Tag Archive for ‘barbeque’

The Key to Smoking a Great Brisket

Smoked, sliced beef brisket

If you held a gun to my head and delivered the ultimatum to me in the guise of a question of, “If you could only cook one food in the realm of barbecue for the rest of your life, what would it be?”, the subjective answer of mine is brisket.

The first time I ever tasted a smoked beef brisket cooked by someone at their home, and not at a restaurant, was in 2016. It was sitting in a foil pan, and it was chopped brisket, almost shredded. It sat in a mix of beef broth and juices from the meat itself. It was served for breakfast with biscuits. I ate mine on one of those said biscuits with a little bit of mayonnaise. Unconventional, but it was delicious. At that point in 2016, I had little to no knowledge about barbecue. If you have read my past posts, you will know that before 2016 my idea of barbecue was, well, barbecue sauce. I cannot emphasize how ignorant I was.

When I received my first smoker in December 2016, which was a used vertical Brinkmann Trailmaster stick burner smoker, I had brisket on my brain in terms of ideas of what I wanted to try smoking in the future, and so I hopped on Google and devoured all the information I could on how to smoke a brisket.

In that research, I learned that ‘chopped’ brisket was a variation of cooking it to the point of it being overcooked by traditional barbecue standards. I discovered that it was supposed to be sliced, and for the brisket to be considered true smoked beef brisket, that it would have to ‘pass the bend test’ as the slices would have to ‘fold’ over your finger when you hold it up, and furthermore, it would need to pass the ‘pull test’ where you take a slice of brisket and slightly pull it apart as it breaks into two pieces while still maintaining its sliced form, proving tenderness.

The brisket pull test

The brisket ‘pull test.’

Nonetheless, I did not smoke my first brisket until September 2017, and by that time I had been using my 22.5” Weber Smokey Mountain cooker since June of that year. A whole packer, which is what one calls a full brisket featuring its two parts – the point and the flat – in the barbecue world, was on my radar, but I was cautious. Before I continue, I want to mention that the point is the ‘fatty’ part of the brisket, often used to make burnt ends, and the flat is the learner part of the brisket.

I was daunted. When I was researching how to properly smoke a brisket, I discovered that it was allegedly the toughest food to properly cook in the barbecue world, and it served as some sort of litmus test for all true pitmasers.

With that said, when I smoked my first brisket, it was a four or five pound flat from Sam’s Club. On that day in September 2017, I was smoking a host of items in my WSM, from a head of cabbage with butter and Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning (so good, by the way!) to potatoes and a pork butt for a family dinner.

Smoked and sliced beef brisket Smoked beef brisket

Somehow, I managed to cook it just right, and my family loved it.

My confidence skyrocketed, and just a few weeks later in October 2017, I bought a 12-lb. whole packer brisket from Wal-Mart. This time, instead of starting early in the morning like I did with the first brisket flat, I wanted to cook this one overnight. I started it at around 9 p.m. in my WSM with a mix of Kingsford charcoal briquettes, hickory and applewood.

When I woke up at 8 a.m. the following day, my WSM was still running at around 220-225 degrees, and the brisket was reading 180 degrees on my meat thermometer. Here is where I made a mistake: I wrapped it in foil and placed it back into the WSM. Now, the foiling of the brisket was not the mistake, but what I subsequently chose to do surely was. After another two hours in the pit, the brisket had not reached the internal temp of 200-202 like I was hoping for, so I removed it and placed it in my oven on 375 degrees. Yes, I really did that, and now I’m cringing.

Placing the brisket at that temperature in the oven wouldn’t have been the downfall if I had left it in there for a short amount of time, but it was in the oven for over an hour and a half, and when I removed it, I immediately opened the foil and sliced it up. Guess what? It was stringy. I made pulled brisket. I was so upset. After doing so well with the brisket flat, with this whole packer I failed. Now, was it still delicious? Absolutely. It was smokey, rich with flavor and tender, but that isn’t how I wanted to cook it. I made pulled brisket sandwiches that day, and the next day I made brisket chili with the leftovers. Not all was lost, but I learned a lesson on that day.

The beef brisket that I ruined

Here is the beautiful beef brisket that I subsequently ruined. I don’t have any post-shred photos because I was too upset with myself to take any.

You can’t truly hurry barbecue. Sure, you can wrap meats in foil – the ‘Texas Crutch’ method – and speed up the cooking process, but speaking of a process, that is exactly what barbecue is. I rushed this brisket and threw it in the oven at a high temperature to hurry it along, and I overcooked it.

Nowadays, I smoke my briskets in one of my Barrel House Cookers, hot’n’fast style. I will hang them in the BHCs until they reach an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees, wrap them in foil, re-hang them in the cooker and let it roll until I hit 198-202 degrees and remove it afterwards for a lengthy (one to four hours) rest in a cooler, wrapped in a towel.

