FAQ OF THE INTERNET BBQ LIST
- [Do I have to have a very expensive smoking pit to make good barbecue?]
Listen folks. Several of us have been fortunate enough to get new pits (BBQ Pits by Klose) recently. There's been a tremendous number of posts proclaiming the religious experiences and enviable barbecue produced on these pits. Here is something for the newcomers and everyone--it's not the pit that makes good barbecue. Dave Klose and I discussed this a few days ago. He said, and I completely agree, that if you learn to cook good barbecue on whatever you use, whether it's a 55 gal. drum half, an NB, a Brinkmann, a bullet water smoker, or whatever, you've done the hard part and can feel good about what you've accomplished. There's no magic in any Cadillac smokers. They can't make a bad cook a great cook, they can only make a good cook better.
"It not the pit, it the pitmaster that makes good barbecue."
Philip F. Wight--
Rodney - I think you've touched on the "secret of the ages" when it comes to barbecue . . . that if you know what you're doing you can turn out just as good a quality barbecue from a $50 converted oil drum as you can from a $50,000 BBQ Pit By Klose. The more expensive unit will have bells and whistles to make the work easier but the basic touch has to be there first. I'm told that many outstanding competitors use the bullets and small water cookers to turn out first quality stuff. That's why this list is so important; here we've learned technique as well as recipes, and I've come to believe that it's 90% in the technique.
- [What would you change if you could re-engineer the pit you purchased?]
I bought a Oklahoma Joe's pit, and the only regret I have is I didn't get a bigger one. My advice: buy more than what you think you need.
- [I was looking at an off-set firebox smoker and it looked plenty big enough to smoke 3 turkeys at once. Is this true?]
One thing to keep in mind before you go out and buy too much meat to smoke at once is that the whole area in the smoking chamber isn't usable for smoking long-term. The section nearest the firebox will be too hot to leave the meat for more than a few minutes to an hour or so. I like to start the food near the fire end and then, after getting some browning, move it farther away for the rest of the smoking time.
5.1 Home smokers
- [I hear the term 'off-set firebox smoker pit'. What does that mean?]
The wood-burning pit type that most experienced barbecuers will use to do their smoking is called the 'off-set firebox' smoker. This type of pit has three main parts: the firebox, the horizontal smoking chamber, and the exhaust chimney. Some manufacturers add a vertical smoking chamber at the end of the horizontal smoking chamber and the exhaust chimney exits from the top of this vertical chamber.
The firebox is where you make the fire and it is located to one side of the pit, either right or left. It is 'off-set' from the main smoking chamber, or middle part of the pit (where you put the meat). Being off-set, the heat that comes off the fire does not go directly to the food racks (like on a backyard charcoal grill), but instead travels horizontally past a baffle and into the smoking chamber, ideally under and around the meat on the racks. The heated air and smoke then exit the smoking chamber through the exhaust chimney. Some smokers have the exhaust chimney opening at the top of the smoking chamber, on the end opposite the firebox. Other designs have the exhaust opening in the middle of the opposite end of the smoking chamber.
In the smoking chamber there is at least one meat grill or rack, often several and often at more than at one height, i.e. upper and lower grills. Here is where the real business of smoking meat is done--on the grills. Most backyard off-set firebox smokers can handle a brisket, a chicken and a slab or two of ribs at the same time. Larger pits can hold much more meat and feed larger crowds of people.
Some pits have a vertical smoking chamber at the end of the horizontal chamber, opposite the firebox, that can operate at a lower temperature than in the horizontal chamber. This chamber is used for smoking things like fish, jerky and bacon.
The exhaust chimney is where the smoke exits the pit. It is usually fitted with an adjustable damper. A note of caution here; beginners to smoking should leave this damper wide open while smoking. Experience will let you deepen the amount of finishing smoke flavor by adjusting this damper. Closing the exhaust damper without knowing what you're doing will be the shortest route to ruined barbecue.
- [Can you give me some pointers on selecting a barbecue pit?]
