Thursday, May 11, 2017

Deep South Smokers GC36

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  We received no compensation for this post.  We are proud to have Flame Boss as an equipment sponsor. Smithfield and Certified Angus Beef are both sponsors as well.

If you follow our social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), then you know that we got a new smoker for competitions and cooking for big events back in March. It is a Deep South Smokers GC36.

Deep South Smokers are hand made in Cumming, Georgia by Randall Bowman (KCBS Board Member) and a small staff.  It is a gravity fed, insulated box smoker which basically means long burn times, steady temperatures, and clean smoke.  I first got interested in this type of cooker because Larry of Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings has been using one (Stumps or Superior, can't remember which) for years and loves his.

I was apprehensive about pulling the trigger on such a major purchase and spent 6 months researching and talking with other owners before making the final decision.  It came down to choosing between Humphreys (also a good box smoker) and Deep South Smokers.  Now that it's done, I couldn't be happier with my purchase.


Randall and his team build a quality smoker with fine craftsmanship and pack it full of extra touches and features.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
The first obvious feature is space.  The Deep South Smoker has a smaller footprint than the Warthog but it holds more, cooks infinitely more evenly, and you only have to refill it every 10-12 hours or so, not every 45 minutes.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Not really a functional feature but you get to pick whatever color you want.  I chose to match our trailer and went with Victory Red (a General Motors color).  (Several people have commented that this looks like a face with the two thermometers and handle.)

This is the entrance to the firebox and the ball valve is what controls your air flow and temperatures.  The latch on the side and stove gasket (white part you see) keep an airtight seal.  Like the kamado grills I've been using, the Deep South is a closed environment that burns very efficiently.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
The front latch on the door is heavy duty quality and stainless steel.

Additional latches on the top and bottoms of the 2 doors keeps the front secured airtight as well. 

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
This is the top hatch door, where you load in the coal.  More latches for tight seals.  You can also see the D-rings for tying the smoker down during transportation.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Top hatch shown open for loading.  You can put an 8-10 pound bag of lump charcoal into the chute.  As the fire burns below in the firebox, gravity keeps the coal loading in for consistent burning.

Both doors are equipped with thermometers.  

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Notice the square metal tube at the bottom, which is the exhaust piping from the fire box.  See how the holes get bigger towards the end?  That is a way to tame hotspots, much like tuning plates on a offset smoker. It goes the extra mile to provide even cooking temperatures.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
This is a built in shelf for an electronic controller, which almost all box cooker owners use.  The two black things are pass throughs to the cooking chamber so you can measure cooking temps and internal meat temperatures.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
The standard grates are expanded metal but we went with the stainless rounded bar upgrade.  Even though we aren't putting food directly on the grates, these don't stick to food as much as expanded metal does and they are easier to clean well.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Grease trap. Since we cook with pans in the cooker, we should never need this.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Mag wheels. Sure they look cool but actually it's the size that matters. This rig weighs over 900 lbs and pushing it is a lot easier with larger wheels.
Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Same goes for the front wheels - even the "small ones" are bigger than the wheels on any of our kamado tables.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
Tow loop so you can connect a winch to pull the smoker up onto a trailer.

Deep South Smokers GC36 Review
More tie downs, a pull/push bar, and the exhaust smoke stack.  Also another face now that I look at it.


In the 6 weeks since we have gotten the Deep South Smokers GC36, we have put a lot of food through it.  We have run it for 24 hours straight, twice, and run several overnight cooks on it.  We've smoked on it using only the manual controls and we have used 2 electronic temp controllers.

The maiden food voyage in this bad boy was 2 Certified Angus Beef briskets, 6 Smithfield Reserve pork butts, and a couple of birds.

One of the brisket flats before wrapping.

The first cook, we used manual controls and it was easy to hold a steady temperature.  The second time, I used the Flame Boss 200 that we use on kamados.  Michael Collins TOLD me that fan wouldn't work because the Deep South has 3-4 times the volume of a kamado, but he would send me the Universal Kit which has a much bigger fan.   

Problem is that I don't listen and I'm impatient ;)  I had to try it anyway.

I used a floor plate mount (plumbing dept at Lowes) to rig the fan to the Deep South.  Despite the being the wrong fan (6cfm for kamados), once I got the smoker up to temp, this kept the temp steady.   You definitely want to get the universal fan, but the kamado version worked in a pinch and let me sleep overnight.

Smithfield Extra Tender Ribs and Certified Angus Beef chuck roasts were my test subjects.
I smoked a Certified Angus Beef chuck roast with Albukirky's Green Chile rub to use for tacos and a pair of Smithfield Extra Tender spare ribs that I trimmed down.

