Buying a Smoker

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Alf 101
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Buying a Smoker

Post by Alf 101 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:54 am

Every so often I get an idea, and this time it's getting a smoker. I enjoy cooking, entertaining, and grilling, and this has made me curious. While no doubt I could get excellent technical information and specific product recommendations on a BBQ site, the questions are more about value. Basically is this something many of you have bought, and end up using infrequently at best?

This past weekend I had my first foray into smoking, which led me to pump the brakes a little. My brother had acquired an old Brinkman smoker on the cheap, made a few modifications, and we bought a 7.5 lb pork butt. I got up to get things started at 0300. It was not as "set and forget" as I hoped, requiring a lot of vigilance to maintain temperatures. At 4:30 pm I moved the pork to the oven, gradually increasing the temperature up to 350 F so we could eat at 6:30. I called it when the pork was at about 195 F, about 10 degrees below ideal; it still pulled, and was tasty, but not optimal.

My takeaway was that this was perhaps the most labor intensive way to prepare meat. On the other hand, this Brinkman charcoal bullet smoker -- since discontinued -- was the cheapest entry level model. It leaked smoke, didn't have any vents, and we had problems with ash build up. Hopefully a better model in this niche would be easier and more satisfying to operate, but this I don't know.

My other brother came over to enjoy the pork, which at least he thought was really good. He did, however, point out that a great number of his friends have electric smokers. Some of these people do a lot of volume, and cold smoke things like fish and sausages. I'm not sure I want to go that route though. The balance of convenience, performance, and lifespan hasn't quite convinced me yet.

Basically, it was novel, but I'm wary of buying something I won't use much. No doubt others have had much experience on this subject, which I would love to hear. Thanks.

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PrettyCoolWorkshop
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by PrettyCoolWorkshop » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:03 am

I do not have direct experience with a smoker, but I basically smoke chicken legs when I grill them on my weber kettle charcoal grill. Grilling at 250°F for 2 to 2.5 hours is basically smoking.


So for folks that want to experiment, and who already own a charcoal grill, start by playing around with low temperatures on your grill. Results have been good for me.
Be greedy and fearful. All the time.

dsmclone
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by dsmclone » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:05 am

I've had an electric smoker(MES30) for a few years combined with a A-MAZE-N Smoker pellet. It's worked great. About once a year, I have the urge to go out and buy something bigger/better but it would be a waste of money for me since I only use it a few times a year. If I smoked all the time I'd either get a

Yoder YS640 or Rec Tec RT-340

lazydavid
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by lazydavid » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:11 am

I used to own two propane smokers, which I used for many years. Then I got a Kamado grill, and its stable, easy to control temperatures spoiled me. Once did a 16-hour brisket cook only adjusting vents two or three times. My other smokers required tinkering every hour or so, adding more chips or water every two hours So after a few years of disuse, I sold both smokers. And both gas grills. And my other charcoal grill.

In the interim, I added a smoker controller and now it's even more rock-solid. It maintains the temperature for me, typically within a 2F range, for up to 24 hours. I can monitor and control the cook from anywhere, and get alerts if anything happens that shouldn't.

This is way more of an investment than you are asking about. But the kamado is also the best grill I've ever used, so it's not like all that money is going solely to a meat smoking hobby.

As you've now discovered, you simply cannot start smoking a pork butt/shoulder on the same day you want to eat it. I don't even recommend it with brisket, because the stall (where the temperature hangs in a tight 10 degree range) can last anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. Start it the day before if you want to try to time the finishing with your eating time, but leave yourself a good bit of leeway. Aside from that, BBQ reheats amazingly well. Ribs, chicken, fish, burgers, roasts, are all doable day of.

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dm200
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by dm200 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:13 am

OOPS!

Read this wrong! Thought is was "Burying a Smoker" :sharebeer

chisey
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by chisey » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:15 am

PrettyCoolWorkshop wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:03 am
So for folks that want to experiment, and who already own a charcoal grill, start by playing around with low temperatures on your grill. Results have been good for me.
This. If I had the space and was willing to spend the money I'd probably buy a smoker of some sort. But for now I use my charcoal grill with indirect heat and wood chunks/chips, and it actually works pretty well for small amounts of meat (no more than about 1 average pork butt-- a brisket won't fit).

But OP is right that it's not set-it-and-forget-it unless you go electric, pellet, or gravity-fed, and then you're spending a lot of money. I have to add charcoal and wood several times over the course of cooking a pork butt, and I have to pay close attention to the temperature and adjust airflow occasionally to keep it where I want it.

Still . . . it's fun, and it's tasty! I don't do it all the time but a few times a year is worthwhile.

wilked
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by wilked » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:18 am

Buy a used Kamado Joe. If you end up not enjoying it or using it you can sell it for the same price you bought it - it won't lose value. It's amazing

You should be able to find one ~$600. Here are three examples

https://maine.craigslist.org/for/d/ocea ... 97568.html
https://easternshore.craigslist.org/hsh ... 08578.html
https://raleigh.craigslist.org/for/d/cl ... 74832.html

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lthenderson
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by lthenderson » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:20 am

I was gifted a large propane smoker for a Christmas present one year. Over the years, I find it much easier to just fill it with meats to smoke all on one day and then freeze what I don't want immediately for gradual consumption throughout the year. My smoker is large enough to smoke three full sized turkeys in one go. I usually smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving a day or so in advance along with a pork butt or a couple pork loins and maybe four chickens and a salmon. I will then freeze all the smoked pork and chickens for later consumption. (I have always found the smoky flavor more intense if you let the meat rest one day before consumption.)

