Home BBQ experts, educate me on smokers.

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by GagHalfrunt, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. GagHalfrunt

    GagHalfrunt Lifer

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    Going to get a smoker this year, not sure what to get. I know I don't want charcoal and I'm not going to build one myself as I do not blindly worship at the altar of Alton Brown. That leaves me with either a propane-powered unit like this:

    http://www.landmann-usa.com/OnlineStore/tabid/90/ProductID/124/Default.aspx

    or an electric like this:

    http://www.brinkmann.net/products/o...okers_and_grills/details.aspx?item=810-7080-0


    It will be used maybe twice a month, spring/summer/fall only and light-duty use, just doing a single pork shoulder or a couple of racks of ribs or a couple of briskets, etc.

    Pros and cons of propane vs electric? Any preferred brands or any to avoid?
     
  2. Numenorean

    Numenorean Diamond Member

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    I'd go electric. With smoking, the flavor is from your wood chips and what you soak them in, etc. Charcoal would be my first choice though.
     
  3. bfdd

    bfdd Lifer

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    charcoal + wood. anything else is shit imo.
     
  4. ElFenix

    ElFenix Super Moderator and Elite Member
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    wood fire off to the side is my first choice. charcoal is for wimps :sneaky:



    electric is probably going to be easier
     
  5. drnickriviera

    drnickriviera Platinum Member

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    I had an electric one like that brinkmann. I think weber made it. It did a good job smoking, but the thermostat and element junction burnt out after 1 to 2 seasons of use.
     
  6. God Mode

    God Mode Platinum Member

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    If it comes out bad, cut it up into small chunks and batter it up to deep fry. :)
     
  7. FDF12389

    FDF12389 Diamond Member

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    Make your own drum smoker!!
     
  8. GuitarDaddy

    GuitarDaddy Lifer

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    Given the choice between gas and electric I would go gas, but as ElFenix states a wood burner with an offset firebox is the best way to go.

    Smoking can be expensive as it takes 12-18 hours and that can use a ton of engergy.

    My rules for smoking

    1. Cut your own wood, if you have to buy your own grillwood or use charcoal, gas or electric it gets crazy expensive

    2. When you fire up the smoker load it as full as possible, couple of briskets, several racks of ribs, 4 or 5 chickens, etc.... Spending the time and energy for a single brisket or a couple of racks of ribs is terribly inefficient
     
  9. Texashiker

    Texashiker Lifer

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    Please, for the love of mankind, never use the words "electric" or "propane" when referring to a smoker.

    A "real" smoker has to use wood. There is no charcoal, there is no electric,,,, there is no other option except WOOD.

    If you want a fake smoker, then you can use "something" else. Personally, propane taste nasty. Charcoal is going to give you your best flavor (second to wood).

    Picture of my smoker, and it uses real wood.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Fritzo

    Fritzo Lifer

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    Cutting your own wood isn't really practical. You have to let the wood sit for 6 months to a year to dry out completely. You also need to remove the bark as that will give a bitter taste. You should be able to buy fruitwood from an orchard for $5/bunch. That's what I do. 5 or so bunches gives me enough to cook with for the summer.

    This is the best starter smoker: http://www.amazon.com/Char-Griller-2.../dp/B0009NAE5Y
    [​IMG]

    I've had mine for TEN YEARS now, and only requires a coat of grill paint once a year. I added the firebox option for the side as well. I've since made my own barrel smoker, but still use this for small jobs.

    The main things you need to know are:
    1) Never use direct heat. Think like cooking in an oven.
    2) Keep the inside moist (that's what sh....) Keep a can of apple juice or water inside the smoker to keep the meat from drying out.
    3) Wait for your coals to get ready. It takes 30-45 minutes. Never put your meat in when there's smoke billowing off of your coals. The coals should be white and glowing.
    4) I like to mix lump charcoal and fruitwood. Wood on it's own doesn't last long and you have to keep adding it. Lump charcoal gets pretty hot and lasts longer, but doesn't affect the flavor.
    5) Keep your heat regulated to around 250-300F. You'll use ventilation to regulate this. This is why a good chimney is important.
    6) You can soak some wood chips and add a handful to the coals once in a while if you want more intense smoke flavor. This works well with hickory and mesquite.