Selecting a barbecue pit is like buying any other piece of equipment. You need to do some homework and decide a few things before you rush out and buy one. Consider: where will you use it--backyard or porch or apartment? How much do you want to spend--$30 or $3000? How much room do you have--four square feet or an acre? How serious are you about barbecue--once a month or every day? How many people do you want to feed when you have a barbecue party--two or a hundred? What kind of weather do you have--hot humid Florida or cold freezing Maine? How much barbecue do you want to do at one time--a few hot dogs or a load of pork shoulders, ribs and a couple of briskets? Do you want to be able to cool-smoke some fish or bacon? Do you want a combination unit--smoker and grill? What level of attention do you want to have to put into your smoking--tending a wood burner every 30-60 minutes or a gas or an electric Lazy-Q unit every few hours or so? How long do you want the smoker unit to last--pass on to your grandchildren or replace it every other year? Do you want a smoker that you can take to the beach or the mountains, or do you want one made out of bricks that forms the focal point of your patio?
When you know the answer to all these question, picking out a smoker will be fairly straight-forward.
Here are a few features you may want to look for when buying a premium grill/smoker, whether it is charcoal, wood, or even gas-fired.
- Ask your retailer if the unit you are interested in is made from all new steel. There are some units out there that are made from used materials and should be avoided.
- Pick the thickest steel unit you can find and afford. The thicker the walls of the pit, the better it will hold in the heat, as well as always cooking more evenly. Quarter inch steel pits last much longer than the sheet metal ones. Look for a pullout ash pan--this will help increase the life of the grill or smoker considerably and make it much easier to load wood or coals.
- Try to buy a smoker that will fit the size of family/group you are normally feeding. A medium-sized pit 18" or 20" diameter by 30" long, will allow large cuts of meat like shoulders and turkeys to be cooked without burning the skin from the hotter top areas of your grill. A 20" diameter by 30" long smoker will hold a brisket or shoulder, two whole chickens, and few hoops of sausage on the bottom shelf, with 3 corn-on-the-cob, 3 baked potatoes, and a slab of ribs on the top half shelf, if one is present. This size will feed the average family/group of 5 to 10, without having to stack the meats and vegetables inside too closely to each other.
- A nice feature in some off-set firebox smokers, is an adjustable meat rack over the fire, for grilling steaks, hamburgers, hot-dogs, fajitas, vegetables and blackening redfish.
- Try to get a unit that has features like adjustable grill heights, and removable meat racks framed in steel angles for extra strength. A large log rack underneath is also helpful for storing wood, charcoal, trays and pans. A steel plate fixed baffle, welded at 45 degrees, between the firebox and main chamber of your smoker will allow you more cooking area, and helps to even out the temperatures from one end of the smoker to the other. A 2-inch high steel plate welded vertically at the bottom of the smoking chamber by the firebox, will allow you to pour water, wine, or juice in the bottom of your smoker to keep the meats moist during cooking. A drain at the end away from the firebox is useful to drain off any drippings and fluids you don't want after cooking. Place a ball valve on the drain for easy cleanup.
- Be sure to inspect the grill or smoker for sharp edges, unwelded corners, sturdy legs and quality wheels. Swivel casters on one end, and large wheels on the heavy end will make moving your grill a more pleasant experience. Be sure the doors are fitted tightly, with a seal that won't warp due to the heat of everyday cooking. Make sure the straps on the edges of the doors are welded completely, and not skip welded, as this can lead to warping.
- Decent handles that don't get hot are a must for any grill or smoker. Wood handles do not last very long outside in the weather. A handle that allows the air to go through it, like a coiled stainless steel handle, are by far the best you can get.
- Make sure your smoker includes a quality stainless steel thermometer that is hermetically sealed, so smoke does not condense inside the dial. It should be mounted at the meat rack level, and not higher up in the center, or on the top of the door, as it is usually 50 to 75 degrees hotter there.
- Look for grills or smokers that have plenty of shelf and table space.
- Be wary of grills that have cheap door hinges or latches, as these will last outside in the weather for only a short time before they rust shut or break off. The doors with a steel bar the full length of the door hinges are better.
