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I'm thinking of buying a smoker...anybody have one they like?

I'm looking mainly for a smoker to make Memphis style BBQ pork shoulder and ribs. My wife is from Memphis and over the last 20 years we've gone there to visit family many times and never missed an opportunity for BBQ. With the passage of time, the family has moved away from Memphis and we just don't have those reasons to go and we miss the Q!

For the yankees reading this, BBQ is strictly a noun in the South.

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  1. Den

    I have pretty much the same problem. Married a girl from Memphis and now her family has all moved away. Fortunately they're in Alabama so I get the good stuff there now.

    I have a Charbroil Silver Smoker and like it just fine. http://www.charbroil.com/Consumerwebh...
    I do a great shoulder, salmon and poultry. I haven't nailed down ribs yet but I'm getting there. In the fall I made some beef ribs that were unbelievable.


    3 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      so do y'all use that alabama white BBQ sauce?

      1. re: hitachino

        I sometimes do. I have my own recipe for it.


      2. re: Davwud

        I know this a little late for a response but I just joined this site. Anyway, I'm 35 from Okla and have been smoking ribs for the past 15 years. For the best fall off the bone tenderness tear the thin layer off the back of the baby backs. Then preheat oven to 200 degrees, salt and pepper the ribs, and cook for 2 hours. This slow cooks them for tenderness. Take out of oven and season ribs. I like a dry rub because the rub brings out the meats flavor where a sauce can over power but it's up to the person. After that just place in smoker till your liking, I usually go 6-8 hours. The oven is the main key to fall off the bone tenderness. Hope this helps and enjoy

      3. Den, I purchased a Cookshack Smokette electric smoker a few months back, and liked it so much that I brought it up to our country house and ordered an AmeriQue, also from Cookshack, to keep in the city.

        I make the most incredible hot-smoked salmon, beef ribs, brisket (17 hours!), turkey and chicken. I bought a cold-smoke baffle to make cold-smoked salmon, but I haven't tried it out yet.

        One of the great things about these electric smokers is that there is no tending required. Just plonk your seasoned product onto a rack, put a chunk or two of hardwood into the woodbox, plug it in, turn it to the desired temperature, and walk away until it's done.

        I've also come to really appreciate Cookshack's down-home customer service, and their online forum.


        1. For a birthday present my wife got me a Brinkman smoker and I love it - http://www.brinkmann.net/Shop/Detail....

          1. We have an electric SmokinTex and love it. We've had it about 3 years now and wouldn't think of doing a turkey any other way. We smoke ribs, chops, whole salmon, brisket and pork shoulder in it regularly. We've also smoked tomatoes, cheese, shrimp, scallops, octopus and goat in it, all with great success. It's completely self-maintaining so you start it up with some wood in the smoker box, close the door and walk away. We run it all year round so we have BBQ ribs in January and our Thanksgiving turkey is always smoked. It's one of the best food-related purchases we've ever made.

            1. Big Green Egg is the only way to go!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Katj

                I bought my husband a Big Green Egg for his birthday last year. He's a great cook, and I thought it would add to his repertoire. I also thought it might be a way of getting a 15 # turkey out of our freezer which I'd bought on sale and then realized that it was too much work ex. for T'giving. He LOVES it, and scarcely a week goes by that he doesn't use it. We had prime rib for company last week, and it was awesome!

                1. re: Katj

                  As a Kamado owner, them's fightin' words!


                  I've smoked briskets, pork shoulder, ribs, and everything's come out delicious. Great for brick oven pizza as well. Torque that sucker up to 700 degrees. And the cobalt blue tiles make it look like an odd piece of lawn art.

                2. Big Green Egg website, sorry I forgot it,


                  1. I have the Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker, AKA Weber Bullet. I like it a lot.
                    It's quite easy to use, and turns out reliably good Q with a minimum of fuss. About as foolproof as BBQ can get. Very nearly as easy as an electric smoker, but --IMO-- turns out a better product, and costs less.

                    If you're interested in a smoker for the food, as opposed to making a hobby of it, this is as good a device as you'll find. If you do make a hobby of it, you'll eventually end up getting an "offset" wood burner of some sort. But those are pretty labor intensive; they require you to constantly mind the fire. The Bullet's pretty much "set and forget."

