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Brisket … a Texas-sized challenge

In my 8 years living in Texas, I learned that Oil, Football, and Brisket have become one with the culture.  Sure, BBQ is everywhere, but it is your ability to prepare Brisket that distinguishes the mediocre from the exceptional.   For good reason, Brisket is the most difficult of the traditional BBQ meats to cook.  I’ve dabbled with Briskets over the years, but that Unicorn has always seemed to allude me, until today.

Given that my smoked pork always comes out consistently good and is generally popular, I haven’t felt that compelled to attempt Brisket.  However, a friend’s dad was in town from Houston, and I struck up a conversation with him.   He and his entire family are Brisket enthusiasts with many years under their belts.  As the conversation rolled on, his infectious energy encouraged me to try my hand at Brisket once again.   He gave me many helpful tips, but stopped short when it came to his secret rub, his secret way to pick the best Brisket, and his secret way to judge when the meat is done.  This is the sign of classic BBQ enthusiasts… they hold certain recipes and techniques as secret as the original Coke formula and are only passed down to family members by word of mouth.  Never written.  I love it.

The main tip that I took away and was purposely going to integrate into this session was to cook the Brisket between 210-225F, which is easy to do in the Breeze.  I just had to be willing to wait longer to be done.  Before I provide the details of the entire cooking process, let me say that it worked.  This Brisket was hands down the best I have ever made.  Read on and I will describe details and maybe there will be a tip or two worth remembering.

Before I started, first I’ll ask this question:  How many different ways are there to make Brisket?  Answer: As many ways as there are people making Brisket.  Everyone has their own approach, and if you talk to them, you will often here emphatically that “their way” is best.  I’ve tasted a lot of good Brisket in the past, all cooked with definitively different “the right way”.    Wood choice.  Meat grade.  Trimming. Spices.  Mops.  Injections. Charcoal Types.  Cook Temperatures.  Cook Times.  Full Brisket or flat.  Aluminum (gasp) or bare.  Fat up, Fat down. Smoker type.  Resting period.  Sauce or Dry. The list goes on and on as to the areas to which every BBQ enthusiast will vary.  For the purposes of this article, I will at least be straight forward with what “I did” in each of these areas with some perspective on my choices, but not provide any grade on correctness (although it did turn out pretty good).  If there were a single “best” way to cook Brisket, why bother, right?

Meat Choice

As with my prior articles, the meat sets the stage for everything else.  I visited Jungle Jim’s, which is a fantastic fresh food market in Cincinnati known for its eclectic variety of fresh and globally sourced foods.   They carry Choice Angus beef, so I bought an 8.3 lb Choice Angus Brisket (CAB) trimmed to the Flat.  CAB is the highest quality of the Choice grades so I assume it will be the most consistent piece of meat.   Given that the Brisket is basically a tough piece of meat that requires many hours to make edible, I don’t worry too much about getting Prime or Wagyu grades, as they are quite a bit more expensive.  What I’m looking for is consistent quality.  All cooking processes, if you want them to be repeatable, need to start with consistency.  If the meat varies dramatically from one cooking session to the next, I can never be sure on the true impact of changing my other choices, like cooking temperature, time, and spices.

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There are many experts that suggest always cooking a full Brisket that includes the Point.  Even though I absolutely love the meat that comes from the Point, I have found that all of  

that fat really affects the cooking time, so again for consistency, I went for the Flat.

While I’m thinking about how to set up for success in smoking pulled pork, let me talk a little about the heat and smoke source.  First, a Don’t.  I don’t use Charcoal Briquettes.  Will they work in the Breeze?  Yes, absolutely.  They actually burn very uniformly and are very dense so you can put a much larger load of them in the self-feeding fuel chute.  The reason I don’t use them is two-fold.  First, the way a briquette is made is by taking a combination of charcoal products and compressing and gluing them together with a binder.  If there isn’t a binder, the briquettes would tend to fall apart.  Manufacturers of the briquettes may use natural binders, but nevertheless there is an additive which could provide a slight flavor difference, particularly when you are subjecting the meat to 10 to 14 hours of cooking time.  Second, Charcoal Briquettes produce more ash.  I’m not sure why, but I know I have to empty the ash pan more often with Briquettes than with Lump Charcoal or Wood.