- Adjustable controls for air-intake at the firebox are helpful for controlling the inside temperature of your grill or smoker. Ones with the sideways sliding controls will last much longer. An adjustable cap on the smokestack will also be helpful.
- Be sure to ask for any recipe or instruction books that may be included. Also collect any information they may have on accessories for your pit, like covers, charcoal and wood suppliers, cookbooks, cutting boards, seasoning suppliers, and replacement parts for your grill, like racks, etc.
- Deal only with reputable companies, that will be there to answer your questions if a problem should ever arise or you need replacement parts.
The following is a list of popular budget and premium smokers. Descriptions were taken from the manufacturer's literature.
5.1.1 New Braunfels Smokers
- Universal Water smoker
UNIVERSAL WATER SMOKER #1400. Sug. list $149.95 354 sq. in. cooking area. Expandable up to 1,770 sq. in. Americas largest water smoker--uses up to ten grills. Smoke pounds of fish fillets or boneless chicken fillets. Has Universal Rack System for hanging rods and multi-level cooking grills. Heavy gauge steel construction with 2 porcelain cooking grills, 1 heavy duty meat hanging rod, enamel water pan, charcoal/wood pan, cool touch stainless steel handles, adjustable air vent and large full-height access door (Temperature gauge not included).
HONDO Smoke/Grill- #2800 Sug. list $299.95 732 sq. in. Cooking area-expandable up to 1,708 sq. in. with optional grills. Three porcelain grills are standard. The Hondo has wire front shelves plus the added feature of a welded on hot plate, great for warming side dishes. This unit has an off-set firebox. The street price of the Hondo and black Diamond smokers is $170-$200.
- Black Diamond
BLACK DIAMOND Smoke/Grill #4800 Sug. list $299.95 732 sq. in. Cooking area expandable up to 1,708 sq. in. with optional grills. Three porcelain cooking grills are standard. This unit has a Malaysian mahogany front shelf, hardwood handles plus the added feature of a welded on hot plate, great for warming side dishes. This unit has an off-set firebox. The Black Diamond is the same unit as the Hondo with a wood vs. a steel shelf.
BLACK DIAMOND Stainless Steel #4848 Sug. list $449.95 732 sq. in. Cooking area expandable up to 1,708 sq. in. with optional grills. The Black Diamond has Malaysian mahogany front shelf assembly across main chamber, with stainless steel chamber doors, side air baffle and smokestack damper. This unit has an off-set firebox.
LUKENBACH Grill #1800. This is primarily a drum-type grill with 488 sq. in. of cooking area. This unit has an easy-access fire door on one end. It has a wood front shelf. It is possible to smoke meat in this unit by building a low fire on one side of the unit. List price is $199.
GUADALUPE Grill/Smoker #5630 Sug. list $399.95 Exclusive Multi Draft System 488 sq. in. Cooking area-two porcelain cooking grills. Utilizes dual smokestacks with dampers in both ends and a central divider which offers multi grilling and smoking options. Grill at two heights at same time or totally isolate foods from the fire using the central divider. Features Cool Touch stainless steel door handles, Malaysian mahogany front shelf, louvered air control on side access doors and now with four swivel caster wheels. Dual 4-way adjustable grill heights. Includes two easy clean-up slide out liner/ash trays for extended life. This unit does not have an off-set firebox.
- Grill Sergeant
GRILL SERGEANT #7500 16 lbs. Sug. list $39.95 180 sq. in. cooking area. This take along charcoal grill has adjustable smokestack which also locks lid for clean portability. Quick, easy assembly--no tools required. Ideal for picnics, camping, RVs and more.
- The Boss Grill
THE BOSS Barbeque Center #8400 Sug. list $149.95 513 sq. in. cooking area. Heavy gauge steel barrel type styling. Adjustable 3-position height fire/grate pan with handles for lift-out cleaning. Hardwood front shelf and large bottom storage rack. Has 4-even flow air damper controls and in-door temperature gauge. Includes: 2 cooking grills and 2 fire grates.
