I bought a new trailer mounted vertical smoker from AZ BBQ in Tuscon. It also has a wood fired Santa Maria grill mounted on it. I cooked 26 racks of ribs in the vertical yesterday for a grad party. That was a a full load. I could have squeezed 2 more racks on if I really needed to. The heat varies of course from top to bottom but more so from left to right. So with a full load you have to do a lot of moving the bottom rack to the top and the top to the bottom and shifting the middle ones around as well. Not only that you have to turn the racks so what was on the left side of the smoker is now on the right. Kind of a Rubiks cube game going on.
I've been a stick burner for a long time and know how to manage a fire but this is my first vertical. I also know as a stick burner it requires a bit more input from the operator which I don't mind and actually enjoy. The moving the racks around is no big deal in it's self. But for some reason after moving the racks around the bottom rack got locked in. I couldn't slide it out no matter what I did. Completely locked in solid. Of course now everything is hot and the rack is loaded full of ribs so not much I could do. Every time I had do anything with the ribs on the bottom rack I had to remove the rack above it to access those bottom rack ribs.
Major PITA! Not to mention the rack of ribs that had to be removed sat on the table outside while I messed with the bottom rack ribs. This resulted in uneven cooking and ribs that had to stay on the smoker another 45 minutes after some of the others were done.
There are a few other design issues that I'm not going to get into. I've done about 6 cooks on the vertical and have reached the conclusion that I much prefer my horizontal but my horizontal just doesn't have the capacity the vertical does. I have 5 more big cooking events this summer so I will decide after that if it's a keeper for me. Otherwise I may try to sell it during the off season and have another built only with a higher capacity horizontal and a Santa Maria. The Santa Maria is a beautiful piece of work and works great!
I'd say maybe I will get more efficient at running the vertical but it runs the way it runs inherent to it's design so I don't see what more I can do on my end. The racks getting locked in is a mystery I hope to solve today now that everything is cooled off.