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Requirements for a Next Generation Smoker

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I've been smoking on a WSM 18" for 7 years and not about to give it up, but am planning for a new smoker purchase in the next year.  Asking for opinions and information.  

I'm an engineer and tend to think in terms of requirements, so the requirements for my "Next Generation Smoker" (everything in engineering is "Next Generation" these days) are below, along with my running list of candidates. Asking your opinions on both the requirements (currently in draft form) and units that could meet them.

Background
Current unit is a WSM 18" which produces excellent food, but has limited capacity and shares the fire grate with the cooking chamber, resulting in occasional ash on the food. The Next Generation Smoker (hereafter NGS) will address these limitations and ultimately be deployed on a new, currently non-existent patio which will be under a wood deck with screened-in enclosure.  The currently planned solution for the NGS is a Lang 48 Deluxe Patio stick burner.  These requirements are written specifically to present a charcoal-based alternative to the Lang. Specifically excluded from consideration are those charcoal based smokers that don't present an appreciable upgrade from the current WSM. The NGS solution will be selected based on assessed best value within an unspecified, annual bonus driven budget.  Source selection of the NGS will commence upon receiving sufficient information regarding the candidate solutions.  The selection criteria is best value amongst those solutions meeting all threshold requirements, with value being adjusted for objective requirements met.  

Requirements

Threshold
Cooking
  • The NGS shall be capable of hot smoking over a range of temperatures from 180*-350*
  • The NGS shall be capable of cooking poultry, ribs, whole brisket, and pork butt without requiring trimming, curling, or other measures required to make the food fit in the NGS.  Whole brisket is estimated to require racks of 22" in at least one dimension.
  • The NGS shall have sufficient capacity to routinely feed a family of 4 with a variety of smoked foods, host dinner parties with at least 20 guests with at least 2 different smoked meats, and host groups of at least 40 guests with at least 1 smoked meat.
  • The NGS shall be capable of maintaining desired cook temperatures for at least 6 hours without intervention.  If optional temparature controllers are required to meet this requirement then they shall be factored into the cost.
  • The NGS shall be capable of producing barbecued meats with varying degrees of bark. This implies that if the NGS is a water cooker, it is not exclusively so or has such measures as to allow for good bark formation.

Setup
  • The NGS shall be capable of smoking at temp within 1 hour from a cold start.  Setup time includes moving the NGS into position, filling it with fuel and any liquids, initiating combustion, and bringing it to smoking temp with thin blue smoke.

Cleanup
  • The NGS shall require minimal cleanup, with cleanup time less than 30 minutes.  Cleanup time may be cumulative over multiple periods of time due to the need for the NGS to fully terminate combustion and cool. Cleanup time includes the time to clean grates, fire boxes, empty ash pans, empty and clean water pans (if used), and wipe down surfaces.

SWAP (Size, Weight, and Power)
  • The NGS shall not require external power for cooking, but may use external power for temperature control devices.

Mobility
  • The NGS will reside on a patio and shall not be on a trailer capable of being towed by a vehicle.  Patio carts are acceptable.
  • The NGS shall be capable of being moved from the patio to another location for cooking.

Maintenance
  • The NGS shall not require more than regular cleanup and annual seasoning of cooking chambers.

Open Architecture
  • The NGS shall be capable of easy later upgrades to add temperature control devices, stands, carts, casters, or other options not selected at the time of initial purchase.
  • The NGS shall be capable of later third party modifications.

Objective
Cooking
  • The NGS should be capable of hot cooking at temps above 450*. 
  • The NGS should be capable of cooking pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs.
  • The NGS should be capable of cold smoking when outside temperatures permit.  Cold smoking may be augmented by the use of an A-Maze-N products pellet or tube smoker.
  • The NGS should be capable of inducing hunger and jealousy amongst neighbors and their pets within a 1/2 mile radius.

Setup
  • The NGS should be capable of smoking at temp within 30 minutes from a cold start.

Cleanup
  • The NGS should be capable of cleanup within 15 minutes cumulative cleanup time.
  • The cumulative total of setup and cleanup times should not exceed the cook time for any of the required foods, and should be minimized to the degree possible.

SWAP
  • The NGS should be capable of being stored in a garage without displacing anything currently in the garage until such time as permanent basing (i.e., a patio) exists.
  • The NGS should not be disproportionately large relative to the currently planned patio.

Mobility
  • The NGS should be capable of being transported to another location without trailering or renting another vehicle.  Current transportation options include the back of an ancient Toyota Sienna minivan.

