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Stick burner: Reverse flow or not?

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    Stick burner: Reverse flow or not?

    For Father's Day I got the "Franklin Barbeque" book. It's a great read but one thing grabbed me: For a contest out of state he had to scramble to borrow a cooker and he was loaned a Lang. He said he hates reverse flow cookers (but didn't explain why) and they had a nasty grease fire in the Lang. Even though for time and budgetary purposes I am probably a few years away from acquiring a stick burner I am still trying to learn more about them. Just about every stick burner on this site was given a gold star so I am not finding the reviews particularly helpful in ascertaining which cookers provide the best overall value. From what I've seen I really like the Lang cookers but that bash by Franklin BBQ concerns me a bit. Let's face it, the guy builds his own smokers and the lunch line at his restaurant is usually hours long so I take his opinion on this seriously.

    I am hoping some of the stick-burning Pit members have some insight on this. Do reverse-flow cookers have certain inherent design flaws?

    #2
    Wow, good question! I'm looking forward to the responses you get. You should also take a look at the Jambo (not a reverse flow stick burner), which I've heard is the Lamborghini of stick burners. I don't have a stick burner, so I can't help, but I want to see what the Forum has to say!

    Comment


      #3
      From watching random Franklin BBQ episodes on public broadcasting, i also noted the position of the exhaust stack being close to the meat level or just above, not typically at a high point on the grill chamber. I would assume that since hot air rises, it would force heat to collect in the top of the space and thus maintain even temps easier? Thoughts?
      Last edited by CurlingDog; July 15, 2015, 11:25 AM. Reason: spelling correction

      Comment


        #4
        From Chapter 2:

        "The offset smokers I build are as simple as they come. However, there are many tricked-out versions of offset smokers that are available to home cooks. One example is the reverse flow smoker. In the reverse flow, the smokestack is located on the same side of the rig as the firebox, with the intent that the heat and smoke will travel to the far end of the smoker under a plate beneath the grates and, unable to escape there, will be pulled back to the smokestack, thus making a complete tour of the cook chamber and smoking the meat more efficiently and evenly."

        "I don’t really care too much for either design, but that’s maybe because I’ve learned to cook my way on a simple, unmodified cooker. I don’t feel that I get my preferred amount of convection pulling heat and smoke through the cooker with the reverse flow, and frankly, it just changes the dynamic I’m used to."

        Comment


          #5
          The main reason he doesn't like the reverse flow is that he isn't used to them. He has only cooked on regular off-set smokers that he has made.
          Last edited by DWCowles; October 25, 2017, 02:24 PM.

          Comment


            #6
            Either would be fine for moi. I have my cheap offset converted to reverse flow to help with temp maintenance on the hot side, and I preferred to just putting one plate instead of messing with multiple tuning plates.

            A small 24x48 Jambo (non-reverse) would work, a Meadowcreek TS-120 (reverse flow) would work as well. It's all heat and it's all good.

            Comment


              #7
              If you stop and think very critically about it, it's a moot point. Meat doesn't care which direction heat, airflow and smoke travel across it. R to L, or R to L to R. A good standard flow will hold steady temps just like a reverse flow. A badly maintained fire in a reverse flow will have temp swings like anything else. What we're looking at here is a lawnmower with 4 wheel drive or 2 wheel drive, and asking which cuts the grass better.

              Comment


              • JeffJ
                JeffJ commented
                Editing a comment
                Between your response and fuzz quoting Franklin verbatim - that he doesn't like reverse flow because he's not used to it - my concerns regarding the Lang are largely assuaged.

                Thanks to all for your input.

              #8
              You can always try Johnson smokers. They are a little cheaper and are of high quality. He does reverse flow but also makes a cool "T" shaped smoker as well. Check him out. Also, I have a reverse flow and it cooks lovely and evenly.

              Comment


                #9
                Seems like we're going back to cooking with wood. I'm seeing more and more research/ questions about log burners.

                Comment


                • DWCowles
                  DWCowles commented
                  Editing a comment
                  When did we STOP bbqing with wood Ernest

                • Ernest
                  Ernest commented
                  Editing a comment
                  We didn't stop, just seems like more and more folks are getting into all wood BBQ.
                  I'm trying to master all wood cooking on my SnS.

                • PaulstheRibList
                  PaulstheRibList commented
                  Editing a comment
                  A great development! #Stickburners

                #10
                As long as it retains heat well, and the smoke goes out the chimney, instead of around the lids, knobs, ect, it's all irrelevant. I designed my own stick burner, and had a friend who's good at welding help with the build. I'll post pics next time I'm in town. It's a reverse flow, and I made the plate removable so I can clean gunk out of the "smoke chute", as I call it. And it cooks awesome. Very stable once the fire is going well, BUT, it can be very finicky to get started and warmed up to settle at my preferred temp. I've never used a commercial reverse flow, but I can imagine they would all have the same inherent problem of taking awhile to warm up enough to get a good draft for the fire. Mine will belch the smoke for darn near an hour before it starts to finally settle in, with temp swings all over the place, and I've actually had it flow reversed on me on a very cold day (smoke comes out of the intake and its sucking oxygen through the chimney), so I sometimes have to warm the chamber up through other means before I put lit logs in. sorry for the winded post, but my point is reverse flow or straight flow either one should be fine so long as it's well constructed and sealed, and the reverse flow can definitely be easier to maintain even temps, but can be a much bigger pain to get it stabilized to begin with.