I like the propane because is maintains a steady temperature fairly easily so all I have to do is replace the woodchips about once an hour to keep up the desired smoke levels. I used to have a charcoal one but gave it up due to all the work involved. I thought the difference in flavor was very minimal and not worth the effort.

EdNorton
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by EdNorton » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:24 am

I agree with the poster who recommended the Weber kettle grill. Put the coals on one side of grill, meat on the other side, add wood chips on coals, close top vent to 1\2 open, position top vent over meat. Don't open for at least an hour, 2 hours for ribs or pork roast. Also, soak the wood chips for at least an hour, add more wood chips when you turn the meat.

I also highly recommend Paul Prudhome's Blackened Redfish Magic as a dry rub, lots of spice, not much salt. Buy quart size on Amazon.

:sharebeer
Last edited by EdNorton on Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Fresh Air
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Fresh Air » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:25 am

Gotta do a little honest soul-searching beforehand. Electric/propane are much more "set and forget" than charcoal. However - I think the taste and experience of doing it properly is worth the little extra effort. A better smoker (I'd start with a smokey mountain - perhaps you can find one used) will hold temp much better, and there is some forgiveness. Get a good, wireless multi-input thermometer for your different zones & internal temps - it will allow you some flexibility during the day.

Grab the book "Meathead" - I wish I had read through some of his tips years earlier - it has saved a good chunk of time from the process. Also - modifications can help - especially ones that enlarge the charcoal-holding area and make cleanup easier.

It's a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that requires alot of trial-and-error to get it right. If time is a concern, you can also do multiple, smaller pieces of meat, and they will cook faster than single large ones.

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bottlecap
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by bottlecap » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:28 am

Why not get a good grill that can double as a smoker? That way if you end up not liking smoking, you still got a good grill.

smoking isn't exactly set and forget, but if you have a grill that keeps good temperature control, you can leave it for a long time and check it only periodically.

Electric smokers are fine for what they are. You'll get decent tasting meat, but it's wet and not of the consistency a more traditionally smoked meat.

JT

themesrob
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by themesrob » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:29 am

buying a Green Egg or another kamado-style rig is the way to go. super versatile, in that you can smoke with relative ease (I can do 12 hours at 250-275 with minimal adjustment of the vents, so overnights are pretty easy), but also crank up the heat and do pizzas/steaks at 600+. used is definitely an option, but I'd be wary of what seems like a good deal in case there are cracks in the ceramic somewhere.

Texflier
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Texflier » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:44 am

Certainly quite a few options for smoking meat. I use a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker (also called a 'bullet' smoker). A few good resources to WSM users. A book "Secrets to Smoking on The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and a website - https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/

I have the 18" version that goes on sale at Home Depot quite often for less than $200. I mostly smoke brisket and "hang ribs" for a very smokey taste.

Dottie57
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Dottie57 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:49 am

My brother smokes brisket or ribs several times a year. Usually when he has a crowd over for a sporting event on TV. He loves it. The smoker came as a gift from FIL, so it could not have been too expensive.

othermike27
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by othermike27 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:54 am

If you have a 22" Weber kettle to start, go to Meathead Goldwyn's site http://amazingribs.com/table_of_contents.html for more info than you ever thought was out there about BBQ and smoking. Then consider buying a Slow-n-Sear accessory for your Weber from the guys at Adrenaline BBQ: https://abcbarbecue.com/?afmc=amazingribs.

I suggest starting out with some good sized (4-inch) beef rib tips for your first runs. Properly done, they are fantastically good. If you screw it up, you haven't invested in a pork shoulder butt or a beautiful brisket. And you can get a really nice product and good experience, all relatively cheap.

Horsefly
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Horsefly » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:55 am

I had a large propane smoker for several years. Definitely not set-and-forget. I got tired of it, and bought a pellet smoker / grill: https://www.campchef.com/smokers-grills ... r-dlx.html. You just fill up with pellets of your choice, set the temperature (or the smoke level), and let it go. It actually has a built in temperature probe for the meat too, so you can check it without opening the door and letting the magic out.

You can use it as a grill too, although it doesn't have as much direct heat as my Weber gas grill (my preferred grilling device).

Anyway, I highly recommend a pellet smoker if you really want set-and-forget.

neilpilot
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by neilpilot » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:03 am

bottlecap wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:28 am
Why not get a good grill that can double as a smoker? That way if you end up not liking smoking, you still got a good grill.

smoking isn't exactly set and forget, but if you have a grill that keeps good temperature control, you can leave it for a long time and check it only periodically.

Electric smokers are fine for what they are. You'll get decent tasting meat, but it's wet and not of the consistency a more traditionally smoked meat.

