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armyguygrillin 11-13-2013 11:46 PM

Need some help with a smoker.
Hey guys!

I'll give you a quick run down about me and my smokers to date. I have done sooo much research online it's just crazy. I am having a really hard time deciding what to get for my next smoker. I need to make sure that I get the right one this time around, as it is costing me way too much money experimenting.

I have had 3 pellet smokers so far. I have had a FE PG1000, a FE PG500, and a Dreamwerks 1600SS(which is sold as of this weekend). After spending tons of money on these, I have found that while I LOVE the convenience and consistency of pellet smokers, they just don't give the food that smoked flavor I am looking for. I still have the PG500 and use it strictly as a grill now and it works great for that.

I have also had a Cookshack Amerique. While it was also convenient, the food came out too mushy for my liking. It did put way more smoke onto the meat, but it still did not have the flavor or the consistency I was looking for so I sold it and lost a ton of money on that one.

Last but not least, I have a Big Steel Keg. This thing is AWESOME. I love the flavor that this thing imparts on the food. I just made the best ribs I have ever made, or eaten for that matter last week. It holds temp really good, the lump lasts a really long time, and the flavor just can't be beat. I have made some of the best Q' I(or my friends/family) have ever had on the Keg. With that said, this thing is small. I have small parties at my house throughout the summer and even get to togethers with family throughout the winter.

I am looking for a smoker that produces the same quality, texture, and flavor food as the Big Steel Keg does, just in a bigger package that will allow me to do up to say 20-25 racks of ribs at a time. Now most of the time I will only probably have 4 racks or so on there, and maybe throw some chicken on the Keg at the same time.

I have never had food off of a stick burner, so I don't know how those things are(was looking at a Jambo Backyard model), and I also was looking at the Backwoods G2 Party, but that is a water smoker and I don't know how that would compare texture wise to the Keg.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I only want to have to buy one last smoker that will give me what I am looking for.

Porcine Perfection 11-13-2013 11:56 PM

I would go with a UDS. You might not be able to get 25 racks of ribs on it but you can get quite a few. Plus they are easy to build and inexpensive. They are also on Craigslist pretty often if you just want to buy one.

Don't forget though that it is the cook not the cooker. We all like to play with new toys, but you can confuse yourself by having too many different things going on.

armyguygrillin 11-14-2013 12:01 AM

You are right. I know alot has to do with the cook, but no matter how good of a cook you are, pellet smokers just do not put out that same smoke profile that lump/wood chunks do. I could never taste any smoke with my pellet grills, even running them at 180 for hours.

I am also considering a primo oval xl with a ribrack. That would get me 6 racks and keep the really good flavor, but it is still not big enough for what I want.

Southern Home Boy 11-14-2013 12:07 AM

So, here's my opinion for whatever it's worth:

You'll hear it over and over again, "It's the cook, not the cooker," and "BBQ is in the [taste] of the beholder."

YOU are the deciding factor in how your cook turns out.

The only question you need to ask yourself about what cooker to get is, "How much do I like and want to play with fire?" and "How much food do I want to cook at one time?"

A stick burner will usually require much more fire management than a cabinet smoker, Weber Smokey Mountain, UDS or similar model smoker.

If you like to manage temps by managing the fire directly, by stoking, banking, and adding or subtracting combustibles, then you'll love a good stick burner.

If you want more of a set it and forget it, and you're tired of the pellet smokers, then a cabinet smoker, WSM or UDS is probably more your speed.

Flavor and texture can be controlled in any cooker through pre-cook prep (rubs, brines, marinades, injections, etc.), wood combinations and cook time @ a particular temp.

I can smoke a Thanksgiving turkey in anything from a $20,000 commercial rotisserie smoker to a $20 Walmart kettle and one will be just as good as the other (or bad, depending your taste preference). All you need is a combustion source to generate heat and something enclosed to keep the smoke in. All the rest is just "cooking aids."

So, get the cooker that jives best with your preferred style of cooking and go with it.

Like I said... that's just my opinion.

armyguygrillin 11-14-2013 12:28 AM

I appreciate any and all opinions.

So here is what I am basically asking I guess. What would be the closest to a BGE/BSK/Primo but in a bigger sized smoker? I am guessing a cabinet smoker like the Vault or Backwoods..

