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Franklin Pits - Initial Review and First Cooks

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    Franklin Pits - Initial Review and First Cooks

    Good Afternoon Pitmasters,

    I wanted to write up a post on my experience with Aaron Franklin's backyard pit, which you can now get on the waitlist for. I've had it for two months and it is my first offset with about 3 years smoking experience on WSCG and no prior fire management. Some balk at the price:'feature' ratio, which I get, but you're ultimately paying for what Franklin would design and build for his own use in a custom small shop setting plus a bit of inflation due to the brand. Overall, I love it and have no regrets.

    Purchase, Customer Service, Shipping, Unboxing
    • Had been on waitlist for about 2 years. They sent an email asking if I was still interested, which I said yes. They then give you order details to decide on and then you call and place the order. There's no holds, so you have to be able to purchase when your name comes up, otherwise they move on to the next on the list.
    • Purchase Price: $2950 (now $3450 due to rising price of steel), shipping ~$600 from TX to IA, Custom Cover ~$200. I got pit #107.
    • Customer Service (A+): very friendly and personable, answered all questions I had patiently, and followed up a couple weeks after delivery to ask how the delivery process and first cook went. Really top notch.
    • Delivery was smooth, crate delivered into my garage. Packing very thorough and well thought out - no damage and clear instructions on uncrating which the customer service team sent by email along with what was stapled to the crate. The walls of the crate are designed to be used as runners for rolling over uneven terrain to your backyard, which I thought was a nice design touch.
    • The smoke stack is bolted on to the cook chamber, which is the only assembly required.
    • Pit comes with a 75 page instruction manual written and signed by Franklin. It was a nice summary of his other materials.
    Build Quality & Features
    • Went through over 60 prototypes over 5 years, very pleased with the engineering
    • Thick steel throughout (1/4, and 5/16 in areas), high quality welds, about 600 lbs, very high quality
    • Cook chamber 20"x39", but 6 of those inches are taken by a welded platform for a water pan, which also serves as a baffle plate. Holds 2 briskets, 3 pork butts, and 5 ribs laying flat comfortably.
    • Firebox is double-wall insulted and much larger proportionally than I see on most other smokers
    • Grate level smoke stack, which sits on top of a trapezoid channel that is supposed to concentrate smoke around the meat as it's pulled out. Tel-tru thermometer placed grate level close by, about 10 degree difference from my fireboard.
    • Smoke stack optimized to 42" after experimentation
    • No air damper and the door has been drilled with holes to make it impossible to choke your fires
    • Rotating ergonomic handle is nice
    • Grease drain channel on the bottom with hook for grease pail (included)
    • It's heavy, but I can roll it fine on concrete - I store in garage and cook on the driveway.
    Click image for larger version

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    Cook Performance
    • Very easy to achieve blue/clear smoke due to maximizing air flow. I haven't remotely had an issue with creosote.
    • Holds temps well in most weather I've tried (-5 degrees wind/snow up to 60 degrees and sunny). In really cold weather you can hold temps easier with welder's blanket for added insulation (~30 degrees) and by keeping the firebox door closed (~20 degrees)
    • Works best with small splits (about 9" x 2-3"). Using bigger splits will result in higher temperature swings
    • You can leave it unattended for maybe 5-10 min, but plan on tending the fire the whole cook (no set and forget!)
    • In my conditions, it seems to "settle in" around 260-270 degrees
    • Produces very moist meat and amazing bark. I think the added humidity and increased air/smoke flow made a difference that surprised me here. I haven't been able to achieve those levels on the WSCG.
    • Just a lot of fun
    Click image for larger version

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    Cooks So far
    • Have done pork shoulder, pork spare ribs, beef plate ribs, whole chicken, pork belly, and brisket. All have been the best I've done since getting into smoking (even verified by my indifferent wife!)
    • Pork Shoulder: first cook in -5 degree weather, wanted to test how "idiot proof" pork shoulder really is and it turned out delicious even with huge temperature swings due to it being the first time I managed a fire
    • Ribs: both pork and beef turned out really well. I started them a little too late so I think there's another level of tenderness to be achieved but really happy with the flavor
    • Brisket: amazing bark and really nice moisture/texture at the end. Went 8 hours at a range of 255-265, spritz every hour w/ apple cider vinegar starting at hour 3, wrapped in butcher paper at hour 8, finished for 4 hours at 285. Need to work on trimming more and need a new cutting knife, but overall quite pleased.
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    #2
    Great writeup, and you're turning out some amazing looking 'cue on that bad boy!

    Having smoked a ton of butts (literally!), in a 20x40 area, I think you ought to be able to fit at least 6 butts. I can fit 6 to 8 on a 24x36 cooking grate, avoiding a hot spot right above the firebox. If its 20 inches front to back, I'd bet you can run more than 2 briskets as well, if you run them front to back. I've done 12 racks of ribs using rib racks to stand mine on edge.I.e. I am thinking the capacity is even higher than your estimate, push comes to shove, if you ever get tapped to cater for a really large BBQ event!

