I have been enthralled with BBQ since I lived in Tampa and traveled extensively in the south. There is no doubt that BBQ is a staple in the South and growing in the rest of the country. With that thought, I have tried to recreate some of the best “Q” and while my efforts have been good, I have been limited by the technology I had. So I thought I would share the evolution I have gone through and give you what I have found. Here are the pros and cons that I have found with each kind of devise.
Weber Grill- I’ll start with this old timer – it has been in my back yard for 30 years. Most people use it as a grill, but most don’t try to use it as a smoker. I have been smoking my Thanksgiving turkeys for 30 years, and it is always a hit with its pink meat, crispy skin and great flavor.
On the downside, smoking a pork butt or brisket is labor intensive; you have to add charcoal and wood chips every hour which is ok for ribs or a turkey but a problem for an 8-10 hour cook. The other big problem is temperature control! You never have an exact temperature which can create uneven cooking. There are also weather issues; rain, snow, and wind can also kill your efforts.
Stand up electric smoker- This is a serviceable introductory smoker. You can get some good results with chicken, pork belly, and small pork butts. I liked it for a cook that was shorter than 6 hours. My greatest issue was having to add wood chips every hour. Also, temperature control was a problem. One last downside is that it’s a uni-tasker ; you can’t grill on it; it just smokes.
Pellet Smoker- The positives are the simple ease of use and temperature control. Experts call this cheating. In my limited use, I have found it great in ease of use – just set it and and walk away. These have many functions: smoking, grilling, braising, heating, and more. This is better for long cooks and keeps a more consistent temperature. On the down side, the purchase price and the cost of the pellets can be pretty high. One other issue that I have found is the cooking space is smaller than other smokers per dollar spent.
Ceramic smokers – These are the most versatile tools. There are many function like the pellet smokers, but that versatility comes at a high price point. My research shows they are durable. In full disclosure, I don’t own and have never used one, but I’ve been told that they work great. Now price-wise, they run from a low of $400 to over $2,000.
Pro grade- If you have used all of the above smokers, I need to ask why you haven’t written one of these articles. You have forced me to write this one. Your skills are better than mine, or you are richer than me. In any event, congratulations.
These are stick burners- they use logs or blocks. They are great; you can see how much they can do by watching BBQ Pitmasters. The equipment costs $5,000 or more; for the back yard cook, it’s overkill.
So in closing I had 4 criteria that led to my final choice of pellet smoker:
1. Ease of use -all I have to do is add pellets and set the dial.
2. Adaptability – I have 8 functions but in all honesty, I’ll only use 3.
3. Results – so far so good.
4. Cost – I got a great deal from Z -grills.
Now in my search I found a great BBQ accessory store in Northern Virginia call the called the Dizzy Pig. Check it out at http://www.dizzypigbbq.com. They have pellets, wood, grills, spice rubs, and smokers.