BANDERA Smoker/Grill #5600 Sug. list $499.95 1,220 sq. in. Cooking area with four porcelain cooking grills. The Bandera expands up to 4,185 sq. in. using 14 cooking grills in its cooking chamber. Includes: 2 hanging rods, 1 rib rack, porcelain enamel water pan, a Malaysian mahogany front shelf, easy moving casters and wheels, 'Cool Touch' stainless steel handles and easy clean-up, slid-out liner/ash pan for extended life. Temperature gauge is optional. This unit has an off-set firebox with a rectangular vertical smoke chamber.
The Pecos is a small portable grill smoker with 244 sq. in. of cooking surface. This unit is ideal for apartment dwellers and for taking on trips. List price is $99.95.
5.1.2 Brinkmann Corporation
5.1.3 SnP Pro vs. the NBBD and Hondo
5.1.4 BBQ Pits by Klose
- [What is the difference between the Brinkmann Smoke'N Pit Professional and the New Braunfels Black Diamond/Hondo?]
David A. Rogers--
The Hondo (read also Black Diamond) has a heating shelf over the firebox - the SnP Pro doesn't. That's the only feature of difference.
The Hondo is made with a circumferential weld on both ends of both barrels. i.e. looking at the end of a Hondo, the barrel is welded all the way around. The Brinkmann is welded on the bottom third with three or four additional spot welds.
The Hondo has a wimpy wire front shelf. The SnP Pro has a wood shelf. Editor--The Black Diamond model has a sturdy wood shelf.
The lid on the SnP Pro rests against an angle bracket welded to the barrel for that purpose. On the Hondo, the lid rests against the smokestack.
the SnP Pro stack has been modified since David's post to correct a potential safety problem. A bend was added so the lid would open further. Apparently, the previous position allowed the wind to blow the door closed onto your hands, tools, etc. In the new design, the lid rests against the smokestack, just like the Hondo/NBBD
Both units are made out of the same gauge heavy-gauge sheet metal, about 3/32-inch thick.
The SnP Pro has brackets to support the grills in the smoke chamber at grilling height. On the Hondo you can turn the grills 90 degrees to get them a little higher (they're rectangles).
The grills on the SnP Pro are located MUCH higher than in the NBBD/Hondo. I measured the grill-to-door opening height and it was about 7-1/2 inches in the SnP Pro. This would be tight for a big turkey. The Hondo/NBBD grills sit several inches lower and thereby have more head room.
The smokestack on the Hondo is attached by a bolted flange and extends further into the smoke chamber than on the SnP Pro.
List members report that the legs and wheels of both units are not as strong as they should be. Care must be taken when moving these units over rough ground and lawns.
Neither design is perfect. Some BBQ List members have reported great success with their Hondo/NBBD and SnP Pro right out of the box. Other members have reported big internal temperature variations, leaking air and smoke from doors and have made modifications to correct these problems. The biggest complaint seems to be that the heat from the firebox on these units flows up and into the top of the smoking chamber and along the top of the chamber and out the exhaust stack, bypassing the meat on the racks below, and causing high temperature variations within the pit. The modifications suggested keep the heat and smoke lower in the smoking chamber. The most ambitious of the changes brings the heat up from under the meat rack and gives the best results. See Section 7.2.2 for modifications on making your Hondo/NBBD/SnP Pro more efficient.
From their Web site: http://www.bbqpits.com
BBQ Pits by Klose was founded in 1986 with the principle of maintaining an integrity of the Old Western trail drive style of cooking in mind. BBQ Pits by Klose is a purveyor of custom BBQ grills, smokers, cook-off and catering rigs. The sizes range anywhere between a $69 drum grill to a $400,000 catering rig.
All BBQ Pits are made by hand, with no machinery involved in the manufacturing process except a welding machine, in the spirit of the old style iron foundries. One welder to one pit from the beginning to the finished product. Handmade all the way.
