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Food Smokers: The Topic


Jacqui Ingledew
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I use mine a lot, and I'm still pretty happy with it. I haven't made any modifications to it, but I have one major one in the works right now: I hate how low it is. And it does indeed leak all over the patio. So I'm building some sorta table/cabinet for it to sit on. I haven't had any sort of puck problems, and they go on sale in Amazon.com's 4-for-3 sale all the time, so you can get them for a reasonable price there.

I can see putting in a PID for fun, but I don't think it will have much practical benefit: smoking things is a lot less sensitive to the precise cooker temperature than sous vide is: just get a good meat thermometer and pull stuff out at the right temp.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks Chris, I thought I remembered a pic of your's where there seemed to be juices leaking, that's why I asked. Did you get a larger pan for inside? I read some people replace the small one with a hotel size or what it is that fits. I better set it up elsewhere then, don't want to mess up the new deck with all the possible consequences..... ;-p

{edit} forgot to ask, what do you mean by how low, low to the ground, or low in temp? It seems to be the size of a small fridge, which is nice I guess.

Oliver

Edited by OliverB (log)

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Like Chris H, I use it a lot and am happy with it. (Firing it up this weekend, in fact.) Like him, no modifications per say. Here are the adjustments I've made:

  • I tossed out the water pan that comes with the unit and use a stainless hotel pan that holds more water. I found that the smaller circular pan required too much poking around of pucks; they'll stack and thus keep burning if you're not careful.
  • After too many weather changes creating problems, I put the whole thing on a rolling cart that sits at the edge of my garage when the smoker is operating. That way, I can just roll it in or out as the weather shifts.
  • I never do "set it and forget it" if the heating element is in use. I don't trust it or the water pan enough.
  • I always crack the top vent to allow smoke to escape. I found that closing it often creates condensation that drips from the vent onto the product -- and often left a black mark on it.
  • I clean the grates immediately. No small thing, given my proclivities, but worth mentioning, since there's a lot of salt in many of the things I smoke and that corrodes the grates. (I also replaced the grates with nonstick jerky grates, to excellent effect. Grab 'em.)

I've had no "puck problems" -- to what do you refer exactly? And I agree with Chris H that a PID is a waste.

I'm going to have a brand new deck soon and if I stain that with smoky meat juices I'll be in serious trouble....

If you're anything other than a complete neatnik, you want a tarp under it. The stainless steel rolling cart I have is blackened with junk, and that water tray has to be very shallow to fit under the puck heating element.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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{edit} forgot to ask, what do you mean by how low, low to the ground, or low in temp? It seems to be the size of a small fridge, which is nice I guess.

Low to the ground: it's the size of a mini-fridge, as you mentioned, but I'm always a bit annoyed at crouching down to do everything, and it makes things harder to see , I think.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks all, makes me confident that this is the right thing for the money I want to spend. I might just put it on a piece of plywood on the ground where there's no deck, leak away if you want. I'll get that hotel pan too, as I've read about that problem repeatedly. Wish Bradely would just adjust and throw a bigger pan in....

As for the pucks, some people report that their's did not advance and they had to bend around on things or similar.

One more question, did you get those 3 aluminum pucks that you add to the top of the stack, thus preventing the last pucks (that I guess are not supposed to burn but just be there to push the "real" last one on the heat) to burn and smolder? I guess they're usually called bubba pucks. Seem a bit pricey for slices of an aluminum stick, but might save in the long run.

Now I can't wait for delivery....

Oliver

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Thanks. I'm might just get them with the same order, not sure yet. Did your last pucks start to burn? It somewhat seems to me that even if you walk away during the main time of smoking, you'd be around by the time the smoking is done and stop the burning manually?

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I nearly always stop the smoker manually, though the digital unit I've got has a separate timer from the oven, which has come in handy on occasion. The last puck starts to slowly smolder if you let it get pushed on, but what I do is just leave it there for the next smoking session. Then, when I start a new session, I pull out the bisquette right behind it (so the one on the burner doesn't get pushed off before it burns).

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I also own a Bradley and I am generally satisfied with it. I had problems with my first tests (very bitter taste) but found out that I was just not letting enough smoke escape de unit.

