I've decided I'm going to take up smoking.

Several years ago I promised myself that, when I a) graduated from my MA program and b) finally found a full-time teaching position I would buy myself a decent meat smoker. Well, I was hired as a full-time teacher last year and was awarded my MA last week (sneak brag), so on Thursday I hied myself down to Home Depot and picked up the smoker that I’ve been drooling over for ~5 years:

Weber Smokey Mountain, 18”

Weber makes a 22”, which would’ve been nice, but I couldn’t really justify the extra cost for extra functionality that I likely wouldn’t benefit from. The 18” model will cook anything up to and including a turkey, and that’s good enough for me.

I considered a propane smoker but I have never liked using propane for grilling; no matter what I do I cannot get the flare-up under control. I’ve only used one propane grill that I’ve ever been happy with (a Weber, incidentally), but I’ve never had a charcoal grill that let me down. I know smokers are different beasts, but I like the learning curve as well as not needing any extra equipment (like a couple of propane tanks). The WSM is simple, bombproof, and from everything I’ve read about it an absolutely marvelous bit of engineering. Some people make mods to it, but I’m going to use it for a season or two before I start tinkering with the stock configuration.

I have a 20lb bag of Kingsford Blue, a bag of apple wood chunks, and a backyard. I might start with some salmon as I haven’t had smoked salmon in many years and I’ve been jonesing something fierce. Alton Brown has, as always, what looks like a good recipe I want to try. I’m also planting a big hot pepper garden this weekend so will have bushels of peppers to smoke. I’ll make some chipotle powder and sauce this fall. If anyone out there wants some, let me know.

So. Tips, tricks, hints, cheats, war stories, and good recipes are welcome. I’ve been waiting for this for 5 years, I can’t wait to get started.

I hate you.
I’m so jealous.
(When’s the dopefest?)

I love applewood smoke. Cherry wood is a close second - darker and heavier, in a good way.

Everybody knows that smoking makes you look cool.

Why? I hear you been smokin’ your whole life.

The only problem I have with the Weber is that you can’t really do a whole brisket on one. Other than that, it’s a keeper.

Sounds like a fun hobby. I’d do a bunch of reading to get up to speed on various tricks and techniques – it’s not something I’ve ever done so you won’t get them from me. I just wanted to say it sounds like fun. I love all kinds of smoked stuff.

There is a great upscale boutique grocery store I sometimes go to that carries a brand of smoked salmon that is reputed to be excellent, and indeed it is. One day I noticed that they also had their own varieties of smoked salmon at the deli counter in the seafood section, one of which they simply call their “house smoked salmon”. I asked the guy the difference between that and the excellent prepackaged brand, and he just said “ours is better”. And he was right! I can’t quite put my finger on all the things that made it better – it does seem to have a firmer texture – but above all, it’s definitely smokier in flavor and that’s what really does it for me.

Enjoy your new culinary adventure, and congrats on the teaching job and MA. I’m a big fan of Weber, incidentally, but my only experience is with their gas grills. Mine must be nearly 20 years old and is still going strong with the original stainless steel burners. They make quality stuff.

Dig up an old trash barrel, cut it in two, hose it out, and you’re set.

I was once required to go to a sports bar with a class of people. (This is when people were able to smoke in bars.) The teacher came up to me and asked why I wasn’t drinking or smoking.

I explained that I don’t drink, but I am trying to take up smoking. I’m using the nicotine patches to help me get started, but it’s not going well.

The guy just looked at me and had no idea what to think. Then, I told him that I had had a small part in the “patch” technology many years beforehand, so I knew how to get the maximum dose in the minimum amount of time, and so forth. He just could not decide whether I was telling him the truth.

Because I’m exactly that type of asshole.

I do full packer cuts on my WSM all the time. In fact, when I got married, I threw one on there at like 8 am with as many briquettes as I could pack (as briquettes burn longer than lump) and when we got home for the after party at 6 pm or whatever, the brisket was perfectly smoked, both point and flat.

I sit corrected. I wouldn’t have thought there was room.

I still prefer my custom 55 gal. smoker, but that’s just me. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ummm? Have you been spying on me? Was that your drone?

Son-of-a-wrek has a smoker made from a barrel*. He’s finessed it to work for him. I’d never have that kinda luck.
I want a Weber.

