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Opinions on moveable tray grill/smokers

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    Opinions on moveable tray grill/smokers

    Hi y'all!

    As I have finally started to figure this whole fire thing out, my skills are getting better, and I think I'm ready to graduate from my Weber Kettle. So I come to you, most venerable Pit Club members, hat in hand with a question. I'm trying to find the most loved variable tray height grill/smoker...something like the Cajun Grills Preaux (said like "Pro"?). Here are my primary interests:
    • Unit build quality and longevity
    • Flexible and reliable air intake dampers
    • Flexible and reliable exhaust dampers
    • Variable charcoal tray height
    • Charcoal tray(s) that are wide enough to cover the entire grill area
    • Rotisserie compatible
    • At least one additional rack above primary grate
    • Stainless Steel grill grate ( just not cast iron)
    So of course other bells and whistles would be great to have, shelves, onboard storage bins, lights, etc. but that's not a requirement. As things go, though, I want a solid, well built device that breathes as I configure it, that can be used for grilling, searing, and smoking. I really want to be able to have fine control over the temp at the grate, and the rack. I can achieve "cooler" temps and "blazing hot" temps on the kettle, but it's drafty, even with an added seal, and having it maintain that temp for anything longer than 15 minutes without me having to fuss with it is not something I'm having any success with.

    I know that outdoor cooking with wood/charcoal fire is something that will require more attention than setting up a gasser and walking away, but there's got to be something out there that can maintain a specific temperature for a reasonable amount of time?

    I do like the looks of the Cajun Grills Preaux, but I don't like that it's got teeny tiny little coal baskets that, when raised all the way up, don't cover the entire grill area. Now will I ever need to sear every single inch of the grill space? Probably not, but darnit, if I need to, I want to be able to do it! Besides, the bigger the coal box, the more flexible the grill is with multiple heat zones. There was a model somewhere in the grill reviews that used a hand crank to raise and lower the grill grate. Does anyone remember which that is? Does anyone have any experience of average temps at the grate vs height of the tray? I know this probably varies tremendously from grill to grill, when taking damper settings into account, and overall grill design and internal area, etc. I'd like to know maybe the minimum temp you've been able to consistently able to achieve and the maximum temp you've been able to consistently achieve.

    I'm looking forward to researching the brands and models you guys come up with!! I have a tremendous respect for the wealth of experience and knowledge this Pit Club has! You guys are awesome!


    #2
    Might I first suggest a Slow n Sear and revisiting your kettle to then determine your needs of the secondary cooker.

    all of that can be achieved on the kettle excepting the raised grate and real estate.

    I can easily get 6-8 hours on my kettle of a well maintained temp.

    sounds like you are trying to cross a Santa Maria with a smoker?? Does that sound right??
    Last edited by HouseHomey; July 24, 2020, 11:27 AM.

    Comment


      #3
      Well I've got an SnS, but I can only sear 2 steaks at a time. That's why I was thinking about a variable height grill. That would allow me to have the coal down low and bring my beauties up to temp, then crank the coal up close to the grate, and finish it off with wide open dampers. The other problem is, I can't get a rib rack that fits when I've got the kettle configured for smoking. When I've got a bunch of people coming over, the most I can do is 2 racks of ribs, and that's not quite enough. I love pulled pork, but always having pulled pork is getting boring, and brisket for 15 people is a bit pricey. being able to do ribs and chicken would be a nice alternative!

      Comment


      • HouseHomey
        HouseHomey commented
        Editing a comment
        Ahhh.... my fault. I mis read.

        I’m not a fan of rib racks either but them suckers take up some space without a rack. I feel you in that dept. I also have a 22 kettle as well as a 26. I’m not a window shopper but People here know a lot about different cookers. Good luck!

