003 Dan Midgely – Offset Smokers

003 Dan Midgely -

In Episode Three of the Comp Ready series of The Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast, I chat with Dan Midgely, owner and Master Pit Builder at BSG Smokers.

Dan is a straight shooter who answered every question I could think to ask about buying, building and using an offset smoker.

Thanks and appreciation go to Coastline Barbeques and Heating for sponsoring the first series of the Smoking Hot Confessions podcast. Check out their website for more!

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SHOW NOTES

  • Dan’s first exposure to offsets was at Josh Lawson’s BLVD restaurant at Springfield. Started doing internet research right away to build. It was a Yoder Witchita 20 inch
  • R&D –
    • Massive amounts of R&D involved
    • Placement and size of firebox and stack etc
  • Dan speaks Imperial and Metric after 14 years as a F&T for the railroad
  • His first experiences were with wood burning bricked in grills in the backyard
  • Dan started out building UDSs
  • Referred to his friend’s birthday part as ‘Paulie’s Rib Day Out’ – possible comp name???
  • Pork ribs were what he was starting with
  • Tuning plates are a massive advantage of using a direct flow offset smoker
    • They can be used to create hotter and cooler zones
    • They can be used to create steady zones across the whole pit
    • Reverse flow don’t have tuning plate
    • Tuning plates go under the cooking grate in the lower part of the cooking chamber
    • Practice is the key to learning how to use tuning plates properly
    • Tuning plates are best used when put directly under the piece of meat as they regulate the radiant heat
    • To get a steady heat from one end to the other, start near the firebox and put the first tuning plate in, a pinky finger width from the end. Put in a tuning plate. Leave a gap of two pinky fingers and put in the second plate. Continue this pattern and put in enough tuning plates to go all the way to the other end
  • 6mm is the industry standard thickness for smokers
  • Thickness is important when talking about offsets but not so much for bullet or kettle style BBQs as they work on different principles
  • When using briquettes, it’s easier to predict how many you’re going to need and how long they will last. It’s less easy to predict with logs due to their size, moisture levels etc as no piece of timber is going to be the same as another
  • Getting a constant temperature from end of the pit to another comes down to design first.
  • BSG uses insulated fire boxes to maximise efficiency leading to steady fires. Combined with the correct use of tuning plates it is possible to get a 3 degree (Celsius) difference from one end to the other
    • They use two milk crates of iron bark for an entire ABA comp
    • This is 50-60% less wood than a smoker with a non-insulated smoker
    • Josh’s pit is 24 inch by 1800mm long
    • Smoking Hot Bros’ is 30 inches by 2400mm long
    • Both run similarly
  • BSG’s insulated fire boxes are:
    • 6mm inner skin
    • 50mm ceramic fire proof blanket, rated to 1200 degrees F
    • 6mm outer plate
    • With this mod you’ll save a heap of money in a short amount of time
  • The difference between standard and reverse flow offsets
    • Standard traditional flow offsets have tuning plates
    • The heat draws straight through and out the chimney at the opposite end to the firebox
    • Reverse flows have one plate that runs almost the whole length of the cook chamber
    • The heat runs down under the plate, comes up into the cooking chamber and then back down the other side, exiting through the chimney at the end nearest the firebox
    • Overall, a standard flow is more customisable than a reverse-flow
  • When buying your first offset
    • Go to a 20 inch over a 16 as it won’t be long until you outgrow it
    • You’ll get two 9 kilo briskets on the bottom rack of a 20 inch
    • 3 full racks of pork ribs on the top rack
    • 8 – 10 3-bone plates of beef ribs on the bottom rack and 4 or 5 on the top rack
    • 20 inch is a very versatile size
  • Dan on vertical rib racks
    • He has built some in the past
    • You’ll fit more in if you use a rack
    • He hasn’t found a different between cooking them laying down or standing in a rack
    • He hasn’t manufactured them as there hasn’t been a demand for them – most people want a special rib rack put in the cooking chamber
  • A first time offset buyer should:
    • Shop around and buy the best you can afford
    • You’ll avoid dramas and have smoother cooking experiences
  • When doing his designing he spent a lot of time sketching everything out in an A3 notebook
  • There’s a lot of math involved in working out proper locations for components, flow rates etc
  • When looking at making your own smoker:
    • Estimate your skills accurately
    • Allow for 50 – 150 hours
    • To work out thermodynamic principles, look at Feldon’s Calculator
  • Dan advises against trying to use an offset as a pizza oven
    • Taking an offset to over 200C might lead to damage to the pit
    • You won’t get that wood-fired flavour anyway
  • Dan’s three top tips:
    • Buy the best you can afford
    • Practice Practice Practice
    • Cook to temp, not to time

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