                    There's a very good web site devoted to the Weber Bullet here: http://virtualweberbullet.com/tour.html

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: PDXpat

                      The WSM has taken the place of my NB Black Diamond and a homemade vertical cabinet. Offset smokers make fine Q, but home models are way to labor intensive.

                      A properly fueled WSM can burn for 12 hour unattended and can hold 2 , 18 lb turkeys or 30 lb of pork shoulder/butt. And they cost substantially less than BGE's and you can get three of them for the cost of a Kamado.

                      One advanage to the ceramic smokers is the ability to BBQ in blizzard like conditions. But hey, globull warming is gonna fix that problem.

                      1. re: PDXpat

                        my hubby has a WSM, and has had a lot of problems with temp regulation - runs too hot, too cold, constant fussing with the vents, etc. In spite of that, we've enjoyed some mighty fine meals off it - smoked pork, chicken, etc. I think the WSM is out of round, he went to bbq school and had to take his grills - i think he mighta bent it tying it down in the back of the truck.

                        He's looking at an offset next, possibly a Lang.

                        1. re: jujuthomas

                          If your having temperature problems with a WSM it due to one of two reasons:
                          1. Something like the door is damaged or,
                          2. The fire's not right.

                          Go here and spend a couple of hours reading, you'll never have any temperature problems. Guarenteed..


                          1. re: bkhuna

                            Cooks Ill, just did a side by side comparison of a the WSM and the BGE. They thought the WSM was up to all the challenges put forth by the BGE and at 1/3 the cost it was a clear winner.


                      2. I have a Cameron Stove top smoker and for smaller amounts it is the BOMB! Easy to do and control, heavy or light smoking. Not for a whole shoulder but for a couple of slabs of baby backs you won't be disappointed. It does however require an effective ventilation fan

                        1. The Bradley Smoker is very effective,
                          Looks like a small friidge; but can hold a couple of 14 lb turkeys, or , numerous slabs of ribs and requires very little work once you get the temp correctly set. I also hav a BGE, which definitely requires a little more time and effort; but the resluts are definitely worthwhile.

                          1. Gotta agree with Weinstein's recommend on the Brinkmann. The hardcore BBQ guys might scoff at it, but I don't think you can do better for $400. I've never had much luck with the vertical smokers like BGE's and Bullets. I had a vertical Brinkmann before this one, and often found myself drying things out. I think having the heat source directly under the meat really decreases your margin for error. I've been doing brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, turkey, trout and various game birds on the same horizontal Brinkmann for over ten years now. By keeping it covered when not in use and cleaning it occasionally, I figure it'll outlive me. I know a pretty serious BBQ'er who started out with the same model, then gifted it to a chef friend of ours a few years back when he needed more capacity. Since then he's probably spent ten grand on three or four high-end stock and custom smokers that he'll only keep for about a year or two before he starts looking for something he knows how to use as well as his old Brinkmann. Meanwhile, the chef friend has proceeded to learn how to turn out near-perfect BBQ. He even made it into a cold smoker using a foil-lined cardboard box and a length of flexible dryer vent hose. I'll be the first to admit it was a dodgy looking setup, but his inaugural batch of cold-smoked salmon was so good we ate ourselves silly. Regardless of which brand you choose, I think the most important things are getting one with an offset firebox and a heavy gauge steel body (the lid should feel heavy when you open it). The thickness on mine is about 3/16" - 1/4" (you might want to check to make sure the new Brinkmann's have the same construction if you're looking at one) which really helps maintain an even temperature and allows me to use it almost all year; a necessity for us Yankees. A lot of people seem to like the electrics because you don’t have to mess around with a fire and many are almost automatic, but I think years of learning to keep the temperature steady on a fire really gave me a good feel for how the whole process worked. Although since then, I've gotten lazier and added an Afterburner (http://www.gassmoker.com/Afterburner_...). It's a propane burner add-on that gives you temperature control as good as any electric. I think one of these and a horizontal smoker with an offset firebox is the best combination flavor and flexibility. Nice thing is, when I want to go back to the traditional lump charcoal method, all I have to do is open the firebox door and slide the burner out.

