My crossroads in bbq.

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Lovey
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My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Lovey » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:48 pm

Firstly, an apology for the length of this post.

I want to get more into low and slow bbq (don’t we all) and I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my bbqing so I’m looking for some advice and/or a shove in the right direction.

I currently have a 4 burner Beefeater, Weber kettle and a wood fired pizza oven. The Beefeater is no good for low temps, plus the gas usage would make it uneconomical for long cooks. The pizza oven is also out due to it being a steel construction. It does great pizza, but doesn’t retain the heat for long enough to do any type of extended cook.

This leaves the humble kettle. I know that they’re versatile and will do most things with a bit of patience and time. I’ve got a fair bit of the first, but not much spare of the second. I know that a lot of members swear by them and turn out some sensational produce using them. I know of the snake and minion methods and I’ve had a dry run with the snake, which was initially reasonably successful. I had the temp runaway mid-way though the snake, which I put down to the water pan either emptying out or it coming up to temp within the kettle and not acting like such a heat sink.
I had a fiddle with the vents, but I found it a bit hit and miss. I don’t know if the temps would settle down with a slab of meat in there as well, so the temp control whinge could be a moot point.

I initially thought of an offset smoker, as these seemed to be very versatile. The turn off for me is the ongoing tending of the fire. I know this will sound like sacrilege to some and it goes against my inner caveman, but I really don’t have the time to spend constantly maintaining and tending a fire.
I have asked/pestered various forum members and vendors for opinions of different equipment in the past, and their generous sharing of their knowledge is greatly appreciated, thank you. This knowledge has allowed me to make this little comparison of my various options.

The few options which I’ve tossed around thus far are, in no particular order are:-
- A stacker ring type converters like the Cajun bandit, Barbecue stacker and the Smoke EZ to make the kettle a bit more like a WSM or Pro Q.
- Buying a WSM or Pro Q water smoker.
- Buying a Smokenator.
- Buying a pellet cooker.
- Buying nothing and make a more concerted effort to learn the intricacies of the kettle.

I know deep down that I should knuckle down and give the last option a red hot go, and that the kettle is quite versatile, but I know that presently, I am its limiting factor.

I’ve come up with some pros and cons for each option:

Smokenator.
Pro’s – cheapest option and they look easy to use.
Cons – limited to 6 hour cook with the unit full of fuel (according to the web site). I don’t know if you can add fuel easily to it when it’s going. Mixed reviews, mainly in relation to fuel and water capacity.

Stacker convertor.
Pro’s – not as costly as buying a pellet cooker or water smoker. Enables me to keep the kettle that I’ve already got and make it more versatile/multi use.
Cons – as they are made overseas, with shipping costs and our exchange rate going against me now they’re fairly expensive, they mostly come in are more than the cost of a new kettle. I’ve also read mixed reviews on their
effectiveness against a fair dinkum water smoker.

Buying a water smoker like a WSM or Pro Q.
Pro’s – larger capacity and possibly more versatile than a kettle. I believe that they are easier to use and control the temps than a kettle and are more versatile (I have no idea about this point and I’m happy to be educated either way).
Cons – more expensive than the stacker convertors and kettles. It will also mean another piece of equipment taking up real estate on the deck unless I ditch the kettle In favour of one.

Buying a pellet cooker.
Pro’s – really set and forget for a long cook (provided you don’t run out of pellets of course). I believe they are versatile and good for most styles of outdoor cooking.
Cons – highest initial outlay cost, plus fairly high ongoing cost with pellets. More to break with electronics, moving parts and heat all in close proximity.

Buying nothing and really learning the kettle.
Pro’s – no cost apart from some sacrificial heat beads and meat for experimentation.
Cons – time consuming, but would the results be worthy of the effort put it?

I guess that I am mainly looking for simplicity for a long, slow cook. I don’t have to cook for hordes of people, just my family of 4. I am happy to be called lazy, but as romantic as the notion of lovingly tending a fire for hours at a time to achieve the perfect result sounds, it’s not a realistic option for me at this point in time. I guess a mathematical equation of effort required vs results gained could be in order.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading.
Steve.

P.S. I’ve posted this on multiple fora as I realise that some members are not active on all 3, so apologies to those that do frequent all 3.


wedwards
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My crossroads in bbq.

