Backwoods makes a range of more than a dozen sizes of impressive, front-loaded charcoal or wood-fueled cabinet smokers in Louisiana. They can even custom build if one of their standards won't work for your needs.
The small units are superb for home cooks, the medium size units are very popular on the competition scene and are favored by many top teams, and the large ones are used by caterers, whole hog cookers, and in restaurants. Mike McGowan and his team have been building these fine smokers since 1987.
There is a lower door for the fuel, and above the charcoal below the bottom shelf in the food chamber there is a large capacity stainless steel water pan that puts significant humidity into the atmosphere and keeps food moist. This moisture is both good and bad in that it takes longer to build a good hard bark.
They are built with three walls: The space between the outside wall and center wall is filled with insulation so the heat stays within the unit. They perform superbly even in freezing weather, We have tested that thoroughly in rough, Chicago winter weather with the G2 Party model they shipped us to try. There is an air gap between the center wall and the inner wall through which smoke and heat travel from the firebox in the lower compartment past the water pan up to the top of the cooking chamber. Smoke and heat enter the cooking chamber at the top of the side walls and heat also radiates through the inner walls. The chimney opening is at the bottom of the back wall so smoke and heat work their way down past the food from the top, exit the cooking chamber at the bottom, and then go back up the chimney. Because the duct from the firebox opens at the top, the top shelf runs a bit hotter than lower shelves.
Materials, welds, and bends are high quality. There are stainless steel protectors on the top corners, the door latches and gaskets close tight with a satisfying kerthunk. Shelves are heavy 304 stainless steel. Not surprising, these babies are heavy.
They come with high-quality Tel-Tru dial thermometers built into the doors. We have benchmarked them and found them to be surprisingly accurate, although we still recommend relying on a digital thermometer.
Backwoods Smokers have many many admirers, Meathead is among them.
In 2013 Backwoods introduced their G2 line, a revision and upgrade of their superb smokers. The G2 Party is a mid-size model, although larger than the original Backwoods Party. G2 models are made from a heavier 20 gauge corrosion resistant steel and powder coated in black only. This should make sure rust is never a problem.
The interior dimensions are sized to hold industry standard 20.75" x 12.75" hotel pans and sheet pans that you can buy at any restaurant supply and use them to cook beans below meats, cobblers or cookies (above the meats!), sauces, or just use the machine as a holding oven.
They can be fitted with thermostat controllers, but it really isn't necessary. The Party G2 demo they sent us holds temps rock solid. Just start with a Weber Chimney of hot coals (fewer on hot days), pour them in the back left corner, fill the rest of the pan with unlit charcoal, and scatter some wood chunks around. There is a sliding damper on the back left side and another on the front right side. Start with the dampers wide open, and when the temp hits about 200°F in about 30 minutes in nice weather, throttle back to about 3/4" and it settles in at 225-235 °F. And. It. Just. Stays. There. For more than 6 hours on 10 pounds of charcoal. There is very little fussing to be done, and only on long cooks do you need to add more charcoal. The quality of smoke is first rate. You can cook hotter, but it is really tuned for these temps.
There is an easy to remove ash pan below the charcoal tray, and if you remove the water pan you have a fine grill. You can even put the charcoal tray in the cooking chamber if you want to move it closer to the meat.
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.