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View Full Version : What wins - smoker wise?


Sarge
07-10-2010, 01:03 AM
As I'm sitting here in Kettering at the Ohio Veterans BBQ Comp tending the stickburner and talking to our neighbors with a pellet pooper I was wondering - what wins?

Is there an observable trend of higher scores between the different types of smokers - stick burners, pellet poopers, and the ceramics?

Has anyone else looked at this or should I begin my own research?

Thanks,

Sarge

BBQ Grail
07-10-2010, 01:28 AM
Smokers/Pits don't win competitions.

Cooks win competitions.

Dale P
07-10-2010, 04:56 AM
If the question was "who gets more sleep" well I could answer that.

Lake Dogs
07-10-2010, 07:42 AM
A few months back someone noticed that among the top 20 or 30 teams in KCBS that
most were using pellet poopers and made a correlation that they obviously were
better (win more). I think it has more to do with competitors who compete more often,
more often than not, would like to get a little sleep. There were a few stick burner
teams up there, and a few ceramic cooker teams.

More than anything else, it has to do with what Larry said; cooks win competitions.

Alexa RnQ
07-10-2010, 08:35 AM
We use 4 WSMs, that's nearly as backyard as you can get.

"It's not the cooker, it's the cook" is a cliche because it's true. As long as you've got something that you can get to your desired temperature that will hold it steady for you, you're good.

fordfanaw
07-10-2010, 09:18 AM
i agree its the cook

The Giggler
07-10-2010, 09:28 AM
We use 4 WSMs, that's nearly as backyard as you can get.

"It's not the cooker, it's the cook" is a cliche because it's true. As long as you've got something that you can get to your desired temperature that will hold it steady for you, you're good.

I couldn't agree more. Spent thousands on various high-end pits before really understanding - "It's not the cooker, it's the cook." Simple is best, and knowing your pit(s), and how they run is just as important as the meat, seasonings, and/or sauces. And practice on the off weekends. I'm doing a practice cook now on pork butt, wings, sausage, pig candy, beef sliders, and grilled jerk chicken.

dswfondy
07-10-2010, 10:43 AM
80% cook, 20% Pit.

You could be the best cook in the world and if that pit you built or bought doesnt draft your stuck!

starvinmarvin
07-10-2010, 10:58 AM
True comps oughtta use old school stuff. Nothin against pellets (I'm thinking of getting one to get more sleep) but it just seems right to use wood/charcoal rather than a machine.

luckyduk
07-10-2010, 11:05 AM
True comps oughtta use old school stuff. Nothin against pellets (I'm thinking of getting one to get more sleep) but it just seems right to use wood/charcoal rather than a machine.

I kind of agree with that statement. Some of the art of tending fires to hold temps steady is being lost.

I believe also it is the mainly the cook and not the cooker, but in correlation to the pellet poopers it is about consistency. Turning out the same desired product each time once they find something that works.

TN_BBQ
07-10-2010, 02:24 PM
My college track coach used to always say:

"I'll take mine and beat yours, AND I'll take yours and mine."

As it relates to BBQ, I think he'd probably say "it don't matter what cooker you use...a good cook is gonna have good results (and the opposite is also true)."

markpmc
07-10-2010, 02:37 PM
It really is the cook. We beat guys w/ 16 ft + trailers with 2 custom smokers fairly regularly. I have a $300 OK Joe.

It's the cook, but you _must_ understand your tool.

Mark

watertowerbbq
07-10-2010, 04:22 PM
The Iowa TOY last year was cooking on 4 WSM's.

Smokin' Gnome BBQ
07-10-2010, 04:40 PM
I think its a matter of knowing your cooker. I bet if a top team wanted to they could win on any cooker with a little practice.

Greg60525
07-10-2010, 10:06 PM
I believe it's the cook and not the cooker, as well. I also believe that you can get consistent temps in offsets and pellet machines once you know how the equipment works, but it takes more work with an offset, as there is no thermostat. And if you cook with wood then you'll have to tend with temp swings.............but you can make it work. I'm not sure if there's a difference in say a pellet cooker that holds 250F 5 vs an offset that averages 250F with swings of 20 - 30.

