Life has changed quite a bit over the past couple of years and I haven’t found myself needing the capacity that the Backwoods Pro Jr affords me. Rather than have it sit unused, I decided to list it for sale to see if there was any interest.
Indeed there was, and I’m happy to say that the pit has a new home. The new owner picked it up recently and now I’m down to a single Big Green Egg as my only BBQ pit…for now.
I have a friend at church who competes on the BBQ circuit. He typically mans the grill when the United Methodist Men (UMM) meet during the summer. Last month, after a succesful meal of grilled pork steaks, the guys decided they’d like to have ribs at the next meeting.
Well, that turned into a two man job. We decided that we would take the day off and plan to cook at the church. We also decided to press my Backwoods Pro Jr into service. Paul and I moved my cooker to church that morning and he trimmed the spare ribs down to St Louis style ribs while I put together 2 pans of my “magic” beans.
Paul uses Code 3 spices when he competes, so we decided to use them for this cook as well. We roughly followed his competition process, which means we wrapped the ribs in foil with brown sugar and butter, then finished them out of the foil and glazed them with sauce.
We also decided to do the rib tips at the same time, following the same process. It’s a good thing we did. We had a great turn out.
Here are a few shots of the finished product.
Everyone enjoyed the meal and fellowship. Next month, we’re frying fish!
For the past few years, I’ve cooked on a variety of pits at home. Each time, I’ve moved the pit from the garage to the edge of the driveway or onto the lawn. The benefit is that my BBQ Pits (I have more than one, doesn’t everybody?) are stored indoors. The downside, my cars are not.
So, I’ve decided that I’d like to get my cars in the garage. But, I didn’t really have a great place to keep the BBQ gear and I wasn’t sure about storing my gear outdoors. Recently, I took the first step in solving this problem and laid pavers behind the garage. So far, I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve got 2 of 3 cars in the gargage and a dedicated space for cooking. I’ve ordered a cover for my Big Green Egg and table and I’m about to order one for my Backwoods cooker.
Some time in the future, I could see a cover on this space. But that’s a blog post for another day and at a time when the finances could support something more.
My family and I are blessed to be part of a growing, thriving church. Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL has grown beyond the capacity of it’s real estate and has begun to sprout new churches in the Metro East area of St. Louis. Our satellite campus in Millstadt, IL recently held a church picnic and I was honored to be able to prepare the BBQ for the event.
They expected 80 for luch, I planned for 100, and we probably had closer to 70. Not to worry, I always travel with zip lock bags so folks can leave with a doggy bag. Heck, I even got to bring some home and feed my own family.
In any event, I fired up the big cooker on Saturday night for pork butts, chuck roasts, and my pit beans. After an all night cook, I had eveything ready around 9:00am. I even fired up the charcoal grill and roasted some hot dogs since I figured some of the kids might prefer that (I was right).
I had everything setup at the park when church let out shortly after 11:00. Folks seemed to enjoy the food, and I felt blessed by their compliments and for the opportunity to cook for my church family.
Wow, I thought I had documented this but realized that I hadn’t. I’ve been asked this question a few times, and it’s one of the most common questions asked over on the Backwoods Forum. Nonetheless, it’s worth covering for the pursposed of the readers here on GrllandBarrel.com.
Here are the steps that I follow:
Load ‘er up! I won’t get into the benefits of briquettes vs. lump in this post, but suffice to say that I burn briquettes only in my Backwoods smoker(s). That’s right, just the plain ‘ol blue bag from the good folks at Kingsford. I find I get a much more consistent and longer burn (in this cooker) with briquettes.
Open both sliding vents and the top vent completely. Top door shoudl be copletely closed.
I light the charcoal with a MAPP Gas Torch in the right front corner of the charcoal pan. There are lots of ways to light the charcoal, but I find that a torch held in one spot for 60 seconds or so is enough to get it going.
I then shut the firebox door, but I do not latch it. This leaves it slightly ajar and allows for more air flow.
I leave it like this until the temperature reaches 200 degrees. This can take 30-45 minutes.
Then I add water to the water pan, shut the left rear vent completely, close the firebox door, and close the right front vent 1/2 way.
If you’re adding wood chips or chunks, do it now.
In this configuration, the smoker will be completely up to temp in 60-75 minutes.
A couple of thins to note. My Pro Jr takes longer to come up to temp than my Fatboy used to, but that’s to be expected given that it’s much larger. Additionally on the Pro Jr, I close the exhaust vent 3/4 of the way to maintain cooking temps at ~250 degrees. With the Fatboy, I left the exhaust wide open at all times.
That’s how I do it. But there are debates about adding water before lighting, type of charcoal, source of ignition, etc. Find what works for you and stick with it. It’s important that you get some kind of routine down that’s repeatable, even if it isn’t this one. That way, you’ll be able to plan for start times when you cook.
If you’ve been following along here, you know that I’ve been in a continuous upgrade pattern for the past couple of years. I still enjoy cooking on my Big Green Egg & the Bubba Keg, but I first purchased a Backwoods Fatboy for more capacity. Then, I upgraded to a Backwoods Pro Jr. for even more capacity. This cooker seems to be big enough and still take up a reasonable amount of space in my garage since it’s a cabinet/vertical style unit.
