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New to the board here, waving a hand at y'all. I am sure you have fielded these questions on more than one occasion, but please bear with me.

I am starting a mobile BBQ concession trailer. I plan to put this in a semi permanent locale. I am trying to decide on a great smoker for my business. As a newbie to the BBQ business I have been educating myself as much as possible. I have looked at Southern Pride and Ol' Hickory smokers. I stumbled on the Cookshack today and would love to hear opinions on models suitable for my type of business. Please respond with any and all opinions and suggestions for this endeavor, and I assure you I appreciate the time you take to answer.

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I would read through the professional forum. Yes the question has been asked but not exactly that way.

Are you experienced with Q? If so, are you catering now and what smoker do you use? Lots of other questions, like do you have a business plan, what's your experience (especially in Q) there are some other Florida people here and just read the posts from Prisonchef to see how much fun Florida can be.

I highly recommend the FEC. Not because I run the forum (which I do) or because I work for them (which I don't) but the ease and convenience of a pellet cooker over a gas cooker (SP) is big to me.

Tom's right, you could call CS and talk with them or just read through the pro forum and then ask some specifics.
Thanks for the advice.

My experience with BBQ is limited, but I have been making every effort to increase it. Besides home grilling, I have not run a professional Q biz. I purchased some instructional material from ebay and went over it. I purchased "spice and smoke", and "The BBQ Bible". I have been reading both and making sauces here at home. I do have a business plan, and have been working on it extensively now for three months. I have contacted John at Cookshack and spoke with him today. I am looking for different opinions, and suggestions. Thats the reason for the post. Ask one person, you will get one idea and opinion, ask many and you can get a better picture of the way things are. Thank you kindly for your responses.

Hi Jason,

I dont have a business yet but lurk here quite a bit. If you want opinions here ya go with my 2 cents:

FEC100 - NSF approved, pellet driven smoker that can reach high temps which can be used for chicken. You want to get to at least 325 F to get a nice crispy skin on bbq chicken. Electric so you will need a generator or power source but it only draws 300 watts. Rack size is 23"x17" so a rack of ribs fits well. Nice electronics that can reach a temp and then go to holding temp. Can be used for cooking and holding dishes but will have smoke flavor as heat is from burning pellets.

SM150 - NSF approved, Cookshack runs on wood chunks, electric so you will need a generator or power source. Gets to 300 F, possibly high enough for crispy chicken but fairly good if not. Also has nice electronics that can reach temp and go to a holding temp. Has 1500 watt element so that will take a bit of power. Has 18"x18" racks, so you might have problem with a full rack of ribs fitting. Can be used for holding food and cooking of side dishes.

There is quite a price differential between the 2 units ($2900 versus $3300) with different capabilities afforded by both. Personally for mobile vending operation I would go with the Fec100 - small footprint, low power reqts, high temps when needed. For restaurant, I would go with the SM models.

One other thing, I would recommend skip making your own sauces until you get well established, buy Cattlemans at Sam's or Costco and doctor it up.

Good luck,


I HIGHLY recommend you read every post in the Pro's forum. You won't find a better one-stop-shop for Professional Q information. There's a lot of great questions here that cover just what your asking. And many of the issues you face.

Think about target audience and the work involved for whatever you're planning on smoking/serving.

Jack is a good resource (aren't you Jack) and they've recently started a similar business and the details are here.

Sauce. Well it depends. If you don't already have a sauce you can certainly make a sauce, if that's what you're wanting to market. But look at the costs involved. Are you planning on reselling it, then you get into the whole co-packing issue for bottling.

For BBQ, look at your competitors. I see a LOT of crap sold as BBQ that I wouldn't feed to a dog, let alone my family. But it's the nature of the beast, hard to turn out good Q in quantity.

For smokers, think about your business plan and volume. Just having a big smoker doesn't guarantee success. You have to think prep time, cooking time, hold time. Do all meats need the same temp or different temps. Lots of variables.

And last but not least. Don't take this wrong. I hear/see a LOT of people that think they can open a Q business that all they've ever done is in their backyard. You're doing the right thing, you're asking questions. They don't even cater. I would suggest catering small jobs to get your recipes refined and your experience. From a business perspective, opening up a business that you're only vaguely experienced at is a lot of work. Not that it can't happen, but it's a lot of work.
Smokin Okie,

Tactfully put. I believe that the consumer will let me know how my product is. Beyond that, I pose this question that was asked of me.