I have an offset..........I just don't sleep much..........err, not at all. I take cat naps! I resplit my fireplace sized sticks to minimize the temp swings and to maintain a certain temp with a lively fire to minimize smoke. I could use charcoal that would give me better temp control and probably enable me to better utilize a BBQ Guru or Stoker for even better temp control, less fuel consumption and.............much more sleep!

Buster Dog BBQ
07-11-2010, 12:28 AM
I am probably in the minority but on my pellet cooker I check at 11, 230, and up at 6. Just making sure things are still humming. I know a few other teams that check middle of night too.

SmokinOkie
07-11-2010, 08:41 AM
True comps oughtta use old school stuff. Nothin against pellets (I'm thinking of getting one to get more sleep) but it just seems right to use wood/charcoal rather than a machine.

I never understand this argument. Do you think people who use pellets have always used pellets?

If you agree it's the cook not the cooker, then it doesn't matter.

From you statement you think they win because they have a pellet smoker? I think the other posts address that one.

What about guru's and stokers's?

I come at it from the opposite direction, bring anything, gas, charcoal, electric whatever. I'd cook against anyone on anything because I don't want your excuse to be the smoker you ARE or ARE NOT cooking on.

Old school? What's that? How about smokers like Geer pits, that are so well made, that's not old school.

Only real old school is a pit in the ground.

Russ

JD McGee
07-11-2010, 09:20 AM
We've had very good luck with WSM's and a WSM clone (Cajun Bandit)...but they are just pits...the real magic is getting the pit to do what the pitmaster wants it to. :cool:

Bbq Bubba
07-11-2010, 09:47 AM
Doesn't matter what you cook on, the judges are gonna fark ya over most the time anyways. :tsk:

Kosmo's Q
07-11-2010, 10:26 AM
I check my pellet cooker twice as much as I every checked my stick burner. Just me though.

ZILLA
07-11-2010, 10:34 AM
Indeed the cook wins the comp not the pit. That being said, I think there is a correlation to higher placements/winning and low maintenance cookers, comfort, and rest, in some combination.

It's much easier for a cook to be on their game when they are physically comfortable in the heat or cold. When they can get out of the often very loud abient noise of a comp where loud generators and music run 24/7, which will wear you out even in the finest weather. Six hours of solid sleep in an RV gives a person an advantage over a person resting in a Zero G chair all night.

I person cooking on a backwoods/FEC low maintenence cooker has a greater consistancy in the outcome over an offset. Pellets are very consistant in their manufacture as is charcoal, but if you end up with varying quality firewood over the course of the year you cannot be as consistant as the person cooking with Kingford or pellets.

So if you are using an offset pit and using a canopy as a shelter you better have a solid plan for rest and year long plan for great firewood and you have to be on your game, hyper dilegent if you will. If you beat a winning cook who has a fully automated setup and a cush RV by one point overall, and you cook on an offset out of a canopy in foul weather, you didn't just beat him by a point. You gave him a royal ass kicking in my opinion.

bodcat
07-11-2010, 11:51 AM
Our pellet poopers don't allow us anymore sleep because we don't sleep, they just allow us to consume more alcohol.

HBMTN
07-11-2010, 01:25 PM
True comps oughtta use old school stuff. Nothin against pellets (I'm thinking of getting one to get more sleep) but it just seems right to use wood/charcoal rather than a machine.


I think if this were the case and everyone used an old school cooker that someone would come along and say "Well I grew the tree of the wood I'm smoking with, ya out to have to use wood from a tree you grew" or " We make our own sauce, ya out to not be able to use a store bought sauce that you did not make" I'm sure I could think of more things people could make an argument for but these are just two.

Chenernator
07-11-2010, 05:41 PM
We use 4 WSMs, that's nearly as backyard as you can get.

