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Should I purchase a COS (Cheap Offset Smoker) to learn fire management?

phoenixsmoke

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Hi All,

I'm from AZ and been smoking meats for 4-5 years now. Started with an MES then jumped to a homemade traditional offset (made by someone else) and then to a GMG JB pellet smoker which is my current rig. It's been a long time since I posted here. I'm in the market for a new offset and I'm strongly leaning on purchasing an Old Country Brazos (or possibly a Wrangler since they are available for shipping now) either from Academy or directly from bbquepits.com. Academy is out of stock for shipping to AZ and the bbquepits.com says it will likely be at least until November 2021 until they have some to ship. I'm itching to get started and wanted to see what you all thought if I picked up a COS to learn fire management.

I have owned a reverse flow offset before that was made by someone local, however, the metal was relatively thin and smokestack was really narrow and it was not a good experience (see attached pic). After reading through these forums and other places and watching hours of videos I feel more confident working with a stickburner.

Would like to get some opinions on purchasing a later model Oklahoma Joe's offset or equivalent or should I just wait it out and buy the the Brazos. I feel that with some mods it could be something to learn on. However, I'm concerned that by using a COS I may fall into the same trap of inconsistent temps and constantly feeding the fire (every 15-20 minutes or so to maintain 250). I figure I can purchase a used COS for $100-$150 and sell it later once I order the Brazos.
 

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Chasdev

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The Old County smokers are good for what they cost but they need improvement to become less of a hassle to drive.
Extending the exhaust pipe is first on the list and tuning plates with a water pan near the firebox are also good ideas.
I cooked a lot of good meat on mine but the entire days of tending fire became too much for me to tolerate at my age and in the Texas heat.
In the end I was re-splitting the splits and cutting those pieces in half in an effort to keep temps down.
I did and do enjoy watching a wood fire burn but all day and in the heat...
While I do miss the off set smoke flavor, my Masterbuilt gravity rig produces almost as good flavors and with almost no fire tending chores.
 

sawhorseray

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I live in Gilbert and just sold my Meadow Creek SQ36 offset to a guy in Phoenix last week. No matter what offset you settle on tending the firebox in the AZ heat during the summer months gets old fast. When it's 110º out a small fire with small splits is the only way one can maintain a constant temp, and feeding the fire every 20-30 minutes is part of the program, I couldn't see anyway around it. I'm not a fan of pellet poopers or having electrical cords running all over so I opted for a 26" Weber to smoke. Using the chain charcoal method I still get some decent smoke flavor, not like an offset, but it's just about set and forget. I have no idea what a COS is, but I do know tending a offset here in the dessert requires constant attention. I ran my SQ36 with the door open from a crack to a few inches to maintain heat control, usually around 275º. You have five months a year here where the cook chamber will be over 140º just sitting in the yard with nothing going on in the firebox, that's life in the dessert. RAY
 

sawhorseray

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Ray, I was wondering about the status of your SQ36. The buyer certainly picked up a well cared for smoker.
Yes it was Stu. The guy came over and within two minutes pulled out a envelope with the cash for asking price, no quibbling around. He had a couple of roofers come over to my house a few hours later to load it onto their truck. It was really heavy for two little guys, they struggled quite a lot getting it onto their truck, picked up a dent and some scratches. RAY
 

phoenixsmoke

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C Chasdev that's good feedback, thanks. Summer heat was definitely a consideration and I will keep my pellet smoker for cooking in summer months. Hoping to be able to dedicate more time to smoking meats and want to learn how to master an offset. I have some things I want to experiment with and I also love to tend to fires so we'll see how it goes.

I have also contemplated a gravity rig especially after seeing Jeremy Yoder's review of the Old Country gravity fed smoker. I was at a big box store yesterday and looked at the Masterbuilt units. I still need to do more research on these; however, I'm impressed with what I've seen and may be the best of both worlds (flavor and convenience). Which model do you have?
 

phoenixsmoke

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sawhorseray sawhorseray COS stands for cheap offset smoker and I edited the title to reflect that. I also live in the SE valley so we're practically neighbors and have lived here my entire life so I completely understand the challenges of tending to a hot fire when it's 110 or more outside. I don't mind spending some time in the heat as long as I'm rewarded with good bbq. I'm curious how the local bbq places like Lil Miss BBQ manage their fires in the dead of summer. Lil Miss has their smokers under shade; however, Caldwell County looks like they keep their smokers in full sun...must be brutal for their pitmasters. I know it's much different with a backyard unit compared to a 500g or 1000g offset but there must be something to gain from how they manage their cookers. Thanks for the reply!
 

SecondHandSmoker

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Yes it was Stu. The guy came over and within two minutes pulled out a envelope with the cash for asking price, no quibbling around. He had a couple of roofers come over to my house a few hours later to load it onto their truck. It was really heavy for two little guys, they struggled quite a lot getting it onto their truck, picked up a dent and some scratches. RAY
He knew he was getting one helluva a deal.
Watching the two guys load 310lbs of solid smoker into the back of a pickup truck must have been like watching two monkeys.... Well, you get the idea.

Stu
 

Smokin Okie

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Keep your eye out for used offsets on Facebook Marketplace or CL. Look for something you think you can flip for what you paid for it, or close to it.

I'm not in the market, but I keep my eye on whats for sale here in OKC, right now on Facebook, there's two Horizons with asking prices around $400. They might take $300 , which would be an easy flip.

