Most everyone that knows me, knows that I love barbecue. Not just in the sense that I like to eat it, but all the small acts that come together over the ten plus hours it takes to cook brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, chicken, whatever. I love every part – from cutting and splitting wood, to feeding and maintaining the fire, to butchering and preparing the meat, and slicing or pulling the meat to serve. I love making and experimenting with sauces and rubs (although I find myself being a purist and using not much more than salt and pepper in most applications).
One of the most exciting parts of barbecue is that it’s completely unpredictable and requires a lot of organized improvisation. Over ten or twelve hours, a lot can change. The weather can go south in a hurry, the wood might end up being a bit more wet at the bottom of the pile, or you might have to deal with a ridiculous long stall which can turn a ten hour cook into thirteen plus hours.
I’ve run out of room on my cookers. At home I have two smokers which can cook about thirty pounds of meat combined. It’s a pain to use separate cookers for the same “production” so with my current equipment, I’m pretty maxed out. I’m including a quick description below in case you’re interested in what I’ve been using prior to and during the build I’ve been working on.
18” Weber Smokey Mountain
The Weber Smokey Mountain is pretty much impossible to screw up and always produces good food. I usually fill it will all natural lump charcoal with chunks of buried oak or hickory and dump a small load of lit coals on top and then close it up. If I open the intake vents about twenty percent, it will cook anywhere between 8 to 12 hours untouched. It has a huge water pan that could probably keep it going for 20 hours without drying up. For that reason, along with the portability, we take this one when we go camping in Lola (our Cherokee Wolf Pup 18TO). Just the fact that I can throw it in the bed of the truck and set it and forget it while we go to the beach or hiking with Eiko makes it perfect for small cooks on the road. I can generally do a single brisket, 2 to 3 pork shoulders, or a few racks of ribs in this cooker. Anything more and the airflow starts getting restricted.
16” Old Country BBQ Pit (Wrangler Model)
I bought this cooker for about $500.00, which at the time seemed like a huge price to pay for a pretty small and simple hunk of steel. This cooker is a simple offset style cooker, which is popular everywhere, from North Carolina to Texas. It’s nice and heavy (relatively) and weighs in at about 200 pounds. I had to make a few modifications from the start, see below, but it’s still decent out of the box. It’s got about 450 square inches of cooking space at the main grate, which is only slightly larger than the usable space of the Weber Smokey Mountain, but it’s capability to use wood as it’s ONLY fuel source really takes this cooker to the next level. It’s certainly not a set it and forget it type of device, but it is a classic design and has the potential to produce a much better-quality product using only hardwood, instead of charcoal. Using only wood is really the way to go for a purist like me, although I know that a gas assist might be in my future, if we ever decide to open a restaurant. Regardless, the design of this one is very similar to what I’ve designed and built in the Monte, so it’s been nice to experiment with a much smaller scale.
All this being said, I started building my dream cooker in February with a great friend as a mentor / teacher (if you haven’t gathered by now, I’ve nicknamed it the Monte). The paint will go on it this Saturday, and I’m stoked to reveal it and burn it in this weekend. It’s been four and a half months of hard work but it’s finally finished.
Stay posted, it’s coming soon…