Food, Wine & Just Good Living With SaucyJoe

It started with a love of food, wine & fun and blossomed into a maddening pursuit of the best recipes, techniques, grills, smokers, wines, crafted beers, rubs, marinades and sauces... We do more than play with our meat though -- we review and discuss all things cooking, drinking, reading, laughing and living at SaucyJoe's.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Dr. Has a New Toy!

The Dr.’s New Toy

For about six month’s now, Dr. Dave has been lusting after a smoker built by Rocky Richmond in North Carolina called a Big Drum Smoker. I ran across his web site,, and I liked what I saw. I also loved the testimonials from his customers including Steven Raichlen, author of many BBQ books like BBQ USA and star of the Public Television show BBQ University. Steven even bought a Big Drum Smoker for the show after trying it out. So, I WANTED ONE!

This holiday season, the opportunity to order a Big Drum Smoker presented itself, and I took it. Thanks to the IPT staff at work providing seed money plus encouragement, and the coincidental holiday travel of one of my colleagues (He drove right by Rocky’s mountain on Christmas vacation) eliminating shipping costs, I had a new smoker on January 2nd!

Since the smoker was delivered in sub-zero weather, it was immediately put into the garage for storage. However, the weather warmed to above freezing last weekend, so it was time to unpack the smoker. Here is what the smoker looked like all packed up:

Rocky definitely wanted to make sure that nothing was damaged in transit. There was over a garbage can full of packing material in and around the smoker!

Here is the smoker outside the wrap-ping:

As you can see, it looks like a tall oil drum. I ordered the extra tall version so I could smoke some bigger cuts of meat like turkey or ham.

Rocky is a good marketer. He sells wood chunks and logs. He also sells rubs. Inside the smoker, he included samples of both. The wood chunks are larger than those one finds in area stores. The wood types Rocky sells are Hickory, Apple, Black Cherry and Peach. These chunks are black cherry. I also tried Rocky’s pork rub, and I found it to be quite tasty.

The Big Drum Smokers come with wood grates and grilling grates. Both are suspended in the smoker and are far enough apart for good smoking without burning. Here are the grates as received:

Both grates are very sturdy, and the drum itself is of heavy gauge steel, promising many years of good smoking.

I put the smoker together and added the charcoal. Rocky recommends 12 pounds of charcoal for all day smoking. One thing which was not convenient, adding charcoal from an 18 pound bag of charcoal is very difficult. The smoker is deep and narrow, and I spilled coals into the bottom of the smoker. I’ll plan on pouring the coals into a smaller container and adding using that.

To start the coals, I used a large, cane shaped propane torch commonly used for burning weeds off of sidewalks. This torch reached right down to the fire grate and lit the coals with 2-3 minutes of burning.
Here are the lit coals in the fire grate near the bottom of the smoker:

I then placed 3 chunks of the black cherry wood provided by Rocky as can be seen below. Soon, the smoke was pouring out of the top of the smoker.

After letting the smoker smoke for about 5 minutes, I inserted the plugs Rocky provides for closing holes specifically drilled in the bottom of the smoker to control temperature. Before the plugs were inserted into the holes, the temperature was ~275°F. After 2 of 3 holes were plugged, the temperature lowered to 220°F and stayed there for the next 9 hours of smoking! This was absolutely amazing to me. What a great design.

In the meantime, I had prepared a 10 pound pork butt by brining for 2 hours in salt water and then rubbing using Rocky’s pork rub. This is a nice solid pork rub, not too hot and spicy, but plenty flavorful. Here is the bad boy ready for smokin’:

One of the finer things about smoking using the Big Drum Smoker is that the juices produced by cooking meat drip right onto the coals. We had a nice breeze blowing into the neighborhood, and in 15 minutes smoked pork smells were wafting amongst the neighbors houses.

I had set up the smoker out in the driveway, and this upset my wife, the lovely Linda. She doesn’t like having these types of things out in front of the house. I told her, “Dear, I’m bragging!”.
The pork but smoked for 9 hours with basting every 30 minutes. I learned one thing. In the winter, in Iowa, 220°F for the whole time will not bring the meat temperature up to the 195°F that is desired for pulled pork. I had to remove another plug so that the smoker temperature rose to 250°F in order to get the meat temperature up. I did this a little too late. Next time I smoke a pork butt in winter, I’ll smoke for the last 2-3 hours at 250°F and get the meat to 195°F for a longer time. Still, the pork butt was just fine for chopped pork.

Here it is finishing up on the smoker,

and below it is chopped ready for serving:
Look at that smoke ring! Brisket is next!


Blogger Saucy Joe Sullivan said...

I was so excited that you made this purchase. I have been looking at that site since you first showed it to me and was astounded at the smokers ability to hold its' temperature for so long on a single charge of charcoal. It makes for some easy smoking!!! Those plugs are ingenious!

Sun Jan 13, 03:40:00 PM CST  
Blogger Rocky said...

Nice review Dave!!

You definitely need to put your charcoal in a bucket first and then lower the bucket into the smoker and dump into the charcoal ring. No mess.

Hey, that is peach wood you have in there.

I recommend using bone-in pork butts for the best final product. Juicier and better flavor.

Glad you are enjoying your new toy!!

Rocky Richmond - Big Drum Smokers

Wed Jan 23, 08:04:00 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Drum Smokers are amazing!


Sat Jul 25, 03:50:00 PM CDT  

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