Electric Smokers [split from MSP]
(This thread was split from: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7189... -- The Chowhound Team)
hi tyrus...I am very much interested in getting an electric smoker.I have been doing some research on them,and i like what i see,depending on the price,it may happen.here's the thing about smoke...it all depends on how much smoke flavor you want with your food...really,that's all it is...make sense?...lots of wood,lots of smoke.so in short,smoking food,is smoking food.period.
I've heard the same thing about pellet smokers. A friend of mine loves his, especially the low maintenance part. I'm not sure what the city ordinance entails actually, so I should find out. One of the most popular types of smokers for BBQ places (and some restos) is the Southern Pride gas fired/wood burning hybrid (http://www.southern-pride.com/p/pits_...). Like an electric smoker, it allows you to maintain a constant temp but also allows you to burn wood logs for the smoke. For the restaurant application, it is very reliable but for the home BBQ'er it's pretty much overkill.
I like my WSM, which is perfect for what I use it for (chicken, ribs, pulled pork, brisket) and I can use it for direct grilling as well. It's at a low price point and has taught me the basics of smoking BBQ. I can only go up from here, so if I need to graduate to something bigger and better (or lower maintenance), I won't feel bad leaving the old WSM in the back of the garage for a while. BBQ is also mostly technique. If you choose an electric smoker, gas/wood, or direct wood/lump charcoal smoker, the key is knowing how to use it to yield an excellent product.
Elliot - you may be right but my experiences eating from electric / gas/wood hybrids and wood smokers tell me that they do yield some differences in taste. You may be more knowledgeable than me however, so I'll just give you my $.02.
Electric smokers are great for maintaining a constant temp and since they are well sealed, they seem to work well on delicate items like fish and cheese. Since they do maintain that constant temp, beef brisket is also one of those cuts that may benefit from an electric smoker.
Personally, I like the bark on pulled pork and ribs and even a little bark on my brisket. The temp fluctuations from a natural wood charcoal or straight wood fire seems to yield a better bark. I also like the smoke flavor and really feel there's a taste difference between smokes (as well as wood varieties).
Smoking on wood / lump charcoal is more difficult (set up, maintenance, temp fluctuations, etc) and the electric smokers do have the benefit of setting a dial and letting it go. If I was running a restaurant and needed consistent product and didn't have access to a veteran pit man, I'd go electric. But I'd have to say, the best BBQ I've ever had (TX, NC, even Chicago), has all been off of real wood or lump charcoal.
I'm not from MN, I moved here from Chicago in August and still getting to know the food scene. I was surprised by the city ordinance about wood burning smokers (and it seems that if C&G's had their choice, they wouldn't be going with an electric smoker). Chicago has recently turned into a decent BBQ town. Some very good places use electric or gas/wood hybrids - Smoque comes to mind. But my favorite place in Chicago uses oak wood logs in an aquarium smoker (Honey1). It's an incredibly difficult set-up to manage but the 2-3 places that do it well are my picks in that city.
In my mind there is a difference in taste between electric, gas/wood hybrid, and full wood smokes. Your definitive statement - "lots of wood,lots of smoke.so in short,smoking food,is smoking food. period." - makes little sense to me. Does that make sense to you?
I'm currently using a Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouse 30 inch electric smoker. It does a fine job, is well insulated and is easy to use. The MES does have a history of electrical failures which can be fixed easily and the company has made some effort to improve the design in their newer models. For the money they are one of the best buys in electric smokers.
One of the best electrics for both home and commercial use is the Cookshack electric smokers. They have a wide variety of models for the small home user to very large models for commercial use. I won't say there is no difference between electric and a wood burning smoker but electrics can produce winning results in competition BBQ.
In my choice of electric I was looking at something that would not tie me to a proprietary source of smoke. I can use chips, small chunks and pellets. If it will fit in the chip tray it will smoke. I will one day upgrade since I find I use my smoker quite a bit more than I anticipated. I use my smoker for both hot and cold smoking. The cold smoking requires a little ingenuity to make a cold smoke generator but it can be done pretty easily. There are also several cold smoke generators that one can buy and add to their smoker.
When you do start smoking food , the easiest way to ruin your bbq meal is too much smoke , whether it's electric or charcoal or wood. Check this guys site out most comprehensive bbq how too site i've found
Also the equipment matters far far less than your ability , many BBQ competitions have been won using a garbage can and charcoal nothing more.