I am relatively new to smoking meats and need some help. I have a very basic upright smoker that I actually got from Wal-Mart. It has a couple racks and a couple pans. I have smoked boston butts in this most basic smoker and they have turned out amazingly good. I started off using charcoal and wood chips and after reading some moved to lump hardwook charcoal and wood chips. I have honestly been very impressed with the results, and the same goes for everyone who has eaten the pork.
At this point I want to really get into smoking meats (pork is what I really want to do, but chicken would probably be second...searing steaks would be nice as well). I am looking to buy a new smoker and am trying to learn about them. I have been stronly considering an XL Big Green Egg. I know the knock against the BGE is the cost and while money is always a factor, I can definitely afford it if it is the best.
I have a few questions (several of which will probably sound very basic and stupid) that I would love to hear some responses to:
1) It seems like the BGE gets great reviews from everyone who owns one and everything I read. What are the cons aside from price, weight and if you don't like the color green?
2) While learning about BBQ, I have spoken with the founder of my favorite BBQ place (and I've eaten at every one I can find in VA, NC, and SC) and they recommended a smoker from Old Hickory Pits in Missouri. Any thoughts on those? Are they more of a commercial smoker than a home use?
3) After reading about ceramic smokers like the BGE, it seems like they are a great idea. They hold heat well, distribute the heat evenly, and you don't have to refuel them very often. But, if they are so great how come big time BBQ restaurants and BBQ competition chefs don't use them? (or do they and I just don't know?) Aside from price and weight, how is any other smoker better?
4) As a rookie, it seems to me that as long as you can maintain the temperature and contain the smoke that you will produce good food. It seems like the difference between a cheap aluminum can from Wal-Mart and a competition level smoker is ease of use. Is that fair to say? *IF* (and I know that can be a big "if") you can hold the temperature steady with either one, will a cheap smoker produce food just as good as a more expensive one? It seems that the type of smoke you put out (ie-the fuel) and the temperature being held just right at the only important factors in making good BBQ--it is just easier to do that in nicer smokers. If you cook with the same fuel in different smokers and the temperature is the same in both, will the meat taste much different if one is aluminum, one is steel, and one is ceramic? In a nutshell, what I'm asking is does the smoker itself influence taste at all or just impact your ability to contain smoke and hold the perfect temperature?
Thanks so much for your help--it is greatly appreciated!