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View Full Version : Stick Burners or Pellet Cookers


Capn Kev
03-08-2011, 12:04 PM
I've been noticing a trend over the past couple of years, and I have also been taking some notes on the cookers that championship teams are using. I'm curious to see if everyone else is noticing it too.

Top 20 TOY KCBS teams from 2010, and their Cooker:

QUAU - Offset (Peoria)
Pellet Envy - Offset (Jambo)
Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ - WSMs w/ Guru
Rhythm 'n Que - WSMs w/Stoker
Lotta Bull BBQ - Offset (Custom Yoder)
BIG CREEK BBQ - Not sure what Jeff cooks with...FECs if I remember right
Parrothead Smokers - Stumps Vertical
4 Smokin' Butts - Green Eggs
MUNCHIN HOGS@THE HILTON - Vertical Stick burner, won with it at Winter Q
Butcher BBQ - FEC-100s?
Bub-Ba-Q - Stumps (if I remember right)
CHIX, SWINE & BOVINE BBQ - Offset (Jambo)
All Sauced Up - ??
TippyCanoe BBQ Crew - Stumps or Backwoods...can't remember
The Long Dawgs - Offset (looked like a Jambo at the Jack)
4 Legs Up BBQ - Combination of pellet cookers
BIG T'Z Q CRU - FECs?
GROG N HOGS - ??
Buffalo's BBQ - Offset (Jambo)
KC Can Crew - Set of UDS cookers

2010 GAB - Big Creek BBQ - FECs?
2010 AR Invitational Winner - Smokers Wild - Offset (Jambo?)
2010 AR Open Winner - Lotta Bull BBQ - Offset (Yoder)
2010 Jack Daniels Winner - Quau - Offset (Peoria)


If I'm wrong on any of the above, please let me know.

From what I'm seeing, there is a shift from pellet cookers back over to stick/wood/charcoal burning units. 4-5 years ago pellet cookers were making their run. In fact pellet cookers were winning a lot of the big championships.

Now, in the past couple of years, we've seen some of the biggest names revert back to stick burners (i.e., Pellet Envy). I'm curious to hear from some of the above cooks as to why they are making the shift. Is it flavor, smoke ring, ease of use now that there are aids such as gurus/stokers, etc.? It used to be that pellet cookers were favored because they achieved similar flavor results to stick burners, but allowed the cook to get some rest in the evening.

I'm not trying to start a great debate, I'm just curious to understand the shift. I'm considering adding a stick burner to my arsenal, but will probably never give up my FEC-100. :-D

Kevin

RedPig
03-08-2011, 12:35 PM
Personally I feel that a good cook can turn out great bbq on practically anything out there. You've pointed that out in your post already. Speaking for myself a pellet smoker will allow a team more rest, if they so choose. Obviously stick burners require attention all night long whereas pellet smokers are predictably stable. Stick burners are not hamstrung (no pun intended) by electrical requirements and at contests the power can go out anytime. I do feel that stick burners, wsms, stumps type cookers definitely will out perform any pellet smoker in the smoke flavor department. Drawback is you have to know what your doing because over smoked food is not very good and I don't think you have to worry about that with a pellet smoker. I own two, FEC 100 and Traeger Lil Tex. They are very good cookers but have their faults and limitations. I used both in the 3 comps I did last year. In one of them the FEC went haywire and cut out with a high temp problem. Killed my brisket and pork. Had to replace the entire controller but thankfully it was under warranty. I am practicing now for the 2011 season and experimenting using the WSM in combo with pellet smokers. At least I will have options in case something goes wrong.

moocow
03-08-2011, 12:36 PM
Big Creek uses his Spicewine.

douglaslizard
03-08-2011, 12:52 PM
if im not wrong Pellet Envy has a pellet burning Jambo.correct me though if im wrong.

Lake Dogs
03-08-2011, 12:53 PM
I'd be interested to see what some of the teams listed above mention as the reasons
for switching. Scottie? Why now the Jambo?

