Introduction to Smoker types

Any type of purchased BBQ Pit.

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Boots
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Boots » Wed May 28, 2014 5:30 pm

Howdy neighbor, my cousin lives in C Springs for like the past 30 years, not far from the Garden of the Gods. Neat town, and drove through but did not get to spend time in Manitou Springs (darn), it looked good too.

I think the key thing you'll learn here is there are many different types (with as many very proud champions of each type), and all can produce very credible and edible barbecue. I think what you'll want to do is narrow down by budget, capabilities and food capacity, space and fuel requirements, and yer personality. Here is the Gospel According to Boots in that regard, indexing what I see as the Major Types by type, strengths/weaknesses, and references to some of the Godfathers of each type, and while I know a lot, the actual practitioners in each class will have much better “into the weeds” detail. Also not a be all/end all list, but a good starting point I am sure others will add on too, and as always, I hope the neighbors I call out enjoy my tongue in cheek ribbing at their expense:

STICK BURNER - What I call a PSDOF cooker (plate steel dropped offset firebox) - either trailer or cart mounted. Probably the most commonly visualized by the public along with the Webers and the Eggs. Very common on the competition circuit. Size: Tiny to Gynormous. Capacity: Tiny to Gynormous. Capabilities: Moderate to Extreme. Depends on the cooker. Custom or shop made models are typically 1/4" to 3/8" boilerplate, often made out of propane tanks, and you can smoke (by fueling firebox) or grill (by building a fire in the belly of the cooking chamber), as long as yer plate is thick enough. Cheaper cart models are common and plentiful, but generally built from thin (16-18 gauge) stamped steel - common types seen in Home Despot that if you knock yer fist on them, they sound like a coffee can and probably last as long. Designs range from very simple to as complex as a NASA rocket. Sometimes these will incorporate a vertical “rib box” element as well as the horizontal cooking chamber. Price: Cheap to Obscene. Cheap cart models $300ish, high quality like Klose carts $1800+, trailer rigs from shop builds at $1000 to full on customs costing yer entire 401(k). Strengths: These generally are the larger capacity types you can cook for a crowd on, and you are smoking with offset, indirect heat. You can boot the fire up to blowtorch temps, and feed the thing most anything combustible, from hickory to mesquite to oak to charcoal lump to that really offensive shrub yer neighbor had that mysteriously "disappeared". Weaknesses: Less thermally efficient than say the ceramic Eggs or Primos or Kamados or Vaults. More sensitive to temp fluctuations due to wind and cold. You get one of any reasonable size, you will basically be like a steam locomotive fireman, chopping and splitting, loading and cursing, shoveling it in, etc. If something breaks (rare as they are generally built like a Sherman tank) you will either need to be a welder or get one. If you are traditional fundamentalist and get into the semi-macho, caveman cooker kind of thing, this is yer baby. Operators: Guys who use these tends to be into welding, cigars, large brimmed cowboy hats, Wranglers, fine bourbon, double bit axes, guns and power cutting tools that frighten neighbors into moving, railing about Communism, and Jerry Jeff Walker’s Viva Terlingua. Yer Stick Burner will sit up all night watching the cooker with his Aussie dog sleeping at his feet and the horses hanging their heads over the fence. They can’t even spell “thermal”, but they can curse in at least 3 languages (English, Texan, and Spanish). He keeps a shotgun by the cooker to shoot down government drones. I am a Stick Burner, along with my caveman alter ego Thag from the 3,000 B.C. who channels in from time to time to offer me advice when not chasing the neighbor’s cats around with a large club, looking for dinner.

PELLET COOKERS - Sister rigs to the PSDOF Stick Burner, these are generally side mount firebox rigs with a pellet hopper full of rabbit food-looking sawdust pellets that are fed by an auger slowly into an electric or gas burning chamber. Yer Traeger rigs are an example. Size: Moderate Capacity: Moderate to large Capabilities: Moderate While the ones I have seen are generally thinner stamped steel, they feed only a little heat at time into the cooker in a very controlled, discrete way, so they don’t necessarily need a lot of steel in the deal. Timer controlled augers that slow down or speed up to decrease or increase the inherent chamber temp. I think some may also have optional gas grill inserts to make them more versatile. Strengths: Very clean burning with little refuse to dispose of, manage low and slow cooking well, neat and tidy and golly, the perfect cooker for country club types in limited space, and you can set it and forget it in terms of the timer thingee. Weaknesses: You can’t throw on 40 racks of ribs or a half-steer like some of the PSDOF rigs, and grilling may be less of an option. Outlets selling the pellets may be less than common. Operators: Politicians, ex-CIA, golfers, sailors, and inboard-outboard ski boaters who want credible quality barbecue with a set it /forget it functionality so they can stick the meat in, play a round, and be back to the 19th hole just in time for a strong rack of bones. No worries about dirtying up yer Sperry Topsiders and khakis around these, just set the timer and pour yerself a G&T while the yard sprinklers gently tickle the St. Augustine and Sinatra plays over the fake-rock stereo system on the wrap around deck. Pellet guys like Labs and Goldies, and duck prints on the wall. Ask Gator the Grand Poobah of this blog, he loves his Traeger.

UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker & Can Cookers - Cousins to the PSDOF Stick Burner, these can either be vertical rigs or side-mount horizontals, which were among the earliest backyard rigs created when the boys came marching home from WWII and lots of them had access to moderately priced stick welders and a sudden surplus of war-weary 55 gallon drums. These side mounts were the original “Redneck” cookers, still found around areas of the South in some quantities, often rusty and sometimes up on concrete blocks, much like the cars in the driveway. Today’s UDS rig is most commonly the vertical however; most horizontals have been replaced by commercially produced charcoal or chunk burning Can Cookers available at yer local CrapMart for a couple hundred. Yer vertical is an economic, technologic powerhouse. For $100 and some shade tree mechanics, you can build a really good Drum smoker, and set it up to make really good smoked barbecue. The Can verticals are also available commercially under the Weber and Brinkmann labels, amongst others, for reasonable prices, and Weber has some pretty advanced models with much bang for the buck. The prized members of the class IMHO, however, are the custom made Drum rigs in hot rod paints and designs that are still easy on the billfold. Size: Moderate Capacity: Moderate Capabilities: Moderate to Extreme. You can cook low and slow on minimal fuel, or boot the bejebbers out of the fire and grill on the top, sometimes with an upper-level fire pan. Strengths: Cheap and easy to build or buy, competition capable, easy to pack and tote. Weaknesses: You can’t throw on 40 racks of ribs or a half-steer like some of the PSDOF rigs, and grilling may be less of an option for some rigs. Operators: BluDawg is probably the Zen Master, the Godfather, the Honcho, the Clint Eastwood of all Drummers. He can squeeze a penny until Lincoln whistles Dixie, yanks gorgeous briskets out of his can like a tuna logline crew yanking 30 pounders out of the Gulf, gets by with a serape instead of a coat in a snowstorm, would throw down at dominoes or fisticuffs at the drop of a hat, but will be the first to tip his hat to the ladies or remove it for the National Anthem. Drummers tend to be fond of large knives, sausage, baseball and old sleeping dogs. If you become a drummer, your key investments will be the drum rig, a big hat, a deck of cards, a folding lounge chair, a cooler, Redwing boots, and a CD of the Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson. Yer typical Can Cooker? Easy-going suburban types, nice people with happy kids, good digestion, and a small collection of good running shoes, salt of the earth and volunteers for the PTA, Cub Scouts, and the local food pantry. Pass the Miller Lite and the Thin Mints, the chickens will be smoked in two hours and life is happy, happy, happy.

EGGS (aka “BGEs” or if in derision, the Bee Gees) / PRIMOS / KAMADO / AKA FLOWER POTS, SEE ALSO KEG COOKERS – Favored by the Egg Cult as I call them, commonly called the Egg Heads, they are extremely thermally efficient. Essentially the modern version of the kamado or tandoori cooker. Size: Tiny to large. Capacity: Tiny to large. Capabilities: Depends on the cooker. Made generally from ceramic, concrete, or in the case of the Bubba Keg or beer keg type, stamped or rolled steel with internal insulation. Price: Moderate to Obscene. Yer Eggs are prolific and range from baby Eggs to dinosaur Eggs, very well made and cosmopolitan, but not cheap, from the hundreds into the thousands. Yer Bubba Kegs are the cheap versions. Primo makes one in an oval rather than round vertical profile. Strengths: You can smoke or grill, albeit most all at generally direct vertical heat. Powerfully efficient, you can almost grill a steak over a candle in them. Handful of charcoal lump might last you all day. Sales outlets, parts, and availability are very widespread. Gadgets available to control airflow to provide very precise temperature control (there are all kinds of gadgets for them that do everything but brew coffee, and they are working on that). Lot of bang for the buck, long lasting, compact profile and modest smoke output means it can go on a porch without inciting the Missus to commit murder, and some women kinda dig the looks of them (similar to the way some women are attracted to bald guys on Harleys). Eggs are versatile due to the ability to cook like a convection oven with minor smoke, you can bake on ‘em or make pizza too. Weaknesses: They are HEAVY (only Barbara Streisand and the Washington Monument weigh more than a BGE), and if they fall over, you basically bought yerself Humpty Dumpty. Also, yer using direct heat to some degree, notwithstanding a system of baffle plates. Pricewise, they can also get into yer pocket deeply to buy one. Operators: Guys who use these are innovative, creative, artistic cooking of all types, from barbecue to Cajun to Indian food. Yer Egg guys are often engineering types, petroleum engineers, scientists, and other technical weenies who are into heat transfer rates, pressure valves, vapor pressures, and other Thermal Dynamics (my engineer friends in college used to call the subject by another name I will only reveal via a PM, this blog being a family channel and all, harrumph). The refinery engineer and pipeliner types particularly like them, I think they secretly pine for their lost cracking towers. Eggheads secretly wish the Homeowners Association would permit dogs over 20 pounds so he could “disappear” his wife’s Yorkie. The Chief and Head Bottle Washer of the Egg Clan (tartan TBD) is Egghead himself, who, along with his traveling companion, trods the land far and near, dispensing egg knowledge like Johnny Appleseed sowed seeds across the north country. Egghead has the zen gift of the open mind; an early adopter of the Himalayan Salt Block, he introduced the community here to the concept of barbecued scallops, and turns a mean Cajun delicacy around to us almost weekly if not daily. Warning: He has been seen running the country in a kilt on occasion; the authorities have been alerted, and the Legistlature is considering passing a bill.

