Product Review – ProQ Excel 20 Elite Smoker

picMichael RoseThe ABA’s Independent Product Reviewer Michael Rose takes us through the ProQ Excel 20 Elite smoker.

The PROQ range of 3 in 1 Bullet Smokers are not new-comers to the Australian market. In fact, they have been in backyards across the country for many years.

Nowadays PROQ’s are the BBQ’s of choice for many folk including some of the best competition teams in the country and just recently they’ve released their new range of Elite models which I was given the honour of reviewing.

Having been a PROQ Excel 20 owner (and lover) myself since 2013, its fair to say that I was just a little excited to get my hands on the very first Excel 20 Elite model in the country (even before the distributor).

picThe PROQ Excel 20 Elite range is built of a thicker grade of steel then the standard series which is the first thing you’ll notice when putting the unit together. It actually feels stronger and more robust and because of that increased thickness it’s going to hold temps better on less fuel (particularly in the colder months). The grills, nuts, bolts, door handles and side handles have all been upgraded to high grade stainless steel and there is a new and improved easy-to-grip handle on the lid in bright red which is a really cool contrast against the black porcelain of the unit.

Some of the other new features include the red silicone coating on the side handles that lock into place about 10mm from the stacker so as to prevent them from heating up and burning your hands. There’s also the red silicone gromlets (thermometer access eyelets) on each stacker which can accommodate all kinds of different thermometer shapes and sizes, so there’s no need to go poke them through the door or vents anymore.

picAs for functionality and performance, these things will never let you down. The doors on each stacker make it easy to access the porcelain covered water pan or the charcoal basket which is important when you want to add more wood or charcoal without having to disassemble the unit which would lose all the heat, smoke and momentum. The 3 vents on the bottom of the unit combined with the water pan make it simple to maintain temps for a very long time, therefore making it perfect for low and slow cooks.

In terms of versatility, there isn’t much the PROQ can’t do. Each stacker has its own grill so you have 2 big levels of cooking (both levels could easily accommodate a whole brisket) and if you want, you can buy more stackers separately increasing your capacity again and again. Alternatively you can remove a stacker for a more compact cook or remove them all together and use the unit like a kettle which also makes it a really handy size for picnics or the beach.

picTIP: remove a stacker towards the end of the cook so you don’t have to add more charcoal.

If you are partial to the odd ‘reverse sear’ I can’t think of a better unit for it. You simply have the stackers and the water pan in position while smoking and then when you reach the desired internal temp you just remove the stackers and place the grill right on top of the charcoal basket and sear away! It doesn’t get much easier.

The units come with 4 metal hooks which can be hung from the rail inside the lid making it great for whole fish, legs of lamb, chicken etc.

As for the new accessories, PROQ have designed some really cool ones that are available to buy separately. There is a new stainless steel chimney starter with the same red handles you’ll find on the lids of the Elite range. All pieces are bolted together too so you’ll never need to worry about dodgy welds coming apart and because its stainless steel you wont have to buy another one ever again.

picProQ have also gone and created something you’re gonna kick yourself for not thinking of first – A mini grill plate that sits on top of the chimney which instantly transforms it into a little portable BBQ. It’s an absolute essential purchase!
There is also a new rib rack which can double as a roasting basket simply by flipping it over and the new waterproof covers are also an easy way to keep your BBQ in pristine condition.

In summary, I’m really impressed with the new Elite range of PROQ’s and accessories and cant wait to fire it up in the coming weeks!

For more info on ProQ Smokers, check out www.proqsmokers.com.au