat, the taste testers preferred Bird B by 0.5. Finally, when it came to the quality of the dark meat, the testers preferred Bird B by 1.0. In all cases, the taste testers preferred Bird B, cooked with the new turkey hanger, over Bird A.


For the purposes of evaluating the new turkey hangers two turkeys were cooked, one with a new turkey hanger and the other with the hold meat hooks. Each turkey was blindly tested by a group of four taste testers and compared across a variety of criteria.

Across all of the criteria, the testers preferred the turkey cooked on one of the new turkey hangers over the hold style meat hooks.

Due to a shortage of equipment (owning only one PBC), the birds had to be cooked in a serial fashion. This resulted in Bird A having to be held in a faux cambro until serving time while Bird B got to be served right off of the cooker.

Final Remarks

If you need to cook two turkeys at a time, invest in a set of the new turkey hangers. If you want a better tasting turkey, go ahead and make that same investment, too. If you want a more secure cook…, well, you guessed it.

Two out of three turkeys I've cooked on meat hooks have had one of the hind hooks rip out. It's possible I'm missing the bone when I hook them, but I believe either the bone or the cartiledge break down during cooking and then fail. Photo Credit: Matthew Paulini.

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