You will also find that you don't need to smoke very long to get the smoky flavour you are looking for. This is good as it requires less pucks. Because you can smoke quickly and because you can't reach temperatures that are high enough to properly cook some cuts of meat, you might want/have to finishing certain dish in the oven or the BBQ.

I am now thinking that a ceramic BBQ such as the Big Green Egg or the Primo is probably a better choice for all but very low temperature smoking. These are expensive toys though. However, if you smoke a lot, keep in mind that pucks are expensive too (still worth every penny considering the amount of time saved).

Some people also complain that the Bradley does not produce a smoke ring but it does not affect the taste at all.

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Thanks!

I can't quite see how the Bradely would not create a smoke ring though? AFAIK if it's meat and it sits in smoke it will develop a ring, no? Always does if I do it on the bbq.

The green egg is neat, but too expensive for what it is. Though I'll take one as a gift of course :-)

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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The green egg is neat, but too expensive for what it is. Though I'll take one as a gift of course :-)

If you're looking for more reasons to buy a Big Green Egg, it also works well as a charcoal pizza oven & hearth oven for bread-baking. I too balked at the price, until I figured out it would take the place of a smoker, grill, and wood-fired oven--with the triple-threat rationale, it almost seems like a bargain.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Uh, too many choices!! The Big Green one is sure interesting, I just don't like the flimsy looking legs/structure it's sitting in, at that price I'd wish for something that looks a bit more substantial.

What I don't like about all the puck/pellet ones is that I can't use any wood I want, only what they make. Some German (and other countries) recipes require woods that are not offered in those forms. And those are the things I particularly want to make.

Maybe I'll go with a regular smoker after all, does anybody have any experience with those offered by spitjack.com? Those look like they're well built, I like the Braten (of course I like it, it's the most expensive) but also the 20 inch barrel ones look good. There are similar much cheaper models, but they seem too flimsy and paint peels and what not. Not what I want to look at.

Maybe adding a bit of wood or charcoal here and there for a longer smoke isn't all that bad.

Or maybe I'll build a smoke house, I have a hillside yard. And then I build myself a helicopter and fly around town :laugh:

Decisions decisions.....

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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OliverB, I own a ceramic cooker similar to the Big Green Egg(its a Primo) and I feel that what HungryC said is quite true... when considering the number of things you can do very well with ceramic bbq, they are not as expensive as they might seem. If you want a PID like system on these you can get a BBQ Guruor something similar to control the amount of air getting in the cooker.

That being said, if the only thing you want to smoke are sausages and bacon, an electric (or propane) smoker might be a cheap and easy option. There are smokers that do not require bisquettes like the Bradley and that can use wood chunks or shavings. Wood chunks last long enough for almost anything you can think of but I have been told that thay require a slightly higher temperature than what the Bradley can do.

One thing with the Bradley, at least the model that I have, is that it can be hard to reach temperatures higher than 200*F in cold weather and 225* in warmer weather.

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Uh, too many choices!! The Big Green one is sure interesting, I just don't like the flimsy looking legs/structure it's sitting in, at that price I'd wish for something that looks a bit more substantial.

Decisions decisions.....

The legs (aka "nest") is far from flimsy; I roll the large Egg in its nest in/out of the garage and 25-30 feet across the patio with no problems. It doesn't wobble in the least. Still, if you want something more substantial, the optional table is available (or plans to build your own table).

If I had a hillside lot, I probably WOULD build a smokehouse. My dad is always regaling me with tales of his smokehouse....and my mother mutters about how he'd call her and make her go out and tend the fire while he was off at work!

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One thing with the Bradley, at least the model that I have, is that it can be hard to reach temperatures higher than 200*F in cold weather and 225* in warmer weather.

Wow, that's pretty bad. Even though many shoot for 225* as a target for low and slow BBQ you still don't want it to be the top end of your temp range. Maybe you should give Bradley a call. You may have a bad element or connection.

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I probably worded that wrong, I'm sure the legs are not flimsy, they just look flimsy on the photos. But I just saw that they make this nice table and provide plans to make one, which is great! I also saw that they now offer a XL version with larger grill. One of my main concerns with the BGE was the comparatively small cooking surface compared to my weber, which is often full with meat, corn, onions etc.