So what do I use?  First, the 8” diameter chute on the Breeze will handle just about any commercially available charcoal or wood source out there, so what you put down the chute is personal preference.

Wood

Normally I would use Hickory on beef, but I found some Cherry and Apple woods at Home Depot so I decided to experiment with those.  I use 100% wood for Briskets, no charcoal.  I started with Cherry wood for the first half of the cook, and then ended with Apple.  No rhyme or reason.    Next time will try Post Oak, as that is the perennial favorite of Texans.  It is just harder to source in Cincinnati.

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Meat Preparation

If eyebrows haven’t been raised to this point, get ready as meat prep is where much debate will occur.

Recall I already bought a Flat, so there is no special attention to trimming the Point.  For my trim, I kept is really simple.  I trimmed all the fat off of the bottom side of the Brisket, and left about ¼ of an inch on the top.  My basis for trimming the entire bottom off is so that the spices I add to that side will actually stay with the meat.  After pulling the Brisket, I often will cut of some of the fat on top, but don’t want to scrape away the spices.

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To spice the meat, I keep it pretty simple – 50/50 Salt/Pepper, a dash of ground cloves, garlic, and onion powder.  Then I take a handful of brown sugar and coat the surface.  Once I get a consistent flavor, I will become more exacting.  For the time being, I keep it loose.

Finally, I leave the Brisket out of the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to let it come up to room temperature.  What happens to cold beer, or iced tea, when it is first brought out of the refrigerator and taken outside?  Unless you are in Arizona, it gets a lot of moisture built up on the outside surface of the container due to condensation of air born moisture.  Does warm water or warm beer do this?  Nope.  My logic for letting the meat get warmer is that it lessens any potential condensation of smoke on the surface, to minimize any acrid flavors.    During this same time, the salt will start to extract some of the water from the meat, which in turn will cause the brown sugar to dissolve and form a uniform glaze.  I don’t know if this matters or not, it just happens.

Let the Smoking Begin

For this session, I want to target an average cooking temperature of 210-225F.   I light the Breeze, let it get to around 190F, fill up the chute with Cherry Chunks, and place the meat in the smoker.

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I put the meat in fat side down.  There are only two reasons I’ve heard that influence whether the fat should be up or down.  The first reason for “fat side up” is that the fat will then baste the meat as it renders.  For beef, the fat does not render much.  Pork loses fat like squeezing a sponge, but beef fat stays there, just mocking me in its resilience.  The second reason for positioning the fat is based on temperature variation in the smoker.  Fat is an insulator, so you would normally place the fat on the side where you expect to get higher temperature spikes.  If the top side of the meat has higher air temperatures, like in most side box burners, then fat should go up.  If you place the Brisket close to the fire, then it should be fat down to insulate the meat from radiative heat from the fire.  For the Breeze, the temperature is the same everywhere and the fire is so far away that there are no radiative heating issues either.  As such, it’s dealers choice.  I place the fat side down so that it separates the meat from the grate.

I placed the meat in the Breeze at 6:45 PM.  I assumed 1’30” to 1’45” per pound at 215F, so I expected about a 12 -14 hour cook.   The weather was around 50F when I lit the smoker, and it got as cold as 38F overnight.  The Breeze makes the cooking part boring, which I love.  I set the damper, and then every 4 to 5 hours I go out and fill the chute.  I don’t baste the meat… yet.  I’m not that advanced.  After I perfect the cooking time/temperature to get the right smokiness and texture, I may dablle with mops to further enhance flavor; but for now it would require me to be more involved with the cooking.  I would rather sleep : )

Just to be clean on the wood – I filled the chute with Cherry at 6:45.  At 11:45, I refilled with Cherry, then went to bed.  I woke up at 5AM and filled the chute with Apple chunks, then I pulled the Brisket at 9AM.  Total cook time was around 14 hours.

My biggest concern with Brisket is cooking just until the meat becomes tender, but not a minute longer.  My scientific approach to measure tenderness is to jab a skewer into it and feel for resistance.  The first time I opened the oven door was at 7AM, or after 12 hours of cooking.  I jabbed the meat and it still felt stiff.  When I reopened the door at 14 hours (the second and final door opening), the skewer slid easily into the meat, so I pulled it. Look at all that smoke!!