Post by wedwards » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:56 pm

Get the pro q - it's what I wish I had started with and will give you the best of both a kettle and smoker. I'm still trying to work out how to justify it alongside my WSM without sending the minister for finance into a fire breathing rage ;)

If all you want is smoking low and slow, then a WSM or entry level pro q is what you want. The pro q has some distinct advantages over the WSM in my opinion. Both allow you to essentially set and forget and have 12 hours plus of even temp cooking, which deals with your time issue. It's the simplest method I've ever used.

Lovey
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Lovey » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:17 pm

Thanks for your reply Wedwards,
Funnily enough I showed my lovely the WSM/Pro Q, expecting her to throw a wobbly. She said that they looked good and even ventured that they looked compact and wouldn't take up much room :lol: .
So that option might be viable.
Thanks again,
Steve.

Hogsy
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Hogsy » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:25 pm

Well I don't have to tell you my thoughts Lovey :)
But the game changer for me getting the feel for temps and regulating them in both a kettle and WSM was a decent probe thermometer like the Maverick ET-732. After using it a few times I knew where to position the vents and how it would react by moving them. It also gave me the confidence not to stress about small fluctuations
What are you using at the moment to check temps?
Don't forget the learning curve can be the most enjoyable part..... Besides the delicious smokey meat that is
Viva La Charcoal Revolution
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Lovey
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Lovey » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:53 pm

G'day Hogsy,
I thought you might have offered up something other than a kettle as an option :lol: :lol: :lol: .
You are one my inspirations for seeing what a kettle is really capable of.
I've got an ET-732 as well as a PT-100 and I use them both regularly. I also installed a thermometer in the lid of the kettle to give me a ball park figure, but I would rely more on the Mav's.
I don't stress about little temp swings, that'l happen from time to time. When I had the runaway temp which I referred to, it went up from 225 F to well over 300 F before I caught it. That could've been because it was a dry run, maybe a big hunk of meat would help with that?
Thanks again for your help,
Steve.

rosecran
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by rosecran » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:02 am

I was in the same position as you. Loved the idea of low&slow (and eating it) but not standing there to muck around with the vents. Bought a Temp controller.
Amazing. I've never looked back since. Longest cook I've done so far was 13 hours with no charcoal refilling. I love my kettle and temp controller. Kicks ass.
I couldn't convince myself to buy an offset as the kettle is big enough for me and the missus. It also allows me to be free to grill steaks, sausages etc etc on my other kettle when I am entertaining. Love it. Made me love Bbqing a lot more.

Davo
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Davo » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:18 am

OK...another Weber fan Boi here :lol:

Lovey.....I reckon you'd have a lot of fun with an 18.5 inch WSM easy to use, great results, and quite economical to cook with.

The Pro Q's are another option, theres 2 sizes...the 18 and 20 inch (better metal).......I've heard that perhaps Weber are now considering importing the 22 inch WSM but really, unless you're cooking for a lot of people, you don't need the larger models.

I normally only cook for me and the Mrs and the occassion friends but it's rare for me to use the bottom food grate....it all goes on the top.

If you use them as intended by using the water pan full of water, you will rarely get any kind of temp spike and any wavering of temps is so subtle, you'll hardly notice.

Once you get used to the WSM and know how to set it up (not difficult) it'll sit on it's temp for hours and hours and I've got a 15 hour overnighter on mine without losing much sleep...you just need to top up the waterpan about every 4 hours or so.
And I don't use any dang fangled temp hair dryer controllers....i only got a simple remote probe temp monitor...one of the original Weber ones.
You can use any charcoal or smoke wood you want or you could take out the pan and cook chicken the Ugly drum smoker way....by letting chicken drippings hit the coals below and they'll smoke themselves.

Pellet cookers are good, you get nice subtle wood flavours and they are pretty much turn-on, dial temp and walk away.....you need to be able to have easy access to supplies of pellets and it's still not real easy unless you're in a capitol city and they aren't that cheap......I can buy 10 kilos of heatbeads for just over $15 at Big W as apposed to a bag of pellets of 9kgs for nearly $30 at a major BBQ store so unless the supply becomes cheaper and more plentiful, I won't be going pellet again anytime soon...I learnt that when i had my Traeger...great Cooker....just exy to run unless it's smoking all the way.