                            Whatever you wind up buying, just remember if you have fun using your new pit and your friends and family greedily eat up your BBQ, you made the right choice.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: red_menace

                              I'm going to have to disagree with your assessment. I own a 8-or-so-year-old Smoke 'n Pit (minus the side firebox) and a Bandera. I've used the Hondo/Smoke n' Pit w/ the side firebox and a WSM. My Smoke n Pit is fine for grilling, roasting a chicken, or hot smoking a side of salmon. It's relatively tight and controllable. I've turned out some very good Q on my Bandera, but even heavily modified (heat shield, gaskets, charcoal basket, large chunk of refractory ceramic for thermal mass) it's hard to control b/c it's so leaky. That means you're tending all night to make a brisket. The two chamber Smoke n Pit was slightly better, but I think you still need to do the modifications you can find on the web to improve it's performance. And I suspect that any of them have gone to lighter gauge steel than they were made with in the late 90's.

                              For $200, the WSM is the best thing out there. The only downside is that it doesn't hold as much stuff as the others. It's tight, and with a little practice, you can get it to run for 12 hours or so with little maintenance. So many folks compete with these that I don't think the argument about the fire being under the meat holds any water. The one thing you can do is trade out the water pan for the larger, Brinkmann version. Then fill it with water, or even sand, and you're off.

                              If you want to upgrade from there, the Backwoods or Stump's are primo vertical wood burners. More room, but at substantial additional cost.

                              I love making BBQ, but with a Chowpup who's going to get up at the same time no matter how late I stay up, my all-night Q sessions are coming to an end. I'm looking for something that seals up well and that is controllable enough that I'll be able to walk away from it and get some shuteye.

                              1. re: ted

                                I've had great 'cue come off vertical smokers before, it's just that I've never been able to produce anything I've been happy with myself. Never used one of the big verticals with the offset firebox though, just the bullet style.

                                Check out that link I posted for the Afterburner. They make a kit that works in vertical smokers too. I can put a log in mine and know that it'll smolder nicely for eight hours or more and keep the temperature exactly where I set it. Lets me get a full nights sleep knowing my brisket will keep on cooking just how I want it. They also sell fittings that allow you to connect it to a household gas line so you don't have to worry about keeping a spare tank of propane around.

                            2. I think it's also fair to warn you that you're not gonna be an expert the second you take it out of the box. I've had a smoker for 7 years now and still haven't come up with ribs that I'm head over heals about. I'm happy with my shoulders, chickens and salmon (Hot smoked) but brisket, turkey and ribs have all eluded me so far. I'm real close on the ribs though.

                              Smoking is as much about technique as anything.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Davwud

                                ain't that the truth! no matter how much I love something DH makes, he is never completely happy with it!

                              2. I have a Kamado also. Love it.

                                1. Y'all should check out the Drum Smokers at www.bigdrumsmokers.com. It is great technology and well executed. Anything at those prices which can achieve 24 hr low and slow smoking times has got my vote.

                                  1. Have to agree with Ted, the Weber Smokey Mountain for 200.00 from Amazon.com is the way to go for just family cooking or a small get together. There is a whole web site devoted to these smokers, just type in "weber bullet" and you will find it (The Virtual Weber Bullet or TVWB ). This site is 10 times better than the owners manual. It has recipes and tips on about everything concerning their usage. Someone on one of the other replies needs to also visit this site, he mentioned he was having trouble adjusting the heat while cooking on the W.S.M. Highly suggest you use the "Minion Method" for firing up your WSM, its all explained on this web site. BBQ teams have won many events using these little dynamos. For shoulder and butts I usually smoke them for 12 to 16 hrs on one load of charcoal and and 4 or 5 chunks of smoke wood for flavor.
                                    Someone mentioned the Big Green Egg, it also does a great job, but depending on which one you buy you could purchase 3 to 5 WSM's. Weber will also stands behind their products, customer service is second to none. Hope this post finds you in time, I realize I'm a little late. By all means research!!!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ratcat

                                      I've got the Kamado, but I need some extra smoking capacity, so I'm going to pick up the WSM. In both cases, it's the community support that sold me. Both have legions of users that are happy to share tips, recipes, and modding tips that go above and beyond the company's official product support. I only wish I'd jumped on the WSM sooner; the amazon price is up to $230 now. I guess people noticed that summer is coming and they want to get their smoking on.

