A Shovel is NOT Always JUST a Shovel

Next to the perfect knife, a shovel is quite possibly the most important and most used tool a BBQ joint can have. You may not think so but I believe you'll have a greater appreciation after reading this post.

In doing this research I found that when choosing a shovel you are looking for purpose, material, handle, blade type, ergonomics, and weight. Popular shovel brands like Fiskars, Ames, Bully Tools, Razor-Back, Seymour, and True Temper.

You can shop for Heavy-Duty shovels on Amazon HERE, Home Depot HERE, Lowe's HERE, and Harbor Freight HERE.

Below is a list, in the order I received them, of what shovels your favorite BBQ joints use

Evan LeRoy from LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue in Austin: I like a lightweight spade shovel so my arms don't get tired and I could easier manipulate the fire rather than a square tip or heavier one. We just buy the cheapest shovel they have at Home Depot.

Photo by Evan LeRoy

Patrick Feges from Feges BBQ in Spring Branch and Houston, Texas: Shovels are gonna be like knives, it's what you prefer.  At Feges, we have 3 different shovels for various applications.  A small spade is great for moving wood around in the firebox. We have a regular side spade, with a rounded tip for digging coals out of the firebox or burn barrel.  It's probably the most versatile.  We also have a square shovel for shoveling coals, cleaning up piles of bark, etc. Something we can run along the ground and scrape with.

Photo by Patrick Feges

Leonard Botello IV from Truth Barbeque with locations in Houston and Brenham, Texas - So we use your standard spade shovel at Truth. But the all-around preference for me and our guys is this little guy (we usually keep one of these and 4 of the normal-sized spade shovels) HERE.

A.M. Leonard Forged Steel Round Point Shovel w/Ash Handle

The first time I used this size shovel was in Charleston 3 years ago at an event. I was using John Lewis' 1,000 gal pit (one of my all-time fav pits I've ever used outside of my Millscale) and he had this shovel with the pit for me to use. It looks funny when you see it at first, but then when you use it, it actually is easier to maneuver the logs and shovel out the ash under the logs to create more airflow. I actually never asked John about that shovel bc as soon as I started using it I just laughed because John has been ahead of the curve in the BBQ scene since before I got started (also he is prob one of my biggest inspirations in bbq when I got started). I look up to John and the wealth of knowledge that he has locked up in that head of his. So I guess you could say that little shovel had a cool little story behind it. 

When we cook the hogs we use the square shovels so we can scoop up more of the coals and have more control of where we are dropping the coals. I hope this helps Kevin! Thanks for reaching out brother! 

Cooper Abercrombie - Bar-A-BBQ in Montgomery, Texas - Bought it almost 4 years ago for like $15 at the hardware store. It’s got a spade head and is super light, it’s the only shovel I touch 

Photo courtesy of Cooper Abercrombie

Dylan Cooke from Fork Grove Barbecue in Anderson, South Carolina - One my dad had in the garage lol nothing special but has become a heirloom

Photo by Dylan Cooke

Esaul Ramos from 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio and Blu Lacy Smokehouse in Castroville - The one on the left we use with our M&M BBQ Co. pit and the right is for the Cen-Tex.

Photo by Esaul Ramos

Fernando Gonzales from 2Fifty Texas BBQ in Riverdale Park, Maryland - We use round shovels to work around all of our fires. When we leased our restaurant, there were a bunch in the basement. You could say it was meant to be since we haven’t had to buy a single shovel in almost 5 years. I like the fact that they’re not as pointy as the stuff you find in stores nowadays. It gives it more balance when manipulating logs inside the firebox. The long handle also helps you to distance yourself from the fire as needed. Here’s a pic:

Photo by Fernando Gonzales

Marc Smith from The Patriotic Pig in North Richland Hills, Texas - Haha, that is a wacky question. Funny you asked that though because I just went and bought 3 new shovels to only be used by my pit guys. Some of the construction guys who were working on my enclosure ruined my smoker shovels by not rinsing them off after using them to pour concrete.

The square shovels are best since they easily get the ash out of the corners. It takes more work to get ash out of a square firebox using a rounded-tip shovel.

Here’s the ones I bought. They’re kind of deep too so they’ll hold more ash.

Scott Moore from Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue in Tomball, Texas - Just a regular ole garden shovel is what we use. 

Photo by Scott Moore

Burt Bakman from SLAB with locations in Los Angeles and Pasadena - Hey Kevin, here’s the shovel as we speak, I am doing 25 briskets in the backyard it’s not an ideal shape but it’s one Steve V who helped build the smoker with FatStack gave me when I bought the smoker it’s resting on. I love the one John Lewis has in South Carolina which is a smaller one and gets into crevices.

Chef Elias Vidal from Alice's Restaurant at Treaty Oak Distilling in Dripping Springs, Texas -We just use a regular shovel. For our fire table, I use a flat-ended one that looks like a dustpan so that I’m able to scoop out ashes too.