A Komado might be a goer but they are bloody heavy and cumbersome and if you drop one and crack it...it's pretty much stuffed....it produces great food but they are limited even less so than a kettle but with the added advantage of having a higher lid.

The Weber kettle is a favourite of mine and I love using mine..they are so simple to use and are great fun for those who wish to get a bit more involved but they have limited lid height so this brings me back to a WSM bullet smoker. For $699 brand new you get one of the best smokers ever made that anyone can use with a bit of practice they have a high lid if yo want to do beer can chicken or a big Turkey.

Knowing what I know now and seeing what i've seen...I reckon you won't do wrong getting one of those Bullet type Smokers....WSM or ProQ (get the bigger one...better metal) either one will give you lots of fun. :D

Cheers

Davo
Moderator/ Admin

Weber Q320
Weber Performer Kettle
Weber WSM 18.5

urbangriller
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by urbangriller » Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:43 am

Yes, you can cook Low and Slow in the Kettle, and you will continue to play with the kettle, but it sounds like the pellet grill is the way if you want ease of use, and they are not expensive to run....my GMG Jim Bowie cost 80cents an hour to run at Low and Slow, compared to other fuels, that's as cheap as it gets!

Chris
Common Sense is so rare these days it should be a Super Power!

FirePlay
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by FirePlay » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:35 pm

Use the kettle first. Whatever you may end up buying later, you will benefit from learning to do it properly on the kettle. Don't be afraid to experiment a bit - you learn more that way and knowledge is power! A few things I have found:

- The snake method is good for 12 hours, which is way more than enough and allows you to start off with a roasting temp (say 350F or higher) and then drop to 225F or so later on, just by starting off with more fuel in the beginning. Remember it's time at temperature that matters - so get the food up to temp quick and then hold it there at a lower BBQ temp for a long time. Works for me! I reckon a lot of people get so anal about constant temps it detracts from the enjoyment of the whole experience. Really helps push the food through the stall too - try it and see whether it works for you.
- BBQ temps really don't matter all that much, as long as you are in the smoking range. 300F cooks food too! I reckon a double blind taste tester wouldn't notice much difference between something cooked at 225F or 300F anyway, provided it is foiled and rested etc at the right internal temp. So I just leave all the vents wide open and I've never had a problem. A decent hunk of meat does wonders in stabilising temps in a kettle.
- Depends on what you are cooking as well - a 4kg chuck is going to be pretty immune to temperature mistakes compared to a set of skinny ribs from Woolies.
- I have a roadside pickup kettle I use for smoking, an OTS for roasting and a cheap Performer I picked up for grilling. I can cater for a lot of people if necessary!

Just think of the food you could buy with the money you would spend in buying something new - I vote for more bbq'ing and less stressing!

Oh and pass me a beer too while you're at it! :D

Having said all that, if you want something you don't have to think about and just know will work, then either cook in the oven inside or grab a pellet pooper, along with your wallet!

alimac23

Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by alimac23 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:35 pm

Hi Steve,

Just my 2c worth but i was in the same boat last year with the weber kettle being the only thing i had that would cook low n slow, i had a lot of success with the snake method but it does require some tending and i found i had to knock the ash off of the coals and shuffle things around every few hours to keep temps stable.

I then tried a smokenator, they work but i personally found them a lot of effort to keep stable and if you use the water pan that comes with it then you will need to top up the water every hour or so, although the smokenator worked i personally found that it wasnt as simple as it was made out to be.

Finally last December i bit the bullet and bought an Akorn kamado style cooker from Bunnings, i can honestly say after the initial small learning curve that these things cook low n slow beautifully, they cook super high temp pizza (although you've already got the pizza oven so not sure how useful that is) and everyting in between, they are insanely efficient in charcoal consumption, in a 14 hour low n slow cook my akorn burns through about half a chimney of charcoal, if that. Once the temps are stable you can leave them alone for hours and they just sit there rock solid on temp.

I know you havent listed a Kamado in your list of things to consider above but i would say definitely don't rule them out as they are awesome cookers and very very versatile.

I've seen other posts too on here where other members have got some insanely good deals on run out stock from bunnings on the Akorn, if you can find one at a sale price then it would be a good choice.

