Best Stick Burner - The Smoker Your Grandkids Will Inherit!
This post is a presentation of the best stick burner on the market, the Lang 48" Deluxe Patio Smoker. After a significant investment of time into research, patience in saving and planning, I purchased my Lang, AKA Black Betty, and I have not been disappointed. If you have questions please post them in the comments section below so that others can benefit from your question and the answers given.
I purchased Black Betty (the name my smoker finally earned) in the spring of 2018. Phil, a good friend of mine, and I drove from Michigan to Lang Headquarters in Nahunta GA to pick her up. While there we took advantage of a training class Lang offered with BBQ Hall of Fame, Baron of BBQ Paul Kirk. During the class we learned fire management, rub/seasoning creation, sauce creation/usage, meat preparation and cooking (we prepared and smoked a variety of meats...and took lots of leftovers home!), and smoker cleaning and maintenance.
After spending a year researching the style of smoker I wanted and another year researching (and saving for) the particular brand I felt was the best, I chose a Lang. One very helpful thing I did was stalk the Lang Smoker Owner Facebook page and ask questions of the owners there. The comments and responses on Lang vs. any other brand made my decision easy.
In choosing which model and size (they range from 36" patio to 108" commercial style) I was leaning toward the 36" Patio Deluxe. This was based on being practical, as well as the cost savings over a 48" of the same model. After having lots of owners tell me "Get a size bigger than you think you want" I thought through how I would use it, how much product would fit in each in terms of smoked meats, and budget. I felt comfortable moving up to the Lang 48" Deluxe Patio Smoker and pulled the trigger. I now echo many owners...when ordering, get a size bigger than you think you want.
I vacillated on whether to get the warmer box or not, as well as whether to get it with a trailer hitch or have it on wheels. I chose "wheels" and upgraded to the wagon wheel option as I have to roll Black Betty in and out of my back yard and steel casters would never have worked. I sometimes wonder if a hitch would have been better, but to this point it has not made a difference. If I end up catering more, I will most likely get a hitch...on a larger unit?.
Options I added and my thoughts after using them:
- Second thermometer - a must, helps know your overall chamber temp top to bottom and maintain a more consistent temperature throughout the smoker chamber.
- Extra probe port - very helpful when using temperature probes on the right or left side, or both.
- Wagon wheel option - for me a must, if you will ever move or trailer your smoker, it is a must. Otherwise it is still helpful when rolling anywhere...and looks cool?.
- Collapsible shelf - nice, but I don't use it a lot so doesn't really matter. I think it was required with my design. I will eventually cover it with a stainless sheet.
- Butterfly opening from firebox to warmer - a must. Helps to raise the warmer box temp much higher when using it for additional meats, etc.
- Stainless steel racks - I've not used the original non-stainless ones, but mine clean so easy and everyone who has them swear by them and say they clean much easier.
- Sliding shelves - I think they are very helpful and would do it again. Takes a bit of interior space away, but worth it. I can pull the shelves out to spray meat or check temps very easy.
- Charcoal basket - Not sure, I ended up not getting it.
Sitting on my patio
Black Betty does not have a roof over it or get covered. It would be better if I had a roof over it, but that will be figured out and handled in the future. For now, it sets out all year.
The top handle (left picture) opens a butterfly from the smoker chamber to the warmer box. Baffles at the top of the warmer box allow for controlled airflow. The bottom handle opens a butterfly that goes from the top of the firebox directly into the warmer box. Using one or both of the butterfly valves along with the baffles at the top of the warmer box allow for controlled airflow and temperature. Also, allows for a choice of direct heat from the firebox or more smokey-moist air from the smoking chamber.
Stainless steel cleans easier than the steel racks that come with the units. Even after many cooks on Black Betty it is so easy to clean them and the oils and fats and gunk come off easily. I use a heavy-duty bristle brush to "scrub" the grates and a small rectangular trowel to scrape the gunk from the baffle plate. I also ramp the heat up after I'm done smoking and spray off the grates and baffle with my nozzle on mist setting.
This is a more personal choice, based on your usage. I've used it for smoking kielbasa and chicken when my smoker is full. I've used it for veggies and kraut and beans, as a cooker, and a keep-warm box. I've heard of cold climate people who use it for warming their splits and some who have removed the shelves (they are removable) and made stainless rods to hang sausage from. The extra space is really nice and if you can afford, I recommend.
Wagon Wheels with Steering Handle
The wagon wheel option is very helpful if you need to move your smoker on a regular basis. Black Betty weighs almost 900 pounds and moving her is not easy, even with wagon wheels. I have a 5x10 garden trailer with a ramp and a winch I installed. I don't know that I could get it up there with the stock pneumatic tires on the one side and steel casters on the other.
This shelf is smaller than the solid attached shelf, but I believe is required with wagon wheel and steering feature. It collapses easy with a simple lift and slide feature.
I purchased a few of these galvanized buckets and use one to hang off the warmer box grease drain. I also use one under the main grease drain on the smoker chamber. Handy little things.
Like with anything, you get what you pay for. Once you figure out what kind of smoker you want to use, you'll need to figure out your budget. Once you have style of smoker and budget, search for the best quality build and best features for a unit within those constraints. Once I decided on a stick burner I researched all the stick burners I could find.
My budget went higher than expected, but I would not change a thing! I believe Black Betty was around $3,400. Don't forget you'll need to pick it up or get it shipped which is an additional cost. Lang does not wholesale, so all units are manufactured in and shipped from Nahunta GA.
If you do some research you'll find there are a lot of well known BBQ joints that use Lang. One of them is Southern Soul in St. Simon's Island about 30 miles from Nahunta. If you drive to pick up a Lang smoker, you MUST go there. They use a couple of Langs and they are one of the best BBQ joints I've been to!
Hope and Humble Beginnings
I started learning on a $200 Char Griller that I adapted to make a smoker. It had 4 cast iron grill surface sections. I would remove one section and put my charcoal fire on that side and add wood chunks as needed/desired. It worked great and I learned a lot. I did this for a few years. I also owned an electric smoker (only for a short time, then Craig-listed it) and a PBC (Pit Barrel Cooker) which used for a little longer time, then Craig-listed.
Smoking does not require an expensive piece of equipment. But, and this is a big but, my quality of end product, consistency of process and enjoyment have all gone up significantly with Black Betty. And I won't have to replace her...she'll outlive me!!