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Missmoke 11-14-2012 01:51 PM

Did I Buy The Right Smoker?
In the later 90's I decided that I wanted to learn how to smoke meats and picked up a New Braunfels Bandera vertical cooker. At the time I really wanted a super heavy horizontal offset smoker but didn't want to spend too much starting out. After using the Bandera for a while I grew to really like it. My impression of the unit is that it seemed easy to hold temperature and produced very good BBQ. I also grew to love the versatility of the unit.

I had to move early last year and had to sell off a lot of my heavy stuff to keep the cost of the move reasonable. I sold the Bandera thinking I would buy another later. After visiting Academy recently I discovered that New Braunfels no longer produces high quality cookers.

There were no vertical units at Academy but the Old Country BBQ smokers looked decent. I would up buying an Old Country Ranch Hand that is an all welded horizontal unit that weighs 215 lbs and appears to be 14 ga. steel. It is the $300 unit that I got at a very substantial discount as it was a return unit. After getting home I discovered that many people do not hold horizontal units in high regard in terms of temperature consistency in the cooking area and ability to hold a constant temperature. This apparently is aggravated by thinner gauge sheet metal.

So I am wondering if I made a serious mistake buying this unit or are the problems with these units exaggerated. Can I get this unit to perform well? My other option at Academy would have been to spend over twice as much to get the heavier Old Country Pecos unit (350 lbs).

Sorry for the long text.


gooose53 11-14-2012 01:59 PM

I think it depends on what you want. If you would have asked before you bought (but you said you got a really good deal on it and it shouldn't matter) I would have suggesed a WSM or build yourself a drum cooker. I've got a number of cookers that I will use, each for different situations and quantities.

Garrett 11-14-2012 02:42 PM

That's the beauty of BBQ. Make it your own with what you have to work with. You can add a charcoal basket to the firebox and use the minion method for burning and will help with keeping a steady temp. All it takes is practice, practice, practice!

BillywannaQ 11-14-2012 03:02 PM

I'm sure when you bought the first smoker there's was a bit of a learning curve. It'll be no different with this one. There will be a learning curve, but you'll get. Its part of the fun. I agree with the charcoal basket, and maybe some sort of heat diffuser coming out if the firebox if it doesn't have one already.

QTEX 11-14-2012 03:22 PM

Get to know your new cooker and you'll be ok, they work fine.

Boshizzle 11-14-2012 03:32 PM

I bet it will work well especcialy with some mods.

1. Extend the exhaust pipe down to the grate level (if not there now).

2. Purchase or make a charcoal basket.

3. Purchase or make a tuning plate.

Missmoke 11-14-2012 04:12 PM


I guess I kind of panicked when I ran into all that negative stuff I saw on the net about horizontals. I have already anticipated having to deal with maintaining temp consistency. Academy offered me this smoker at half price so it really was cheap. It does have a little rust inside as it obviously had not been cured. I plan on cleaning it in and out real good, coating with oil, then letting it burn hot for several hours. I remember doing this on my first unit and it seemed to hold up really well.

The exhaust comes out dead center of the end plate with the bottom of the hole being right at grate level. There is a deflection plate over the firebox hot air exit that extends 7" into the 26" long cooking chamber and is angled downward. I guess maybe OK to start with and see what happens. I wonder if bricks in the cooking chamber might serve to add thermal mass and reduce temp fluctuation.

I will plan on picking up some 3/4" expanded diamond grate and making a charcoal basket. Looks like a great idea. I am also pondering the thought of using flat brick in the bottom of the firebox, wonder if this would slow down BTU loss and also add some mass here to slow temp fluctuation. Also hope it might serve as a means of height adjust for grilling.

I noticed the chimney charcoal starters at Academy, hope that might serve to reduce heat up time.

Thanks Guys!!

Garrett 11-14-2012 04:53 PM

The brick inside will help hold some heat. Try to find fire brick if you can. The chimney starter works great cause you don't need that ole lighter fluid stuff and I think they are faster anyway.

dano 11-14-2012 04:57 PM

I agree with everyone so far. There are many mods to make life a lot easier but it really comes down to getting to know your pit and start cooking. All smokers are there pluses and minuses.

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