Calling all BBQ enthusiasts! Are you ready to take your backyard BBQ skills to the next level? Have you been disappointed by the entry-level offsets available at big box stores? Well, I have some exciting news for you! Today, we’ll be diving into one of the best value-for-money offset smokers on the market: the Old Country Brazos. Let’s get started!
Old Country Brazos Features
The Brazos boasts an impressive list of features! Here’s what you can expect:
- 1/4″ steel construction
- 20″ diameter body and firebox
- Sliding upper and lower grates
- Fully welded construction
- Grate-level stack
- Dampers for airflow control
- Cooking grate included for the firebox
The Old Country Brazos
When people say that the Brazos offers the most bang for your buck in the world of backyard offset smokers, it’s hard to disagree. With its fully welded construction and 1/4″ thick steel, it’s rare to find such quality without spending a fortune. Old Country has been delivering on this promise for years, although there are some trade-offs.
The main grill body measures 20″ wide by 60″ long, with a 20″ firebox, leaving a spacious 40″ for the cook chamber. It also features a folding front shelf, a convenient addition to any grill setup.
Inside the cook chamber, you’ll find upper and lower slide-out grill grates made of expanded steel with framed edges. The firebox side also includes a similar grate for hot grilling and searing.
Unlike other backyard models, the Brazos has its smoke stack located at grate level. This is a significant advantage, as it helps reduce hot spots throughout the grill and ensures that your meat receives as much delicious wood smoke as possible. Additionally, there’s a baffle on the firebox side that helps distribute heat more evenly.
The Brazos is also equipped with a pull handle on the stack side (although mine was slightly bent during shipping) and sturdy steel wagon wheels, making it easier to move this 460lb smoker around. You’ll definitely appreciate the help, especially when transporting it over gravel. The sturdy legs and convenient lower shelf provide additional stability and storage space for your cooking wood.
Construction – The Good
I can’t stress enough the importance of the 1/4″ steel and fully welded construction of this grill. Most hardware/big box store offerings are built with cheap materials, thin steel, and bolt-together designs that promote rust. While those smokers may serve you well for a few years, the Brazos is built to last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Thicker steel retains heat exceptionally well, even in windy or cold conditions. During my testing, the Brazos held its temperature effortlessly in 15mph sustained winds. Try achieving that with a thin steel offset and you’ll be in for a challenging time.
A “fully-welded” label is music to my ears when considering a new offset smoker. Rust is often the culprit behind the demise of simple grills like these offsets. Thicker materials and strong welds provide extra support where bolt-together smokers tend to sag and feel flimsy. Bolt-together designs also create additional openings for smoke and water to penetrate, leading to steel corrosion. With the Brazos, you won’t have to worry about any of these issues.
Construction – The Not-So-Good
Although Old Country didn’t compromise on materials and assembly processes, they did cut some costs in certain areas. As you can see from the photos, while the grill is fully-welded, some of the welds aren’t the prettiest. They’re not the worst either, but they don’t exhibit top-notch craftsmanship. It’s clear that some of the smaller pieces, like the feet, were made from scrap metal lying around the shop. The Brazos prioritizes function over form, and that’s evident in its design.
However, don’t let the appearance of the welds and occasional uneven cuts detract from the smoker’s performance. While it may not be as aesthetically pleasing as a $4k Franklin BBQ offset smoker, it’s just as capable, especially with a few customizations. Personally, I don’t mind the cost savings resulting from a quick and affordable assembly process, as long as it doesn’t compromise the cooker’s functionality.
Cooking on the Old Country Brazos
Straight out of the box, the Brazos is a cooking powerhouse! Using 8″ long and 2-3″ wide wood splits on a solid coal bed, maintaining a temperature of around 275°F is a piece of cake. The firebox baffle helps ensure consistent temperatures throughout most of the cook chamber, allowing you to utilize a larger area of the cooking grate. Keep in mind that, like with any offset smoker, the cooking chamber will be hotter the closer you get to the firebox, and the baffle does its best to reduce this effect.
On smaller backyard cookers like the Brazos, cooking solely with wood splits can be challenging. My usual process involves starting a full chimney of lump charcoal and dumping it into the firebox to give the coal bed a head start. Then, I add a split or two to get the fire burning and the cooker preheated. This combination typically brings the Brazos to around 300°F, ideal for cooking at around 275°F.
Once the fire settles and the temperatures stabilize, it’s time to throw on the food and get cooking! Monitor the cooker closely, and when the temperatures start to drop or the smoke becomes thick and white, take a look at your fire. It may require some adjustment or the addition of another split. Rinse and repeat, while keeping an eye on that thin blue smoke! I usually find that replenishing the coal bed every 3 hours or so with a few good-sized chunks of lump charcoal does the trick.
