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

phoenixsmoke

Newbie
21
17
Joined Aug 28, 2016
Very good idea! Which one are you going with? Brazos? Shirley Fab? Gator Pit? or one of kick butt smokers?
I'm leaning on having one built for me. Old Country is saying that they are backordered until at least November and Academy doesn't have any Brazos' in stock to ship. I've considered Bell Fabs but he's also 10-12 weeks out. I'm really trying to keep it with $2K. I figure if an offset is not for me then I could always sell it down the road and not take too much of a hit. When you start getting into the $3,500 and up range (including shipping) then I can't justify that at this point.
 

phoenixsmoke

Newbie
21
17
Joined Aug 28, 2016
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.
I'm not looking for a set it and forget, I already have a pellet smoker for that. However, I'm not sure I'm up for tending to an offset for a 12+ hour cook if I have to tend to it every 15-20 minutes. What size splits are you using? I've seen Jeremy Yoder recommend using 1"x2"x7" splits in his Franklin pit. I can see using that size burning down every 15-20 minutes. Even if it comes down to tending the fire that often, I still gotta try it out again. That reverse flow I had was just horrible to cook on and most of it was probably due to my inexperience. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have done things much differently and tried to mod some things like the smokestack and experimented with size of the wood splits.

Thanks for chiming in. There's tons of videos on how to manage a fire but not much info on how often to feed splits into an offset. Helpful knowing that it's every 15-20 minutes for you even on the Franklin.
 

phoenixsmoke

Newbie
21
17
Joined Aug 28, 2016
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.
C ConrodM I'm hoping for at least 20 minutes and really hoping I can get 30-45 minutes between splits. I'm sure there will be some variability depending on size of splits and how long they have been seasoned.

I agree that a 30 deg swing is something I could live with. I'm sure it take more frequent tending to tighten the temp swings.
 

ConrodM

Smoke Blower
79
38
Joined Jul 1, 2020
One thing I have found is that adding a "heat sink" in the main chamber requires more fuel for a certain temperature. The "heat sink" can be water or tuning plate or fire bricks or anything else that provides mass which will absorb heat. What this does for me (I use the charcoal plate that came with my Wrangler) is allow me to build a larger coal bed without overheating. Also, allows me to use larger splits-3-6 inch wedges x 6-12" long. Experimenting and finding the best method for your pit to extend the feed rate is part of the fun to me. Also, for the really long cooks like brisket- I use the Harry Soo method- Smoke for 6-8 hrs, then wrap (around 170-180 degs depending on color) and oven finish- Btu=Btu=Btu. This way I save on wood and get a nap while finishing in oven last 30 or so degrees.
 

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Smokin Okie

Smoking Fanatic
368
195
Joined Jun 27, 2018
I'm not looking for a set it and forget, I already have a pellet smoker for that. However, I'm not sure I'm up for tending to an offset for a 12+ hour cook if I have to tend to it every 15-20 minutes. What size splits are you using? I've seen Jeremy Yoder recommend using 1"x2"x7" splits in his Franklin pit. I can see using that size burning down every 15-20 minutes. Even if it comes down to tending the fire that often, I still gotta try it out again. That reverse flow I had was just horrible to cook on and most of it was probably due to my inexperience. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have done things much differently and tried to mod some things like the smokestack and experimented with size of the wood splits.

Thanks for chiming in. There's tons of videos on how to manage a fire but not much info on how often to feed splits into an offset. Helpful knowing that it's every 15-20 minutes for you even on the Franklin.
When I first bought the Brazos, I would keep notes on my cooks and record times of when I added a split. I'm not that exact any more.

There are many variables. My splits are not exactly the same size. I burn irregular pieces because I scavenge for my wood, like a lot of pecan I have now came from a tree my FIL cut down a couple years ago. That results in a lot of non uniform splits.

My perfect split would be about 2" in diameter, and 8 " to 10" long.

But seasoning is gonna play a role.

And the coal bed is gonna have an impact. A good sized strong coal bed can provide plenty of heat to run my smoker at 250 to 275. The split only provides smoke for flavoring. I also keep some big chunks of lump charcoal handy, maybe baseball or softball size, and I put one of those in occaisionally.