VAULTS: This is what happens when you cross and Egg with a Stick Burner. Double walled insulated cookers that look like a floor safe, with high performance, generally lightweight insulation inside the walls. Often taller and with increased capacity over kamado cookers and generally a lot lighter comparatively based on volume, they are often a “rib box” type design, and can either operate on direct heat with a bottom firebox, or an offset firebox in some cases. Very common in pig competitions around the South and catching on in other areas. These can range from little refrigerator re-purposing rigs sold commercially at the box stores, to full on heavy gauge customs that look like they were fabricated by Orange County Choppers. Strengths: The cheap ones are easy entry point starter units you can easily fit on the back porch and do a credible job with. Some of the more sophisticated consumer rigs are computerized and ELECTRIC of all things (HISSSSS), with a TV clicker/controller thing that you set and forget. The custom rigs are full on restaurant quality chef tools. They share the high efficiency thermodynamics, small volume fuel requirements, and precise temperature control functions typical to the Egg, with the size and capacity advantageous of the Stick Burners. Weaknesses: Typically no grilling capacity, these are generally just smoke boxes. . Operators: Guys who use these are of two types. First is the general consumer who wants to cook some reasonably decent home barbecue and buys the little electric refrigerator cooker so he doesn’t have to clean up the mess. The folks buy a Honda lawnmower because they think it will last 40 years, even if they will be dead in 20, and all the accessories including the mulching grass catcher. They stencil their name on their shorts and their trashcans – they don’t know why, the moms told them too. They are very neat. The other Vaulter is yer hardcore competition cook. He’s the guy who will set the thermometer at 226 degrees and makes darn sure it will stay there, because in 6 hours and 12 minutes, his ribs will be PERECT (and likely, they will be). He makes his own rub, measures out the ingredients by the ounce on a kitchen scale, and puts the “made on” date on the container. He has every episode of Barbecue Pitmasters recorded to DVD, and has all his competition events programmed into the calendar on his iPhone (as well as the app that connects to his remote thermometers to give him a temperature histogram). He jumps in his custom painted ATV to run his meat to check-in, and then slow cruises it around the grounds to see who he’s up against. He draws a walk in 2 out of 3 categories at every cook, every time. He loves barbecue so much, he’s in the business. Between competitions, he shines up his Vault with carnauba wax. His rig is a full on traveling showroom. Dr. Smoke falls in this category; none would argue he has one of the prettiest rigs in the business.

WEBER KETTLES: The more things change, the more they stay the same for yer Grandad’s back yard Weber. Grilling is largely it, but….. The Weber is kinda what everybody in the ‘burbs grew up with, and most people learned on something similar. Simple, single-purposed, cheap. Throw a small bag of self light charcoal in it and unwrap the Ball Park franks. But…using the minion method (snaking charcoal coils using foil or pre-fab grids), you can smoke a few things in an offset fire, sorta convection manner, like chickens, maybe a rack of ribs. Good starter tool for anybody, and Weber is sophisticated enough now you can buy bigger rigs with hinged grates and other goodies that make managing yer fire and smoking easier. Many, many pros and amateurs around here still have these and can comment on same.

KAMAKAZI KOOKERS: The ubiquitous $15 Hibachis college kids still buy at Albertson to throw in the back of the Jeep on the way out to Travis or Padre Island. I call them Kamikaze Kookers – if they don’t burn their face off starting it right after pouring on a whole jug of lighter fluid on the charcoal, then they’ll die from botulism from the uncooked hot dogs prepared on it, you know, the ones that sat in a half warm Styrofoam beer cooler all day. Filled with leftover Sackcrete or Redimix with a chain sticking out, they make a better anchor for yer John boat than a cooker.

