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Smoker -- Godsend or Paperweight?

CJLawn's picture

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Longtime lurker here. Well winter is coming, and
when it does a boy's thoughts turn to smoked
meats. I wonder what people's experiece is with
home smokers. Love 'em? Hate 'em? They seem
intriguing, but it could just be a boondoggle.
Any thoughts (and advice) would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Gretchen_'s picture

(post #53703, reply #1 of 21)

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I love mine--I've had 3 or 4 now-- finally up to the big New Braunfels side fire box. Made some really good honey smoked salmon this week to give to friends on a trip north.

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #2 of 21)

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Excellent!

What would you recommend for a starter-smoker? The "side fire box" style sounds alluring, but should I start out with a Ferrari or a Civic? (Maybe an Accord)

Gretchen_'s picture

(post #53703, reply #3 of 21)

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I believe I'd start with the little torpedo style first--they are cheap (I think about $30 at Home Depot or such)and you can see how it works. There is a thread not too far down that I answered someone about smoked chickens. Look under "Smokin, smokin, smokin". I'll be gone for a while, but come back or e-mail me if I can help. Big Daddy does some smoking too. Good luck.

zzz's picture

(post #53703, reply #4 of 21)

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Has anyone had a good experience w/ those ones that sit on top of the stove (and wood chips go in the bottom & it's sort of airtight)? I saw one demo'd in a Fish class-the scallops tasted great-but suspected a thinly veiled attempt at encouraging impulse buying on the part of the instructor-so I passed on general principles. Now I'm wondering what I could smoke in there when it's too rainy to go outside & use my gas BBQ...

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #53703, reply #5 of 21)

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CJ,

If you're just starting out with a smoker I'd suggest going low end to begin with. At least until you determine if this is something you'll hang with for a while. You can get a decent Brinkmann water smoker for under a hundred bucks and that will tell you all you need to know. Do you mind having to wait around for hours, tending the chunks and water levels? Do you like the results? Etc.

You can always go hi-end later. And IMO the electric makes the most sense because of the convenience of heat control.

Have fun!

BD

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #53703, reply #6 of 21)

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We have a propane-powered smoker and it's wonderful. The chips are the key - choose flavors you really like. S.O. and I went on a smoking binge...smoked everything not nailed down. Pork loin was on sale and we took advantage - it was delicious smoked.

Trout and salmon are also favorites. S.O. has made jerky on the smoker, and says it was great.

Definitely not a paperweight.

kmkat_'s picture

(post #53703, reply #7 of 21)

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I'm also thinking of acquiring a smoker, and had been thinking electric because of the convenience factor. Tell me more about your propane one (we already have a gas grill, so always have at least one extra propane tank on hand). Brand? Approximate price (are we talking Mercedes or Subaru here; I'm a Subaru type myself)? Where to find one?

TIA

k

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #8 of 21)

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This is getting good!

What should one think about when deciding between propane & electric smokers? What are the relative differences (expense, time required, cleaning, safety, need to babysit, PRODUCT, etc.)? If someone wanted to throw in some brand/model endorsements, I woould revere your name.

Thanks as ever,

Christopher

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #53703, reply #9 of 21)

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CJ,

If you want to learn to smoke foods outdoors with a minimum investment, with the least hassle and the best odds of succeeding, get an electric water smoker. As for brandname you can't do better for the money than Brinkmann.

OTOH a bullet smoker is no more than a closeable chamber with holes in it and no moving parts. Just about any brand will do.

BD

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #53703, reply #10 of 21)

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S.O. purchased said smoker so long ago, he doesn't even remember how much it cost. We recently took it to a friend's for a BBQ and I don't have the name. I do not believe it falls in the category of either a Yugo or a Cadillac, probably more of a Saturn. However, if you are looking for a smoker and it's the end of summer right now in your part of the planet, now is the time to visit a Home Depot or Sears, etc. for "end of season" bargains. Don't discount the "store" brands, as they are sometimes very well built - this judgment can be made on a store-by-store basis. (For instance, the Sears brand, Kenmore, is very durable and lasts for years.)

We love the propane quality of this unit because it ensures even, dependable heat. The wood pieces ensure flavor.

John-John's picture

(post #53703, reply #11 of 21)

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I agree with Big D., the Brinkman is my choice. I use the ol' charcoal burning one though. I live in Japan and electric cost can get out of hand after smoking a turkey for 20 hours. The key is temp. control. It doesn't take long to get the hang of it. Be sure to get a good thermometer, the "COOL/IDEAL/HOT" versions are useless. My smoker is my best friend (sad, isn't it). If you can buy it (fresh or frozen) or shoot it, I have smoked it (with good and bad results).