                                      1. re: ratcat

                                        3 years later, still have the Kamado, augmented by four WSMs. Just got the 22" and can't wait to do some of the bigger briskets. Can't recommend them highly enough.

                                      2. I have a CookShack Smokette and love it! Great temp control, easy to clean and very sturdy. Now, it will set you back over $400 but if you like to smoke then it is a great option.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: frankiii

                                          I've used a bullet smoker for years for hot smoking. It works OK.
                                          I'm going to build a hot/cold smoker out of an old all-metal refrigerator.
                                          I'll let you know how it comes out.

                                        2. I purchased a Tejas offset water pit about five years ago, and it's been bulletproof. It's designed like a bomb shelter and made to last that long. Jim has kept the design pretty simple and quite functional. The finishing isn't shabby either.

                                          My only other recommendation might be a Trager smoker, they use the pelleted wood. The nice thing about this unit is that anyone can use it. It doesn't take someone to know how to manage the fire pit to run it. Basically you just turn it on and walk away. The only trick is finding a local dealer that carries the pellets.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: fini

                                            15 years ago I bought a drum smoker with side fire box.
                                            I used it for a couple of years, but got tired of feeding it wood and charcoal.

                                            I bought a Cookshack Smokette used it every weekend for about 3 years.
                                            All my friends were going crazy for my brisket and pulled pork.
                                            I went all the way to Ponca City Ok for a bbq class at Cookshack Dec 2005.
                                            It was a great time learned all kinds of tricks from Fast Eddie.

                                            I bought an Amerique from them.
                                            It allows you to smoke-cook to your meat at a temperature and time that you set. When the cycle finishes, the AmeriQue automatically goes into its hold cycle. One of its most popular features is its meat probe, which allows you to set the desired internal meat temperature. When the meat reaches that temperature, the smoker automatically goes into its hold cycle.
                                            It has 4 14x18 racks. And temp setting upto 300 deg.
                                            Capacity 50 pounds of brisket or pork butts
                                            Great smoker it can also be used to cold smoke cheese.

                                            Cookshack makes awesome smokers.

                                          2. I recently bought a Cookshack Amerique, it is completely digital, you put in your smoking wood, meat, plug in the probe and it will cook a perfect pork butt, brisket , etc and automatically shut down to a holding temperature so you dont have the hassle of adding charcol every hour. They have different size smokers for home and large commercial restaurant smokers, to find out more go to http://cookshack.com/

                                            Check out their forums on the site also, really good info from other smoker affecianados.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: malibumike

                                              Now that's one nice smoker with a price to boot.

                                            2. I've read all of your posts, and find myself more confused than ever. Seems like everyone's got their favorite brand and style. So what's a beginner to do? How do you decide on that FIRST smoker? What features are most important? How does one enter the world of real southern BBQ without having to take a second mortgage on the house?

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: CindyJ

                                                I think you just answered your own question! I would start with the WSM as it is inexpensive and has a great wealth of info for the beginner. If you decide to progress, you will then be able to try one of the more costly specialty units, and you will still have the WSM on hand.

                                                1. re: mattrapp

                                                  I agree, the Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker is the ideal "starter" smoker. It's relatively inexpensive, very easy to use, well made and durable, and turns out great Q.

                                                  However, it's not just a "starter" smoker. It's very popular on the competition BBQ circuit, for example, and I wouldn't call those folks beginners; a lot of ribbons have been won with a WSM. Many people, myself included, never feel any need to progress to more expensive and/or complicated rigs. As I've said before, the choice depends on your goals. If you're about BBQ as a passtime, then by all means get an offset wood burner, as others have suggested. If, on the other hand, you're interested in a smoker for the *food*, get a Weber bullet. It will last a long time, and it's very likely all you'll ever need.

                                                  As far as what a beginner should do, I'd say jump in with both feet.

