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Best smoker for my needs?

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  • Westy Aug 26, 2013 08:53 AM
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Thinking of getting a BBQ smoker. I have a fine little grill (Portable Kitchen), but would like to be able to make brisket/wings for my friends when we watch football this season (maybe 8-10 of us). I'd also like to be able to do a turkey on Thanksgiving, and smoke a ham as well (not at same time).
I sense the regular Weber Smoky Mountain is a bit small. Thoughts welcome.

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  1. The large WSM is great as well. Although I've done a lot of whole briskets (12+lbs) and whole turkeys on my old regular size. Ribs fit better on the larger one, but temp control doesn't seem to be as good, Sometimes I have a difficult time getting it to temp and staying there. Maybe I was spoiled by the smaller one which stayed locked into 250 for 8 to 10 hours easy.

    1. DH has a Weber Smoky Mountain he's been using for years. It's not huge, but he's done whole turkeys in it, briskets, pork butts...

      1. I also have the smaller size WSM and love it. Have done smoked turkey for the holidays, and can do two whole pork butts (one upper, one lower). My only regret is that it's a bit small when you pull out the center piece and use it as a charcoal grill. Was considering young to the 22" but am now reconsidering that based on what folks say below. May just grab a charcoal grill in addition.

        1. I own numerous Weber grills, and I also have a vertical offset smoker. I don't (yet) have a WSM, but I highly suggest that you get one of you are looking for a smoker. From all that I know about them, they are highly controllable, and pretty efficient as well. I can't comment on chileheadmike's contention that his 22 1/2" one is harder to dial in, but he should know, since he's had both sizes. Even so, the 22 1/2 is likely to be much easier to control than some offset, particularly the cheap horizontal offsets you may see at the hardware stores and the like. Those cheap horizontals will have hot and cold spots, leaving just a portion of the cooking space working as you desire. My vertical offset, while having great capacity, is a fuel hog, and an attetion hog as well. It demands some attention about every 45 minutes or so, which is a lot over a 12+ hour cook. Look at a WSM.

          1. Another highly satisfied WSM proponent. The regular one actually holds quite a bit. I have done a brisket on one rack and a rack of ribs on the other. It requires way less attention than an offset smoker and is easy to regulate.

            1. For what you're asking for, an 18.5" should be enough for you.

              I have a 22.5" and really like it. Temps seem easy to control. Getting to temp, I open all vents fully. When I get 20-30 from my target I shut all the bottom vents except for 1. Control the heat with 1 vent unless you need to go higher...then open the 1 fully and only play with 1 other.

              It's only as difficult as you make it...

              1. Love my "Smokin It" electric smoker. You'd probably want the #2 model.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Rick

                  The great thing about an electric smoker is there is little hassle or fuss and you can put a packer brisket on at 10-11 pm, get a goods night sleep and have it will be done in good time for dinner and still be plenty hot to serve. The Smoke It like the Cookshack are conservative with wood. A little goes a long way

                2. The "cheap" big box store off-set smokers take a lot of effort to seal up (smoke leaks) and don't regulate the heat well. Thermal mass is your friend so, an off-set smoker you can load in the trunk of your car from a big box store is a poor choice.

                  For similar or less money, the Weber Smokey Mountain is a better choice IMHO.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Sid Post

                    It's really just the air leaks on the big-box offset smokers. The WSM would have the same issue (maybe unless you put sand in the water pan, or even in a Brinkmann water pan that you replaced the original with). It doesn't because it fits together well and you can control the airflow.

                    The older offsets could do OK with a bunch of modifications. The main issue was that they had a huge door in the side of the firebox where air would get in in all sorts of places. I used to have a Bandera that had similar problems.

                    Some (all?) of the newer ones have a built-in ash pan under the firebox that's basically a huge hole. You wonder what the people who design these things are smoking.

                    I concur on the 18.5" WSM- my parents do the Thanksgiving turkey on theirs every year. A giant brisket or a bunch of ribs may be tricky to fit, but you can make that and most anything work.

                    1. re: ted

                      I agree with ted. Air leaks are the enemy of temperature control. The Bandera he mentions is what I have. I still like it, probably because it was my first smoker, and I still use it. But I still want a WSM.

                    2. re: Sid Post

                      Yes thermal mass is your friend and if you're looking for thermal mass the WSM isn't the place to get it.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        *but generally cookers with a lot of thermal mass aren't cheap. I'm thinking ceramics and heavy-gauge-steel offsets. People fill their WSM water pan with sand (or get a deeper Brinkmann one and do same) instead of water to add mass that dampens temperature changes. I've even seen photos of them wrapped with various kinds of insulation blankets.

                        I'm fortunate to live in the South where much of the year it's temperate enough to cook without worrying about heat loss. But there are still a lot of inexpensive ways to beef up a WSM.

                        Short of building your own UDS, I still think it's the best value/function combination out there.

                        1. re: ted

                          I don't even use the water pan in my wsm half the time.

                          I like direct heat.

                    3. Big Green Egg.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: mwhitmore

                        I was wondering when the egg heads would show up. I worry about ceramic's durability, and not sure I could get a turkey in one.

