OK, so it’s been a while since my last post. Things got a little hectic in my neck of the woods.
Last time I was here I was talking about upgrading yet again. I shopped around the Internet and narrowed my search down but with Winter coming and the rainy season right around the corner, I’ve decided to hold off until early Spring. In the meantime, I figure I’ll do some short smoker runs then finish things off in the oven. I’ll start moving into sausages, chickens, pastrami and of course a turkey for Thanksgiving.
I’ve never smoked a turkey but there’s a first time for everything. I checked out one of my favortie sites and found this rather in-depth article on smoking turkeys, take a look.
Fun news! I was approached by a friend the other day about maybe catering some meat for an upcoming event. Not sure if I’m excited or scared! On one hand, I get to pack my smoker with delicious meat and feed a bunch of people. On the other hand, things could go terribly wrong in any number of ways both exciting and terrifying! I need another smoker! If I want to do more stuff like this, I’m going to need and smoker. As much as I love my WSM, I need more area to cook more. This can become very expensive, very fast so I need to do my homework.
First, what size do I need/want. C’mon, I’m a guy, I like toys. This will be for something I love doing so the term “expensive” becomes relative. The pits I’ve looked at online all have pros and cons. I haven’t found the “perfect” pit yet but some are real close.
My Top 5 pit picks are (in no particular order)
Jambo’s Pits of Fort Worth Texas. Jamie Geer builds great looking pits and the design looks like a direct result of years of experience. I see these pits a lot at competitions and on TV. I personally like the Economy model but I absolutely see why people would like the J-3 and J-5. They are great looking and bigger.
Lang BBQ Smokers of Nahunta, GA. Ben C. Lang II reverse flow stick burners have been made the same way since 1988, with pride. The 60″ Deluxe model is the one I was looking at. I like that it is reverse flow and they offer to make it “left handed” if I want and if you’re not left handed you just wouldn’t understand.
Gator Pits of Texas
The 4th of July was a good day this year. One of my best friend’s birthday lands on the 4th and every year he has a big party at his place. I thought about running the smoker for his birthday but it just wasn’t in the cards so instead I made 6 racks of ribs in my oven. I’m known as the “Rib Guy” at most of the parties I attend. I realize that oven baked ribs are a bit off topic for a meat smoking blog but ribs are right in there as far as I’m concerned.
I used to make ribs in the oven as practice. I could experiment with rubs and injections without the inconsistancy of smoking them. The oven temperature was steady which meant one less thing to think about. I could concentrate on spices and timing. Oven ribs take the same amount of time as if you were smoking them, about 4 hours of cook time. I like to use “pork back” ribs, they have that nice band of pork loin that runs across the back of them.
For these ribs I use the same rubs and sauces as I would as if I was smoking them but I don’t sauce them while they cook. I heat up the sauce and leave it on the side because the ribs are so damn good they don’t really need any.
So, we’ve looked at offset smokers
We’ve looked at vetical smokers
We’ve talked about homemade smokers
We touched on the pros and cons of “Store Bought” vs Do It Yourself smokers
And after all my research, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a charcoal burning, vertical smoker with a small footprint from a reputable manufacturer. What’s the first name in outdoor cooking? Weber. I decided that the 22.5 inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker best fit my needs.
The Weber Smokey Mountain or WSM, as most people in the craft call it, is a great “next step” cooker.
The WSM has 720 square inches of cooking area (360 sq inches on each f the two levels.), runs on charcoal and can cook 4 full briskets at a time. It is also a water smoker and is easy to maintain.
Some of the other benefits of the WSM are the easy to access fuel chamber and multiple vents that allow you to ewasily control the airflow/temperature. If that’s not easy enough, you can buy a Stoker Draft System. This is an electric fan attachment that is controlled by a small computerized thermostat. Set it to the temperature you want and it does the rest. The fans kick in when the temp drops below your set temp and shuts off when you’re at the temp you want. The Stoker kits cost anywhere between $330 for the smallest base model to $445. These prices do NOT include adapters for your specific cooker. For my new 22″ WSM, the recommended kit is the WiFi Stoker Kit – 10 cfm ($400) plus the “Required Blower Adapter” ($25). One of the cool things about the Stoker is that it’s WiFi enabled so you can control it through your home wireless network but thet’s enough about the Stoker. I’ll go into more detail regarding gadgets and gizmos in a later post.
Next time, I’ll tell you about my first cook with my new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
The offset smoker is very common and they range in both quality and price. Meathead, one of the contributors at AmazingRibs.com wrote this article describing the the ups and downs of offset smokers. He has put a lot of thought into the subject and has some great pointers.
Since I don’t own a vertical, I don’t have any operational pointers but I certainly have some observations on the subject. My first observation is that a real nice reverse flow smoker on a trailer is a beautiful thing. If I had the room to store such a beast, I’d certainly own one. I’ve shopped many makes and models and if I could have any one I wanted, I’d probably choose to build my own. Manufactured smokers are really cool and ready to go immediately. They are built by pros and have a clean look to them but building your own cooker has got to have a special feeling of satisfaction to it and if anything should go wrong, you know how to fix it. That being said I have to say that Jambo Pits out of Texas are my favorites of the “Store bought” cookers followed closely by Lang from Georgia. The smoker I was looking to build was based on this design by ryanBC
Offset smokers like this one burn wood or charcoal. They have lots of cooking surface with just a couple of levels so the meat cooks more evenly. If your smoker is several levels then the meat at on the top level will cook at a different temp than the meat on the lower levels, something to take into consideration when you’re cooking. One other thing, if you go for an offset smoker be ready to pay because a cheap one will only disappoint you.
I plan on going into more detail on the different types of smokers but for now we’ll go with a general understanding of how they work.
Up next, I’ll tell you what I got and why!