                                                  The really important feature of any smoker is an ability to maintain a steady, even temperature in the cooking chamber(s). As a general rule, this means the ability to control the fire. You want a steady, slow smolder, no open flames, no flare-ups. This translates, for the most part, to controlling airflow into the fire. This is what people are talking about when they say a cooker is "tight" or "leaky". You want something that's tight, or you'll have to fuss with the fire all the time, and it'll be much harder to control. Also, BBQ as a cooking method is all about indirect heat, so you want to make sure your food is not directly exposed to the fire, but only the heat and smoke the fire produces.

                                                2. re: CindyJ

                                                  CindyJ-- you don't need to spend thousands on a smoker to do traditional Q, it is essentially a low-tech art, after all. even if you've got the big bucks to spend on an electronic smoker, you should still be able to dig a hole and make good Q. for a beginner i'd go straight to menard's and buy a heavy brinkman offset-box tower smoker (that has a decent size direct-grill surface as a bonus) as well as including the tower racks, hooks and shelves other folks will charge you for, all for a whopping $129. this smoker is great for beginners and serious Q cooks alike. we have 2 (out of 5) brinkmans and they work great, take a beating and are still low-tech enough to last a long time under heavy heavy use. once you've played with your new smoker you can decide whether you like Q enough to want to invest in a fancier model-- but the skills you'll gain early on with a heavy, traditional, basic-model smoker are irreplaceable.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    That is what my wife for a birthday gift - The brinkman offset smoker from Lowes - I use it constantly and it works great

                                                3. I got a New Braunfels barrel (offset) smoker 10-12 years ago as a Father's Day present & have been hooked on it ever since. New Braunfels is out of business now. My smoker is getting a bit of rust on it so I read through this thread with keen interest. IMHO, unless you make the big bucks, the way to go is with a low-budget barrel smoker -- the Char-Broil silver smoker (previously noted) or the Char-Griller Smokin' Pro. Both are for sale at Home Depot & you can check them out on the HD website. They retail in the $169-$159 range. A barrel smoker gives you the authentic barbecue flavor/experience in a way that's hard to replicate with a bullet (or, for certain, any kind of electric smoker). Labor intensive? Maybe, but all good BBQ is labor intensive . . . if it were easy to do, a whole industry + contests wouldn't be built around it. (Of course, you could say the word ``hamburger'' and my arguement falls to pieces, but, hey . . .) The key to an offset smoker (or any smoker) is a reliable wood supply. If you can get, say, a half cord of hickory or mesquite or oak, you're in business. The other variable is meat. If you live in Texas, big briskets are no problem. Here in the D.C. area, fuhgetaboutit. But we have good pork shoulders, pork ribs and I just bought huge slabs of beef short ribs at a Latino grocery that turned out pretty well (got me a lot of compliments). But bottom line is you probably go wrong with most any of the suggestions aforementioned. And if you're a newbie, the best advice is the answer to the old joke about how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: dan f.

                                                    dan- I was thinking that New Braunfels was bought by Char-Broil. They show the offsets on their site. But then Academy Sports still shows smokers labeled as New Braunfels. If you really want a long-lasting offset, the Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn is a heavier built version of the same (and more expensive).

                                                    You can tweak an offset to be easier to use with baffles, tuning plates, and a charcoal basket. If your "authentic" experience includes staying up all night to cook pork shoulder or brisket, because the fire requires that much tending, more power to you.

                                                    But there are probably enough ribbons/trophies won with WSMs, Backwoods, Stump's et al to prove you wrong in your generalization about offsets as the only way to "true" Q. Not to mention Kingsford briquettes. I think the key is how air tight the smoker is- I'm selling my Bandera b/c it's so leaky it would burn for 24 hr.s after closing the damper at the end of a cook. Tightness means control.

                                                    I've found really good cuts of pork at a local Asian market. Baby back ribs with lots of loin meat, as well as large sections of deboned fresh hams (though I've yet to try that cut). For beef, you might try Sam's or Costco. A lot of folks get packer-cut (i.e. whole) briskets at Sam's, and Costco only sells the flat part of the brisket, but it generally looks gorgeous.