Rest Your Brisket

That is the biggest key to smoking a great brisket. Resting it. Perhaps you thought my long-windedness was going to arrive to the conclusion of, ‘not hurrying it along,’ which is also important, but notice when I was describing my failure above, I immediately opened the foil and began to cut the brisket up. When you rest a brisket, you allow the juices – that would otherwise rapidly leak on out of the meat, along with the steam from the heat, causing the meat to dry up – to thicken and release more slowly, resulting in a juicy brisket.

Furthermore, resting a brisket allows the collagen within the meat to soften and become gelatin. The fat further renders. The product itself is simply better.

I have smoked at least thirty briskets since that fateful day in October 2017, and it still haunts me. Luckily, that has never happened again.

While I do smoke 99% of my briskets in one of my Barrel House Cookers these days, last May I did complete another overnight smoked brisket in my Weber Smokey Mountain, and this time it was a success. When I smoke up the morning after I began the cook, I wrapped the brisket in foil, added some more charcoal to my WSM, and allowed it to ride for a few hours until it hit 199 degrees internally. Afterwards, it rested in a cooler for over two hours. The results were much better than they were from that day in October 2017.

The key to smoking a great brisket: be patient, allow it to ride out for the full cook and yield it the proper time it needs to rest before you slice it up.

Launching the Grizzly BBQ YouTube Channel

I have spent over three years toiling around with the prospect of putting together a YouTube channel for Grizzly BBQ.

Over the last year, I have posted a few videos that I had posted on Instagram, but they were hardly YouTube worthy. Being that the videos were from Instagram, they were short clips with nary any interaction involved. I suppose I just wanted to kick the channel off. I would have stopped procrastinating and started this YouTube adventure much sooner, but with 2019 being such a chaotic year, I had my priorities placed elsewhere. With more time available in my days in 2020, I am able to commit my energy into growing this cooking channel.

A few days ago, I cooked up a birthday dinner for my cousin Rachel’s 11-year-old son, and I decided to film bits and pieces of that day’s cook (which you can see above in my unofficial Grizzly BBQ channel introduction). I smoked a 10-lb. pork butt in my Barrel House Cooker 14D, and in my Barrel House Cooker 18C I smoked a 3-pound chub of bologna along with over 60 bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers (some with cheddar cheese; others with cream cheese). Indoors, I deep-fried over 60 chicken wings and around 20 chicken legs/drumsticks.

Yesterday, I lightly documented my cook of a double smoked ham. It was a precooked ham that was smoked with hickory wood, so I fired up my offset stick burner smoker and smoked it in order to get it up to temperature (130 degrees) with a few split logs of hickory that I had on hand.

Somehow, prior to the cook from the other day, I had 49 subscribers to my channel. I believe I know the culprit behind that. Back in February, I posted a short clip to my @grizzly.bbq Instagram page where I was hot’n’fast smoking some burgers and bacon. I live on a rural piece of farmland, and my smoker is just in front of a fence that features a vast field behind it. Cows, being the curious animals that they are, lined up behind the fence where my offset smoker sits, and I shot a quick video cracking a couple of jokes. I said, “Welcome to my barbecue class. Grizzly BBQ. I guess these (alluding to the cows watching) are my students… and the product.” Somehow, this video has over 8,000 views at the time of writing this post. I reckon that is where the bulk of my subscribers have come from.

There are going to be some growing pains along the way. I am not used to filming my cooks in this manner. I’m used to posting short clips to Instagram. I’m new to video editing, and I have simply been doing so using an app on my phone, but in the near future I’m going to look into other forms of video editing software. I’m such an amateur right now. I’m filming with my phone and winging it.

I would like to invite you to come aboard and join me in this YouTubing adventure. Hit me up with some likes and a subscription. I would greatly appreciate it. I promise the videos will be better as time ensues. I won’t only feature barbecue, but I plan on doing other forms of grub slinging from grilling to griddling on my Blackstone griddles to documenting some indoor cooks.

Is It Still Worth it to Buy a Barrel House Cooker?

Is It Still Worth it to Buy a Barrel House Cooker?

You have been in the market under the notion of buying a new smoker for a while. After much deliberation, you decide that you are most interested in a drum/barrel-like smoker for hot’n’fast style cooking and the ability to hang meats. In your barbecue-fueled research, you come across the BHC (Barrel House Cooker) and the PBC (Pit Barrel Cooker). The PBC is arguably the most popular, highly heralded pre-built drum cooker in the world. However, your interest is piqued by the features of the BHC, as it appears it can do a bit more in the cooking and user accessibility side of things than the PBC.

However, in the same vain of research, you might discover that Barrel House Cooker was recently acquired by Pit Barrel Cooker. That could be why you are here right now, as you consider your upcoming prospective purcase of a new drum smoker. Yes, that is true. Barrel House is now owned by the Noah Glanville (creator of the PBC). In short, a legal battle broke out after PBC sued BHC. The results of the lawsuit found that BHC would have to pay royalties to Noah and PBC with some of the proceeds from each sale of a BHC. It wasn’t long before PBC acquired BHC in an act of debt forgiveness.