Just a thought.
 

dave schiller

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I NEVER could manage to get an even temperature in my offset while maintaining thin blue smoke when using wood. So I now use charcoal with splits of oak or apple for flavor. I use a BBQ Guru to maintain temp (it works) so I load a bag of charcoal in the firebox and forget it. No more losing sleep of spending the day tending the fire. I'm a wus and I admit it.
 

phoenixsmoke

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Keep your eye out for used offsets on Facebook Marketplace or CL. Look for something you think you can flip for what you paid for it, or close to it.

I'm not in the market, but I keep my eye on whats for sale here in OKC, right now on Facebook, there's two Horizons with asking prices around $400. They might take $300 , which would be an easy flip.

Just a thought.
Thanks for the feedback. I have been keeping an eye out on FB Marketplace, Offerup and CL. The offsets for sale in my area (Arizona) are mostly the big box brands of thin metal offset smokers and are priced in the $50 (badly rusted and needing TLC) to $300 range. I rarely see thick metal (3/16" or higher) brands and if they do show up they go fast. I would jump on a Horizon at $400.
 

phoenixsmoke

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I NEVER could manage to get an even temperature in my offset while maintaining thin blue smoke when using wood. So I now use charcoal with splits of oak or apple for flavor. I use a BBQ Guru to maintain temp (it works) so I load a bag of charcoal in the firebox and forget it. No more losing sleep of spending the day tending the fire. I'm a wus and I admit it.
I have contemplated going the gravity feed or WSM route but I have my heart set on mastering an offset. I'm hoping to dedicate more time to this hobby which is why I'm going the offset smoker route.
 

bill1

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A MES and a Pellet machine are a whole lot less work than an offset...

If you're sure "learning smoke management" is going to be fun for you, and you've got the time to devote to it, jump on in with a high-quality, high-priced unit. (Note that even once you learn & master the offset techniques that are best for you, the offset will always be a lot more extra work than what you're used to...you're tending a fire...so you need to enjoy that extra work.) But if there's any doubt, I'd go with a $150 unit and give yourself a dozen or so cooks on it. If you're lovin' it, then move up to first-class. You're not out much on the "starter" smoker, partic if you re-sell it.

But if you find the extra work is not what you hoped for, either in terms of fun or food taste, I think you'll be glad you didn't invest as much money. (Unless you're in a financial place where $1000 to you is like $100 to most.)
 

ConrodM

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At a minimum- I would go with a Fully Welded unit like a Old Country Pecos then add gasket at main chamber door. I went smaller but Thicker Steel (Wrangler) to make temp control easier. From what I have read and it makes sense to me, the thin steel, bolt togethers smokers are extremely difficult to maintain temps which seems like a discouraging way to start. Spend the few hundred more and give yourself a fair chance IMHO
 

Displaced Texan

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bill1 bill1 and ConrodM ConrodM thanks for the replies.

I have decided to go with a 1/4" or thicker offset. I have also heard that it's easier to manage on a rig with thicker steel so I'm to go that route. Even if I find out I don't like tending to a fire I would be able to recoup most of what I pay for it.
Good choice. It will take longer to get it up to temp, but that is the better idea.
 

ConrodM

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bill1 bill1 and ConrodM ConrodM thanks for the replies.

I have decided to go with a 1/4" or thicker offset. I have also heard that it's easier to manage on a rig with thicker steel so I'm to go that route. Even if I find out I don't like tending to a fire I would be able to recoup most of what I pay for it.
Very good idea! Which one are you going with? Brazos? Shirley Fab? Gator Pit? or one of kick butt smokers?
 

Smokin Okie

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Would like to get some opinions on purchasing a later model Oklahoma Joe's offset or equivalent or should I just wait it out and buy the the Brazos. I feel that with some mods it could be something to learn on. However, I'm concerned that by using a COS I may fall into the same trap of inconsistent temps and constantly feeding the fire (every 15-20 minutes or so to maintain 250). I figure I can purchase a used COS for $100-$150 and sell it later once I order the Brazos.
I cooked on a Brazos for three years and I've had a Franklin the past six months. I've added splits every 15 to 20 minutes on both. I think that's gonna be pretty much standard on a backyard offset. The splits need to be sized to the smoker.

Now that said, I've seen some YT vids of people putting full size splits in the firebox and going off and leaving it. That may work for them, but I got my doubts. I won't say it won't work, if I did , someone would come along and argue about it and tell me they've been doing that for years on their favorite smoker.
 
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Displaced Texan

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I cooked on a Brazos for three years and I've had a Franklin the past six months. I've added splits every 15 to 20 minutes on both. I think that's gonna be pretty much standard on a backyard offset. The splits need to be sized to the smoker.

Now that said, I've seen some YT vids of people putting full size splits in the firebox and going off and leaving it. They may work for them, but I got my doubts. I won't say it won't work, if I did , someone would come along and argue about it and tell me they've been doing that for years on their favorite smoker.
No, I'm with you. I have had splits that are a bit larger in size. No way I could just leave them unattended.
 

ConrodM

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If I get the right Moisture Content of wood then I can go 35-45 minutes on my wrangler- otherwise it’s 20-30 minutes. Either way- You Don’t Set and Forget or get distracted for long. I Love It!!
You also have to consider how much of a temperature rise/drop you are willing to live with. I typically go with 30 degrees: 20 high, 10 low.
 

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