For my ribs, all I do is peel the membrane off, put rub on them, and let them sit for about 15 minutes on the counter. Then straight to the smoker at 225 for about 4 hours for St. Louis style. They have a perfect amount of bark, smoke, rub. I actually prefer them without sauce because they taste so good, but I will either serve sauce in a bottle on the side, or brush a few racks the last 15 minutes or so.

I would really like to cook on both a vertical and a quality stickburner the same way I do ribs in my keg. I would like to see how different they are and the differences in the food that comes off them when prepped the same exact way and at the same temp.

Southern Home Boy 11-14-2013 12:39 AM

Closest you'll get to a BGE would be an insulated cabinet smoker. With or without a water pan. There's a ton of really good ones out there. I'm a Spicewine fan, mainly because they're local to me and I like to support my hometown peeps. But a Stumps, Backwoods, Vault or any other insulated cabinet smoker would likely do just as well. Add a Guru or similar computer-aided draft device and you really end up with a smokey crock pot. Truly set and forget.

Stick burners just require a lot more attention and interaction. They have a lot more hot and cold spots so you need to maneuver your product a lot more to get even cooking, but you also get the benefit of multiple cooking temps in one cooker and usually more grillestate.

Fatmike 11-14-2013 12:43 AM

It will be hard to get the efficiency of the keg with any stick burner. I have a BGE and a stick burner. I use the stick for large cooks and the egg for the small cooks. Both produce great Q however the stick provides NO sleep hours doing long cooks. If I were you I would look into the Stumps, Assassins, Superior Smokers which are gravity fed smokers that require less attending than a stick burner and cooks well and efficient like the Keg....If you like the caveman approach, there is nothing like being tired placing another split in the firebox of a Stick burner. I have found all of them produce good Q with a little tweaking here and there.

mikeleonard81 11-14-2013 01:01 AM

If your main objective is ribs you don't need to factor in a lot of sleepless nights when considering a stick burner. That is a concern for your big meats like shoulder or brisket. ( And if you experiment with hot and fast your not loosing that much sleep serving at kick off.) I am partial to the flavor of stick burners. But after cooking 8 shoulders and a packer last night when it was 19F last night I am going to look into insulated smokers like a Stumps! I'm still cold and tired.

BigBellyBBQ 11-14-2013 03:11 AM

The larger backwoods style is a good choice, however you would have swap racks around if doing 25 racks at a time, look into a rotisier style cooker, American BBQ systems, Southern Pride etc...doing that many racks you dont need to be fussiing with them rotisier will save you lots of work

Zin 11-14-2013 07:56 AM

I can produce the same quality que on my weber 26er than any one can on there stick burners, box smokers, ceramic cookers etc...All smokers are good it just depends what you are really looking for. A weber ranch kettle might be worth looking into, plenty of grill estate and can be used as a grill or smoker. Hope you find your perfect smoker.

sliding_billy 11-14-2013 08:17 AM

Take a look at this thread. There is a lot of good info on price (approx a year old) and capacity with different fuel types and fuel load options. From what it sounds like in your OP, a gravity fed seems to me to be the best option for you. I can't help but notice that you are about as far away from all of the builders as you could be. Shipping is going to be a mother.

SmittyJonz 11-14-2013 08:54 AM

Are there no local builders out in CA?

MeatCandy 11-14-2013 09:53 AM

How about more Kegs?...

I have a BigJoe and Lang...Both produce different textures and flavors of meat(same cook)...As you have found out each cooker has its strengths and weakness...

You need more Kegs...My .02

Fwismoker 11-14-2013 10:12 AM

A couple of drums and rib racks and you'll turn out some of the best Q on the hill plus grill as well as smoke. You want set it and forget it then it's close as is but can accommodate a IQ or Guru... inexpensive

Insulated verticals or gravity feed same thing but no need for rib racks cant grill on. ...close to set it and forget it and can accommodate the IQ/Guru. ... expensive.

Fwismoker 11-14-2013 10:12 AM

A couple of drums and rib racks and you'll turn out some of the best Q on the hill plus grill as well as smoke. You want set it and forget it then it's close as is but can accommodate a IQ or Guru... inexpensive

Insulated verticals or gravity feed same thing but no need for rib racks cant grill on. ...close to set it and forget it and can accommodate the IQ/Guru. ... expensive.

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