FirePlay
Posts: 297
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:40 pm
Location: Perth, WA

Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by FirePlay » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:41 pm

Yep, in my world, an insulated metal kamado is the ultimate BBQ - low or high heat, provided you can access decent charcoal at a decent price.

Unfortunately, I live in Perth! :x

Lovey
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Lovey » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:38 pm

rosecran wrote:I was in the same position as you. Loved the idea of low&slow (and eating it) but not standing there to muck around with the vents. Bought a Temp controller.
Amazing. I've never looked back since. Longest cook I've done so far was 13 hours with no charcoal refilling. I love my kettle and temp controller. Kicks ass.
I couldn't convince myself to buy an offset as the kettle is big enough for me and the missus. It also allows me to be free to grill steaks, sausages etc etc on my other kettle when I am entertaining. Love it. Made me love Bbqing a lot more.
Thanks Rosecran,
I’ve had a few suggestions to stick it out with the weber, and you have put an interesting spin on that one. What sort of temperature control are you referring to?
Davo wrote:OK...another Weber fan Boi here :lol:
Lovey.....I reckon you'd have a lot of fun with an 18.5 inch WSM easy to use, great results, and quite economical to cook with.
The Pro Q's are another option, theres 2 sizes...the 18 and 20 inch (better metal).......I've heard that perhaps Weber are now considering importing the 22 inch WSM but really, unless you're cooking for a lot of people, you don't need the larger models.
I normally only cook for me and the Mrs and the occasion friends but it's rare for me to use the bottom food grate....it all goes on the top.
If you use them as intended by using the water pan full of water, you will rarely get any kind of temp spike and any wavering of temps is so subtle, you'll hardly notice.
Once you get used to the WSM and know how to set it up (not difficult) it'll sit on its temp for hours and hours and I've got a 15 hour overnighter on mine without losing much sleep...you just need to top up the waterpan about every 4 hours or so.
And I don't use any dang fangled temp hair dryer controllers....i only got a simple remote probe temp monitor...one of the original Weber ones.
You can use any charcoal or smoke wood you want or you could take out the pan and cook chicken the Ugly drum smoker way....by letting chicken drippings hit the coals below and they'll smoke themselves.
Pellet cookers are good, you get nice subtle wood flavours and they are pretty much turn-on, dial temp and walk away.....you need to be able to have easy access to supplies of pellets and it's still not real easy unless you're in a capitol city and they aren't that cheap......I can buy 10 kilos of heatbeads for just over $15 at Big W as apposed to a bag of pellets of 9kgs for nearly $30 at a major BBQ store so unless the supply becomes cheaper and more plentiful, I won't be going pellet again anytime soon...I learnt that when i had my Traeger...great Cooker....just exy to run unless it's smoking all the way.
A Komado might be a goer but they are bloody heavy and cumbersome and if you drop one and crack it...it's pretty much stuffed....it produces great food but they are limited even less so than a kettle but with the added advantage of having a higher lid.
The Weber kettle is a favourite of mine and I love using mine..they are so simple to use and are great fun for those who wish to get a bit more involved but they have limited lid height so this brings me back to a WSM bullet smoker. For $699 brand new you get one of the best smokers ever made that anyone can use with a bit of practice they have a high lid if you want to do beer can chicken or a big Turkey.
Knowing what I know now and seeing what I’ve seen...I reckon you won't do wrong getting one of those Bullet type Smokers....WSM or ProQ (get the bigger one...better metal) either one will give you lots of fun. :D
Cheers
Davo
Thanks for your detailed response Davo,
I’ve had a few people recommend the WSM or Pro Q, they seem to be pretty good bang for buck, plus relatively easy to use. The cost and availability of the fuel is certainly something that I’m weighing up. Heat beads are cheap and readily available, lump is neither, pellets I can probably get locally at the normal retail prices.
urbangriller wrote:Yes, you can cook Low and Slow in the Kettle, and you will continue to play with the kettle, but it sounds like the pellet grill is the way if you want ease of use, and they are not expensive to run....my GMG Jim Bowie cost 80cents an hour to run at Low and Slow, compared to other fuels, that's as cheap as it gets!
Chris
Thanks Chris,
The pellet units are at the top of the tree for set and forget, which is very appealing. The initial cost is a bit of a sticking point at the moment, although tax time is coming up :) :( .
