Oklahoma Joe Longhorn Combo vs Char-Griller Texas Trio

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I have the OKJ. It’s a good combo unit that can do it all, but isn’t the best at anything. I quit trying long smokes on it, as it eats coal quickly.

Mods I did to help it out:
1. Red seal between the fire box and smoke chamber, and top/bottom of the firebox. Do this as you are putting it together, it’s much easier than taking it back apart.

2. Nomex tape on the lids of both. Still need to seal up the fire box dampener door, it lets a lot of air in, to the point that the actual dampener is closed fully, and it still runs hot.

3. Dryer vent in the exhust pipe to bring heat and smoke down to grate level. This is a must.

4. Bought and use a weber veggie basket as a coal basket. 3/4 full of coal, and a 1/4 chimney of lit will get you about 5 hours of heat.

5. After starting my coal, i put half of the cooking grate in the fire box, on the right side, and put a pan of water over the coals. It helps regulate temps, and seems to even heat out in the cook chamber.

6. Use the half moon coal grate as another cook rack under the grate in the cook chamber. Buy cheap elevated cooling racks and use over the regular grates in the cook chamber for even more cooking area. I’ve been able to fit 6-7 racks of ribs in at one time.

Other comments:

Propane side heats up fast and will do well at searing meat. All three burners on low will run at about 350. All three on high will hit over 500 in a minute or two.

The side burner is good for lighting the charcoal chimney.

This thing is heavy, and appears to be better built than than char griller. I’ve never used the charg., but have seen one, and it appears to be a cheaper built unit. I believe chargriller owns OkJ now.

For long smokes, I bought a WSM 18.5. If you are going to wrap long cook meats, you could put them on the smoker for the first few hours, then wrap and finish in the oven. Cause once you wrap, it’s not getting any more smoke.

Message me if you want any more info, or have any further questions.

Pics as promised. Smoker box set up for ribs, I’ll get 5-6 hours of heat out of it, which is enough for baby backs.

The rack I use to get more area. I have 2 and can fit both on the main grate if needed. I put the meat on the regular grate, add those on top, and add more meat, normally just for ribs.

Let me know if you have any other questions, or figure out any other useful mods.

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Once again, thank you for great response and the additional followup with pics!

1. I've read many put the red seal on while assembling and I'm sure that's easier, just not sure I want to do it at all yet, let alone before I make sure I don't have a defective unit. Returns probably wouldn't like it. I'll try naked and if it causes problems try foil to see if it solves it. If so, move to something more permanent.

2. Nomex/felt I'm leaning towards.

4. Veggie basket, interesting. I may have one of those laying around as I wanted to get a basket for long burns with less tending. Was just going to build one out of expanded metal, but if I can find my old basket that's an idea. Mine may not have enough holes and clog with ash though.

6. Do you rotate the meats when you have the half-moon rack at the bottom, regular rack and then raised racks? Seems like the rack at the bottom of the chamber would get a lot more direct heat. The cooling racks are a great idea and I may pick them up if I find I cook higher capacity more often. Since the length is shorter than the chamber, I imagine you put a rack of ribs in between the legs. Only fit one under or can two squeeze between the legs?

My other upper rack solution idea (if it came to it) would be to just put a couple bolts in each side of the chamber and set a generic rack on it. More work, more destruction, but could be good if wanting the extra room under it for something bigger like a butt/brisket. These are minimal concerns for me now as the capacity should be fine as is for now. More so I was just trying to find solutions for the pros/cons of each model so I didn't buy my way into a corner.

I found racks similar to yours, stainless steel so are safe and high heat. You mention having two, do you stack them or side by side? The ones I found, Surpahs 304 Grade Stainless Steel 3-Tier Stackable Cooling Rack Set. If one needs a smaller rack so the rest of the chamber remains available perhaps the GrillPro 14625 Universal Chrome Warming Rack would work. 19.25" wide, not sure on the chamber's exact measurements.

