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Custom Pit Build - The Chameleon Pit

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Posted by Gary B. Davis on April 18, 2016 at 08:44:00:

I wrote up a few notes from my latest pit build and made a photo video documenting the construction. This forum really helped me out when I started building pits. My hatís off to Ray for keeping it going for over 20 years now!

Size Matters Ė Sort Of
I wanted a pit with lots of capacity but not a huge behemoth to haul around. On all of my prior pits, the cooking grates were the last thing to be built and ended up being whatever size would fit in the finished pit. This time, I started with the grate size and designed the pit around that. I wanted two full size disposable chafing trays to fit on each grate with a clearance of 5 inches. I was able to fit four grates on each side for a total of 16 full size chafing trays, or about 24 to 32 briskets (3 to 4 per grate depending on size) to serve a max of around 350 plates. Yet, this pit isnít as long, wide and heavy as my last trailer pit which couldnít cook near this much.

Design Selection
I have several hundred pictures of custom built pits Iíve collected over the years. Itís hard to choose one but I settled on a pit modeled after B. J. Griesenbeckís pits. BJ turns out to be a pretty cool guy and even stopped by to check out the pit. I made my own adjustments, but if you want a similar pit, BJ is in the pit building business and would be the guy to turn to.

Tuning and Even Cooking
This is a reverse flow design and while Iím not necessarily a fan of them, this pits short length and tucked in firebox makes it function more like a tuning plate. I tuned my first trailer pit several different ways and was never happy with the results. But this pit cooks so evenly, I rarely ever rotate the meat around.

What size is that propane tank?
Itís a standard size 30 inch propane tank (200 or maybe 250 gallons) but itís been chopped to shorten the length. The top portion of the tank cutout is used for the reverse flow heat shield. The squared off top, back and front gives it the space efficiency of a square pit and allows all eight of the cooking grates to be a uniform size. Any grate fits in any slot which is really nice. The end caps help the smoke and heat to swirl around inside the pit.

Iíve made five or six different door logos and it takes just a few minutes to change them out. Thus, this has been dubbed the Chameleon Pit. I can change the theme to whatever I want. I also drilled and tapped holes on the top of the pit to mount logos up there. I install stainless steel threaded plugs when not in use. So far, a 48 inch long panther is the only one Iíve made. My favorite logos are the Wounded Warrior painted in dessert tan.

Gas Grill
For those times when I want to grill something or just heat up a pot of water to clean with. I used burners designed for a commercial grill sold in a restaurant supply store and used similar dimensions (distance of grates to burners, etc.). I purchased common commercial gas oven valves and made my own gas manifold. Getting the right orifices to match the BTUs for the burners and produce maximum heat all while not starving the ability of a 20lb tank to feed it was more of a chore than I expected. But I now have a grill with quality, easy to source replacement components. There is a removal drip tray in the bottom and of course, custom made cooking grates cut from ľĒ plate. I could have purchased a pretty nice grill for what it cost me to build one, but this one fits perfect, blends in with the rest of the pit and I wonít have to worry about finding parts.

Iíve built enough pits now to know they will most certainly cook somewhat differently than you thought they would. I guess each has their own personalities. Overall, Iím the happiest with this pit, but Iíve enjoyed them all. Some dream of what they want to cook next. I dream of what Iíll build next.

Gary B. Davis

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