I wonder if it has some to do with competing in other non-KCBS sanctioned cookoffs
that dont allow electric or gas power of any kind.

AZScott
03-08-2011, 01:21 PM
I think the pellet cookers have had their due, rightfully so, but who wouldn't want a Jambo or a sweet Yoder like Lotta Bull? I do know that my wife was on board with an FEC 100 and she was not with a Jambo for obvious reasons. I do know that if we achieve success these coming years with the FEC 100 we can justify the Jambo. Perhaps it boils down to being able to justify a $10 - 15k smoker and in order to do that the majority of people are going to want to be successful in competition bbq first.

Scottie
03-08-2011, 02:19 PM
I'd be interested to see what some of the teams listed above mention as the reasons
for switching. Scottie? Why now the Jambo?

I wonder if it has some to do with competing in other non-KCBS sanctioned cookoffs
that dont allow electric or gas power of any kind.


Mid-life crisis.... In reality, it's the challenge for me. Folks think that us pelletheads can only turn on a switch and award winning BBQ comes out. I'm here to change folks opinions on that...

Plus, while a FEC is sharp with the stainless. Nothing beats the sleek lines of a Jambo...

Scottie
03-08-2011, 02:20 PM
Rod burns pecan logs in his Jambo. Candy Sue from BBQr's Delight has the pellet fired Jambo...

if im not wrong Pellet Envy has a pellet burning Jambo.correct me though if im wrong.

ique
03-08-2011, 02:35 PM
I'd be interested to see what some of the teams listed above mention as the reasons
for switching. Scottie? Why now the Jambo?


I switched from Backwoods to a Jambo but mostly just because I wanted a new toy. I know that Rod had a season where he cooked on both FEC and Jambo and most of his wins came off the Jambo.

musicmanryann
03-08-2011, 02:56 PM
Additions, changes noted in red.

I've been noticing a trend over the past couple of years, and I have also been taking some notes on the cookers that championship teams are using. I'm curious to see if everyone else is noticing it too.

Top 20 TOY KCBS teams from 2010, and their Cooker:

QUAU - Offset (Peoria) pretty sure he also cooks with Stumps vert interchangeably
Pellet Envy - Offset (Jambo)
Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ - WSMs w/ Guru actually Stoker
Rhythm 'n Que - WSMs w/Stoker
Lotta Bull BBQ - Offset (Custom Yoder) Still has his Jambo though, I think
BIG CREEK BBQ - Not sure what Jeff cooks with...FECs if I remember right
1 big arse beautiful spicewine
Parrothead Smokers - Stumps Vertical uses Jambo interchangeably that he sells at least once every season
4 Smokin' Butts - Green Eggs
MUNCHIN HOGS@THE HILTON - Vertical Stick burner, won with it at Winter Q last I saw he was using a big ol' Horizon offset with a weber kettle
Butcher BBQ - FEC-100s? yep-2
Bub-Ba-Q - Stumps (if I remember right)
CHIX, SWINE & BOVINE BBQ - Offset (Jambo)
All Sauced Up - ??
TippyCanoe BBQ Crew - Stumps or Backwoods...can't remember Definitely Backwoods--has a fatboy and burns his chicken on his party:twisted::rofl:
The Long Dawgs - Offset (looked like a Jambo at the Jack) bought his jambo off of parrothead
4 Legs Up BBQ - Combination of pellet cookers one self built and a louisiana I believe
BIG T'Z Q CRU - FECs? Everything but ribs on Stoker'd WSM's, FE for ribs so I can get an extra hour of sleep. :wink:
GROG N HOGS - ??
Buffalo's BBQ - Offset (Jambo)
KC Can Crew - Set of UDS cookers he calls them trash cans :becky:

2010 GAB - Big Creek BBQ - FECs?
2010 AR Invitational Winner - Smokers Wild - Offset (Jambo?) Jambo, yep
2010 AR Open Winner - Lotta Bull BBQ - Offset (Yoder)
2010 Jack Daniels Winner - Quau - Offset (Peoria)


If I'm wrong on any of the above, please let me know.