This covers what I view as major categories off the top of my admittedly grizzled and half-empty head; others will probably come to me later after I have a beer. And I now need several; like Mark Twain said, “If I had known how hard it is to write a book, I woulda’ never wrote one”.
BE WELL, BUT NOT DONE
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Bobby: "No."
Hank: "Well, there's really no wrong way to do it."
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby DATsBBQ » Wed May 28, 2014 5:54 pm

I'm impressed, 2,869 well written words. Good job

Boots wrote:Howdy neighbor, my cousin lives in C Springs for like the past 30 years, not far from the Garden of the Gods. Neat town, and drove through but did not get to spend time in Manitou Springs (darn), it looked good too.

I think the key thing you'll learn here is there are many different types (with as many very proud champions of each type), and all can produce very credible and edible barbecue. I think what you'll want to do is narrow down by budget, capabilities and food capacity, space and fuel requirements, and yer personality. Here is the Gospel According to Boots in that regard, indexing what I see as the Major Types by type, strengths/weaknesses, and references to some of the Godfathers of each type, and while I know a lot, the actual practitioners in each class will have much better “into the weeds” detail. Also not a be all/end all list, but a good starting point I am sure others will add on too, and as always, I hope the neighbors I call out enjoy my tongue in cheek ribbing at their expense:

STICK BURNER - What I call a PSDOF cooker (plate steel dropped offset firebox) - either trailer or cart mounted. Probably the most commonly visualized by the public along with the Webers and the Eggs. Very common on the competition circuit. Size: Tiny to Gynormous. Capacity: Tiny to Gynormous. Capabilities: Moderate to Extreme. Depends on the cooker. Custom or shop made models are typically 1/4" to 3/8" boilerplate, often made out of propane tanks, and you can smoke (by fueling firebox) or grill (by building a fire in the belly of the cooking chamber), as long as yer plate is thick enough. Cheaper cart models are common and plentiful, but generally built from thin (16-18 gauge) stamped steel - common types seen in Home Despot that if you knock yer fist on them, they sound like a coffee can and probably last as long. Designs range from very simple to as complex as a NASA rocket. Sometimes these will incorporate a vertical “rib box” element as well as the horizontal cooking chamber. Price: Cheap to Obscene. Cheap cart models $300ish, high quality like Klose carts $1800+, trailer rigs from shop builds at $1000 to full on customs costing yer entire 401(k). Strengths: These generally are the larger capacity types you can cook for a crowd on, and you are smoking with offset, indirect heat. You can boot the fire up to blowtorch temps, and feed the thing most anything combustible, from hickory to mesquite to oak to charcoal lump to that really offensive shrub yer neighbor had that mysteriously "disappeared". Weaknesses: Less thermally efficient than say the ceramic Eggs or Primos or Kamados or Vaults. More sensitive to temp fluctuations due to wind and cold. You get one of any reasonable size, you will basically be like a steam locomotive fireman, chopping and splitting, loading and cursing, shoveling it in, etc. If something breaks (rare as they are generally built like a Sherman tank) you will either need to be a welder or get one. If you are traditional fundamentalist and get into the semi-macho, caveman cooker kind of thing, this is yer baby. Operators: Guys who use these tends to be into welding, cigars, large brimmed cowboy hats, Wranglers, fine bourbon, double bit axes, guns and power cutting tools that frighten neighbors into moving, railing about Communism, and Jerry Jeff Walker’s Viva Terlingua. Yer Stick Burner will sit up all night watching the cooker with his Aussie dog sleeping at his feet and the horses hanging their heads over the fence. They can’t even spell “thermal”, but they can curse in at least 3 languages (English, Texan, and Spanish). He keeps a shotgun by the cooker to shoot down government drones. I am a Stick Burner, along with my caveman alter ego Thag from the 3,000 B.C. who channels in from time to time to offer me advice when not chasing the neighbor’s cats around with a large club, looking for dinner.

PELLET COOKERS - Sister rigs to the PSDOF Stick Burner, these are generally side mount firebox rigs with a pellet hopper full of rabbit food-looking sawdust pellets that are fed by an auger slowly into an electric or gas burning chamber. Yer Traeger rigs are an example. Size: Moderate Capacity: Moderate to large Capabilities: Moderate While the ones I have seen are generally thinner stamped steel, they feed only a little heat at time into the cooker in a very controlled, discrete way, so they don’t necessarily need a lot of steel in the deal. Timer controlled augers that slow down or speed up to decrease or increase the inherent chamber temp. I think some may also have optional gas grill inserts to make them more versatile. Strengths: Very clean burning with little refuse to dispose of, manage low and slow cooking well, neat and tidy and golly, the perfect cooker for country club types in limited space, and you can set it and forget it in terms of the timer thingee. Weaknesses: You can’t throw on 40 racks of ribs or a half-steer like some of the PSDOF rigs, and grilling may be less of an option. Outlets selling the pellets may be less than common. Operators: Politicians, ex-CIA, golfers, sailors, and inboard-outboard ski boaters who want credible quality barbecue with a set it /forget it functionality so they can stick the meat in, play a round, and be back to the 19th hole just in time for a strong rack of bones. No worries about dirtying up yer Sperry Topsiders and khakis around these, just set the timer and pour yerself a G&T while the yard sprinklers gently tickle the St. Augustine and Sinatra plays over the fake-rock stereo system on the wrap around deck. Pellet guys like Labs and Goldies, and duck prints on the wall. Ask Gator the Grand Poobah of this blog, he loves his Traeger.

UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker & Can Cookers - Cousins to the PSDOF Stick Burner, these can either be vertical rigs or side-mount horizontals, which were among the earliest backyard rigs created when the boys came marching home from WWII and lots of them had access to moderately priced stick welders and a sudden surplus of war-weary 55 gallon drums. These side mounts were the original “Redneck” cookers, still found around areas of the South in some quantities, often rusty and sometimes up on concrete blocks, much like the cars in the driveway. Today’s UDS rig is most commonly the vertical however; most horizontals have been replaced by commercially produced charcoal or chunk burning Can Cookers available at yer local CrapMart for a couple hundred. Yer vertical is an economic, technologic powerhouse. For $100 and some shade tree mechanics, you can build a really good Drum smoker, and set it up to make really good smoked barbecue. The Can verticals are also available commercially under the Weber and Brinkmann labels, amongst others, for reasonable prices, and Weber has some pretty advanced models with much bang for the buck. The prized members of the class IMHO, however, are the custom made Drum rigs in hot rod paints and designs that are still easy on the billfold. Size: Moderate Capacity: Moderate Capabilities: Moderate to Extreme. You can cook low and slow on minimal fuel, or boot the bejebbers out of the fire and grill on the top, sometimes with an upper-level fire pan. Strengths: Cheap and easy to build or buy, competition capable, easy to pack and tote. Weaknesses: You can’t throw on 40 racks of ribs or a half-steer like some of the PSDOF rigs, and grilling may be less of an option for some rigs. Operators: BluDawg is probably the Zen Master, the Godfather, the Honcho, the Clint Eastwood of all Drummers. He can squeeze a penny until Lincoln whistles Dixie, yanks gorgeous briskets out of his can like a tuna logline crew yanking 30 pounders out of the Gulf, gets by with a serape instead of a coat in a snowstorm, would throw down at dominoes or fisticuffs at the drop of a hat, but will be the first to tip his hat to the ladies or remove it for the National Anthem. Drummers tend to be fond of large knives, sausage, baseball and old sleeping dogs. If you become a drummer, your key investments will be the drum rig, a big hat, a deck of cards, a folding lounge chair, a cooler, Redwing boots, and a CD of the Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson. Yer typical Can Cooker? Easy-going suburban types, nice people with happy kids, good digestion, and a small collection of good running shoes, salt of the earth and volunteers for the PTA, Cub Scouts, and the local food pantry. Pass the Miller Lite and the Thin Mints, the chickens will be smoked in two hours and life is happy, happy, happy.

