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Eat, Drink, & Be Merry

Smoking Meat

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Smoking Meat

Unread postby Ziner » Mon May 23, 2011 11:36 am

and no, not the kind that goes on in CDT's garage.

Anyone do this? I am looking to buy my first smoker and I am leaning heavily towards propane for the ease of use. Not sure I want to deal with the expense, mess or maintenance of charcoal. Is this a mistake? Anyone use electric? I am thinking of starting off small and going with one similar to this http://www.homedepot.com/Outdoors-Grills-Grill-Accessories-Smokers-Fryers/h_d1/N-5yc1vZbx92/R-100661410/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053 I have seen it in person and it appears to be big enough to handle 2 pork shoulders.

Oh and I should add, I am a cheap bastard. I am not buying the Big Green Egg yet. I need to make sure I use this consistently enough before I drop that type of cash.

Advice anyone?

Really trying to lure Boston Butt in to this conversation.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby swerb » Mon May 23, 2011 12:12 pm

Boston Butt? Think Kaz Tadano would be a better reference point.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Cerebral_DownTime » Mon May 23, 2011 12:56 pm

How do you make a thread titled "Smoking Meat" and take a pot shot at me first line in?

Y'all just shit on me and shit on me. Hrmmmmph. I'm never coing back! You won't have ole CDT to kick around anymore.

If you need me i'll be at the Centerist Club on Center Street in Centerville.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby FUDU » Mon May 23, 2011 1:03 pm

^, lol.

Ziner, I think Brinkman makes a dual purpose grill, smoker on one side & gas grill on the other for under or near $200, just an FYI.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Ziner » Mon May 23, 2011 1:11 pm

http://www.lowes.com/webapp/wcs/stores/ ... 0MFY784CDP

actually this one was talked up as being a sub $200 smoker on a forum I found. Said it was better than the Brinkman.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby FUDU » Mon May 23, 2011 1:30 pm

Criminals in this town used to believe in things...honor, respect.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Ziner » Mon May 23, 2011 1:49 pm

Damn, that one for 299 looks nice. I guess my only issue is I have a decent grill that I paid a decent buck for. I dont really need a new gril... but maybe you are right for only 100 more i have an all in one set and I can sell that grill on craigslist or something.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Boston_butt » Mon May 23, 2011 4:12 pm

You ever meet those wine snobs that have a different type of wine glass for every varietal of grape? To them, how dare you pour a zinfandel into a syrah glass. Those people are called "pompous douchebags," and at the end of the day it isn't the glass you put the wine into as much as the wine you put into the glass. Oh, by the way, it doesn't taste any different, but congratulations for spending thousands of dollars needlessly on stemware.

It is exactly the same with barbecue snobs. They insist there is only one type of equipment to do the job properly, and if you don't use their recommended equipment, you're just doing it wrong.

I'm a Big Green Egg guy, and I'll articulate why I bought one below. But for me to insist to you that you have to get a BGE is like me insisting the only proper, um, smoked meat, will be delivered by a high school girl in the back seat of mom's station wagon as you're parked in the Metroparks after dark. Because, let's be honest, as long as your meat is being smoked at all, you're doing something right, and it would be the height of folly to suggest otherwise.

By the way, I'm abandoning that metaphor for the rest of this post. Henceforth, I'll be talking about barbecue when I refer to "smoking meat". So try to keep your dirty minds on topic please.

A little science lesson first. To get fire, you need three things: heat, oxygen, and fuel. A proper wood-fired smoker will work by creating the proper amount of fire by balancing the amount of oxygen the fuel receives. Too much oxygen and you get a conflagration, too little, the fire goes out. Just right and you get a controlled temperature and the right amount of smoke.

Electric and gas smokers will provide the heat as the limiting resource, and provide just enough of it in order to lightly toast the wood without setting it completely on fire. Of course, the wood needs to be wet to help to prevent a Waco-like flame up thereby rendering whatever you're trying to cook (or arrest) into charcoal.

If I've lost anyone so far, please go drink a gallon of bleach and remove yourself from the gene pool, because you are an idiot.

What does that all mean in terms of what the "best" smoker for you would be? Absofuckingloutely nothing. But I have a point, so stick with me. At least I hope I have a point. You never really know...

Let's talk about something more important: cooking technique. When you are smoking, you absolutely need to make sure you have three things: rigorous temperature control, proper smoke density, and proper smoke composition. Yeah, I know, this is Sesame Street stuff, but it is important to have the science fully in mind as you're making a buying decision.

Temperature control is the most vital. If your smoker ramps up on you, you'll turn whatever you're smoking into a shoe. If it ramps down on you, you won't be able to control the time and quality, and if it fluctuates between hot and cold, well, you're just completely fucked. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: any commercial smoker you buy can maintain a constant temperature. Like the specialized wine glasses, you're being fooled if you think you can't. Now, importantly, it won't do it by itself. When I was in college, I used to put all my books and notebooks in a pile with some pens and tell it to do itself, while I went out drinking (seriously, I actually used to do that). It didn't do itself, I got shitty grades, and, well, I didn't really care because I had fun. Anyway, some smokers are phonics and some are differential equations with complex variables, meaning some will get to a constant temperature easily and some take more work to keep steady.