JT
+10
I had a smoker but rarely used it since it required almost constant attention. Have since given it away and now get better results using my propane grill. I light one side and place the meat on a rack on the opposite side. Soaked wood chops wrapped in foil are placed on the operating burner. Easy to regulate and maintain temperature and only need to check hourly. The Memphis ribs I make this way get rave reviews from locals who know their bbq.

WhyNotKnow
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by WhyNotKnow » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:13 am

If you decide to go with a Weber kettle grill before investing in a smoker look at the Adrenaline Barbecue’s Slow and Sear insert.

https://abcbarbecue.com/

barnaclebob
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:18 am

There have been several threads on smokers here if you want more opinions. But yeah that Brinkmann is a piece of junk. My large sized (22"?) Weber Smokey Mountain isn't quite set and forget from start to finish, I check on it every few hours while working around the house. My brother trusts his to go overnight though. I'll also smoke small batches on my Weber kettle and that works just as good but you need to check the temp every hour, maybe two. If you need to finish some meat faster for dinner wrap it in foil and put it in the oven like you did.

If you wont smoke more than 2 or 3 times a year and not more than a single brisket or pork shoulder stick with a weber kettle, green egg, or similar knockoff. They work great for small batches and also are great for grilling.
Last edited by barnaclebob on Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:22 am, edited 2 times in total.

poker27
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by poker27 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:20 am

I have a small Weber smoker for the past year or so. I love smoke meat, but it is a process for sure.

I continually need to monitor the temp, add wood, add charcoal, etc. if you are doing a brisket or pork shoulder it is an all day event.

Ribs, chicken, salmon, and side dishes smoke much quicker, so I tend to lean towards those to keep the time down. It really is an art. I don’t have much of a outdoor setup as I live in a townhouse, but if you have a sweet spot, maybe you’d enjoy it more.

GatorFL
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by GatorFL » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:29 am

My 2 cents. I have owned an electric smoker for 5 years now. I own a smoker from SmokinIt (https://www.smokin-it.com/Default.asp) . I use it at least once per month. I have refined my smoking process down over time and use my own rubs, finishing sauces, etc. I own the number 2 model, which can smoke up to 35 lbs of meat at a time, which is useful for parties and such. Here is what I like about the electric smoker:

1. Consistent results: I get very consistent results with this smoker
2. Durability: The smoker is all commercial grade stainless, and it uses a compression fitting for the door. This is important to me as the lower end smokers typically have rubber gaskets that end up leaking and failing. I have never had any issues with the fitting.
3. Wood: I can load up the smoker with 30lbs of pork shoulder and it only uses between 8-10 ounces of wood. I really like the efficiency of the smoke. I get a consistent smoke ring without having to use tons of wood.
4. Cleanup: The cleanup is good, the bottom of the smoker slopes to the center and a drain hole allows drippings to fall into a pan underneath. I line the bottom with foil, poke a hole in the center and that's it.
5. Wheels: It comes with really nice wheels so I can roll it into the driveway for a smoke.
6. Cold Weather: I lived in PA when I first got the smoker and was able to smoke easily with ambient air temps below 20 degrees. Its well insulated.

Smoking is a bit of religion in the south and there are many who feel electric smoking is not as good as charcoal and/or wood. I just know that my bbq gets high reviews and I like it. It is economical, easy to operate and rewarding.

Gator

etherlinkage
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by etherlinkage » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:29 am

Http://www.amazingribs.com has all the info you could ever want about smokers, recipes, and techniques.
Save early, save aggressively, and stay the course.

Housedoc
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Housedoc » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:30 am

I have a Weber Smokey Mountain 18 inch, if you plan on doing a full packer brisket or more than a few racks of ribs, get the 22inch diameter smoker. Many great BBQ forums. Next time wrap you butt when it gets to 160 internal temperature in foil. Pour in some apple juice before sealing it tight. Cook that way till 195 degrees. Pull and enjoy. Also try lump charcoal. You still have to play with fire every 3hrs or so. But that's the fun. Smoker will run at 250 - 275 degrees, just right.

Topic Author
Alf 101
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Alf 101 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:35 am

As the OP, I do own a Weber gas grill that I'm quite happy with. I might consider upgrading it, only it will not die. I had to replace the burner tubes and the grates once each due to rust and wear, but this was not expensive, simple to do, and reasonable maintenance given the use and wear it's seen.

The idea of Weber kettle grill isn't without merit; it's cheaper than the Weber Smokey Mountain, which I've been eyeballing. I would lean toward the smallest one -- least initial investment; and just cooking for the family, not a crowd.

My initial foray into smoking was influenced by the smoker I had to use, and will agree the Brinkman seemed like a piece of junk. It seemed to require constant babysitting to keep it in the 225-250 F range. Still, I just want to make sure it's not a case of the poor carpenter blaming his tools.

Frank Grimes
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Frank Grimes » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:42 am

I also started out with a cheap Brinkmann which I modified for better performance. Out of the box it's near unusable but with modifications you can make it work and create delicious BBQ. You definitely nailed the biggest weakness in that it requires constant monitoring throughout the day for temps, charcoal and smoke wood. For a short 4-5 hr smoke like ribs that's not as big a deal but for a 12ish hour pork shoulder it's a big commitment.

