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Food Smokers: The Topic

Charcuterie

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#1 Jacqui Ingledew

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 01:57 PM

I'm thinking of purchasing a smoker. I have been browsing through catalogues online and the Bradley looks interesting. I can't find any reviews on the product though, does anyone have any feedback on this smoker? Can I use woods of my own selection in it or can I only use the briquettes made by the company?
Look forward to hearing your recommendations.

#2 Sam Salmon

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 08:28 PM

Here in British Columbia-home of smoked Salmon of multitudinous varieties-Bradley is considered King.

Not just for ease of use but because the units are so well engineered

However No you cannot use anything but Bradley Bisquettes-or pucks as they are known here.

#3 BBQ Brian

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 11:12 PM

Hey Jacqui,

It all depends on what ya wanna smoke... for fish, I'd quickly agree, Bradley's got the market well covered. For backyard meat smoking (ribs, pork...), Weber's Smokey Mountain is very popular and I hazard to state "standard" issue. Of course there are the larger horizontal-offset kettles that have a fire box off-set from the smoking "oven". And don't get me started on trying to describe the trailer format "stick burners" (aka bigger cash).

Things to consider:

- charcoal, wood type? or
- gas? or
- electric?

There are a number of experienced cooks who smoke here at eGullet - ask away...

Cheers,

Brian
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#4 Jacqui Ingledew

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 04:13 AM

Thank You Brian and Sam. My main reservation about getting this smoker is that I can't experiment with other woods as I will be restricted to those bisquettes manufactured by the company.
I'm starting to do my own sausages , hams , bacon etc.. and I really don't want to restrict myself especially as I live in a tropical country where there are a variety of interesting woods and flavours. I'll check out the Weber. Thanks again

#5 jackal10

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 04:21 AM

Do you want to hot smoke, such as BBQ or cold smoke, such as salmon or bacon?
Each smoker is optimised for diferent things.

You could build your own...

#6 BaconFat

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 12:05 PM

I've been really happy with my Kamado #7. It's very versitile; I can smoke ribs, butts, brisket, fish, oysters, bacon, etc. I can sear steaks like nobody's business. I can do breads and pizza really well.

It's basically a set it and forget machine. A single load of fuel (natural lump charcoal) will last >24 hrs for low and slow cooks. Once you get the hang of it, it is very easy to maintain temps from 120f - >1000f.

#7 MelissaH

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 12:08 PM

After my sad experience with a propane-powered smoker, I'm planning to purchase a WSM once I get my act together and let my life settle down after the first-week-of-the-semester mad rush.

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#8 dls

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 01:58 PM

Jacqui - I was in the market for a smoker (electric) a couple of years ago. Looked at a number of units, including Bradley. Ultimately chose to go with Cookshack. I rejected the Bradley for a number of reasons:

1. As mentioned, you're stuck with their pucks. If you smoke a lot, as I do, it gets expensive. With the Cookshack, I can adequately smoke 20lb-25lb of meat with 2oz-4oz of any wood I want.
2. I wanted a unit with no external moving parts since my unit sits outside (covered) in weather that, sometimes, gets pretty extreme. I felt, under the circumstances, it would be just a matter of time until the Bradley smoke generator failed.
3. The quality of the build of the Cookshack far exceeds the Bradley. The thing's built like a tank.
4. Customer service. I spoke with severl Bradley owners who, when they did encounter a problem, had trouble connecting with the customer service department. Just the opposite with Cookshack owners.

If you're going in the direction of an electric smoker, you owe it to yourself to compare the two brands.

#9 Jacqui Ingledew

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 03:34 PM

Do you want to hot smoke, such as BBQ or cold smoke, such as salmon or bacon?
Each smoker is optimised for diferent things.

You could build your own...

View Post



We want to do both...yes we have thought of building our own ...and it may yet come to that. !

Edited by Jacqui Ingledew, 03 February 2006 - 06:33 AM.


#10 BBQ Brian

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 08:50 AM

Jacqui,

I'm reading between the lines and interpretting that it appears you might be more of a cold-smoker. The indications were sausage, bacon and ham (to a degree for cold-smoking - sometimes hot-smoked)). With that in mind and the challenges you mentioned about your location, I'd point towards the electric/propane options for smokers. Why? Well, that type of smoker most often uses the pucks or pellets for smoke wood. These are typically easily available in North America and in turn via the internet for other locations... but in my opinion, they do a better job for cold smoking than the charcoal/wood burning units that are designed for hot-smoking.

If I was to turn my Webers into cold smoking units, I would need to re-engineer a bunch of things and face the task of not-too-sure-what-I'm-gonna-get-at-the-end-of-this scenario (learning curve). The electric/propane types will be a "set-it-and-forget-it" type of unit.

As for native types of wood for where you are, it simply and generally needs to be hard woods - they burn slower thus provide more smoking time.

