Saturday, January 31, 2009

Interesting Cook / Backwoods Party Cooker

I did this interesting cook about two years ago when I was working on trying to get the Backwoods Party cooker to work the way I wanted for my contest cooking. Used some different methods and a different type of charcoal in this test. My biggest problem with the cooker is that I couldn't get over about 5 hours of un-attended cook time and this is not near enough to suit me for overnight cooking at a contest.
I do need my beauty sleep!!

Along with the cook, I was charting the cooker with a fairly large amount of meat with 4-7 probes. It was just a little less than what I would cook for a contest. The cook was done with a new charcoal from Wicked Good which is in briquette form but a fully hardwood lump with no chemicals, additives, or fillers. It is suposed to burn long and hotter than other charcoals. It is made from the same 4-5 hardwoods that the Wicked Good Competition blend is made from that is no longer available in this country. This was a very highly rated charcoal. I was looking for a charcoal that would burn longer than the 5-6 hours I was getting out of a full load of Ozark Oak or Royal Oak lump in my upgraded Party using water.

The cook was done without water with a new technique that I tried which is kinda a mix from information I have read on other forums. This empty waterpan method seemed to work fine at the lower temps. I wanted to try without water as it takes a lot of fuel to heat water and I was looking for a longer cook time on my one load of fuel. I also don't like sand as this changes the cooker completely with the lower grates hotter than the upper grates and very uneven cooking. The cook was done with a "sump pump" in temps of about 26-33 degrees and the meat was put on the cooker about 1:30am. The day turned out very windy!!

The cook was 2 pork butts that weighed about 7-1/2 pounds each, 1 brisket flat that weighed about 6-1/2 pounds, 3 slabs of loin back ribs, 1 four pound whole chicken which I butterflied, and 1 can of Spam.

The cook was planned to have all the meat done and ready at 3:00pm in the afternoon so the meat went on at staggered times and the cooker only had to total load on for about 3 hours near the end of the cook.

Setting up the charcoal pan....

I cut 5-6 sheets of the wide heavy duty foil about 2" larger than the pan and then slightly wadded it up into a ball, and then unwadded it out and cut it to fit the pan. The idea of this is to make several layers in the pan with an airspace between each layer to kinda filter the heat from going up into the cooker and this did work fine and I was able to keep all the grids in the cooker where I wanted them. The cooker ran with only 13 degrees difference from the 2nd grid from the top to the lower grid in the cooker. An example is the reading I took at 1:10pm where I found the upper grid at 255*, the two middle grids at 251* and the lower grid at 242*. This was with a fully loaded cooker.

This is the pan ready for the cover.

I covered the pan with the wide foil and used two layers to make for easy cleanup.

The new Wicked Good all Hardwood Brickettes...

This stuff is kinda pricy if you just order a few bags from them but the costs do go down if you order a pallet. I ordered 4 bags for the test and the shipping was as much as the charcoal. Dura-Flame also has a new all wood brickette but it's next to impossible to just order a few bags. They are very difficult to deal with unless you want a truckload.

I filled the firebox up as full as I could get it and it took 11 pounds or one full bag of charcoal. I also added some small chunks of hickory..I couldn't get any larger chunks in the box and get the firebox pushed back in the cooker.

The smoker was setup with the Sump Pump (Guru) running a 10 cfm fan and the gate on the fan was set to about 30% open.

I used several probes thru the cook so I would know how the cooker was doing and recorded the cook.

I started the cook with a Weber Firecube which I placed right in front of the vent on the right side of the cooker. As soon as the fire was out on the cube, I started the sump pump and brought the cooker up to temp. It took about 45 minutes.

I got the butts and brisket loaded about 1:30am and just turned the cooker loose and let it go until morning. It did fine without the water and the temp really held well until the wind kicked up and then I had to cut the fan back some more and close down the top vent to about 1/3 open to keep the cooker at the temp I wanted. I loaded the balance of the meat as the cook progressed. The temp in the cooker from the top to the bottom at all times ran just as it would with water. Really surprised me as I thought it might run hotter in the lower area of the cooker.

At 10 hours into the cook (which was about twice as long as I usually get), I loaded 2 more pounds of the brickettes into the cooker to be sure it would run to the end of my cook which turned out to be about 13 total hours. As it turned out, I didn't need this charcoal.

There are two butts on the top grid in the picture with one loaded to the back and one loaded to the front of the grid, next grid down is my brisket, next down is two slabs of loin backs and the lower grid has the third rack of ribs along with the whole butterflied chicken and the Spam.

The only problem I had was with the wind but I was able to control the cooker at all times at the lower temps and running without any water in the pan.

After the meat came off, I shut down the cookers vents and let the fire go out and this is the remaining charcoal I took out of the cooker.

Like I said, I don't think I needed this extra charcoal but I wasn't sure as this was my first cook with it setup this way.

This is the waterpan after I pulled it from the cooker and you can see all the grease and fat that is left on top on my foil. It was about 3/4" thick.

This is the pan after I remove the foil covering the waterpan. It is clean and ready to go again.

The food came out as good as it would have with my normal setup using Ozark Oak lump and with water in the waterpan except for a couple of items. The bark on the butts was a little harder than I wanted and I should have foiled them earlier in the cook. I also should have added more smoke wood to the fire when I put the ribs and chicken on the fire as they came out with less smoke flavor. I believe the new lump flavor is not as strong as the Ozark Oak.

I was very happy with the cook as my number one priority was to be able to get a longer cook out of a single load of fuel and it sure did that!! If it wasn't for the very high wind, the cooker would probably have run untouched for about 10-12 hours. Should be great for any overnight or contest cooking.

Just about the time I was ready to order a pallet of the Wicked Good charcoal, the Rancher charcoal showed up at Home Depot and I purchased 40 bags of this as it gave me the same cooking time as the Wicked Good. However, I think the Wicked Good was slightly better charcoal.

Later, during the contest cooking season, I found out I could also use water if I wanted and still get the longer cooking times that I needed with either the Rancher or the Wicked Good charcoal.


  1. Dear Old Dave:

    Just a quick THANK YOU for your work in testing and perfecting the no water pan technique using the Party smoker. I used it very successfully to place 3rd in the NYS championships. Voila! Your method works and is GREAT! Tom Gellert - ED-'QUE-CATORS BBQ -Northport, NY

  2. Morning Tom,

    That's great news and you are more than welcome. Good luck for the rest of the year and I will follow your progress.


  3. Dave, I just found your blog and this is a great post. Looking for something like what you did here and decided to give it a go today. Crumpled lightly 8 hd aluminum sheets and 3 top sheets in waterpan instead of my normal 20lbs of sand and then proceded. Lit cooker with 2 weber cubes in corner and then attached guru. Since I wascooking @300° today I first took it up to 275 to allow for the overshoot and then loaded in meat(18lb prime packer and two 9lb pork butts)and reset guru to the 300°. The G2Party held around 300-306 for7 hrs before I pushed all charcoal to back reload with 1/2 tray more(didnt need it there was stil 1/4 load but just in case). There was a spike after the reload to around 325 but just closed off exhaust abit and guru down abit also. All in all great technique Dave, and looking forward to more of your tips and tricks for the Bws

  4. Mr Temptedfate,

    It's nice to hear that my dry water pan method worked out well for you.

    There are 29 more articles on the Backwoods cookers with probably some more tips that may work as well for you. They are a nice cooker/smoker that will do a lot of different cooking.