                Comment


                • Stevehtn
                  Stevehtn commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Oh, one other thing about a stickburner, and I'm sure this is irrelevant with the more expensive ones like Lang, so take it with a grain of salt......make absolutely certain that the smoker has large enough intakes and a large enough exhaust. Wood fires need significantly more airflow than charcoal, and though I've left meats smoking over 12 hours that had a perfect sweet smokiness to them, I can promise you it that fire starts to starve for air, your food will taste like a coal stack MUCH faster with wood than with charcoal and chunks.

                • Ernest
                  Ernest commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Stevehtn your winded post makes a lot sense, much appreciated.

                • Stevehtn
                  Stevehtn commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Glad I could help. Once you start using a stick burner you'll love it. Flavor can't be beat But it does take a lot more care

                #11
                I, like you, am about to get a stick burner after years of WSM & Big Green Egg charcoal cooking - with results I'm satisfied with. I just want to do it, so I started looking at every design I could find. So here's something I've been thinking about with regards to reverse flow: It depends on how/what you cook. When I want to load up my cookers, I almost always seem to be cooking a mix of pork and chicken. So I really like the idea of being able to create zones that are 50-75 deg apart. I also like what I'm able to do with my WSM, and that's having a big water reservoir under my food to add a little humidity, stabilize my temps and, mostly, to make clean up much easier - I just dump the water without having all that crud to clean off the cooker. Pits with a drain will make this even easier. You can't do that nicely with the Lang design because there's no room under the grate - though you could with the KAT reverse flows. Lang likes to say that cleaning their pits is fast and easy - you just hose them out while they're hot and they get "steam cleaned". Might work slick if you live in Georgia like they do. Not so nice in N. Minnesota where I don't have outside water from mid-Sept to mid-May. Anyway, I think for me, a traditional flow design is a better fit.

                Comment


                  #12
                  I've cooked on stick burners for 30 years - two Pitts & Spitts for 25 years and Jambo's for 5 years. My neighbor cooks on an East Texas Reverse Flow. I have watched him cook on his pit, have tasted many different meats and they have been tops. He is a seasoned pit master and knows how to run the fire to maintain his 250-275 temps steadily. Other friends cook on Weber Smoky Mountains, Backwoods, homemade stick burners, Langs, Ole Hickory's and the results are all good as far as the product is concerned. Perhaps some of the pits are easier to maintain steady fires, but with experience the Q stands on it's own. As everyone has said above, the cooker really does not matter. What matters is your focus and ability to run the fire properly to cook whatever. Patience, experience and desire (& a few cold ones)probably make any pit run good. I've heard a very well know world champion pit master say he can cook on any kind of pit and make his BBQ taste the same, good. And I believe that's true. So buy the pit that you like and can afford and just cook on it ....
                  Last edited by bbcoops; October 29, 2015, 08:05 PM.

                  Comment


                    #13
                    I read somewhere a while back that properly designed and built offset should run just fine. Reverse flow smokers are built by those who cannot design a proper offset grill.... that being said I have a brinkman trailmaster, and have about $100 in quarter inch steel for tuning plates and gaskets/ clamps. It runs fairly evenly but is a fuel hog.

                    Comment


                      #14
                      One advantage of the reverse flow is that some pitmakers design their pits so you can pipe returning smoke and heat back into a "warming box" to use it as a secondary cooker. With baffles the box can serve as a warmer, warm smoker (for fish and jerky) or as a secondary cook chamber. Meadow Creek and Shirley come to mind - I think Langs can work this way as well?

                      I think I'm leaning towards a traditional design because I like to cook a few different types of meat at the same time - so I'll use the hotter spots for chicken and sausage and the cooler spots for ribs and larger cuts of pork. I could add tuning plates if I ever planned on cooking a big batch of one type of meat...

                      Comment


                      • JeffJ
                        JeffJ commented
                        Editing a comment
                        If you are looking for hotter and cooler zones be careful which rig you settle on. For example, on a Yoder the holes that release the heat and smoke upward closest to the firebox are much smaller than the ones that are further away. This lends to pretty even heat distribution throughout.

                      #15
                      Hey guys, haven’t posted anything for a while but I do pop in from time to time to read what folks are talking about. I think this is a great subject with lots of good stuff said. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out how that feller caught that Lang on fire. I have a Lang 48 Deluxe and to this day I believe it was one of the best investments I have ever made, I also have an offset smoker which I love as well. I am not going to bore everyone about what a great cooker the Lang is, a matter of fact there are times I would rather use the offset instead of the Lang and vice versa. I would say it is all about what you are cooking and how you want to cook it. For me there is nothing I can think of other than a whole pig or equivalent that I can’t cook in ether one. If I am cooking a single rack of ribs for the wife and I use the offset, I like the Lang for pork butt, brisket, leg of lamb or if I have a lot of meat. If I am cooking lots of chicken wings I use the Lang because there is less than 25 degrees difference from one end to the other where the offset the wings close to the firebox are burnt before the ones in the back cooked. I think DWCowles is right about not being use to the reverse flow it takes getting use to. All that being said most of my cooking is done on my Weber Kettle.

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