You might be wondering, with the advent of this news being uncovered, if it is still worth purchasing a Barrel House Cooker. My answer to that curiosity is a resounding yes. You can take my word however you want it, but I have two Barrel House Cookers, and I have cooked with them at least one hundred times since my original purchase in April 2018. You can read my extensive review of the Barrel House Cooker 18C here.

The Glanville family announced that Barrel House Cookers are going to continue to be produced alongside Pit Barrel Cookers. It has been noted that they will still be operating under the two separate names. This should dispel any concerns over the cookers being removed from the market.

Barrel House Cooker 18C

My Barrel House Cooker 18C smoking away. Photo is from July 2018.

I bought my BHC 18C cooker for $249 (plus tax) in 2018. Nowadays, the BHC is sold on Amazon for $299. While the price increase is unfortunate, the BHC is more than worth purchasing, especially over the PBC. I absolutely know and understand that the PBC is a fine, exceptional cooker — which is why it is so popular and receives as much love as it does — but I simply prefer the BHC’s plethora of extra features, which is objectively cool to use when possible.

These are a couple of the advantages the Barrel House Cooker offers over the Pit Barrel Cooker (it is actually nice to be able to write this now, without fear of debates arising over BHC vs. PBC, now knowing that Noah Glanville and Co. are benefiting from both entities now).

Advantages (Features) of the BHC That Are Better Than the PBC

  • Easier access to modify your coal/wood positioning or remove ash. On the Pit Barrel Cooker, access to your charcoal basket is rather limited, since you have to sit the basket inside the cooker, at the bottom, and being able to access the basket of coals while in the middle of a cook is next to impossible barring some unnecessary, aggravating inconveniences. With the Barrel House Cooker, you can remove the middle base of the cooker from the bottom, remove the charcoal basket and empty ashes (using some heat resistant gloves) and resume cooking once placing the base back onto the cooker.
  • Perhaps it is the bigger competitive advantage of the two, but the Barrel House Cooker has made the bottom part of its cookers to where you can place the cooking grate over top of where you have your charcoal and use it as a hibachi! As far as I know, this cannot be done on the Pit Barrel Cooker. There is nothing like smoking a tri-tip until you hit about 120-125 degrees on the internal temperature before removing the base, adding the cooking grate to the bottom, over top of the coals, and searing that delicious tri-tip to perfection. The options are virtually unlimited as far as what you’d like to reverse sear by par-smoking a particular piece of meat(s) and finishing on the hibachi insert.
  • The Barrel House Cooker features a thermometer on the lid while the Pit Barrel Cooker does not. I know plenty of (myself included) barbecue fanatics who like to use thermometers made by Thermoworks or Maverick (and others) to gauge the grate temperatures, but I find this to be a point worth mentioning.

If you are on the fence, I can’t help but recommend that you go ahead and give Barrel House Cooker a shot. The features are nice, it is durable (I can speak for myself, and for many others from a Barrel House Cooker hangout group on social media, when I write that) and easy to use. It pumps out excellent barbecue, which I can also vouch for, and you will find that in a myriad of my posts on here where I have been consistently using my Barrel House Cookers for the last two years. My only complaint is that I did not purchase one sooner.

Barrel House Cooker Has Been Acquired By Pit Barrel Cooker

Barrel House Cooker Has Been Acquired By Pit Barrel Cooker

It is official, and I’m late to the party of announcing this, but about three weeks ago it was announced that Barrel House Cooker Company has been acquired by Noah Glanville, creator of the Pit Barrel Cooker Company. I like to keep the readers of Grizzly BBQ in the ‘know’ of this type of news, especially since I’m an avid user of both the Barrel House Cooker 14D — which has unfortunately been discontinued — and the Barrel House Cooker 18C.

This was the announcement posted by Noah Glanville of PBC:

This is Noah Glanville, some of you may know my family for our popular Pit Barrel Cooker, and I’m excited to announce today that we have recently expanded our barbecue family with the acquisition of The Barrel House Cooker Company, LLC. As pioneers in the vertical cooker market, we’ve always strived to bring the best products to the consumer. Part of that winning formula is making our customers a big part of our decision-making process, especially when it comes to product and innovation. So, we’re excited to bring our industry knowledge together with your passion for the Barrel House Cooker to chart the future course for the company and the brand.

Welcome to our barbecue family, and expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks. In the meantime, stay safe in these uncertain times, and join us in sharing a great meal with family.

Thank you,

Noah Glanville

Owner of The Barrel House Cooker Company, LLC

Cofounder, President and CEO of Pit Barrel Cooker Co.

If you are interested in reading the press release which concerns the announcement of the acquisition, click here.