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Like any good meat, it needs to rest for a period of time.  I wrapped it in several layers of aluminum foil and put it in my kitchen oven, oven off, for 2 hours before I cut into it.  The pictures below show the meat wrapped and what it looked like right before I cut into it, right after, and ready to eat on a bun.  The grain structure was about as good as could be expected.  When I pulled a slice of meat apart, it had a slight resistance, and then you could see the intercellular fat layer pull away.

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At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that my motivation for the Brisket session was based on a recent conversation with a Texas friend’s dad, who lives and breathes Brisket.  I invited her over to get an experienced outsiders opinion.  She loved it!  She said that the texture, smokiness, and smoke ring were perfect.  As another famous Texan once said, “Mission Accomplished”… only it is true this time!

Nathan

Giant turkey ribs on Thanksgiving

Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone! My family had a day after Thanksgiving party and of course we smoked a turkey with the Breeze:

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Apologies for the garbage can and reflection in the picture. I took it from inside the warm house as the outside temperatures were pretty cold in Wisconsin.

As usual, since we’re already running the Breeze, we throw in a rack of ribs because, well, the ribs always turn out really good.

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When I posted this one of the Facebook comments I received was “that’s one big turkey.” Or was he responding to my profile picture?

Before and during pictures of the turkey:

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And here is what the final product looked like:

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Everything turned out great. The turkey neck and gizard were delicious snacks before dinner. I used a Maverick Et-732 Remote Bbq Smoker Thermometer so I could monitor temperatures while staying out of the aforementioned cold.

We all had a great day after Thanksgiving meal of BBQ after a great traditional Thanksgiving meal the day before!

 

 

Comments from our latest customer

Bob B. from Eagle Rock, MO is our latest happy Breeze customer! Bob did a little midnight cook the first day he got his Breeze, and wrote us to tell us this:

“Smoked some ribs and a chicken tonight. Just took them off the smoker about a half hour ago. Even though it was close to midnight, we couldn’t resist a large snack. Beautiful smoke ring on the ribs and the chicken was very moist. Gambled that I could cook them together, but it worked great. You were right, you can achieve success the first cook. The first couple of hours, out of habit from my old smoker, I was running out to check the temperature every 20 minutes. The temperature dial didn’t fluctuate any.  So, I watched a movie and checked when I thought it might be done. The dial still hadn’t moved. Checked a bit early, and went back in an hour and wow. The Cincinnati BBQ magazine said it right, about as much effort as using the microwave.
You were incredible to deal with. I can’t thank you enough for helping make sure I had the unit for the holiday. I couldn’t be happier after the initial cook with the unit, or with you and your firm. What and incredible smoker and buying experience.
Thanks so much.”
Thanks Bob! Great to have you on board. Want a Breeze for yourself? Contact us!

Smoking the Perfect Pulled Pork – By the founder

By Nathan Moore

I turned 46 yesterday and my parents have come to Cincinnati from Arkansas to spend the week.  My dad asked if there would be any “celebratory pork” made available during his visit.  “Of course” is always the right answer.  Per usual, my dad requested Baby Back Ribs, as they are tasty and have the shortest cook time; unfortunately, Whole Foods was out of ribs, so I got the biggest Pork Butt they had behind the counter, which was about 6 pounds.  I wish I had a local butcher that is convenient, but that isn’t in the cards.  I have found that Whole Foods gets their meats locally and they are very high quality.  This brings me to the very first, and possibly the most important, point on making a good Pulled Pork.

Start with the highest quality meat available.

There is an argument that the point of slow smoking and associated extended cook times are supposed to convert poor cuts of meat into the delicacy we know as smoky BBQ.  This is true.  However, if the starting meat has a super high fat content or is old or is salt brined, you can’t fix that with smoking.  Also, the fattier the meat, the more you will feel robbed when you pull the pork out of the oven as it will appear that half of the meat has disappeared.  The meat isn’t gone.  The fat, that you also paid full price for, is gone.  As you will see later, the meat from Whole Foods doesn’t shrink nearly as much.

I can say without hesitation that my largest BBQ disappointments had their origins in my misconception that I could get any meat, anywhere, and make it taste good.  Better cuts of meat always make better BBQ.

