Normally, we don’t like piling on. But some opportunities can’t be resisted, especially when it involves a topic important to us: real wood-fired barbecue.

A couple months ago, we got a good debate going here about wood vs. gas, and even ran highlights of a Southern Pride recipe for Texas-style brisket that we thought supported our point of view.

Now, our attention turns to commercial pellet machines.

Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper found the above photo of labels attached to a Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack Model FEC100 “smoker oven.”

The company says on its Web site that the machine is “100% wood-burning” and touts its success in major barbecue competitions. The machine automatically feeds wood pellets — “available in a variety of flavors” — into the burn chamber. Cooks just load the hopper, set the electronic temperature controls and walk away.

But take a close look at those labels, especially the one on the left.

“The Cookshack Smoker is NOT a traditional wood burning smoker,” it says. “It is a modern electric oven.”

A few sentences later: “DO NOT USE EXCESSIVE WOOD.”

In the court of real Texas barbecue, Cookshack should have taken the Fifth.

Leave a comment



Ray Shepard

6 years ago

Hey Gary,

If you read the label closely it actually refers to the cookshack as an oven 12 times on the label that you posted. As a faithful BBQ smoker and competition cook for over 17 years I can honesty say that my FEC100 cooks BBQ consistenty better with much less hassel and effort than any stick burner that I have ever owned.

So it is a little unconventional based on smokers of the past but at the end of the day, it's all about the qualiy of the final product….At least that what the posse seems to stand for. And… You know Texans have always been about building a better mousetrap….don't knock it till you try it….you may be surprised.

Anonymous

6 years ago

Hi Ray! I definitely hear what you are saying about the hassle. Maybe we need to all meet sometime soon and cook some briskets in the backyard so we can check out one another's pits ……Marshall Cooper

Ray Shepard

6 years ago

Now your talking. I'm always up for that.
Plus I would love to get a good lesson from you on the jambo

Anonymous

6 years ago

I applaud Ray for his post. Even though he disagrees with the Posse, he did so in a respectful manner. Ray,thanks for being a gentleman. You set a great example of how to disagree with dignity.

Anonymous

6 years ago

In a previous Texas BBQ Posse blog post on May 11, 2011 Posse member Bruce Tomaso said, "It's like comparing a drum machine to Mick Fleetwood. Can a drum machine sound credibly authentic? Sure — especially if you don't really know what you're listening for. Can it fool people in a side-by-side comparison? Probably. But is it the same as Mick Fleetwood? Of course not. And it's foolish to argue otherwise."

Which says it all, period. So when I walk into a BBQ joint I want the real stuff which is traditional slow smoked meats over a wood fire – not from an automated oven burning pellets or a couple of logs. Same deal with good hamburgers, I don't go to a fast food place for a good hamburger that uses a conveyor belt to oven cook hamburgers, I frequent the burger joints that make their burgers fresh from scratch on a grill. The same thing goes for Italian food, Mexican food, …..

Marshall Cooper

Ray Shepard

6 years ago

I knew my post would stir up some discussion and that’s always healthy – healthier than the ribs I have been cooking lately… and please don’t in any way take my comments as offensive – I just love to talk about BBQ.

What I really found funny is that 3 years ago, I could and would have written that same post almost word for word.

I have not had the pleasure of meeting many of the Posse so maybe I can give you some background. I started cooking a long time ago and hooked up with some guys that really taught me the ropes – I showed my friends and they got pretty good also. About 6 years ago, we decided to form a team and do some competitions again.

If you check out our rig on our website http://www.boyscansmoke.com you can see that we built an 18 foot barrel smoker and retrofitted it onto a 1964 Seagraves fire truck the we bought in North Carolina and had trucked down. We have easily several hundred hours into building the smoker and outfitting the truck. Our team believed that absolutely nothing was better than traditional low and slow hard wood fired BBQ.

But after about 3 years of getting slaughtered week after week at the competitions by these Pellet head teams, our captain decided to go out and buy one. We almost had a revolt on the team when he brought it home. When we took it to our first competition we hid it in a popup that had sides on it so no one would know it was in our site…. that how we felt about the idea overall.

….First competition with it we took first place in pork…

Fast forward 3 years, we now own 5 of them and every member of our team has one at there house.

Here is the benefit to me. First and foremost, it makes great BBQ. Second it is low maintenance and third it is cheap to operate. Before I had this smoker, doing a BBQ a home was a big production. Lump Charcoal – 10 Bucks, Hard wood – 10 bucks but the killer was the time -which for me now is more valuable than the money. It was like I was chained to the house because every 30 minutes I had to check the temp and adjust the fire. Definitely not something I would do if I just wanted one rack of Ribs.