"Can you make a better hamburger than McDonalds?"

Most people respond, "absolutely!"

"do you have a better business system than McDonalds?"

Here is where most people humbly reply "No."

I believe that if I can cook up some good Q and I have a STRONG business system, I can be successful. As I mentioned, I have three months of daily, all day long, researching and investigating. I have hired a professional business counselor and have been consulting regularly. I do not hope to be successful, I am determined to be!
My point? Your advice and your time are not wasted, because I am very serious! I am listening closely and will continue to review and assimilate all advice and suggestions in my quest to have a very successful business. I will read all the posts under the professionals forum here, and hopefully become stronger in the process.

I humbly remain here listening to all advice, and again I thank you kindly for your time and help!

Jason Hubbard
hiya from st augustine.
got your email and will try to call you today.
for now here's my feelings on the sm and fec thing since we have both.
pellets are great as you can custom blend them to both your taste preferences and your fec's preference. in our case we find bbqr's delight works best for our tastes but more importantly for my fec. this is an area where you will have to experiment for your self. the fec goes to higher temps and turns out great chicken and biscuits too!!
only 2 drawbacks to them.
1-they ain't allowed in competitions since they are electric but i think the real reason is if you keep good notes everytime you cook after a year you could duplicate anything you have ever cooked in it. that being said consistancy (though it is the hobgoblin of small minds) is exactly what your customers want and from that stand point it slightly edges out the fec in my opinion. also my health inspector loves the auto hold feature. we use the same pellets in it that we use in the fec.
2- get a generator at least 2000 watts and that assumes no further load is placed on the gennie which is draw back number 2. however i will say that running my fec and sm along with the hood system, 22 cu ft reefer,7.2 cu ft freezer, water heater and pump that 2 3000 watt gennies work fine and in a 24 hour period will only burn 6 gallons of gas.

if you go to page 3 of this pro forum look up "2 greyhound rig pics we hope". it will give you an idea of how you can layout in an 8 x 18 foot area.

hope this helps some
again will try to give you a buzz this afternoon
one last thing.
where i work part time while we are trying to get our business fully running i use southern pride units everyday and would be happy to discuss them with you and tell you why,for us, the cookshacks made more sense for us.
but you sure seem commited and believe me it will take everything you have to see it through but it is do-able

Great talking to you today. Everytime I ask for advice, someone gives me a nugget of gold. I appreciate everyones help tremendously and hope to develop some great friendships here. I will try and keep posting as I progress through the BBQ school of hard knocks.

Went trailer shopping today to try and determing whether to buy new or used. I am leaning towards new, and financed to help keep the business capital in the bank. I have a price on a Pace American, 16ft X 7ft. Two concession windows, and finished interior with insulation and electric. Flip up marquees with a corner pie marquee. Framed for a/c. 2X 3500 lb axles, modular wheels. Aluminum corners.

$8775 plus TTT

Whaddya think?

Hi Jason,

To add to my earlier response and some:

1. Reason I dont recommend making your own sauce is that you need to spend your time on other things when you are starting out...focusing on a detailed minutia as sauce making may take focus off something more important.

2. This forum IS your best resource and Jack and Peggy (PrisonChef) probably should get paid for their wonderful advice, experience and wisdom. There are others here too that are well deserving for accloades.

When you get up and running I will drive to High Springs and be one of your first customers.

Best of luck,
"One other thing, I would recommend skip making your own sauces until you get well established, buy Cattlemans at Sam's or Costco and doctor it up"

I tried to doctor up Cattlemans, but no matter what I did, it tasted terrible, and I threw two gallons away. When I am in a hurry, I use Bulls Eye and doctor it up just a little. When I cater, my customers always ask for the "Secret Recipe"

here is a little different take on making sauces.
what we do is this. the sauce and the rub that goes into the pulled pork is the same one that we use in competition which got us peoples choice award at okeechobee this year. for those that want the meat "drowned" in sauce we use cattlemens smoky, sonnys sweet, and for hot a little of both with tabasco habanero added to it. so far it has worked well. the purists like the pulled pork just the way it is and the dilitaunts like the other.
on the trailer about the only advice i can give you is it is kind of like choosing a girl to marry. only you can decide if it is the right one and if you are happy with the choice then the rest of the world can take a hike. that's about the only way i know how to put it.
Yall are very helpful, and very funny (jack).

