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Been on the hunt for a sturdy camping grill that doubles as a firepit? The Burch Barrel is a combination camping grill and firepit that hangs from a tripod. This is not your Grandpa’s cowboy cooker. It blends an open fire camp grill with a vertical lift Argentine style mechanism like a Santa Maria grill. The bottom accommodates charcoal, wood or both for fuel. The unique, adjustable height charcoal and cooking grates can also be set in multiple positions for different heat levels. When you’re not busy cooking, you can raise the lid via a locking cable and employ Burch Barrel as a fire pit. This grill is made by and for lovers of the great outdoors who enjoy hunting and camping, but Burch Barrel reports residential sales are on the rise.
Three, telescoping legs make up Burch Barrel’s “Ever Level Tripod”. Each leg has clutch action locks to shorten or extend their length for leveling, similar to a video camera tripod but sturdier. The legs on our model were a combination of coated steel and high quality 304 stainless steel. Burch Barrel plans to make the next production run legs all stainless steel. The double walled body of Burch Barrel is powder coated steel on the outside with a 304 grade stainless steel inner liner. A charcoal grate rests in the bottom and a plated steel cooking grate and powder coated steel lid go on top. The body attaches to the tripod legs via turnbuckles which allow further adjustment to ensure the cooking grate remains level when the lid is pulled up. These thoughtful features enable you to easily level the barrel on uneven ground, a common requirement when camp cooking.
The lid is raised or lowered using a cable system that runs upward through a pulley on the tripod top. The desired position is then held in place by a pistol grip lock on one telescoping leg for hands free flipping on the cooking grate and fussing with the fire.
The 18 inch plated steel cooking grate rests on a 304 stainless steel frame with pins that lock it to the lid so the two can travel together.
The ability to easily move the lid and cooking grate up and down with the cable system extends the Barrel’s versatility. Drop the grate low for maximum heat right over the fire and snatch it back up to prevent burning and avoid charring from flare ups. Burch Barrel’s cutaway image illustrates this cool feature.
Locking the grate and lid and pulling the two upwards also allows quick and easy access to the fire.
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The interior of the burn barrel is double walled, which helps insulate Burch Barrel and keeps the exterior from getting too hot, a huge plus when you have young ones or pets running around.
A charcoal/fuel grate and basket made from coated steel holds the fire, and the basket is vented on the side to allow some airflow and keep the coals burning. The coal grate/basket sits on an adjustable “Trackster Rail System” with nine, notched height settings spanning a 12 inch vertical range. You can place the coal basket all the way down for a cooler grilling surface and cooking low and slow.
Or all the way up for grilling hot and fast.
And if the fire is too hot, just lock the cooking grate and lid together and lift food out of harm’s way. This flexibility is all part of the fun and the removable fuel basket makes clean up a breeze. You simply yank the lid and cooking grate up, grab the fuel basket handle, remove it from the barrel and dump the ash.
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Like the barrel and tripod, the lid is attached to the cable with three turnbuckles to make sure it fits flush onto the body of the barrel.
One thing I was disappointed with was the sliding dampers on the side and lid. I didn’t feel they sealed well to the Burch Barrel and thus they were pretty ineffective. Additionally, the lid has no insulation strip along the lip and doesn’t seal tight. That said, even with the lid down and dampers closed, I didn’t notice any smoldering, leading me to think the fire was still getting a good amount of oxygen to keep burning.
What Burch Barrel may lack in damper control is counterbalanced by its adjustable height features. After playing with the dampers for a bit, I shifted my attention to positioning the fire and cooking grate at the best height to get the cooking temperature I wanted. The fire kicked up as I lifted the grate and lid off the main base of the barrel and let in more air to feed the fuel. It was pretty easy to use the adjustable vertical lift to control cooking temp. That Argentine style design made me completely forget about the lack of control from the dampers. I had plenty of fun learning where the food and fuel needed to be in order to achieve my desired cooking temperatures. If you want to do really high temperature searing, for instance, just place the coal basket in the highest notch of the barrel, pull the lid up and away, and leave the cooking grate close to the rip-roaring fire.
I wouldn’t rely on the dial-thermometer in the lid, especially when you’re doing high heat searing with the lid up and out of the way. Instead, I always rely on an accurate, digital temperature probe to ensure I have the right temp dialed in. Click here to learn why digital thermometers are important at home and in the wild.
During my tests, I used lump charcoal, briquettes and logs. I found that lump and briquettes worked best for consistent temperatures. Allowing logs to burn down to coals also worked very well for direct grilling, a huge plus when you are camping or at the cabin where available fuel sources may be limited. I also found that cooking with logs was the most fun and offered the best smoke flavor overall.
You can easily fit a 4 pound bag of charcoal in the basket, which gives you plenty of heat while grilling or plenty of fuel for when you are going low and slow. If you need more, adding fuel to the basket is easy with Burch Barrel’s pulley system.
For grilling, I positioned the basket in the second notch from the top of the barrel. This provided ample heat and the large coal basket made it easy to set up 2 heat zones with both direct and indirect sides. Even though Burch Barrel’s ability to move the fire or food up and down enables quick changes from hot direct to moderate indirect heat, it’s still useful to have an option to set up 2 heat zones side by side. Click here to learn about the benefits of 2-zone cooking.