                        1. re: Westy

                          With the XL BGE you will have plenty of room for a turkey or whatever. I think durability is not an issue for most. Of course, you can buy a few WSM's for the same money. Eggs are pretty cool, but they are definitely not cheap.

                          1. re: Westy

                            The BGE is not cheap and I'm still not sure I would have purchased one for myself due to that expense; however, my extraordinary spouse of 33 years knew of my interested and made the surprise purchase as a gift.....probably the best non-child gift ever received.

                            At least in Central Jersey there is NO issue about the BGE durability. None. Ours gets fired up 12 months a year including mid-winter going from freezing to 500 degrees for burgers or chops in minutes. No cracks, no splits,no delaminations. None. And now going into its 4th or 5th year of use. I just upgraded the felt gaskets for hightemp. Nomex and in the meantime scrubbed out the entire interior with a portable drill and flexible paint stripper head to remove built up layer of creosote from a few years of long smokes and much shorter, more intense smokes. Admittedly took about 2 hours with 3 stripper heads but the BGE is handsome again and just took on a 12 hour pair of 8 lb pork shoulders with great success. Since its purchase. I have done our (second) Thanksgiving turkey each year, brined, rubbed and smoked, usually 16 to 18 lb size which always disappears w/o leftovers.
                            Still roast a traditional big Tom inside but the BGE has become my favorite.

                            Anyway, readily admit the BGE is not for everyone but it sure humbles all our previous outdoor grilles including the ones we tried to use as uninsulated smokers.

                            1. re: ThanksVille

                              I paid about $800.00 about 10 years ago for my LG BGE with a nest and many accessories. When I brought it home in place of the pretty stainless propane grill I was sent for with $400.00 in my pocket it was like Jack in the Bean Stalk coming home with a bag of seeds. My wife was livid.

                              Then I started cooking with it. Now my wife thinks its the best thing since lite beer (she is Irish) and enjoys life to the fullest. If it was stolen, she would insist it be replaced w/in a week.

                              With multi tiered racks it can smoke quite a bit but there is no way it can match the volume of a LARGE designated smoker, but in reality, how many people really deal with super high quantities?

                              What it can do that many designated sheet metal smokers can't because of the heat retention qualities of the thick ceramics:

                              1. Maintain steady overnight temps during the winter when day time temps of 40 degrees drop to 15 degrees overnight.

                              2. Smoke food with a minimal drying effect because the thick ceramics hold the heat and require far less heat replenishment. (Dry heat removes moisture as it passes over the food). Thin sheet metal dissipates heat quickly requiring more replenishment which draws more moisture from the food.

                              3. Low fuel usage (Lump charcoal) due to heat retention qualities mentioned above. 18 - 22 hrs smokes without refueling are the norm.

                              4. VERSATILITY:(A) Efficient smoker with a very easy learning curve. (B) Grill that has been proven to reach temps over a 1000 degrees giving the ability to apply a high end steak house radiant sear to just about any protein.

                              5. LONGEVITY:In 10 years about $50 repairs: New Nomex high temp gasket (upgrade) & SS charcoal grate (upgrade). Maybe about $10.00 in new stainless bolts and a spring in the next 5 years.

                            2. re: Westy

                              My uncle has had the same one for 20+ years. I have a large and it can fit a turkey no problem.

                              1. re: Westy

                                We do turkey in our larges every Thanksgiving.

                              2. re: mwhitmore

                                Ha ha ha. I knew someone would mention it.

                              3. A bit of a different creature, but after decades of playing around with smokers, I went to a Bradley. I'll never look back. I got the original, and then added a second heating element, a circulation fan, and PID controller so that I can set temps. and times, amount and type of smoke, and walk away.

                                59 Replies
                                1. re: JMF

                                  Got a link? never heard of one.

                                  1. re: Westy

                                    Here's the link. http://www.bradleysmoker.com/

                                    Here's the link to the Bradley smoker discussion forum.
                                    http://forum.bradleysmoker.com/

                                    I've worked in whole hog bbq pits down south, and with some of the top competitive winning bbq teams in the US, and finally got tired of the long hours, and the variables that crop up. Temp. and humidity swings, wind, rain, flare ups, etc. With the Bradley, especially if you "hot rod" it with some simple modifications discussed on the forum, I get consistent, perfect results. Low, slow, and tasty.

                                    Also, if you get one, keep an eye on Amazon.com. I have seen them there for 1/2 price.

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      Thanks for this info. I've toyed with the idea of getting a smoker for some years but yesterday had some amazingly smokey, wonderful pork so I think it's in my future. And ease is always a plus.

                                      1. re: JMF

                                        From Amazon:

                                        http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&...

                                        Can't tell if some of these are the same product. Haven't started reading on the forum yet but is it user friendly for an absolute beginner? And can you 'hold my hand' :) if I get in over my head? TIA.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Yes, that's it. The forum is pretty easy to read. The Bradley is very easy to use.