"It's not the cooker, it's the cook" is a cliche because it's true. As long as you've got something that you can get to your desired temperature that will hold it steady for you, you're good.

She speaks the truth, and RnQ kicks everyone's arse!

ZILLA
07-11-2010, 06:30 PM
If you use an offset pit and you're not getting any sleep then you need to relearn how to cook on an offset pit. I light my pit at 5:30 am, Brisket goes on at 6:00am and turn in is usually 3:00pm. I cook 10-12 lb packers hand trimmed by me. I cook at 250-275 and never have a problem getting the job done before 2:00pm. I can easily sleep from 10:00pm to 5:30am which is usually more sleep than I get at home. I should say I have the opportunity to sleep this long. :becky: My lack of sleeping at a comp has nothing what so ever to do with baby sitting my pit.

BBQ Grail
07-11-2010, 06:37 PM
True comps oughtta use old school stuff. Nothin against pellets (I'm thinking of getting one to get more sleep) but it just seems right to use wood/charcoal rather than a machine.


I just love this argument. Define "old school" for me. Why do most it's got to be "old school" seem to think "old school" started with "stick burning" pits. If you were really into "old school" you'd just dig a hole in the ground and cook your meat there.

bam
07-11-2010, 06:41 PM
I say get the pit that cost the most and when you don't win it's you. :bow:

Greg60525
07-11-2010, 08:28 PM
If you use an offset pit and you're not getting any sleep then you need to relearn how to cook on an offset pit. I light my pit at 5:30 am, Brisket goes on at 6:00am and turn in is usually 3:00pm. I cook 10-12 lb packers hand trimmed by me. I cook at 250-275 and never have a problem getting the job done before 2:00pm. I can easily sleep from 10:00pm to 5:30am which is usually more sleep than I get at home. I should say I have the opportunity to sleep this long. :becky: My lack of sleeping at a comp has nothing what so ever to do with baby sitting my pit.

Zilla,

I have the Gator Pit BMS. Once I throw the meat on I feed sticks at the rate of 1 every 20-30 minutes........I guess that's babysitting to me. Should I be getting longer reload intervals than this? One hour intervals would be nice!

Thanks,

jbrink01
07-11-2010, 08:42 PM
I've cooked in about 2 dozen contests over the course of the last 6 years (not much, I know). I've won 1 GC, and it was on a stick burner. I have an FEC 500 that I use for a contest every now and then. We've done 4 or 5 contests that have resulted in no calls. Otherwise we've been lucky to get calls on both pits with regularity. Problem is, we cater so much that my attention to detail for contests is gone. It's just really hard to care when you cook as much as we do. My point you ask? The pit don't matter much. It's all about a winning formula, execution and attention to detail. If you want it bad enough it will happen.

CBQ
07-12-2010, 03:39 AM
People are right in that it's the cook, not the pit. A big part of being a cook, however, is knowing your equipment and how it performs.

The more I used my Klose offset, the more things I found that I need to keep track of. It's a tightly built pit, and I burn charcoal with a Stoker controlled fire, so I have fewer variables than someone burning sticks or using an unmodified WSM in a high wind, but there are a number of other factors that I mostly found by trial and error:

- None of the 8 shelves are alike. Even on a given shelf, there are also temp variations from front to back and side to side. Which shelf to put a meat on, when it goes on, and even where on the shelf the meat sits and which direction it's pointing in make a difference. (I used to wish that things were more uniform, but now I embrace the differences and use them to my advantage.)

Other things that matter on my pit:

- The location of the stoker pit temp probe
- The front to back angle of the pit
- Whether it's raining or not
- The distance of my charcoal basket from the Stoker fan
- Whether we wrap/don't wrap, and whether foil or a pan are used to wrap (it impacts airflow in my relatively small offset)

My team added a Backwoods Fatboy to our gear recently, and it has it's own collection of quirks too (level of the smoker, using auto-water or not, top to bottom temp differences, etc.)