I thought I’d take a minute to breakdown how this vertical smoker is put together. First, the units are all configured with a firebox below the cooking chamber. The firebox is seperated by a water pan at the bottom of the cooking chamber.
Optionally, a heat deflector is available to act as a further barrier between the hot coals and the bottom of the water pan.
The commercial fire grate (on the Fatboy & larger models and optional on the smaller cookers), is suspended above the bottom of the cooker. An ash pan sits on the floor to collect the ashes for disposal. This grate is made of expanded metal to allow the ash to drop through onto the ash pan.
The stainless cooking racks are evenly spaced and mounted on rails that allow you to slide them out for easy access to the items that you’re cooking.
The back wall of the cooker is hollow and seperated into 3 chambers. The 2 outside chambers allow smoke & heat to travel from the fire box, up the back of the cooker, and into the top of the cooking chamber. The heat & smoke are then drawn down through the cooking chamber (and over and around the meat) to the bottom of the cooker where the exhaust port is located just above the water pan. The exhaust then runs up the middle of the rear wall of the cooker to the vent on the top of the cooker.
Here’s a shot of the top vents or point of entry for heat & smoke into the cooking chamber.And this is a shot of the exhaust port at the bottom of the cooker.The air flow is controlled by two vents at the bottom of the cooker. The vents have slider openings and one is located on the right front side, the other is on the left rear.The exhaust stack on the top of the cooker is very simple and has a door to swing over the opening. On the Fatboy, I always cooked with the exhaust wide open. The Pro Jr. works a little differently and I run with it about half open.Finally, when you’re done cooking on a Backwoods you will have to drain & dispose of the greasy water in the water pan. There’s a large drain valve on the side of the cooker to help with that task since the water pans aren’t removable unless custom ordered.That’s a quick (and picture heavy) overview of how a Backwoods Smoker is put together. There are variations and you an customize your cooker. However, for the mid-sized cookers this is pretty accurate.
Questions about a Backwoods Smoker? I’d be happy to help. Drop me a note or leave a comment below.
If you’re a frequent visitor to GrillandBarrel.com, you know that I was cooking on a Backwoods Fatboy before and have since upgraded to a Backwoods Pro Jr. I certainly notice a few differences, and an inquiry from one of my brethren over at BBQ-Brethren.com prompted to spend a little time documenting some of them. So in no particular order, here are a few noticable differences.
Fuel Consumption: It stands to reason that the bigger cooker will need more fuel, but I didn’t expect the difference to be quite as big as it is. On the Fatboy, I would use a half a bag of Kingsford briquettes for a 5-6 hr rib cook. The Pro Jr took a whole bag, and then some.
Water Consumption: Just like fuel, the Pro Jr uses more water than the Fatboy. Again, my first cook was ribs and I expected a full water pan would last through the duration of a 5-6 cook. Not so, at about the 5 hr mark, I was out of water.
Temperature control: I noticed that I had a harder time getting the cooker to 250 (the temperature that I usually cook at). The Pro Jr seemed to want to settle in at 225 and I eventually made peace with leaving it there instead of trying to get it to 250. I also ran the bottom vent a little wider than I typically would have on the Fatboy, but frankly that could have had as much to do with the weather conditions as anything.
This is a big ol’ cooker and I’m looking forward to firing it up this weekend and working on competition butts & brisket. I’ll keep you posted on any new observations. In the meantime, here are a few more shots of the Pro Jr.
Braddog with the Fatboy on the left and the Pro Jr on the right5 cooking racks on the Pro Jr with better clearance than the Fatboy
Much to my wife’s dismay, I’ve upgraded….for the second year in a row. Last year, I acquired a Backwoods Smokers Fatboy. That upgrade more than doubled my capacity from the Big Green Egg, and I’ve really enjoyed cooking on a vertical, insulated cooker. However, I learned very quickly that the stated capactiy of the Fatboy really wasn’t accurate. To cook pork butt & brisket well, the cooker really could only accomodate half of the available cooking racks due to limited clearance between them.
Traveling GearAdditionally, it seems that the more I cook, the more chances I have to cook. And I’m talking about cooking for larger groups, fund raisers, family reunions, wedding receptions, and so on. While I don’t need the extra capacity every day, there are a half dozen opportunities per year to really take advantage and put on a big feed.
So, when I stumbled upon an opportunity to acquire a larger Backwoods Smoker, the Pro Jr., I couldn’t pass it up. A competition cook out of Columbus, GA had decided it was too large for cooking competitions and had downsized. That may be the only time I’ve ever heard of a pitmaster downsizing. Usually, Pitmasters are like boat captains and jonseing for bigger pit or boat respectively. So I borrowed a trailer, made arrangements to meet Quenut halfway, and headed out to pick up the new cooker.
Before & AfterAfter a 700 mile round trip, a stop over in Nashville to hang out with Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker, and lunch at Martin’s BBQ Joint, I made it home with the new cooker and the capacity to cook 35 pork butts, 36 sides of ribs, or 16 full packer cut briskets.