                                          Also if you are at all handy there are lessons there about how to add a double thermometer PID (controls both the temp. in the smoker, and monitors the meat internal temp.), fan, 2nd heating element., etc. I recommend buying the "Original" and adding those other items.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            Thanks. Bob is VERY handy. He blames it on having had a 100 y.o. house and a middle class income. He HAD to figure things out. I appreciate your advice, JMF.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Keep an eye on the Bradley Original Smoker every day for a few weeks and if it gets below $300 it's a great deal. I did this for a few months and got mine for $251.94 during the holidays (a week or two before x-mas) when there was a 3 day special price. This happens quite often throughout the year, but especially before major holidays. (MSR is $429.00.)

                                              1. re: JMF

                                                Great shopping tip! I really, REALLY like good deals :)

                                                1. re: JMF

                                                  Hey JMF, what say you about this one (unless it's the one you're talking about):

                                                  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007...

                                                  Pretty decent price, no?

                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                    That one has $42 shipping so makes it comparable to the more expensive one with free shipping.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      With the shipping that comes to $316.62.

                                                      By watching awhile I got it for $251.94 with free shipping, but not including sales tax.

                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                        But this is the one you are recommending, correct?

                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          Yes, the Bradley Original Smoker.

                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                            Thx!

                                                        2. re: JMF

                                                          I pretty much always 'filter' with free shipping :)

                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                            Just found this:

                                                            http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/2...

                                                            Including shipping, it's $261 and no sales tax. Are you familiar with this company? Sounds like a very good deal.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              A copper core cookware set? Did you meant to link to that?

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                Oh crap, no :) That was in a different thread. Thanks.

                                                                http://www.meatprocessingproducts.com...

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Wow, $229.95 after the extra $10 special sale, no tax, how much is shipping? $31? That's a great price, lowest I've ever seen. I'd grab it if you are looking for a Bradley.

                                                                  I'm not familiar with that company, but Bradley has a 1 year warranty, and great customer service. They had a problem for awhile with 1 batch of the cooking elements and even though my warranty was over they sent me TWO replacements, just in case.

                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                    Just about to grab :) Thanks for the support. Do you think I should go ahead and also grab some bisquettes from them or buy elsewhere? They're on sale for $9. We're leaving the country in under two weeks and will be gone til the end of Sept. so not likely to try it out (dagnabbit!) til we return. What I don't see is the weight. We have a shed right by where we'd likely use it so don't know if I should get the cover - also on sale. And as long as I'm picking your big, beautiful :) brain, is there a particular smoke flavor that you prefer. To begin, we'd likely be doing meats rather than fish. I'll wait to grab til I hear back from you. Thanks a lot, JMF.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Definitely get lots of the bisquettes. That is a good price for a 24 pack. If they have samplers that's a good place to start. If not, Hickory is always good to have, also maple, apple or other fruitwood, and the whiskey oak is interesting.

                                                                      I never used my cover. I guess I would have if I left it out, but I have both an awning on my deck like I mentioned, and also got that utility cabinet which is where it stays when not in use.

                                                                      It's more enjoyable to use in cooler weather, so by the time you get back you'll be wanting to start. before you head out of town spend time going through the Bradley forum. Cut and paste posts of interest. Look up the dual temp. PID, fan kit, second heating element modification, etc. I highly recommend all three before you even start. Also metal puck savers which are metal disks the size of the bisquettes. Three of them are put in line after the bisquettes and you set the smoke timer an hour longer. they push the last bisquettes along so they don't sit and burn to ash.

                                                                      http://www.susanminor.org/forums/show...

                                                                      http://smokeandstuff.com/index.php/pr...

                                                                      http://forum.bradleysmoker.com/index....

                                                                      http://www.yardandpool.com/Bradley-Sm...

                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                        THANKS!!!! Just ordered with about five different 'flavors' of bisquettes. Bob's been reading about smoking ever since I happened on this deal :)

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Thanks for the link, co. Just ordered my smoker with apple, hickory and maple bisquettes as well as a cover.

                                                                          WOOT.

                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            Woohooo!!!! And I just sent the link to Alan and he's thinking about it :) And thanks JMF for the education.

                                                    2. re: JMF

                                                      Making an Amazon shopping list for a couple of books. I've seen people recommend one of those thermometer whete the probe stays inside and the 'gauge' is on the outside. But it sounds like you have that double one. If to start with, I just use my regular old instant read am I going to lose a significant amount of heat by opening it to check? TIA.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        You definitely don't want to open that door. Get one of these, or something similar. You run the probe and wire down through the top vents, (which should always be fully opened.)
                                                        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...

                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                          Just put that in the cart. Thanks. And thanks to the other. Great advice.

                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                            Is the maverick thermometer any different from a regular digital thermometer? I ask b/c we already have one for our oven, and it works just fine.

                                                            But ..... if one needs a *speshul* smoking thermometer, I'd like to know.

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              As long as it has a probe with a cord so it can go into the meat through the top vent it should be fine.

                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                Yep. Goodie. No purchase needed, then.

                                                                Thanks again, JMF, you've been (and continue to be) incredibly helpful!

                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                  Yeah, mine aren't like that so I ordered the Maverick. Along with the Ruhlman book and Smoke & Spice. Free shipping for a total just under $75. Not bad. Bob's getting pretty jazzed about getting into this whole new area of cooking.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    One thing I do every time I use the smoker is smoke salt or sugar. I put one layer of paper towel on the top shelf or top two shelves and pour a 1/2" thick layer of salt or sugar and let it smoke. I put it away and put it through several runs of the smoker until it has as much smoke flavor as I want. The salt and sugar only pick up the smoke, not any meat flavor or aroma. I use the smoked salt or sugar to bring smoke into a recipe for an added flavor.

