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Catering, Vending and Cooking For The Masses. this forum is OnTopic. A resource to help with catering, vending and just cooking for large parties. Topics to include Getting Started, Ethics, Marketing, Catering resources, Formulas and recipes for cooking for large groups.


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Old 02-13-2018, 05:50 PM   #1
Wackydee
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Join Date: 02-08-18
Location: Indianapolis, IN
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Default First Commercial Smoker

Hello! I am planning to purchase my first commercial smoker and I’m looking for a little help. I took Mike Mills’ business of bbq class a few years ago and I know he’s big on Ole Hickory. I have priced an Ole Hickory CTO with a factory salesman and will most likely end up buying it. However I was also intrigued by the Pitmaker Vault and the Contender from Pits by JJ. Does anyone have any feedback on those smokers? I would also appreciate any advice on the CTO should I go that route. Thanks!
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:52 AM   #2
RangerJ
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Where will you be cooking this BBQ Commercially? The CTO has all the "legal" registrations need to be approved by Health Departments. The Vault does not. I can't speak for the JJ but I'll assume same having looked at them.

Pitmaker will tell you that the Vault is in use in commercial kitchens, it is, I used two for the last two years. But they will also tell you it is not really a commercial pit.

Need to know more about your application before I can add more. Also, NONE of those, IMHO, can support the volume you need to make enough money if this is to be your day job.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:04 AM   #3
Ron_L
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Double check with your local health department to see if NSF rating is required. The Pitmaker pits aren't NSF as far as I know. Ole Hickory are, as are the Cookshack pellet smokers. Most of the top BBQ places around here are using Ole Hickory or Cookshack.
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Old 02-14-2018, 11:52 AM   #4
Wackydee
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Thanks! I’m just going to be doing private parties on the weekends this year. I would eventually like to start vending, but I won’t have the resources to go legal until next year. Thanks for the tip on NSF! I never thought about the pit having to be health department approved. My plan is to take my time and learn my pit and develop some really solid recipes this year, then see where I can grow next year. I think I will go ahead and order the CTO.
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Old 02-15-2018, 10:09 AM   #5
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Do you have a budget/price in mind that you would like to spend?
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Old 02-15-2018, 03:28 PM   #6
Cook
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The CTO is a fine piece of equipment. If I ever decide to go into the 'cue business "again", I am 90% sure that I'd go with Ole Hickory "again". I have had a good relationship with them and their equipment. Customer service is top notch...and they'll do what they can to get you running ASAP if something goes wrong (nothing quite like coming to work expecting for your pit to be sitting at 250 and it's well south of there). Outstanding company and worth your time to default that way if you so desire.

Pits, or restaurant equipment in general, are supposed to be NSF or ANSI approved. I believe every state now uses some form of the FDA Food Code, and that is specified there. If you have not read your state's Food Code, I urge you to do so at your earliest convenience. The rules will be in black & white and most times worded in a fairly easily understood manner. They must be adhered to...FOR THE MOST PART.

Here is where we throw a wrench into the situation. You CAN operate outside the rules by approaching your local health department with your plans. You can't be stupid with what you want to do, but they will listen. For many things, whether it pertains to operation, procedures, or equipment, you can work with "custom" rules called a variance. Obtaining a variance can be difficult, but it can also be easy. With equipment, as in a non-approved barbecue pit, it is an easy process. They will look at it, and if they are satisfied of it's operation and ease of cleanability, they will write you a variance that says you can use it. It's just that easy. The most important thing they will probably take into consideration is smooth surfaces than can be cleaned easily. They also like stainless food grates. Having a pre-written cleaning schedule before they ask you for one will give you a couple of brownie points.

I have had a pit approved in the past that carried no NSF or ANSI certification.

But there are no issues with the CTO. It doesn't have to be approved. Your setup will be of a concern, but the pit itself is just fine.

As a side note: I think you could serve 400+ portions from a single CTO per day.
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Old 02-15-2018, 08:52 PM   #7
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There is a CTO for sale...

https://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/s...d.php?t=257185
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:59 AM   #8
BigBellyBBQ
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I use southern pride. 500 then a 700, nsf
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Old 02-25-2018, 03:11 PM   #9
Czarbecue
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So if I read this correctly, guys like John Lewis and Aaron Franklin obtain a variance to cook on their home made pits?
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