Understanding how your pit performs, what it does well and doesn't do well make the difference. I suspect the pellet poopers have the least variability, and that is why people tend to gravitate towards them over time, but a cook that knows his or her pit can win with anything.

roksmith
07-12-2010, 05:47 AM
Sarge,
As I was the neighbor you were talking to, and it was my first contest on the pellet pooper, I'll tell ya what I think.

I saw no real difference in the quality of our food between the stick burner and the pellet pooper.

I did see a difference in the quality of my sleep.. or would have if my team mate didn't snore so loud :rolleyes:

Sawdustguy
07-12-2010, 06:39 AM
True comps oughtta use old school stuff. Nothin against pellets (I'm thinking of getting one to get more sleep) but it just seems right to use wood/charcoal rather than a machine.

Following that logic true comps should use open pits. No stick burners either. You don't get more old school than that. It amazes me that people think tending a fire makes a better cook. If that were true, 5 star resturants wouldn't be using modern appliances.

Sarge
07-12-2010, 01:29 PM
Wow, I must say I did not intend for this question to stir up the pot this much. For all the brethren who have chimed in, thank you.

I understand there are many, many variables in this wonderful "hobby" of ours. Everyone has their own way of selecting their meat, trimming, seasoning, basting, and saucing. The cook is a very integral part of the equation - I have never doubted or questioned that. That being said, I think that the smoker also plays a significant role in the process (not sure about 20%). Having used an offset for several years I truly like the results and what we can do with it. But it can be touchy and does use a lot of fuel. We have gotten used to that and I like the "Hands On" feel of it. The pellet smokers do have the 'advantage' of being controlled by a thermostat and have a very "hands off" method. While I like the consistency, I'm not sure I'd like that. I have no problem with people using any smoker in a competition, that is what makes it fun and interesting.

My sole purpose in this was to see if there was any solid numbers available on contest placement and smoker type. I did not intend for it become this controversial.

Sarge

CBQ
07-12-2010, 07:28 PM
Having used an offset for several years I truly like the results and what we can do with it. But it can be touchy and does use a lot of fuel. We have gotten used to that and I like the "Hands On" feel of it. The pellet smokers do have the 'advantage' of being controlled by a thermostat and have a very "hands off" method. ... My sole purpose in this was to see if there was any solid numbers available on contest placement and smoker type. I did not intend for it become this controversial.


I don't think you need to apologize. It's not controversial, it's good content. There are many, many posts in these forums about the merits of different smokers, and as long as people don't get personal, I think a good debate also educates and informs.

I think the replies were actually pretty consistent in that people seem to think that, at the end of it all, the smoker doesn't matter as much as what you do with it. Smokers are like sneakers. The right equipment doesn't hurt, but a pair of Nikes is not going to turn you into Michael Jordan. Select a smoker based upon your style of cooking, your budget, and how you are going to transport and store it.

CBQ
09-23-2010, 02:53 PM
I could use charcoal that would give me better temp control and probably enable me to better utilize a BBQ Guru or Stoker for even better temp control, less fuel consumption and.............much more sleep!

As someone that uses charcoal in a stick burner with a Stoker, that's a big yes to the more sleep (and better control). I sleep most of the night, and get up once to refuel the pit.

mrichard
09-23-2010, 04:11 PM
You can win on anything if you know your cooker! The jambo is our weapon of choice

GrillsGoneWild
09-23-2010, 04:46 PM
I see a pellet pooper more of an oven with the ability to put smoke in the meat. They will be more consistent with the heat without the jumps and slumps in temps as teh stick burners so should be able to control your product a little more. It just gives you another option of a way to go.

Lake Dogs
09-23-2010, 04:59 PM
I don't think you need to apologize. It's not controversial, it's good content. There are many, many posts in these forums about the merits of different smokers, and as long as people don't get personal, I think a good debate also educates and informs.