                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                      That's brilliant! I can see a little of that salt on a garden fresh tomato. Why don't YOU write a book??? I think linguafood and I are going to be driving you crazy :)

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I have tons of books I could write, but I got a bit burnt out as a writer. Back in 2006-08 I wrote 649 paid, published pieces on food and drink in two years and two months. That comes out to around one a day, six days a week. I only write special research articles for the occasional company now. If I had the time and money to just write again I would get some of these books done, but... I have three autobiographical ones in mind, each covering a different decade and career. Then a few cocktails books, cook books, etc.

                                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                                          Wow! But I'm not surprised.

                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                              If you're lookin' you aint cookin'

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                For the vast majority of your cooking time you want a thermometer that leaves the probe in the meat and the indicator outside of the smoker. There are a number of companies that make these and they are not expensive. Mavrick has several for under $25. You don't want to keep opening the lid to the smoker, letting out heat as you cook.

                                                                I have started using what is commonly referred to as the Texas crutch, where near the end of the smoking cycle you wrap the meat in foil and finish if off for about 2 hours or so. When I wrap the meat in foil, I don't want a hole in it, so I don't leave or reinsert the probe. In about 2 hours I'll open the top of the smoker again and stick the meat with my Thermapen instant read. This is one small hole in the foil, and by that time the meat is always up to the required temperature or at least very close and the small hole isn't letting heat and moisture out for very long, assuming I wrapped it in foil at the right temperature. I usually wrap it after it has reached 170°F and has stalled there for a couple to a few hours. For brisket I'm shooting for 195°F internal temperature on the flat and 205°F on the point. For a pork butt I want to hit 205°F internal temperature. I then wrap the meat in another layer of foil and a large old towel and put it in an ice chest to let it rest fo 2-3 hours. This makes for very tender and very moist brisket or pork butt, that is still nice and hot.

                                                      2. re: JMF

                                                        ISTR that Bradleys require use of their proprietary smoke pucks, don't they?

                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                          Yes, but there are others making the pucks as well. The pucks are just shredded wood that is loosely formed under pressure, no other additives or ingredients besides wood. If you have the equipment you can make them yourself. This is actually discussed on the forum. http://forum.bradleysmoker.com/

                                                          Also, they are very efficient. One puck lasts 20 minutes and they produce enough smoke that you only have to have 1-3 hours of smoke out of a 4-10 hour cook time.

                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                            I've owned a couple of Bradley La-z-ques. It really doesn't get much easier. Perfect sides of salmon every time. The only downside is cutting briskets in half to fit.

                                                            1. re: ferret

                                                              Damn you can get your hands on some nice fat briskets! I have to go to specialty butchers to get briskets that size Nowadays. the ones I get at the local market I can fit 6-8 in the Bradley.

                                                              How did you go through more than one Bradley? Mine is indestructible, especially after my overhaul and fine tuning.

                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                Fried the electronics. Left it out year-round (smoked a lot through Chicago winters) and the heavy snows took their toll.

                                                                Second one got put back into the garage after each use.

                                                                1. re: ferret

                                                                  That will do it. They seem indestructible, but they are electronic. I keep mine outside, but got a plastic weatherproof housing for it and the accessories, and also keep it under a year round awning on the deck.

                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                    I've had mine for about three years now and while I leave it out in the Montana winters, I also got the cover to go with it and I shovel the snow away from it. I also shield the controller/puck feeder unit with tin foil when using it in inclement weather.

                                                                    I've lost one heating element (Bradley sent me two replacements, though. No problems with the electronics. The door is starting to lose pieces pf plastic, amd is starting to rub on the base plate. Not indestructible. but gets used a lot. I'm building an awning over it next week.

                                                                    1. re: JWVideo

                                                                      Good to know. We live in snow country but NOTHING like Montana :) But it could go under the deck and then have a cover. It's also pretty rare that our temps go below the teens.

                                                                      1. re: JWVideo

                                                                        I keep mine in this when not in use. Just big enough to hold everything including PID, electrical cords, wood chips, etc. There are larger ones where you can set everything in place, mounted, and with a smokestack, and never have to take it out. If you have a firm surface you can even mount on a dolly. Waterproof Plastic.
                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...

                                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                                          That looks great...and reasonably priced.

                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                            MY SMOKER ARRIVED, MY SMOKER ARRIVED!!!

                                                                            Will start this weekend (and perhaps a new thread for smoking newbs and tips, etc., since I'm pretty clueless):

                                                                            :-)

                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                              just live on the bradley forum board for a few days. that'll fixya.

                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                Aw. But CH is my home for everything food.....

                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                  Oh, wow, I'm so excited for you!!! And jealous. Definite disadvantage to living on the Left Coast. Keep us posted. Please.

