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Vertical vs Horizontal

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by smokinkc, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. which one and why?
  2. Vertical for easier heat control  CON; less cooking area.
  3. what makes it easier to control the heat vs a horizontal with or without a side box?
  4. I recently swapped to from years of smoking with a vertical smoker to a horizontal smoker.  Brinkman square, 2 door charcoal smoker to a horizontal Triton combo grill/smoker.  Why?
    • Extra grill space albeit only marginally larger. 
    • Putting meat on and off the grill, wrapping in foil, spritzing can all be done from a standing position due to the large lid rather than through a door at waist level.
    • Ease of tending to the fire with a firebox.  Adding additional fuel is much easier than with my old smoker.  The top of the fire box opens up rather than adding charcoal at ankle level through a door into a pan.   
    • I can load a larger amount of charcoal for longer smokes due to the larger firebox
    What I miss........
    • I did not have the temp control issues with my old Brinkman square charcoal smoker that I have now.  I did add a different charcoal pan to the vertical smoker.  I have a 25 to 50 degree temp difference from left to right on the horizontal.  Working on the mods to correct that now.   It seems most if not all of the low end horizontal smokers require some minor modifications but tinkering is part of the fun for me.
    • Portability.  Smaller unit was easy to move around and store when not being used. 
    Just my opinions. 

  5. The temperature seemed easier to control on the vertical to me.  There is a water pan directly between the charcoal and the meat.  Adding water will cool the smoke chamber down.  Maybe I was more accepting of the temp being what it was and learning to deal with it than I am with the horizontal.  

    I never really noticed a huge difference in the vertical when smoking things on the top shelf or the bottom shelf.  I know there is a difference smoking meat left or right on the horizontal.  

    To be honest it probably more what you get used to than anything.

    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  6. All of Packdog's remarks are accurate. Still most serious Q'ers out there use horizontal smokers. The "big boys" can cook large quantities and varieties of food and have learned to use any temperature variations to their advantage.
  7. cromag

    cromag Smoking Fanatic

    I'm leaving vertical for horizontal because of heat control. You can't have the lid open on vertical at all to mop without your temp shooting over 300 degrees. 
  8. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    It all depends on what you want to do with it, patio, trailer mounted, big parties, etc.  There are a number of great vertical units out there, Backwoods, Stumps, Pitmaster along with numerous traditional horizontal builders making their own versions of uprights or verticals.   If you plan on comp cooking or just want a more hands off approach (ie: sleep), most people are going with verticals.  Minimal fuel, long cook times, insulated, heat control, all are +'s.  Depending on the size you buy and the ability you have to move one around, there are some large verticals that do as much if not more meat than a standard patio offset.  Most are ready to hook up DigiQ's or BBQ Gurus within minutes for even easier temp control.  I use an offset RF trailer rig that I built earlier last year and love it, but if I ever decided to really get out and cook maybe 12-16 or more comps a year and travel a bit more (currently cooking 6-8), I would probably be leaning towards a vertical unit.  Pack all your stuff into a 12 foot cargo trailer including a Backwoods Chubby or 2, prep tables, a sink and have a place to sleep at night in the trailer. Sleep is critical when your traveling all day on Friday, cooking all night and all day Saturday, then turning around Saturday night headed home.  I have everything I need on my trailer rig, wood storage, propane burners, tool box for all my supplies and tools, a sink wiith running water and of course the pit, everything I need to travel and cook, but it's never going to be as easy as the verticals.  

    I think out on the comp circuit, it's probably nearing a 50/50 split on horizontal to vertical units.  Of course there are also a lot of pellet cookers (which to me is just flat out cheating!), some UDS's, WSM's and any number of other units being used as well.   Personally, while it may seem like I am defending verticals or uprights, my heart is with the traditional offset (especially since I built and own one), there's just something about black steel, smoke and that offset look that screams "Good Q cooking here!"

    Vertical for easier heat control  CON; less cooking area.   Take a look at the Pitmaster Vault (some of the finest looking rigs made today!  They also offer an offset, the Sniper.) or the Stumps stretch, you can cram plenty of food into those bad boys.

    what makes it easier to control the heat vs a horizontal with or without a side box?    Smaller fire, charcoal baskets that will burn in a "S" shape, insulated, water pan acts as a heat sink helping with a more even temp.

