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Unread 07-30-2013, 09:10 PM   #1
Darkman
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Default Wood vs Pellet vs Gas vs Charcoal???????

I'm new here and don't have a clue how you'll feel about your heat source so I'll just ask.

I'm thinking that electric with real wood smoke is ok. I realize it may produce a dryer product than gas but that can be adjusted for and I like my bark so really don't want to use gas.

I also know that cooking with real wood can be a bit of a challenge especially if your smoker isn't designed correctly and by that I mean it isn't cheap. Plus I not up to the long stakeouts watching the temperature.

I'm looking for good information and solid facts to guide my next purchase of a 50 to 120 pound capacity smoker. This smoker will be set up in an outdoor kitchen which will be designed around the smoker.

I have done a little looking and prefer ones that could hold a full size hotel pan on the racks. I'm not interested in bling and I'm more impressed with durability, good temperature control, ease of use and replacable parts that I can source locally or easily.

I'm not sure if it is ok to name manufacturers but the model that looked decent was a 1500-CXLD.

Can you'll start nudging me in the right direction?

Thanks,
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Unread 07-30-2013, 09:20 PM   #2
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Electrics don't seem to be discussed much here, but from your requirements I'd suggest looking at vertical insulated cabinet charcoal smokers. I'm partial to gravity feed like Stumps, but there's also Backwoods, Pitmaker and quite a few others. These manufacturers have sizes to fit most any needs.
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Unread 07-30-2013, 09:23 PM   #3
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Take a look at MAK Grills...
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Unread 07-30-2013, 09:26 PM   #4
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Hi Charles! There is a Google search near the bottom of the page that searches just this site. there have been several threads recently on similar topics.

It;s OK to talk about smoker manufacturers as long as you are not advertising.

I have a small electric smoker, a Smokette by Cookshack, and it does a nice job, but it is easy to over smoke in an electric since the wood isn't really burning cleanly, it is smoldering.
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Unread 07-31-2013, 06:28 AM   #5
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Your choice of cooker and the fuel you use is a matter of personal choice. Most people will purchase what they feel will best work for them and their needs.

Most choose electric or gas for the convenience of sleeping well during long cooks in the nighttime hours.

I have found that some well insulated charcoal smokers will burn 10-12 hours before needing to be refreshed. With the addition of a controller like a BBQ Guru you have complete control over a charcoal smoker as you would in an electric or gas model.

I suggest you make a list of your needs, not your wants, and follow your search from those basic points that you need a smoker for.

Good luck in your choice.
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Unread 07-31-2013, 08:23 AM   #6
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What is your budget?

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Unread 07-31-2013, 08:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Kapn View Post
What is your budget?

TIM
I don't think I need to go over 4K. Hopefully under 3K.

Quote:
Originally Posted by IamMadMan View Post
I have found that some well insulated charcoal smokers will burn 10-12 hours before needing to be refreshed. With the addition of a controller like a BBQ Guru you have complete control over a charcoal smoker as you would in an electric or gas model.

I suggest you make a list of your needs, not your wants, and follow your search from those basic points that you need a smoker for.

Good luck in your choice.
We have Summer afternoon storms here almost every day. I'm wanting to not have to worry about temp drops. Will the Guru overcome rain and I'm talking about with a well insulated upright?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron_L View Post
Hi Charles! There is a Google search near the bottom of the page that searches just this site. there have been several threads recently on similar topics.

It;s OK to talk about smoker manufacturers as long as you are not advertising.

I have a small electric smoker, a Smokette by Cookshack, and it does a nice job, but it is easy to over smoke in an electric since the wood isn't really burning cleanly, it is smoldering.
I have been running some searches thank you. Can you comment on the smoldering vs burning? I know that I have had trouble with my cheap smoker getting the chips to smoke. I tend to lean to the 200F side of smoking. Maybe I need to think about a little higher temp. What do you think?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JD McGee View Post
Take a look at MAK Grills...
Thanks but I'm not looking at a grill style. More of an upright man right now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by muidaq View Post
Electrics don't seem to be discussed much here, but from your requirements I'd suggest looking at vertical insulated cabinet charcoal smokers. I'm partial to gravity feed like Stumps, but there's also Backwoods, Pitmaker and quite a few others. These manufacturers have sizes to fit most any needs.
I have looked at some of these and the cooking boxes seem to be what I'm looking for but I'm not sold on the non-electric yet. I really do like the idea of using wood and charcoal but I love the idea of set and forget. I've seen some claims of 18 hours without adding any wood or charcoal. That seems to be a bit long.

Another question I have is if you use a water pan doesn't that effect your bark formation?

I hope I'm not hijacking my own thred but all these questions figure into what I decide to buy.

One more question for now. I know this may sound a bit crazy but has anyone built a dual purpose one. A electric burner in the bottom with the ability to put in a shield when you wanted to use wood. With the electric on the bottom the heat would still just go past the wood burning tray and you wouldn't have to remove it. You could still put some wood in it to have smoking in the first part.