From what I'm seeing, there is a shift from pellet cookers back over to stick/wood/charcoal burning units. 4-5 years ago pellet cookers were making their run. In fact pellet cookers were winning a lot of the big championships.

Now, in the past couple of years, we've seen some of the biggest names revert back to stick burners (i.e., Pellet Envy). I'm curious to hear from some of the above cooks as to why they are making the shift. Is it flavor, smoke ring, ease of use now that there are aids such as gurus/stokers, etc.? It used to be that pellet cookers were favored because they achieved similar flavor results to stick burners, but allowed the cook to get some rest in the evening.

I'm not trying to start a great debate, I'm just curious to understand the shift. I'm considering adding a stick burner to my arsenal, but will probably never give up my FEC-100. :-D

Kevin

Scottie
03-08-2011, 03:01 PM
Quau only cooks on Peoria Meat Monsters now. His Stumps is in his smoker Hall of Fame in his barn.

sitnfat
03-08-2011, 04:12 PM
All I see Lotta Bull cook on now is that Yoder. I would love to have a Jambo but I am afraid Lena would get awful jealous....

bbally
03-08-2011, 04:31 PM
Doesn't Smokin' Triggers cook on a Jambo J-3?

Finney
03-08-2011, 04:32 PM
GROG N HOGS cooks on 22.5" WSMs. They have had a Superior Smoker in the mix at some point.

Scottie
03-08-2011, 04:34 PM
no

He has a j-5 and a one off.



Doesn't Smokin' Triggers cook on a Jambo J-3?

HoDeDo
03-08-2011, 07:39 PM
I switched to pellet cookers for sleep purposes. IT let me get a couple extra hours of sleep, which I need if I have a few cocktails with friends :)

I have cooked on a Jambo a couple times now (Thanks Rob!), and thanks to a quick download from Rod G., and Rob's input on his pit.... it was not hard at all to build/manage the fire. Very efficient pit. I think it has a similar smoke profile to pellets, honestly. And having never cooked on one, I still pulled at 7th overall at Shelby. I dont think the pit matters as much as the person using it.

Good cooks are good cooks. Kev, you mentioned Munchin's pit at winter fest... his Horizon was snowed in @ the shop in Oklahoma. He used Paul's home-made vertical... that he had never cooked on before.

And yes, the Royal and Royal invitational have been won 3 times by guys cooking on trash cans.

Hub
03-09-2011, 06:45 AM
I don't think there's any particular "trend" going on. As mentioned, the cook has a lot more to do with it than the cooker. I'm a pellethead because of consistency -- much easier to maintain temps and recipe standards with a pellet cooker -- but well tended stick burners turn out great chow, too. Some of the great cooks I've encountered could probably win a contest on a $40 K-mart charcoaler if they had to.

Q-Dat
03-09-2011, 07:14 AM
I think many times these expensive rigs such as Jambos are bought for convenience and coolness factor. Not that they are not the awesome cookers that everyone says they are, but give Rod Gray, or any of the top guys four Weber Kettles, and I think they will figure out a way to beat most of the field with them. It will just be more work.

ique
03-09-2011, 08:07 AM
which I need if I have a few cocktails with friends :)

If?

hahahaha

HoDeDo
03-09-2011, 08:42 AM
If? hahahaha

You have heard the story about boston hills, and Brendan and I with the fire chief, right? :twisted:

Some will joke, but I cook better "relaxed" :thumb:

GreenDrake
03-09-2011, 08:55 AM
It's the cook, not the cooker. Granted I think for experienced judges there is a flavor profile they are accustomed to. Pellet poopers dish out a much cleaner burn. I alternate my meats on purpose, or am also working on some suspension grates in the belly of my pellet grills to allow for airflow to circulate all the way around an already burning charcoal lump. Yep, I add a couple lumps to my Traeger while it's cookin.

