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Other than Brewing => All Things Food => Topic started by: Jimmy K on September 07, 2012, 01:00:03 PM

Title: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: Jimmy K on September 07, 2012, 01:00:03 PM
I've been thinking about getting a smoker and since BBQ Style is the single most popular thread on this site, perhaps this is a good place to ask for advice.  Part of me wants to build it myself. Mostly I'm pretty undecided on where to go with this.  What does everyone think?
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: deepsouth on September 07, 2012, 01:03:57 PM
if you are going to build your own, you can get started here.....

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23436&highlight=mother+uds


i'm not handy enough to build my own, so i cook on big green eggs and a weber.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: theDarkSide on September 07, 2012, 01:20:27 PM
I love my Weber Smokey Mountain.  And so do the neighbors when I smoke Baby back ribs!!

The weber stores in a relatively small area, hold temps consistent, and doesn't cost nearly as much as the green egg.  I just did 4 racks on Sunday with a rib rack on the top grill and had room for more plus the lower grill was available also.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: thebigbaker on September 07, 2012, 01:42:09 PM
I would recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain or similar "bullet" style smoker.  My first smoker was the Brinkmann bullet style smoker, which is about 1/3 of the price of the Weber one.  These style of smokers produce great results and can really teach beginners how to handle the fire.  Just make sure the one you get has an actual temp. gauge on the lid.  My Brinkmann had one that just read "Low - Ideal - Hot" before I replaced it. 
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: deepsouth on September 07, 2012, 01:50:41 PM
here is a pretty good thread on here about the big green eggs....

http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=5136.0
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: Joe Sr. on September 07, 2012, 02:07:14 PM
Building my own from a drum was something I seriously considered, but burning out the lining would be impossible in the City (or, more accurately, would really piss off my neighbors).

With the help of a metal shop and a welder, I converted a 22" Weber into a smoker.  If you google "thunderbelly" you'll get images of what mine looks like.  I smoked about 20lbs of pork shoulder last weekend and it was awesome.

I also seriously considered getting a barrel smoker (like a Chargriller or whatever) and modifying it, but the way I went was easier.

Definitely get a smoker.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: markaberrant on September 07, 2012, 02:25:41 PM
Lots of DIY options out there (I have an Ugly Drum Smoker, aka UDS), but if looking to purchase commercial, the entry point for a quality smoker is definitely the Weber Smokey Mountain which is a fantastic cooker and reasonably priced.

The WSMs are also quite easy to sell should you decide to move onto the something fancier.  Not that you necessarily need too, lots of competition cooks win with WSM and UDS.

I am perfectly content with my UDS, but my wife thinks it is too ugly (imagine that), so she wants me to get a Big Green Egg next year to replace it and my aging gas grill.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: euge on September 07, 2012, 02:29:34 PM
I've had a Big Green Egg for several years now and it is pretty badass. However, I plan to sell it eventually and buy an offset or build a smoke cabinet. I've found all of it's flaws. ???

It does good work but I'm not keen these days on having the heat source directly below the meat even with the plate-setter between the meat and coals. IMO this is fine for grilling but for low and slow smoking I'd rather not have grease dripping down and smoldering on the coals.

There are some fine electrics out there that should be considered. Also bear in mind if you want to do some real cold smoking an offset can be utilized better than a drum, kettle or ceramic cooker and without specialty smokeware or adaptations.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: deepsouth on September 07, 2012, 02:39:59 PM
I've had a Big Green Egg for several years now and it is pretty badass. However, I plan to sell it eventually and buy an offset or build a smoke cabinet. I've found all of it's flaws. ???

It does good work but I'm not keen these days on having the heat source directly below the meat even with the plate-setter between the meat and coals. IMO this is fine for grilling but for low and slow smoking I'd rather not have grease dripping down and smoldering on the coals.

There are some fine electrics out there that should be considered. Also bear in mind if you want to do some real cold smoking an offset can be utilized better than a drum, kettle or ceramic cooker and without specialty smokeware or adaptations.

you don't use a drip pan for long low and slow cooks?
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: mihalybaci on September 07, 2012, 02:42:51 PM
Like euge says, consider electric, I definitely am. Right now I do my bbq in a Weber kettle grill, and its really hard to keep the right temp. I light enough coal to last for a couple hours and the grill starts over 375F, not the 250-275F for bbq. Then I constantly have to monitor the coals and temp, I'm really leaning towards getting something electric for any bbq that takes over 3-4 hours. It may not be "authentic" but who cares so long as it tastes good.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: thebigbaker on September 07, 2012, 02:43:57 PM
It really depends what you want to do and how much of it you plan on doing.  If you are just getting into smoking, I would definitely try a cheap bullet smoker (Brinkmann), which will make great food and give you some experience working with the fire and controlling temp.  If you enjoy this process and plan on doing larger amounts of meat, then I would move to a good offset smoker.  I've seen many people jump right in with a nice expensive offset smoker only to realize that they didn't enjoy it as much as they thought they would.  Also, check Craigslist for some good deals, you could probably find a good bullet smoker for $30 - $20.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: Jimmy K on September 07, 2012, 03:26:05 PM
I've had a Big Green Egg for several years now and it is pretty badass. However, I plan to sell it eventually and buy an offset or build a smoke cabinet. I've found all of it's flaws. ???

