Updated thoughts on the poor man's BGE, AKA Oklahoma Joes Bronco.

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agaffer

Smoke Blower
Original poster
Oct 2, 2020
125
109
North Carolina
I have been using the Oklahoma Joe's Bronco about 3-4 times per week now for a couple of months. For those that have not used it, I can best describe it as a hybrid between a Kamado Grill and a Barrel cooker. Anyone that has researched this cooker knows that there is pretty much universal frustration by owners with the extreme inaccuracy of the included thermometer. You would think that they would have replaced it by now with one that works. But, considering the low cost of such a versitile cooker it is a minor complaint.

With the introduction of digital controllers many of us have become obsessed with rock steady cooking temps. The Bronco will not give you that. At first I was put off by that but, as my usage increased I remembered that for decades I produced good tasting food with cookers that had temp. swings. I no longer sweat over the up and down temp. swings as the food always turns out great. In fact, one of the things that I have come to appreciate with the Bronco is that you can quickly reduce the temp. With my BGE if you over shoot the temp. the ceramic holds the heat making it very difficult to go back down. I have found that the "sweet spot" for my Bronco seems to be 275° or better. At those temps. it does hold very steady. It will hold at 250° but takes more watching. I think a fairly steady 225° or lower would be difficult without getting dirty smoke.

I have also found that choosing what charcoal you use is very important. For reasons I can't explain food seems to absorb the flavor of your charcoal choice much more than any other cooker I have used. The good news is that very little wood chunks are necessary for flavoring. I found that it is best to split one large chunk into a few pieces and call it done. Somewhat of a savings there. I also have found, for me, the diffusion plate is not necessary except to use to raise the charcoal basket up for grilling.

I have watched videos where people have made efforts to either very carefully and neatly place their charcoal in the basket or they have modified the basket to hold more in order to increase the cook time. My own personal preference is to do neither. Most foods that require long cooks usually are also wrapped to minimize over smoking and moisture loss. I believe that BTU's are BTU's and I finish wrapped meats in the oven.

I have spent the most time listing the minor Cons for the Bronco. Now, here is my thoughts on the Pros. First and foremost, it makes delicious tasting BBQ. Especially chicken and ribs. So far, all of my rib and chicken cooks have been the best I have ever made in decades of BBQ. And, that is what is most important. That and the fun factor which is also there with the Bronco.

For the price, I really don't know how you can do much better than the Bronco. If I were to list any regrets it would be that I didn't spend the extra bit of money and buy the Pro. I think the additional height would be helpful when cooking hanging foods.
 
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Anyone that has researched this cooker knows that there is pretty much universal frustration by owners with the extreme inaccuracy of the included thermometer. You would think that they would have replaced it by now with one that works. But, considering the low cost of such a versitile cooker it is a minor complaint.

Most included thermometers with smokers are inaccurate, so this definitely isn't unique to the OK Joe. The lid thermometer on my WSM was regularly reading 25-50 degrees different than the pit temps registered with my Therm Pro. Always use your own thermometer and never trust what's there!
 
I am new to the forum and there is endless stuff to read and I don't know if it's been covered before but I have had good results using a pan of water on the plate setter under the meat in the BGE I don't use a basket, just hardwood char coal + some wood chunks spread out. I fill it right up then maintain 225* -245* for 12+ HRS seems like the more water the better I refill the pan after 6 Hrs brisket and ribs have been coming out great maybe I have been getting lucky? I have used homemade grill/smokers, Weber and Old Smoky kettle they ran hot and dried everything out, I never had much luck with them. I will check out the Bronco my family has been growing with Grand kids and another grill/smoker might be needed soon, good luck and happy grilling.
 
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The BGE is popular because it is a great combination smoker/grill. Easy temp. control, fairly low charcoal usage allowing long cooks.
 
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