      #4
      Originally posted by heraldstorm View Post
      • Unit build quality and longevity
      • Flexible and reliable air intake dampers
      • Flexible and reliable exhaust dampers
      • Variable charcoal tray height
      • Charcoal tray(s) that are wide enough to cover the entire grill area
      • Rotisserie compatible
      • At least one additional rack above primary grate
      • Stainless Steel grill grate ( just not cast iron)
      So of course other bells and whistles would be great to have, shelves, onboard storage bins, lights, etc. but that's not a requirement. As things go, though, I want a solid, well built device that breathes as I configure it, that can be used for grilling, searing, and smoking. I really want to be able to have fine control over the temp at the grate, and the rack. I can achieve "cooler" temps and "blazing hot" temps on the kettle, but it's drafty, even with an added seal, and having it maintain that temp for anything longer than 15 minutes without me having to fuss with it is not something I'm having any success with.
      Sounds to me like you just described a Hasty-Bake: https://amazingribs.com/ratings-revi...ke-gourmet-256

      Comment


      • Troutman
        Troutman commented
        Editing a comment
        MBMorgan You beat me to the punch

      • Mr. Bones
        Mr. Bones commented
        Editing a comment
        +1

      #5
      I'll tell you what, the Cajun Pro is a pretty sweet rig. All 304 stainless with adjustable racks. Also has the ability to cook low and slow. Only downside is the price but if price is of no object I think you picked a winner there. If price is of importance, I'd also suggest you take a look at the Hasty Bake. They have a stainless unit as well. At nearly half the price you get the same type of cooking experience. I know guys that have them love them !!

      Either way good luck with your choice and be sure to show off your new rig and the cooks you get from it !!

      Comment


        #6
        You might check out the M1 from M Grills.....
        That's what I've got my eye on

        Comment


          #7
          Wow, thanks for the great advice, y'all! I did start looking at the LSG adjustible grill after I posted this. I'm torn at this point between M1, Hasty Bake, and the LSG Adjustible. I am really balking at the prices, so the Hasty Bake is looking pretty darn appealing, and I didn't know they had a Stainless model.

          Anyone have any experience with the LSG? Is it worth giving away your firstborn and half your organs for it?

          Comment


            #8
            There is a used M1 for sale on another forum in Massachusetts. Where are you located? It needs one part welded and the guy is giving up on it even though M Grills offered to pay for the repair if he found someone to do it. All of those you are looking at appear pretty nice.

            Also, the WSCG has 2 different positions for the charcoal grate. You can fit the Big Joetisserie in it with minimal grinding, has very adjustable air flow, and a temp control fan port already there. Weber makes a grate that sits above the main grate as well as many BGE XL accessories should fit and there’s tons of grates for that of various designs.
            Attached Files

            Comment


            #9
            Okay, once you've expressed the idea that the LSG is out of your price desires I'm a bit hesitant to post up, but then there are others who read this stuff and might benefit from it as well.

            I own a Preaux so have first hand experience to draw on. Quality of materials is very, very good. All 304 stainless, all well spec'd for gauge thickness from the box, to the grates, and those fire baskets you denigrate. It cooks like a champ in almost every situation. I've done a whole wild boar piglet, steaks, pork roasts, mac n' cheese, and on and on. The ability to raise and lower the fire is awesome, and it can sear like should be imagined. Your characterization that the fuel bins are "tiny" is laughable, but not uncommon for folks imagine faults where none lie when they haven't actually used a device. Yes, they are smaller than the large grate surface area, but your imagined need for 100% coverage is unrealistic in actual usage anyway. Later though, I'll have a suggestion that will get you close. The size differential you refer to is going to be common to any similar cooker that uses fuel trays that swing in an arc top to bottom. The LSG is similar, and probably others. Again, you'd probably be hard pressed to find many, if any, actual users who find that a fault. Temp control on the Preaux is spectacular, much better than I imagined considering it's not built with a bunch of gaskets and latches, and whatever other hardware that's intended to improve sealing ability. The placement of the upper and lower vents works for both controlling flow and managing temps. They do get a bit sticky as "soot" builds up and benefit from occasional cleaning. There are a few things I'd like to see that would improve the unit. The wheels are tucked under a bit too far to be easy to lock and unlock. There are no end handles because of the way they designed the drop down shelves, which work very nicely btw along with being huge. Fortunately it moves fairly easily, but a grab handle would still be an improvement. The drawers won't hold much weight, but then they probably don't need to. As a value judgement, the build quality and materials justify the price based on the current competition in that dollar range. Dealers are willing to discount so it's not hard to get it for less than 3 grand.