While I’m thinking about how to set up for success in smoking pulled pork, let me talk a little about the heat and smoke source.  First, a don’t.  I don’t use Charcoal Briquettes.  Will they work in the Breeze?  Yes, absolutely.  They actually burn very uniformly and are very dense so you can put a much larger load of them in the self-feeding fuel chute.  The reason I don’t use them is two-fold.  First, the way a briquette is made is by taking a combination of charcoal products and compressing and gluing them together with a binder.  If there isn’t a binder, the briquettes would tend to fall apart.  Manufacturers of the briquettes may use natural binders, but nevertheless there is an additive which could provide a slight flavor difference particularly when you are subjecting the meat to 10 to 14 hours of cooking time.  Second, Charcoal Briquettes produce more ash.  I’m not sure why, but I know I have to empty the ash pan more often with Briquettes than with Lump Charcoal or Wood.

So what do I use?  First, the 8” diameter chute on the Breeze will handle just about any commercially available charcoal or wood source out there, so what you put down the chute is personal preference.  My comments above about Briquettes falls into that category… it’s my personal preference.  For Pulled Pork specifically, I use a lot more Hickory Wood than Charcoal as the meat can handle a very high level of smokiness and not become overwhelming.  This isn’t true for all meats.  Today I used Lump Charcoal and Hickory Wood chunks available at Lowes.  The Cowboy Brand works fine, but I do find it has highly irregular shapes, which I am not fond of as it doesn’t pack as densely in the fuel chute, but it works and is readily available, so I keep using it.   I also used Cowboy brand Hickory Wood Chunks.  Both are pictured here.  I’ll discuss the ratio of Charcoal/Wood later.

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Now that I have the meat and wood and charcoal, I’m ready to cook, which is what I call the “easy part”.  The definition of “Easy BBQ” is highly individual.  Some say that it is easier to go pick up BBQ at a local store.  This is likely true, and generally I’ve found small owner-owned-and-operated establishments to be some of the best BBQ in the world.  So, I will never debate that point.  However, for those who want to cook BBQ on their own, for whatever their motivation, cooking on the Breeze is about as “set it and forget it” as it gets.

Meat Preparation.

I’m a firm believer that you only add seasonings to enhance the natural flavor of the meat.  I’m not into using sauces for the meat preparation specifically.  If my guests want to use BBQ sauce due to their preference, I’m 100% ok with this, because BBQ is to be enjoyed the way each person wants to enjoy it, but as the cook, I find it a failure that I would have to rely on that.  As such, my Pork Butt preparation is quite simple:  2/3 salt, 1/3 pepper.  I spread mustard over the surface of the meat to get the salt and pepper to stick, but that is it.    I’ve added other spiced in the past, like onion and garlic and sage and paprika and mustard powder and sugar and (the list goes on and on).  At the end of the day, I can add all of that stuff after the meat is cooked and get exactly the same, if not better flavor.  Also, I could add the same seasonings in the form of BBQ sauce and get that same flavor.  Salt, on the other hand,  is an interesting seasoning in that it both enhances the flavor but also changes the chemistry of the cooking process. The picture below is a picture of the Pork Butt, covered in a light glaze of mustard, with a liberal amount of the Salt and Pepper blend I mentioned.

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You will notice the meat is sitting in an Aluminum pan.  For many BBQ masters, this will receive a groan of disdain, but I do if for one major and one minor reason.  The major reason is that that aluminum creates a boundary so that when the fats from the meat render out, they stay in contact with the surface of the meat.  As the fat inside the meat wants to render out, this layer eliminates the impact of gravity and eliminates any concentration gradients where the oil wants to go to the outer surface because it is drier.  I have found that by using this approach, I have gotten the most consistent Pulled Pork.  The minor reason is that it is just easier to handle.  My whole purpose in creating the Breeze in the first place was to create an easy approach to BBQ that anyone, regardless of training or experience, could use and make perfect BBQ ever time.  This is just another layer of simplicity.  In 12 hours of cooking, I’ll only visit the smoker a total of 4 or 5 times, and this makes two of those times, namely putting the meat into the smoker and pulling the meat out of the smoker, easier.