I hope that helps.

Good luck,

Brian
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#11 Jacqui Ingledew

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 09:05 AM

Jacqui,

I'm reading between the lines and interpretting that it appears you might be more of a cold-smoker.  The indications were sausage, bacon and ham (to a degree for cold-smoking - sometimes hot-smoked)).  With that in mind and the challenges you mentioned about your location, I'd point towards the electric/propane options for smokers.  Why?  Well, that type of smoker most often uses the pucks or pellets for smoke wood.  These are typically easily available in North America and in turn via the internet for other locations... but in my opinion, they do a better job for cold smoking than the charcoal/wood burning units that are designed for hot-smoking.



Will take your advice ...thanks ...am now comparing the types available as dls I note recommends the Cookshack. Will keep you posted on what I decide and how it all turns out :smile:

#12 jackal10

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 09:41 AM

I'd point towards the electric/propane options for smokers.  Why?  Well, that type of smoker most often uses the pucks or pellets for smoke wood. 
<snip>
Brian

View Post


I disagree. Its more a matter of geometry.
For a cold smoker you ideally want the food in a different compartment form the fire/smoke generator, seperated by a long enough pipe to cool the smoke.
People have adapted Webers by using the Weber as the smoke generator and fixing a length of flexible chimney duct leading to a seperate smoking box. You can do much the same with a couple old metal cupboards, or two brick built BBQs - one is used for BBQ and hot smoking, and its neighbor, connected by a pipe, as a cold smoker. If you google you can see old filing cabinets used, oil drums, and old commercial refrigerators - but not those with plastic linings, and even wooden sheds and cardboard boxes as the smoker..

Single compartment smokers like the Bradley or the Coolshack can only cold smoke by using a tray of ice to keep the temperature down, which is not that satisfactory. Besides, I don't trust what is in those pucks. I'd much rather use my own wood.

#13 lancastermike

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 12:08 PM

I am a confirmed and happy WSM owner. However, to cold smoke requires serious modification. I have tried a couple of different rigs as suggested on the Virtual Weber site. I love the Weber for smoking all sorts of meat and a butt is going on this weekend.

There are so many options out there that i do urge you to check them all out. For me the Weber is a good solid device that was not hugely expensive and allows me to control smoke ant temperture in a manner that produces good stuff.

#14 dougal

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 04:05 PM

Jacqui - I'd emphasise Jackal10's advice that for *cold* smoking you really should look to decouple the smoke generator from the food holder (the smoke chamber).

However, the Bradley generator can be unhooked, and you can find on the web descriptions of using the generator detatched and connected via hoses and a cardboard box (to provide more residence time for cooling) when cold smoking.

You mentioned being in a "tropical country". This will provide its own challenges for cold smoking. Some folks seemingly employ coolbox icepacks to keep the temperature low enough to prevent food spoilage.
And I'm sure you'll appreciate the need for an electric smoker to be the correct voltage 110 or 240.

As an addition to the previous comments, I am aware of lots of people that have failed to make DIY replacements for Bradley pucks from compressed sawdust and chips.
However -- I also know of one Bradley owner who happily makes his own from solid wood - essentially slices of an appropriately sized branch. Being in the cold north of Scotland, he has little problem with excessive heat for cold smoking. His Bradley generator feeds a Whisky barrel as the smoke chamber...
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#15 woodburner

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 04:13 PM

Where do you live?


woodburner

#16 woodburner

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 04:26 PM

First you need to determine what your capacity requirements are. ie what is your typical loading for each cook, in pounds.

Will you be requiring multiple shelf levels inside the cooker?
How much space is required between each shelf level is needed.
What will be the time line of your typical cooks, will they be 5 hours or 24 hours?
Does it need to be portable?
What are the optimal tempreture requirements?
Should it be insulated for high fuel effeciency.

Smokers are much different than stoves in that one does not normally do a great job at all ranges of temperatures.

woodburner

#17 bleachboy

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 07:28 PM

I'm a fan of the Char-Griller Smokin' Pro, especially if you're just starting out. It's the same model that Klink uses in his excellent eGCI course, and I got mine for about $150 at Lowe's. It's essentially the pared down basic oil barrel shaped smoker without frills. Once you master it, you'll be ready to move up to a fancier unit.
Don Moore
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#18 Jacqui Ingledew

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 07:49 AM

Oh boy! at the end of this I'll really be able to make a very informed purchase ...I really appreciate all the advice and help :smile:
Yes I do need the unit to be somewhat portable as my cousin and I propose to share the smoker .He I'd imagine will be using it more than I will ,as I'm more the amateur.
I live in the Caribbean...average temperatures year round are between the 80's and 90's.

#19 jackal10

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 08:12 AM

90 is about as hot as you want to go for cold smoking (salmon, bacon, sausage etc), so it importnt the smoke generator doesn't add any heat.