            There's a good member here named AZ Fogey who owns the LSG, uses the heck out of it, and loves it a bunch. If I didn't have the Preaux I would be seriously interested in that unit. One, I could save some money by picking it up rather than shipping since they're built a couple hours away from me. I like the double wall construction where it is, and the divider between the two fire boxes. It doesn't have the "flash" of the all stainless, but LSG has a solid reputation for good build quality with stout materials. Based on Michael's commentary here he can do anything with the LSG that I have done with the Preaux. Once it's featured out and made to be approximately comparable to the Preaux it's going to be a bit north of 3k and, to my knowledge, LSG doesn't discount.

            I did consider the M1, it looks to be well built, and they have a relatively good reputation. Depending on how it's used it could be consider smaller than the other two, but that's only if you can't use the second level grate. While you can use wood splits in either of the other two, the M1 is better designed for that fueling. What touted me off the M1 was the numerous complaints about the difficulty of temp control mentioned by owners on the webs. Of course there are others who say that's hooey, but neither the Preaux or LSG have that sort of feedback tendency by comparison. The second thing that adds to that concern is that there are regularly available used ones for sale here in Texas, both the 2019 upgrade versions as well as earlier ones, that could be an indication of frustrated owners wanting to bail.....impression. I've never seen either a Preaux or LSG on the used market, though that's tenuous as who knows how many are out there relative to one another. I don't know about discounts, but these are just below the other two in list pricing, though it appears the used ones don't sell until the sellers are willing to drop to 50% of new.

            So above I promised a near 100% fuel bin coverage with height adjust as an option. I also have an Oklahoma Joe's Judge. No fancy crank mechanism, just lift handles and engagement notches at each end. Functionally very effective. The fuel bin is roughly 14x29 under a total grate area of 17x30ish. That's about as close to 100% as I've seen. It's not loaded with features like lights, bells, or whistles. It has cast iron grates and a simple lid system. Air management is a slider plate at one end and a hood mounted exhaust stack at the opposite end. To it's credit it made of fairly heavy material, though all carbon steel and iron, no stainless except the fuel tray, to the tune of around 195 pounds assembled. When I fired it up for the initial burn in it leaked like a sieve from the corners of the box, around the lid and through the intake slider which was kinda floppy on it's bolts. I high temp caulked the entire lower box, repaired a broken spot weld, added a nomex seal around the lid edge, and shimmed the sliding intake plate to where it seals as well as most good units. Sounds like a bunch of monkey motion though it only took maybe an hour total. The damn thing cooks pretty darn well, and for it's market niche it's got a lot of surface area. The adjustable fuel bin, and my sealing mods, make it a reasonably good smoker, and it will grill like crazy, including a wicked sear because (depending on the fuel pile height) you can get the fire up to within 2" of the grates. It's almost embarrassing to say it will do all that for only $400. I would guess it suffers by appearing like the $250 big box commodity cookers that aren't well regarded, for good reason. It weighs easily double those units though, attesting to the substantial material differences, but it's poorly marketed. Let's call it a sleeper................. in the right hands.
            Last edited by Uncle Bob; July 25, 2020, 05:44 PM.

            Comment


              #10
              Well I sure do appreciate everyone's honest advice and feedback. Special thanks to Uncle Bob for taking the time to give such an eye opening rundown of the Preaux and the Okie Joe! I live in northern New Mexico, and we're more known for our exquisite Mexican food than BBQ. Unfortunately, that also means there are no dealers around here that would have any of these units for me to lay eyes or hands on and kick the tires, so to speak. I know of places I could go to get any size or shape of chile roaster you could ask for, but a whiz-bang grill/barbeque, not so much. That's why I love the pit club! You've all really given me food for thought.