EGGS (aka “BGEs” or if in derision, the Bee Gees) / PRIMOS / KAMADO / AKA FLOWER POTS, SEE ALSO KEG COOKERS – Favored by the Egg Cult as I call them, commonly called the Egg Heads, they are extremely thermally efficient. Essentially the modern version of the kamado or tandoori cooker. Size: Tiny to large. Capacity: Tiny to large. Capabilities: Depends on the cooker. Made generally from ceramic, concrete, or in the case of the Bubba Keg or beer keg type, stamped or rolled steel with internal insulation. Price: Moderate to Obscene. Yer Eggs are prolific and range from baby Eggs to dinosaur Eggs, very well made and cosmopolitan, but not cheap, from the hundreds into the thousands. Yer Bubba Kegs are the cheap versions. Primo makes one in an oval rather than round vertical profile. Strengths: You can smoke or grill, albeit most all at generally direct vertical heat. Powerfully efficient, you can almost grill a steak over a candle in them. Handful of charcoal lump might last you all day. Sales outlets, parts, and availability are very widespread. Gadgets available to control airflow to provide very precise temperature control (there are all kinds of gadgets for them that do everything but brew coffee, and they are working on that). Lot of bang for the buck, long lasting, compact profile and modest smoke output means it can go on a porch without inciting the Missus to commit murder, and some women kinda dig the looks of them (similar to the way some women are attracted to bald guys on Harleys). Eggs are versatile due to the ability to cook like a convection oven with minor smoke, you can bake on ‘em or make pizza too. Weaknesses: They are HEAVY (only Barbara Streisand and the Washington Monument weigh more than a BGE), and if they fall over, you basically bought yerself Humpty Dumpty. Also, yer using direct heat to some degree, notwithstanding a system of baffle plates. Pricewise, they can also get into yer pocket deeply to buy one. Operators: Guys who use these are innovative, creative, artistic cooking of all types, from barbecue to Cajun to Indian food. Yer Egg guys are often engineering types, petroleum engineers, scientists, and other technical weenies who are into heat transfer rates, pressure valves, vapor pressures, and other Thermal Dynamics (my engineer friends in college used to call the subject by another name I will only reveal via a PM, this blog being a family channel and all, harrumph). The refinery engineer and pipeliner types particularly like them, I think they secretly pine for their lost cracking towers. Eggheads secretly wish the Homeowners Association would permit dogs over 20 pounds so he could “disappear” his wife’s Yorkie. The Chief and Head Bottle Washer of the Egg Clan (tartan TBD) is Egghead himself, who, along with his traveling companion, trods the land far and near, dispensing egg knowledge like Johnny Appleseed sowed seeds across the north country. Egghead has the zen gift of the open mind; an early adopter of the Himalayan Salt Block, he introduced the community here to the concept of barbecued scallops, and turns a mean Cajun delicacy around to us almost weekly if not daily. Warning: He has been seen running the country in a kilt on occasion; the authorities have been alerted, and the Legistlature is considering passing a bill.

VAULTS: This is what happens when you cross and Egg with a Stick Burner. Double walled insulated cookers that look like a floor safe, with high performance, generally lightweight insulation inside the walls. Often taller and with increased capacity over kamado cookers and generally a lot lighter comparatively based on volume, they are often a “rib box” type design, and can either operate on direct heat with a bottom firebox, or an offset firebox in some cases. Very common in pig competitions around the South and catching on in other areas. These can range from little refrigerator re-purposing rigs sold commercially at the box stores, to full on heavy gauge customs that look like they were fabricated by Orange County Choppers. Strengths: The cheap ones are easy entry point starter units you can easily fit on the back porch and do a credible job with. Some of the more sophisticated consumer rigs are computerized and ELECTRIC of all things (HISSSSS), with a TV clicker/controller thing that you set and forget. The custom rigs are full on restaurant quality chef tools. They share the high efficiency thermodynamics, small volume fuel requirements, and precise temperature control functions typical to the Egg, with the size and capacity advantageous of the Stick Burners. Weaknesses: Typically no grilling capacity, these are generally just smoke boxes. . Operators: Guys who use these are of two types. First is the general consumer who wants to cook some reasonably decent home barbecue and buys the little electric refrigerator cooker so he doesn’t have to clean up the mess. The folks buy a Honda lawnmower because they think it will last 40 years, even if they will be dead in 20, and all the accessories including the mulching grass catcher. They stencil their name on their shorts and their trashcans – they don’t know why, the moms told them too. They are very neat. The other Vaulter is yer hardcore competition cook. He’s the guy who will set the thermometer at 226 degrees and makes darn sure it will stay there, because in 6 hours and 12 minutes, his ribs will be PERECT (and likely, they will be). He makes his own rub, measures out the ingredients by the ounce on a kitchen scale, and puts the “made on” date on the container. He has every episode of Barbecue Pitmasters recorded to DVD, and has all his competition events programmed into the calendar on his iPhone (as well as the app that connects to his remote thermometers to give him a temperature histogram). He jumps in his custom painted ATV to run his meat to check-in, and then slow cruises it around the grounds to see who he’s up against. He draws a walk in 2 out of 3 categories at every cook, every time. He loves barbecue so much, he’s in the business. Between competitions, he shines up his Vault with carnauba wax. His rig is a full on traveling showroom. Dr. Smoke falls in this category; none would argue he has one of the prettiest rigs in the business.

WEBER KETTLES: The more things change, the more they stay the same for yer Grandad’s back yard Weber. Grilling is largely it, but….. The Weber is kinda what everybody in the ‘burbs grew up with, and most people learned on something similar. Simple, single-purposed, cheap. Throw a small bag of self light charcoal in it and unwrap the Ball Park franks. But…using the minion method (snaking charcoal coils using foil or pre-fab grids), you can smoke a few things in an offset fire, sorta convection manner, like chickens, maybe a rack of ribs. Good starter tool for anybody, and Weber is sophisticated enough now you can buy bigger rigs with hinged grates and other goodies that make managing yer fire and smoking easier. Many, many pros and amateurs around here still have these and can comment on same.