I was planning on use the side burner for starting charcoal; many say the same thing so another bonus of these units. I agree that the Char-Griller seems a little cheaper built. Mostly because of the nuts/bolts and plastic handles. Both of which could be replaced if you wanted to spend some time finding hardware replacements. The rest is pretty close, but still give an edge to OKJ. OKJ is owned by Char-Broil, not Char-Griller.

If the offset proved to be too time consuming, a WSM or PBC is a possible later option especially for long cooks. And as you said, the oven maintains perfect temp if wrapping and done with smoke. The propane side should be able to as well once dialed in. I'm also considering replacing long cooks with two step cooks using sous vide. Start with sous vide to get the tenderness, then smoke for 3+ hours for flavor/bark.
 
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WBF, do you recall where you picked up those warmer racks? It looks like an interesting option to add some cooking surface for those of us without a top rack.

George

I don't know which WBF uses exactly, but I found Surpahs 304 Grade Stainless Steel 3-Tier Stackable Cooling Rack Set that should do the trick. WBF may actually may be using the Wilton Excelle ones on second look. There's also the smaller GrillPro 14625 Universal Chrome Warming Rack depending on your needs.
 
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I just assembled my OKJ Longhorn combo. Gonna be spraying it down with Pam soon and seasoning this afternoon.

Can't speak to the use of it, but I can tell you that if you're super detail oriented, the instructions will make your brain hurt. The actual assembly is not bad and the engineering of it, I think, is well done.

Whoever wrote the instructions needs his butt kicked till his nose bleeds.

Once I figured that out, the assembly went pretty well. I'd guess I had about 2 hours in it total, and the only part I needed a second set of hands to accomplish was hanging the firebox on the side.

Just be prepared for the instructions to be...interesting.... with the OKJ. But they're manageable.

Awesome, good luck with your cooks tddeangelo, let us know how it all turns out.

I'm not looking forward to assembly and now even less so after your comments. :) I'll get by, with frustration.

Regarding the seasoning, do they comment much on that in the instructions. Long ago in my search I saw someone first break a grill in by burning away the existing industrial oils. Seeing the units in the stores I can tell they're oiled up some. Is it a two step seasoning? The first to get rid of their oils and temper the paint, and then a second seasoning to add your own rust-proofing/food-oils. Or do you just do both steps at once? Seems like the Pam wouldn't just cover their oils and not season the metal directly. Overthinking again?
 
Just FYI- Lowes Has the OKJ Combo on sale for $369.99 for a few days now. I got mine right before the sale and asked about a credit. They said yes...so maybe that's something to help in your decision? :)
 
Perfect timing, thanks! Been busy so I was going to buy it this weekend. I have decided on the OKJ, so this works out well. Only unfixable con in comparison is the left side firebox and that can still be worked around.

Oddly, I was checking out the OKJ manual last night and they have illustrations of it with three chimney stacks like the CGTT. I haven't seen any actual pics of a unit like that so I'm not sure if that ever made it to production. Could be an older manual with an older, but very similar model.
 
WBF, do you recall where you picked up those warmer racks? It looks like an interesting option to add some cooking surface for those of us without a top rack.

George

I had them laying around the house, and just started using them. I agree that if you are going to routinely cook for lots of people, get the stainless, or mod to fit another rack. I use these for just ribs, and when I do cheese.
 
I picked it up today. Have a party tonight and tomorrow, and will hopefully include some time to build this huge box of metal.

Also picked up some Fireblack/lavalock felt. It says to degrease first so it can stick, would Dawn dish soap do the job? Followed up by some rubbing alcohol.

Yeah, I knew it didn't currently come with three stacks. Not sure it was ever even made, as I haven't seen any pics online.
 
I had them laying around the house, and just started using them. I agree that if you are going to routinely cook for lots of people, get the stainless, or mod to fit another rack. I use these for just ribs, and when I do cheese.

It would seem that they'd probably work well also for smokes for things like snack sticks, bologna, etc?
 