              I guess my main question at this point is, what kind of difference is there when one cooks on a Hasty Bake versus something like a Preaux? Is it like driving an Avalon versus a Lexus, where they are very close in performance but the extra money makes for a more refined experience? Or is there a big difference in performance? I'm always willing to save a while and buy big, but I tend to look for big capability gaps when that's the case. My skills are not even remotely competition class, and the Preaux may be wasted on me at this point. But, I do think I'm ready for something a bit more serious than the kettle, and I need more cooking acreage.

              There are folks out there that can take my little kettle and turn out top-notch barbeque, and make it look easy. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. There is much to be said for squeezing out every little bit of skill I can from the kettle. I just wonder how much easier and more pleasant the experience could be for me if I move up to a bigger unit, that could potentially allow me to play around with stick burning. I'd really like to do that! I'd also enjoy not having to refill charcoal every 45 minutes when I do a long cook.

              If I'm going to spend that much money, I'm open to waiting longer, saving up and getting something like a Preaux or an LSG. I just don't know what that extra time and money is going to bring in...and will it really be worth it?

              What do y'all think? Thanks again for sharing your experience and thoughts!

              Comment


                #11
                You cover a lot of valuable ground in that follow up post, and thanks for the personal acknowledgement. That "not being able to touch and see....." thing plagues most of us in more ruralish areas. The Pit is a terrific information/demonstration tool, but you're still relying on the value judgement of others. Figuring out if what is important to them matches what's important to you is the challenge. I'm nowhere near competition grade cook, just an advanced back yard hack, but we've done enough of this kind of cooking to have a feel for features/options that might be of value. I'm probably not a good example for you as I'm in a place in life that if I get a bad case of "I wants" I might just choose to do/buy it. Not everyone wants, much less can, nor should, do that.....they're less impulsive or more practical.

                If I were to take my Uncle hat seriously I'd suggest you work more on the craft side of these exercises rather than seek a piece of equipment that suits your current ideal. There are a lot of pieces of equipment either sitting idle or languishing on the "for sale" pages around the globe that were once thought to be the ideal acquisition but proved otherwise. We were having a similar convo on another forum this weekend and one of the members said something that might fit here. "I can cook anything on a cast iron skillet over an open fire and it will be good. I just want a cooker that makes it easier." Kind of insightful, but depends on what "easier" means. Far be it from me to talk you out of buying whatever, I'm usually an enabler. It sounds like you do need to get something larger than the kettle as that's a clear deficiency from your perspective. Perhaps taking a more modest step into a midrange cooker, something that satisfies your space needs and has at least some of the features that you think you might benefit from. Perhaps a fuel based criterium should be the first "definite". Wood chunks, charcoal (even that has two subcamps), pellets, or gas. That narrows the field (though it already sounds like you prefer charcoal?). From there, just keep reading, asking questions, and evaluating what others say they value with the objective of finding someone whose thoughts/values closely resemble yours. Just remember the food is the real goal, thus the craft. It just takes time...........

                Comment


                  #12
                  I don't own any of the cookers mentioned aside from a Weber kettle (Performer Deluxe), which I find to have excellent temp control compared to my offset smoker. It remains very stable for hours on end - if you have to mess with it every 15 minutes, you are probably just impatient, and over-reacting to minor fluctuations, then having to adjust back the other way 15 minutes later. I have no seals on mine - and sometimes get smoke under the edge of the lid, but can maintain 225 for 12+ hours, 250, 275, or 350. One thing that can help is a temp controller, if you don't want to fuss with vents - I have a PartyQ, but only use it for overnight cooks.

                  One thing I will throw out that I've seen mentioned on here by owners of the Hasty Bake is that they are not sealed super tight, and have a lot of air leaks. We need someone with a Hasty Bake to comment, but I've read that from several on here - you can seal it up somewhat, but the popular Hasty Bake Gourmet 256 seems to require you learn to manage the size of the fire to control temp, for smoking at least, due to the number of air leaks in the stock configuration. Maybe some gaskets can help with that - I just don't know. I don't think it will be as tightly sealed as a Weber kettle.