The Deep South Smokers puts a nice, even color on the ribs.

Ribs turned out good.

Then I got the new Flame Boss 300 with a Universal kit.  The Flame Boss 300 does everything the Flame Boss 200 did but it tracks and reports 3 meats at once!  The Universal kit comes with a 15cfm fan.

Mini Review of the Flame Boss 300, the controller we use for a Deep South Smokers GC36
The fan from the universal kit is a 15cfm fan and attaches to the Deep South Smokers GC36 with a simple bushing.  It is just what the Deep South needs. It has enough power to bring the GC36 up to temperature from start up.  It rebounds the heat quickly during the later hours of our competition schedule when we are opening the doors frequently for the ribs and chicken.

Gordon Food Services got a case of prime briskets in by mistake, I was glad to take some of them off of their hands. Here is the flat from one of them, they were pretty!

Smithfield Extra Tender Spare Ribs for competition
Seasoning some racks of ribs, didn't want those briskets to be lonely.

The big shelves on the Deep South Smokers GC36 lets me use sheet pans which saves a lot of time.  Doing 4 racks for competition in a kamado smoker required me to shuffle each rack of ribs onto or off of the Adjustable Rigs.  Now, I just grab one pan and I'm done.

John practicing chicken using our new program.  He took Tuffy Stone's class early this Spring and we're obviously going to bring a lot of that into our competition processes.

Deep South Smokers GC36 review
We weren't building boxes this particular weekend but I cut the brisket down like it was.

Deep South Smokers GC36 review
One of our rib practices from the Deep South Smokers GC36.

Deep South Smokers GC36 review

We have cooked 5 weekends in a row on this smoker and I would say we are completely happy with this purchase.  I understand why so many of our competition friends like using Deep South Smokers. I also greatly appreciate Paige Thompson (Charcoal Cowboys) and Jeff Thompson (River Road Grillbillies) nudging us to go with the bigger GC36 when I was considering the GC28. Great call!
  • Robust clean smoke - The gravity feed chute keeps the coal coming just as it is needed and it pre-heats the coal as it nears the fire, so you get a clean burning smoke.  You add wood chunks or small splits to the firebox as needed (we do it any time a new meat goes on and each time we open the doors to spritz).  This also lets you effectively "dose" the amount of smoke. 
  • Steady even heat - It's been our experience that there is not much temperature difference between the two thermometers and the Flame Boss, which has it's probe in the center.  I'd say the temperatures are as steady as we have with our kamado grills.
  • Easy to learn - I have used an insulated box cooker a total of 1 time prior to buying this.  That was a Humphreys at Tryon a few years ago and I wasn't even the one tending the fire. I expected more of a learning curve but this was an easy transition from kamado grills.  
  • Long burn times - With the Warthog (offset pit), we have to load wood splits every 45 to 60 minutes.  We have found with the Deep South, we can go right at 10-12 hours on a single load of coal.
  • Heat recovers quickly - Our new program has us going into to cooker sometimes as often as twice an hour.  Fortunately, the Deep South seems to recover from these temperature variations rather quickly so your temps stay stable.
  • Keeps us more focused - We're now managing 1 fire instead of 4 different fires, letting us focus more on the food.
  • Time savings
    • Each time we did a contest in the past, John and I had to move a kamado grill 16 times (4 kamados, 4 times each) in 36 hours.  That is taking out the inserts, moving 4 wooden crates, moving the 180+ lb kamado from our decks to a trailer, putting the stuff back in.  Then reversing that process at the beginning of a contest and repeating it at the end.  Then moving the kamados back to our decks.  Now we just roll out the Deep South Smoker - saving us about 8 hours per contest. 
    • We now only have to manage 1 fire instead of 4.
    • When we handle our meats, they are now on trays so instead of having to take 4 individual ribs off of the grill for wrapping or things like that, we just take one tray out.  
  • Better BBQ - All that stuff is great but the end result is what matters.  When we bought it, I was hoping that our BBQ would be as good as what we do on our kamado grills.  I never for a moment thought it would be better.  John, Anna Mae, Alexis and I all agree, the BBQ we have smoked on the Deep South for the past 5 weeks is the best BBQ we've done.  That says a lot.

Final Thoughts

This was a major purchase that I spent months contemplating and I am 100% happy that I pulled the trigger, no regrets.  If you are a competition team or a food truck/restaurant operator that has been considering a box cooker, pick up the phone and give Randall a call to start the discussion. He'll help you figure out what you need and I think you'll be as happy as we are with our Deep South Smokers GC36.