    Have fun cooking!

    Comment


    • bmcleveland313
      bmcleveland313 commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm sure you're right on stretching the capacity. I guess I've always been hesitant. Do you find when you cram it full there is any reduction in bark quality or other effects due to restricting "smoke flow"? Not sure if that's reasonable, but seems to be why I hesitate outside of not needing that much volume.

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      @bmcleaveland313 as long as the hunks of meat are not touching, there is no impact on bark and little to no impact on cooking time when using my offset. I've probably crammed as many as 8 or 9 butts onto a 24x36 cooking grate, and as long as there is say a 1/2 inch gap between each piece of meat, it works out fine.

    • jfmorris
      jfmorris commented
      Editing a comment
      I have noticed that my smaller cookers like the kettle+SNS use more fuel for cooking when loaded down with a lot of cold meat. I don't notice a difference with the offset, likely due to the fact it has so much more air flow and burns so much more fuel regardless of whether it is empty of full, or somewhere in between.
      Last edited by jfmorris; April 22, 2021, 04:03 PM.

    #3
    Nice write up and thank you for sharing! Looks like a great pit!

    Comment


      #4
      Excellent write up and great pictures. The results of your cooks look great as well. Thanks for taking the time to do this. This is the first Franklin smoker review I’ve seen. You done good!

      bmcleveland313 I was wondering why you can only leave it unattended for 5-10 minutes? Most offsets I’ve heard, it’s generally about every half hour or so to check the temps. I’ve had a couple of stick burners in the past and found that to be about right.
      • You can leave it unattended for maybe 5-10 min, but plan on tending the fire the whole cook (no set and forget!)
      Last edited by Panhead John; April 22, 2021, 06:13 AM.

      Comment


      • bmcleveland313
        bmcleveland313 commented
        Editing a comment
        Panhead John, Good thoughts - I'll try that next time. Though no dampers anywhere on this guy! Thanks!

      • Panhead John
        Panhead John commented
        Editing a comment
        That’s right, I forgot the stack doesn’t have a damper on it. I’m used to my OJ. Bronco and past offsets I had.

      • Johnny Booth
        Johnny Booth commented
        Editing a comment
        Great review. I own #50. My first stick burner too! The flow pretty much keeps a novice from making mistakes. Fire management is key to not being exhausted on a 12 hour cook. You will find a way to get 20-30 minutes and more out of a log. I did, but I could never describe how, each fire is unique. Sometimes a banking ash can slow down a hot fire. Same way, a small thin stick will crank it up when sluggish. I😎👍

      #5
      Excellent write-up, photos and oh the results !! That brisket looks like it came from Franklin's restaurant. Thanks for the review although I still think it's a little over priced for obvious reasons. Enjoy your pit, should last several lifetimes !!

      Comment


        #6
        First class write-up and beautiful work. Congratulations.

        Just one question:
        Whose car got kicked out of the garage to make room for the smoker?

        Comment


        • bmcleveland313
          bmcleveland313 commented
          Editing a comment
          Well, it took about 2.5 years to convince the wife to let me buy this, so you can probably guess what was thrown in as part of the deal

        #7
        I'm droolin!!

        Comment


          #8
          Niiiice write up. Looks like an awesome pit!

          Comment


            #9
            Great write up, thanks for your input. So is your total delivered cost $3450 or $3450 plus the $800?

            Comment


            • bmcleveland313
              bmcleveland313 commented
              Editing a comment
              For me it was $2950 base price + $600 shipping + $200 cover for about $3750 delivered. The base price has gone up $500 since then due to the increasing price of steel, so tack on $500. In hindsight I would have skipped the cover since deciding to store in the garage.

            #10
            Congrats!

            Comment


              #11
              Nice write-up and cook well done.
              Happy Offset to you and PBR too.

              Comment


                #12
                Great write up with lots of info.
                Sounds like your getting good value for the price spent and that's all anyone wants in anything they buy.

                Comment


                  #13
                  Thank you. Great write-up, photos, and what looks to be some outstanding food.

                  Comment


                    #14
                    Thanx for a great writeup, and you product looks great too.

                    Comment


                    #15
                    Nice job with the description and looks like you're zeroing in on the cooks very well. The other review I've seen is on YT, Mad Scientist BBQ, Jeremy Yoder. His is #132 so presumably you've got more experience with yours to date. He too shared the need for smaller splits which, with your confirmation, seems suitable as you both feel roughly the same about the outcome. No question this is a premium purchase, but value is at least as important as price, if not moreso. Enjoy.

                    Comment

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