KAMAKAZI KOOKERS: The ubiquitous $15 Hibachis college kids still buy at Albertson to throw in the back of the Jeep on the way out to Travis or Padre Island. I call them Kamikaze Kookers – if they don’t burn their face off starting it right after pouring on a whole jug of lighter fluid on the charcoal, then they’ll die from botulism from the uncooked hot dogs prepared on it, you know, the ones that sat in a half warm Styrofoam beer cooler all day. Filled with leftover Sackcrete or Redimix with a chain sticking out, they make a better anchor for yer John boat than a cooker.

This covers what I view as major categories off the top of my admittedly grizzled and half-empty head; others will probably come to me later after I have a beer. And I now need several; like Mark Twain said, “If I had known how hard it is to write a book, I woulda’ never wrote one”.
Deputy Dave

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer."-Bruce Lee
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Boots
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Boots » Wed May 28, 2014 6:08 pm

Yep. Blew my annual quota I suppose.
BE WELL, BUT NOT DONE
Hank: "Do you know how to start a man's heart with a downed power line?"
Bobby: "No."
Hank: "Well, there's really no wrong way to do it."
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby lefoie » Wed May 28, 2014 7:58 pm

Boots:
This is a huge help! Thank you very much. This should be posted in a forum for acknowledged smoker wannabees! It is a small world isn't it. Garden of the Gods is now selected to be the 2nd most popular public park in the US. A forum leader put my original question in this section and you guys have been very very helpful.
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby lefoie » Wed May 28, 2014 8:04 pm

Boots and Others:
Great summary. My bias based on my review of this at this point would be a vault style smoker but is it possible to have an attached barrel to grill on with an attached firebox? Here I may be exposing my lack of knowledge but I have actually desired a firebox with a heavy plate steel top that can be used to sear meat I believe in the Argentinean style. Is it possible to attach a Barrel style Grill if insulated and have this attached to a vault? If this is possible who would be good to request this be constructed?
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Boots » Wed May 28, 2014 9:19 pm

Think I get your gist, you are likely looking at a custom build, by either a local welding shop if they have cooker experience or a dedicated builder. I will consult the dusty archives....

I opine what you really may be looking for is an L shaped stick burner with an insulated vertical or rib box. Those have been done both cart and trailer style. There are manufactUrers that do these, but don't know about the insulated rib box. Study up on Klose (Dave Klose is a legend and great to talk to, just allocate 2 days for a short conversation, a week for discussing boats, barbecue, and the meaning of life), Gator Pits, Pitmaker, Big Hat (out in Marfa I think, not horrendously far from C Springs, owner is very nice guy, pit is quality but lighter than some and probably easier to manhandle), Diamond Plate (don't know if still in business), Johnson Smokers in Ennis (an up and comer that several locals have bought from with good feedback), Lang (and old name in the business), Texas Pit Crafters, Pitts n Spitts (drool pretty), TejasSmokers, Jambo Pits (Jamie Gear, a legend too who built Johnny Trigg's comp pit), Pits by JJ, R&O (present status a topic of debate), the list could go on and on, apologies to any one I left out. I think all of these but Lang are Texas based, and all build a crackin' good cooker. You will get a lifetime's worth of ideas from just looking at all of these. I actually used to own a Klose built in <sniff> but had to sell it along with the house when we traded up to the Farm. It was...sublime.

I opine you might PM 2 sources active on the blog to consult on the custom side if you go that route. First, 4 star redneck, he is involved heavily in the Texas competition circuit and may know a builder in Colorado (strangely, we don't have many Colorado members that I recall, perhaps the more entrepreneurial or craft oriented are more heavily involved in that state's sudden boom in a certain agricultural commodity). The other guy is bbqbuilder (see also: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 554&type=3), he appears to have done a rib box combo smoker type of rig and might offer a tutorial.

Hope this helps, good hunting, and keep yer chains tight going over Monarch in the winter.
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby lefoie » Thu May 29, 2014 7:12 pm

Dear Boots:
I will follow your recommendations and thank you for your advice.
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby limey » Thu May 29, 2014 9:28 pm

What Boot said , we don't call him the WordSmith for nothing. :laughing7:
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Papa Tom » Thu May 29, 2014 10:05 pm

What Boots said except I have been a pellet user for 15 years and I don't, won't do golf.
After reading through all of the posts I'm thinking that because you live in Colorado Springs you should strongly consider something that is fuel efficient. Not a lot of good smoking hardwood at your elevation.
Vault, ceramic, UDS, pellet cookers all would fit that requirement but if you want to also grill forget the vault and most of the pellet cookers. I have a Fast Eddy pellet cooker that has the grilling option but it takes up some of the cooking space.
Probably the best thing for you to do at this point is build a UDS, they are cheap to make, work well, are versatile and you can learn to cook on the thing. Over the years I have had cookers that cost from $50 to well over $20K and had I started with a UDS no doubt I would have made some better decisions along the way.