                                                    1. re: ted

                                                      I don't disagree with anything you say. I think it comes down to personal preference. the thing that gets me about some of the smokers aforementioned is how much they cost. that's why the char-griller and char-broil look good to me. I think there's something to be said for the vertical ``bullet'' smoker and I agree that ``tightness'' is all important. I've done a few ``all nighters'' for brisket, but that's when it has to be ready mid-afternoon. (Actually I sleep thru most of it and add wood about 3 a.m.) Bottom line may be with good wood, good quality meat, time and some patience, you can't go wrong with whatever you use.

                                                      1. re: dan f.

                                                        you want great ribs? rub some baby backs with your favorite dry rub and wrap them in foil and let them sit over night. When ready to serve the next day, put them in a 300 degree over for 3 hours. Take them out and let them rest. Put them on a hot grill, get them crispy and then slather on the sauce, if you like sauce. These are the best ribs I have ever had.

                                                        1. re: rog2867

                                                          I'm sure these taste perfectly fine, they just aren't BBQ to the folks that put time and effort into making the real thing. No smoke = not Q.

                                                          And there are plenty of restaurants out there that pass off something similar as BBQ.

                                                        2. re: dan f.

                                                          The only reason I'd go for the offset over a WSM is if you really needed more space. My point of view is affected by the fact that I have a Chowpup who isn't getting up any later no matter how late I stay up. As the gauge of steel in the offsets has gotten lighter over the years, they just aren't as tight as they used to be. You have to spend more for the Longhorn to get that now. By comparison, the WSM doesn't have that problem, even though it's not heavy gauge metal.

                                                          Otherwise, I agree. I just have a lot less time available to tend the fire than I used to. FWIW, I paused while typing this to help the guy who just bought my Bandera load it in his truck.

                                                          1. re: ted

                                                            My NB is a bit rusted and its demise is probably in sight. I'd certainly consider a WSM or some other ``bullet'' smoker . . . certainly more compact. And I'm sure you could make adjustments to compensate for the different physics equations at work in an upright smoker vs. an offset. I have to say, though, that smoked BBQ, made at home, is a little labor intensive no matter what device you use. After a decade of smoking, I've learned some labor-saving techniques but in the final analysis, you just have to tell yourself that whatever time you spend, the end-product is worth it. I know I feel that way everytime I take a tender brisket or pork shoulder or ribs out of the barrel & basque in compliments of family, guests.

                                                    2. You don't mention a budget for your smoker. Assuming budget is not a concern, I would recommend a Traeger Wood Pellet Grill made out here in Oregon. Just Google Traeger Grills.

                                                      The Traeger is almost too easy to use for smoking as the electronic auger and fire box regulates your temps all day long!

                                                      For smoking before the Traeger days, I used my Kamado cooker most often. I still have a Kamado (old school from Asia), 2 Weber Kettles and a Weber Genesis gas grill. The Traeger is very easy to use but spendy to buy and operate.

                                                      Have fun smoking and grilling!

                                                      1. We have a Weber smoky mountain cooker (bullet smoker) and it is fantastic. We have been following the guidance of http://virtualweberbullet.com/, the guy gives exacting steps to get really great results. We have smoked ribs, chicken, fish and prime rib all with outstanding results. We ordered smoke wood chunks from charcoalstore.com, and we use hardwood charcoal. While you are ordering (this smoker or other) be sure to order a thermometer to mount on the smoker, it is essential (the website mentioned above details how to do this cheaply and easily for weber bullet). Good luck.

                                                        1. Just because I'm a Yankee doesn't mean I don't understand BBQ. ;-)

                                                          For Mother's Day, my hubby bought me a smoker - not the most expensive out there, but it's been working very nicely for me and it's what was in the area - smokers are a relatively new commodity when purchased in this area- Char Broil's Silver Smoker.

                                                          The only thing I will say is that it didn't come with the thermometer so I had to find one online, but it was well worth it. The other is that the directions that come with it sucked. The paperwork was close to a dozen pages of how to assemble and then half a page of how to light the grill. It didn't really give great details on using the grill, so be prepared for some trial by error when getting the temperature right.

                                                          1. i am seriously considering buying the costco "grand cafe" propane gas smoker. (yes, i am not a purist, but i am tired of tending fires.) has anyone had any experience with this machine?

                                                            1. You seem to know how to make good Q, so why not have the best.

                                                              Pits by David Klose.