(*It was a new barrel that he cleaned impeccably)

T Roy Cooks Smoky Mountain set up and technique

Harry Soo smokey mountain set up and technique

I bought a Weber 18” smoky mountain 5-6 years ago and I freakin love it. I had an el cheapo Brinkmann before that and it never gave me good results. The WSM holds its temp like an oven and gives really consistent, amazing results.

Couple tips: use sand in the cooling pan instead of water. It’s a better heat sink than water, and you can put foil over the sand to catch the drippings in the foil and not have an unholy mess of water and grease afterward. Tip 2: if you don’t already know what the “minion method” is for coals, google it.

Hehehe, ya just have to fold it over. When I was using a barrel smoker, I would always fold the point over the flat. I actually kind of liked my old barrel briskets better, but my family says they like the ones I do on the offset smoker I have now. It usually takes less time on the offset smoker, so I don’t have any problem with that.

The only real trick is to go slow and keep the heat low, and be patient with any large cut. They can take a really long time.

I’d advise spending a bit on a good thermometer. Two channels, one for the meat and one for the smoker temperature. You can get by with just the dial on the outside, but a nice thermometer makes it easy. I went through a few thermometers over the years, but the Thermoworks Smoke seems just perfect. I’ve had to replace one probe, but other than that it’s been rock solid.

My one experience with smoking meat was about 10 years ago. I was hanging out at an airport in Canada (Invermere, BC) for a week or so, and found there was a brand new smoker (Weber), a bunch of recently caught trout fillets in the fridge, and no one ready to do anything with them.

So I stepped in, using a recipe similar to this one. I assumed there’d be a steep learning curve, and that my first efforts would be marginal at best; in fact they turned out great, and got rave reviews.

The two big things (as discussed in the recipe) seem to be getting the fish truly dry after brining with a proper “pellicle” coating, and using low heat for a longish time.

Ha! I found both those videos yesterday and T-Roy in particular provides one helluva rabbit hole to get lost in. Both T-Roy and Harry have different smoking techniques. T-Roy places the lump wood directly on top of the unlit coals using the minion method, Harry buries them in the unlit coals to smolder. T-Roy’s method makes more sense to me since the smoke flavor is imparted in the first couple of hours of cooking.

But I’m going to try both and see which method is better, if indeed there is a difference.

Long racks of ribs can also get a little too close to the hot edges. I’ve been able to make do by either cutting them in half or foiling the outer 4 inches or so.

I also skipped water shortly after getting my WSM. I use a foil wrapped terracota flower pot saucer in the water pan, great solution.

Smoking will kill you. Bacon will kill you. But smoking bacon will cure it.

Even easier, just cut a hole in the bottom and make yourself an ugly drum smoker.

I’ve done a fair amount of smoking. I’ve built a couple of drum smokers (see above) and some temperature controllers. Here are my tips/suggestions (I’ll try to put the important ones first so you read them before your eyes glaze over):

[li]Learn the Minion Method for setting up your charcoal. I don’t do it any other way.[/li][li]If you plan on doing long smokes (which is pretty much everything other than ribs) get a remote thermometer with an alarm. You’ll eventually smoke things overnight and this is very nice to have. Lots of people like the Maverick thermometers.[/li][li]Start with pulled pork. It can take a while (8-12 hours) but it’s very hard to ruin.[/li][li]My go-to site for BBQ recipes, technique, and reviews is amazingribs.com. As much as reasonable he tries to incorporate science (like proving that beer-can chicken is a waste of a beer) along with the subjective.[/li][li]There are lots of BBQ forums and I’ve learned plenty from them. I’m partial to the BBQ Brethren.[/li][li]I prefer hardwood lump over briquettes because they produce less ash, which means less cleanup.[/li][li]I have learned to foil (wrap the meat tightly in foil; AKA the Texas Crutch) pretty much everything I smoke roughly half-way through. There’s plenty of debate on how much it helps (AmazingRibs above says it’s largely unnecessary) but I consistently get much better results when I foil. Maybe there’s some technique that I’m missing that makes it unnecessary. I do note that most competition bbqers foil.[/li][li]There are rumors that the red Thermapen thermometer is the fastest color but that’s nonsense. My blue one is the fastest.*[/li][/ul]

(* - An inside joke with smokers.)