Good luck
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby lefoie » Fri May 30, 2014 7:22 pm

Papa Tom
You offered an observation I have never considered--the availability of the appropriate wood! I believe I will have sufficient access but must admit I have never smoked the way you guys have and therefore will be careful as I continue these plans. As to me building this pit, that will be pretty unlikely and ill advised! You indicated that my earlier post expressing my interest to have some form of smoker which permits grilling with a vault attachment would not work? Is that correct?
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Boots » Fri May 30, 2014 10:02 pm

Without presuming to put words in his mouth, I think what Papa is saying is that to build a combo cooker as you describe is a pretty expensive entry proposition. Think of it as like buying a Bentley as your first car. Just suggesting it may be better to start with two economical cookers that serve each purpose, say like a Weber kettle to grill on and a commercial can smoker, that you can use as beater starter vehicles to learn on until you decide what you really ultimately want. It is very common amongst the old salts here to have gone through three or four or five cookers before they finally settled in to what really works best for them. Kind of like buying an old beater Oldsmobile as your first car in high school, then with more experience (and money), buying the Corvette.

As an example, I now own my third gas cooker (number one kind of exploded in my face, number two I had to sell with my old house, and number three I inherited with the new house) and I am on my third smoker as well. While I am pretty settled on the smoker as the keeper, the third gas grill would serve better as a boat anchor, and I am already drawing up plans in my mind for the final and ultimate gas grill, drawing upon all the knowledge from my past cookers going back 10 years.

Good luck!
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby RWBTEX » Sat May 31, 2014 9:16 am

It is true there are so many ideas and opinions and without actually using a few different cookers it's hard to get a true "feel" for how each works and it it "fits" what you want. Drum smokers are really good and versatile, I do most of my own builds but for a drum I would likely just order one from BPS and start cooking, just to cheap and they are already proven winners too.
https://www.bigpoppasmokers.com/store/b ... TdftfD_BwE
That said imo for a larger and very versatile grill or smoke cooker it's really hard to beat a 20x40 grill Texas style out of 1/4 inch pipe, that for most typical back yard cooking. For more capacity a 24x60 is an amazing cooker. IMO fireboxes do have some pluses but are highly over rated and not truly neccessary for most smoking as you can have just as good results out of a grill with a little practice using indirect methods. Most of the culinary types I know personally use a lot of "searing" methods in their cooking and you cant get that from any offset or box smoker without actually putting fire and coals inside of it, and some do use them that way successfully but imo defeats its designed purpose.
One more option if you dont need it to be mobile is a brick pit, again ala Central Texas bbqhouse style, I had a 42 x 90 at my previous home and could "smoke" 20 briskets at a time or grill a hundred rib eyes at the one time too. Lots of ideas designs and styles there too and they are very very efficient when built right.

http://rubysbbq.com/brick-pits/

https://www.google.com/search?q=texas+s ... d=0CDIQsAQ

http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/pits- ... edia-entry

good luck what ever you decide.
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Papa Tom » Sat May 31, 2014 9:42 am

lefoie wrote:Papa Tom
You offered an observation I have never considered--the availability of the appropriate wood! I believe I will have sufficient access but must admit I have never smoked the way you guys have and therefore will be careful as I continue these plans. As to me building this pit, that will be pretty unlikely and ill advised! You indicated that my earlier post expressing my interest to have some form of smoker which permits grilling with a vault attachment would not work? Is that correct?



Boots summed it up pretty well since you are not sure what you want or need it is wise to start economically with something that does most of what you think you need.
A UDS can be built in an hour for less than $100 and folks win BBQ cook-offs with them. We built one for Ox (on this forum) in about 45 minutes at a get together a few years ago and I believe he is still using it. Actually there are probably pictures of that build somewhere on this forum. After using your entry level cooker you will have a wish list for your next pit.

Since a vault is a dedicated indirect cooker there really isn't any good way of just adding a direct add-on. You'd be better off with the vault and a Weber kettle (actually a dandy combination).

I have ended up with pellet cookers maybe because I'm lazy or something, but they are pretty much set and forget. I can put on a brisket or pork butt and check it 12 hours later.
tarde venientibus ossa....
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Gator » Sat May 31, 2014 11:51 am

Pellet cooker improved my quality of life by about 50%. :)

No more fire tending for me. I slap in a briskie and go on about my day, then check on it about dinner time. :cheers:

And being and Ex-CIA - I fit right in the profile! :laughing7:

-> Seriously I got tied of building and maintaining fires all day/night long and went with the Traeger XL, couldn't be happier. No more flare ups nor flame outs for me! Just set it and forget it BBQ. :pig:
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Re: Introduction to Smoker types

Postby Okie Sawbones » Sat May 31, 2014 11:58 am

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