I upgraded to Weber Smokey Mountain last year. It is much closer to set and forget. Once I get the temperature locked in early on, I only check the vents a handful of times throughout the day to make sure it's not running too hot/cool and to refill the water pan which evaporates over time. And with a full chamber of coals at the beginning I never have to add more charcoal or smoke wood. Plus the capacity is better so I can make twice as much as I need and freeze the extra. Virtual Weber Bullet linked by another poster is a great online resource for operating this smoker.

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Doom&Gloom » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:44 am

OP, I got the same idea/bug a few years ago and bought a fairly large propane smoker. I knew that even though I preferred charcoal, that the clean-up would be a dealbreaker for me. Like you, one of my first smokes was a pork shoulder. Very frustrating and a disappointing experience--as was a brisket for the same reasons (discussed by lazydavid above).

I suggest that you try smoking a rack or two of pork ribs. They are practically foolproof. Very forgiving compared to a pork shoulder. I use our smoker regularly--usually for ribs. We always set a large pan of baked (?) beans underneath the ribs to catch the drippings and smoke along with the ribs. Those ribs and beans are currently my favorite home-cooked meal. We also do chicken wings, and we did a turkey breast for Thanksgiving last year that turned out so well that we probably have a new family tradition. We have also tried a few other things, but those are our go-to meals from the smoker. Even those few "favorites" makes having a smoker worthwhile--to me.

I am still toying with the idea of adding a charcoal smoker, but I can usually dispense with those thoughts after several minutes :?

Frank Grimes
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Frank Grimes » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:44 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:35 am
As the OP, I do own a Weber gas grill that I'm quite happy with. I might consider upgrading it, only it will not die. I had to replace the burner tubes and the grates once each due to rust and wear, but this was not expensive, simple to do, and reasonable maintenance given the use and wear it's seen.

The idea of Weber kettle grill isn't without merit; it's cheaper than the Weber Smokey Mountain, which I've been eyeballing. I would lean toward the smallest one -- least initial investment; and just cooking for the family, not a crowd.

My initial foray into smoking was influenced by the smoker I had to use, and will agree the Brinkman seemed like a piece of junk. It seemed to require constant babysitting to keep it in the 225-250 F range. Still, I just want to make sure it's not a case of the poor carpenter blaming his tools.
If you're doing racks of ribs or anything large like that it's probably worth getting the 18" version to have enough room.

BBQ Nut
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by BBQ Nut » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:47 am

I really enjoy reading everyone's replies - backyard bbq should be fun, and the results are mighty tasty.

All I can say is if you know your rig, know how to control your temps, apply smoke in the right proportions, and know when the meat is done - then you're good to go.

Every rig is going to be different and it may take some time for the both of you to come to an understaning (but that's part of the fun, right?). But it'll be worth it.

I own two rigs: a propane grill and a Weber Smokey Mountain. I can get some pretty darn good tasting bbq on both.

I like both for different reasons.

Once you got your rig selected, then it's all about picking and refining the method that works for you; type of wood, how long to smoke, wrap or not wrap, rubs, sauces, etc

Oh, and don't forget the beer! :sharebeer

latesaver
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by latesaver » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:58 am

You're getting a lot of varying opinions here. I will give you my n=1.

I have a Bradley electric smoker https://www.bradleysmoker.com/product/b ... od-smoker/. It was a gift from my wife ~5 years ago and is a lower-cost option.

Reasons I recommend:
- I don't have to fuss with it, at all; it holds temps very well (I live in south FL though, colder weather i can't weigh in on)
- Don't have to buy charcoal, mess with vents, etc.
- the "bisquette" system for wood chips is awesome. i know every chip will burn for 20 mins and then the next chip will automatically be pushed onto the heating element
- I use it nearly every time we have people over for parties. I did wings on the 4th of July and a brisket over the weekend, both came out fantastic
- it doesn't take up a lot of room
- it's relatively inexpensive compared to other alternatives
- i don't need to add additional smoke to the cabinet like i would if i tried to use a grill.

Unless you want a massive smoker, i don't see much downside to going with a Bradley. If space and $ were no object i would probably upgrade to a pellet smoker (Rec Tec or Green Mountain Grills).

Barsoom
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Barsoom » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:59 am

I bought a Traeger wood pellet grill. It doubles as a smoker.

The pro is that the wood pellets leave very little ash, and I can vacuum what's left after a few uses.

The con is that it's an indirect heat that makes the grill act more like a convection oven than a bbq. That said, a product called Grill Grates makes up for this, essentially making a searing surface for grill marks that come from high direct heat.

For smoking, the grill is pretty much a set and forget, constrained by the capacity of the wood pellet receptacle (accessories can increase this size). Some versions have meat thermometers and grill thermometers directly wired into the circuit board to adjust the auger speed that feeds the wood pellets into the firepot. This dynamically adjusts the heat to maintain a consistent cooking temperature. Low-end models used a fixed auger speed to drop the pellets based on chosen heat level.

Traeger is an intro level wood pellet grill, although they claim to be the first. There are other makes out there with a lot more gadgetry.