                                                                              2. re: linguafood

                                                                                I just got an email that mine has shipped!!!!!!! Unfortunately we're leaving the country midweek so will likely wait til we get back to use it. But really excited!!! JMF, you (and others) really started the ball rolling :)

                                                                            2. re: JWVideo

                                                                              We've had several Bradleys over the years and love them. The weakest links do seem to be the plastic parts and door frames, as well as the heating units. But the parts are cheap and easy to replace. They're not meant for 24/7 use but we punish ours pretty hard and they work like little soldiers. I recommend the covers if you are going to leave them outdoors, even if under an overhang. And if you are going to use in the rain, even if sheltered, use a half-gallon mason jar inverted over the feed tube to keep the pucks dry.

                                                                              Be careful not to overload the unit with really juicy stuff like Pork Shoulders. We did that once -- after all, you CAN fit eight of 'em in there, right? -- and the juices saturated the incoming pucks, which ballooned up and jammed the incoming feed tray and caused a chain reaction pileup of jammed pucks and no smoking got done that night while we were asleep.

                                                                              And no matter what anyone says, do NOT get the Mesquite pucks. They are Nasty. Mesquite is fine for grilling a steak but it is just too bitter for smoking, which exposes your food to the flavor for hours.

                                                                              And everyone does know that the "Special Blend" pucks are just the combined floor sweepings at the end of the production runs when they really don't know what kind of sawdust it is, right? They'd be great if they were half-price or something, but not at full price.

                                                                              1. re: acgold7

                                                                                Thanks for some terrific practical advice! Just checked my order and I didn't order the mesquite. Also got 24 for $9 and looked on Amazon where 48 were $25 so I guess I did pretty well. It appears that places like Home Depot sell them also. REALLY looking forward to getting into this.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  That site does have really good prices and I've bookmarked it for future reference. We buy the 120 packs 10 at a time and their price is close to the best I've seen.

                                                                                  1. re: acgold7

                                                                                    I probably should have ordered more since at three an hour times two or three hours, it's pretty easy to run through them.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      Just want to mention to all these people looking at puck style electric smokers that they really need to check out Smokin It and Smokin Tex electric smokers. They use standard wood pieces like you can buy at Lowes or Home Depot, $7 or so for huge bags that will last you a very long time. I really can't get over the cost of those pucks and how many that are used per hour. I spend probably $0.25 on wood per smoke.

                                                                2. re: JMF

                                                                  Can you run the heat element without smoke to finish long cook items such as a big shoulder or brisket? Also heat vs. coals, what's an average cook time for the typical 14lb butt?

                                                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                    Yes, it is typical to keep cooking after the smoke cycle is done. If you get an additional two temp. probe PID you can set the temp. so that the smoker comes to a certain temp. then holds for as many hours as you want. There is a bowl inside to hold water so humidity stays up, and when the food comes to the amount of hours at whatever internal temp. it can hold. So you can actually set it to be done and hold at whatever temp. and serve when ready. Actual temps. and cooking times... the online discussion forum has thousands of peoples input, and the recipes that have been proven perfect hundreds of times are listed for every item you can imagine.

                                                                3. I'm yet another WSM owner/fan. My friend who got me into smoking originally had an offset that he had built in Texas. It took a tremendous amount of work. I on the other hand bought my 22.5 WSM and have been thrilled with it. It's easy to control (we live in N.J.) in our climate. Yes, when it's cold out it burns more fuel, when warm less fuel but in terms of holding temperature (which is really what you want to do) it's a charm.
                                                                  Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

                                                                  1. I have the Brinkmann Smoke and Grill - actually, I'm on my third one in the last 21 years. It will certainly hold enough for a crowd of 8 to 10, especially if you use three blocks to support an extra third rack on top of the second.
                                                                    CP

                                                                    1. I had a Brinkman bullet style smoker and hated it. The Weber Smokey Mountain gets good reviews. We have a barrel smoker with a firebox on the side. It is a littel tough to regulate the smoke and temperature however. I actually have produced some good smoked meats just using a regular Weber Kettle Grill.

                                                                      1. Heck, who doesn't want an egg?! If you're just starting out in the smoking world the WSM can't be beat considering both price and performance

                                                                        1. So here's my 2¢ worth, I have and LOVE my Trager Grill. Have done pork butts and briskets and ribs. You can buy different wood pellets to smoke with and has a high setting for 400 degrees.
                                                                          Danny

                                                                          1. If you can get a Big Green Egg ( they come in different sizes) I think you'd be pretty happy. They are amazing.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                              Costco has been closing out of their remaining Kamado grills for the last several weeks at about half off from summer prices. Effectively the same as the BGE but for under $400.

                                                                            2. Without question the WSM is the biggest bang for the buck! I took an all day "Backyard Smoking Basics" class from the Midwest BBQ Institute, it was tought by an Americian Royal BBQ champion in Kansas City. This was a bring what you smoke on class, there was everything from a Weber kettle grill to a $15,000 custom smoker. There were several WSMs including my son-in-law and I. The guys with the horizontal units with a smoke box on the end had a hell of a time just smoking a rack of ribs in a timely fashion. The instructor said on many opportunities that the easiest smoker and one that is often used in competitions is the WSM. We got the certificate for the best ribs of the day with ours.

