This 48 inch wide, double door smoker is a mid-size model in Mixon's signature H2O line of water smokers. A smaller 36 inch is available, and larger 60 and 72 inch options as well. All are fully insulated with double walled construction and filled with "military grade insulation". Seconn Fabrication, (see above), manufactures all Myron Mixon smokers. They describe Military grade insulation as, "meeting an MIL spec or military specification. These are known for being pretty stringent standards. The main benefit for us is that we know the insulation is manufactured to a tight standard and we will get a consistent product." It is indeed heavy and dense, nothing like the light yellow stuff on rolls that you see at hardware stores. Seconn's execution is impressive. Quality design and construction are on display inside and out. H2Os are fully welded and all doors sealed with braided gaskets, (see 36 inch model below).
The H2O 48 comes with two 44.75 inch x 21.75 inch nickel/chrome racks. Cooking capacity for the two standard racks is 34 half chickens, 20 slabs baby back ribs, 14 slabs St. Louis ribs, 18 - 8 lb. Boston butts, 10 - 10 lb. briskets, or 1 - 80 lb. whole hog. A front and right side shelf are included. The interior is 16 gauge steel and a stainless steel option is available. The front smokebox doors pop open and snap shut with some pretty cool spring loaded latches, below.
But what really makes Mixon's H2O line unique is his dedication to water pans. Mixon firmly believes his religious use of water pans played a huge part in his success on the competition circuit, and the H2O line is a testament to that belief. Although many smokers offer slide out water pans and, of course, they may be used as an option in just about any outdoor cooker, Mixon's "Waterpan Technology" is an integral part of the H2O design. It does not slide out, cannot be removed, and these smokers cannot be used without water in the pan.
Water pans help stabilize the temp in a cooker and minimize fluctuations because water temp takes longer to rise and fall than air. When placed between the fire and cook surface, water pans block the direct flame, even out hot spots and create a uniform indirect heat source for slow smoking. The increased humidity in the smoke box keeps foods moist and juicy, and the moisture condenses on the meat making it "sticky" which allows more smoke to adhere. This smoke enhances flavor and sodium nitrite in the smoke creates the smoke ring. Click here to learn more about water pans.
Mixon invited us to attend the KCBS sanctioned Sun BBQ Fest and Competition and test his gear at the Myron Mixon Smokers headquarters located just a few miles away from the fest and right across the street from SeConn. We initially had some trepidation about the propriety of such a scenario. We've never tested products at a manufacturer's facility before, but the Mixon crew assured us they understood our concerns and would do their utmost to make the situation work. True to their word, they were ladies and gentlemen all, providing a no pressure environment for our objective tests. Be that as it may, we subsequently decided the appearance of conflict of interest can be as bad as actual conflict, and because we value our reputation as an honest source of objective product reviews, we resolved to never accept paid trips, aka junkets, for any of our reviewers again.
H2O Water Smokers
Classic barbecue includes tough meat cuts like briskets, ribs and pork shoulders that become soft and succulent when smoked for a long duration over low heat around 225°F. This low and slow method allows tough connective tissues time to break down and soften into delicious, savory gelatin. Many believe wood smoke produces a flavor, finish and aroma that is superior to any other fuel. However, wood smoking at low and slow temps is tricky. The challenge is maintaining that steady low temp for hours while simultaneously producing only sweet, clean, light blue smoke. Shutting down dampers to starve a wood fire of oxygen and keep temp low can easily result in smoldering embers that produce black, bitter creosote. A hot fire burns wood clean, but can also burn foods and cook too fast, not allowing time for tough connective tissues to break down. Click here to learn about the art of smoking with wood.
With the large integrated water pan as a protective barrier between the food and fire, H2Os allow wood to burn hot, producing clean smoke without charring foods. Mixon has been cooking hot and fast in the 275° to 325°F range on variations of this design since 1996 with award winning results. "This smoker was designed with our waterpan technology which helps keep a consistent temperature while retaining natural juices and tenderizing meats throughout the process", Mixon states, "Because it's so forgiving you can cook hot and fast, which reduces cook time and the humidity preserves 8 to 12 % more weight in finished product than dry heat. In a commercial setting that shorter cook time and added weight equals dollars".
Mixon's Waterpan Technology
A large water pan that runs left to right and front to back is welded into the frame between the low cooking grate and firebox underneath, see below. Using Mixon's "Automatic Water System", water flows in from the right side. The fire under the pan boils the water, flooding the smokebox with humidity while heat and smoke enter through two inch wide gaps along the front and back which are covered by grease deflectors. The grease deflectors prevent gunk from dripping into the fire and flaring up. A drain hole at the back center comes in handy when the cook is finished.
