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Part II: Smoking Meat:
By Eric Stein
So, which offset smoker is right for you? In the low-end price range there are a few contenders available. Your local big-box stores pretty much all carry smokers which are only slightly less than adequate and are more apt rust to pieces on your deck, in your yard, or wherever you decide to place them than other products out there. Some of these units are not all that bad; they just tend to be made of lighter steel and thus don’t retain heat as well as they should. Additionally, factors like the vent positioning and chimney location are really not ideal (yes, where the chimney is located does make a difference).
At the other end of the price range – in Ferrari™ country – there are the Klose™ and Tejas™ smokers which, for the most basic models, will set you back at least $800 - and that is for a pretty basic model. Smoking is fun, but not quite so fun that I would say that you need to start with a $800 dollar smoker. I would hate for you to dislike it and have to fire sale the thing (I’m full of these puns). But, if you want to go big (and I definitely want to one day, that’s for sure) these are the ones to look at since they won’t “do you wrong”, as they say.
As you have probably deduced, you are being steered towards the “middle” price range. After spending an inordinate amount of time hanging around in barbecue chat rooms and seedy “mesquiteries”, I have determined which model is – in the opinion of this author and numerous other authorities - really the best for less than $750. And, since I bought it, I can attest to its “best-ness”. Barbecues Galore™ (hereinafter BBQG) sells a model called the Bar-B-Chef™ which I believe, pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar, will do more for you than any other smoker (oh yeah, it also doubles as a standard charcoal grill, so it’s really a multi-tasker). The Bar-B-Chef™ (hereinafter, BBC) sells for about $250 and is constructed of painted heavy-gauge stainless steel.
The Bar-B-Chef Offset Smoker.
First off, let me say that I am in way affiliated with, nor do I own stock in, nor am I friends with any employees of, nor am I even a huge fan of BBQG. Okay, that very last thing was a lie, I am a big fan, but I am no shill. What I have figured out – now that I am on my second smoker – is that, for the money, there is nothing even close to its quality out there. So, if you are looking for reliability and versatility and value, you will find it in the BBC. That being said, here is all you need to know about the BBC: It is big and heavy. That means that it will hold a lot meat, a lot of charcoal and a lot of heat for quite a while. And, as many of my chat room buddies have pointed out, “low and slow” is the name of the game. By the way, if you are looking for a third party endorsement, check out the comments about the BBC from the About.com™ barbecue spokesperson, Derrick Riches; the only poke he gives it is that it may need modification and the folks at BBQG took his comments and incorporated them into the design – leaving almost no flaws.
So, once you have decided to purchase the
smoker, these are the things you will need to buy when in order to get
Pyrex™ Digital Probe Thermometer
A BBQ lighter from Cutlery Made
OXO Good Grips™
spring loaded tongs
Silicon Glove from OrkaMitt™
(photo courtesy of ecookshop.com)
Speaking of meat, we may as well address what type of meat to go with for your first smoking experience. Getting the meat ready for cooking is fodder (I told you I have a lot puns) for a later discussion, for now, we will just look at what you will buy. There are a small number of cuts which are ideal for smoking. They are as follows and we will be cooking Pork Shoulder for our first try since it is actually pretty easy:
Pork Baby Back Ribs
(photo courtesy of foodsubs.com)
Beef Short Ribs
As you can see, there are a lot of choices for what meat to smoke. Once you have bought all the necessary items, next you have to build the smoker, prep it and prep the food for cooking – that, we shall discuss in the next installment.
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