It does good work but I'm not keen these days on having the heat source directly below the meat even with the plate-setter between the meat and coals. IMO this is fine for grilling but for low and slow smoking I'd rather not have grease dripping down and smoldering on the coals.

There are some fine electrics out there that should be considered. Also bear in mind if you want to do some real cold smoking an offset can be utilized better than a drum, kettle or ceramic cooker and without specialty smokeware or adaptations.

I'm liking electrics just because I'll probably use it more. I also like the Alton Brown homemade with electric hot plates in the bottom. They could always be removed to do a wood fire smoke too, although not if the box is made of wood like Alton's.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: sch21c on September 07, 2012, 03:44:43 PM
+1 for the Weber Smokey Mountain.  Got it a few years ago and love the ribs, pork butt and brisket I'm able to do on it with ease.  A great way to get comfortable with the smoker is to follow the book "Low and Slow" -
http://www.amazon.com/Low-Slow-Master-Barbecue-Lessons/dp/0762436093/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347031892&sr=8-1&keywords=low+and+slow (http://www.amazon.com/Low-Slow-Master-Barbecue-Lessons/dp/0762436093/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347031892&sr=8-1&keywords=low+and+slow). 
It walks you through making chicken, ribs & pork butt, and gets you very comfortable with timing and temperature control.

Current project is to dial in starting times on BBQ/Brew Day so I can maximize time efficiency for both activities.  My wife and I did baby back ribs last Saturday while brewing up a batch of Pale Ale and bottling up a batch of Porter.  Worked out very well.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: Slowbrew on September 07, 2012, 04:32:36 PM
I've been using a Weber 22" kettle for about a year.  Weber makes baskets that fit perfectly in their kettles to hold the coals in a controlled space (you've probably seen them) that work very well.  I usually use one - not both. 

To keep the initial temp down I use lump charcoal and put a 1" or so layer of unlit lump in the bottom of the basket.  Then I light a very small amount of charcoal so it is completely ash covered.  When I say a small amount I mean somewhere around 1.5 to 2 hand fulls, tops.  Once everything is warmed up and the meat is on the grill, add the soaked wood chips on to the coal.  The combination of lit/unlit coal and the wood chips burning (sooner or later) keeps the temp about right.  I might have to add some additional coal after 3.5 to 4 hours. 

You can get a really good smoke in a Weber Kettle but you won't be doing huge amounts of meat at a time.  It's a fairly cheap way to try your hand at smoking and not end up with something you can't really use for other tasks if you don't enjoy the process.

Paul
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: brewmichigan on September 07, 2012, 05:26:58 PM
I've been using a Weber 22" kettle for about a year.  Weber makes baskets that fit perfectly in their kettles to hold the coals in a controlled space (you've probably seen them) that work very well.  I usually use one - not both. 

To keep the initial temp down I use lump charcoal and put a 1" or so layer of unlit lump in the bottom of the basket.  Then I light a very small amount of charcoal so it is completely ash covered.  When I say a small amount I mean somewhere around 1.5 to 2 hand fulls, tops.  Once everything is warmed up and the meat is on the grill, add the soaked wood chips on to the coal.  The combination of lit/unlit coal and the wood chips burning (sooner or later) keeps the temp about right.  I might have to add some additional coal after 3.5 to 4 hours. 

You can get a really good smoke in a Weber Kettle but you won't be doing huge amounts of meat at a time.  It's a fairly cheap way to try your hand at smoking and not end up with something you can't really use for other tasks if you don't enjoy the process.

Paul

I agree and do everything that was said here. Weber makes the swiss army knife of outdoor cooking equipment.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: sch21c on September 07, 2012, 07:14:51 PM
I've been using a Weber 22" kettle for about a year.  Weber makes baskets that fit perfectly in their kettles to hold the coals in a controlled space (you've probably seen them) that work very well.  I usually use one - not both. 

To keep the initial temp down I use lump charcoal and put a 1" or so layer of unlit lump in the bottom of the basket.  Then I light a very small amount of charcoal so it is completely ash covered.  When I say a small amount I mean somewhere around 1.5 to 2 hand fulls, tops.  Once everything is warmed up and the meat is on the grill, add the soaked wood chips on to the coal.  The combination of lit/unlit coal and the wood chips burning (sooner or later) keeps the temp about right.  I might have to add some additional coal after 3.5 to 4 hours. 