                  Comment


                    #13
                    Well, ya almost lost me at "graduate from the Weber Kettle." ;-)
                    Truth be told, that is arguably, one of the finest, most versatile, cookers out there. And I don't even use one.
                    But I understand it's capabilities.

                    If SIZE is the issue...several options are available. That's easy. I can do a mess o' ribs on my WSCG... BUT...so far as I know, there is no rotisserie made for it. For that I use my Summit gasser. So perhaps a larger kettle is in order.
                    Or...

                    The WSM can make ribs to win competitions...my fave is the 22"...add a hanger and it will work like a PBC. (With control.)
                    Good stuff, but alas no rotisserie. I have no idea if a kettle rotisserie can fit or be modified to work on that.

                    The Hasty Bake certainly looks promising...but I have no experience with that one. It IS highly rated though.
                    I have even less experience with the Cajun...but it looks promising. But right now...I'm sold on a kamado style cooker, despite not being rotisserie friendly. I made a roast chicken on my WSCG the other night that had EVERYTHING I love about the rotisserie chicken I usually do on my Summit gasser. For now, the rotisserie will only be used when I need to cook several at a time.

                    Comment


                      #14
                      Uncle Bob I really appreciate your detailed posts here, as you know, the Judge is something I remain interested in as well. heraldstorm raised a good question though, that I hope you might be able to address. What is the highest and lowest temp you've been able to get on the Judge?

                      As a side note heraldstorm , I've been able to get the MB560 at 225 and 700 in the same cook. Takes maybe 15-20 minutes to make the jump with briquettes, and less with lump.

                      Comment


                        #15
                        zero_credit The response on a Judge is qualifier ladden, but that may be in part on my perceptions rather than the general marketplace. Based on the materials and most of the construction quality it's good value. Weighs shy of 200# by just a bit. Construction is pretty good with those comments I made above as qualifiers for being loosey-goosey, but in line with it's price point. What colors my judgement is comparing it to the Bronco. In my opinion, there is nothing, I do mean NOTHING, in the $300 range that offers the quality of materials, construction, and resultant performance and versatility that the Bronco offers. If the world were open minded and OJ as a company promoted it correctly, it would dominate the small barrel/bullet marketplace. But back to the Judge.

                        It's a good charcoal cooker with the versatility of the adjustable fuel bin it may approach better than good with the mods I made. Admittedly my mods were more from a smoking perspective, grilling doesn't really require as tight a box, and that probably explains why OJ didn't pay as much attention to those factors. I haven't done any work in that broad range of temps you requested. I did a low and slow and it held fairly well at 250ish which is my choice of "low" temp. I loaded the lump over on the intake side in an 8" wide wire basket which made the heat/smoke traverse the other 20 or so inches of length to the exhaust. If I didn't have any other equipment I'd be happy with the smoking results. Good, not great. Grilling is fine, and the flexibility appreciated. The highest I've taken the temp was around 450 or so for the initial burn in. I had less than half a fuel bin of lump on so I suspect with a big load it could get some high temps, I just haven't gone there with it. I've got a few things in mind to try, but most of them would be better suited for an entertainment crowd. I've got a drop on griddle that's a nominal 18 x 32 that is a good fit, and with the moveable fuel bin I shouldn't have any trouble getting to temp and controlling hot spots. Haven't done a proof of theory yet. With the Covid thing we haven't done entertaining like in the past, so the original intent of this being a larger grate area charcoal cooker to suit a group feed just hasn't materialized yet. I've also brain stormed a kludged pizza oven combo to play with, but again, just haven't made the opportunity yet.

                        If I step back and imagine a market niche for the Judge I'd say someone who wanted a rugged rig with better life expectancy than the cheapo commodity cookers, needed the added space for a larger family or frequent entertaining, wanted the temp/intensity flexibility of adjustable fire height, and, with the sealing mods I've done, wanted versatility to smoke reasonably well, all without cracking a total cost exceeding mid 400s, then this is a very good prospect.

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