I let the meat out of the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours prior to putting it into the smoker.  The main reason I do this is to prevent the smoke from condensing on the outer surface of cold meat.  This does sound a little backwards, since I am putting the meat purposely in a smokey environement for 12 hours, however, I draw a line of distinction beween “gas phase” smoke and “condensed smoke.”  Condensed smoke has a very acrid and off putting flavor.   If the surface temperature of the meat is hotter, then the smoke doesn’t condense, but just floats around in it’s gas phase, so you get the the benefit of the smoke ring and the smokey flavor without the acrid notes.

On the website, I’ve covered how to light the unit, so I won’t belabor that here.  The only thing that I care about when cooking anything on the Breeze is setting the initial temperature.  The oven is fully insulated, the air moves through the oven with up and down convection, and the self feeding fuel chute will keep the heat input constant.   Once I get the initial temperature right, based on the type of meat I’m cooking and the amount of meat I’m cooking, I don’t have to adjust the temperature control damper again.

For Pork Butt, I target a temperature around 240-250F.  I’ve seen people cook as low as 220F and as high as 275F.   Each temperature will create a different meat texture and can make a dramatic difference in cook time.  I’ve found that I like how the Pork Butt tastes at 240F to 250F, so I’ve stuck with it.  Here are side by side pictures of the cooking temperature and the Pork Butt when I put it in the oven at 10PM at night and when I pulled it out at 10AM the next day.

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As far as the Charcoal and Wood, I lit the unit using Charcoal, as Lump Charcoal is quite easy to light and it gets hot fast.  For the actual cooking, I used 100% Hickory chunks for the first 10 hours.  After that, I started using Lump Charcoal.

So I’ve given the before and after pictures above.  What happened in the 12 hours in between?  Mostly, I slept.  I put the meat on at 10PM with the temperature at 250F.  I watched American Idol for a while, then at 11:30 PM decided to go to bed.  I didn’t look at the meat or fuel.  I just went to bed.  I set my alarm to go off at 4AM so I could refuel the unit, as experience says that 4-6 hours is the typical range when I’m cooking with the damper in a low (20% open) position.  I overslept and woke up at 5AM.  I went outside, dumped a full bag of Hickory Chunks into the chute and went back to bed.  I didn’t adjust the damper or open the door.  In fact, you can see from the picture above that when I pulled the meat out of the oven 12 hours after I started, the temperature was still within a few degrees of the starting point.

As a former owner and user of an offset smoker, I had to train myself to not open the door of the oven while cooking.  It simply is not required in the way I cook.  I don’t have to move the meat around nor mop the meat as the tempeature stays very uniform.  There is always the  temptation to “just take a peek,” but there really is no reason.  As said, I just went back to bed.8

At 10AM,  after 12 hours of smoking, I opened the door to check the meat.  I used a pair of tongs to grab the side of the meat and an elongated piece, shown to the right, easily pulled out.  It was done and ready to pull.

As a finally tally, I went outside and interacted with the smoker exactly 4 times over a 14 hours period, and for a total time of about 20 minutes of effort.  The first touch was when I lit the unit.  The second touch was when I put the meat in the oven and filled the chute with wood.  The third touch was when I woke up at 5AM and refilled the chute, and the fourth and final touch was when I pulled the meat.

For the purposes of comparing the before-smoker and after-smoker product, I have a side by side comparison here.  You will notice very little shrinkage of the meat.  This is a sign of a higher quality Pork Butt.  Also, you will see what a nicely colored bark formed on the Butt.  If I wanted to have a really dark or crunchy bark, I would add some brown sugar so it would caramelize, but I haven’t found it necessary.

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Finally, I’ll talk a little about the product that came out of the smoker.  In the pictures below, you will see the first reveal of the meat under the bark.  The meat was consistently tender, extremely tender, and had a nice red smoke ring throughout.  With the use of the aluminum pan, there could be some concern on whether the smoke ring would be deep or uniform, but as you can see it was throughout the whole Butt.

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So what did my guests think? They loved it.  The biggest compliment was that my dad went back for seconds and thirds!

