A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Smoking meat - advice and progress

    For quite some time now, I've wanted to smoke meat for myself. I'm not saying I would go and buy a smoker immediately, but I have some questions related to potentially buying one. Do I need an expensive smoker for good quality results? What sort of features should I look for in a smoker? More general advice would also be appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.
    Last edited by Domino Quartz; 2021-10-20 at 09:09 AM. Reason: changing the title
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    Melayl's Avatar

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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    What kind of smoker are you thinking of? Charcoal, propane, electric, pellet?

    I will say that you do not need to buy an expensive smoker. Any smoker will produce quality results. Generally speaking, the more expensive the smoker, the less work and attention it will require to produce those results.
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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    I was looking at a charcoal smoker.
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    Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    ...He would have to stay there permanently (without cake, somehow not breathing) for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianSt View Post
    Maybe Blackwing is a Schrödinger's familiar.
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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    Expensive doesn't necessarily mean good. I've reviewed a lot of smokers over the past couple years (one of the sites I run is a grilling/smoking site) and there's really no correlation between price and quality unless we're talking about the real high end ones (like a Traeger pellet smoker).

    If you're looking for charcoal the criteria to meet are pretty simple. It needs to:

    1.) Have enough capacity for you to do what you want (this varies based on whether you're cooking just for yourself/your immediate family or want to be able to cater larger gatherings)

    2.) Have good insulation; usually if a smoker is double insulated and is made of quality materials (steel, typically, avoid aluminum) you're good

    ...That's about it honestly, for the basics. More expensive smokers are going to have nice quality of life features. Eg. the aforementioned pellet smokers have built in automatic temperature control, automatic feeding of the pellets, etc. so you can basically just set them and walk away for a few hours at a time without even thinking about them.

    Even if you buy the barest bones possible smoker you can actually tack on these features later (you can buy automatic temperature controllers, better damper valves, etc.) so you don't have to spend a ton up front.

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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    I've had several smokers over the years, all charcoal. My level of experience was more important in the outcome than the cost of the smoker.

    My absolute favorite was simply two huge Terra cotta pots with a couple of grates in them (for charcoal and meat) and a thermometer. Yes, I stole the idea from Good Eats, but I used charcoal instead of a hot plate. The hot plate had a breaker that kept shutting it off as it got hot enough to cause smoke in the wood chips. I smoked a whole turkey on it for Thanksgiving that first year...

    Sadly, after a couple of years it got cracked and I couldn't use it any more.

    I currently just use a large charcoal grill, and it works quite well.

    I'd just buy a charcoal grill or smoker in a decent price range for you and start trying. Practice is more important to your outcomes than the smoker itself.

    Good luck, and have fun!
    Last edited by Melayl; 2021-09-13 at 12:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    Thank you very much for your advice everyone! Sorry I didn't reply for so long.
    Quote Originally Posted by Melayl View Post
    I've had several smokers over the years, all charcoal. My level of experience was more important in the outcome than the cost of the smoker.

    ...

    I currently just use a large charcoal grill, and it works quite well.

    I'd just buy a charcoal grill or smoker in a decent price range for you and start trying. Practice is more important to your outcomes than the smoker itself.

    Good luck, and have fun!
    That's very reassuring. I've been looking at (like I said) a portable charcoal smoker, various accessories (like meat thermometers and such), charcoal, and wood chip blends, as well as smoking tutorials. Once I feel like I'm ready, I'll order the items and get started. I have to say, I am rather nervous. The only cooking experience I have is in the kitchen.
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    ...He would have to stay there permanently (without cake, somehow not breathing) for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianSt View Post
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    Any given member of the Order needs to do a quantum measurement to see if they remember him

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    Quote Originally Posted by Domino Quartz View Post
    I have to say, I am rather nervous.
    You got this.

    You have done your homework and now all that is left is trying and experiencing.
    Another fine mess you've gotten me into....

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    And don't let a bad first experience throw you off. It's like with pancakes. The first one is always a throwaway.
    Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett

    "Magic can turn a frog into a prince. Science can turn a frog into a Ph.D. and you still have the frog you started with." Terry Pratchett
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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    Quote Originally Posted by farothel View Post
    And don't let a bad first experience throw you off. It's like with pancakes. The first one is always a throwaway.
    Indeed. My first couple of tries were... edible. Now, if it's a meat, I can make it taste great!

