BBQ Temperature Control

Originally written in 2008:

Dear BBQ Friend:

As most of you know, I am competing in some BBQ contests again. And instead of just being a helper on a team, I am now head of the kennesaw ga bbq contestChatham Artillery BBQ team. I am doing this so I can learn the most I can learn about the art of slow smoking BBQ... and I'll pass all that information on to you. I am finding out that it is a little more competitive these days than it was just a few years ago. There are some really good teams out there smoking up some really great BBQ. In Kennesaw, GA at the Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival, I placed 25th overall with a best show of 14th in ribs. Not too bad for my 3rd contest and considering teams like Jack's Old South, Swamp Boys, Jus-fer-Fun Cooking Crew, Smokey Mountain Smokers, Bub-Ba-Q, and many more excellent teams were there. Bill & the Dixie Chicks took grand champion that weekend. They use a FEC100 by the way. (We would take the Grand the very next year!)

What did I learn in Kennesaw? I learned that I was still having heat control problems and "not enough space on the smoker" problems. I was using My Traeger Texas model BBQ075 and a Char-Broil Silver with a BBQ Guru and a 22.5" Weber kettle grill. Now... I have always said you can cook some pretty good BBQ on just about anything including a kettle grill, but doing it in a competition seems to be a different story. Those small smokers like the Char-Broil Silver and the Weber kettle grill are charcoal driven and they need almost constant attention. Good BBQ is all about keeping your smoker at the right temperature for the right amount of time and knowing when your meat is done correctly. If you can't easily keep a steady temperature in your smoker, your BBQ is not going to be the best it can be. If you are just smoking a few racks of spareribs in your back yard, these smokers are just fine. But at a competition when you are doing two (or more) things at once, you need something else.

That's why I went out and purchased a Cookshack Fast Eddy FEC100. This is the smoker that many of the best BBQ teamsfast eddy fec100 win competitions with. It's a vertical, insulated pellet smoker with lots of space. It keeps a very consistent temperature and recovers from opening the door within 5 minutes. We cooked the best brisket ever last weekend at the IBCA BBQ contest (Pigging Out for Habitat) in Springfield, GA and took 3rd place in brisket. Having all that space on the FEC100 allowed me to cook my chicken on the Traeger and we placed 4th in that category. I thought this was going to be a small contest with not a whole lot of competition, but I was surprised to find a lot of good teams there even though there were only 13 entries. Even Buster Davis was there from the Smokin AJ's BBQ team. His web site is If you need any catering done in the Augusta, GA area, give him a shout! Buster bought "Competition BBQ Secrets" a couple of years ago and had this to say about it...

Just wanted to let you know what I bought your book a couple of weeks ago and we did a competition on November 9/10. We placed 4th in Wings, 2nd in shoulder/bb, and 3rd in From the Water Category. We used your book to the letter. Word for word, step by step... I understand and thanks for the reply email too… I forgot to mentioned the most important award too… After it was all said and done, and the judges tallied up everyone's score, I walked away with GRAND CHAMPION. I hope to have them uploaded to my site this evening. Not to mention the fact that I walked away with a 1200.00 Bubba Grill as the reward. Sorry for not mentioning that. --- Thanks.. Buster

It was a tough little competition to say the least, and tropical storm Fay didn't help out any either - I had to get ready on Friday in a pouring down rain and high winds. The IBCA rules were a little different and that threw us for a loop, but I hope to do better next weekend at the KCBS contest at Boone Hall, SC. I'll be better prepared for that. I'm now set up for consistent temperatures... I'll do my butts, brisket, and ribs on the spacious FEC100. And I'll do my chicken on the Traeger since I like to cook chicken at a higher temperature for the first 30 minutes to tenderize the skin. I then lower the temperature for a low and slow finish. I need a separate smoker to do this. To read about my technique, visit

And don't forget, the #1 indispensable tool for great BBQ is the Maverick ET-73 dual probe remote thermometer. You simply can't do it maverick et-732right without a few of these. How else are you going to know what temperature you are cooking at? And I'm talking about the temperature where the meat is - not in the lid of your smoker. And how are you going to know when your meat is done without knowing the internal temperature of the meat? Get one or two ET-73's at


Bill Anderson