We like to start our meats on coals and sticks, then move them to the pellet grills for the night cook, for rest, beer intake, sleep and ease. It's all trial and error, and getting easier as I mess with my times and temps for each meat category.

smalls65
03-09-2011, 10:02 AM
I switched to pellet cookers for sleep purposes. IT let me get a couple extra hours of sleep, which I need if I have a few cocktails with friends :)

I have cooked on a Jambo a couple times now (Thanks Rob!), and thanks to a quick download from Rod G., and Rob's input on his pit.... it was not hard at all to build/manage the fire. Very efficient pit. I think it has a similar smoke profile to pellets, honestly. And having never cooked on one, I still pulled at 7th overall at Shelby. I dont think the pit matters as much as the person using it.

Good cooks are good cooks. Kev, you mentioned Munchin's pit at winter fest... his Horizon was snowed in @ the shop in Oklahoma. He used Paul's home-made vertical... that he had never cooked on before.

And yes, the Royal and Royal invitational have been won 3 times by guys cooking on trash cans.

I have to agree w/ you there!!!! I am a young cook to the BBQ game and out of my 1st 2 comps have finished at respectable 18th out of 66 and 13th out of 44 (against TOUGH TEAMS!!) all cooking on WSM's...This season we are adding a BWS-Chubby frankly because I want a new toy, and hate having to pull out my top rack to get to the bottom rack for my big meats!!! :roll: Don't get me wrong I don't blame anyone for wanting to add comfort and luxury when it comes to BBQ'ing cause I sit in amazement watching those cooks out there work those JAMBO's...but a good cook can make magic on any BBQ machine in my opinion!! :thumb:

chibi
03-09-2011, 10:02 AM
As long as you can get and keep your temps where you want them it does not matter what you cook on. Even temps throughout the cook is the key.
I can do it with an offset or a Guru controlled clone.

RedPig
03-09-2011, 05:24 PM
It's the cook, not the cooker. Granted I think for experienced judges there is a flavor profile they are accustomed to. Pellet poopers dish out a much cleaner burn. I alternate my meats on purpose, or am also working on some suspension grates in the belly of my pellet grills to allow for airflow to circulate all the way around an already burning charcoal lump. Yep, I add a couple lumps to my Traeger while it's cookin.

We like to start our meats on coals and sticks, then move them to the pellet grills for the night cook, for rest, beer intake, sleep and ease. It's all trial and error, and getting easier as I mess with my times and temps for each meat category.Just curious. Why lump?

Alexa RnQ
03-09-2011, 06:15 PM
Add one more WSM team to the OP's list -- All Sauced Up uses them.

And we do know one more team, Otis and the Bird, who doesn't figure in the top 25 due to number of contests cooked, but is a formidable competitor. Jaybird has had a beautiful Jambo, but reverted to cooking brisket on a WSM.

porkerfacebbq
11-23-2011, 07:06 PM
I've noticed the change too. I have noticed that the judges apear to be wanting more of a smokey taste on the food. even with my wsm's I find myself doing better adding more wood chunk and trying to get more smoke out of them. I guess its a change we will have to get used to for now.

Steve

swamprb
11-23-2011, 09:32 PM
I've noticed the change too. I have noticed that the judges apear to be wanting more of a smokey taste on the food. even with my wsm's I find myself doing better adding more wood chunk and trying to get more smoke out of them. I guess its a change we will have to get used to for now.

Steve

We started out the season cooking on a Klose using Cherry low n slow and never got any comment cards complaining of lack of smoke flavor. (1 GC)

After moving back to WSM's a few negative comment cards started to arrive. I have a tendency to not add too much wood to the bullets, but will be stepping it up too.