Here are a few models in the Klose Backyard Chef(R) line:
- 18" Diameter by 24" Long Smoker--Round firebox List Price $595
Here we have an 18" diameter by 24" long smoker with an 18" round firebox. It has stainless steel air-cooled handles and an easy to read 3" dial, stainless steel thermometer, hermetically sealed. There is a 10" wide by 30" long table on the front, with a 10" wide by 18" long table on the side, making an "L" shaped table. Additional storage space underneath with an 18" wide by 42" long log rack. The main area has a full meat rack framed in steel angles for strength, as well as a removable 1/2 shelf. This smoker features adjustable firebox and smokestack controls. CAPACITY: 624 sq. inches in smoker, and 324 sq. in. in the firebox.
- 18" Diameter by 30" Long Smoker--Square firebox List Price $650
Here we have an 18" diameter by 30" long smoker with an 18" by 18" square firebox. Air-cooled stainless steel handles, an easy to read 3" dial, stainless steel thermometer. There is a 10" wide by 40" long table on the front, with a 10" wide by 18" table on the side, making an "L" shaped table. Additional storage & shelf space underneath with an 18" by 30" long log rack. The main cooking area has a full meat rack framed in steel angles for strength, as well as a removable 1/2 shelf. This smoker has adjustable firebox and smokestack controls, as well as adjustable grilling heights on the firebox to 5 levels. CAPACITY: 780 square inches in smoker, & 324 square inches in firebox.
- 20" Diameter by 30" Long Smoker List Price $675
This backyard unit is one of the all-time favorites to take to the beach or for family reunions.
It's 20" in diameter by 30" long, with a 20" by 20" square firebox and 1/4" thick new steel to maintain even heat. Ideal for grilling and smoking. Air-cooled stainless steel handles and easy-to-read. 3" dial, stainless steel thermometer.
It comes with plenty of table space outside, as well as storage space underneath for your charcoal and woods. It has 840 square inches of cooking area in the smoker, as well as 400 square inches of grilling area in the firebox. Large enough for a brisket, a turkey, ribs, sausage, corn-on-the-cob, and baked potatoes. It has adjustable height to five levels in the firebox for grilling fajitas, shrimp, blackened redfish and steaks.
- 20" Diameter by 42" Long Smoker List Price $775
This backyard unit is one of the all-time favorites to take to the beach or for family reunions.
It's 20" in diameter by 42" long, with a 20" by 20" square firebox and 1/4" thick new steel to maintain even heat. It's ideal for grilling and smoking.
It comes with plenty of table space outside, as well as storage space underneath for your charcoal and woods. It has 1218 square inches of cooking area. Large enough to hold up to 3 briskets, a turkey, ribs, sausage, corn-on-the-cob, and baked potatoes. It has adjustable height to five levels in the firebox for grilling fajitas, shrimp, blackened redfish and steaks.
- 20" Diameter by 40" Long Smoker List Price $1075
A 20"x40" main chamber, with a full meat-rack and 1/2 shelf. The 20"x20" square firebox has an adjustable grill and fire-grate. There is a pull-out ash pan for easy clean out. Lifetime Burn-through Guarantee.
Adjustable controls on the firebox and smokestack. Also featured is a 20"x20" upright slow-smoker with 3 shelves and hanging rods. There is a full log rack underneath and wrap-around tables, dual stainless steel handles and two thermometers. Cooking capacity: 2320 square inches.
On all BBQ Pits by Klose--A Lifetime warrantee on burn-through and rust-through. Klose pits feature heavy-wall construction that makes temperature control much easier than the mass-produced units sold by other manufacturers.
5.1.5 Oklahoma Joe's Pits
From their Web site:
Their line of backyard off-set firebox models include:
- "Grill With Firebox"
Utilizing the off-set firebox design concept, the Grill with Firebox features a long horizontal cooking chamber with plenty of room for your favorite smoked meats! Keep a pot of beans or soup warm on the flat top of the firebox. This model has the same unique baffling and damper system found on our smokers. Designed with grilling and barbecuing in mind, these models are relatively compact and mobile--perfect for the backyard cookout. The grill with firebox is available in 16" and 20" sizes. Get those fires going with our LP log lighter system (also available).