                                                                              We each have the 18.5 and I can get 4 8-9 lb pork buts on it (with both racks) or 2 full packers, or 3-4 flats depending on size. It easily will take a whole 12 lb turkey on each rack. My son-in-law has a neighbor with the 22.5 and he complains about not being able to get that much more on it and it takes more charcoal. You can feed a lot of people with what you can fit on an 18.5" WSM. The only drawback in my opinion is you can't do a whole lot of ribs, maybe 8 racks if you smoke them vertical in a rack and bend them around to fit in the smoker. The last time I did ribs I had to applogize to my guests for the meat falling off the bone so easily.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: mikie

                                                                                Shame on you for overcooking those ribs!

                                                                                LoL

                                                                              2. I'm fairly new to smoking but I own a 18.5 WSM and done 3 smokes at full capacity in a month. Its excellent at keeping temp, although it can be tricky if it's windy. I purchased a insulator from bbqguru but that hasn't come in yet. ~ 10 pounds of good briquettes with a healthy amount of wood will easily give you 13+ hours of smoke at 220F. Very easy to clean too.

                                                                                20 Replies
                                                                                1. re: PTR7464614882

                                                                                  What I've been reading is that one doesn't need smoke the entire time. Maybe two or three hours out of, say eight. Do you have anyway to stop the smoke?

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    I don't have a WSM but have done a lot of smoking. There are a couple of ways to stop the smoke. With something like the WSM you can simply stop adding wood chips to the fire. Charcoal briquettes don't throw off a lot of smoke on their own. The other way to stop the smoke is to wrap the meat in foil. I do this sometimes because I have over smoked some meat in the past to the point that the meat tastied like a campfire.

                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                      The only reason meat would taste like a campfire is if you have an unclean fire burning.

                                                                                      1. re: JayL

                                                                                        I wondered about that too. But the only wood involved was oak. What I think happened was I had a lot of smoke but not enough heat so I left the meat exposed to the smoke too long in an effort to get the meat to the correct temperature.

                                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                                      There is absolutely no reason to stop the smoke during a cook. None.

                                                                                      1. re: JayL

                                                                                        Then why do the competitive BBQ people wrap their meat? They do it to get tenderness but the result is to stop the smoking of the meat.

                                                                                        I realize they are still using heat from the smoke to create the heat, but the heat can also be created without smoke.

                                                                                        1. re: JayL

                                                                                          In theory, that's true, but in practice, especially with a Bradley, as the sub thread above indicates, there are plenty of reasons to stop the smoke. The main reason is that you just don't need it after four or six hours or so. The meat stops absorbing smoke flavor after it reaches a certain temperature anyhow so all you are doing is building up creosote on the outside, and if you have a Bradley you're just wasting pucks. If you have ever had an over-smoked chicken that tasted like a telephone pole, you know what I mean..

                                                                                          Whether you give your pork shoulder or brisket 6 hours of smoke or 16, it won't taste any smokier, and in fact if you remove it from the smoker after 4 or 6 hours and finish it in the oven, sealed, it'll come out juicier and more tender, albeit without that hard burned "bark" that many people pretend to love. I'd rather have it all be smoky, tender and juicy than have dried-out burned bits, but that's just my personal taste.

                                                                                          1. re: acgold7

                                                                                            The old adage of "meat stops absorbing smoke after a certain temperature" is completely false.

                                                                                            Alot of people have taken the conversations about smoke ring formation out of context and applied it to smoke flavor.

                                                                                            Believe what you want...

                                                                                            If you're getting dry parts, that isn't the pits fault.

                                                                                            Also, competitors wrap for a few reasons...one is for tenderness (steaming of the meat), wrapping is a way of holding meat to keep it warm until turn-in, and third is because they want the meat a certain color (wrapping helps stop the meat from getting any darker).

                                                                                            I will admit to having no experience with a Bradley or any other type of pellet/wood puck smoker. I use wood...either offset or direct by way of burning fresh coals from whole logs.

                                                                                            1. re: acgold7

                                                                                              I have to agree....It's not necessary or desirable to smoke for the entire cook session, 'specially with poultry. Here's another topic to kick around over a few beers: whether or not to soak the smoking material in water. If Chow were listening, they'd get us all together for a smoke-off, be one hell of a chow tip

                                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                                Smoking poultry the entire cook is not a bad thing...again, unless you don't know what you're doing. If you have no clue, you can ruin chicken in under 20 minutes.

                                                                                                Soaking...you want your wood to BURN not smolder. If you're smoking you want a clean burning fire. I am specifically speaking of a wood fire...chips should not enter that equation.

                                                                                                1. re: JayL

                                                                                                  NOT! Jay - Bring your smoker over, I'll show ya how to use it!

                                                                                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                                    LoL

                                                                                                    Show me how to use a smoker because I know how to use wood and don't find it necessary to stop using it midway through the cook?

                                                                                                    Or is it because I say smoldering isn't good?

                                                                                                    This shouldn't be a matter of "I know how and you don't."

                                                                                                    It's different methods. Plain and simple.

                                                                                                    Most of what I have said above is to push buttons.

                                                                                                    BBQ can be cooked with whatever amount of smoke you wish. I can accept most methods as "just another way."

                                                                                                    But if anyone declares that you can not produce excellent product when using smoke during 100% of the cook, that person does not know what they are talking about. And that is a fact.

