posted July 22, 2022
Old Country Brazos Review
Calling all BBQ fans! Are you ready to up your backyard BBQ game? Have you been looking at entry-level offsets only to be disappointed with the offerings from your local big box store? Boy, do I have just the thing for you! Today, we’re taking a look at one of the best value for money offset smokers on the market, the Old Country Brazos! Let’s get to it!
Old Country BBQ Pits sent us this grill for testing and review purposes; however, all opinions are our own.
Old Country Brazos Features
The Brazos has an impressive feature list!
- 1/4″ steel construction
- 20″ diameter body and firebox
- Upper and lower grates that slide in and out
- Fully welded construction
- Grate-level stack
- Dampers to help control airflow
- Cooking grate for the firebox included
The Old Country Brazos
When people say the Brazos offers the most value for your money in the world of backyard offset smokers, it’s hard to disagree. Fully welded construction and 1/4″ thick steel is hard to come by in the backyard offset world without spending multiple thousands of dollars. Old Country has been doing just this for years, however, there are some trade-offs.
Overall dimensions for the main grill body are 20″ wide by 60″ long. The firebox is 20″ long, leaving a full 40″ for the cook chamber. There’s also a folding front shelf that is always a welcome addition to any grill.
Inside that cook chamber you’ll find an upper and lower slide-out grill grates, constructed from expanded steel and framed edges. A similar grate is included on the firebox side for hot grilling and searing.
The smoke stack is located at grate level, which is a huge bonus over other backyard models – most of which have the stack near the top of the chamber. This helps reduce hot spots throughout the grill as well as making sure that sweet, sweet wood smoke contacts as much of your meat as possible. There is a baffle on the firebox side (more on this later) that helps distribute the heat more evenly.
The Brazos also features a pull handle on the stack side (mine was bent during shipping) and big steel wagon wheels to make moving the smoker around a little bit easier. You’re going to need all the help you can get with this one, as it weighs 460lbs! I was able to get the Brazos from my driveway all the way to my backyard through gravel by myself, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Between that handle and those wheels are some sturdy legs and a super-handy lower shelf, perfect for stacking your cooking wood!
Construction – The Good
I’m going to be bringing up the 1/4″ steel used to build this grill and the fully welded construction multiple times in this post, so you’d better get used to it. Most offerings from the hardware/big box stores are built cheaply using super thin steel and a bolt together design that promotes rust. Those smokers will serve you well for a few years, but the Brazos can serve for a lifetime with proper maintenance. The thicker the steel, the harder it is for rust to ruin your day. It retains heat incredibly well, even in windy or cold conditions! During my testing, the Brazos held temperature well with minimal extra work in 15mph sustained winds! Try that with an offset made of thin steel and you’re in for a rough day.
“Fully-welded” is a term that is super important to me when considering a new offset smoker. Usually, rust is what kills simple grills like these offsets. Thicker material and strong welds offer extra support where most bolt-together smokers have a sagging firebox and a flimsy feel. The bolt-together designs offer extra places for smoke to leak and water to get in and eat away at the steel, and in a few years you’ll have a hole in the bottom of your firebox or cook chamber. Not with the Brazos!
Construction – The Not-So-Good
Just because Old Country didn’t use lesser materials and assembly processes doesn’t mean they didn’t cut costs somewhere. As you can see from photos throughout, although the grill is fully-welded, they’re not the best welds I’ve ever seen. Not the worst, but certainly not the best. It’s easy to tell that some of the more minor pieces, like the feet, were made from scrap metal they had laying around the shop. Mostly, the Brazos was built with function over form and it shows.
Even though the welds and some uneven cuts here and there don’t look the best, they don’t take away from how well this smoker works. Sure, it’s not as pretty as your friend’s friend’s friend’s $4k Franklin BBQ offset smoker, but I’ll bet it’s just as capable, especially after some customization (more on this below). Personally, I don’t mind one bit that the cost savings comes from a quick and cheap assembly as long as it doesn’t affect how the cooker performs.
Cooking on the Old Country Brazos
Right off the truck, the Brazos is a cooking machine! Using splits about 8″ long and 2-3″ wide on a solid coal bed, keeping the cooker hovering right around 275 is a piece of cake. The firebox baffle helps keep temperatures consistent throughout most of the cook chamber, allowing use of a larger area of the cooking grate. Obviously, on an offset smoker, the cooking chamber will be hotter the closer you get to the firebox and the baffle does its best to help lessen the effect.
On smaller backyard cookers like these, it can be difficult to cook using only wood splits. Typically, my process is to start a full chimney of lump charcoal and dump it in the firebox to give my coal bed a head start. Then I’ll add a split or two to get the fire burning and the cooker preheating. Usually, this combination gets the Brazos to around 300 degrees which is perfect if you’re planning on cooking around 275 or so.