#20 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 01:31 PM

I've saved my pennies and I'm going to get an Original Bradley Smoker as soon as I answer the following question: what should a starter kit of bisquettes be like? I definitely want apple (bacon), but expect to smoke salmon, andouille sausage, turkey, gouda, and many other things. What would be a good three or four woods to start?
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#21 Varmint

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 01:42 PM

Chris, I'm no expert when it comes to what wood creates a particular flavor, but I think that if you look at the fruit and nut trees first, you'll end up with some great flavors. Hickory is the gold standard for smoking NC-style barbecue -- you'll want the wood to be a bit green. I also love pecan and walnut. I've not smoked with chestnut. Apple, pear and cherry all have good, not too harsh flavors. Then there's oak and maple, which have strong (but not overly so) tones. Give them all a try and report back here.
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#22 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 01:44 PM

Chris, I'm no expert when it comes to what wood creates a particular flavor, but I think that if you look at the fruit and nut trees first, you'll end up with some great flavors.  Hickory is the gold standard for smoking NC-style barbecue -- you'll want the wood to be a bit green. 

View Post

Apple and hickory for sure, then, as I'm definitely going for some NC barbecue soon after the arrival of the smoker. Thanks, Dean. Other thoughts?
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#23 Bombdog

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 01:52 PM

I've saved my pennies and I'm going to get an Original Bradley Smoker as soon as I answer the following question: what should a starter kit of bisquettes be like?

View Post


Chris, I got the Bradley for Christmas, and you WON'T be sorry. I got a variety pack of bisquettes to start, and have since ordered larger boxes of hickory and oak.

Trust me, once you get started with this thing, you are going to want to smoke everything but the small children in the house and experiment with all diffeent flavors.

I have been pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the oak. Might I recommend, highly, the whole bone in herb brined turkey brest from Ruhlman's new Charcuteri book. In either oak or hickory it is FANTASTIC.

I have several sections of pork belly curing in that will come out tomorrow. I plan on doing one in hickory and one in apple for bacon.
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#24 jmolinari

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 01:56 PM

I like fruit woods, and nut woods. Pecan is very nice with salmon, apple, peach, pear, maple is nice too. The differences are really really subtle between woods, unless you use something like hickory or mesquite, which i don't care for .

jason

#25 lancastermike

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 02:02 PM

I don't have one of the Bradley machines. However, I have come to use fruit woods almost exclusivly when I smoke. I have a lot of apple and a good bit of cherry. I reserve the hickory for beef. I do not like mesquite at all. Would like to get some nut woods. Not much in the way of nut trees up here. I have some apricot that I got last year from a tree in my neighbors yard that i am going to try soon.

I have lots of oak, I use it sparingly as it is strong, I sometime mix in a chunk with my main fruit wood.

#26 Dave the Cook

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 02:14 PM

Pecan and hickory are closely related trees, and have similar flavor, I think. Hickory is a bit more aggressive in my experience, so that gives you some room for calibrating to your personal preferences. As everyone has suggested, apple is fine for bacon, but suprisingly, someone recently told me that she had discovered a flavor link between it and traditonal Montreal smoked meat.

I haven't looked at the Bradley site to see what's available, but alder and salmon are a traditional match-up -- one that I haven't been able to try.

I can't imagine using mesquite for smoking. It's much too acrid for long exposure; I've quit using it even for grilling.

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#27 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 02:17 PM

The 4 woods I try to keep on hand are:

Hickory - prefer it for larger cuts like pork butt or beef roast.

Apple - really nice for pork ribs or chops.

Cherry - my favorite for turning cured pork belly into bacon.

Alder - excellent for fish and seafood.

I'd like to try some nut woods like pecan or walnut but I rarely seem them in any of the shops I frequent. Does anyone have a good on-line source for cooking woods?

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#28 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 02:34 PM

It looks like I can get a 60-bisquette starter packet of my choice, so I'm thinking that Ron's suggestions encompass a lot of advice here and would be a good way to go. Thanks, everyone, for responding so quickly -- I really appreciate it.
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#29 Bombdog

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 03:50 PM

T  Does anyone have a good on-line source for cooking woods?

=R=

View Post


Ron, This place http://www.barbecue-...uettes-2981.htm has been the best that I have used so far. Their customer service and shipping were great.
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#30 Chris Amirault

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 08:36 AM

Just ordered a Bradley from the eBay store of The Yard and Pool Company for $310 and free shipping; this beats every other place I've checked by $40-100. Plus my first three packs of pucks were tossed into the same free shipping deal, and each of those packs of 48 were about $15 -- which is a lot cheaper than the Barbecue Store's prices above ($24 each).

After much hand-wringing, I went with alder, apple, and hickory, btw. Thanks, again, everyone.
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