If you aren’t in the knowing of the swing of things, a legal battle was formed between Pit Barrel Cooker and Barrel House Cooker when the two were separate entities. PBC alleged that its design was duplicated as part of a contract dispute, with possible claims that BHC reneged on the contract in order to create its drum smoker. The result of the lawsuit featured PBC being paid payments (by BHC) and receiving royalties from future sales of the BHC, which was effective beginning around sometime in May 2018 (the time the lawsuit was resolved). From what I have heard, the original owner of Barrel House Cooker Co. chose to ‘hand over’ the company as a whole to Noah and Pit Barrel Cooker Co. as part of debt forgiveness.

As for what the future of Barrel House Cooker entails? This is a post by BHC on social media:

The Barrel House Cooker Company, LLC and Pit Barrel Cooker Co. are two separate companies and brands. We are always innovating and listening to our customer’s feedback. At this time there are no plans to consolidate nor combine the two cookers.

I am ecstatic to hear that Noah and PBC are going to continue to create Barrel House Cookers going forward. This is exceptional news. I have said it in multiple posts on Grizzly BBQ, but I can’t help but feel like the Barrel House is a superior cooker in comparison to the Pit Barrel. Sure, the PBC is more popular and was the first commercially successful pre-built drum smoker to practically take over the market in the realm of drum cookers, but the features of the BHC — thermometer on the lid, removable charcoal base, ability to use the aforementioned charcoal base as a hibachi by sitting the grates directly on top of it to sear things like tri-tip or thick cuts of steak — puts it over the top.

I have also stated time and time again that, if BHC were to quit producing cookers altogether and my two cookers were to wear out, I would have no problem purchasing a PBC because I am fully aware of how excellent they are. At the same rate, I would have been underwhelmed because the PBC simply has less features and is not as user accessible in comparison to the BHC, and that is an objective fact.

Ever since the beginning of 2019, I have been wary about the future of Barrel House.

I feel that I am safe to say this now, but in November 2018, a former employee of Barrel House — someone who I am friends with to this day — sent me a message telling me that he and a multitude of his colleagues had been laid off by BHC Co. He then told me that he had been told that the company was planning on selling the remainder of its cookers and was going to subsequently shut down. He had no information beyond that, as that was all the information he was told. He asked me for the conversation to remain between the two of us during that time. Now that Pit Barrel has acquired Barrel House, with granted permission I feel that such older news like that is now worth being mentioned, since the end of Barrel House did not reach fruition, thankfully.

Going forward, it is going to be interesting to see what Pit Barrel decides to do with Barrel House. I have my reservations and concerns. The two Barrel House Cooker models that I own, which I purchased in early 2018, are sturdy and have survived hundreds of cooks in the last two years, have proven to be sturdy and durable. However, I can’t help but wonder if Noah and PBC will begin using cheaper parts to produce them as time ensues. This is not me throwing any shade of Noah or PBC, but simply curiosity out of the prospect of wondering if that will happen in order to save money and overhead overall.

Furthermore, it was announced a while back that Barrel House has discontinued its original 14D model, and that is a crying shame. Speaking subjectively on behalf of my own opinion, the 14D model is superior to the 18C. While it holds less food given that it is a smaller cooker, I liked three of its features much better than the 18C: the 14D’s midsection can latch to the charcoal base which makes it more secure and airtight, the 14D has a lid hinge unlike the 18C and, finally, the 14D has intake vents on the lower side of the charcoal base which is different than the 18C as the 18C features the overall intake vent placed on the bottom of the cooker and is controlled by a ‘pull-in’/’pull-out’ handle. Asides from that, the tallness of the 14D is an advantage. With the 18C, it is shorter and things like ribs and big briskets can hang too close to the fire*.

* – A stainless steel extension kit for the Barrel House Cooker 18C was created in 2018. I received one and use it to this day. It works fantastically well in order to keep food further away from the fuel/heat source. However, for the time being, the extension kit has been discontinued and it is not being made, much to the chagrin of new users who are having to cut their ribs in half in order to hang them in the 18C cookers. Hopefully Noah and PBC will listen to all the collective requests being mentioned by users who do not have possession of the original extension kit, because it is a necessity to use one from where I stand.

I appreciate that Barrel House Cookers are still going to be produced going forward. They are exceptional cookers and I recommend them to everyone who is looking into buying a drum smoker. Perhaps now, PBC and BHC users can come together and enjoy the discussion of great barbecue rather than engaging in any types of pseudo-rivalries that could come about in a heated discussion over ‘which cooker is better’. It is all about sharing the love and creation of good grub, no matter how you see it.

You can currently purchase a Barrel House Cooker on Amazon.

