For those who have followed my journey into the world of BBQ and BBQ competitions, know that it has been one year since I have started planning my BBQ team. I am not one to jump right into something without doing some research on the subject at hand. BBQ, how much research is needed? A lot!!! One thing I had to try and accomplish was to get started with as little out of pocket expense possible, and for many teams the greatest expense is the smoker. Depending on what you are looking to get out of your smoker, the prices vary greatly, as do the quality.
Like most folks starting there teams now a days, most of my research was done on-line. There are hundreds of websites out there focused on BBQ, and BBQ equipment. I was day and night studying as much as I could about smokers, trying to learn the pros and cons for, offset smokers, versus smokers with water trays, or pellet smokers, compared to gravity feed charcoal smokers. All these types of smokers have lists of manufactures and each have their own style. Did I want one mounted on a trailer, or did I want one that I wanted to roll on and off a separate trailer? Did I need one that was insulated or, by living in Florida could I get away with one that is not insulated?
I had been cooking on my old Char-broiler offset cooker for a couple of years, with varying success, but I did like cooking with fire. It does add another layer of tradition when cooking with fire, granted there is much more work involved, especially when doing a competition, but I figured and offset style smoker was what I was use to, so I felt comfortable staying within that realm, for the time being.
So I began searching for a trailer mounted offset smoker, I knew on my budget, which was non-existent, I would be looking for a used smoker, did anyone say E-Bay? I have used E-Bay a lot in the past, but soon found out that shipping, or just picking up my smoker would be about equal to the actual cost of the smoker itself, so E-Bay was not the way to go.
That’s when I started going to the BBQ competitions and I started talking to the teams out there. Many were very willing to talk about their smokers, and of course everyone had their favorite. Many teams are looking to upgrade their equipment, and may have some good deals on the used smokers they would like to replace.
I did get lucky and find exactly what I was looking for, and more. It was all by word of mouth, that I found this custom made smoker, it is an old 250 gallon propane tank, mounted to a trailer.
I knew I wanted something with the ability to cook large cuts of meats, but also be able to handle cooking a large amount of ribs at one time. I really enjoy cooking ribs, and have times where I need to cook up to 24, full racks of spare ribs at one time, and this smoker has that capacity. I knew I wanted more then just one shelf, this smoker has three, all pull-out shelves, table space is always a plus. If you can see I have a built on table on each end of my cooker, and a shelf that runs the length of the cooker just under the cooking chamber doors. The smoker has a fire box at each end of the cooker, so I get great temperature control. I have found that this cooker works almost as a convection, the heat travels up and across the top shelf, then down through out the cooker, the warmest spot on my cooker is the middle of the top shelf.
These are all things to think about when looking at a cooker, one thing I have learned since then is, at a competition, having a cooker that is configured as set it and forget it, is always nice to have. Yes, I have moved into pellets along with my stick burner. That will be left for a future post.
I can remember telling my Wife about another cooker, about every other day, I would say to her, “Yep, this is the cooker I want”. Then I would find something else on-line that I liked better, or that someone had said about the cooker I was looking at that they did not like, and on, and on , and on…. My point is, find something that make you comfortable on a reasonable scale and go with it. If you are deciding to get into BBQ, then you are someone who has good taste already…:)… and you know what you want!!!
Till next time keep ‘em smokin’