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I picked it up today. Have a party tonight and tomorrow, and will hopefully include some time to build this huge box of metal.

Also picked up some Fireblack/lavalock felt. It says to degrease first so it can stick, would Dawn dish soap do the job? Followed up by some rubbing alcohol.

Yeah, I knew it didn't currently come with three stacks. Not sure it was ever even made, as I haven't seen any pics online.

The good news is that it's really just putting the bigger parts together. The main propane grill has the burners installed, the handles are installed on the lids (except for the firebox), etc. Not a lot of small work or difficult assembly. The only place I needed another set of hands in the whole process was when I attached the firebox to the cook chamber. I'm sure I could have jury-rigged something so I could have accomplished it solo, but my wife was home and I just held the firebox in place and she inserted two bolts and threaded on the nuts and then it wasn't going to go anywhere and I could do the other 6 that hold it on, plus then wrench-tighten.

There isn't a TON of preservative on the metal. I'd think a rag or paper towel with a good dose of rubbing alcohol would probably get clean the areas you want to degrease.
 
Just some added info for you...

I seasoned my Combo and cooked burgers on it over charcoal last weekend. I started the burgers on the gas side, then after a hit of heat on both sides, I finished them over charcoal. They came out great, but I didn't get to run the firebox at all to season it.

Today, I lit a chimney of Cowboy lump and when it was glowing to nearly the top, dumped it in the firebox. Then opened the damper door completely and the stack damper wide open. Cook chamber ran up to 350 like that. It probably would have gone higher, but I started with closing the damper door on the firebox, then working the damper itself closed a little a time, giving 15 min between any change to see the change in temps. I wanted to give it a half hour between changes, but just didn't have THAT much time. Took several changes, but was able to work it down to between 225 and 250 and hold it there for about 45 min. I would have needed to then work on replenishing fuel to manage temps, but the good news was that I got into a temp range I was looking for (wanted between 200 and 250 this first time out, I wasn't cooking anything), and it held there for a time. Had to go for family stuff and had to close it up and let it die at that point.

I need to get some splits of hickory and burn some wood and see what I can do with this, but the good news was lump charcoal in the firebox seemed to run well for me.

And yes, any/all openings leaked smoke at first. The damper door on the firebox has a mile of space around it to let air in, too. But I was able to work my temps into the range I wanted. The only question I have on temps is getting them down to 180-200, where I'd start snack sticks or bologna on my MES. I'm guessing it's just a matter of less fuel, but that'll mean more need to tend/feed fuel, since I'm guessing it'll burn through a smaller quantity of fuel relatively faster, so going hours between feeding the firebox may not be realistic.

I can definitely see where a BBQ Guru would be a good investment on this.
 
Thanks again for all the comments tddeangelo!

As you said, it wasn't that hard to build. I used a chair and a couple pillows to hold up the firebox while getting bolts started, but that was the only difficult part to do alone. Even though easy, I should have just had Lowes do it after all. I wanted to make sure proper care was taken based on some loose parts I saw regularly on display units, but some of those were pre-built anyway (towel rack, OKJ badges) or probably just played with too much at the store. It would have been easier to just go through the instructions and tighten up anything. I did sheer a bolt on the firebox handle so some hardware could be better and I could be a little less zealous.

I took a day to give it a 6 hour seasoning, adding some wood near the end to smoke it up. Starting in the low 200s for a few hours and then ramping up to mid to high 200s with some 300+ the last half. Started low as I've seen many have had problems with peeling paint on their OKJ's, and since curing the paint is part of the season I wanted a gentle start. The manual is very vague saying "small fire," "two hours at least," "then begin increasing temperature." It's your product, give numbers! The OKJ website says 275-300 (not product specific), but with the firebox being hotter than the chamber I started lower for safety. No peeling paint yet, so we'll see.

