Choosing the Best Smoker

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jesse stoller, Jan 8, 2016.

  1. jesse stoller

    jesse stoller Newbie

    Hi all! I'm new in the meat smoking business and would really appreciate some suggestions when choosing the correct smoker for my needs.  I will be supplying a store with a new smoked meat product line consisting of Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Chicken, Hams, Turkey, Bacon, Ribs, Pork Loin, and eventually Sausage and Brats for carry out and onsite catering, vacuum packed in store purchase and for the daily menu.  As you can tell, this is quite an endeavor for a beginner like myself!  As I'm looking into different smoker options, I've considered a reverse flow smoker with gas burners in the fire box for temperature control, a strictly wood reverse flow smoker, or a southern pride smoker.  For on-site catering events I don't necessarily like the southern pride just because of the look of the thing (i know that's lame) but it does add to the environment.  Also obviously the cost of the southern pride is tough to get my arms around right from the start here, but it does seem like a very consistent and user friendly setup.  I would appreciate any suggestions you might have!  Thanks in advance!
  2. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Not sure I'm reading your post correctly...are you saying you're completely new to smoking (beginner), or simply new to the retail food service business?  I'm assuming the latter...I can't imagine tackling such a large scale endeavor as a total noob.

    Perhaps some of the members with BBQ business experience will be along to offer better advice than I can give - I only use my smokers to cook for friends and family - but I'd think with the volume of daily meat you'll be smoking, you'd want a smoker that doesn't require manual fire management.  I've always admired the Cookshack line of smokers.  They offer a pretty wide range of digitally controlled electric and wood pellet-fired smokers for restaurants, catering, and competition.  You might check them out on their website:

    Good luck!

  3. jesse stoller

    jesse stoller Newbie

    Thanks for the advice Red! Yes you are correct that I'm a total newbie at this other than a few experiments.  I do have until end of May to buy my smoker, get familiar with the smoking process, rub recipes, injections, etc. so I'm hoping to get going on this soon so that by that time i can offer the best product possible.  I know its a learning curve but it will be getting my full focus for the next few months.  I will have to check out the Cookshack smokers.  Thanks for the suggestion!
  4. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    So you already have been through a Food Safety Certification Course like ServSafe? You have experience or training on Quantity Food prep production, packaging and storage? Not to be a downer but you are biting off a HUGE chunk when it comes to production. There is a big difference between smoking 3 Butts in a Reverse Flow wood burner for dinner and maintaining production quality, quantity and standards for 10 different Meats for both Catering and Retail Sales. Both have different sanitation and inspection processes, regulation and oversight. Catering gets Health inspected. Retail Sales requires USDA Meat and Processing Inspectors review and periodically test your products and facility. The FDA has to approve your Labeling and Packaging and the process is painstaking, lots of regulations to meet and time consuming. This is just the very tip of the Iceberg! Add Insurance, Employees and Payroll Taxes, SSI and FICA. Your Business Incorporation, Licensing, Tax ID and Fed, State, County and Municipal Permits and a few things I may not even know about...

    Diners, Drive-ins and Dives shows an individual or couple with ZERO Food experience buy a Restaurant and succeed but those are the very few and far between Exceptions! And that is only people with immense personal wealth that can throw money into keeping the business going while they learn what they are doing.  The reality is there are hundreds of professionally trained Chef's with Business Degrees and years of restaurant and production experience, spend Hundreds or Thousands of Dollars and a year or more of setting up an operation and go Bankrupt in 3-6 months! These are guys that have spent a Decade or more mastering their profession, honing their cooking skills and have done extensive research, recipe development and testing, only to find themselves, Broke, under subpoena to answer creditors and lawsuits and have lost immediate family and friends because of the 24/7, for years, they dedicated to opening their own operation. 

    I wish you all the luck in the world! But going from basic Concept, with no Smoking or Food Service experience to full blown Catering and Retail Production of Smoked and CURED MAY! [​IMG]... [​IMG]...JJ
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
  5. jesse stoller

    jesse stoller Newbie

    Ya I guess with the information I gave I would have replied the same.  The truth be told I'm (in all basic terms) being employed by a current business who is fully certified in all aspects.  I will be going through a certification program and the additional equipment will need to be inspected.  I'm also fully aware of insurance/business startup expenses.  this is not my first business:) but thanks for the concern.  
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I am sooo glad you said that. You had me worried! [​IMG]  I think you will find the Set and Forget options of a Southern Pride or Cook Shack to your advantage. You will have a lot to look after and feeding Sticks into a RF is extremely time consuming. Not something you want to do with a hundred other things that need your attention. Good Q is Good Q and nobody that is eating cares if there is a 14' reverse Flow Stick Burner or a Gas and Wood Southern Pride Smoker putting it out. Do what's good for YOU!...Good Luck...JJ[​IMG]

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