    Other than that, it's just a waiting game. I know everyone has their own marinades, rubs, etc, but that's all personal taste. As far as cooking goes, my main recommendation is wrap the meat loosely in foil to prevent an overwhelming smoke flavor. You can uncover it once it forms a "skin". It's mostly "set it and forget it." though. I have a huge yard, so on Sundays in the summer I'll pop some pork shoulders, loins, beef ribs, or a couple of chickens in the barrel, do my lawn, and in a few hours it's ready to go.

    If you do it right, you should have a nice pink smoke ring around the outer edge of the meat when it's done:

    [​IMG]

    Here's some of my handywork from last year:

    [​IMG]

    And here's my family's sauce of choice:

    [​IMG]

    Enjoy.
     
    #10 Fritzo, Apr 13, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  11. Vic Vega

    Vic Vega Diamond Member

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    My smoker was originally setup to burn charcoal but I have since converted it to electric. I paid about $30 for it at WalMart. It's an "inline" box smoker meaning the heat source and smoke source are in the bottom of the unit while the meat sits on racks above it with the chimney above that.

    Smoke is generated by an electric burner which sits under my wood pan. I typically use hickory or apple wood, pecan is good too. Previously a charcoal fire would be smoldering below the wood pan but I found this to produce inconsistent temperatures with my smoker (every single smoker is different and you will have to tune your cook around what your smoker does). With the heat source now electric I can hold a steady 210F temp for DAYS if I have to. Recovery time when opening the lid is also fast with the electric and doesn't cause flareups.

    I soak my wood for a few days before the smoke, keeps them from catching fire and producing heavy smoke, tar and soot. You just want the smoke. If you can SEE the smoke coming out the smoker, especially if it's thick, white smoke it's too much. You want barely visible blue/grey smoke steady throughout the entire cook.

    Please don't use propain as a heat source, when it burns it produces water vapor and that's not good for smoking.

    I typically smoke at 205-215F; some people like to run hotter so their food is finished faster. I'm not worried about the time... if I am going to spend at least 8 hours on a smoke anyway, 4 more hours on top of that isn't a big deal. I typically run brisket about 10 hours... pork shoulder goes about 14 hours. Ribs, both beef and pork are quicker, 5-6 hours.
     
    #11 Vic Vega, Apr 13, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2011
  12. xSauronx

    xSauronx Lifer

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    ive got the brinkman, works fine. i did build one a la alton brown, but honestly, it was such a bitch to deal with sometimes that when my dad got me the brinkman i didnt complain.

    works well, no fuss, just keep it loaded with soaked wood chips so itll smoke away.
     
  13. Howard

    Howard Lifer

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    What if you built your own, but not the way Alton Brown does it?
     
  14. Fritzo

    Fritzo Lifer

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    :clapclapclapclap:

    nice! The one I built isn't THAT big, maybe half the size.

    Have you tried lump charcoal to keep your wood hot? It's not like regular "rubber" charcoal- it's very porous and burns really easily. I use it to get the wood going and keeping it regulated. It lets you use half the wood with all the flavor :)

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Vic Vega

    Vic Vega Diamond Member

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    I found lump or natural charcoal burns really, really fast and really hot and didn't produce good embers to use in the smoker. Wasn't a fan of it, not saying it won't work for someone else though. The lower temp, slower burning bricks were my best bet when I was using charcoal.
     
  16. Specop 007

    Specop 007 Diamond Member

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    Theres been a lot of competitions won by those electric smokers. People who dismiss them do so out of tradition, not any reasons of being an inferior smoker.

    I run a Traeger. Its the best investment I've made since man decided to put meat in a smoke filled device.

    I get up in the morning, I fill the hopper, turn it on, put the meat on and thats it. No fucking around with vents or checking the temps or anything else like that. Literally set it and forget it. I've put on turkeys and went shopping, thrown on briskets and went to visit friends.

    They arent cheap though, but the ease of use is well worth the price in my opinion.
     