                                                                                                    No pushing buttons in this reply...just simple facts and my opinion (which accepts most methods). Truly.

                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                            I'm not an expert, but that's why I took the all day BBQ class from the Midwest BBQ Institute taught by a past Grand Champion of the American Royal. The instructor is a professional chef and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so he's my expert.

                                                                                            In our class literature he clearly states that meat protein sets at 120 degrees F internal temperature. Once the protein sets it cannot and will not absorb any more smoke flavor. He also states he only uses wood for the first two hours of smoking. Excessive wood, can lead to a harsh flavor on the outside of your meat. Pork butts take more smoke because of the amount of fat. To get the most smoke ring start with very cold but not frozen meat, that provides the largest window to 120 degrees.

                                                                                            On the WSM I use about 4 chunks of hickory and 2-3 chunks of cherry. On a brisket this gives me about 1/4 to 3/8 inches of smoke ring.

                                                                                            From my class notes the first flavor should be the actual food, second is the bark (the rub), third is the smoke and not too much.

                                                                                            1. re: mikie

                                                                                              I've heard that about low temp. smoke penetration. I've also heard that once the collagen starts to break down and the meat starts to get tender, the smoke can penetrate again. I'd love if Harold McGee or the Modernist crew or some other food scientists would look into this. I have to take a look through my Modernist Cuisine again and see if they covered this. (I've only read it twice and it is way too much info to remember it all.)

                                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                                That collagen/penetration thing makes sense. I do a pork shoulder that goes for many hours and its texture, inside and out, is totally different than when it starts. It would be easy for anything to penetrate I'm thinking.

                                                                                              2. re: JayL

                                                                                                Sorry to ask a dopey question, but you say "cooking with wood", do you mean cooking over wood (instead of charcoal), or do you mean you add some chips the whole time you are cooking?

                                                                                                1. re: Westy

                                                                                                  I don't cook with chips.

                                                                                                  There are two basic methods of cooking barbecue with wood. You either have a fire burning away from the food in a separate part of the pit (indirect) or you place live coals under the food (direct).

                                                                                                2. re: mikie

                                                                                                  Was that APL?

                                                                                                3. re: c oliver

                                                                                                  If anyone really cares to debate this further, there's lot's of discussion about this over in Home Cooking.

                                                                                                  No wonder people get into fistfights over stuff like this. Yeesh. Nothing gets people all het up like barbecue.

                                                                                                  1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                    Agreed. And I'm going to check those out. BBQ, knives, cookware, tipping, kids in restaurants, etc. :)

                                                                                              3. I have been on my back with an aggravated lumbar injury for two days now...and have been a bit more ornery than usual.

                                                                                                Some of my comments are downright rude (even though mostly true).

                                                                                                I said earlier that there are many ways to produce good BBQ...and I meant that.

                                                                                                No one way is right (although some are more traditional than others).

                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: JayL

                                                                                                  Agreed ! (the many ways part).

                                                                                                  I forget which bbq place in Austin it is, but the owner cooks his beef clod "fast and hot." It is a running joke, all day long customers tell him he cooks it "low and slow." "Nope. Fast and hot."

                                                                                                  1. re: JayL

                                                                                                    And what cook who is serious about smoking doesn't get cranky every now and then?

                                                                                                    I'll agree that no one way is right, there are some that are just plain wrong!

                                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                      <I'll agree that no one way is right, there are some that are just plain wrong!>

                                                                                                      Are you referring to boiling ribs?

                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                        That's one.

                                                                                                    2. re: JayL

                                                                                                      Yes, there are many ways to skin a cat, no, I'm not BBQing anyone's cat. But I think there are some general guidelines and principles that produce a better chance of having a great BBQ. Some of the differences are due to equipment. I use a WSM, I have used briquetts and lump charcoal, I can't really taste a difference, but the class instructor insisted that lump is superior. I have used waded news paper in my chiminy starter and Weber fire starters, agian, I can't tell the difference, the instructor insisted the ink in the newsprint taints the flavor of the food. I can tell you that the guy has more finely developed taste buds than I do. He could taste my secret ingredient in my rib rub and there was only a pinch of it in there.

                                                                                                      1. re: mikie

                                                                                                        Newsprint INK makes a difference in taste?? I call BS on that one! Is he subsidized by Weber?

                                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                          There is no way newsprint ink flavor is around by the time the coals are fully burning. It's just too hot. Although color ink is lousy for using to start the coals. It just doesn't seem to burn well and just smolders.

                                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                                            Well that's what I think as well, but that's what the man said.

                                                                                                            I'm telling you I put a pinch of oragino in about 2 cups of rub for the ribs, I'm Italian, oragino goes in everything, and the guy picked it up. I knew it was in there and couldn't taste it.

                                                                                                    3. Check out the Grill Dome smoker - better in almost every way than a BGE, and less expensive for a comparable size.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: StevieG.

                                                                                                        Really? Name some of the things you think are better.

                                                                                                        1. re: StevieG.

                                                                                                          Years ago, BGE was pretty much alone in the market but in recent years many ceramic cookers have come onto the scene. I question the claimed "improvements" and think warranty terms & having a local dealer with a long track record of good customer support is key. If its BGE in one area, I would lean that direction. If its Grill dome in a different area, I would lean that way. I would not internet order or buy from a big box store that drops product lines like hot potatoes and then offers zero support.