Jonathan Wilson - JW's Barbecue in Jacksonville, Texas - Here are the two shovels I use. One is a large “snow” or “lead” shovel and the other is my granddads. I use the large shovel because it’s the perfect width for my firebox to scoop the maximum amount of ashes out. I use my granddads for smaller jobs and moving coals around. 

Sam Jones from Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville and Raleigh AND Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden, North Carolina - Hey man. This is a funny question. We’ve never had a “standard shovel”. Whatever the cheapest shovel at the hardware store is what we’ve used!  I do have a few I’ve saved over the years. SJ

Garren 'Jon G' Kirkman from Jon G's Barbecue in Peachland, North Carolina - Hey man!  I’ve attached a few pics. These 2 are our favs. We’ve got backups but these are the 2 everyone grabs first. I’d say these are the go-to because they’re light and much easier to make adjustments inside the firebox. The round shovel makes the most sense working inside of our rounded fireboxes. 

Lupe Nevarez from LaVaca BBQ in Port Lavaca and Victoria, Texas - Our shovels are the shits!! I used to work at a rice farm. We used rice field shovels. It had a rounded nose, not a spade. Sorta flattish. It had no foot lugs. Made to push into mud and wet soil. Makes the perfect shovel for a round pipe firebox. Daniel asked about it the 1st time he stopped in. I also trimmed a small shovel down with a cutting wheel for our live-fire cooking. Our rice field and smaller trimmed shovel resemble our big shovels. Both are rounded but flat with a rounded front edge.

Tyler Frazier from Tyler's Barbeque in Amarillo, Texas - Photos + VIDEO:

Here's a great video from Tyler explaining everything:

Brad Hudetz from Station One Smokehouse in Plainfield, Illinois - We like a wooden long-handled, round-tip steel shovel for manipulating our fires. The shape allows us to poke and build the fire with more precision than a square shovel. Because our fireboxes are square we do use a square shovel that has about an inch depth for keeping the firebox clean and removing ashes. 

Photo by Brad Hudetz

Kris Manning from Smokey Joe's BBQ in Dallas, Texas - Good afternoon. We use a rounded point shovel; we found it easier to flip the wood around in the firebox since our firebox has a curve. A digging shovel made it harder to flip the wood around and maneuver wood pieces. Thank you.

Photo by Kris Manning

Robbie Robinson from City Limits Barbeque in West Columbia, South Carolina - Hey Kevin, I use the spade in the Austin Smoke Works because the firebox is curved, and so the spade allows for easier navigation when cleaning out ash. During the cook, we actually use an old ax handle to move wood and coals around the firebox.

We use the flat shovel for pulling coals out of the burn barrel for our direct over coals cooking.  We also use a pitchfork to pull any pieces of wood chunks out of the bottom of the burn barrel and drop them back in the top, without including a whole bunch of coals.

Zain Shafi from Sabar Barbecue in Fort Worth, Texas - Hey Kevin, I just use a basic shovel that I had at the house, something light is definitely a preference to help lighten the workload, and easier to maneuver it around in the firebox! Thanks a bunch. Hope you get to come visit soon! 

Russ Nockerts from Steel Belly BBQ in Wisconsin - Hey Kevin, I use an old-fashioned spade shovel. I’ve had it a long time, bought it as a first-time homeowner, and moved it with us from Wisconsin to California and back. It’s now a full-time pit shovel, it has character and a curved handle from resting against the hot fireboxes it’s our most important tool for creating great barbecue.  Cheers, Russ.

Bruce Kalman from Soulbelly BBQ in Las Vegas, Nevada - Hey Kevin, I don’t use a specific brand, but you need a shovel with a rounded/pointy end, which makes it easier to maneuver logs as needed.

David Daniel Dan - Mosu, Texas - The simple shovel. One of my favorite tools in bbq. With it you control the coals, the fire, the heat that cooks your bbq. The shovel has to feel right in the hand. When I’m talking bbq to someone the shovel is usually in my hand. It is part of me. Everyone has a preference. Heavy shovel, light shovel, you name it. Mine is an old pointed shovel I found in my father-in-law's shop. He used it for decades before me. He used it to build the house that my wife grew up in. My father-in-law used it to teach discipline and work ethic to his children. There were other shovels I could have taken a liking to, but this one felt right. It never crossed my mind to purchase a new one. I couldn’t imagine using a plastic or composite handle. The wood handle on this shovel is weathered and after years of bbq, covered in grease. One of the few things I requested on my hog cooker was a place to lean my shovel. A shovel needs a specific place to be set. It cannot be thrown about or left on the ground. It is an extension of my arm. An extension of me. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My shovel, without me, is useless. Without my shovel, I am useless. I must master it, as I must master my life.