So how long between splits is not an exact science. I can say its not long enough for me to go inside and have lunch without looking in on the fire.

And just the other day, I had my longest offset cook, I fed splits for 10 hours to a pork butt cook before I wrapped and took them to the oven in the kitchen to finish. Did not have to be that long, but it was a nice day on the patio. Before that , 9 hours was my longest cook. Ribs are a short 3 hour cook before I wrap and take them inside. Yardbird even shorter.

But I enjoy sitting on my covered patio. I have my laptop. I've got music playing. I like being outdoors . And I like tending to the fire. Time flys by. But I'm old and patient.
 

Displaced Texan

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
401
266
Joined Nov 11, 2020
I'm leaning on having one built for me. Old Country is saying that they are backordered until at least November and Academy doesn't have any Brazos' in stock to ship. I've considered Bell Fabs but he's also 10-12 weeks out. I'm really trying to keep it with $2K. I figure if an offset is not for me then I could always sell it down the road and not take too much of a hit. When you start getting into the $3,500 and up range (including shipping) then I can't justify that at this point.
Wow! One of the reasons I went with Bell Fab last year was he built my pit in 3 weeks from initial contact. I'm sure he is just much busier now. For the price and customization, he is hard to beat.
 

phoenixsmoke

Newbie
21
17
Joined Aug 28, 2016
I hope this helps! :)
Conrad
Conrad, this is EXTREMELY helpful and motivating. Your brisket and ribs look amazing, good job! I also plan to do the Harry Soo method and finish in either the oven or pellet grill.

That's good info on the "heat sink" keeping temps in check. I'm definitely looking forward to it and I'm already building up my wood pile. I also bought a cordless chainsaw and looking to buy a small electric splitter soon. I was able to score some free mesquite that I will use for the initial burn in and short cooks. I plan to build a firewood rack out of 2x4's and cinder blocks this weekend. I'm already having fun and can't wait to get that offset! Thank you for for the great pictures and advice! Love the wood deck you have your dog and pit sitting on.
 

phoenixsmoke

Newbie
21
17
Joined Aug 28, 2016
When I first bought the Brazos, I would keep notes on my cooks and record times of when I added a split. I'm not that exact any more.

There are many variables. My splits are not exactly the same size. I burn irregular pieces because I scavenge for my wood, like a lot of pecan I have now came from a tree my FIL cut down a couple years ago. That results in a lot of non uniform splits.

My perfect split would be about 2" in diameter, and 8 " to 10" long.

But seasoning is gonna play a role.

And the coal bed is gonna have an impact. A good sized strong coal bed can provide plenty of heat to run my smoker at 250 to 275. The split only provides smoke for flavoring. I also keep some big chunks of lump charcoal handy, maybe baseball or softball size, and I put one of those in occaisionally.

So how long between splits is not an exact science. I can say its not long enough for me to go inside and have lunch without looking in on the fire.

And just the other day, I had my longest offset cook, I fed splits for 10 hours to a pork butt cook before I wrapped and took them to the oven in the kitchen to finish. Did not have to be that long, but it was a nice day on the patio. Before that , 9 hours was my longest cook. Ribs are a short 3 hour cook before I wrap and take them inside. Yardbird even shorter.

But I enjoy sitting on my covered patio. I have my laptop. I've got music playing. I like being outdoors . And I like tending to the fire. Time flys by. But I'm old and patient.
When I first bought the Brazos, I would keep notes on my cooks and record times of when I added a split. I'm not that exact any more.

There are many variables. My splits are not exactly the same size. I burn irregular pieces because I scavenge for my wood, like a lot of pecan I have now came from a tree my FIL cut down a couple years ago. That results in a lot of non uniform splits.

My perfect split would be about 2" in diameter, and 8 " to 10" long.

But seasoning is gonna play a role.

And the coal bed is gonna have an impact. A good sized strong coal bed can provide plenty of heat to run my smoker at 250 to 275. The split only provides smoke for flavoring. I also keep some big chunks of lump charcoal handy, maybe baseball or softball size, and I put one of those in occaisionally.

