Frustrated with my vertical

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by 3montes, Jun 19, 2016.

  1. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I bought a new trailer mounted vertical smoker from AZ BBQ in Tuscon. It also has a wood fired Santa Maria grill mounted on it. I cooked 26 racks of ribs in the vertical yesterday for a grad party. That was a a full load. I could have squeezed 2 more racks on if I really needed to. The heat varies of course from top to bottom but more so from left to right. So with a full load you have to do a lot of moving the bottom rack to the top and the top to the bottom and shifting the middle ones around as well. Not only that you have to turn the racks so what was on the left side of the smoker is now on the right. Kind of a Rubiks cube game going on.

    I've been a stick burner for a long time and know how to manage a fire but this is my first vertical. I also know as a stick burner it requires a bit more input from the operator which I don't mind and actually enjoy. The moving the racks around is no big deal in it's self. But for some reason after moving the racks around the bottom rack got locked in. I couldn't slide it out no matter what I did. Completely locked in solid. Of course now everything is hot and the rack is loaded full of ribs so not much I could do. Every time I had do anything with the ribs on the bottom rack I had to remove the rack above it to access those bottom rack ribs.

    Major PITA! [​IMG] Not to mention the rack of ribs that had to be removed sat on the table outside while I messed with the bottom rack ribs. This resulted in uneven cooking and ribs that had to stay on the smoker another 45 minutes after some of the others were done.

    There are a few other design issues that I'm not going to get into. I've done about 6  cooks on the vertical and have reached the conclusion that I much prefer my horizontal but my horizontal just doesn't have the capacity the vertical does. I have 5  more big cooking events this summer so I will decide after that if it's a keeper for me. Otherwise I may try to sell it during the off season and have another built only with a higher capacity horizontal and a Santa Maria. The Santa Maria is a beautiful piece of work and works great! 

    I'd say maybe I will get more efficient at running the vertical but it runs the way it runs inherent to it's design so I don't see what more I can do on my end. The racks getting locked in is a mystery I hope to solve today now that everything is cooled off.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sounds like the racks are different sizes....   Probably to accommodate their preferred space...   Also sounds like the smoker sides are not parallel or wider at the top than the bottom or the smoker expands in places, when hot, and pinches the racks...

    Vertical smokers have that inherent problem of uneven heating, unless it is a reverse flow...

    Sounds like you worked your butt off, to put out great food...  That's commendable...  [​IMG]....  unfortunately, that makes for a "not fun day"...
  3. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Sorry for the problems, Man. I wish I could help, but I don't know anything about verticals.
    Good luck finding a cure. You did everything to make that cook come out.

    Great effort, Joe. Thumbs Up
  4. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks guy just venting a bit more than anything. Pretty much have all ready decided to try to sell it this off season and have another custom build done only with a high capacity horizontal.

    It's a very nice build don't get me wrong I just don't think the vertical is for me. Also putting mixed meats on it is bothersome with beef dripping on pork or vice versa not to mention the poultry issue. Oh well seemed like a good idea at the time. [​IMG]
  5. cpfitness

    cpfitness Fire Starter

    got any pics of it?
  6. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Standard vertical smoker. Offset fire box 7 racks inside the vertical. A baffle mounted above the fire box opening into the chamber that runs nearly the width of the smoke chamber. The baffle has different size holes drilled in with the smallest being closest to the fire box and graduating to the biggest at the other end of the baffle.

    Santa Maria

    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
  7. bbqwillie

    bbqwillie Smoking Fanatic

    Block off the first 3-4 columns (front to back) of the baffle and see if that evens the heat out side to side. Alternatively place a water tray close to the FB. A narrow but long one. I had a vertical I had to fool with to make it smoke right. I actually ended up using a combination of blocking off the holes and using a water pan. I sold the unit after about 3 years because a friend of mine wanted it.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
  8. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for the advice. I though about placing a water pan on the baffle to see if that would have an effect. I will be using it for some large events in the next couple months so I will do some tweaking.

    It turns out some great food don't get me wrong. You just really need to keep a watchful eye on it though and more so with a full load. The bottom rack just got slightly sideways and wedged itself in the smoker. Once it cooled and I could see what was going on a quick jerk released it so now if it happens again I will know what to do.

    I have already contacted another fabricator about the possibility of designing another trailer rig only with a large capacity horizontal with tuning plates. So this one will be hitting Craigslist in another week or so with availability in September.
  9. Some good advice here. I wonder if the temp change didn't cause or contribute to the stuck rack? I'm sure you have it lubed, but maybe some lard or some natural grease would help lubricate? Beautiful rig though, hope you get her up to top notch! I know a lot of folks love their verticle rigs, so I bet you'll get it tip top!

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