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Nov 11, 2013 12:04 PM

Gas Smoker Beginners


After ordering and returning an electric smoker (electricity requirements did not agree with apartment life), my husband is looking forward to receiving his 30" vertical propane smoker.

Does anyone have experience with this type of thing, or any tips for getting started? We'll be good about reading all of the included info, but thought some of you might be able to share info or recipes from the best teacher. . .experience. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. Hi ADavis,

    I've had a $200 Smoke Vault propane smoker for the last couple of years and in that time have probably prepared at least twice as much food in it as I have in my $800 Weber grill. I have learned a lot from Meathead's web site. I regularly make up batches of and use his Memphis dust barbecue rub, plus I like the usefulness and scientific slant of the information he gives on every topic however remotely related to bbq.

    My smoker has a decent size pan for wood in the bottom, and while I'll throw in a few wood chips to start, I like to use the gourmet wood chunks I get from Vaughn Wood Products. They are available in several different hardwoods and come in perfect, clean 1 1/2" cubes, not like the uneven junk I've gotten from other purveyors.

    Above that is the water pan. After a couple of uses I learned that it made sense to line that with heavy duty alum foil so I didn't have to spend a lot of time cleaning it after every session.

    Now most smokers come with built-in thermometers, but you really need to know what the temps are in the area around the food, and within the food. So I use a dual probe remote thermometer (Maverick et732 long range bbq thermometer). With the gas smoker it is very difficult to regulate the smoke temperature, and I find I'll be out there every few minutes trying to tweak the dial a tiny bit higher or lower as the air temp increase, etc. And, since opening the door to check by hand with an instant read will release the smoke and the heat, the remote is the only sensible way to monitor the temp and know when your food is done or needs attention. (I should note that at $60 the 732 is not cheap though the best tool for the job. Plus, in less than two years, both of the probe cables shorted out requiring replacement at about $20 each).

    Then comes the fun. My smoker has three shelves. I usually figure if I'm going to prep and rub and babysit something to go in it, I might as well put more than one. So I'll do a couple of racks of ribs plus a chicken, or a turkey breast, or maybe some turkey thighs. Plus I also have a third rack at the very top, and occasionally I'll season and throw a lb of chicken livers in an aluminum foil tray on that top rack. If they don't het eaten on the way into the house, they'll get made into pate.

    But you'll find lots of books and lots of sites. Over time we've found that we can add great flavor to even less fatty cuts of meat and make it delicious -- and even stay within our Weight Watchers points guidelines. Plus, now, on the rare occassion we visit a barbecue restaurant, we find that theirs simply can't compare with what we make at home.

    Btw, last Christmas I smoked a turkey per the instructions on the Amazing Ribs web site and the results were excellent.

    1. I have several smokers but my favorite is the GOSM from Walmart:
      The only thing lacking is a thermostat, like a indoor gas oven.I also have a Bradley elecrtic for doing more delicate items like seafood where its more precise temperature control is advantageous. I was told a couple years ago that Masterbuilt had a propane smoker with a digital thermostat in their pipeline but I don't see it yet.That would be perfect for me. I would start doing simple things like pulled pork or ribs. You'll get the feel for how to adjust the temperatures but don't obsess about being exactly @ the recommended temperature. There's a lot of margin for error. Get a thermometer for checking the internal temperature of large cuts like pork butt & brisket. Besides the pocket thermometer I have a wireless digital unit that transmits the internal temperature to a receiver that I can carry with me. It costs about $30.00 a few years ago @ Costco. Like junescook, I've learned alot from I'm uber lazy and don't like to monitor my smoker all day. For example, for pulled pork I smoke for a few hours then put the meat in a cooking bag , like Reynolds Turkey Bag and finish in a low oven or better yet, a large slow cooker (crock pot) . Add the liquid with some vinegar & crushed red pepper flakes back into the chopped pork and you've got a treat!

      1. I'll repeat what the other said. A good thermometer is key, regardless of fuel source. Rely on the thermometer until you learn your smoker.