When spectators come up to us at competitions they are always overwhelmed with the variety of types of smokers it takes to produce great BBQ at a competition. Most competitors swear by the top names in the industry such as Stump, Jambo, Yoder, etc. The most popular of these right now is Stump's Smokers.
Stump’s specializes in gravity fed smokers. This type of cooking chamber looks like a refrigerator with a charcoal chute on the side. A hot bed of coals is loaded in the chute and then fresh charcoal is added. As the hot bed of coals continues to burn, more and more charcoal from above drops on top to create a constant burn, therefore a constant temperature. Some cooks can keep this temperature up using a ball valve alone at the bottom of the chamber, but far more use what is called a BBQ Guru (Cyber Q II BBQ Guru) or similar device. This device has a fan and temperature control monitor. The fan goes in the ball valve and you set your temperature on the control panel. As long as you have charcoal in the chute, the guru will keep it burning.
Jambo’s and Yoder’s are what we call “stick burners”. I don’t want to simplify these so much that you think they are a basic smoker, because they are far from it. In basic form they are like a CharGriller, or reverse flow type smoker. There is the cooking chamber and a firebox. Wood or charcoal is loaded into the firebox and that keeps the smoker going. Folks who make this type of smoker in the backyard have a hard time keeping the temperature regulated, but Jambo’s and Yoder’s have patented designs that make them easy to regulate, thus making them the Cadillac of stick burners.
Now for lazy people, like myself, there is the pellet smoker. These were very popular in the early 2000s before gravity fed smokers became well-known. These can come in horizontal or vertical form. They have a cooking chamber and a pellet chute that is filled with pellets. These pellets move via an auger into a fire pot located at the bottom of the cooking chamber. Attached to the pellet chute is a control panel that does all the thinking for you. All you have to do is, literally, set it and forget it!
There are many different brands of pellet smokers, one of the most popular being Fast Eddies. The Bubba & Son BBQ team is sponsored by Green Mountain Grills. This pellet smoker company is not as popular as Fast Eddie or Traeger on the circuit, but I would choose this grill over any of the competition. I was sponsored by another pellet smoker company last year and had to sever ties because of the bad quality of their product (email me for more info). The great folks of Green Mountain hooked me up last fall and they have been great. I solely cook on these smokers and have received a top 10 call at all 5 competitions that I have competed in this year. These are great because they have all the features of the top-dollar pellet smokers, but at a price that a poor man can afford.
How to choose your smoker?
How to pick the right grill for smoking in your backyard or starting a competition team isn’t easy. There is a lot of trial and error involved. I don’t know any pitmaster that has just one type of smoker in their backyard. You’ll research a smoker, think you have the best one, and then something new will come out, or you’ll realize it’s not the one for you. I currently have about 8 different smokers in my fleet and that’s after selling a few last year. Do your research and I am sure you will be happy with whatever smoker you buy. The best research is going to a BBQ competition and talking to competitors about their equipment. We love boasting about our gear and we all think our own is the best around!
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
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Some of my favorite cookers are the homemade ones out there that were made really well. There is some impressive stuff sometimes.
Not only does Yoder build one of the best stick burners out there, they also build some of the best pellet grills available. They build the YS480 and YS640 models which come in either backyard or competition models, and the new YS1500 which utilizes the Yoder Smokers HMS (Heat Management System) from their wood pits, but with a pellet fueled fire.
You know a lot about smokers! I’m impressed! Be careful or I’m going to ask you to be a contributing writer! 🙂 thank for your response, this is great info!
Awesome info! Be careful Or I’m going to add you as a contributor! 🙂
Thanks! As the son of the owners of Yoder Smokers and the eCommerce, Marketing and Media Director of All Things Barbecue, it is my life and passion. I cook five or six days a week, and sometimes twice a day, which makes my neighbors very happy as there is no way my wife and I could eat it all! 🙂
As a BBQ competitor the Jambo Smokers are widely used with great success. Stumps insulated gravity smokers with control are top notch. We use like the Danish team, the Weber smokey mountains controlled with a Stocker Wifi pit control as we are disciples of Harry Soo Slap yo Daddy BBQ but do see a Stumps pit in our future. Great article.