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Rib Cookoff -- KK vs Insulated Cabinet

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When I bought my Kamado Joe I had a word with my insulated cabinet smoker and reassured it that it was still the champ. With my KK’s arrival, no such reassurances were made. This time, the title of "Champ" must be earned.

The competitors. On the left is the reigning champ, my 270 Smokers Standard. Boxy but good. On the right, the challenger who needs no introduction. 270 started as a regional brand based in Lexington, VA that made inroads on the competition circuit and is now sold throughout the US and Canada. I was an early adopter, posted a review at BBQ Brethren, and still field IM’s, emails and even occasional phone calls from owners and prospective buyers. It's an insulated cabinet with a unique design known as heated draft. I'll spare you the details, but the bottom line is that it is a convection smoker whose design amps up the flow, promoting very even temps and smoke distribution. Water pans are optional but recommended. Couldn't be more different from a KK in terms of airflow and the means by which it manages temps and moisture. To sustain that air movement, the 270 burns a lot of briquettes. After running my KK for 10 hours at 275 the other day I only needed to add two coco char sticks to reload the basket for today’s cook. The 270 excels at cooking the big four proteins popular on the KCBS circuit, so this is stiff competition for a KK. I’ll be using each cooker with my best practices for each. 

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At two hours, both are looking good.

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At 3.5 hours the ribs on both cookers were passing the bend test. The final product. KK ribs are on the right. 270 ribs are on the left. Don't tell my blind taste testers.

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The Test:

I had four blind taste testers. Three are my wife and two daughters who have eaten plenty of 270 ribs. The fourth is Mr. Qua, my eldest daughter's friend, who helped me move my KK to the back yard and is now pleased as can be to be eating ribs.

The Results:

Wife and daughter the youngest decided both were equally good, although my wife did pick up on a "smokier" note in the 270 ribs. As we discussed it, we concluded that note was the flavor of the briquettes underlying the wood smoke. Not unpleasant, but distinct. The KK ribs cooked with CoCo Char lacked this note. 

Daughter the eldest and Mr. Qua both picked the KK ribs without hesitation. When asked why, they both stated immediately that they were more moist.

I'm the fifth vote and noted that as we continued to eat ribs (Wife and daughter the youngest finished early, so didn't notice this), the KK ribs retained their moisture as they cooled, while the 270 ribs seemed to dry up a bit. 

The Verdict:

With 3 votes for the KK ribs and 2 votes neutral, the new champ is my KK. The KK was both easier to use by far, and also produced more moist ribs. 

Look for my 270 on Craigslist soon

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On a Saturday afternoon, sitting in your back yard, munching on ribs and sipping a cold one, I doubt i could tell the difference. In my simple world they both accomplish what Ribs are meant to do. Taste great, fill my belly, and drop stains on my T shirt. Oh yeah, and make me thirsty for another cold one. Fine cook and review, I enjoyed it.  

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18 hours ago, dsarcher said:

Great comparison. I think I would have eaten either rack of ribs. Thanks for sharing.

They were both excellent. There's no way I could have discerned a difference other than by direct comparison. 

2 hours ago, keeperovdeflame said:

On a Saturday afternoon, sitting in your back yard, munching on ribs and sipping a cold one, I doubt i could tell the difference. In my simple world they both accomplish what Ribs are meant to do. Taste great, fill my belly, and drop stains on my T shirt. Oh yeah, and make me thirsty for another cold one. Fine cook and review, I enjoyed it.  

Yup. The differences in taste were small for sure. The biggest difference was in the process of how hard or easy each cooker was to use to achieve a great result. The KK excelled on that front, while the 270 burned a lot more fuel and required more tending. I abridged this review -- couldn't figure out how to load more than four pics. The full review discussing that process and more tuned to a KK owning audience is over at the KK forum. 

2 hours ago, Mewantkj said:

I always love side by side comparisons. Great job. 

Thanks!

1 hour ago, Grabber70Mach said:

Nice job on the comparison, they both looked really good.

Thanks!

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4 minutes ago, Paul said:

I think that the 270 gave you a good run that you should honor it and keep them both 

I have considered it, and if the 270 produced noticeably better BBQ that made it worth the extra effort I would keep it. Unfortunately, it lacks Kamado versatility (tops out at 350 degrees) and just isn't going to get much play with a KK in the yard. Better to sell to someone who will put it to good use than to let it rust from neglect. 

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9 minutes ago, AshlandJoe said:

Well done...and well communicated...Thanks for sharing...I have a Weber Kettle and Weber Smokey Mountain meeting the same fate...

Started my smoking "career" on a WSM and it is an excellent smoker. Gave it to my niece soon after I bought my Kamado Joe. Works great for her. Would suffer from neglect with me. 

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5 minutes ago, HalfSmoke said:

Started my smoking "career" on a WSM and it is an excellent smoker. Gave it to my niece soon after I bought my Kamado Joe. Works great for her. Would suffer from neglect with me. 

Already gave my Weber Kettle away...Looking for a home for the WSM...I love it, but I just don't use it anymore.

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