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Out of the Blue

As spring approaches, I'm starting to make plans to up my game this year at the man stove. My grill has a side fire-box for smoking, but I don't think it's an ideal smoker at that, and obviously using it as a smoker prevents using it for grilling, so I'm looking at dedicated smokers (though the draw of a kamado-style ceramic grill is quite strong). The thing is there's such a variety of them out there to choose between, I think I should have started researching this before last spring for this one. I certainly am interested in hearing anyone's personal experiences on the topic.

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21 Replies. 2 pages. Viewing page 1.
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21. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 24, 2012, 16:33 Ohnos
 
My mistake. My maverick has the two probes so it must be the other model. I've had it a while so the model number wasn't in my memory. Two probes are a must though. Gotta know the smoker temp and the food temp!  
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20. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 24, 2012, 09:27 nin
 
Sepharo wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 22:36:
Damn you guys know a lot about smokers.

I always chuckle at the unexpected turns some of the OotB threads take...
 
http://www.nin.com/pub/tension/
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19. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 23:26 cappy
 
For whatever it's worth, Ray Lampe (aka "Dr.BBQ") uses the Big Green Egg for cooking and competitions and is a big advocate:

http://www.drbbq.com/biggreenegg.php

His near-twin and rival, Paul Kirk (the Baron of BBQ), uses a highly customized Klose last I heard:

http://www.baron-of-bbq.com/

My simple picks for price ranges:

1) Below $800 - Weber 22.5"

2) $1,000-ish - Big Green Egg or a Cabinet-style smoker. I believe the Egg probably falls closer to the lower end of that range. A few of the smaller Cabinet-style smokers also are close to $1,000. But the bigger and heavier ones begin to go much higher in price.

3) $3,000-ish - I'd actually recommend one of the higher-end Cabinet-style smokers rather than an offset unless you intend to make more of a hobby out of it. Offset smokers look distinctively cool, but they take up a lot of room, and they require more practice to use consistently.
 
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18. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 23:06 MUGWUMP
 
Green Egg/Grill Dome(I own one)/Kamado style blows everything away. I've used every style of smoker and the ceramic domes are above everything else. Get a "Stoker" attachment and you can light this thing up and it will maintain whatever temp you set +/- 2 to 3 degrees F. even in windy conditions for at least 18 hours. That's the longest I've ever needed to smoke pork butt.

Look into these Blue. They are quite an investment, but I'm positive you will be ecstatic with the results and the simplicity when using these grills with "The Stoker".

They are also excellent for grilling meats. I've been able to get it over 700 degrees and with a grate that hovers only a couple inches over the coals it makes for some amazing skirt steak
 
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17. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 22:36 Sepharo
 
Damn you guys know a lot about smokers.  
Avatar 17249
 
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16. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 22:21 cappy
 
Ohnos wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 14:04:
Wow, that CyberQ is pretty amazing! But for $30, I love this Maverick remote thermometer: http://www.amazon.com/Maverick-Remote-Smoker-Wireless-Thermometer/dp/B0044FFUMK

I actually prefer the Maverick ET-7 more than the ET-73:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00004SZ10

The ET-73 has two temperature probes, but one of them monitors the pit temperature. If you're familiar with how the pit cooks and are keeping track of it every now and then, the remote smoker temp probe probably isn't needed. A Weber, Big Green Egg, Cabinet-style smoker, and heavy offset smoker should be consistent enough on their temps to be all right.

The ET-7 has two temperature probes but they are both intended for cooking. They can be separately programmed to different meat temperatures. If you're cooking more than one brisket, or a turkey (where the thigh and breast have different final temperatures) a second meat thermometer becomes a lot more useful than the pit temperature probe.

Regarding pit temperature fluctuations - some people twist themselves into knots trying to remain within a few degrees of their "perfect" temperature for an entire cook. Brisket can be smoked in easily a 125 degree range - as low as 225 and as high as 350 - and the results are pretty much identical (a lot of champion cookers as well as Texas barbecue places cook north of 300 degrees). Smoking meat is not like baking a delicate cheesecake. A 15-25 degree variation during a cook is not going to ruin anything. A 75 degree variation, though, means you're having problems controlling the fire size and amount of fuel.

This comment was edited on Feb 23, 2012, 22:29.
 
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15. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 22:13 cappy
 
Blue -

Regarding smokers, it really is important to consider your price point and how much you plan to cook at one time.

For under $1,000, I would also highly recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain - preferably the 22.5" although the 18.5" is perfectly fine.

If you'd like to see exactly the difference between the two sizes in pictures and quantities of food, see this page:

http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/22wsm.html

The Weber holds temps very well for long cooks and is practically unbeatable without spending a considerable amount more. By more, this is my pit:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2446/3863186617_92d8d10445_b.jpg

It's a Klose Backyard Chef, 1/4" steel for most of it but 1/2" steel for the firebox. The horizontal chamber is 20"x52", plus an upright and a 20"x24" firebox. It weighs the same as a small car.

Offset smokers like this are made by a number of manufacturers, but most of them are crap until you spend at least $1,000 and typically $2,000 and up.

