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Thinking of buying a backyard smoker. Help?

  • j

I've been wanting to buy a backyard smoker.
I've done a little research. I know Weber makes one.
Does anybody have any input about which models/makes are best?
Any tips on using?
Thanks in advance

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  1. Good idea - I bought one and love it. Yes, Weber makes one, the Weber Smokey Mountain, that costs about $200/$250. That's what I have. There are some cheaper ones (Brinkman) that don't work as well and much more expensive ones that are bigger and more for professional applications. I would just jump right in and get the Weber. You'll need some charcoal and some smoke wood, and you're set to go...

    7 Replies
    1. re: cheapskate

      Maybe you should change your handle. Wouldn't a cheapstake buy the cheapest model? :) Just kidding, of course.

      I use a home made smoker, made from large terra cotta flower pots. But I have friends with the Weber and they love it.

      1. re: Darren

        Ah, a TRUE cheapskate will not buy according to price alone but will instead focus on the price to value ratio, which in my (admittedly totally uniformed and random opinion) favors the Weber. Convenience places an increasing role as well after you have kids and lose your free time.

        Got a picture of your rig in action? I'd love to check it out. Do you have the smoke go up through the drainage hole? How do you measure and/or regulate the temperature?

        1. re: cheapskate

          I don't have a picture of my smoker, unfortunately. Below I've linked to a website that has one that is very similar to mine. The difference between that one and mine is that he uses a flat lid, while I use another, upside down, flower pot. So mine looks more like an egg shape, so to speak.

          The basic idea is that you put an electric buner on the bottom of the pot, with the cord running out the bottom drainage hole. You put an aluminum pie pan on the burner, and put some wood chunks on the pan. Then you put a weber grate above that to hold the food. Then you put the lid on the top. I stuck a deep fry thermometer into the top drainage hole to measure the temperature. You regulate the temperature by raising and lowering the power on the electric burner. Every so often you replace the wood.

          I'm not saying this produces better results than a regular smoker. But it was fun as heck to make and use.

          The idea comes from a Good Eats episode called "Q":
          http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season...

          Link: http://twothirds.org/2005/09/smoking-...

          1. re: Darren

            give that an "A" for ingenuity. I'd be concerned about the meat dripping onto the burner, but otherwise it seems fine.....

            1. re: cheapskate

              You definitely get driping down on to the pie plate and wood. But the burner itself is smaller than the pie plate, the burner isn't exposed.

            2. re: Darren
              p
              Problem Child

              To add to the Terra Cota smoker, here is the "Trash can" smoker.

              Link: http://www.cruftbox.com/cruft/docs/el...

              1. re: Problem Child

                Cool pictures -- thanks!

      2. I use the Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain gas smoker. I find the gas very convenient, especially when you are smoking a Boston Butt for 17 hours. It also has plenty of space for laying down ribs on the racks.

        Link: http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produc...

        2 Replies
        1. re: paul

          Cabela's sells a stainless steel version of the Great Outdoors smoker that also includes sausage racks for $179.99 for the 36" (plenty big) or $299.99 for the 48". We have the stainless version and really like it. It does a great job with ribs, pork butt, poultry, sausage, etc. We also love our larger New Braunsfels offside firebox smoke pit (it works really well with brisket,) but Cabela's smoker is best for beginners. Here's a link:

          Link: http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/tem...

          Image: http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/con...

          1. re: Nancy Berry

            I also have the S.S. version. I bought it at Cosco about 2 years ago, Haven't seen it since. I didn't know anyone else carried it. S.S. is definately the way to go.

        2. We have a SmokinTex electric smoker that is absolutely fabulous. It's a fair bit of money compared to the Weber but for convenience it can't be beaten. We smoke meats, fish and seafood, veggies, cheese and just about anything you can think of in it all year round. Even in a Boston blizzard we do our Thanksgiving turkey in it. My husband is addicted to the smoked-roasted chickens I do three at a time. We just had smoked pork chops for dinner last night, amazing flavor you can't get without smoking.

          It takes wood chips which go into a smoke box. There's a heating element below which heats to a steady 160 - 225 degrees. The whole unit is double-walled and the outer wall is stainless steel so it sits on the deck all year. It's one of the best purchases we ever made.

          1. Terra Cotta pots?
            Trash cans?!
            Great ideas.
            But the more I read, I think I'll go with the Weber to go with my Weber grill, which we've used for, like, ten years and it's still going strong, with no signs of letting up.
            Thanks for all the posts.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jp

              You can't go wrong with the weber. They are a great company and make excellent products. Do report back after you've made your first meal with it!

              Just one last thing: besides my terra cotta smoker, I usually smoke stuff in my regular weber kettle grill (I have the 18" model). It is certainly more cramped than a dedicted smoker, but it does the job. Just something to consider for those who want to smoke food but don't want to buy a second grill. Also, below is a link to a nice little book on smoking food.

              Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316...

              1. re: Darren

                Well, I have the 18 inch Weber, Darren.
                I know there's a way of smoking with it, but...if it's not too much trouble, could you clue me in on how?
                I'm pretty good with regular charcoal and hardwood charcoal cooking on it but haven't smoked anything
                Thanks again, in advance

                1. re: jp

                  No problem. First, for fuel you can use a combination of charcoal and wood (such mesquite or hickory), or just wood. Of course, you could use just charcoal, but then you wouldn't be smoking the food. :) For most applications, I use a mixture of charcoal and wood. For my terra cotta smoker, I just use wood.

                  For the charcoal, you can use briquettes, but I prefer good hardwood charcoal. Lazzari is my preferred brand; Cowboy brand, which seems to be carried everywhere, is mostly scrapwood and is crap. For more on hardwood charcoals, see the hardwood index at http://www.nakedwhiz.com/nwindex.htm

                  Then you've got the wood chips or chunks: Note that "chunks" and "chips" aren't the same thing. The chunks are more like 3" by 3" squares of wood, while the chips are smaller. Both are fine. The chunks burns slower and are better if you are going to do a long smoke (like an 9 hour pork shoulder). The chips are better if you want the wood to smoke quickly -- say if you are going to smoke pieces of chicken. I've only used hickory and mesquite, but there are many other options.

                  Most people soak their wood before using it, which prevents it from burning right away. If you use chunks, you generally don't have to soak them (the water doesn't penetrate most of the wood anyways). You also don't have to soak the chips if you are going to wrap them in foil. You should soak chips if you are going to put them directly on top of charcoal.

                  Ok, so you've got your charcoal and your wood.

                  Light the charcoal as if you are going to BBQ regularly. Once the coals have that nice white ash all over them, push them to one side of the grill. (Note: with the 22" weber, many people like to put half the charcoal on one side and half on the other, and then cook in the middle. You can do that with the 18" weber also, but with the smaller grill, I find it easier to put all of the charcoal on one side and cook on the other.

                  Ok, next, put the wood on top of the charcoal. If I'm using chips, I'd go with 2 big handfuls. If I'm using chunks, I start with three chucks.

                  Some people put a dish with water on the lower grate, under the food, to provide moisture.

                  Now put on the grate, put the food on the grate, and then put the lid on.

                  Up to this point you are basically indirect grilling, but you've added wood to the charcoal. Now comes the tricky part: the fire is going to be too hot for a low-and-slow smoke, so you need to close some of the air vents to restrict the flow of oxygen and thereby reduce the temperature in the bbq. Start by closing all three of the grates half-way. Let it go for about 15 minutes and then check the temperature inside the grill with either a probe, meat, or candy thermometer (obviously, you have to check the temp with the cover on, by going through one of the top vent holes). For most applications you'll want to aim for a temperature between 200 and 300 degrees. One of the advantages of a dedicated smoker is that it is easier to get it to 200 degrees. I do ribs in my 18" weber at 250-300, perhaps higher than most would recommend, and they turn out amazing.

                  Now, you'll have to check the temperature every 20 minutes or so. If it's too hot, close one of the grates a little more; too cool, open them a little more. When the wood is burned, and you don't see any smoke, open the cover and add more wood. Note: this is a lot easier if you have a top grate with folding openings on either side. My Lazzari hardwood will easily last 1.5-2 hours at 250 degrees. I haven't pushed it much past that. So if you are doing a pork shoulder for 8 hours, you'll have to add both wood and charcoal.

                  I've also included a link to a Weber page about smoking.

                  I hope this was clear. Feel free to write back if you have questions.

                  Link: http://www.weber.com/bbq/pub/recipe/g...

                  1. re: Darren

                    Lots of info to digest, but I'm going to try on my weber first and then see if I can do without a separate smoker.
                    Thanks again

                    1. re: jp

                      Yeah, sorry I was so long-winded. The basic idea is to set the grill up for indicted grilling, add wood to the charcoal, and adjust the vents to maintain the temperature you want. I should learn the virtues of brevity. Have fun.

                    2. re: Darren

                      In my opinion, there just is no better hobby smoker than the Weber Smokey Mountain. The reason is that it is just so darn easy to turn out amazing Q better than almost anything you can get in a restaurant. It's easy like a hobby smoker, but turns out competition quality Q. That, coupled with the fact that it is so hands off, but is still non-electric, I find it hard to go wrong with it. I'd definitely recommend it over an electric smoker.

                      I would recommend one thing... one of the best "support groups" on the Internet is at www.virtualweberbullet.com. Its a great website, but also check out the forums for seriously helpful folks for people getting started with their Weber smokers (or any smoker for that reason).

                      Link: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/ind...

              2. If I were starting out, I would get an electric Brinkman.