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The Journey to a Bell Fab Smoker

fowldarr

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Joined Aug 26, 2013
Well, this has been a journey, so this will be a little bit longer read, with how I became the proud owner of a Bell Fab Smoker.

It all started when I married a Texan. For the first several years of our marriage she complained for years that she hand't had good BBQ since she left Texas. (We lived in Idaho and then Nebraska at the time)

Wanting her to be happy (because she deserves the world), I bought a Cabela's brand propane smoker at a significant discount in their bargain cave. It was the Cabelas brand, probably built by whatever generic company (Masterbuilt?). The metal was thin, it leaked like a sieve, but I turned out some good BBQ. I smoked everything on that thing, brisket, chicken, lots of pork butts, and even some bear hams (those made a mess). I learned a lot about flavor profiles and heat control.

Then I started watching BBQ pitmasters and I knew I wanted something bigger. I dreamt of Stubbs gravity feed charcoal smoker, or even a Backwoods Party, but my budget didn't allow for that at the time.

We had moved to Wyoming (that's where I did the bear hams), and then to Nevada. One day, I found myself at Home Depot, it was the end of the season and they had all their smokers on clearance. It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but when I ended up buying a Brinkmann Trailmaster Limited Edition Horizontal Offset, for $125
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I couldn't complain. That smoker has served me well for the past seven years, but I live in Oregon now. The thin metal rusted out in the ash pan, and quite honestly it just wasn't BIG enough.

See, we have five boys, and they have friends, and my wife has friends, I have a dog. It's not uncommon for us to feed 30 people if I have the smoker going.

So I started shopping.

After lots of shopping and frustration I settled on buying an Old Country Brazos. (wait, what, I thought you said you bought a Bell Fab.....calm down, I'll get there). The Brazos is a good smoker. 1/4 steel, and well built. It's just not built well enough to survive subpar shipping packaging from Mexico (where they are manufactured) to Oregon. The Old Country (ordered through Academy) seemed to be what I wanted at a price point I could stomach and shipping was way less than a Lang (an now I know why). The smoker arrived looking like it had been drug behind the truck for the last 15 miles.

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The pictures don't do the amount of damage justice.

(To be Continued)
 

fowldarr

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Joined Aug 26, 2013
One of the things you can't see in the pictures of the Old Country is the welds were broken on the smoke stack. I refused delivery and sent it back to Academy (I did give them the option of refunding 50% of my money to pay for the repairs).

Discouraged, the search for a new smoker was reopened.

Some late night googling and forum searching led me to Bell Fab. He is a small manufacturer based in Tulsa, OK. We exchanged some emails and phone calls. I told him what I was looking for and how much cooking space and I was amazed when he quoted me a price for a custom pit that was well below the cost of the Old Country Brazos.

I placed my order.

 

fowldarr

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Joined Aug 26, 2013
And he sent me a picture of the completed product and we arranged shipping.

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The shipping got a little hinky. No fault of Bell Fab. He did everything in his power, but shipping an 800+lbs smoker across the country can be challenging. The shipping company certainly took their time. It took a little over three weeks for it to arrive at my door. Trying to get updates was like pulling teeth. Their tracking information online never matched what they were telling me, I would get comments like 'you need to understand it's on a train'. (Which I maintain is not my problem), and ultimately, the other day, I got a little pissy, I was told I was unreasonable, and it was frustrating. The company I work for has a shipping department and I went down to ask if I was being unreasonable. My Materials Manager is awesome and in 45 minutes, he had figured out where it was, had a report that it was in good shape. He got it moved closer, and delivered the next day. (It was awesome)

It arrived in good shape (a few scrapes from shipping but nothing too bad)

Here are some pictures of it in my driveway when I took deliver yesterday
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fowldarr

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Aug 26, 2013
Again, I want to be clear, the shipping issues had nothing to do with Bell Fab. He did his part.

Also, the pictures above are pre-cleaning and seasoning.

I had to work a little late last night, and it was killing me knowing that my new smoker was sitting in my driveway.

I have to tell you, this thing is a beast. It's constructed of 3/8" steel and weights 800+lbs. It took me and my three teenage boys to get it across the grass.

So, I set about seasoning it.

There are a lot of opinions about how to season a new smoker. I recognize that some people will think they have a better way then I did it. That's fine. I don't care. Here's how I did it:

I cleaned with some water and simple green, to get rid of any manufacturing oils. I warmed it up to dry it out (small fire), cooled it down, sprayed it down with Canola oil inside and out and took it up to run between 275-300 degrees for the next three hours, really letting those oils get into the nooks, crannies and pores. I let the temp come down to <200, and sprayed it again, inside and out, and then took the temperature back up for about an hour. Then I just let the fire burn itself out.

Here are some pictures of the action (it was dark during the seasoning process):


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And then I couldn't help myself, I had to go out and get some pictures this morning.
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The seasoning gave all the metal a nice bronze color. I look forward to cooking on it this weekend. If anyone has questions about the smoker, let me know.
 

Winterrider

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Looks like a wonderful unit that will serve you well for many, many years.
 

mooncusser

Meat Mopper
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Joined May 25, 2019
That's an impressive piece of equipment! Glad that you have a happy ending after the disappointment with the damaged unit and all that waiting.

What do you have planned for the first cook?
 

fowldarr

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Aug 26, 2013
That's an impressive piece of equipment! Glad that you have a happy ending after the disappointment with the damaged unit and all that waiting.

What do you have planned for the first cook?

Going to start with some chicken thighs tonight, because of time mostly, plus, if I ruin them I won't cry. I have some pork belly and pork butts going in this weekend though.
 

mooncusser

Meat Mopper
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105
Joined May 25, 2019
Going to start with some chicken thighs tonight, because of time mostly, plus, if I ruin them I won't cry. I have some pork belly and pork butts going in this weekend though.
Sounds like a plan. Good luck and have fun! :emoji_v:
 

jcam222

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Very much enjoyed the read. It was almost like I was going through getting a new smoker! Very happy you finally got that baby. Looks super nice!!
 

JCAP

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That thing looks awesome. Enjoy and eat up!
 

Jabiru

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Awesome rig, and built by an expert. Looks like it was worth the wait. Happy smoking!
 

SmokinAl

SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
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Looks like a real nice smoker!
Looking forward to seeing how you like cooking on it!
Al
 

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