    Just have fun.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    Quote Originally Posted by farothel View Post
    And don't let a bad first experience throw you off. It's like with pancakes. The first one is always a throwaway.
    Yes, great point. Many of the best things I have learned to make started with a failure or three.
    Another fine mess you've gotten me into....

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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    A few more general questions to consider as you plan your purchase:

    How much/ what meats are you interested in smoking? This can effect the size and style you pick. Do you want to be able to smoke two turkeys for the extended family Christmas dinner? A large brisket? Several pork butts? Nothing more than a half rack of ribs or a couple of steaks?

    How easy/ how much prep work do you want to do before smoking something? It's easier to impulse buy a couple of nice steaks and smoke them for dinner on a pellet or electric smoker than a large wood-fired one.

    What's your climate / when are planning on smoking? A smaller smoker, particularly an electric one, will struggle to maintain temperature during cold days. You might need a tent or temporary shed to block the wind and maintain heat.

    As a general tip: the fattier the meat, the easier is to have it come out tasty and juicy. Sausage is probably the easiest. Pork will be easier than poultry.

    Bluetooth or wireless thermometers are worth it. Being able to stick the probe in and read it from inside the nice comfy house is amazing.

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    Domino Quartz's Avatar

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    Default Re: Potentially buying a smoker

    Thanks for the encouragement, everyone! I've ordered a relatively small charcoal smoker (roughly cylindrical; about 80cm [31.5"] high and 42.5cm [16.73"] in diameter), and some smoking-related items (charcoal, wood chips, charcoal chimney, meat thermometer, heat-proof gloves). The smoking-related items arrived late this morning, and the smoker itself should arrive sometime next week.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Cardew View Post
    How much/ what meats are you interested in smoking? This can effect the size and style you pick. Do you want to be able to smoke two turkeys for the extended family Christmas dinner? A large brisket? Several pork butts? Nothing more than a half rack of ribs or a couple of steaks?
    I'm mostly interested in smoking small-to-medium beef roasts to the point where they can be shredded and used as part of some other dish or eaten on a sandwich. I might try other meats at some point though.
    What's your climate / when are planning on smoking? A smaller smoker, particularly an electric one, will struggle to maintain temperature during cold days. You might need a tent or temporary shed to block the wind and maintain heat.
    I'm in the southern hemisphere, so it's early spring right now. I'm in Auckland, New Zealand, which generally has a fairly mild climate (though it does rain a lot in winter). It's a bit cool at the moment, though it is warming up. I'll aim for days with a clear forecast.
    As a general tip: the fattier the meat, the easier is to have it come out tasty and juicy. Sausage is probably the easiest. Pork will be easier than poultry.

    Bluetooth or wireless thermometers are worth it. Being able to stick the probe in and read it from inside the nice comfy house is amazing.
    Thanks for the advice. I'll consider buying a wireless thermometer sometime soon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    ...He would have to stay there permanently (without cake, somehow not breathing) for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianSt View Post
    Maybe Blackwing is a Schrödinger's familiar.
    Any given member of the Order needs to do a quantum measurement to see if they remember him

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    Rich is a better writer than that!
    Free speech?
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Domino Quartz's Avatar

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    Default Re: Smoking meat - advice and progress

    So, my smoker arrived about a week ago, and I smoked some meat (a topside roast, roughly equivalent to a top round in the US) with it today. I used lump charcoal and manuka wood chips. It was kind of fiddly to get everything started, and it took quite a long time for it to get up to the right temperature, but eventually it got going and I smoked the meat. Unfortunately, it wasn't very tender, most likely because I didn't smoke it for long enough. The reason for that is that it was 11pm and I hadn't had dinner yet. I think I'll need to get started earlier in the day next time. It still tasted good, though. I had it on a sandwich with a coleslaw that I made myself, with sort of home-made dressing (a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and MSG), and some barbeque sauce. I think I've learned some of what not to do, at least.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    ...He would have to stay there permanently (without cake, somehow not breathing) for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianSt View Post
    Maybe Blackwing is a Schrödinger's familiar.
    Any given member of the Order needs to do a quantum measurement to see if they remember him

    Azurite Name Inspirations
    Rich is a better writer than that!
    Free speech?
    3DS friend code: 3024-8274-5412
    3DS name: Ignispirus
    Friend Safari: Ghost - Shuppet, Pumpkaboo, Spiritomb

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Smoking meat - advice and progress

    I have found at times it is needed to try something a few times, no matter what you have read, there is always something different about doing it yourself.

    I wish you the best of luck on the next try.
    Another fine mess you've gotten me into....

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