You can get a really good smoke in a Weber Kettle but you won't be doing huge amounts of meat at a time.  It's a fairly cheap way to try your hand at smoking and not end up with something you can't really use for other tasks if you don't enjoy the process.

Paul

I agree and do everything that was said here. Weber makes the swiss army knife of outdoor cooking equipment.

Agreed.  Started smoking using the kettle grill.  Upgraded to the WSM after a couple of years because I wanted to do larger smokes.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: jeffy on September 07, 2012, 09:25:44 PM
I've been using a Weber 22" kettle for about a year.  Weber makes baskets that fit perfectly in their kettles to hold the coals in a controlled space (you've probably seen them) that work very well.  I usually use one - not both. 

To keep the initial temp down I use lump charcoal and put a 1" or so layer of unlit lump in the bottom of the basket.  Then I light a very small amount of charcoal so it is completely ash covered.  When I say a small amount I mean somewhere around 1.5 to 2 hand fulls, tops.  Once everything is warmed up and the meat is on the grill, add the soaked wood chips on to the coal.  The combination of lit/unlit coal and the wood chips burning (sooner or later) keeps the temp about right.  I might have to add some additional coal after 3.5 to 4 hours. 

You can get a really good smoke in a Weber Kettle but you won't be doing huge amounts of meat at a time.  It's a fairly cheap way to try your hand at smoking and not end up with something you can't really use for other tasks if you don't enjoy the process.

Paul

Paul,
Does adjusting the vent (both the top and the bottom) help control the burn rate and temp?  If so, how do you set yours for a long slow, lowish temp cooking session?
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: Joe Sr. on September 07, 2012, 09:37:57 PM
Paul,
Does adjusting the vent (both the top and the bottom) help control the burn rate and temp?  If so, how do you set yours for a long slow, lowish temp cooking session?

When I've smoked on my kettle, and when I smoke on my converted kettle, I keep the top vent wide open and adjust the bottom vents (I have old kettles with the three separate vents, not the one-touch).

Top vent wide open.  Usually one bottom vent open partially.  I can maintain 250 pretty steady, but it's hard to maintain a steady temp around 225.  Maintaining temp for a long smoke requires adding fuel once or twice throughout the day.  I typically get 250 for 2.5 to 3 hours before it starts dropping.

I also put a couple of bricks in the bottom of the kettle to help modulate the temp.  I'm not sure how much this helps or not as I've just always done it.
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: Slowbrew on September 07, 2012, 09:56:14 PM
I've been using a Weber 22" kettle for about a year.  Weber makes baskets that fit perfectly in their kettles to hold the coals in a controlled space (you've probably seen them) that work very well.  I usually use one - not both. 

To keep the initial temp down I use lump charcoal and put a 1" or so layer of unlit lump in the bottom of the basket.  Then I light a very small amount of charcoal so it is completely ash covered.  When I say a small amount I mean somewhere around 1.5 to 2 hand fulls, tops.  Once everything is warmed up and the meat is on the grill, add the soaked wood chips on to the coal.  The combination of lit/unlit coal and the wood chips burning (sooner or later) keeps the temp about right.  I might have to add some additional coal after 3.5 to 4 hours. 

You can get a really good smoke in a Weber Kettle but you won't be doing huge amounts of meat at a time.  It's a fairly cheap way to try your hand at smoking and not end up with something you can't really use for other tasks if you don't enjoy the process.

Paul

Paul,
Does adjusting the vent (both the top and the bottom) help control the burn rate and temp?  If so, how do you set yours for a long slow, lowish temp cooking session?

My kettle has one vent on top and one on bottom.  I set the bottom 3/4 or more closed and the top on is 2/3 closed.  It has enough leaks to keep the coals going.

Paul
Title: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: bluesman on September 08, 2012, 02:05:47 AM
I use the WSM with excellent results. They come highly recommended. As has been said the BGE and UDS are also highly rated. It will come down to your budget as they will all produce wonderful BBQ. I also smoke with great success in my $79 Weber Kettle. There are many options but again, it will come down to your budget. If money wasn't an option...I would have one of each. :)
Title: Re: Advice for getting a smoker
Post by: markaberrant on September 08, 2012, 02:32:17 AM
Yep, I hope anyone considering a smoker thinks of all the options available, as well as think about what they actually want to use it for.

As mentioned, charcoal, offsets, various DIY contraptions, and even electric smokers (check out the Cookshack Smokettes) can all make great food.

I'm not a fan of the cheapo smokers, but as already mentioned, there are folks that can make good food on them.  Even my mom has been making great Q on her Electric Brinkman I bought her for xmas 5 years ago for $60.