16" Grill #16-GWFB $799.00
20" Grill #20-GWFB $1,069.00
The Tailgator is the smallest in the Oklahoma Joe's line, and is modeled after the Grill with Firebox, but it is much smaller. It is made to travel and is very affordable. The 12" model has 3 square feet of grilling area. Need a little more cooking area? The 14" model has 4 square feet of grilling area. The Tailgator is great to take to lake, or to football games or to just keep at home for the family to enjoy.
12" Tailgator #12-TAIL $329.00
14" Tailgator #14-TAIL $399.00
- "The Oklahoma Tradition"
This cooker has become a #1 seller and shows the tradition and quality of Oklahoma Joe's. Available in 14" and 16" sizes. Due to the off-set firebox design, the tradition is the ultimate in versatility for grilling, barbecuing and smoking. Because of its steel construction, the Tradition burns wood and charcoal longer than ordinary thin-walled units. And in the tradition of Oklahoma Joe's, this model comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
14" Tradition #14-OKTKD $439.00
16" Tradition #16-OKTKD $589.00
Their line of backyard vertical smokers include:
- "The Chuckwagon"
The Chuckwagon has the ultimate vertical smoking chamber. With four shelves to smoke on, you can smoke almost all of your favorite meats at the same time. Similar to the smokers in design, the Chuckwagon has 4 extra inches in the firebox so it will handle any wood you buy at your local wood yard. The wagon wheels give this smoker a western flair and roll easily over rough surfaces. Editor--This is a combination smoker with horizontal and vertical smoking chambers.
16" Chuckwagon #16-CW $1,149.00
20" Chuckwagon #20-CW $1,499.00
This model is great for taking your time and smoking all day long. Available in 16" and 20" sizes, our smokers feature triple cooking areas (grilling, barbecuing and vertical slow smoking). All Oklahoma Joe's smokers have a flat grill top that is perfect for the bean pot, OKJ's Bar-B-Q sauce or a bread and tortilla warmer. Editor--This model is a smoker with horizontal and vertical smoking chambers.
16" Smoker #16-SMOKE $1049.00
20" Smoker #20-SMOKE $1329.00
Oklahoma Joe's pits feature heavy-walled construction that makes temperature control much easier than the mass-produced units sold by other manufacturers.
5.1.6 Weber Grills
See their Web page at:
Weber makes a line of premium grills and a bullet-type smoker.
Other Weber grills can be used for smoking, but they are primarily for grilling.
5.1.8 Cookshack Ovens
From their Web site at: http://www.cookshack.com
What in the world is Cookshack?
We're a company dedicated to the manufacture of electric smoker ovens for genuine pit barbecue and wood-smoked foods. A leader in the market for over 30 years, Cookshack's state-of-the-art ovens are distributed worldwide to restaurants, caterers, supermarkets, convenience stores, meat markets--in fact, to all sorts of retail food service operations.
Editor-- The Cookshack smokers are vertical, rectangular, insulated smoker-oven units.
They manufacture a line of premium vertical smoker ovens in various sizes. They have two home smoker models: the Smokette II, suggested list price $425, and the "Model 50", suggested list price $895. They are used by everyone from backyard cooks to chefs.
5.2 Homemade pits This section under construction
5.3 Brick and block pits
- [I want to build my own backyard barbecue pit from bricks or concrete blocks. Where can I get plans to do this?]
Try finding a book by Sunset Publishing called, "Barbecue Building Book." ISBN 0-376-01042-8. In it you'll find ideas and plans for indoor and outdoor barbecues. Everything from simple one-grate on-the-ground grills, to elaborate above-ground grill, oven, and smoker combos. There's even plans for an in-ground pit capable of feeding 600 people. This has been the most informative book that I've found yet.
Of course, if you build it . . . We will come!
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BBQ FAQ Rev 1.0 ©1997 William W. Wight. All rights reserved.