Many thanks for all the advice.
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Unread 07-31-2013, 08:50 PM   #8
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Welcome Chaz! (From another Charles).

So many choices. As another has said, do that search as this has been discussed very recently. Perhaps the space you have will me worth factoring in. Lots of room and few close neighbors? Get a stick burner and learn old school q at it's roots. I don't have the space and access to large quantities of wood like some of our mid-west brethren. I started on charcoal and am still on charcoal (although the type of cooker has changed). 18 hour cook without fuel refill, one needs a VERY efficient cooker..... so far, that would be ceramic.
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Unread 07-31-2013, 08:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkman View Post
I have been running some searches thank you. Can you comment on the smoldering vs burning? I know that I have had trouble with my cheap smoker getting the chips to smoke. I tend to lean to the 200F side of smoking. Maybe I need to think about a little higher temp. What do you think?
First, using chips or chunks in an electric the wood doesn't combust like it does in fire, so you get a dirtier smoke. It's easy to get too much smoke flavor in these smokers because of that.

Second, to me, 200 degrees is too low. I prefer 250+. The cook times are shorter and the results are typically better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkman View Post

I have looked at some of these and the cooking boxes seem to be what I'm looking for but I'm not sold on the non-electric yet. I really do like the idea of using wood and charcoal but I love the idea of set and forget. I've seen some claims of 18 hours without adding any wood or charcoal. That seems to be a bit long.
Take a look at the FEC-100 or FEC-120 pellet smokers from Cookshack. They use 100% wood pellets for heat and smoke. The pellets burn in a fire pot so you are cooking over a wood fire and are fed using a temperature control, so they are set it and forget it.
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Unread 07-31-2013, 09:23 PM   #10
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I have indeed gone 18 hours on my Stumps Prince without adding charcoal, though I normally just burn wood at the begining of the cook. With an automatic temp controller, it is truly set it and forget it.

I was actually thinking of trying an electric element in it the other day, but really didn't see the benefit.
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Unread 08-01-2013, 02:47 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron_L View Post
Take a look at the FEC-100 or FEC-120 pellet smokers from Cookshack. They use 100% wood pellets for heat and smoke. The pellets burn in a fire pot so you are cooking over a wood fire and are fed using a temperature control, so they are set it and forget it.
I second the cookshack fec100 and 120! I love my 120. The ease of use allows me to pretty much use it whenever I want on a whim now. I even crank it to 350 and use it as an oven sometimes. The fec120 is a little out of your budget, but I really like that the firepot is not in the cooking chamber, that was my reason for going with the 120 over the 100.
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Unread 08-01-2013, 08:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron_L View Post
First, using chips or chunks in an electric the wood doesn't combust like it does in fire, so you get a dirtier smoke...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron_L View Post
They use 100% wood pellets for heat and smoke. The pellets burn in a fire pot so you are cooking over a wood fire and are fed using a temperature control, so they are set it and forget it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TailGateJoecom View Post
... but I really like that the firepot is not in the cooking chamber, that was my reason for going with the 120 over the 100.
Guys I'm trying to wrap my head around this but I'm having some difficulty. If you take wood and heat the air around it, the wood will first release its water vapor and then it will start releasing gases. At some point it will start to smoke and if the temps get high enough and enough Oxygen is present it will ignite and burn which will raise the temps and consume available Oxygen. If all the Oxygen is consumed the flames will die until more oxygen is introduced or all available fuel has been consumed. This is what I understand about burning wood. As I understand, this is all a function of temperature, fuel and oxygen. Flame is a byproduct. If one was to use charcoal you would bypass the water vapor and gassing and conceivably you would not get smoke in a controlled burn.

I want to be perfectly clear this is what I understand and I may be wrong and if I am I am asking someone to help me understand the process.

If you use Charcoal and put wood in with it but limit the air flow aren't you smoldering instead of burning?

If you are burning won't that increase your temps too high?

What is "dirty" smoke?

How do the pellets "burn" in the "fire pot"? What is the source of the heat?

Looking at the usage rate of the pellet burning smokers I would have to say there isn't any flame. If there was flame the usage rate would go way up.

While we are speaking of this what about the "smoke ring"? Isn't it a chemical reaction caused by the gasses released during the combustion of wood only?

Please help me understand this process.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbchip View Post
Welcome Chaz! (From another Charles).