FirePlay wrote:Use the kettle first. Whatever you may end up buying later, you will benefit from learning to do it properly on the kettle. Don't be afraid to experiment a bit - you learn more that way and knowledge is power! A few things I have found:
- The snake method is good for 12 hours, which is way more than enough and allows you to start off with a roasting temp (say 350F or higher) and then drop to 225F or so later on, just by starting off with more fuel in the beginning. Remember it's time at temperature that matters - so get the food up to temp quick and then hold it there at a lower BBQ temp for a long time. Works for me! I reckon a lot of people get so anal about constant temps it detracts from the enjoyment of the whole experience. Really helps push the food through the stall too - try it and see whether it works for you.
- BBQ temps really don't matter all that much, as long as you are in the smoking range. 300F cooks food too! I reckon a double blind taste tester wouldn't notice much difference between something cooked at 225F or 300F anyway, provided it is foiled and rested etc at the right internal temp. So I just leave all the vents wide open and I've never had a problem. A decent hunk of meat does wonders in stabilising temps in a kettle.
- Depends on what you are cooking as well - a 4kg chuck is going to be pretty immune to temperature mistakes compared to a set of skinny ribs from Woolies.
- I have a roadside pickup kettle I use for smoking, an OTS for roasting and a cheap Performer I picked up for grilling. I can cater for a lot of people if necessary!
Just think of the food you could buy with the money you would spend in buying something new - I vote for more bbq'ing and less stressing!
Oh and pass me a beer too while you're at it! :D
Having said all that, if you want something you don't have to think about and just know will work, then either cook in the oven inside or grab a pellet pooper, along with your wallet!
Thanks Fireplay,
You make some very good points for sticking with, and learning the ways of the kettle. There’s more than a few forumites who turn out amazing tucker using their kettles who I’m in awe of. Hopefully I can join their ranks one day.
alimac23 wrote:Hi Steve,
Just my 2c worth but i was in the same boat last year with the weber kettle being the only thing i had that would cook low n slow, i had a lot of success with the snake method but it does require some tending and i found i had to knock the ash off of the coals and shuffle things around every few hours to keep temps stable.
I then tried a smokenator, they work but i personally found them a lot of effort to keep stable and if you use the water pan that comes with it then you will need to top up the water every hour or so, although the smokenator worked i personally found that it wasnt as simple as it was made out to be.
Finally last December i bit the bullet and bought an Akorn kamado style cooker from Bunnings, i can honestly say after the initial small learning curve that these things cook low n slow beautifully, they cook super high temp pizza (although you've already got the pizza oven so not sure how useful that is) and everyting in between, they are insanely efficient in charcoal consumption, in a 14 hour low n slow cook my akorn burns through about half a chimney of charcoal, if that. Once the temps are stable you can leave them alone for hours and they just sit there rock solid on temp.
I know you havent listed a Kamado in your list of things to consider above but i would say definitely don't rule them out as they are awesome cookers and very very versatile.
I've seen other posts too on here where other members have got some insanely good deals on run out stock from bunnings on the Akorn, if you can find one at a sale price then it would be a good choice.
Thanks Alimac,
Although I’ve heard many good reports about komados in general, the availability of reasonably priced, quality lump is a limiting factor. It would seem that I live in a lump void :roll: .
Thanks again all for taking the time to reply, its very appreciated.
Steve.

Davo
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Davo » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:58 pm

Lovey,

The recommendations that I made was also taking in account the space that you have available to put another BBQ, if it's not a massive issue...the cheapest way out is have another Kettle on the go...an OTG is half the price of a WSM :)


cheers

Davo
Moderator/ Admin

Weber Q320
Weber Performer Kettle
Weber WSM 18.5

Lovey
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Re: My crossroads in bbq.

Post by Lovey » Tue Apr 21, 2015 4:48 pm

Thanks Davo,
I've got plenty of space on the deck, so no worries in that regards.
If I were going to invest in another bbq, I probably wouldn't get another kettle, as I'd have to ask the same long winded question again sometime down the track :lol: .

alimac23

My crossroads in bbq.

Post by alimac23 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:35 pm

Hey guys todds party hire in moreley does lump at a decent price, 20kg bags for $30


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