I think the replies were actually pretty consistent in that people seem to think that, at the end of it all, the smoker doesn't matter as much as what you do with it. Smokers are like sneakers. The right equipment doesn't hurt, but a pair of Nikes is not going to turn you into Michael Jordan. Select a smoker based upon your style of cooking, your budget, and how you are going to transport and store it.

Sarge, I agree with Chris; no need to appologize.

The set-it-and-forget-it fans have their points. I'm sure we all feel that
we might make better decisions with a few more hours of sleep.

The stick burner fans have their points too.

I have a stick burner and really enjoy it. One of the things I enjoy is
a well smoked piece of meat, and from what I've seen/tasted, you can
get a little more smoke flavor in the meat with a stick burner, if you
so desire it to be so.

I actually enjoy the fire management, even if it means staying up all
night. To me, personally, this is part of the enjoyment of it all. I dont
think the pellet poopers should be "outlawed" nor do I feel that they have
some advantage, other than perhaps they've slept longer.

As far as fuel consumption goes, while I probably wouldn't mind having
a nice Stumps, I wouldn't trade my Lang for a Stumps for the reason
of saving fuel.

Best of luck; smoke on brother.

Sweet Breathe BBQ
09-24-2010, 07:32 AM
I would suggest that not all pellet poopers are "set it and forget it". We use two Traegers without the digital thermostat control. We have temperature fluctuations that we need to keep an eye on. We have to make sure the pellets feed properly, the auger remains clear, power stays on. We use an offset and bullets as well. When we check one smoker, we'll usually check them all.

Ford
09-24-2010, 08:23 AM
the answer is jambo pits and fe100s just look at the top 25

now maybe its also the cook

deguerre
09-24-2010, 08:39 AM
Sarge, I agree with Chris; no need to appologize.

The set-it-and-forget-it fans have their points. I'm sure we all feel that
we might make better decisions with a few more hours of sleep.

The stick burner fans have their points too.

I have a stick burner and really enjoy it. One of the things I enjoy is
a well smoked piece of meat, and from what I've seen/tasted, you can
get a little more smoke flavor in the meat with a stick burner, if you
so desire it to be so.

I actually enjoy the fire management, even if it means staying up all
night. To me, personally, this is part of the enjoyment of it all. I dont
think the pellet poopers should be "outlawed" nor do I feel that they have
some advantage, other than perhaps they've slept longer.

As far as fuel consumption goes, while I probably wouldn't mind having
a nice Stumps, I wouldn't trade my Lang for a Stumps for the reason
of saving fuel.

Best of luck; smoke on brother.

Confess. You just enjoy the extra drinking time.

Alexa RnQ
09-24-2010, 08:49 AM
the answer is jambo pits and fe100s just look at the top 25

now maybe its also the cook
Revisiting this topic, since the OP we cooked in a little shootout in August with many of the top 25, and yes, there were no fewer than eight rigs there that cost at least four times what our entire camp did.

Nobody told our WSMs that was supposed to make a difference. http://www.divaherself.com/funny/shiner.gif

So, are those cookers really a silver bullet, or is it just that as a cooker gains more experience and gets better they tend to buy shinier toys?

JD McGee
09-24-2010, 09:30 AM
the answer is jambo pits and fe100s just look at the top 25

now maybe its also the cook

I would love to have a Jambo and an FEC100 for catering...one to cook on (FEC100) and one for show (Jambo)...but...WSM's are my weapon of choice for comps. They got us to The Jack this year! :cool: Then again...maybe it was the cook...:twisted:

Candy Sue
09-24-2010, 11:16 AM
Yes, but even if you have an FEC100 and a Jambo and WSMs, the cooker doesn't mean anything if the cook is having a bad year.

I know this personally!

SmokinCW
09-24-2010, 11:48 AM
The discussion is helpful for those thinking of buying a pit, especially for those who may want to jump into the world of comps. I would like to see more info on the equipment used by winning teams.