                                                                                                          As for claimed improvements such as stainless steel hardware, I am not sure its an improvement. Stainless comes in many qualities from very good & expensive IE: Old Weber burners which lasted for ever to very cheap imported SS IE: $400 - $500 big box store SS grills which perform miserably & end up at the curb in 5 to 7 yrs avg.

                                                                                                          Bottom line is the thick steel hardware on the BGE w/a powder baked finish has held up very well in terms of corrosion, maintaining structural strength & minimal expansion & has a track record of close to 40 YEARS to prove it (vs) about a 5 yr track record with the thin SS hardware made of ???? quality SS. Maybe SS is better, "time" will tell.

                                                                                                          Ceramics: Many years of R&D and tweaking with the BGE formula & they seem to have a pretty good reputation and again, close to 40 year track record and a lifetime ceramics warranty (vs) a NON lifetime ceramics warranty and little or no long term track record with many other brands.

                                                                                                        2. You think the 18" WSM is too small? Lots of folks have built mini-WSMs - based on on a 14" smokey Joe - check out this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=... for info go to www.virtualweberbullet.com/miniwsm.html‎ and for more info the a reasonable man could want, check out http://tvwbb.com/forumdisplay.php?74-...

                                                                                                          A different alternative is a Char Griller Akorn http://www.amazon.com/Char-Griller-06...

                                                                                                          1. Hello Westy, although you've already bought your smoker, other users might need help.

                                                                                                            The choice of a new smoker actually depends on 2 simple things:
                                                                                                            1) What kind of smoker you need
                                                                                                            2) What's your budget

                                                                                                            For the first point, you have essentially 4 options, based of the fuel used:
                                                                                                            - Electric
                                                                                                            - Gas/Propane
                                                                                                            - Charcoal/Wood
                                                                                                            - Pellet

                                                                                                            Now, do you want a set and forget kind of smoker?
                                                                                                            Then a Gas/Propane or Electric smoker is for you.
                                                                                                            The only drawback is that you won't have that "real" smokey flavor on the meat you smoke. But the smoking experience is going to be really simple and straightforward.

                                                                                                            If you want that flavor, then a charcoal smoker is for you. It's a little more complicated to use (you'll learn and get used to it), and you'll need wood/charcoal to smoke meat.
                                                                                                            The WSM (weber smokey mountain) you mentioned is available is 3 sizes: I'm sure the larger one will suit your needs.

                                                                                                            Then you have offset pellet smoker: set, forget and eat a well smoked meat. These are expensive and might not fit your budget.

                                                                                                            Down to the 2nd point, if your budget is under $500 dollars, you can find very good charcoal/wood, gas/propane and electric smokers. Id you want pellet smokers, you'll spend over $500.

                                                                                                            This was just a brief intro, if you need further help check this updated informative guide at http://www.thegrillking.org

                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: robertbrown5519

                                                                                                              Here's a link to where I got my electric Bradley Smoker for $240. Not sure why you think you don't get REAL smoky flavor. You certainly do.

                                                                                                              http://www.meatprocessingproducts.com...

                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                Ditto.

                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                  I know several people who use a Bradley type smoker and get very good results with very little fuss.

                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    Don't worry...I think your Bradley would fall under the same category as pellet smokers. ;-)

                                                                                                                    1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                      Jay, I'm not worried in the least :) I just wish Mr. Brown, owner of the site in his post, would reply. Always want advice from experts :)

                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                        Hello, yes you're right.

                                                                                                                        I certainly exaggerated things, sorry for that. You will get great results with an electric/gas smoker, but [that's my opinion] the smokey flavor you get with a charcoal/wood smoker is unbeatable. Pellet smokers are also outstanding but price is usually very high.

                                                                                                                        Electric/gas smokers are great for beginners, as they're fairly easy to use.

                                                                                                                        On the other hand, if you get a Weber Smokey Mountain or any other good charcoal smoker you'll first have to master the art of smoking (learn how to built a fire, find the right temperature etc.), but in my opinion the results and overall smoking experience is better.

                                                                                                                        Please note that it's just my opinion, based on my personal experience.
                                                                                                                        Let me know if you have other questions... and check the site i linked above... You'll find everything i know about smoking meat!

                                                                                                                2. Wow!!! I guess you never expected all these replies eh Westy??
                                                                                                                  This year I swore that I would try to re-create as close as possible a smoked meat brisket like what they serve at Schwartz's and Smoked Meat Pete. My search for a smoker got me to this thread. It seems like the WSM comes highly recommended. My search has not ended but I congratulate you for a very lively thread. I shall keep my eyes on this thread and participate in the future.
                                                                                                                  Good luck and please tell us which one you bought!!!

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: SmokedMeatMac

                                                                                                                    You know what? I figured out I can do pretty well with my portable kitchen (it allows the user to manipulate all 4 vents, has thick aliumminum sides, a grate i can open while cooking).
                                                                                                                    So far, everything works. I may/may not get a Weber Smoky Mountain, but a little care made the PK Grill work just great.