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chappie

Seeking smoker/grill setup recommendations

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I am looking for a grill/smoker setup for my deck that takes into consideration these priorities: 1. I like to grill with charcoal; 2. I like to slow smoke things like pork butts; 3. My wife would probably like a gas grill option so she could easily light it and cook something easier minus all the prep I do.

I don't require fancy burners, cabinets and all those gimmicky add-ons. I like the idea of a smoker box. I don't want to spend a fortune; less than $400 or $500 tops.

Any suggestions?

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I would recommend two separate units. Any device that combines function is fraught with the portent that if one breaks down the other may not be able to be used. Also not so sure how thrilled I'd be about starting a fire on a device attached to a propane tank. That thing pictured may work, but no thanks. I do have a gas grill but my WSM does the smoking.

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I would recommend two separate units. Any device that combines function is fraught with the portent that if one breaks down the other may not be able to be used. Also not so sure how thrilled I'd be about starting a fire on a device attached to a propane tank. That thing pictured may work, but no thanks. I do have a gas grill but my WSM does the smoking.

You first concern is sure true when it comes to turn tables and 8 track combos, but propane tanks and fire?! Really?

Seriously now, I've seen road blocks formed of propane tanks lit at the valve, no regulators. Great times. :cool:

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A Weber Performer gives you a 22.5" charcoal kettle grill (which can do all kinds of grilling and bbq'ing) along with a pushbutton propane-powered lighter system (which might appease your wife) and a handy side table, and you can probably find one for under $300. I have no experience with the Char-Griller stuff but I am suspicious of grill rigs of that type generally and would worry about it lasting more than 2-3 seasons; I am serenely certain that the Weber would give you fine service for a decade or more -- mine's 7 or 8 years old and works just fine.

Having had a lot of experience with grilling and bbq'ing (and with brands of gear) over the last 20 yrs, I have come to the conclusion that the best advice I can give to 99% of people looking to buy a grill or bbq in the US is "buy a Weber", period. They cook better, last longer, and the company's customer service is excellent -- and unlike a lot of department-store-special brands, Weber will have the parts you need in stock when you need them a decade from now.


Edited by John Rosevear (log)

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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I was also going to suggest the weber with gas ingnition, I have the similar just charcoal one w/o the gas but with side table. Love that thing. There used to be hybrids around, that would work with gas and/or charcoal, but I haven't seen them in a while. The duo in the photo looks great too, but: gas grills do fail eventually from rust etc. Can you still get parts in 5 years? Will they cost as much as the grill? My gas grill is long retired behind a shed for that reason, parts would have cost more than a new grill. That summer I started using a stone old weber again (because I had food to bbq and the gas grill no longer worked) and I haven't looked back. No more gas for me, got the nicer weber and in the mean time a Big Green Egg, which is quite possibly one of the best fire cooling devices out there. Twice your budget, but maybe save for an other year and then get one? I've done everything on it, from low and slow smoking to 650+ degree steak searing. It looks a bit goofy, very 70es, but it's the same green as my house :-)

If you don't intend to smoke things too often, the Weber bullet also is very good and cheap, stores away in a corner easily. But needs more attention to keep the temp level, the egg is really set it and forget it.

That being said, the duo from above does look very interesting. I'd probably buy a set or two of spares (or find out from them how long they will support the unit). At times gas would be nice for a quick grill and with that unit you'd have the option to smoke something on the right and grill some veggies etc on the other side over gas to have ready. In an ideal world I'd buy one just for fun, but as a married man, there's some opposition in the house and I can't quite find a good reason to have yet an other fire cooking unit :-)


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Small gas grill and a BGE would do me just great then. ... Anyone giving away a BGE to a good home? :wink:

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At times gas would be nice for a quick grill

This comment always baffles me...don't you still have to preheat a gas grill for 15-20 minutes? I have a Weber performer (and a WSM I use for competition as well) and from the time I put a chimney of lump over the burner to the time I can cook it isn't much more than 20 mins (ok maybe 25 tops).


Get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!!!

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At times gas would be nice for a quick grill

This comment always baffles me...don't you still have to preheat a gas grill for 15-20 minutes? I have a Weber performer (and a WSM I use for competition as well) and from the time I put a chimney of lump over the burner to the time I can cook it isn't much more than 20 mins (ok maybe 25 tops).

I have a Weber genesis (E-320) gas grill. It's amazing. You don't need to heat it for 15-20 minutes at all. I can go from deciding I want a burger to having one cooked and on a toasted bun in just under 15 minutes. Same for a steak. I can also just shut the grill off after that one burger without wasting any fuel or having much cleanup. It also takes me 10 seconds to start the grill. The time it takes for the thing to warm up is just a little longer than it takes to take the hamburger out of the fridge and get them ready for the grill.

I'll admit I haven't had a lot of food grilled over charcoal, so I can't comment on taste. But for convenience I love gas. I've done everything from a single burger to slaving over it for almost 5 hours straight for a large BBQ party. The food is absolutely delicious and the consistency of the heat source lets me cook things perfect every time without a lot of fuss.