Once the fire settles and temperatures start to level off, throw on the food and you’re off! Watch the cooker closely and, once the temperatures start to drop or your smoke is thick and white, take a look at your fire. It could require a bit of adjustment or it might be time to add another split. Rinse and repeat. Keep on chasing that thin blue smoke! Usually I find that I need to replenish the coal bed a bit every 3 hours or so, so I’ll add a few good sized chunks of lump charcoal to the fire.
Managing fires on offset smokers like these is a skill gained through patience and practice. I’ll tell you right now, that learning curve is much flatter with thicker steel and a bigger smoker. Those flimsy boys from the orange and blue stores are much more difficult to control.
Improving on the Brazos
The Brazos is a great smoker as-is, but with a small amount of money and elbow grease you can make this smoker perform just like much more expensive options.
The Baffle Plate
During my testing with the Brazos, I noticed that the baffle plate was directing the heat and smoke to the bottom side of my food. In a perfect world, the heat and smoke would come out of the fire box, rise to the top of the cook chamber, flow gracefully over the top of the food, and out through the stack. After a little Google-fu, I came up with a plan to make the Brazos a top-down cooking smoker instead of bottom-up.
The first modification made was the removal of the baffle plate. This allows the heat to come out of the firebox and travel directly to the top of the cook chamber. This moved the hot spot in the grill further towards the firebox and kept the bottom of my food from drying out. Removing this plate just took a few minutes with an angle grinder and some muscle. The improvements it makes and how easy it is to perform make this a super popular modification among Brazos owners.
Next up, we have the smoke stack. It’s fine right off the truck, but is short compared to the body of the cooker. Take a look at more expensive options, like the Franklin BBQ offset, and you can see that the stack is much taller.
The draft that carries heat and smoke through the cook chamber is directly related to the height of the stack. When cooking with the stack at stock height, the draft isn’t quite strong enough to keep the fire supplied with maximum oxygen. In order to burn that clean fire you’re looking for, running the smoker with the firebox door open partially is almost a requirement. I’m assuming here, but I think Old Country set the stack height where they did to lower costs in production and shipping.
This problem is easily remedied with another super popular modification, the stove-pipe stack extension. As a rule of thumb, when designing and building an offset smoker, you want the stack height to be 75% or more of the total length of the cook chamber. What I’ve found is that adding about 16″ of 6″ diameter stove pipe from the hardware store increases the draft dramatically, giving better control over how much draft there is, and allowing the smoker to be run with the firebox door shut.
Simple, cheap modifications like these help this $1350 cooker run just like cookers 3-4 times the price!
Actually getting an Old Country Brazos can be quite the task. They are for sale in a few stores like Academy, but a lot of us don’t have any of those nearby. Fortunately, Old Country does offer them for sale on their website with FREE SHIPPING. Yes, you read that right. Free shipping and crating on a 460lb smoker is huge! I priced a unit out from the closest reseller I could find, and shipping from California to Utah added almost $800 to the final cost.
Unfortunately, Old Country’s website is very dated and could use an update. The Brazos can be found on this page, as well as other offerings from Old Country. The Brazos is at the bottom of the page, labeled as “Old Country 20″x60.” If you’d like more information on these smokers, my official recommendation is to call them at (210) 875-1808 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them Hey Grill Hey sent you!
What We Like
Here are some of our favorite things about the Old Country Brazos:
- 1/4″ Steel Construction – There. I’ve said it again. This really is the main draw of this cooker. You can’t get better for the price without custom building your own.
- Fully Welded Construction – There is nothing flimsy about the Old Country Brazos. This smoker is sure to last a lifetime if you take care of it.
- Value – The Brazos offers incredible value for your money.
What Could be Improved
Even though this is a great smoker, there are a few things that can be improved with the Brazos:
- Build Quality – Some welds are ugly. Some non-functional pieces have obviously made from scrap metal laying around the shop.
- Availability – This is only a con for some of us. The main brick and mortar you can find these in is Academy, but those of us west of Texas don’t have those stores. You can always order one online though!
Recipes to try on the Old Country Brazos
Do you have the Brazos in your back yard, or are you planning on buying one in the future? If so, I recommend trying these awesome recipes with your smoker.
Old Country Brazos Review: Final Thoughts
The Brazos is the best bang for the buck 1/4″ offset smoker. It’s only $1350 with free shipping, and can be found for even less in store. If you’re looking for an offset that isn’t the prettiest, but can hold its own against more expensive options, the Brazos is for you. Right off the shipping pallet it is an amazing cooker, but with a few modifications it is the only offset you’ll ever need to buy.
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