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Aug 17, 2010 08:17 AM

Got a Vertical Water Smoker, now what?

I found a vertical water smoker, new, at goodwill for 25 bucks.

I built it, looks stable. Now what do I do? Anyone got some tips, suggestions, etc?

Friends have suggested I try brisket first, but no one I know has never actually smoked anything.

Other than making new friends, any help?


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  1. I am jealous. I have been trying to find a Big Green Egg or a Weber Smokey mountain at a good price for a while.

    I have been using a Weber kettle BBQ and had some good results. I would start with something easier like ribs or duck breast. I have had good results and I am slowly working my way up to something harder. Brisket is a tough meat that if done well can be buttery soft or like an old tire. It can take some work to get used to how to tend the smoke and keep a consistent temperature.

    I would pick up one of the two books below.
    A great book for all smoking and curing. It has good information and great illustrations on what to do.

    100 Sausage Recipes

    Also hold on GrandGourmand will probably offer some advice. He knows what he is doing when it comes to smoking, grilling and curing.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kooper

      rhulman!! Thanks for the recommendation, I always enjoy watching him when he pops up on No Reservations.

      1. re: Jaredg

        No joke get the book. They have everything, sausage, pancetta, duck, pickles, mustards, beef, pork, chicken... I got the book to see what I could do and it has changed the way I cook.

    2. Use a water tray. Get this book, Smoke and Spice

      Get a smoke generator, that has available flavored smoke cartridges. It is a lot easier than continually checking wood chips.

      It isn't very hard to install a digital thermo-controller. The smoker plugs into the controller that plugs into the wall. The thermocouple comes from the controller through a smoke vent or a drilled and grommeted hole near the top. You set the controller at 215 degrees or so. Turn on the smoke pistol and walk away.

      Thermo-controller like this:

      1. Go directly to, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

        Simple, step by step instructions on all the basic meats. It's aimed at the Weber Smokey Mountain, but all vertical water smokers share same basic design.

        Also, do NOT try brisket first. It's the trickiest of the classic BBQ cuts to master. Best first smoke is a pork shoulder. Rub it, put it on the smoker, come back in 12 hours. (You can baste in between, but that's not critical).

        Also, if you can, buy a probe thermometer. When I say "come back in 12 hours", that could be give or take 2 or 3 hours. What you really want to do is come back when the temp goes over 200.

        I have Charcuterie, it's a great book, but not really a guide to smoking. Some of the cured meat recipes involve smoking. I've been making bacon and pastrami for a year now - a great way to use the smoker.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sbp

          I do agree that Charcuterie is not the be all and end all of smoking. I am still getting into smoking but one thing it does well is it really well illustrated and everything is explained really nicely. Good for beginners which is why I recommended it.

          1. re: Kooper

            No argument from me there. As far as making cured meats, it's very useful - detailed without being too academic. I would never have gotten into curing if not for "Charcuterie."

            Now I have to take the next step into sausages!

            PS: I made a prosciutto, and although it tasted like the real thing, it was saltier. I'm concerned if I cut back on salting period, it won't cure all the way through. Anyone with ideas?

            1. re: sbp

              I have wanted to make a prosciutto for a while now. The problem is that I can't get a pancetta to work consistently so I don't want to invest the time and cost only to mess it up at the end.

              1. re: Kooper

                The pancetta may be more difficult, since it's in a sealed bag brine (if you use Charcuterie technique). The pig leg, you pretty much just salt it for 30 days, rinse, and hang up to dry. I also pressed mine with a fabric ratcheting clamp from Home Depot and a 20 pound barbell plate.

                One advantage I have is my office has a walk in wine cave. So I have constant temp and humidity control and no bug issues. Now if I could just control the salt....

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. I had one for years smoked turkey and duck ,trout and other fish , beef game etc .I used a salt water brine enough salt in water that an egg floated added spices .There are good books in the library's ........MY MAIN TIP .....DO NOT PEAK UNDER THE LID .You will loose heat and of course smoke I smoked a brisket left the smoker for several ours went into the woods and when I came back a great meal.This was in the Fall season I used apple wood .