BBQchef33
09-24-2010, 11:50 AM
I see a pellet pooper more of an oven with the ability to put smoke in the meat. They will be more consistent with the heat without the jumps and slumps in temps as teh stick burners so should be able to control your product a little more. It just gives you another option of a way to go.


im going ot go offtopic jsut for a second to share somethign i have been meaning to post.

We use 2 cookers at contests.. A spicewine and an FEC100. We start all the meats in the spicewine. Big meats go in at around 8PM. They stay there until we are ready to crash(around 2Am). We then move them to the FE where the will stay until done. At around 7 ribs go in the spicewine chicken at at 9 and the shuttle to the FE later also.

so we use the Spice to lay the smoke down, and then the (so we thought) consistantr temps of the FE to finish, which allows us to tend to other things. I wills say, the FE allows you to pay more attention to the little details while its babysitting for u.

Now the discovery..

We used the stoker to monitor temps overnight.. (no blower, just pit temps). We load the Spice with a big load of lump and logs, lock it in and let it coast. We set the FE to its target temp and let it coast.

The stokerlog is displayed on the TV screen in the trailer with the graph showing the 2 pits behaviors. each pit has its own line on the graph.

Over the course of 6-8 hours, the spicewine, running on a large lump load and logs will maintain a rock solid straight line with nearly ZERO fluctuations... as fuel load declines, a slight downward slope forms and its fixed with a damper adjustment or a shake of the firegrate.

Now the good part... The fast eddie kicked my ass the first time I saw this, and it HAS BEEN Consistant over many several cooks. (and Mike lake saw it and nearly cracked up laughing).. The graphed line representing the fast eddie looked like the teeth on a sawsall blade.. with CONSISTANT temp fluctuations spaced evenly apart with approximatly a 15 degree swing. 250, 240, 255, 250, 240, 255

So here I am staring at 2 unattended cookers, one rock solid and one with 15 degree swing temps.. and realizing that meat dont care what temps you cook it at within temp ranges. All that changes based on temps, is time its finished. I'm not saying 225 and 350 gives same results, but what this does do is make me question the importance of consistent temperature in your final product.

Nothing more than a discovered anomaly im sharing.. found it interesting the way the FE behavied.. does it change anything.. nope..


Ok.. back on topic.
:becky:



BTW, we are heading to the Royal with 2 WSMS and an FE... Leaving the spicewine home to cut 900lbs off towing weight. If I can find a stickburner thats under 400 lbs, I'd bring that.

its the cook, not the cooker.

rescue_ranger
09-24-2010, 11:51 AM
one of my favorit grills is the Char-Broil outlaw with the side box, for the WV pickin in the Panhandel I used 2 of my outlaws and 2 Char-Grill Smoking Pros with the side box I love the way these cook and with a few modifications rubber wheels, better therm's and a fan kit they are killer, but like the others have said you can have a $20,000 dollar rig or a few hundred in backyard modified rigs ethier on will burn your meat to a hockey puck just as good it is all in the cook
RR

QansasjayhawQ
09-24-2010, 05:59 PM
This kind of reminds me of the discussion about which computer is better. Really, as everyone has said, it's the tool that you know how to use the best that produces the best results. And that tool is most likely the one you've used the most while developing your skills.

That being said . . . there are advantages with certain styles of smokers and fuel used, etc. Having used a smoker that I had to stay awake with and feed every hour on the hour vs. a smoker that will run with consistent temps for well over eight hours . . . I like being able to sleep at least a couple of hours in a row.

Which one will win? There's no way to tell, but I do know that you will do your best with the one you know how to use the best.

TN_BBQ
09-24-2010, 07:25 PM
anybody see the final episode of Pitmasters on TV?

How many think the whole hogs those folks were cooking on those homemade cinderblock pits were worth eating (I sure do)?

So...I'd say a good cook can make good BBQ on almost anything.

Bigmista
09-24-2010, 09:21 PM
The best smoker is the one that the winning cook is comfortable with.