It also mentions nothing of seasoning the propane side, but I don't see why it wouldn't. The point of seasoning as I see is to 1. Cure the paint. 2. Melt/burn away manufacturing oils/solvents/etc. 3. Add rust resistance with vegetable oil. 4. Give it flavor (questionable). At least 3 of those relate to the propane side as well, so I let one burner run on low at a time for a few hours, switching burners every 15-30 mins.

First impressions, it's a good kit. Side burner is great for starting chimneys. Propane is real hot, real quick. Firebox works easier than I was led to believe by those that try to push people away from cheap offsets. 1/2 chimney of Royal Oak Ridge briqs gets 220-250 easily and it stays there for 30-50 mins without much adjustment.

I think my hesitation for the Char-Griller ash drawer was wrong though. Can't say without using it, but I think it'd be a nice feature to be able to fully pull it out while cooking (made possible if using a basket that sits off and above the drawer. With the OKJ there's really nothing I can do but push the ashes around to keep air underneath and wait for complete cool down to pull them out when done. I've been using the charcoal chambers grate (metal plate underneath) for the firebox to give extra heat protection. And putting foil under that to keep ashes off the metal to make easy cleaning and less corrosion. I likely need some extra tools like an ash can and something to pull ashes out during cooks. Any suggestions?

I built a charcoal basket out of 24 x 24" expanded metal, exactly as seen in this video.


It was easy with some tin snips as the metal is thin enough. Eventually I'll try using it for extended hands-free fire maintenance such as minion or snake method, but so far just use it as an easy way to keep coals off the wall or shake ash off. If I raise this basket up some, I may not care as much about ashes building up underneath either.

Also bought a Classic Accessories cover as they have good reviews and seems heavier duty than most store bought covers. It's not specific to the unit of course, but that one seems to disintegrate in a year from what I hear. I might need to reinforce the spot under the chimney bolt as that will push through eventually I'm sure. Maybe a patch, spray on some FlexSeal type reinforcement on the inside, cover chimney with plastic bottle or a half tennis ball, etc.

I added the Fireblack felt to the charcoal chamber door. Easy job with just a little rubbing alcohol to degrease beforehand. So far so good. You can tell where the door would leak without it as it doesn't press and indent in some areas as much, but after several days more began to indent. I didn't notice much leaking on the smoke chamber or firebox (no seal), as most gets pulled right out the chimney. There's some, but nothing to worry about. Opening the propane side while smoking the other side even pulls smoke into that chamber. Some through grease hole between the two chambers and others through the seams in the wall that splits the two chambers.

Next up is a dual-probe wireless thermometer. I want something with high and low temp alarms, and I don't think Thermopro has the low temp alarm. I have an old single-probe wireless meat thermometer which I used for chamber temps for the first half of my cook and then changed it to an IT meat probe. Will also need an ash can, some kind of ash pulling tool, some rubber gloves for less hand-washing, and heat gloves to take meat off the rack. Plan to set up some kind of cheap baffle system as well, but no need until I have a dual thermometer to study heat differentials in the chamber. For first cook I just put the rack close to the chamber entrance and put a loaf pan with water in it. Blocks direct heat, adds some moisture.

What do you guys keep outside on racks under the grill? Seems like wood and charcoal risk getting wet, so not sure what to even use it for other than some basic tools I don't mind in the elements.

I suppose I shouldn't add everything to just this one thread, so I'll have to start a Qview. For now, below is my first cook for a quick teaser. I sous vide cooked a 4-5lb pork butt at 167 for about 21+ hours, ice bathed it and into the fridge for a day, then a 4 hour smoke at 215-250. All in all I couldn't have asked for more on my first smoke. Tender, plenty of smoke flavor, you can see it took a nice smoke ring, and delicious bark. Way better than the "professional" pulled pork I had the day before. Mixed with some of the juice from sous vide bag, it makes for easy and moist reheating in the microwave too. I went sous vide so I could make my first cook a short cook and the pork butt was on sale for $5.50 so cheaper than ribs.

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