Maintenance
No objective requirements

Open Architecture
No objective requirements

Candidate NGS Solutions

Water Smokers
  • Backwoods Chubby G2
  • Pitmaker BBQ Safe
  • Spicewine Medium

Gravity Feed
  • Stump's XL Baby
  • Superior SS-3
  • Myron Mixon MMS-V9

Offset
  • The Good One Marshall
  • American Barbecue Systems All Star
post #2 of 6
If you are wanting a recommendation from the smokers you listed I can speak on behalf of two of them. I own and use the Pitmaker Vault the bigger brother to the Safe you mentioned above. It is built as heavy duty as you can find. It cooks par excellent both with or without water. It cooks so well and is so easy to use it is my go to cooker now. I could not be happier. The Backwoods are cooking machines without question or doubt. Their reverse flow design is about as close to perfect as you can get on a vertical cabinet. The difference in the Backwoods and the Pitmaker is the Backwoods is a double walled cooker with sheet metal and the Pitmaker is a double walled cooker with each wall being 1/4 steel plate. The build quality on the Pitmaket is super heavy duty. Make no mistake in what I'm saying. The Backwoods cooks as good as any vertical on the market and better than most. It's just not as heavy duty as the Pitmaket. As far as offsets. I would recommend that you give Shirley Fabrication a hard look. They produce top tier reverse flow offsets at a more than fair price . I both use and recommend Pitmaker and Shirley Fabrication products.
post #3 of 6

What SGH1 said. I run a Stumps with the Digi Q. Its almost cheating. Backwoods and Pitmaker are both outstanding cookers. As far as transporting any vertical in a minivan it's not going to happen. If you want to transport just stick with a WSM for transport needs and leave the big boy's at home

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I knew the minivan thing was a stretch, but I can dream!

 

Backwoods has the advantage of dealers local to me.  I've also been eyeing these: http://www.humphreysbbq.com/smokers/

Humphreys has gotten some rave reviews on other forums. Pitmaker also is most definitely in play, but their website leaves me with some questions: Is the Pitmaker a vertical reverse flow cooker (like Backwoods)?  How does it work?

 

Also been looking at the Assassin gravity feed models. The same guy who makes these also makes Superior and Rebel gravity feed cookers, but Assassin comes with more features standard at an excellent price.

 

Having thought through my requirements and studying the options over the weekend, I think I've decided the following:

 

1) I like the cabinet style charcoal smokers since I can fit these in my garage with a small footprint and, with casters, roll them out for cooking.

2) I want the ability to do both wet and dry cooking at temps up to 350 for hot and fast methods.

3) I'd like the ability to set and forget for at least 8 hours at a time (with BBQ Guru support). This includes not needing to replenish smoke wood for 8 hours. Sleeping soundly during overnight cooks being the goal here.

4) I'd like to pull the trigger this year if possible because I'm turning 50 and may get some mileage out of the milestone. Wife may not be so compliant next year. :devil:


Edited by SpecificImpulse - 7/7/14 at 10:00am
post #5 of 6
Sir I haven't seen you transportation but I feel that you could haul a Backwoods Chubby or Party model cooker with little effort in your vehicle. They are both fairly light and compact. The Humphreys are outstanding cookers from what I have seen. They are a clone to some degree of the Backwoods cookers. Be aware that they are much heavier than the Backwoods cookers if they are going to be transported. I did not mention them in my earlier response because I have never cooked on one. But I have seen several of them in action and they seem to be top tier cookers as well. Any of the big name cookers will do a good job of cooking. You see all of them on the circuit. You just have to narrow it down to your intended use and pick the one that best matches it. If you intend on transporting it regular you should look hard at the Backwoods cookers. The reason being is size for size they are much lighter and easier to handle. And as I said earlier when it comes to producing quality meat they are about as good as you can ask for in that area.
post #6 of 6
Quote:

1) I like the cabinet style charcoal smokers since I can fit these in my garage with a small footprint and, with casters, roll them out for cooking.

2) I want the ability to do both wet and dry cooking at temps up to 350 for hot and fast methods.

3) I'd like the ability to set and forget for at least 8 hours at a time (with BBQ Guru support). This includes not needing to replenish smoke wood for 8 hours. Sleeping soundly during overnight cooks being the goal here.

4) I'd like to pull the trigger this year if possible because I'm turning 50 and may get some mileage out of the milestone. Wife may not be so compliant next year. :devil:

IMHO, Don't over think it. All the Gravity's are super close in design and they are all outstanding cookers. Get what works for you and your budget. Just plan on dropping the extra $350 on the Digi Q and whatever builder charges for slam latches. They are both a must. At 250 with my Digi I can get 20-25hrs of burn time during the summer with one chute of lump. I slam a brisket in before work and never even sweat it until I come home 9hrs later. That's the reason they got so popular on the Comp seen. You can sleep. 

 

 

 

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