Two of the best manufacturers of such pits are:

http://www.gatorpit.net/

http://www.bbqpits.com/

The important thing to understand about an offset pit - the design is not the important part. You'll see "offset" pits in home improvement and sporting goods stores priced really cheap. The reason they are so cheap is because they are shaped in an offset manner (firebox to one side) but they suffer from serious issues:

* Sheet metal or 1/8" thick steel
* Horizontal chamber too short (24" to 36" long) or too narrow (16" or so diameter)
* Bad fit of doors
* Bolted rather than welded, or bad welds

What happens with these thin-metal pits is that they leak smoke like a sieve and you use massive amounts of wood or charcoal and end up with temperature fluctuations like crazy. An offset pit should be heavy and made of thick steel, with tight-fitting doors. It is designed to work the same as a cast-iron stove - once the metal gets hot, it stays hot and requires very little fuel to maintain a steady heat. You cannot achieve that with less than 1/4" thick steel. And especially not when the doors leak out all the smoke (and heat along with it).

This is how little fuel my heavy Klose pit needs to hold a 275 degree temperature:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2613/3863188233_46834964f4_b.jpg

The length of a horizontal chamber is important because unless a pit has tuning plates which are designed to distribute heat equally across a pit's surface (and some manufacturers don't even do tuning plates correctly) your first 12" of cooking area closest to the firebox will be around 75 degrees hotter than the rest. With a short horizontal cooking chamber, you can end up with very little usable space.

The diameter of a horizontal chamber is also important. 20" is minimum anyone should use for cooking anything bigger than burgers or steaks (i.e., briskets, pork butts, hams, etc.). A 16" or so diameter will have an almost unusable top cooking grate. And the bottom grate will be almost as unusable as the top grate. A 24" is best for being able to utilize both lower and upper cooking grates. On my 20", I typically remove the upper grate to cook any large cuts of meat.

6 Turkeys and 2 Hams: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6006/6012683416_b87dccc498_b.jpg

3 Briskets: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6027/6012683852_80235b390d_b.jpg

6 Beer Can Chickens: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6020/6012684064_b410bbbda5_b.jpg

Ribs, Burgers, Bacon, Pork Butt: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6143/6012136891_d9ab1c8da5_b.jpg

A Kamado or Big Green Egg are fantastic cookers. They do not have quite the cooking capacity of a large Weber, but they are extremely efficient (more so than the Weber because they're heavy ceramic) and can be taken up to high temperatures. Webers typically should be used with charcoal - preferably briquettes (Kingsford is good - not the mesquite or other versions). Lump charcoal isn't such a good choice in a Weber. Lump is very irregular in size as well as quality, and burns hotter as well as for much shorter time than Kingsford briquettes. The Big Green Egg is more versatile about its fuel, although any cooker takes practice learning the characteristics of how any given fuel works with it.

A Traeger is all right, but I would probably take a Weber over a Traeger myself. Traegers are pellet smokers so they're limited in their fuel.

The other type of smoker that you might consider (around $1,000 and up) is the classic "cabinet" smoker. These are insulated and heavy, and very efficient. Some good makers include (but are not limited to) Backwoods, Stumps, Pitmaker Safe, and Gator Rebel. You can cook a considerable amount of food in a cabinet smoker. For their footprint, they will cook more food than an offset and typically do it more efficiently with even less temperature variation (even the best offsets require babysitting, since they are intended to be stick-burners).
 
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14. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 16:56 Cutter
 
Hoop wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 15:03:
We have a tee tree variety called Manuka that is native to these parts http://goo.gl/CC7Qi
It's sawdust or chips are a supreme smoking wood for fish or meat.

There is good info on this site for smoking.
http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/

The other thing people forget is that you can all kinds of spices to a smoker for an interesting twist particularly when doing certain cuts like a brisket, or pork and turkey in particular things like cinnamon. nutmeg, all spice, star anise, clove, all work fantastic in smokers with those meat and meat byproducts.
 
Avatar 25394
 
"The South will boogie again!" - Disco Stu
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13. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 16:40 jimnms
 
Sir Graves wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 15:29:
Spring is approaching? First I've heard.
Winter seems to have taken a vacation here. We skipped from Summer straight to Spring.
 
Avatar 17277
 
Steam Profile
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12. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 16:07 banddirector
 

Blue, you REALLY need to look into a Traeger grill. Yeah, they're a bit spendy, but once you've used the best everything else is second rate by comparison. And you can literally cook or smoke ANY food on them.
 
There's no place like 127.0.0.1
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11. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 15:29 Sir Graves
 
Spring is approaching? First I've heard.  
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10. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 15:03 Hoop
 
We have a tee tree variety called Manuka that is native to these parts http://goo.gl/CC7Qi
It's sawdust or chips are a supreme smoking wood for fish or meat.

There is good info on this site for smoking.
http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/
 
Avatar 34289
 
Um .. Behind you...
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9. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 14:58 Will W
 
Ratty wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 14:33:
The Weber Smoky Mountain is the smoker America's Test Kitchen recommended in an equipment review awhile ago. They thought Big Green Egg was too heavy and too expensive but also didn't like it because of its lack of a water pan, though they really liked the constant temperature it kept.

