Alf 101 wrote: ↑
Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:34 am
OK, friends, the OP is back and I think I'm going to bite the bullet this weekend. I've found a number of smokers for sale locally on Craigslist, and am zeroing in on a Weber Smokey Mountain. The convenience factor of an electric smoker still has appeal, but there's more to go wrong with one of those, and not something it seems wise to buy used from a stranger.
I found two 18.5" inch options. One is 5-6 years old, needs both its cooking grates replaced, and is going for $125. The other is brand new, in the box, with a $200 asking price. Frugal though I am, that seems the preferred choice. Grates cost about $25 each, and Weber may have made some upgrades since 2012-2013.
My only hope is this is a considerable improvement over the Brinkmann. My wife was asking about my changes of heart -- I had seemed pretty determined to get a smoker, then pretty down on it after 14+ hours of constant management and attention, and now I'm buying one. That said, I could probably use this 3-4 times, and if I didn't like it, sell it to someone for close to what I bought it.
I wonder if I should try the pork butt again, or ribs?
The correct choice in my opinion. I own a 18.5 WSM and love it.
I don't think I saw a mention in this thread of Gary Wiviott's Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons
. You must buy this book and follow it through. It really is the best way to understand how to use the smoker, and it will keep you from going down the rabbit hole and buying too much gear, remote thermometers, etc. It will teach you the importance of a clean fire and the basic recipes for rubs, marinade, etc., along with just a really nice primer on BBQ from different regions.
It won't be too long before you've sealed the door with aluminum tape, quit using the water pan and added on more rack and some garage door handles on the middle section.
Since you mention frugality, I reckon the WSM actually saves me a bit of money. I have two little kids, both parents with full time jobs, so we need easy and quick dinners. Two key pieces of equipment I own are a vacuum sealer (Foodsaver) and chest freezer. And BBQ is all about cheap cuts of meat. I buy when on sale: shoulders (.69 - .99 / lb), spare ribs (1.99) and baby back (2.99-3.99, all HCOL area prices, you can do better at a Costco). The shoulders are packed well enough to freeze as bought. The ribs I remove from the styrofoam flats and vacuum seal.
I plan my big smoking weekend (maybe I do one a quarter) and start defrosting late in the week. Last weekend, after the kids went to bed on Sat, I got my smoker going and loaded up with six pork shoulders. Had a nightcap while waiting for it settle in at 225 degrees and went to be around 11 pm. Set my alarm and got up at six to find it still cruising pretty as you please at 200. Made coffee, napped, kids up, etc., and started pulling butts of late morning. Spent rest of day doing racks of ribs, then some sausages and other little snacks, all the while playing with kids, pulling pork and vacuum sealing 2 lb portions, enjoying a beverage, etc.
By evening I've got at least a dozen vacuum packed bags of pulled pork, a couple baby back racks and a few spare rib racks, all sealed and frozen: easily twenty "heat and eat" meals (or mains, anyway). And in the chest freezer they're good for a couple months.
I realize the above isn't a riveting tale of weekend adventures, but I just wanted to make the case that while smoking is a hobby, like hunting or gardening, it can also be frugal, like canning or making 30 lbs of venison sausage.
And it's a great way to cook turkey on Thanksgiving, 50 wings before the super bowl, and so on. So congrats, welcome to the club, get Mr. Wiviott's book and enjoy.