-B

dale99
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by dale99 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:03 am

Texflier wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:44 am
Certainly quite a few options for smoking meat. I use a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker (also called a 'bullet' smoker). A few good resources to WSM users. A book "Secrets to Smoking on The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and a website - https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/

I have the 18" version that goes on sale at Home Depot quite often for less than $200. I mostly smoke brisket and "hang ribs" for a very smokey taste.
I have a 22" Weber Smokey Mountain. I usually start a butt about 7 pm and put smoke on it for about 3 or 4 hours. As you build your base charcoal ring, go ahead and layer some wood chucks in there too. Go google Minion Method that's the way to build the fire. Go to bed and it will burn all night holding temp just fine( of course as long as it isn't really cold outside) A good rule for pork butts is about 1.5 hours per lb. (10 lb butt about 15 hours). Take it off around 195 to 200. Double wrap in alum foil, then wrap with beach towel, put in an empty cooler for about 1 to 3 hours. Fabulous!!!

triggerfish10
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by triggerfish10 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:04 am

I bought a medium sized Kamado Joe a few years ago, and while I really enjoy using it, it is more work/effort than I thought it would be. It doesn't seem to hold its temperature as precisely as I believed it would, so I have to make minor adjustments to the vent positions every couple of hours = a little annoying but not that bad. I don't have the confidence to try to cook anything overnight.

In case you pursue this further, a process I have found that works for me with pork butts is the following: I cook for an hour a pound at 275 degrees Fahrenheit with fairly heavy hickory wood smoke. After just over half way (about 5 hours in for an 8 hour cook) I wrap the butt in a single layer of heavy duty aluminum foil and finish it in my oven at the same temperature - that way I don't have to monitor the temperature since the oven controls that and since it is wrapped it wouldn't get any smoke anyway. When it's done I let it rest (still wrapped) for about an hour and a half before pulling. The results are great every time, and cooking a mostly smoked pork shoulder in your oven for awhile makes your house smell amazing. Notice that I did not mention monitoring the temperature of the meat - with this process I've found that I don't have to.

What my family likes just as much as my pulled pork is when I cook chicken/salmon on the smoker at ~425 degrees but with a heavy smoke going. Technically it is not smoking, since it is not "low and slow", but the smoky environment makes for some very tasty results.

One major drawback to using a kamado style cooker/smoker is that it stays hot forever after you're done, so plan on having to leave it uncovered for several hours. I've used a propane smoker before and it cools off a lot faster.
"A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest" - Albert Einstein

dsmclone
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by dsmclone » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:07 am

Smokers are kind of like cars, if you own a certain brand, you're likely to recommend it. Also like cars, people compare products that are nothing like each other (Honda Civic to Lexus LS460). In the end, ask yourself how much use you're going to get out of it, what your goals are, decide on a budget, and then research. Try to narrow it down to type of smoker first:

Kamado/Egg
Electric
Propane
Pellet
Barrell

Then go over to smokingmeats forum and research the brand.

bhsince87
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by bhsince87 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:08 am

I'm a pretty hardcore smoker. I've owned every type available and made 5 or 6 of my own.

I've owned the Brinkman charcoal and the Brickman electric. Both will work, but as you found, they require constant fussing. The electric version is better, but still less than optimal.

IMO, if you want the easiest set-it-and-forget-it, you want something electric. Also, possibly something that is insulated, if you are in a colder area.

The pellet or biscuit based designs are the easiest. But if you are still just dipping your toe in the water, they can be pricey.

As a more entry level rig, you might consider something like a Masterbuilt low end unit. I have one I have used for years. it's had issues with it's controller, and I had it replaced twice. But it's been pretty steady the past few years. It's got a smallish chip holder, so you need to add them maybe every 2-3 hours. But it's easy. And you can buy a larger feeder if you really get into it.

If you already had a charcoal grill, you could use that. But that method is as fussy as a Brinkman, IMO. Unless you buy one of the external blowers. But then you're looking at a pretty high price point again.

You might also want to try a smoke tube in your gas grill. I've never used one, but my neighbor swears by them. Definitely a cheap way to go if you already have a gas grill.
https://www.amazon.com/MAZE-N-Pellet-Tu ... B00CS6YFIC
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Nowizard
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Nowizard » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:14 am

I have had both a large, charcoal smoker and an electric smoker. As you mentioned, it is time-consuming to maintain the temperature with a charcoal smoker, particularly if you make your own rub for the butts, marinate them, etc. before smoking for seven or eight hours at least. Very appealing at first, and it is enjoyable but gets old unless you are very serious about it. When considering the purchase of a smoker in our BBQ crazy city, a person walked up and said that the one being considered was fine, followed by another person who said it was inadequate (It was on a trailer and cost $2,500, and was being looked at to see what upscale ones had as features). Bought one at Tractor Supply for about $250, as I recall, though it would have been worth it to pay someone at least $100 to put it together. Cost is directly tied to how thick the metal is on the smoker, a factor that does affect temperature regulation, size being another factor. Did not want an electric smoker since it does not fit the "purest" idea of barbequing pork but figured it was that or very seldom using the smoker due to time involved. Love it and use it commonly. It is set-and-forget. Can go away and return hours later if doing a straight, smoke job. The 3-2-1 method works great with ribs at 225 degrees (3 hours regularly smoking, 2 while covered with aluminum foil, 1 with open smoking to complete), though you do have to be around at the end of the first and second periods.