The "Automatic Water System" shown below consists of two metal elbow pipes. A garden hose is attached to a box on the rear elbow. The box contains a valve controlled by a float mechanism that works much like a toilet tank fill valve. As water from the hose rises to the maximum level it lifts the float and shuts off the valve. As water evaporates, the float drops lower and the valve reopens.
The water pan must always be full or it could warp, and replacement sounds like a nightmare. The pan would need to be cut out and a new one welded back in place. To help prevent this from occurring, water level can be monitored at the front elbow pipe, (above left), and if no hose is available, the front pipe may be used to replenish water, all without opening the doors and letting out heat and smoke. Gunk can back up into the box and cause the valve to malfunction. It is very important to clean the box and valve periodically.
Four casters on heavy duty adjustable height bolts facilitate leveling the smoker out left to right and front to back to insure the water is uniform throughout for even heat, see below. The two left side casters are locking.
Hose connected. Level and locked. Ready to rock.
Firebox and Air Flow
The double wall, insulated firebox door clamps shut. There is a large sliding air intake damper on the door and another identical sliding damper on the opposite side.
Inside the firebox is a slide out charcoal/wood basket.
Two large exhaust chimneys on top also have sliding dampers.
Sales Manager, David Mixon, showed us how to fire up the H2O. After filling the pan to the max level, we set all intake and exhaust dampers wide open. You can cook on charcoal only, but why waste the opportunity to smoke with wood? Mixon likes to start the fire with about ten pounds of charcoal on this model.
When the charcoal gets going, he adds two or three fireplace size wood splits. Once up to temp, you'll need to replenish wood every 30 to 45 minutes.
Close all doors, leave dampers open. You want to get the water boiling and steaming then adjust the intake dampers as needed. Mixon was shooting for 300°F using the left and right Tel-Tru thermometers mounted in the smokebox doors. We placed a left and right probe on each of the two racks to test temps with our digital thermometer. At first the Tel-Tru thermometers and our probes indicated a 50°F variance with the left at 300°F and right at 350°F. Mixon quickly realized the wood rack wasn't centered and adjusted the position inside the firebox. It didn't take long to see temps even out. The low rack and right side were a bit hotter, but temp variance was reduced to 10°F. Click here for important information on thermometers.
As our time was limited, we decided to test only ribs and chicken rather than big hunks like brisket that have long smoke times. Mixon doesn't recommend grilling on any of his smokers so no burgers or steaks were in the mix. We did a couple slabs of baby backs and a couple half chickens. The results were very good and the chicken skin was pretty crisp in spite of the high humidity. When finished cooking, Mixon recommends letting some of the water burn off to reduce the amount that needs to be removed, then opening the drain valve located at the lower rear of the smoker and letting the remaining liquid and gunk drain into a bucket, (below right). It's best to let the water temp moderate, but drain while still warm before the grease solidifies. Scrape the gunk into the water pan drain with a plastic putty knife, then hit with a hose. Don't over clean the water pan, don't scrape with metal or steel wool, it needs to develop a seasoned surface. Treat it like a cast iron skillet.
Myron Mixon's H2O 48 Water Smoker is very well made. The unusual design featuring an integrated water pan with auto refill is easy to use, forgiving and eliminates some of the key challenges of smoking with wood.
One year limited warranty.
Cooked On It
We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
Few faces in the world of barbecue are as familiar as Myron Mixon, the “Winningest Man” in competitive barbecue and often referred to simply as “The King”. Mixon and brother Tracey learned the craft from their father, Jack Mixon, and started his namesake competition team, Jack’s Old South. As Pitmaster of Jack's Old South, Mixon won over 180 grand championships, 30 state championships, 11 national championships, 4 world championships and represents the only team to win grand championships in the Memphis in May, Kansas City Barbecue Society, and Florida Barbecue Association contests in the same year. All totaled he has earned over 1800 trophies so far! In 2013 he was inducted into The Barbecue Hall Of Fame.
Mixon is the star of Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters Series and author of the New York Times bestselling cookbook, “Smokin’ with Myron Mixon”. He also made numerous television appearances on shows including: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Conan, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s TODAY show and QVC.
The best advice on how to make great barbecue came from his old man. "Daddy said to cook it 'til it's done", relates Mixon, "Now that may seem obvious, but you have guys who got up early and get impatient if it's taking longer than expected. I don't care if you drank a damn twelve pack, or it's raining or whatever; you got friends and family waiting for some good barbecue. Cook it 'til it's done"!
All Myron Mixon Smokers are made in the USA in Waterford, CT where Mixon has partnered with Rob Marelli, founder and CEO of Seconn Fabrication, (below). Seconn is an award winning facility that specializes in sheet metal, robotics and automation industries. Seconn clients include health care and military suppliers who demand quality and consistency to meet required specs and certifications.
Mixon and Marelli have an interesting history, partnership and friendship that melds old school southern barbecue with high tech engineering and manufacturing.