What makes a smoker more or less work? Insulation (ceramic smokers) makes a huge difference, especially in a brisk C-town winter. Electric and gas are also easier by nature, as you can dial in the proper temperature. Suggestion - don't read the product reviews for what you want to buy, read message board posts and watch Youtube videos of people using them. If people love that product, videos and entire forae will exist telling you how to use it. You'll learn how easy or how hard it is to cook in a certain way.

As to the smoke itself, charcoal provides a nice clean neutral "smoke". By "charcoal", by the way, I mean actual wood that looks like it used to be wood burned anaerobically into coals. If it is a bunch of uniform squares, it produces a smoke that tastes like BP set up a drilling operation in your backyard and had Joseph Hazelwood supervise it. Hardwood provides different characteristics which are important - spice, bitterness, etc. Too much hardwood smoke and you'll have a bitter piece of meat. And this is where the important distinction between a gas/electric and a charcoal smoker comes into play.

A charcoal smoker can produce a nice mild smoke, give you that beautiful smoke ring, and still mix in just a hint of hardwood flavor to make the meat taste delicious. Electric or gas simply can't do that, but it isn't all bad. I've smoked on pretty much every type of equipment - I've even used wood chips on the stove in a wok to smoke some scallops (Mrs. Butt did not approve of that, by the way). I've smoked on a gas grill, basically just putting a pile of chips in a pan on one side over the burner and the meat on the other with the burner off. It is good, but riskier. You can overseason meat very easily, and you won't get that pure low and slow smoke ring. Again, this is a variable you may want to consider. You can, of course, also mix pure charcoal with your hardwood chips to give yourself a better smoke on your electric or gas.

I bought the BGE because the air flow is easy to do, the natural charcoal flavor is important, and the ceramic shell makes the whole thing easy. I can put something on there, go to sleep, and wake up with some beef ribs that make Houston Texans fans cry, embarrassed they got shown up by a guy from Cleveland who just served them ribs better than anything they've ever had in their life. Of course, watching Charlie Frye beat them in their home later probably made them cry worse. That being said, hell, you can make a smoker out of some old ceramic flower pots and a hot plate (yeah, I stole that from Alton Brown --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ka2kpzTAL8). And how cool would you be if you had one of those? You could even paint them in your favorite team logo or colors.

Tending the smoker is part of the fun of it, and whatever you decide to buy, you'll learn it like you learned your wife - it will have its own quirks and temperaments, things you will love about it, and things that will piss you off. But if you get to know it and respect it, the two of you will have a nice relationship. What would I recommend? Hey, it's completely up to you. If I tell you X is better than Y, that will always be in the back of your mind, and you'll never quite love the one you chose as much. It would be as if I told you that your wife was in the Metroparks with me that night. Why ruin a good romance?

Oh, and to the nice park policeman: yes, I understand it is a public park and not a hotel room. Thanks for the advice champ.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby peeker643 » Mon May 23, 2011 4:27 pm

Always the best post of the year. I hate you ;-) ;) :wink:

Did Ziner put a big, illuminated Z into the sky to get you to respond?
Somewhere tonight some poor dude is going to be looking to yank his crank, google 'smoked meat' and end up here reading about big green eggs and smoke control.

You know, now that I think about it, that might actually be how Ziner stumbled upon this site in the first place.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby swerb » Mon May 23, 2011 6:49 pm

The Boston Butt quality to post ratio is at off the charts levels. Guy is one of the top five posters in site history and he has six posts. And that avatar is outstanding.

I would follow this man into battle. I would vote him into political office knowing nothing about his policies. All off six posts.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Erie Warrior » Mon May 23, 2011 7:35 pm

That terra cotta smoker looked awesome. Might have a project for Memorial Day.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby FUDU » Mon May 23, 2011 10:58 pm

Phucking engineers.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Ziner » Tue May 24, 2011 9:57 am

Boston Butt is my hero.

All hail the king of smoking meat :nanner:
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby JCoz » Tue May 24, 2011 11:31 am

Nice post, I agree, and while I can't advocate a gas or electric smoker, and l love my weber smokey mountain, I do wish I'd considered spending the extra coin for a BGE on account of the insulation. I have my process dialed in, but make no mistake, it is a PROCESS, and while most days I do enjoy it, for some occasions I'd like the ability to set it and forget it, like the party we have for the fourth. I like to get lost in some horseshoes for a while.

Oh well, maybe someday, I'm a little preoccupied with my brewing this year.
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Re: Smoking Meat

Unread postby Ziner » Tue May 24, 2011 12:27 pm

See part of me thinks I would enjoy the fuss of charcoal sometimes, but the set it and forget it other times... perhaps my process will have to consist of me drinking my beer admiring the smoke.
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