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Jan 25, 2008 10:51 AM

so, a friend has a smoker in his backyard.

A friend of mine bought a house some time ago which was endowed with a smoker in the back. This thing is huge, built out of concrete block. It must be at least six feet high, and three/four feet on each side. Turns out, the guy hasn't used the smoker in the two years he's owned the house, shameful indeed. To reverse that, I've been looking online for how-tos on smoking meat and using a smoker, but all I've found is info on smaller, portable smokers. Even worse are websites that want me to give them cash to gain any insight on the science.

I suppose the premise should be the same with any size or structure, I'm just not sure on whether to use charcoal, wood, or a combination of the two; how much; how long, etc. In fact, I'm not very proficient on the grill either; I have quite a bit to learn.

So, I'd love to hear tips and advice from chowhounders on the topic of smoking meat, or perhaps recs for an instructional cookbook or website. I think we'll start with ribs, so any recipes for those (or anything that you can recommend for a beginner) would also be appreciated. At this point, I really just need to know where to start.

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  1. I have two (that I know of) brick BBQs on my street, neither of them are being used due to neighbor complaints. Good luck with your friend's smoker.

    According to the "complainers", it wasn't grilling but all day smoking.

    1. I hope this helps:

      We don't have a smoker so I can't tell you much, but I did get this little gem of a cookbook that explains a lot. It's called Barbecuing, Grilling & Smoking, a Cole's Kitchen Arts Series. It has some good recipes as well as technique.

      1. The principles and basics of fire and smoke are the same whether you have some tiny little rig or a massive structure. Lots of great advice in the archives at They are free.

        In general the advantage of a large concrete block smoker is that you can smoke enormous quantities. The downside is that it takes an awful lot of wood to do that AND it takes a long time to figure out how to control the temperature when using a lot of wood.

        If this thing is all enclosed, with doors to keep the smoke in, you can probably learn how to use it to get good results. Though don't expect to master it with out a lot of experiments.

        If there is no real enclosure it might be better used a hearth/grill with just charcoal. The odds of getting too much smoke and ending up with food that is acrid is high, similarly if there is little means to control the temp the odds of safely cooking the food is low...

        1. Agent- Smokers are so much fun. to cure the smoke factor just put a damp cloth over the vent about 5" high it should be one you don't need anymore and that will help with grumpy neighbors. second as soon as what ever you cook is done give some to the people who live around you. that tends to stop complaints and fill up stomachs.

          recipes for smokers are a well kept secret. First thing to do is see how well you can control the heat. place a meet thermometer in and start the thing up. You should keep it around 250 and should smoke lightly not thick and heavy. I use all different combanations of wood and chips depending on flavor. also I smoke fish, pork, steak and chicken. I brine my meet for 24 hours than I rub my spices on heavy. then just set it and forget it. In my smoker I have done whole ppigs ( 12 hours) and a whole marlin both I killed and fed about 30 people with.

          my favorite spices for a good BBQ are cumin, paprika,oregano leaves,garlic, brown sugar and cayenne and always s&p.

          good cuts to use brisket turkey legs pork butt and trout fillets are all easy and most of the time fool proof. when you get use to using it move on to cheese and salmon this will blow your mind how great it taste now I think I have to go home and fire mine up thanks for the motivation.

          1. Thanks everyone for your replies. I hadn't thought about the redolence factor; fortunately the lots in my friend's neighborhood are just under an acre, so there shouldn't be as many neighbors to placate as there might in a more typical hood.

            Dan and Reno, thanks for the links. They're both great resources that I hadn''t found on my own. The structure is fully enclosed, so we should be good. We'll have to experiment with a few small batches, but hopefully before too long we can have a big group over for a real feast. I think in the meantime my friend might be seeing more of me than he might like!

            Aron, thanks for the tip on the vent. I figured we'd be using quite a bit of wood. I brine pork and poultry all the time; good to know it works well for smoked cuts as well. I figured we'd be using quite a bit of wood. Looks like you have quite the view; do you live in Honolulu?

            Finally, one last question: the grates and door are very rusty, would using a rust-removing solvent be sufficient or would it be best to replace the grates with new ones?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Agent Orange

              Can you remove the grates and doors? If you can then you would use the rust remover, and then you can buy a special can of spray paint made for grills/pits, etc. We got this paint at Home Depot. That keeps the rust from coming back.

              This maybe a perfect vehicle to make homemade jerky in!