What is a Burch Barrel?
The Burch Barrel is an outdoor grilling and smoking system that warms my heart every time I fire it up. Now that I've used it a couple of dozen times or more,
I'm confident that I can provide a review of the Burch Barrel from more than a passer-by perspective.
How it works
The Burch Barrel itself is a double-walled cylinder made from steel and aluminum with a bottom that is completely closed. Airflow is adjusted by an internal venting system. Opening and closing these vents draw air or constricts air from passing through the barrel.
The suspended portion is made from 304 stainless steel and high-heat-resistant coated steel. It has a matte powder coating and other aluminum components, presumably to keep the weight down.
One of the most unique aspects of the Burch Barrel is the pulley system or locking cable system that's affixed to a lock collar and grill grate. Someone realized that a cooking area doesn't have to be static on this type of system, so it's made to be raised and lowered.
There are some real benefits to this.
It helps control how close the food is to the fire.
Asado cooking or cooking food near the fire but without touching the flames, is common in Argentinian and South American cooking.
Cooking food near the flames allows it to benefit from slow roasting.
Meats pick up smoky flavors, and this off-the-flame approach helps fats render. When this happens, collagen will slowly melt and transform into gelatin. It makes the meat more tender but also supercharges its flavor.
But not all foods need to be cooked this way.
Burch Barrel has a standard-sized 18-inch grill grate made of 304 stainless steel that's perfect for grilling near or far from the flame.
Internally, the coal pan of Burch Barrels firebox sits on rails.
It can be raised and lowered depending on what you're cooking and what types of fuel you're using. I rock it at a lower setting if I plan on burning firewood or set the coal pan closer to the grill grate if I'm using charcoal.
Where is This Grill From?
Burch Barrel is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana. But its inspiration starts a couple of beers or about an hour's drive east in Big Timber, Montana, depending on who's driving.
Its founder, Roby Burch spent summers working on a family ranch in Big Timber, where the work is hard and the payout doesn't necessarily translate to a bigger billfold.
Big Timber is located in what's called the Paradise Valley but don't let the name fool you.
It's a rugged part of the country where you could get a foot of snow on the fourth of July and then bake in triple-digit temperatures on the fifth.
But there's something about the unpredictable conditions and hard work that makes this part of Montana special. This part of the state thrives on its simplicity.
Most Montanans work hard.
But I've got a special spot in my heart for those whose desk is a saddle and whose breakroom is a hay bale.
If you've ever seen the television show Yellowstone, you know that when the ranchers are working, they put in a full day. But after work, there's nothing like a cold beer and a warm fire to persuade sore muscles that it's worth getting up and doing all over tomorrow.
I'm sure that the ranch Roby Burch worked at probably had some kind of a flat-screen TV with all the channels. But who wants to sit in front of a television when just outside the door there's a performance from the sunset and night sky to rival any TV show.
On a Montana ranch, most things happen out of necessity.
Calves get corraled, fence gets fixed, and holes get dug. Unlike most things on the ranch, Burch Barrel wasn't initially built out of necessity. It was built for convenience.
From what I've gathered, a 55-gallon drum along with some metal chain and probably some baling wire were crude components Burch sprung from the materials boneyard and cobbled together to make a new kind of firepit.
Unlike normal firepits, this firepit was off the ground. It leaves no fire ring, coals, or burn marks behind.
Both rugged and mobile, it could be tossed in the back of a pickup, making it ideal for having a fire on an overnight or weekend outing.
Burch said, "I just wanted something to sit around with my friends and drink beer and cook on occasionally." It wasn't long before his contraption became the life of the party.
"It had a gravitational pull of its own. I’d bring it to parties and cookouts in college and immediately it was the center of attention."
Burch Barrel has gotten a facelift from the initial prototype, but one thing remains the same. It's a great thing to gather around. It's all the excuse we need to gather, unplug and spend time with each other.
Montana is a rugged place.
It can be tough, beautiful, and inspiring in the same breath.
Burch Barrel captures these emotions and then some.
Most outdoor cookers are a grill, a smoker, or a firepit. Some do two of those things but few if any do all three things well. Burch Barrell is competent at grilling, smoking, and providing an awesome fire.
Initially, I was pretty skeptical about Burch Barrel. I didn't really have the space for it, and my cook area is a cedar deck. The first few times I used it strictly as a firepit, and it didn't disappoint. Once I started cooking with Burch Barrel, my relationship turned into something between a bromance and a love affair.
I really appreciate that it can be used fired up with wood, charcoal, or both. I've even used fire blocks made from compressed wood with great success.
The design of both the internal and external components just works. Burch Barrel is elevated enough that I don't worry as much about cooking on a cedar deck but not so high that it feels top-heavy or tippy.
The ability to independently raise and lower the fire internally and raise or lower the food externally is just brilliant.
I love how the coal pan's grate where you set logs or charcoal is slightly elevated from the bottom of the firebox. This promotes more efficient airflow which is particularly important when getting the fire established.
Burch Barrel has some micro airflow adjustments externally which also constricts or allows air into the barrel. I'm not sure how effective these are for heat management but appreciate that I can close them down if I want to create more of a smoldering effect to add smoke to what I'm cooking.
It's funny how when you use the barrel as a firepit something kick starts your appetite. I appreciate how quickly you can transition from firepit to fireside snacking without the need to forage for the perfect hot dog or marshmallow stick.
You may not think you need a Burch Barrel, but chances are eventually you will want one. I recommend Burch Barrel without hesitation for anyone whose lifestyle is conducive to enjoying a nice fire with a few friends, a cold beverage, and some good grub.
When you're ready to purchase a Burch Barrel, you can find one here or order directly from the Burch Barrel website.
If you're looking for something quick and delicious to cook over the Burch Barrel, check out this Beef Bulgogi Burger recipe. It's zesty and delicious with an Asian kick of flavors!