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #12 of 21)

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Thanks to all, BD in particular, for your thoughts. I am going to jump in, and understand that the most hands off, let's-get-started-now smoker is thought to be the electric/water variety. Bearing this in mind, I am not likely to be smoking 50lbs of anything any time soon, and so am a little reluctant to purchase the Brinkmann 1500 watt model.

<>

Is this caution necessary? Is it practical to smoke 10lbs in a 50lbs capacity smoker? Is it akin to using the oven to toast an english muffin? Should I instead go for the boxy 20lbs capacity Little Chief electric model?

Thanks as ever,

Christopher

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #53703, reply #13 of 21)

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My Weber Smoky Mountain can smoke ~30-40 lbs if I'm talking roasts or birds (ribs are different). Even though I routinely smoke 5-10 pounds it's nice to have the extra capacity for parties and such. The spare room has bailed me out a number of times.

You need to decide if you'll ever use the larger capacity or not.

BD

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #14 of 21)

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Speedy reply!

Why are ribs different? I was thinking of making your Bourbon Ribs as my maiden voyage. They look teriffic and the testimonials can't be beat.

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #53703, reply #15 of 21)

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CJ,

Sorry, I meant that ribs were different in the amount of "room in the smoker" they occupy. Even with a rib rack (for standing the slabs on their sides while they grill/smoke) you can only do about 8 pounds of ribs per level. So in a standard two level bullet smoker your hard pressed to get more than about 15 pounds of smoking capacity.

Sorry for the confusion. Go for it! The bourbon glazed ribs will leave your friends in awe. For that matter so will the pulled pork sandwiches and the chickens on the throne (always a huge hit at get-togethers)and the smoked salmon and the smoked turkey breast and....

Have fun!

BD

sudo's picture

(post #53703, reply #16 of 21)

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I have one of those little cheif smokers (electric) They work great. I can hang a whole salmon in it and walk away. I have had the watersmoker before and that takes to much watching over. On the little cheif you can smoke cheese which is wonderful. Does any one have some good web sites for smoking?
thanks sdp

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #53703, reply #17 of 21)

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Try this:

http://www.bbqsearch.com/

Cheers,

BD

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #18 of 21)

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Hi all. Thanks a ton for your earlier advice; it was invaluable and empowering. I recently got one of the Brinkmann electric/water models. I also on BD's recommendation purchased one of the Jamisons' books and let 'er rip this weekend. It was a qualified success -- I made one of the ribs recipes and the meat was succulent, delicious, and the rub formed a nice crust.

The only problem I see at this stage is with the wood. I used wood chips. I know that chunks are preferred, but the chunks I found would not fit on the lavarock bed between the electrical elements -- that is to say that the chunks would by virtue of their size and shape, rest against the element. It is my understanding that it is imperative to keep the soaked wood off the element, and so am resigned to chips (which this time around, ran out after about 2 hrs).

And so my question to you all -- is there hope? Need I be so tentative? Should I use the fabled fist-sized chunks and devil take the hindmost?

Thanks in advance for your 2¢.

Christopher

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #19 of 21)

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Whoa! Sorry for the italics.

I had started a new topic with this question,
but it appears to have been lost in the
crowd.

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #53703, reply #20 of 21)

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Chris,

I often resort to chips if I'm short on the larger chunks. The only difference is that I have to add more chips more frequently. Otherwise it shouldn't make a difference.

BTW - how do you like the Brinmann electric? How much capacity does it have? Did you test the built-in thermometer for accuracy?

Just curious.

BD

CJLawn's picture

(post #53703, reply #21 of 21)

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So far, I love it. I got the Gourmet model through Cabela's On-Line for $79.99. It has a 50lb capacity (or so it says). There actually isn't a thermometer at all. I was planning, if I find that I like smoking, to get one of those $30 felxible thermometers so that I can test for doneness directly.

BTW what do you think of chunks resting against the element? A no-no? I considered adding chips, but didn't want to rest them against the element either. I pictured lifting the whole thing up and slowly applying chips with a tongs as the meat cooled. On chunk availablity, I don't anticipate having a problem . . . I found a place in Brookline that has 'em.

Thanks a lot for your advice in these matters . . . I really would never have taken the plunge without you.

-- C.