Tim

Smoke
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Smoke » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:15 am

I bought yrs ago an off set smoker built like a tank, also have a webber bullet type.

After a few years of smoking, for many many hrs, I have given up, especially on pulled pork, now I do an 8 ish lb pork butt w/bone in the kitchen oven over night. about 17 hrs at 225 deg. Take out at 200deg.
It's all about the sauce really imo.
Smokers are collecting dust in my basement now.
Arguing for the sake of arguing is something I am not going to engage in.

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mhadden1
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Location: North Alabama

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by mhadden1 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:18 am

EdNorton wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:24 am
I agree with the poster who recommended the Weber kettle grill. Put the coals on one side of grill, meat on the other side, add wood chips on coals, close top vent to 1\2 open, position top vent over meat. Don't open for at least an hour, 2 hours for ribs or pork roast. Also, soak the wood chips for at least an hour, add more wood chips when you turn the meat.
I use a 22" Weber kettle pretty much this way. I bought it in 1995 I think. My dad's from the mid-60's still works fine.

I have plenty of oak and hickory from my lot and curbside from the neighborhood. I watch out for other woods to smoke with like apple, pecan, etc. and bring them home when I can.

Cooking with the Weber kettle is not hands-off but I don't mind tending the fire. Once or twice through the years I have forgotten/got distracted and let the fire go out. Not a disaster, had to finish in the oven. Still pretty good.

If I move to the country I may fix me a pit to cook barbecue. 8-)
Oh I can't, can I? That's what they said to Thomas Edison, mighty inventor, Thomas Lindberg, mighty flyer,and Thomas Shefsky, mighty like a rose.

rj342
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by rj342 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:27 am

I worked with a woman, grown up Alabama country girl, who was an excellent scratch cook.
She had mastered BBQing and smoking the 'real' way, but finally got where she decided an electric smoker was usually good enough for ordinary use, and only bringing out the big guns for special occasions. I trust her opinion.

Me, I'm still in regular propane grill territory, thinking about getting a small charcoal grill to tinker with on the weekends when don't mind taking a bit longer. Will try using that as a poor mans smoker first before thinking about the electric.

On a different note, re 'grilling' -- my big boss swears by the tabletop Blackstone flat top grill he got a year ago. No flareups, trivial cleanup, pretty precise temperature control (just use an IR thermometer), perfect searing, minimal propane use.

P.S. Blasphemy, but wife did a crockpot pork butt a few months ago that turned out surprisingly good using a great dry rub recipe she found online somewhere.

P.P.S. For this July 4th, we just picked up a freshly smoked boston butt from our Rouse's grocery store (great regional chain out of south Lousiana). 4.5lbs for 20$ Not quite as good as some we've bought thru fundraisers (sports teams, KoC etc), but a lot of bang or the buck.

TallBoy29er
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by TallBoy29er » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:30 am

Bought a Green Egg 2 years ago, and haven't looked back. Smoke ribs for 5 hrs. Yep. Grilling burgers? Yep. I haven't used my gas grill since.

I bought a medium, which is great for my family. However, when I have folks over, a large would be nice. But using a large every day would consume more charcoal, so a medium is a good place to be.

CascadiaSoonish
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by CascadiaSoonish » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:31 am

One vote from me for the Egg. The kamado / Big Green Egg grills do require some work but the temperature stability from the ceramic makes a huge, huge difference in my opinion. Expensive but worth it. We're using ours all the time now that it's summer, but I've been out there in winter to grill steaks or chicken. Bonus points for durability, too -- in the past when we've had cheap metal grills or smokers they've looked trashy and rusted-out after just a couple seasons even when covered. Only disadvantage for us is if we want a grill going quickly for a short veg grilling session, that's where a gas grill would be handy.

audioaxes
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by audioaxes » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:36 am

Ive had excellent smoking results using a char griller kamado I bought on clearance for under $120. Its not a real deal heavy duty ceramic kamado but its pretty comparable performance at a fraction of the price. Get a $12 weber grate and a $4 walmart pizza pan and you have yourself a cheap but effective heat deflector for smoking food.

Presintense
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Presintense » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:44 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:54 am
Every so often I get an idea, and this time it's getting a smoker. I enjoy cooking, entertaining, and grilling, and this has made me curious. While no doubt I could get excellent technical information and specific product recommendations on a BBQ site, the questions are more about value. Basically is this something many of you have bought, and end up using infrequently at best?

This past weekend I had my first foray into smoking, which led me to pump the brakes a little. My brother had acquired an old Brinkman smoker on the cheap, made a few modifications, and we bought a 7.5 lb pork butt. I got up to get things started at 0300. It was not as "set and forget" as I hoped, requiring a lot of vigilance to maintain temperatures. At 4:30 pm I moved the pork to the oven, gradually increasing the temperature up to 350 F so we could eat at 6:30. I called it when the pork was at about 195 F, about 10 degrees below ideal; it still pulled, and was tasty, but not optimal.

My takeaway was that this was perhaps the most labor intensive way to prepare meat. On the other hand, this Brinkman charcoal bullet smoker -- since discontinued -- was the cheapest entry level model. It leaked smoke, didn't have any vents, and we had problems with ash build up. Hopefully a better model in this niche would be easier and more satisfying to operate, but this I don't know.