So how long between splits is not an exact science. I can say its not long enough for me to go inside and have lunch without looking in on the fire.

And just the other day, I had my longest offset cook, I fed splits for 10 hours to a pork butt cook before I wrapped and took them to the oven in the kitchen to finish. Did not have to be that long, but it was a nice day on the patio. Before that , 9 hours was my longest cook. Ribs are a short 3 hour cook before I wrap and take them inside. Yardbird even shorter.

But I enjoy sitting on my covered patio. I have my laptop. I've got music playing. I like being outdoors . And I like tending to the fire. Time flys by. But I'm old and patient.
Thanks for the info. I agree with you on the split size. I plan to source my own firewood and plan to cut to 8"-12" lengths and split to about 2" wide on average. Seems like anything bigger would not provide clean smoke. Living in the Phoenix area with the long, hot and dry summers should help with seasoning the wood but I plan to wait at least a year to season fresh cut wood and will use a moisture meter to test before I cook.

I'm now an empty nester so definitely have more time and don't have to shuttle kids around so I'm looking forward to spending time outside and have a good setup in my yard and can't beat AZ winters!
 

ConrodM

Smoke Blower
79
38
Joined Jul 1, 2020
Today I got away with a little larger splits- these are B&B Hickory that I got from Academy Sports. Each one was about 4x12 solid Hickory and added around 30 -45 minute increments. INTERNAL Moisture Content =22% I was shooting for around 275 degrees- my Dial thermometer is around 25 degrees lower than Grate temperature so Dial =250 degrees was magic number . Very easy and the Aroma was Godly!
B649B4D2-2890-463C-8338-90550D88CE4C.jpeg
21C499A3-E88E-49D9-AFC4-EBFCA7D8E4DE.jpeg
B18674E5-D53E-4A9F-95B2-78F029B06426.jpeg
C8121892-7623-46E2-BBF3-526D4C8D0DE5.png
 

ConrodM

Smoke Blower
79
38
Joined Jul 1, 2020
I would be happy to upload my excel Cooking Log spreadsheet if there is a way and if someone would like to use it. Today’s was Spare Ribs- trying to decide if I like them equally to cutting them down to St Louis style ribs.
77EBBA36-CF0F-4FDE-B306-FC3A362E6B22.jpeg
23D81F1D-E736-4F4C-B1DB-30FE87EABB9A.jpeg
5E7334D9-6F55-4CBE-AC19-63E37A62C7E0.jpeg
 

phoenixsmoke

Newbie
21
17
Joined Aug 28, 2016
Today I got away with a little larger splits- these are B&B Hickory that I got from Academy Sports. Each one was about 4x12 solid Hickory and added around 30 -45 minute increments. INTERNAL Moisture Content =22% I was shooting for around 275 degrees- my Dial thermometer is around 25 degrees lower than Grate temperature so Dial =250 degrees was magic number . Very easy and the Aroma was Godly!
I'm curious if you were getting thin blue smoke. Is 22% standard for INTERNAL moisture content? I thought the recommended moisture content is below 20% and better if it's around 10% but that may be for an external reading.
 

JWFokker

Smoking Fanatic
446
160
Joined Mar 5, 2019
I'm not looking for a set it and forget, I already have a pellet smoker for that. However, I'm not sure I'm up for tending to an offset for a 12+ hour cook if I have to tend to it every 15-20 minutes. What size splits are you using? I've seen Jeremy Yoder recommend using 1"x2"x7" splits in his Franklin pit. I can see using that size burning down every 15-20 minutes. Even if it comes down to tending the fire that often, I still gotta try it out again. That reverse flow I had was just horrible to cook on and most of it was probably due to my inexperience. If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have done things much differently and tried to mod some things like the smokestack and experimented with size of the wood splits.

Thanks for chiming in. There's tons of videos on how to manage a fire but not much info on how often to feed splits into an offset. Helpful knowing that it's every 15-20 minutes for you even on the Franklin.
On the longer cooks, transfer to your pellet burner when you're tired of tending the fire. Most of the smoke action happens in the first few hours. Once you reach 140F internal the meat doesn't absorb as much. And if you wrap you can finish in any cooker, even an oven, it won't make a difference.
 

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