With the pellet smoker – I can put it on in the morning – go running around town come home and have BBQ – no fuss. And with the electricity to run the computer and the pellets to do the smoking, I am in less than 2 bucks.

Don’t get caught up in the word oven on the label- it is not a traditional oven that uses electricity for heat. The hard wood pellets – which are the same wood I was using before just in a smaller format – provide all of the heat and the smoke. The cooking chamber is just better insulated so you don’t have to use the quantity of wood that you do in a traditional smoker.
I know that I will never be able to convenience you with a post that pellet smokers are not the devils attempt to corrupt great BBQ – but because produces a great product and it is so easy and economical to use – I get to eat more great BBQ than I ever have in the past..

I love the blog – keep up the good work and thanks for letting me share my experience.

Anonymous

6 years ago

Ray, my REAL BEEF is not with the competition BBQ cooks using pellet cookers. For many it could be justifiable with the quantity of competition meats that are typically cooked, back-to-back turn in times, the vast array of rubs, marinades, injections, and with the flavor profiles expected by the judges being “loud” for one bite BBQ, the judges do not typically include a whole lot of smoke anyway, right?

It seems many top BBQ competition winners are still using stick burners. Is there a recent shift back to the stick burners from the pellet cookers? For my near weekly backyard cooks and a few BBQ competitions a year for now I will continue cooking on a stick burner. I truly enjoy the challenge of running and tweaking the pit to simultaneously cook different meats at different temps and timing to achieve differing results. Plus it’s a real good excuse to throw back a cold beer or two every now and then. Ask my wife, family and friends, they have seen me doing it for the past 25 years!

Ray, my REAL BEEF has to do with a BBQ joint or a restaurant (Dickey’s, Spring Creek, …) holding itself out (displaying huge racks of hickory logs out front) to cook authentic old-style slow smoked "Pit BBQ" with the gas/electric fired/pellet Southern Pride or a Cookshack ovens that burn pellets or a log or two is just downright misleading.

The BBQ chains should disclose they are not using traditional wood burning pits & stop implying when they are using an oven instead of a wood burning pit. If they are using a pellet cooker, they should stack their pellets out front and not racks of wood logs, so the general public knows what’s up. Most of the BBQ joints that use the Cookshacks and Southern Prides do not burn enough wood to put much smoke on the meat, and must resort to liquid smoke in their BBQ sauce. It is my direct experience that when someone I know discovers what a Southern Pride or Cookshack is compared to a traditional wood burning pit, they become angry and feel cheated. With a traditional wood burning pit, there are no if ands or buts – smoke will be on the meat ….Marshall Cooper

Anonymous

5 years ago

I don't compete. I own one of the company's electric "smoker ovens". The heat is electric, the smoke is real, and the result is outstanding. I live in the Mt. West, where the air is much drier than in OK, where I lived for a year and enjoyed some amazing BBQ. As such, I keep the vent hole on top of the unit covered. It keeps the heat very even, and the oven very steamy inside. I like to sample others' product to see how I stack up. In my area, we have had two Sonny Bryant's locations open recently. I recall the brisket I had in OK being better than Sonny's, but that was many years ago. We also have Dickey's now. You might like their product better than mine, but I do not. No reason to go back to either establishment. Mine comes out moist and juicy, theirs is dry and chewy by comparison. I wonder if it has something to with trying to make their method work in our dry air. As for the smoke on the meat issue: trust me, I like smoke on the meat – it isn't BBQ without it – and I get plenty. It might be because I keep the vent hole covered. I like a 50/50 blend of cherry and hickory. Also, the manufacturer's recommendation for amount of wood is really low. It might be their personal taste. My unit is about the size of a dishwasher and can handle up to 90 lbs. of brisket. With a full load, the packer trimmed briskets turn out tender and juicy with greater yield and less mess. I've fed 200 people with one load that way. With a small load, the whole briskets turn out better. Thing is, I don't care about competing myself. For my purposes – feeding friends and family – what I have is unbeatable. I just load the unit, close the door, and in 12 hours, I have a product that, for me, approaches perfection, and I'm free the whole time to get the rest of the meal together. Bottom line: product is more important to me than authentic method.

Unknown

1 year ago

do you cover the hole vent or like half of it?

Marshall Cooper

5 years ago

That's great, it sounds like the electric smoker you have is meeting your expectations and you are achieving excellent results. You have mastered a technique & process and are able to produce really good results.

Sometime if you are near Austin, Texas try and eat at Snow's BBQ, Franklin BBQ, JMueller BBQ & Luling City Market. Be sure to let us know what you think ….

Austin Top 5 plus Snow's
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