  17. Fritzo

    Fritzo Lifer

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    You have to mix it with the wood. Might be the brand you used. I use this from Menards:

    [​IMG]

    It cut my wood usage in half, so I'm a fan. It might have to do with the size of your firebox though. Mine's fairly small so everything is bunched together to keep hot. If it's spread out it might not work well.
     
  18. vi edit

    vi edit Elite Member <br> Super Moderator
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    I know you said gas or electric...but you really should give some attention to the Weber Smokey Mountain. It's a wonderful little smoker. I can hold a 220 degree smoke over 10 hours unattended with it. This think is a pork shoulder smoking fiend.

    http://www.amazon.com/Weber-721001-S...2734032&amp;sr=8-1
     
  19. KK

    KK Lifer

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    I got this propane smoker. It's easy to use, don't have to waste time playing with wood or charcoal. Just fill the little wood box with some sort of wood, fill the water pan, and turn it on. I would just get one that is wide enough for a slab of ribs.
     
  20. JulesMaximus

    JulesMaximus No Lifer

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    I have a Brinkman charcoal smoker that looks exactly like the one you linked except green. I've had it for a couple years now and it is the only way to prepare ribs IMO.

    I use the natural hardwood charcoal you can buy a Lowes. I can usually smoke 2-3 racks of baby backs just refilling the charcoal once. Throw a handful of hickory wood chips on the coals every 1/2 hour for about the first hour or so to get that nice pink smoke ring and flavor in the meat.

    That pan above the coals is for liquid. I like to put half apple juice and half water. The liquid is to keep the meat moist so make sure there is liquid in the pan for the entire time you are smoking the meat.

    For seasoning the ribs I found a great rub called Lysander's Pork Rub. It is excellent and you don't need much. Sprinkle on meat and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

    I find that smoking the ribs under low heat for 3-4 hours produces excellent results (maybe less for the smaller frozen supermarket ribs-I generally buy my ribs from Costco). Once the meat starts shrinking back from the bone and you can easily poke a fork through them they are done. You can flash them on the grill but I've found they don't even need this...or sauce for that matter.
     
  21. MagnusTheBrewer

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    I have a stainless steel Smoky Mountain Series Smoker that's similar to the Landmann you posted. I love it! I use it all the time and in the Summer it doubles as an outdoor oven so I don't heat up the house. I also take it camping with me, you can't do that with electric. It's very frugal on gas. One small tank lasts a month.
     
  22. sjwaste

    sjwaste Diamond Member

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    Electric smokers do use wood. What the hell do you think the smoke comes from? The heat source is electric, so it's a dry heat, unlike gas - which I will grant you is different because there's more water in the combustion.

    Using an electric heating element to smoulder wood chips just gives you finer control over the cooking temperature. What exactly is the difference between that and burning the wood directly in a smoke box? Not a whole lot. Assuming you burn the same mix of wood, the smoke is basically the same.

    I mean, with an electric smoker, you can use the same wood that you burn in your wood smoker and, well, get the same smoke. You will probably have better temperature control, too. I'd call it a push.
     
  23. Specop 007

    Specop 007 Diamond Member

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    Forgot a few pics...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  24. ponyo

    ponyo Lifer

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    I think electric would be best if the unit was reliable. Easy temp control and set it and forget operation.

    I use Weber Smokey Mountain and I'm happy with plain charcoal and some wood chips. Nice thing about WSM is that it maintains and holds temp for a very long time so you don't have to mess with it too much.

    As for adding bowl of water or juice in the smoker to keep the meat from drying out: waste of time and fluid. It doesn't flavor the meat and does nothing other than give you some temperature control.

    As for letting the charcoal turn white before loading meat, that's rubbish too. I usually throw the meat on with only handful lit charcoals. The rest of the charcoal underneath is unlit. The Minion Method works especially well for long cooks such as shoulders and butts. People like to claim they can smell and taste lighter fluid and bad charcoal smell but that's BS.
     
  25. spidey07

    spidey07 No Lifer

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    I love my smokey mountain grill, wouldn't trade it for anything and I've had others. Price can't be beat and it will hold a temp like nobodies business.