    Still most serious Q'ers out there use horizontal smokers.    For the Joe American, that is 100% correct.  One of the main reasons is the availability of old tanks, pipes, etc.  We all know someone who can weld or can help with the construction of a traditional style pit, but very few that have ever encountered an upright.   I don't know if "serious" is the word, maybe traditional...that fits.  Here in Texas, especially out in the Austin area where all the famous Q spots are, they pretty much all cook on offsets, not always steel, but brick and mortar with a fire to one side.  Still offset cooking.   

    I'm sure CroMag can add some more positives and negatives since he once was an owner of a vert.  Hope some of this info has given you some insights. 
    magnus likes this.
  9. cromag

    cromag Smoking Fanatic

    There is a fire box idea that allow an offset to burn in an "s" shape slowing down the rate of fuel consumption. What I like more about an offset over vertical (keep in mind I use a UDS but will be going back to offset soon) is when I was smoking a couple butts and ribs it was easier to add more chunks to the fire in an offset when it came time to add some to smoke the ribs when using charcoal. The problem in my drum smoker is when it came time to add more chunks I had to pull out the racks to drop the wood in. Now some horizontals come with side doors or even racks that have a small corner that opens with a henge but one think I could never be under control was the rapid jump in temp when I needed to open the lid. For me I want to be able to add more meat wood or mop without going through the hassle of fighting the air intake because once your temp spikes high good luck fighting it to come down quickly.

    Heres the basket that allows a s shape burn on offsets. It's titled heavy duty charcoal basket

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  10. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Yea, I've studied the S shape design for mine and since I use a charcoal basket in mine already, not a S shape one, but a 21 x 14 basket in a 24 x 24 firebox, it wouldn't take much to try.  It was originally 21 x 21, but with the charcoal spread out that thin, I was not getting a very long burn time, so I sectioned off and use only 2/3 the original size.  I can get 5+ hours if I did not add any wood and cook along at 225 or so, however I normally cook at 250 and above, so I eat up more fuel and therefore create myself more work because every hour or so I need to throw a few sticks of oak or mesquite or pecan to the fire to maintain 250.  I have enough metal at work to make a S shape to fit in my current basket, it might be worth a try if i want to start some butts and briskets at midnight and have them cook at maybe 200 or so for 6-8 hours, or until I wake up, then ramp up the temp in the morning to finish them off.  Back to a true slow and low..maybe?   For fuel hog like mine, it might be worth it, I just don't anticipate being able to hold 250+, 200 should be attainable though.

    Here is a pic of my basket with the divider in it.
    pittocarrillo likes this.
  11. I saw on Craigslist a guy was selling a vertical smoker with a side firebox with "thick steel" going today or tomorrow to take a look at it. Currently I have a chargriller duo with a side firebox. Any thoughts? The price was around $300

  12. This is the one I was talking about
  13. I was wondering what type of tinkering did you do. The reason why I am asking is because I am going to purchase a smoker and I am not sure what type of smoker to buy!
  14. pappy84

    pappy84 Newbie

    Can you provide more information about the 'S' shape?  I am getting ready to build a brick setup and am still deciding between vertical and horizontal
  15. Hippy Hay

    Hippy Hay Newbie

    Good day. I have a vertical much the same as the one shown here. Mine is a New Braunfels Bandera. It is the real deal. Char-broil had bought them out apparently and is now making this unit with Oaklahoma Joe's which Char-broil bought into as well. No comparison from what I understand. Steel thickness on My New Braunfels Bandera is far thicker than the Oaklahoma Joe's Bandera. I can't say anything bad about My Bandera. It certainly holds at 250 with ease. Easy access to fire box. Holds a Decent amount of Meat.
  16. HowlingDog

    HowlingDog Smoke Blower

    You could make your own vertical:

    Hippy Hay likes this.
  17. Hippy Hay

    Hippy Hay Newbie

  18. Hippy Hay

    Hippy Hay Newbie

    That's My New Braunfels Bandera . Sure like that Home Made Unit