Photo by David Daniel Dan

Cameron Haley from Smoak Town BBQ in Fate, Texas - These are the 2 that I use. The larger one is used to shovel out the ashes after cooks and the smaller one is used to move logs around in the fire.  I don’t know the exact brand of them because contractors just left them behind whenever I first started BBQ and they never came back for them 

Nick Prince from Post Oak Barbecue in Denver, Colorado - We use a non-descript, flat-fronted, fiberglass-handled shovel you can get at Home Depot. We use the flat shovel because our firebox is square. Here’s a pic. Hope this helps! 

Luis Rivas from RIVS Smoke & Grill in Linares, N.L. Mexico - Just a normal one I'll send a picture on the weekend but just for the ash in the pit or to move some coals around! 

Ed Randolph from Handsome Devil Barbecue in Newburgh, New York - Nothing special here bud. We have a flat shovel and a spade shovel both off the shelf. 

Chris Magallanes from Panther City Barbecue in Fort Worth - Comfortable handle, allows you to reach back if the firebox to move ash out and maneuver splits around easily. 

Chef Vaughn Good from Night Goat BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri - I use a steelhead spade I got at the hardware store down the street. Started out as nothing special but I’ve been using it for 3 years so we have been through a lot together at this point.

Grant Pinkerton from Pinkerton's Barbecue in Houston and San Antonio, Texas - I use a trench shovel. Like this.  I like that it’s narrow and you can really maneuver around inside the firebox.  Great for moving logs with precision and pushing coals. 

Chris Fultz from ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue - We use a Razorback round-point shovel with a wooden handle. Wooden handle because it doesn’t conduct heat and feels better in the hand. Round point because it is easier to manipulate the firewood inside of a cylindrical firebox. Notice in the photo the pointed end of the shovel has been worn down flat due to years of use.

Photo from Chris from ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue

Nolan Belcher from B4 Barbeque & Boba in Mabank Texas - Hey Kevin! Just a normal digging shovel! I like these because of the length of the handle and the shape of the blade to scoop and maneuver the coals and wood around.

Sheldon Mason from Mason Barbecue in Florida - I’ve got a few different ones. This one in particular I use exclusively with the twins. I found it in an old estate sale from a ranch and refinished the handle. It’s pretty old, mid-1900’s is my guess. I like a blunt nose-tempered spade, rolled on the top to scoop with. Hope this helps.

Photo by Sheldon Mason

Josh Thomas from Ernie's Pit Barbeque in Greenville, Texas - Not a wacky question at all!  For rounded fireboxes, we use pointed digger shovels & for our old brick pit, we use a flat shovel for the flat-bottomed firebox.  I prefer wooden handles but it seems like they’re getting harder to find.  I’ve attached some pictures for reference as well.  Good to hear from you, sir!  Hope all is well!  

Rod Scott from Scott's A1 Southern BBQ in Columbia, South Carolina - Just a plain old wood handle shovel, it’s almost 5 years old so the patina on it is nice. But nothing special just one from the hardware store. The basic shovel I use for the 500, I use a different style for the 1,000. This shovel is almost 5 years old, I said I was gonna wrap it up and put it in the closet before it breaks so I can have it as a wall ornament for the restaurant someday

Photo by Rod Scott

Zach Parker from B.E. Scotts BBQ in Lexington, Tennessee -

Photo by Zach Parker

Matthew Cuff from Just Q'in BBQ in Cincinnati, Ohio - We don't use a specific brand of shovel. We do like the flat shovels with square heads. We can use the shovel to manipulate the wood and get the ashes out when we need to. Picture attached. We also cut half the handle off to make it short and easy to use

Photo from Matthew Cuff

Blake Stoker from Blake's at Southern Milling in Martin, Tennessee - Ditto to all of what Patrick Feges said above, very true and true for us! However, we only have/use 2 kinds: rounded (lightweight, good for coals in a rounded firebox, etc.), and then square for ground/flat surface scraping.

David Slaughter from Slaughter's BBQ Oasis in Sulphur Springs, Texas - We use a certain kind of shovel for each one of our pits. We try to use a shovel head that runs with the contour of the bottom of our firebox.  We use them mainly to keep coals and ash from building up under the wood logs to prevent choking off airflow to the fire. As the wood burns and coal/ ash falls to the bottom, we will shovel it out into an ash bucket. 

Bryan Bingham from Sunbird Barbecue in Longview, Texas - So the shovel we have right now is a Fiskars. Haha no reason other than when we started Sunbird and went to buy a shovel that’s what they had! It’s rounded which helps in the firebox since it’s round inside. I’ll have to search and see if I have any pictures with it I’m not sure. We got this taken today but it’s just the handle. 

David Bonner from Green Street Smoked Meats in Chicago, Illinois - For our rotisserie smoker we use a standard 4-foot square point shovel since the firebox is square and for our mill scale 1000 gallon we use a round head 3-foot shovel since the firebox is rounded.

Mill Scale MetalWorks sells a coal shovel made by Iron Grove Tools HERE