For my first cook, I did brats and the results were great. When done cooking, I was also able to raise the cooking grate and lid away from the fire to keep my brats warm while other food was being served. That’s a luxury not many units have when you’re out camping. The 18 inch grilling surface is standard across the industry and is able to fit an ample amount of food for an average sized gathering. As you can see in the photo, I did 12 brats with room to spare. The photo also shows that the lid can be lifted far away from the cooking grate when you don’t need it to trap heat.
For my first low and slow cook, I initially tried to dial the temp down using the dampers. After realizing that the dampers were not very effective, I started to experiment. I placed the charcoal basket at the lowest position and lifted the cooking grate and lid above the body. At about a foot above the barrel rim, my digital temperature probe told me I’d hit the sweet spot. Once the fire stabilized and I found the right height for the lid and grate, I was able to maintain a consistent 250°F grate temperature without issue. And it was a fun, new way to cook.
The weather conditions were favorable for steady temps, but keep in mind that higher wind could make temp control a bit more difficult. This is not a “set and forget” unit and it does need to be monitored while you are cooking. I didn’t mind because Burch Barrel is ideal for bringing people together. Like mine, your crew may gravitate to the barrel with beverages in hand to enjoy conversation, warmth and that delicious barbecue atmosphere. The lack of “set and forget” cooking is just fine in my opinion and perfect for the campsite. PLUS! My beef tenderloin came out excellent.
Wanna know how I got that tenderloin perfectly medium rare in the middle and evenly seared on the outside? It’s called reverse sear. With reverse sear you gently cook meat low and slow until the inside is almost where you want it, then sizzle the outside on high heat to form a delicious, brown exterior. Click here to learn how and you’ll never serve dry, over cooked, gray beef again.
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This was one of my favorite uses for the Burch Barrel. Once you’re done cooking, raise the lid and the cooking grate out of the way, throw in some logs and enjoy an elevated campfire.
Burch Barrel brings people together before, during and after your meals. The fire is always safely contained in the barrel and you do not have to worry about the fire getting out of control at the campsite. As a bonus, once you’re done for the night, simply lower the lid and the embers can be safely extinguished and contained.
My Burch Barrel was packaged effectively and arrived damage-free. The body is pretty much pre-assembled. Slap the tripod together and hook up the barrel, then bring down the cable from the top of the tripod and hook it to the Burch Barrel lid. Level the suspended barrel and lid using the adjustable legs and turnbuckles and you’re ready for the great outdoors. I found that using the legs for large adjustments and the turnbuckles for minor adjustments made set up really easy. All of the legs have numbers running down the sides for future reference of your preferred setups.
And when the last goose is cooked, you simply work backwards. Unhook the barrel from the legs first with the lid attached, then lower it to the ground. Next, unscrew the legs then bundle them together with bungee cords. It would be nice if Burch Barrel added some feature to lock the legs together for transport, instead of having to use a bungee cord. But me and my camping crew always has an ample supply of bungees on hand so it’s not a huge issue. Lastly, everything except the legs can be stored in the Burch Barrel itself including charcoal, gloves, utensils, grates, etc. The barrel is 55 pounds and the legs are 20 pounds The tripod height is 81 to 84 inches and the base spreads out to a 60 inch circle. Altogether, it’s a sturdy unit that can be transported without much effort.
The Burch Barrel is a unique and fun way to cook for hunters and campers offering a wide palette of camp cooking possibilities. The unique design, versatility and build quality make it a great option for someone looking for something different than your typical charcoal grill. Burch Barrel does a great job grilling hot and fast as well as cooking low and slow over live fire. Then it magically transforms into a fire pit. The locking cable system allows you to position the food where you want it with ease. It’s not as portable as those little grills you can pick up with one hand and throw in your trunk, but none of those mini grills can do what Burch Barrel does. Made for serious camping, it would also be a great addition to any ranch or farm setting where gatherings might pop up.
Burch Barrel’s unique design and features make it much more versatile than other camp grills that consist simply of a grill grate or cauldron suspended over a live fire. Yes, I was disappointed with the dampers and how little control they provided, but that quickly faded when I learned how easy it was to use the height adjustments to cook pretty much whatever I wanted. Because the Burch Barrel is so unique, it’s hard to compare similar cookers. It is well-built, versatile, unique and a ton of fun to use. That’s why it wins our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold Medal.
The Limited Warranty guarantees everything against manufacturing defects in materials and craftsmanship for the practical lifetime of the product. It does not cover damage due to normal wear and tear, neglect, or misuse. Burch Barrel states, “Warranties will be reviewed case by case and Burch Barrel will decide to either repair or replace manufacturing defects in material or craftsmanship. In the case of a warranty repair, we may send replacement parts or source a local, quality handyman to repair the product for you at no cost. Shipping a barrel is expensive and inconvenient for you so working with a local professional is the best solution we have found.”
We thank Burch Barrel for supplying a unit for our tests.
Born in Big Timber, Montana, Burch Barrel offers a unique camping grill/smoker that doubles as a firepit. It riffs on traditional cowboy cookers that suspend a cauldron or cooking grate over a fire, and adds clever and useful features that are catching the eye of campers, hunters and even backyard cooks. Burch Barrel also sells a limited catalog of accessories and branded apparel.
Published On: 1/11/2021 Last Modified: 3/9/2021
Spinaker grew up in the BBQ-starved state of Minnesota. People here are more likely to be eating hot dish or lutefisk than brisket and ribs. But he has always been drawn to outdoor cooking.
“My BBQ journey probably started where many others’ did; on the deck with my father. He loved to cook burgers and steaks [...]
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