JD McGee
11-24-2011, 11:21 AM
I switched to pellet cookers for sleep purposes. IT let me get a couple extra hours of sleep, which I need if I have a few cocktails with friends :)

I have cooked on a Jambo a couple times now (Thanks Rob!), and thanks to a quick download from Rod G., and Rob's input on his pit.... it was not hard at all to build/manage the fire. Very efficient pit. I think it has a similar smoke profile to pellets, honestly. And having never cooked on one, I still pulled at 7th overall at Shelby. I dont think the pit matters as much as the person using it.

Good cooks are good cooks. Kev, you mentioned Munchin's pit at winter fest... his Horizon was snowed in @ the shop in Oklahoma. He used Paul's home-made vertical... that he had never cooked on before.

And yes, the Royal and Royal invitational have been won 3 times by guys cooking on trash cans.

We're not in the KCBS top 20...but we do use WSM's and get plenty of sleep...:twisted: The pit is a tool...nothing more...nothing less...some just have more cool factor than others! :cool:

Ron_L
11-24-2011, 11:38 AM
We started out the season cooking on a Klose using Cherry low n slow and never got any comment cards complaining of lack of smoke flavor. (1 GC)

After moving back to WSM's a few negative comment cards started to arrive. I have a tendency to not add too much wood to the bullets, but will be stepping it up too.

In four years of cooking with the FEC I have never received a comment card about a lack of smoke flavor. I've gotten some interesting comment cards, but never one about the amount of smoke. :-D

big brother smoke
11-24-2011, 12:11 PM
I use to burn sticks at comps but thanks to Sled and JD, I am a huge WSM fan now for comps. Needing to get shut eye the more I age.:thumb:

glenntm
11-24-2011, 12:33 PM
Were big fans of the Backwoods with the Stoker. These things hold temp, and require minimal adjustments. We've had no flavor problems with Kingsford Blue bag and wood chunks.

Divemaster
11-25-2011, 08:36 AM
Some will joke, but I cook better "relaxed" :thumb:

"Relaxed". I'm going to have to use that term next season!!!!

Candy Sue
11-25-2011, 09:24 PM
if im not wrong Pellet Envy has a pellet burning Jambo.correct me though if im wrong.

That would be me with the only (so far) pellet fired Jambo! And Jamie did it for me (only took me 2+ years to talk him into it...)

Candy Sue
11-25-2011, 09:40 PM
Neat thread! The most amazing contest I was at this year was the Sam's final in Bentonville. There's only been one other contest where I've seen so many Jambos in one place -- that would be Kennedale, TX a couple of years ago. Those Jambos were mostly early ones. In Bentonville, there were mostly new ones. All beautiful! There were only a handful of pellet cooking teams there. But those teams did get calls.

Over time, judges tastes change. Looking at the Jack, there'll be a stick year, then a charcoal year, then a pellet year, not necessarily in that order. In my opinion, there's no rhyme or reason for any of it. You cook the best you can on whatever cooker you're using, then do up the box the best you can with what comes out of the cooker. If it's your day and you've had luck to land on a table where your meat doesn't offend more than one judge and pleases five of them, maybe you do well.

Hub
11-26-2011, 03:29 PM
I took Rod Gray's cooking class in 2010. He cooked all the KCBS meats on both an FEC100 and a Jambo. I could tell no significant differences except that the brisket was just slightly more moist on the FEC100. All prep was the same and temps were the same as were cooking times.

Among stick burners the Jambo is a dream pit to maintain and doesn't require the constant tending that cheaper boxes do. The FEC100 with the new controller is also a dream pit and takes even less tending. Being a Pellethead I'd go with the FEC, but I know for a fact that either will produce award-winning chow.

sitnfat
11-27-2011, 06:56 AM
"Among stick burners the Jambo is a dream pit to maintain and doesn't require the constant tending that cheaper boxes do." someone should tell Tuffy that lol :-P