Poor Man’s Brisket: Smoked Chuck Roast

Juicy smoked chuck roast
When I first began my barbecue journey, one of the first meats I attempted to smoke was chuck roast. It is nicknamed ‘poor man’s brisket’ because it is a fatty, collagenous cut of beef, much like brisket, that requires a cook time that allows the tissue within to soften and break down to render it into a tender, edible finished product. While you may spend upwards to $40 to $50 or more on a big hunk of brisket, chuck roasts are smaller and in the range of two to five pounds, and you spend less in comparison to what you will on brisket.

I think the name ‘poor man’s brisket’ is a bit of a misnomer, though. Over in my neck of the woods, chuck roast is often more expensive than brisket (per pound), coming in at $5/lb. while a choice brisket from my local Wal-Mart can be purchased at a price point of $2.96/lb.

With that said, one of my local grocery stores recently ran a sale for chuck roast at $2.99/lb., and I picked a couple of them up for a big barbecue dinner I planned for my family and friends, because for chuck roast that is quite the bargain. Poor man’s brisket or not. Maybe we should start calling brisket, ‘poor man’s chuck roast’ for now on.

When you think of barbecue, you probably don’t think about chuck roast. When you think of a chuck roast, I’m sure you are likely to think of a big pot roast consisting of the meat, carrots, potatoes, onions and maybe mushrooms cooked up low and slow in a slow cooker. Well, sure, that is its most common use in the realm of the culinary world, but it is a sneaky, delicious cut of meat in the barbecue world and I think it is time that pitmasters everywhere begin accepting it as a veritable element in the game of smoked grub.

Smoking a Chuck Roast

2 Gringo's Chupacabra Brisket Magic

I want to share with you how to go into ‘next level’ mode when you smoke a chuck roast.

As I stated, I purchased two chuck roasts while they were on sale at the aforementioned local grocery store. One was around 2.6 pounds while the other weighed in at just shy of 3 pounds. The night before I began the cook, I took the guesswork out of the preparation by applying my rub of choice for these chuckies. I sliced both of them down the middle to create four equally sized pieces. There were two reasons I did this: for one, doing so meant a quicker cook time, and two, more surface area to create a nice, dark bark on the outside of the meat so that when it was time to cut up the finished product, there would be more bark in more bites for my guests to enjoy, and if you are into barbecue, you know that the bark is everyone’s favorite part of the meat.

I rubbed the four hunks of chuck roast with
2 Gringo’s Chupacabra Brisket Magic. I had them sitting on a sheet pan that I then placed in the refrigerator to sit overnight, allowing the rub to settle onto the surface of the meat.

The next morning, I fired up one of my drum smokers, my Barrel House Cooker 18C, with a combination of Kingsford’s charcoal briquettes, two chunks of hickory wood and two chunks of pecan wood, and when the smoker’s internal temperature gauge read 200, I added the four pieces of chuck roast to the middle grate and closed it up. This was at around 9 in the morning.

The reason I added the chuck roasts to the cooker at 200 rather than waiting for the temperature to rise even further is because I wanted to go ahead and allow them to hit some smoke, as the heat was coming up quite nicely, and the actual temperature of the middle of the grate was probably at 250 degrees since it was closer to the fire source. In a drum smoker, the cooking environment is hotter than other smokers since one is typically not using a water pan, so there is no type of heat deflector between the meat and the cooking source.

Bark from smoked chuck roast

Just take a look at the bark on this smoked chuck roast!

Sliced and cut-up smoked chuck roast

I began checking my temperatures at around three hours into this cook. However, the total cook time was about five and a half to six hours, as I finally removed all four pieces of the chuck roast at about 2:30 p.m. when the internal temperatures of the pieces of meat were reading 200-204 degrees by that time.

I allowed the meat to rest for fifteen minutes before slicing it up like a brisket and subsequently cutting it up into bite size pieces. This was by far and away the juiciest chuck roast I have ever smoked up to this point. Serve on a bun, eat by itself or make tacos with it, like I did.

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools or Seasonings to Make Great Barbecue

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools or Seasonings to Make Great Barbecue

I still remember the first time I knowingly ate good, delicious barbecue. Eric, the man responsible for instigating my passion for the smoked grub, smoked a pork butt. I was blown away by the flavor in each bite. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. The rub, the smoky essence, the tenderness and rich flavor of the meat itself. I thought he must have smoked that pork butt in a $5,000 smokehouse machine, but no — he used an old horizontal offset Brinkmann (a company that isn’t even in business any longer) smoker.

I have to admit my ignorance. Before then, I didn’t know squat about barbecue. Being from southwest Virginia, we have a local barbecue joint in this tiny town, but when I heard the word ‘barbecue’ I thought about potato chips, not things like brisket, pork butt or ribs. What a shame, right? However, after this genuine smoky introduction, I was hooked and wanted to learn more.