Managing fires on offset smokers like the Brazos requires patience and practice. However, with thicker steel and a larger smoker like this one, the learning curve is much gentler compared to flimsier models found at big box stores.
Improving on the Brazos
While the Brazos is already an excellent smoker, with a little investment and effort, you can make it perform like much more expensive options.
The Baffle Plate
During my testing, I noticed that the baffle plate was directing heat and smoke to the bottom side of the food. In an ideal scenario, heat and smoke should emerge from the firebox, rise to the top of the cook chamber, flow gracefully over the food, and exit through the stack. After doing some research, I came up with a plan to transform the Brazos into a top-down cooking smoker instead of bottom-up.
The first modification involves removing the baffle plate. This adjustment allows the heat to exit the firebox and travel directly to the top of the cook chamber. In turn, this shifts the hot zone in the grill closer to the firebox and prevents the bottom of the food from drying out. Removing the plate is a simple process, requiring an angle grinder and a bit of muscle. This modification is hugely popular among Brazos owners due to the significant improvements it brings and its ease of implementation.
Next, let’s talk about the smoke stack. While it functions adequately out of the box, it’s shorter compared to the overall height of the cooker. If you examine more expensive options, like the Franklin BBQ offset, you’ll notice that their stacks are considerably taller.
The draft, responsible for carrying heat and smoke through the cook chamber, depends on the stack’s height. When using the Brazos with the stock stack height, the draft may not be strong enough to provide the fire with maximum oxygen. As a result, you may find yourself needing to partially open the firebox door to achieve a clean burning fire. This stack height was likely determined by Old Country to reduce production and shipping costs.
Fortunately, this issue can be easily resolved with another popular modification: adding a stovepipe stack extension. As a rule of thumb, when designing an offset smoker, the stack height should be 75% or more of the total length of the cook chamber. By adding about 16″ of 6″ diameter stovepipe from a hardware store, you can significantly enhance the draft, gain better control over the airflow, and allow for running the smoker with the firebox door shut.
These simple and affordable modifications will transform this $1350 cooker into a powerhouse that rivals models costing three to four times as much.
Getting your hands on an Old Country Brazos can be a challenge. While some stores like Academy carry them, many of us don’t have easy access to those locations. Luckily, Old Country offers them for sale on their website, complete with FREE SHIPPING. Yes, you read that right—free shipping and crating for a 460lb smoker is a huge deal! I checked the prices at the closest reseller, and shipping from California to Utah added nearly $800 to the final cost.
Unfortunately, Old Country’s website is quite outdated and could use an update. You can find the Brazos and other offerings from Old Country on this page. The Brazos is located at the bottom, labeled as “Old Country 20″x60″.” For additional information, I recommend giving them a call at (210) 875-1808 or sending an email to [email protected]. Don’t forget to mention that Hey Grill Hey sent you!
What We Like
Let’s highlight some of our favorite aspects of the Old Country Brazos:
- 1/4″ Steel Construction: I can’t emphasize this enough. The quality of the steel is the main attraction of this cooker. Custom building your own is the only way to get better value for your money.
- Fully Welded Construction: There’s nothing flimsy about the Old Country Brazos. This smoker is built to last a lifetime if well-maintained.
- Value: The Brazos offers incredible value for your hard-earned money.
What Could be Improved
Even though this is a fantastic smoker, there are a few areas where the Brazos could be improved:
- Build Quality: Some welds are less than perfect, and it’s evident that some of the non-functional pieces were made from scrap metal found in the shop.
- Availability: This might be a drawback for some. While you can find the Brazos at Academy stores, those of us west of Texas don’t have easy access to them. However, you can always order one online!
Recipes to Try on the Old Country Brazos
Whether you already have the Brazos in your backyard or are considering purchasing one in the future, I highly recommend trying these fantastic recipes on your smoker:
- Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket
- Fireball Peach Smoked Ribs
- Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky
Old Country Brazos Review: Final Thoughts
The Brazos deserves the title of the best value-for-money 1/4″ offset smoker. Priced at just $1350 with free shipping and even lower prices in-store, it offers tremendous value. If you’re looking for an offset smoker that may not be the prettiest but can hold its own against much more expensive options, the Brazos is the perfect choice. Straight out of the shipping crate, it’s an amazing cooker, and with a few modifications, it becomes the only offset smoker you’ll ever need to purchase.