Preston, I would love to have you come and personally evaluate me. Groupthink produces bad governments and bbq alike. A different and unbiased opinion is always welcome, herein we grow, if everyone keeps telling me it is good then goes around the corner and spits it out, we all lose, haha.

Fast Freddie, good tips on the sauce. I got my head swimming looking at all the commercial sauces available at sams. Lordy! Hopefully I can keep the simple stuff simple, and focus on making great sauce. Part of this plan is to find a commercially prepared potato salad, and the same with coleslaw. A little doctoring is ok, but not too much work. I plan on making a bacon coleslaw family recipe, and the sauce. Doctoring the beans, the slaw, and the potato salad. Hopefully I will not immerse myself in labor costs approaching it this way. It shouldn't take long to figure out if I have bit off more than I can chew.

Jack, I applied for credit today (hate that rejection feeling), hopefully we will pass their scrutiny. If we do, I am really leaning toward the Pace American Midway. If my biz was to flop, hopefully this girl won't want alimony!
As I said before, I have purchased BBQ propaganda from ebay. The gentleman on the DVD recommended nothing on the butts for his pulled pork. Is this a good way to go? If not, would you recommend a rub? BTW, sorry I did not call today, you know the story about the one legged man in the butt kickin contest, I have been BUSY!!

Great replys yall, keep em comin,

Onward with my quest to build some great Q
I agree with the buy sauces approach.

Cookshack mild is the sauce that a great amount of comp teams favor,and buying it in volume may set you apart from the locals.

Texas Rib Rangers is another.

Hawgeyes BBQ

I think most of the guys will tell you that customers are not there for the sides,so don't spend too much time.

Sam's potato salad is doctored up by many.

The slaw mix in bags is used with your own dressing.

If you put out large containers of sauce,the crowd will sauce away your profits.

This cornbread casserole makes a different and proven side.

drbbq's Cornbread Casserole

Just a couple thoughts.

Biggest tips I can give you are:
1)spend a lot of time researching and securing your location in advance. Ideally you want a location with good foot and vehicle traffic. Spend some time at the location during lunch/dinner time with a clicker.
2)Spend a day actually preparing food for a "good day" based on your business plan. You'll be overwhelmed at how much work is really involved. Keep in mind if things go well, you'll need to repeat this X days per week based on your plan.
3)Like Jack has said in other posts, 6 months working capital in the bank is a good idea.
4)Check out the pros at the competitions and festivals.

Good luck!

Jack thought we were using only commercial sauce for squirting on the meat right before selling.
I'm sorry, Jack, I have been using our sauce and adding some extra hot sauce to it for the hot sauce choice. I promise the other choices, "sweet" or "smoky" have been commercial.
I've gotten lots of good comments on the hot variety.
Better check with the health dept about setting up somewhere besides a festival. I have a state wide permit for a mobil food concession but...
Here in KY you can't setup in the same spot for more than 14 consecutive days and then you have to move and can't come back to the same spot for 30 days.
This law have pretty put me out of business for the season. If I can find 3 spots to setup, I could them move around and get around the law... but good spots are hard to find around here.
Steve Eeker
jason, if you are in a need for a break, drive on up here, and i will show you how we do things. perhaps, you can get a little gold nugget from it.
my wife and i do 8 different side dishes, three different sauces, 7 entres, sandwiches, burgers, and kids meals. plus her famous sweet tea...
and i still have time to hit golf balls in the park next door...heehee
info is at
we are closed til dec 1 for vacation, otherwise, come by anytime you like.

Hi! I have a barbecue trailer business so I'll be happy to help you! If you have any questions, please write to me. So far, I only have 3 trailers, but I'm going to buy 3 more in the near future. I'm currently promoting my business. This is the only way to get noticed by customers in a competitive time like now.  So if you're interested, you can go to the San Diego business directory and find my offer there)) In addition, there are now valid vouchers that will save you some money))

Last edited by mujdey

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