Edited by Phaz (log)

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The Webber Performa is the right choice. I am on my 2nd unit. I won it at the Canadian National Barbecue Championships for my "Anything Goes" appetizer entry (I gave my old one to a team member whose situation was similar to that of the original post). I compete with a Good One Model 60 (Trail Boss) and at home I use the Performa, my wife and kids use it too. Grill, smoke, rotisserie, it does it all.


"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves."

- Carl Jung, Psychologist (1875 - 1961)

"Don't Play with your food."

- Parents, all over the world

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I just bought a Weber performer and it is the perfect charcoal grill (gas start). I also have a Coleman Roadtrip gas grill which complements the Weber. The Coleman is a versatile unit that can travel, and has multi-grill plates (traditional grates, flat top grill or gas range-like pot supports. This will be my temporary kitchen for the next 3-8? months.

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I used to frown upon gas grilling, but my wife bought a really nice gas grill -- high BTU, durable -- for her parents and I've thoroughly enjoyed cooking on it when we visit. Easy to use, easy to start, the entire process of thinking "hey, I'd like to grill something" and actually cooking is almost instantaneous. Yeah, you can't really smoke on it (although my friend does smoke on his gas grill using some sort of smoke box over the flame) but it does serve its own purpose.

The other day I was near a place that sells BGEs. I'd never really inspected one up close, so I popped in. They seem really well made, but high priced. This place wanted $800 for a large, $1,300 for an XL. However, I found a place an hour away that is holding a sale through June 5 for large BGEs at $640 and XLs at $795 (500 less than the place I visited!)

Don't know if I'm ready to invest that or if the BGE is worth it. Needs more investigation. Anything but the XL almost seems too small. I do think that, while I don't have the time I once did, with a 1-year-old boy to chase, I would enjoy learning to use it, etc. Plus it seems like you recover some of the initial expense in durability. One turnoff was the BGE brochures, though, with its loafered-and-sundress-sporting models. They know their audience, I guess.

Research led me to the Big Steel Keg -- appears better insulated and more durable than the BGE. Kind of ugly with its plastic wings as is, but I wonder if you couldn't build a drop-in table for it like people do with kamados.

I've given up on having my ideal setup before the 1-year-old birthday party this weekend, and it might take many months to decide. For better or worse, I'm like that with nearly any purchase. Research to death. For now, looks like I'm taking Dad's old crusty smoker for the pork.

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If you're moving out of your initial price range (by looking at the BGEs), you may as well look at the Primo ceramic grills. I cook on a Primo XL, after going from gas to Weber charcoal to the Primo. I found smoking on the Weber a bit cumbersome--it can be done, but temp regulation can be tricky.

Lighting of the Primo's lump charcoal is, in my mind, equivalent to lighting gas if you use a MAPP cylinder. Ok, maybe it takes 5 minutes longer to come up to temp, but for me, the taste difference between gas and lump is worth a few extra minutes.

The Primo allows me to smoke at 225, grill at whatever temp I want, and do 750+ for Neapolitan-style pizza. I really like it. The BGEs will do the same. Among other reasons, I picked the Primo due to it's oval shape--more useful to me than the round of the BGEs.

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Looked at a Weber Performa today, and while it isn't quite a dedicated smoker, it does seem handier for the task than the regular old Weber I used to do pork butts on all the time. Decent setup; the plastic tabletop it's set in is thick and not cheesy at all.

But at $300, it makes me wonder if I shouldn't consider something like a $700-plus BGE on sale, especially as I could get my stepfather to help me build a nice table for it. That's a nice setup for a deck, but I need to see one in action before I plunge.

Still weighing options, but tonight's smoke is on a rusty old bullet smoker, no top vents, my dad has used for years. It ought to work OK for a 1-year-old's birthday I guess ...

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For Grills I have a 35k btu restaurant type grill in the island in the kitchen, great for steaks burgs etc.(chicken makes so much smoke that sometimes the fan in the hood won't keep up...even at 1000 cfm..

for smoke cooking stuff I have a Kamado that is at least 40 years old (from Japan)

Bought it at the thrift store for $20...It is about the same size as a BGE..Great unit for all sorts of stuff...slow smoked stuff and big turkeys at 375-400ºas well...and 500º pizza,,,

Also have a couple other, misc. charcoal grill type things, and a Mecco Electric smoker/water cooker.

Just start collecting things till you get enough stuff that there is always something that will work for what you want to do...

Bud

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So all this worrying about getting the right setup before our barbecue was unfounded. I borrowed Dad's crusty, rusted Brinkmann Smoke'n'Grill -- an insanely basic system without vents (except for the fire access door) and turned out some wonderful pork butts. Smoked them over hardwood with a mixture of mesquite and hickory (I disagree with the argument that mesquite is too strong for pork) for about six hours, tending frequently (a downside of this rusty device). Then I fell asleep and when I awoke the fire was too low so I moved the now nice and crusty butts to a La Creuset in a 250 oven for four more hours. Best part about this was I had lots of dark, rich juices at the bottom to toss the meat with after shredding.

All but about a quarter cup was devoured.

Now I can spend the rest of my summer in peace obsessing and overly researching my ideal setup.