There you have it.  Pulled pork made easy.  Here are the key points I made throughout this post:

  1. Use the best meat you can find.  It will taste better and you’ll get less cooking losses.
  2. Let the meat rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours before putting in the smoker.
  3. Cook around 250F.
  4. Cook in an Aluminum Pan, uncovered, that is slightly larger than the meat itself.  This will help keep the juices in and will not impact the smoker ring.
  5. Use as much hard wood as you like, as the meat can take it.
  6. Salt is the only spice that you need to use that actually affects the cooking process.  Add sugar if you want a blacker and crunchier bark.  The rest of the spices can be added later.
  7. When the meat easily pull away, it is done.

Enjoy!

Nathan

 

 

 

Smoking a Thanksgiving turkey in the Breeze

This past Thanksgiving, I smoked a turkey for the first time in my dad’s Breeze. The bird turned out perfect, tender with a beautiful touch of smoky taste infused throughout and wonder pink smoke ring that penetrated deep into the meat. We pulled the bird out at an internal temperature of 160-165, based off the recommendation on Amazing Ribs.

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Deep smoke ring penetration
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The before picture. The chicken thighs are for snacking on while we wait for the turkey.

We didn’t do any brining beforehand. The rub was a mish mosh of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, basically anything we could find. We used mostly lump charcoal with a small bag of apple wood. It took about 4 hours to cook the 10 pound turkey. We used a remote wireless temperature probe, which was immensely convenient… We could watch the temperature go up while sitting in the warmth of the house. As usual, the Breeze performed perfectly!

Smoking salmon in the Breeze

I recently went on a fishing trip on beautiful Lake Michigan in Port Washington, Wisconsin. By fishing I mean we chartered a boat, they set up the lines, caught the fish, and let us reel it in. But it was a blast! Check out the beautiful salmon I “caught:”

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My dad, proud Breeze owner, hot-smoked some of the salmon on the Breeze. The results were fantastic… great smoky taste with great tenderness, just like the ribs! See for yourself:

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He brined the salmon for about 24 hours beforehand and kept the Breeze setting on low, smoking around 120 F for about 4 hours, with the temperature rising to 140 F near the end.

Breeze featured in Cincinnati paper

A nice article and video about the Breeze from WCPO.com, a local Cincinnati newspaper:

P&G (PG) restructuring spawned dozens of new companies in the Cincinnati area

CINCINNATI – Dale Ting didn’t just start a company after leaving Procter & Gamble.

He started two.

“I’d love to be a serial entrepreneur,” said Ting, 35, an Oakley resident who left his engineering job at P&G in February, 2011. Since then, the Wisconsin native launched Power Pro Cleaners , which sells a bathroom cleaning product that cuts through soap scum. He also started Tremore Breeze , which makes a premium back-yard barbeque smoker…

 

Breeze custom nameplate

We recently shipped a Tremore Breeze unit with a custom nameplate. The nameplate, which says “Breeze” on the standard unit, also acts as a rack for your towels, tongs, or other cooking utensils. However, if you want to customize the nameplate to say something else (like your favorite city, your last name, or even a symbol… anything that we can laser cut), we have that option available to you. I’ve attached a picture of the unit we just shipped; the nameplate says “Villa” with the customer’s last name (blocked out). Unfortunately, the picture didn’t turn out great. You have to click on it and zoom in, and it looks much more impressive in person. We’ll get you new pictures when we have them.

Order your custom nameplate with your Breeze for only $299.

Breeze with custom nameplate

How the Breeze looks different in person

We were honored to have Walt visit us a few weeks ago. Walt was in the Cincinnati area and wanted to take a look at the Breeze in person. He let us know what questions he had that weren’t answered on this website, and how the Breeze looks in person that’s different. Here are some things that aren’t evident on the website that Walt wanted to know:

1. The grate that holds the wood/charcoal is removable and replaceable. You don’t need to worry about taking the unit apart and fixing it if and when it does burn through. Note, however, that the grate is very high quality and will likely last many years if not for the life of your unit.

2. The unit is self-cleaning. The design of the cooking chamber is such that all the oils are channeled into one place, the oil drip cup. The oil cup itself is a lot bigger than it looks on the website.

3. Air is drawn into the unit from the bottom of the unit, not from the top of the fuel chute. The fire does not burn up through the chute because of this.

4. The silicone door seal is also a replaceable part.

5. The cooking chamber is bigger than it looks online.

6. No assembly is required for the unit. All you need to do is put in the thermometer.

Thanks again to Walt for giving us those insights! We’ll work these into the website.