So I received an old vertical offset Brinkmann Trailmaster smoker as a gift. This is the smoker I learned how to barbecue on. When I received it, it had received a nice, new paint job, but this pit did not come without pitfalls. It leaked smoke, had trouble maintaining temperatures and was a pain in the butt to use, but I loved it. It was a labor of love to use, and all the hard work paid off judging by the finished product (the food) being delicious. The only reason I quit using it is because it rusted and developed holes. Again, this was an older smoker that had been left out, uncovered, in the elements for years. Its demise was inevitable.

Today, you can buy certain smokers that take the guesswork out of barbecue, from pellet grills offering set it-and-forget it temperature settings and expensive offset ($1,000+) offset smokers that feature heavy gauge steel that works to ‘lock in’ the smoke and maintain temperatures better than cheaper cookers, but let’s face it: both pellet grills and those offset pits tend to be expensive, and not all of us have thousands of dollars to throw at a smoker, and if you do, that’s great. However, if you aren’t down for splurging, you should never fear, because the barbecue you create from a cheap cooker can be just as delicious as any barbecue from an expensive one.

Limited edition Weber kettle

Using a Charcoal Grill as a Smoker

You can use a gas grill as a smoker, but I have no experience in that side of things, as I prefer charcoal grills any day of the week. I have used both a STOK drum grill and a Weber kettle grill to achieve smoky barbecue deliciousness, and they have both worked out for many cooks. Unless you are always cooking for a large crowd, you don’t need a big smoker for the job; you can simply use your grill with some charcoal and a couple of chunks of your favorite smoking wood to do the trick.

Grills can often be overlooked in the realm of barbecue. I know that almost sounds silly to say, but in a world where a lot of people are trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, the elephant in the room that is in the guise of a $100 grill is often ignored despite the fact that the barbecue produced from said grill is truthfully just as good as the barbecue created from a $2,000-$5000+ heavy duty smoker, you know, as long as the pitmaster slinging the meat is adept at what they are doing.

Here is a rack of ribs I made on my Weber kettle. Just as good as ribs from an expensive pit:

Smoked pork ribs
Fall off the bone ribs
So, how do you create barbecue using a charcoal grill? You can either shuffle all of your charcoal to one side of the grill, emptying a big ol’ batch of unlit coals onto the charcoal grate while lighting 8-10 briquettes to dump onto the unlit ones for low’n’slow smoking as the unlit coals catch heat slowly over time, with the intake and exhaust vents adjusted accordingly (barely leave the intake vents open), or you can use my favorite method: the Snake Method.

Snake method

Image source: Perth BBQ School — https://perthbbqschool.com/blog/snake-method

The snake method involves creating a line of unlit charcoal briquettes around the edges of the charcoal grates, and it is called the snake method because the look resembles a snake. You simply add your wood along some of the briquettes, and just like the previously mentioned method you only light a few briquettes to add — when adequately ashed over and hot — to the unlit coals to begin your cook. Afterwards, you simply add the meat to the middle of the cooker to get things going. I have smoked ribs, pork butts and briskets using the snake method with my Weber kettle, and it has never failed me. It only takes patience and a little bit of trial and error to do it.

But what if you have a bigger crowd to feed and a charcoal grill won’t cut it?

Offset smoker

Cheap Offset Smokers

There are cheap offset smokers that are available to be purchased, from bands like Char-Grill and Oklahoma Joe offering them. However, what you should understand is that these smokers likely won’t be tremendous right out of the box. They will leak smoke and cause a myriad of frustrations. I recommend picking up a gasket kit to seal off the smoke leaks that occur.

Even with these cheap offsets, much like with a charcoal grill you can create barbecue that is just as good as the expensive ones that may be marketed to you when you are browsing for a pit online. There will be more labor involved — vs. a charcoal grill, too — because with these cheap offsets you have to almost constantly be tending to the fire, making sure your temperatures are being maintained and that the wood is burning cleanly and not creating dark gray smoke. This may sound like an inconvenience to you, which is understandable, but again, it is a labor of love and something I genuinely enjoy.

My old Brinkmann may have died and rusted out, but a buddy of mine gave me his old horizontal offset smoker last summer. He moved on to an electric smoker (no thank you) for the ease of use, and rather than selling his offset — which he could have done — he gave it to me, and I guess a motivation for that is that he knew it would be in good hands. It leaks smoke and has its issues, but smoking burgers, wings, chicken thighs/leg quarters and ribs on it have been a blast.

Offset smokers, or stick burners as they are often called, will offer a different, more pronounced smoke flavor to the barbecue you create with them, and the reason for that is because you will find yourself using logs of wood vs. chunks (most of the time), and the larger pieces of wood is going to create a larger, more pervasive amount of smoke. I have actually met a fair amount of people who prefer a more subtle flavor of smoke (looking at pellet smoker aficionados and their ilk). That isn’t me, though. Give me all the smoke you got.