Now I'm really interested in hearing from BGE owners! I just also found that there's a site that sells electronic controllers that even allow you to do cold smoking in the egg, while you can then turn around and crank the heat to 700+ degree for steaks or pizza, lower it to bake bread, lower it some more for pulled pork that cooks for hours, all w/o having to add coals or even looking at the thing.

There are even nicer models out there now, but I don't have $4000 to spend on it. The XL egg seems to cost $900 plus table and some accessories that can come later. Not cheap, but if it really does everything from cold smoking to pizza oven, it might just be what I'm looking for! I might build a pizza oven one day, who knows, but even if, it would be years from now.

BGE also looks less industrial than the other charcoal smokers out there (I like the look, but it might be a bit much on the patio...) and is a lot smaller.

Please any BGE owners, chime in what your experience is and what different kinds of food you've made on it!

Thanks,

Oliver

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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One thing with the Bradley, at least the model that I have, is that it can be hard to reach temperatures higher than 200*F in cold weather and 225* in warmer weather.

Wow, that's pretty bad. Even though many shoot for 225* as a target for low and slow BBQ you still don't want it to be the top end of your temp range. Maybe you should give Bradley a call. You may have a bad element or connection.

Don't think so. The heating element is the weakest part of the Bradley -- I know pals who won't use it at all -- and it gets up to "200F" or so only bc of the position of the thermometer, 3/4s of the way up the front door. I'd betcha that the lowest shelf gets up around 300F.

No matter, though: it's not very well designed, and I punch up to the max only when I know I have the ability to keep a close eye on things.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I probably worded that wrong, I'm sure the legs are not flimsy, they just look flimsy on the photos. But I just saw that they make this nice table and provide plans to make one, which is great! I also saw that they now offer a XL version with larger grill. One of my main concerns with the BGE was the comparatively small cooking surface compared to my weber, which is often full with meat, corn, onions etc.

Now I'm really interested in hearing from BGE owners! I just also found that there's a site that sells electronic controllers that even allow you to do cold smoking in the egg, while you can then turn around and crank the heat to 700+ degree for steaks or pizza, lower it to bake bread, lower it some more for pulled pork that cooks for hours, all w/o having to add coals or even looking at the thing.

There are even nicer models out there now, but I don't have $4000 to spend on it. The XL egg seems to cost $900 plus table and some accessories that can come later. Not cheap, but if it really does everything from cold smoking to pizza oven, it might just be what I'm looking for! I might build a pizza oven one day, who knows, but even if, it would be years from now.

BGE also looks less industrial than the other charcoal smokers out there (I like the look, but it might be a bit much on the patio...) and is a lot smaller.

Please any BGE owners, chime in what your experience is and what different kinds of food you've made on it!

Thanks,

Oliver

I would not say that you can easily cold-smoke in a ceramic grill. You can easily do low and slow BBQ (temperatures between 200*-250*) which is probably even easier with an electronic assistant like the BBQ Guru. There are ways to cold-smoke but it seems like a difficult endeavour (i.e. using a two or tree briquettes with wood chunks siting on top of them and placing trays full of ice in the cooker to reduce the temperature). But then even the Bradley smoker, which is really good with things lika bacon and sausages, emits enough heat to make true cold-smoking difficult in warmer weather (not a problem in the Canadian winter). In fact, for cold smoking, the best thing to do is to have a remote smoke source connected to a box containing your food using pipes of a certain lenght.

As for the size of ceramic BBQs, have a look at the Primo Oval XL. This is the BBQ I just bought. With the propper accessories (drip pan tray and fire box divider) you can do direct and indirect cooking at the same time. You can also use grill extenders if you need even more space. I only got this BBQ for a few weeks now and I am very pleased with the results. More experienced owners are probably better placed to provide comments.

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We just gave away our WSM smoker, as we like the Vermont Castings one so much.

Gave away the WSM!!! Hard to believe, Marlene. I used mine hard over the Memorial Day holiday, ribs, butt, sausage. I gave it a good cleaning this Sunday past and it is ready for many more years of service.

I understand the Vermont Castings unit is top notch and I see why you like it. But the old WSM and me are in it for the long run.

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I would not say that you can easily cold-smoke in a ceramic grill. You can easily do low and slow BBQ (temperatures between 200*-250*) which is probably even easier with an electronic assistant like the BBQ Guru.

