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Budget Charcoal Smoker for a competition?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hey everyone. I’ve decided to enter my first BBQ competition. It’s called the Boss Hog Cook-Off in Waynesboro, GA scheduled May 7th & 8th. http://www.bosshogcookoff.com It’s about 45 minute drive from where I live and the closest contest to me for the year. Now, unfortunately or fortunately, it is also a KCBS event so I know what I’m getting myself into. I’ve been scouring some BBQ forums for advice and what to expect so again I know what I’m getting myself into. Here is the kicker. I’m a propane smoker and love my smoke vault and I know that I can only use charcoal/stick/pellet smokers in competitions. I want to start competing as I love this hobby so I’m ready to step it up to the next level. So I’m in the market for a charcoal smoker but I don’t want to break the bank. I’ve been reading the charcoal smoker forum doing some research and I’ve narrowed it down to the

Char-Griller Smokin' Outlaw Smoker

New Braunfels Hondo Smoker

Do you all think, after some mods, that either one of these smokers will work for me for a competition? I basically don’t want to get laughed out of the building so to speak but I have seen on TV people competing w/ bullet smokers and green eggs, etc. Cost is an issue for me and I would like to keep it below $200. The wsm looks like a real nice smoker but it’s pricey and I want to stay away from bullet smokers. I would like either a horizontal or something similar to my smoke vault, vertical but have not found one. If you have some other recommendations please let me know.

Regardless I need to practice big time w/ a new smoker and want to get that going ASAP. I’m not a newbie at smoking and have done some live fire Weber kettle smokes but I’m not naïve enough to think this is going to be easy.

Thanks for hearing me out!

post #2 of 26
i will tell you that i've become very comfortable with my NB hondo. the issue with this smoker is a lack of mass. i have done 2 mods to my unit and it is a very easy unit to maintain. the first mod was lowering the exhaust to grate level and the second was a baffle and tuning plates.

without these mods i had HORRIBLE temp consistancy. firebox side to exhaust side was 80 - 100 degree difference. grate to lid thermo difference was 30 - 50 degree difference.

with mods side to side is now 20 degrees and i totally ignore the lid thermo. i use 2 electronic thermos in block of wood on the grate. though, the temp difference is now 5 - 10 degree hotter @ lid than grate (depends on weather).

the only problem i have with my unit now is cooking space. i started out pretty scared and would not cook very much at one time. now i'm VERY comfortable in my abilities and unit and like to load her up (3 racks of spares can be done, but is very tight).

hope this is of some help to you.
post #3 of 26
If you want a horizontal the Brinkmann snp is a good choice and should be had within your budget. Plus it is easily modifiable and there are several good tutorial threads on this site showing modifications. There are a number of us here who use them and have had great success. So help in using one is always close at hand.
Here is a pic of one and you should find them at your local Wal Mart.

Is it a competition smoker? I don't see why not. Is it a Lang or a Klose? No. But it can and will crank out some very good Q. Technique and methods will often win over a $4000 piece of equipment imho.
post #4 of 26
Congrats on entering your first comp. That'll be work, but it'll be fun too.

IMHO I think either of those smokers will work. I like the New Braunfels name a little better, but I don't have any actual cooking experience with either.

But which ever route you go, get it soon and start practicing as much as humanly possible. That way you'll feel comfortable with running the smoker how you want it to work. Then you can concentrate more on the food prep and presentation.

Good luck to ya!
post #5 of 26
forgot to mention, that i burn sticks not charcoal.
post #6 of 26
Can't really help you with your decision, but I can tell you that you won't get laughed at. Most competitors don't really care what anyone is cooking on unless it is super nice and everyone just wants to check it out.

If you can get your hands on some drums, you may just want to build a few UDS to get the job done.

Good luck with the contest and don't worry about what anyone esle is cooking on. Everyone out there has seen some damn good food come out of ugly equipment.
post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys for the feedback. This is why I love this website. Very helpful and nice people.

You got it right Dude; I need to get it asap and start learning.

I'm going to look at them this weekend but I need to physically see which ones look big enough to load a bunch of meat on.

Damn this is an addicting hobby!!
post #8 of 26
Once you win some comps you might want to take a peak at the WSM again. When you gotta crank out brisket / pork butt, its a freaking great smoker to set up and not have to worry much about, giving you more free time to work on other things.

Good luck! icon_mrgreen.gif
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Good point! I know this would probably be the best smoker for me but I had an ecb early on and I hated how difficult it was to get to your meat, etc. Probably just me though icon_mrgreen.gif
post #10 of 26
Yeah this is my biggest issue with the WSM. That's why I'm putting together a SnP. However for long smokes like brisket or pork, I like the WSM for its set and forget ability, and really I just need to spray the meat, which is not too hard to do.

SnP will be my chicken / Rib / bean smoker as I'll have more space, and easier access.
post #11 of 26
If you get a SnP or Char-Griller, I would suggest you find a welding blanket (or 2) that you could drape over the main cooking chamber to help maintain your temps. I have the Char-griller and I love it, but the metal is on the thin side. It does great as long as the wind isn't blowing and the you have a big fuel basket. I am guessing even just draping a couple of welding blankets over the main chamber will really help maintain even temps and help if it is windy that day.

Congrats on taking the step into competition! Keep us posted on how it goes. PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks JI!
post #13 of 26
The Chargriller Outlaw should allow, with its additional wire grate, 5 or 6 racks of St.Louis spares. I can get four or five on my CGSP.
post #14 of 26
I agree with Fatback, build 2 or 3 UDS for the same price of a WSM 22" and start practicing!
There are many on this board that can help with any UDS questions you may have, good luck!!
post #15 of 26
My 1st choice would be the new 22" WSM but it is very pricey. Fatbacks advice is sound too.

3rd option:

Split the difference Amazon is selling these for $80, and the reviews are great, the metal is as thick as a WSM. At this price it's close to a UDS if you can assemble one this cheap.
You can buy 3 of these, they look great, and save for a nice stick burner later. Hope you Q comp goes well....PDT_Armataz_01_41.gif
post #16 of 26
just a quick question for Soafung. What are these sticks that you burn? Are you saying that you only burn wood, no charcoal at all? Wouldn't that get tooo smokey? Soory Im still pretty new?
post #17 of 26
I was laughed at by some people at my first backyard cook offwhen i unloaded my two trash cans , they all had WSM and one "backyard" cook had a Jambo Pit, but at the end of the night when awards were awarded I got to laugh at them when i was getting my First place call for Brisket. Another time at my citys rib and chicken cook off i got laughed at again by someone who had a couple backwoods and another fellow who had a a few nicer pits. Well as luck would have it i again got to laugh at them when I got my 2nd place rib and 1st place chicken call. Point of the story who cares what you cook on as long as you can cook you will do fine.

post #18 of 26
Thread Starter 
Wow. Thanks for the responses everyone! A lot of decisions to make. The UDS looks the like the best overall option BUT I'm not the handiest of all people and I'm not sure I can find the time to build one. But I would like to try sometime just not sure I'm ready for it.

deltadude can u kick me a link to that smoker or a name?

Indiana that is a great story!
post #19 of 26

I'm confused???????????????????

No-one mentioned building a UDS?mad.gif He'd save money and have room to learn.....and use wood if he wanted......icon_neutral.gif
Yes, some of us do ONLY wood...to me anything else is sacreligiousPDT_Armataz_01_04.gif
have fun and read the UDS threads.
Just sayin',have fun and
Smoke Happy :)-
post #20 of 26
bbqfans--are you saying you use only wood in your UDS, or did I read that wrong?
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