22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain
Barrel House Cooker drum smoker

Bullet Smokers and Drum Smokers

I have a Weber Smokey Mountain (bullet smoker) and two Barrel House Cookers (drum smokers), and I barbecue with them more than any of my other cookers. I am clearly biased in this camp, but what can I say? They produce delectable barbecue and they are virtually effortless to use once you get the hang of them.

The thing is, what do you consider ‘cheap’/economic for your wallet? A 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain is around $400 while drum smokers range in price (I paid $250 for the bigger Barrel House Cooker, which is now $300). For the price and the ease of use, I find these types of cookers to be of extreme value. I can fit between 60 to 80 lbs. of pork butt in my Weber Smokey Mountain, so there is plenty of room in there for a large cook. If I were to use both of my Barrel House Cookers in one cook session, I can smoke around 12 to 14 racks of ribs (by hanging them) at a time. Keep these types of cookers in mind when you searching for a pit.

The bottom line is this: you don’t need an expensive smoker to create amazing barbecue. I don’t care what is being marketed towards you as you browse online. If you have the cash to afford it, I say you should go for it, but if you don’t, then you don’t, and there are alternatives, as mentioned above. Yes, all these expensive smokers are nice, but that is simply because of how well built they are. That is not a knock on them, because who doesn’t want a well-built pit? But you can doctor up a cheaper smoker to make up for any deficits and disadvantages that you perceive from it. There are people who win barbecue competitions with grills, bullet smokers, drum smokers and cheap offsets against guys using expensive cookers like Lang, Yoder and pellet grills. It happens every year, all the time. It will continue to happen, because great barbecue is more dependent on the person cooking it rather than the smoker used.

With that said, I want to shift gears to this

Expensive Seasonings and Rubs Are Not a Requirement for Great BBQ

This has admittedly been driving me crazy lately, especially in the realm of the barbecue side of things on social media. Let me expound on that.

Let’s say you are browsing the barbecue community on social media and you encounter one of the more popular ‘players’ in the game, someone who has over 15,000 followers and appears to be a brand ambassador for multiple companies. All their posts feature food mentions where they got their meats from (Porter Road has been the latest flavor of the month, it appears), what particular rub and/or sauce they used, and sometimes they will throw in a photo of an expensive chef knife they used, especially if they are being handed a little cash for posting about it.

Ignoring the meat side of thing for a moment, notice how the rubs and sauces (if applicable) they recommend always seem to be from an online company. Both the rubs and sauces are on the expensive side in comparison to what you can buy from your local grocery store, have you noticed?

I will always be down to support small businesses if I like their products in the barbecue side of things. This goes for some of my favorites, as it pertains to seasonings/rubs: Caribeque, Reload Rub, The Killer Cook, Grill Your Ass Off and Meat Church. I will recommend the rubs and seasonings from those companies to anybody who is interested in grilling and barbecuing. However, using those particular aforementioned rubs and seasonings is not imperative to create incredible barbecue. Some of my favorite seasonings are from the Weber brand itself, featured for $2-4 at my local Wal-Mart (garlic habanero seasoning is excellent)!

I just mentioned The Killer Cook in the above paragraph. Their Chow Khan Pan-Asian rub is incredible on chicken wings and in stir-fry, and their Mediterranean Spice blend is the only thing I will use on lamb, but let’s face it: their products are expensive. For a 10oz. shaker of seasoning, it will run you $25 ($20 for the rub and $5 for the shipping in the United States). This is a small company that is using fresh ingredients, but still, it is a steep price, especially when you could buy a seasoning from your local grocery store for 1/8 the price and spend the rest of the money — that you otherwise spend on a bottle of seasoning — on meats to barbecue. I’m not knocking The Killer Cook, because I love them dearly, and I will be an advocate for them until the end, but not everybody can afford to justify spending that much money on a bottle of ground-up spices. I certainly can’t, at least not all the time. I find myself using both the Chow Khan Pan-Asian and Mediterranean Spice rubs sparingly, unfortunately.

I was talking to one of my good pals in the barbecue community in the social media side of things the other day, and we were having a good laugh over some of the product peddlers and lackluster pseudo-marketers in the community and how many of these guys won’t post about using more economic, affordable seasonings from big brand companies because they won’t ‘receive a pat on the head’ for posting about them.

If you are a consumer, a caveat I must offer you is to be very wary of what is being marketed to you at every turn, especially in this hobby. You might be pitched the idea that a $20 rub is automatically better than what you can buy from the grocery store, and that is simply an egregious notion. The expensive rubs/seasonings may feature products that are advertised as being fresh or ‘without MSG’ (even though MSG’s negative health effects are greatly exaggerated and false), but at the end of the day, when it comes to a great flavor, cheaper seasonings get the job done just as well, if not better at times pending on what you are using, than the expensive niche ones.

Heck. If you want to be even more economical, you could always either grind up spices yourself, or you can gather a variety of different singular spices and create your own rub. I actually have a rub of my own that I’ve been experimenting with for a while.