I read it on the naked whiz page where they test the new DIGIQ II from BBQ guru:

=============

Cold Smoking

The DigiQ II can control your cooker down to a temperature of 32 degrees. Therefore, there is no need anymore for the foil-wrapped-probe-in-ramp-mode trick that you could use on the original Competitor get it to control the cooker at temperatures below 175 degrees. Just remember, though, that in order for the DigiQ II to control the cooker at lower temperatures a good seal on your cooker is very important. Too much ambient airflow will prevent the DigiQ II from keeping the fire low enough to maintain a low temperature.

=============

and as far as I can tell, it seems to work very well. Not a cheap gadget, not something one needs to run out and buy, I won't be cold smoking anything for a while, but the option seems to be there. No extra firebox or pipes etc to pull cold smoke over there.

Your Primo looks nice too, how much is it? Can't find price info on their somewhat antiquated site. What are the dimensions of the grilling surface?

Don't know if the bbq guru thing also works with your model. Oval is an interesting idea with the divider.

Ack, why are there a gazillion choices! How's one to make up one's mind?

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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We just gave away our WSM smoker, as we like the Vermont Castings one so much.

Gave away the WSM!!! Hard to believe, Marlene. I used mine hard over the Memorial Day holiday, ribs, butt, sausage. I gave it a good cleaning this Sunday past and it is ready for many more years of service.

I understand the Vermont Castings unit is top notch and I see why you like it. But the old WSM and me are in it for the long run.

I know, I know. But we haven't used it since we bought the Vermont, and my friend really needed a smoker. I can go visit it though. :smile:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I would not say that you can easily cold-smoke in a ceramic grill. You can easily do low and slow BBQ (temperatures between 200*-250*) which is probably even easier with an electronic assistant like the BBQ Guru.

I read it on the naked whiz page where they test the new DIGIQ II from BBQ guru:

=============

Cold Smoking

The DigiQ II can control your cooker down to a temperature of 32 degrees. Therefore, there is no need anymore for the foil-wrapped-probe-in-ramp-mode trick that you could use on the original Competitor get it to control the cooker at temperatures below 175 degrees. Just remember, though, that in order for the DigiQ II to control the cooker at lower temperatures a good seal on your cooker is very important. Too much ambient airflow will prevent the DigiQ II from keeping the fire low enough to maintain a low temperature.

=============

and as far as I can tell, it seems to work very well. Not a cheap gadget, not something one needs to run out and buy, I won't be cold smoking anything for a while, but the option seems to be there. No extra firebox or pipes etc to pull cold smoke over there.

Your Primo looks nice too, how much is it? Can't find price info on their somewhat antiquated site. What are the dimensions of the grilling surface?

Don't know if the bbq guru thing also works with your model. Oval is an interesting idea with the divider.

Ack, why are there a gazillion choices! How's one to make up one's mind?

From an earlier post above I mentioned that I have a BBQ Guru Tall Boy and Pro-Com module (for over two years) similar in range to the Digi Qll. What's true is that it will "READ" and thus control air flow to 32o. But it is incapable of making/cooling down to 32o if the out side/ambient temperature is above that mark. Sigh, just whan salmon are running the temp is in the 80-90o on the East Coast. All the Guru 'Cues can do is contol air flow by shutting off the fan when the probes hit a certain temperature mark. Same holds true going the opposite direction. The modules don't increase heat on their own but regulate air flow that increases or chokes it.

What it will do is give you a consistant temperature point based on your settings and will also ramp down the temperature for what ever finished temp your "product" requires. Another advantage is the choice of wood or fuel is entirely up to you.

Jim

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

Ten Speed Press

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of course they can't cool below ambient, that would be nice! I don't have access to cheap salmon and at the current prices it's cheaper to buy ready made smoked than even thinking about doing it myself it seems - sadly.

What you mention with choice of wood and fuel is really one of the major issues for me, I don't want to be locked into what somebody somewhere decides to produce as pucks or pellets or what ever. And reading repeatedly that people do really long smokes (14+ hours) on the BGE without even having to add fuel is really intriguing to me. I don't like the idea of having to add fuel every couple hours (over night), if that's not necessary I'm almost sold.

I guess one could play with (dry) ice packs to cool things down?

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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