The water pan is a debatable item, IMO at least. It's great for catching the fat drippings and keeping the charcoal from flaring up on me, but apart from that the water actually keeps the smoker temperature too low.

There was a great article in the huffington post regarding meat smoking, cooking times, etc. Here it is. If you check out the section on moisture evaporation and temperature, you'll see why I'm always a little leery on water pans....
 
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8. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 14:36 Cutter
 
Baenwort wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 13:10:
The Green Egg: http://www.biggreenegg.com/eggs/ is the best smoker/grill I've ever had the pleasure of using. I don't own one myself due to living in a condo but its high on my list to puchase when we manage to sell and move to a house.

I've used it at my brother's house dozens of times and like it quite a bit more then the Weber and Bubba Keg that I've used at friend's places.

My buddy has one o them Green Eggs and it works vey well.
 
Avatar 25394
 
"The South will boogie again!" - Disco Stu
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7. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 14:33 Ratty
 
Will W wrote on Feb 23, 2012, 12:48:
I use a 21" Webber Smokey Mountain smoker. I can easily fit 12+ racks of ribs on the smoker, using rib racks so they don't lay flat. I've done 2 pork butts and 6 racks at once without trouble as well, and I'd say depending on the size you could most likely fit 3 butts per shelf (2 shelves).
The Weber Smoky Mountain is the smoker America's Test Kitchen recommended in an equipment review awhile ago. They thought Big Green Egg was too heavy and too expensive but also didn't like it because of its lack of a water pan, though they really liked the constant temperature it kept.
 
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6. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 14:04 Ohnos
 
Wow, that CyberQ is pretty amazing! But for $30, I love this Maverick remote thermometer: http://www.amazon.com/Maverick-Remote-Smoker-Wireless-Thermometer/dp/B0044FFUMK  
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5. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 13:10 Baenwort
 
The Green Egg: http://www.biggreenegg.com/eggs/ is the best smoker/grill I've ever had the pleasure of using. I don't own one myself due to living in a condo but its high on my list to puchase when we manage to sell and move to a house.

I've used it at my brother's house dozens of times and like it quite a bit more then the Weber and Bubba Keg that I've used at friend's places.
 
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4. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 12:48 Will W
 
I use a 21" Webber Smokey Mountain smoker. I can easily fit 12+ racks of ribs on the smoker, using rib racks so they don't lay flat. I've done 2 pork butts and 6 racks at once without trouble as well, and I'd say depending on the size you could most likely fit 3 butts per shelf (2 shelves).

Since the shelves are stacked, doing a brisket limits your space since you put a foil pan on the bottom shelf to catch the juice for slicing time.

There are accessories available like a pizza stone that can make for some fun meals (I love smoked pizza). I've also got a silicone insulating cover (similar to the oven mitts) that lets me smoke all winter long, and I'm in the same climate area as you.

It is a charcoal and wood smoker, so there isn't the convenience and temperature control of gas or electric. I use Royal Oak lump charcoal and typically will get bags of wood chunks (not chips). If you're looking for more of a "set it and (almost) forget it" style of smoking, definitely go with a gas or electric model.

Of course, if you're interested in getting a really nice offset smoker...Meadow Creek in Lancaster PA makes some great smokers. Amish built, of course! They've got an auction and open house/BBQ on April 14th weekend. It's a nice trip to check out their smokers and eat some great free food (whole hog, pulled pork, chicken, you name it). And right across the street is the HUGE place they build the sheds at!

<EDIT>
Forgot to mention, you also need the CyberQ for your smoker! Lets you log your temperate and whatnot and monitor your smoker from any computer/smart phone. It also makes temperature control and tending the smoker much easier.

And another hugely popular model of wood/charcoal smoker is the "big green egg" ceramic smoker. Even though I've never personally used one, I've talked to quite a few people who love them to death. They do make accessories that make moving it much easier, but it's one heavy beast.

This comment was edited on Feb 23, 2012, 12:54.
 
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3. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 12:10 Cutter
 
Mmm for meat and meat byproducts! I could go so some Tony Roma's beef ribs and their Carolina Honeys right now!

 
Avatar 25394
 
"The South will boogie again!" - Disco Stu
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2. Re: Out of the Blue Feb 23, 2012, 11:40 Ohnos
 
I love my basic Brinkman vertical LP Gas Smoker. It was under $150 and works extremely well. Maybe some of the more expensive smokers will keep a more constant temperature, but mine does a pretty good job in low wind. My recommendation would be to get a vertical one with double doors. That way you can tend the wood and water trays without cooling off the cooking area too much. Mine has 3 shelves for food so I can do 3 large whole or split chickens, or 3 Pork Shoulder roasts at the same time. I would also recommend a wireless temperature monitor. That allows me to roam freely during a 12 hour smoke session and always know the meat and smoker temperatures!

Smokers are a fantastic option for Summer grilling! I love mine. Always use it when a crowd comes over, and people are always asking me when the next one will be.

Good luck to you!
 
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