I definitely recommend picking up a high quality thermometer (the one I use from Thermoworks, the Thermapen Mk4, is the best money I have ever spent as far as value is concerned) for not only food safety purposes but for checking what your meat’s internal temperatures are during a cook so you can follow along (important, especially, if you are cooking a brisket and want to wrap it in aluminum foil or butcher paper when it hits 160 degrees).

If you are just beginning your barbecue journey, it is important to not overthink what you are doing. Stick to the basics, because the option to delve into the more advanced side of things is always available to you in the future. Don’t worry about trying to keep up with the big wigs. It is easy to fall into having the mindset, which is like a trap, of trying to have the ‘biggest and best everything’ but it is unneeded. Great food is created by the person behind it.

Honey Heat Spare Ribs on the Barrel House Cooker

Ever since I got my hands on my first Barrel House Cooker in April 2018 and smoked a rack of ribs by hanging them for the first time, it has become my favorite way to cook pork ribs. In a drum smoker environment, when the lid is closed and the intake vents are set to achieve an inside temperature of anywhere from 275-325 degrees, without a water pan the juices and rendered fat from the meats you are smoking are going to drop onto the hot coals below, which causes a resulting vapor to rise and flavor the meat above, creating a beautiful cocktail of unique flavors you don’t get in other forms of smoking meats.

Don’t get me wrong — I still love my other two smokers, but the enhanced smokey flavor of using a drum cooker is unrivaled to me as far as maximum flavor is concerned. I like a deep, smoke flavor to penetrate my grub; others prefer a lighter smoke. It is all preference.

We experienced some major flooding in my hometown this past Thursday. Probably the worst flood I have ever seen in my life (at least around here). On Friday, it wound up snowing, and since I was paranoid about the power potentially going out, I decided to get out in the conditions and smoke a rack of spare ribs for supper.

Recipe & Instructions:
1.) Prior to firing up my Barrel House Cooker 14D, I removed the membrane from the undercarriage of the ribs and subsequently rubbed both sides of the rack of spare ribs with Caribeque Honey Heat Pork & Poultry Rub*.

2.) Filling the charcoal basket of the Barrel House Cooker to the top, I removed about 10 to 12 briquettes and added them to a small charcoal chimney and began a fire with a lighter cube. I used trusty ol’ Kingsford blue bag briquettes. I know that fancier, more expensive charcoal is becoming more popular online, but I have never had a single issue with Kingsford. I would rather spend the money on food to smoke than I would otherwise spend on more expensive charcoal.

3.) While waiting for the charcoal to fire up, I added three small chunks of hickory wood, two small chunks of apple wood and a couple of chips of cherry wood on top of the unlit charcoal in the basket of the cooker. This isn’t all that much wood, honestly, but it does provide the deep smokey flavor that I enjoy in my barbecue. I’m a lover of bold flavors. If you want less smoke, add less wood. Meanwhile, after 15 or so minutes, the charcoal in the chimney should be appearing to ash over in gray whiteness on the surface. This is when you should dump it into the base. I assembled the top part of the drum cooker, with the lid closed. Note: I left the intake vents wide open for about 30 minutes since it was around 18 degrees outside here.

4.) Applying a hook down after the first couple of bones in the rack of ribs, I added it to the hanger in the cooker and closed the lid while also adjusting the intake vent to where it was barely cracked open.

5.) I started this cook at around 11:52 a.m. and finished it up at roughly 4:20 p.m. I did not open the lid during the cooking process except for one time, which I’ll explain why in the following step. My temperature was rolling between 275 to 300 degrees.

6.) During the final 20-25 minutes of the cook, I opened my intake vents completely and removed the ribs onto a sheet pan, adding a liberal amount of BBQ Rook BBQ sauce* to the undercarriage and meaty top of the ribs, brushing the sauce all over the ribs. There is 20 grams of sugar in one serving of the BBQ Rook sauce, which is perfect, because I wanted that sugar to caramelize on the surface of the meat when I added it back into the pit.

7.) Remove ribs from the pit after 20-25 minutes, allow the rack to rest for five to ten minutes, cut ’em up and dig in!

8.) I served these ribs with Bush’s Southern Pit Barbecue beans. I prepared them in a pot on the stove, but here’s a fun trick: I doctored them up by frying two slices of bacon, cutting them into strips and adding the bacon and rendered fat from the cast iron skillet into the pot of beans. The beans are good by themselves, sure, but even better with bacon and the added fat.

*Full disclosure: I am not affiliated, in any way, with Caribeque or the mentioned rub, nor with BBQ Rook and the mentioned sauce. I use both the rub and the sauce because they are among my favorites for smoked grub, especially pork. Caribeque is one of the first seasonings/rubs I tried when I began my barbecue journey due to the recommendation of a good friend of mine who was avidly posting about it on social media. I’m just an advocate. I’m providing the links in case anybody reading this wants to get their hands on this goodness.