Thanks for the welcome!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbchip View Post
So many choices. As another has said, do that search as this has been discussed very recently. Perhaps the space you have will me worth factoring in. Lots of room and few close neighbors? Get a stick burner and learn old school q at it's roots. I don't have the space and access to large quantities of wood like some of our mid-west brethren. I started on charcoal and am still on charcoal (although the type of cooker has changed). 18 hour cook without fuel refill, one needs a VERY efficient cooker..... so far, that would be ceramic.
I am building the outside kitchen from scratch so I can use any size I want. I really would like the ability to use hotel pans in the smoker. As far as old school, I have an open pit that I occasionally use. Just meat on a grate over open fire. Just move the meat or coals around to change the temp. Doesn't get much more old school than that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by muidaq View Post
I have indeed gone 18 hours on my Stumps Prince without adding charcoal, though I normally just burn wood at the begining of the cook. With an automatic temp controller, it is truly set it and forget it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by muidaq View Post

I was actually thinking of trying an electric element in it the other day, but really didn't see the benefit.
Thanks for that burn report. I really think the idea of an electric and wood/charcoal dual use smoker is feasible and I really don't think it would raise the costs that much. I guess that to some it would seem sacrilegious but I see it as a practical design.

I am still doing searches and off site searches. It seems there is a ton of information out there with much of it contradictory. Please bear with me and help me work through this.
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Unread 08-02-2013, 08:00 AM   #13
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[QUOTR=RonL]Second, to me, 200 degrees is too low. I prefer 250+. The cook times are shorter and the results are typically better.[/Quote]

I'm cooking a small butt at 225F today. Actually put it on last night about 2230 with a little Apple wood and my rub mix. It's in my old Masterbuilt with electronic controls. Nothing fancy but it cures the itch. I will go to 250F next time.

Saturday I'm doing some spare ribs. I'll do them at 250F and see how they do at a higher temp. I've been doing them at a 200F also.

At some point I got it in my mind that if I stay below 212F the moisture would stay in the meat better since it would not steam. That has been the primary reason for my low cook temps.

Question - White smoke is suppposed to be bad. I thought White equals water vapor for the most part. Is that wrong and if it isn't water vapor what is it?

I appreciate the advice being given.
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Unread 08-02-2013, 08:33 AM   #14
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"At some point I got it in my mind that if I stay below 212F the moisture would stay in the meat better since it would not steam. That has been the primary reason for my low cook temps."


If you want maximum moisture rentetion, use a cooker that has the minimum of air flow going thru it. Stick burners dry stuff out no doubt (thus the craze over foiling).

Honestly, until I went ahead with a ceramic cooker, I thought "dried out" food was just a part of cooking BBQ. Now when I cook, esp low and slow, the ceramic cooker uses VERY LITTLE fuel and vents are just about shut down the whole way. Moist juicy is the common theme now. So the manipulation with cooking temps you are doing to keep food moist is out the door!
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Unread 08-02-2013, 08:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkman View Post


Guys I'm trying to wrap my head around this but I'm having some difficulty. If you take wood and heat the air around it, the wood will first release its water vapor and then it will start releasing gases. At some point it will start to smoke and if the temps get high enough and enough Oxygen is present it will ignite and burn which will raise the temps and consume available Oxygen. If all the Oxygen is consumed the flames will die until more oxygen is introduced or all available fuel has been consumed. This is what I understand about burning wood. As I understand, this is all a function of temperature, fuel and oxygen. Flame is a byproduct. If one was to use charcoal you would bypass the water vapor and gassing and conceivably you would not get smoke in a controlled burn.

I want to be perfectly clear this is what I understand and I may be wrong and if I am I am asking someone to help me understand the process.

If you use Charcoal and put wood in with it but limit the air flow aren't you smoldering instead of burning?

If you are burning won't that increase your temps too high?

What is "dirty" smoke?

How do the pellets "burn" in the "fire pot"? What is the source of the heat?

Looking at the usage rate of the pellet burning smokers I would have to say there isn't any flame. If there was flame the usage rate would go way up.

While we are speaking of this what about the "smoke ring"? Isn't it a chemical reaction caused by the gasses released during the combustion of wood only?

Please help me understand this process.


Thanks for the welcome!



I am building the outside kitchen from scratch so I can use any size I want. I really would like the ability to use hotel pans in the smoker. As far as old school, I have an open pit that I occasionally use. Just meat on a grate over open fire. Just move the meat or coals around to change the temp. Doesn't get much more old school than that.



Thanks for that burn report. I really think the idea of an electric and wood/charcoal dual use smoker is feasible and I really don't think it would raise the costs that much. I guess that to some it would seem sacrilegious but I see it as a practical design.

I am still doing searches and off site searches. It seems there is a ton of information out there with much of it contradictory. Please bear with me and help me work through this.
I don't know that I can speak to authority on everything you wrote there, but in regard to some of your questions,

How do pelets burn in the firepart. There is an electric lighter to light the initial flame at the very beginning when pellets first start dropping into the pot. Once the fire is started, the flame in the pot now burns the pellets as they are dropping into the pot with no electric of gas assist. There most definitely IS a flame there. You are not heating the wood like an electric smoker, you are burning wood.
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