My other brother came over to enjoy the pork, which at least he thought was really good. He did, however, point out that a great number of his friends have electric smokers. Some of these people do a lot of volume, and cold smoke things like fish and sausages. I'm not sure I want to go that route though. The balance of convenience, performance, and lifespan hasn't quite convinced me yet.

Basically, it was novel, but I'm wary of buying something I won't use much. No doubt others have had much experience on this subject, which I would love to hear. Thanks.
I don't know if you will find this helpful or not. I have been through several smokers and tried everything from easy set it and forget it models to old school offset wood burners. Personally, I get no satisfaction out of easy. (unless it's investing).

On the other hand, stick burning takes work, time and mastery that not just anyone accomplish. It brings me great pleasure to have learned the skills to consistently turn out chicken, ribs and brisket that have won awards and become the favorites of neighborhood gatherings. I use this smoker to do my stick burning and have for the last ten years ( http://pitmaker.com/product/vin/?vin=62369936 ). It was expensive but is very high quality and might have contributed to me wanting to smoke more often (#chainsmoker). That being said, anyone who knows bbq knows you can do it well in a barrel. It's not about the cost of your rig. I would encourage you to take the time, learn the process and love earning the title of a "pitmaster". More work and time that to me is well worth it.
Performance = Potential - Distraction

Ricecakes
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Ricecakes » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:11 pm

My takeaway was that this was perhaps the most labor intensive way to prepare meat. On the other hand, this Brinkman charcoal bullet smoker -- since discontinued -- was the cheapest entry level model. It leaked smoke, didn't have any vents, and we had problems with ash build up. Hopefully a better model in this niche would be easier and more satisfying to operate, but this I don't know.

My other brother came over to enjoy the pork, which at least he thought was really good. He did, however, point out that a great number of his friends have electric smokers. Some of these people do a lot of volume, and cold smoke things like fish and sausages. I'm not sure I want to go that route though. The balance of convenience, performance, and lifespan hasn't quite convinced me yet.
Many great responses here, thought I’d add my two cents. I’ve been bbqing for over two decades now. In that time I have owned barrel smokers with offset fireboxes, gas grills, a Brinkmann as well. I currently use a 22” Weber Kettle due to space limitations.
My feeling is this- if you enjoy the food you make, and have fun making it, then whatever you use is right for you. Some say if it’s pellet or electric it ain’t real cue, others love the convenience. I can see both sides, but again as long as you and your guests enjoy is the main thing.
Here where I live in SE Asia there are tribal people who make great bbq pork using nothing more then meat skewered on bamboo stakes over an open fire. I haven’t gone native- I currently use a Weber and am able to do both brisket and pulled pork for the full 10-12 hours. It takes some planning and fire management, but to me those are part of the thrill- yes the thrill of the grill! Lots of youtube videos up about using the snake or minion methods for long cooks. Personally after getting the fire going I just run my grill with vents slightly open. I give it some wood chunks before going to bed late and wake up early am to check the fire. The vents slow the rate of burn and I have not had a fire go out on me. Generally I have no problems making good cue that way.
Lastly to agree with many other posters here- a Green Egg or Kamado Joe are the way to go if you are willing to spend the $$$ on it. They are great at holding temps and can easily do a long overnight smoke or fire up a couple steaks at 700 degrees.
Whatever you choose it’s hard to beat good cue.

Presintense
Posts: 192
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Location: "Somewhere in the middle of America"

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Presintense » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:18 pm

Presintense wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:44 am
Alf 101 wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:54 am
Every so often I get an idea, and this time it's getting a smoker. I enjoy cooking, entertaining, and grilling, and this has made me curious. While no doubt I could get excellent technical information and specific product recommendations on a BBQ site, the questions are more about value. Basically is this something many of you have bought, and end up using infrequently at best?

This past weekend I had my first foray into smoking, which led me to pump the brakes a little. My brother had acquired an old Brinkman smoker on the cheap, made a few modifications, and we bought a 7.5 lb pork butt. I got up to get things started at 0300. It was not as "set and forget" as I hoped, requiring a lot of vigilance to maintain temperatures. At 4:30 pm I moved the pork to the oven, gradually increasing the temperature up to 350 F so we could eat at 6:30. I called it when the pork was at about 195 F, about 10 degrees below ideal; it still pulled, and was tasty, but not optimal.

My takeaway was that this was perhaps the most labor intensive way to prepare meat. On the other hand, this Brinkman charcoal bullet smoker -- since discontinued -- was the cheapest entry level model. It leaked smoke, didn't have any vents, and we had problems with ash build up. Hopefully a better model in this niche would be easier and more satisfying to operate, but this I don't know.

My other brother came over to enjoy the pork, which at least he thought was really good. He did, however, point out that a great number of his friends have electric smokers. Some of these people do a lot of volume, and cold smoke things like fish and sausages. I'm not sure I want to go that route though. The balance of convenience, performance, and lifespan hasn't quite convinced me yet.

Basically, it was novel, but I'm wary of buying something I won't use much. No doubt others have had much experience on this subject, which I would love to hear. Thanks.
I don't know if you will find this helpful or not. I have been through several smokers and tried everything from easy set it and forget it models to old school offset wood burners. Personally, I get no satisfaction out of easy. (unless it's investing).

