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Barbecue pro builds top-shelf smokers
Randall Bowman, owner of Deep South BBQ, points out features on a smoker that he builds for a range of clients, including other cooks on the professional barbecue circuit, restaurants and caterers. A smaller version of the smokers for home cooks will soon be released. - photo by Crystal Ledford

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For more information about Deep South BBQ, visit

It could be said that Randall Bowman has barbecue in his blood.

The founder of the National Barbecue Cup: Cue’n in Cumming, which began two years ago as an annual professional and amateur competition and public tasting event, spends many weekends each year competing at other barbecue events around the nation.

When he’s not on the road or organizing the local event, which this year will be held Nov. 15 and 16 at the Cumming Fairgrounds, Bowman can be found in his shop on Tolbert Street.

There he builds custom smokers, which he sells to a wide range of clients. Among them are other barbecue professionals from the competition circuit, as well as restaurants and caterers.

Bowman said he and his family built smokers for “years and years and years” for themselves, but a year ago began building and selling them to others.

“Last June was the first one that went out,” he said. “And it’s pretty well taken off. I’ve got cookers in Hawaii, New York, New Mexico, Indiana, all over the place. And it’s growing quickly.”

He said he soon will introduce a smaller version of the smoker for home cooks.

“It’ll be in the Big Green Egg type of market,” Bowman said. “It’ll be around $1,800 to $2,000.”

Under the name Deep South BBQ, the company has a provisional patent for the heat distribution system used in the units.

“It’s unlike anything out there. It actually keeps the heat even side to side and top to bottom,” Bowman said. “Most units have a 25- to 30-degree heat difference at different points. With ours, it’s 3, 4 or 5 degrees at most.”

The units also use technology to help cooks get more sleep, he said.  

“They have a little computer control called the ‘barbecue guru’ and you can actually fill the shot with charcoal, light it and go to bed,” Bowman said. “That guru will keep the fire stoked or shut the oxygen off to keep it at the temperature you want it, as long as you want it to cook.”

The device could make a huge difference to barbecue pros on the competition circuit, who traditionally have stayed up all night to make sure those ribs, butts and other cuts are cooked perfectly for the judges.

“You can only do that staying up all night thing for so long, especially after you get out of your 20s,” Bowman joked.

Besides the “guru,” Bowman said the smokers are also “a little different” from others on the market in their craftsmanship.

“Ours are a little heavier and a little more work goes into them,” he said. “We don’t have any screws or rivets holding anything together, we don’t have body filler. It’s all truly welded together. Where the fire burns is actually half-inch thick steel so it won’t ever burn through.”

Also, the outside of the units remain safe since they are insulated.

“Even when the inside is 400 degrees, the outside is cool to the touch,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he hopes the line continues to be successful, noting that his experiences haves shaped the business.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and have seen good and bad things with other smokers,” he said. “In building our own, we played around and found things that worked and things that didn’t.

“I think the reputation we established with the [National Barbecue Cup] helped build the company, too.”