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One thing in favor of the higher-end charcoal/wood smokers (I'm still partial to them vs. electric) is that they seem to reach and maintain temperature for a much longer time than a cheap unit. I tinkered with this rusted old smoker all night long, and by morning felt like I'd smoked two packs of Lucky Strikes (sidenote: do old-school BBQ guys have short lifespans due to smoke inhalation?).

Also, I have a toddler to chase around, so perhaps something I don't have to tend quite as constantly makes most sense.

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We took the plunge and bought an extra-large BGE over a year ago and we've never looked back. It's terrific! We can smoke ribs or pork butts for hours and hours and maintain a constant temperature of 220 degrees. We can sear steaks at high temps or bake chicken at a consistent 375. The ability to control the temperature is amazing. We still use our charcoal Weber sometimes, but not very often. The BGE is expensive, but well worth the cost in my opinion.

The only problem we experienced with the BGE is difficulty lighting the lump charcoal, but those lighting cubes solved that. It takes us half an hour to light the charcoal and bring the Egg to the desired temperature.

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When you say "the lump charcoal ..." you're not buying the BGE branded stuff, right? Seems like a total waste of money. But have you ever tried wadding some paper beneath it and soaking said paper in cooking oil a bit?

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One more thing to anyone with BGE experience: how do you decide between a large and an XL?

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We chose the extra large because of the extra grilling area. And when you're smoking three racks of ribs, you need it, believe me.

We've tried the oil-soaked paper method of lighting the charcoal, and it worked sometimes, sort of, but not reliably. (Maybe the problem was my husband.) The lighting cubes are reliable.

We buy the lump charcoal at Restaurant Depot for a very reasonable price. It's actually the same lump charcoal as the BGE brand in a different package. My husband did a lot of research into lump charcoal; there's an entire web site dedicated to the stuff with rating of the different brands and inside info.

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My husband did a lot of research into lump charcoal; there's an entire web site dedicated to the stuff with rating of the different brands and inside info.

Yes, yes there is:

http://www.nakedwhiz.com/lump.htm :biggrin:

Restaurant Depot is also where I buy my lump charcoal -- Royal Oak in 20 lb. bags. It is indeed the same stuff as BGE lump, and quite a few other store brands.

P.S. For those who don't have the required documentation to get in the door at Restaurant Depot, WalMart sells 8 lb. bags of Royal Oak for just a few cents more...


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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As an upcoming birthday present, I'll be given the smoker of my choice to go alongside a natural-gas, high-heat grill at a summer house. I'll be the only one using the smoker. In the past I improvised with the grill, struggling for low temperature, but got more bad results than good. One whole brisket was spectacularly tender and flavorful. Another became a brick.

 

Despite the grief described in the topic "Assembling a Propane Smoker" at I've got to go with propane too. Household natural gas just isn't available for dedicated smokers, I don't want electric, and my limited time at this house won't make wood or charcoal fuel practical. So I'd welcome any new propane-smoker tips. eGullet was where I first learned about the Big Apple Barbecue here in NYC, after all. I've found comprehensive reviews at two BBQ-specific forums but I'm not up to that level of obsessive detail, not yet.

 

A minimum feature I'd like to have is a separate door for replacing the wood chips. Many box models have a single door, which wastes the smoke and heat when changing the chips. Also, the smaller the better, I think; I won't be doing anything bigger than whole shoulders or briskets or chickens. I might like to drill a hole to install an accurate digital-thermometer lead.

 

Here's what I've found so far:

Lowe's sells a Master Forge Double Door smoker for $179 ( http://www.lowes.com/pd_411913-95393-MFX784BDP_0__?productId=4459479&N ) that the members of one BBQ forum rave about (http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/products/master-forge-double-door-smoker ). 

Amazon offers, with Prime shipping, a $140 Char-Broil Vertical Gas Smoker that another such forum likes a lot (http://amazingribs.com/bbq_equipment_reviews_ratings/smoker/char-broil-vertical-gas-smoker ) though the Amazon customer reviewers are less enthusiastic (http://www.amazon.com/Char-Broil-11701705-Vertical-Gas-Smoker/dp/B004J66WWG ),

Conversely, Amazon customer reviewers loved the $167 Prime-shipping Masterbuilt Propane Smoker (http://www.amazon.com/Masterbuilt-20051311-2-Door-Propane-Smoker/dp/B004W4NDPY ) though the first other forum's commenters say it needs extra care and even improvisation during assembly and use (http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/products/masterbuilt-two-door-propane-smoker ).


Edited by jkarpf (log)

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my limited time at this house won't make wood or charcoal fuel practical. 

 

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this, but if it's a matter of tending to the fire, technology has you covered.  Just buy a stoker, bbqguru, or auber temperature controller and you'll be about as fire-and-forget as gas.  These devices hook up to the air intake and control the airflow with a fan to maintain your setpoint.  The all-in price will be higher than that Lowe's smoker though...

 

For example: http://tvwbb.com/showthread.php?49444-WiFi-Stoker-Kit-Automatic-Temperature-Control-System (lots more on info on that board regarding auto temp control)

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