On the other hand, stick burning takes work, time and mastery that not just anyone can accomplish. It brings me great pleasure to have learned the skills to consistently turn out chicken, ribs and brisket that have won awards and become the favorites of neighborhood gatherings. I use this smoker to do my stick burning and have for the last ten years ( http://pitmaker.com/product/vin/?vin=62369936 ). It was expensive but is very high quality and might have contributed to me wanting to smoke more often (#chainsmoker). That being said, anyone who knows bbq knows you can do it well in a barrel. It's not about the cost of your rig. I would encourage you to take the time, learn the process and love earning the title of a "pitmaster". More work and time that to me is well worth it.
Performance = Potential - Distraction

il0kin
Posts: 251
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:19 pm

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by il0kin » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:22 pm

Electric smokers are 85% as good in terms of taste/texture but take 15% of the work of a traditional smoker setup.

I’m a Boglehead, so I like things to be both simple and efficient in all aspects of life. I realize that I will never be as good of a pitmaster as a professional, and accept that I will not beat the BBQ market, and will therefore settle for 85% as good as my local BBQ joint.

Needless to say, I have a sub-$200 electric smoker and enjoy it every time I use it. Chicken thighs are a personal favorite as they only take 2-3 hours and absorb the flavors very well.

fallingeggs
Posts: 42
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by fallingeggs » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:31 pm

latesaver wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:58 am
You're getting a lot of varying opinions here. I will give you my n=1.

I have a Bradley electric smoker https://www.bradleysmoker.com/product/b ... od-smoker/. It was a gift from my wife ~5 years ago and is a lower-cost option.

Reasons I recommend:
- I don't have to fuss with it, at all; it holds temps very well (I live in south FL though, colder weather i can't weigh in on)
- Don't have to buy charcoal, mess with vents, etc.
- the "bisquette" system for wood chips is awesome. i know every chip will burn for 20 mins and then the next chip will automatically be pushed onto the heating element
- I use it nearly every time we have people over for parties. I did wings on the 4th of July and a brisket over the weekend, both came out fantastic
- it doesn't take up a lot of room
- it's relatively inexpensive compared to other alternatives
- i don't need to add additional smoke to the cabinet like i would if i tried to use a grill.

Unless you want a massive smoker, i don't see much downside to going with a Bradley. If space and $ were no object i would probably upgrade to a pellet smoker (Rec Tec or Green Mountain Grills).
Another Bradley user here. It is great. I added a "computer" to control the unit, so it is completely "set and forget." I start at about midnight and have lunch for 12 people by noon. For a casual user, there is little difference than doing it the hard way. You'll get more benefit by focusing on the quality of meat, rub and the sauce rather than painstakingly monitor a wood burning unit. A few BBQ joints back home in Texas are better, but nothing I've yet found in Florida or New York compares.

goblue100
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by goblue100 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:41 pm

I started with an ECB (El Cheapo Brinkman) and could never get good consistent results. I upgraded to the Weber Smokey Mountain about 20 years ago. Still looks almost as good as new, and I'm able to turn out good consistent BBQ with pretty minimal fuss. My cousin bought a pellet fed grill smoker (Rec Tec). He gets good results with even less fuss. It's got an app you can check the temp with on your phone.
I've never used an electric smoker, but my feeling is a smoker should use some sort of charcoal or wood based fuel to get good authentic flavor. I guess I'm old school, lol.
I also disagree with the poster above who said BBQ is all about the sauce. I say good BBQ doesn't even need sauce, and if you require it is to cover up inadequate smoking technique. Not that it can't be used as a flavor enhancer, but if you need it to make the food palatable you are doing something wrong. IMHO, of course.
Financial planners are savers. They want us to be 95 percent confident we can finance a 30-year retirement even though there is an 82 percent probability of being dead by then. - Scott Burns

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flossy21
Posts: 478
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by flossy21 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:58 pm

Lot's of good advice here.

I have a propane smoker. Similar to this...

https://www.amazon.com/Masterbuilt-MB20 ... 7385&psc=1

I use it when I don't want to fool around with charcoal. You set the dial and then fine tune to the temp you want.

I also have a Big Green Egg. It is the Mac Daddy of charcoal smokers. I have a BBG Guru which is a controller with a temp sensor and fan to control the airflow...

https://www.bbqguru.com/

This is much less fussy in terms of temp controls. They make a unit for your brinkman smoker as well.


Also - I highly encourage you to check out this site if you are into smoking and grilling. This guy is to grilling and smoking what John Bogle is to investing...

https://amazingribs.com/

gwe67
Posts: 159
Joined: Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:52 pm

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by gwe67 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:16 pm

I have a cookshack electric smoker and it's great.

http://www.cookshack.com
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RootSki
Posts: 198
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by RootSki » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:53 pm

I have a Masterbuilt electric smoker and an Orion cooker (https://www.theorioncooker.com/).

The Orion is not a “low and slow” smoker. It’s more like a charcoal powered convection cooker that can add smoking wood chip into. That being said, you can do 6 racks of fall off the bone babyback ribs in about 90 minutes with the Orion.

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