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Barbecue Pit

It should be noted that for the purposes of this essay, "barbecue" means the slow cooking of meat over dry heat.

In barbecue cookery, the barbecue pit is the construction, device, or appliance in which the actual cooking takes place. Commonly referred to as "the Pit", it may be as simple as a hole dug in the ground in which a bed of coals can be laid, or it may be as complex as a commercially manufactured device with electronic control of combustion air and fuel feed rate. Depending on how it is used, a portable propane grill may qualify as a barbecue pit, although the more common usage of the term implies the cooking of larger portions of meat than would fit on the common gas grill. Common cuts of meat to be prepared in a barbecue pit are whole or half carcasses of beef, goat, sheep, pig, and even large fish. Frequently, multiple portions of other large cuts of meat are prepared. This could include pork ribs, shoulders and hams, beef brisket, and leg of lamb.

Pits generally fall into two catergories: the site built pit and the portable cooker.

Site Built Pits

These may be permanent installations or built for a single event. Dug pits, such as for the Hawai'ian luau are a special case of single event pits. The more common site built pits are constructed partially or totally above ground level and are made of durable materials such as masonry, stone or steel. They are generally rectangular in shape and will have access at one or both ends for working the coal bed under the meat. They may be covered or uncovered, the covered version giving better control of the cooking. Dampers and flues may be included to finely control the draft of air through the cooking area and the supply of combustion air to the coals. A rotisserie may be installed to rotate the meat and ensure even cooking.

Portable Cookers

Portable barbecue pits are commonly referred to as smokers and are generally trailer mounted. A common user-built construction is to split a 250 gallon fuel tank horizontally and hinge the halves. A spring or counterweight mechanism is sometimes added to make lifting the top half easier. The bottom is fitted with hatches for addition of coals or with propane burners and with dampers to control air flow. A grill is placed over the opening at the top of the lower half. The top half is fitted with smoke stacks with flue contols.

Commercially made smokers usually contain a fire-box that is offset from the main cooking chamber. The flow of air and smoke through the fire box, into the cooking chamber and to the atmosphere is controlled through dampers and flue controls as usual, but fancier models use electronic probes to control dampers or fans to regulate the temperature in the cooking chamber. A rotisserie or series of revolving racks may also be included.

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