Smoker options: Weber Smokey Mountain 22 in., Char Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker, Brinkmann TrailMaster limited offset smoker, Brinkmann TrailMaster 57 in. Vertical Smoker
As always I appreciate any and all info! Keep on Smokin on
Well, I'm a biased voter, because I've only had my WSM. Got a pork butt on it right now (started 45 minutes ago). If you end up getting one, search on this site for WSM mods.
JIRodriguez provided me with a lot of help! (Johnny: if you're out there, I just got the welding blanket while it was on sale a month ago. Got the clips, too. I'm now ready for the winter!)
Here's the link for Johnny's temp probe holes (I recommend the Maverick ET 732):
I bought some gasket material, also. Here's a link with my pictures:
You don't have to do any "dry runs" with these: there are no oils or anything like that on any of the surfaces, so there's nothing to cook off on them.
I read that they run a little hot the first few times, so I started with chicken leg quarters: very forgiving. I've learned that ABTs are good to start with as well: they're very difficult to foul up!
Good luck with your decision!
Regarding charcoal, you can't be timid, especially for the longer smokes. I always wait for the Lowe's or Home Depot sales, usually around the holidays, and buy several two-pack bags. You don't want to run out in the middle of a smoke!
With the gaskets, when I close it down, it burns out fairly quickly, so I can reuse whatever's left.
Have you heard of the "Minoin Method"? We're not supposed to provide links to external web sites, but since this is a "sister site" of Jeff's, I hope it's OK! (My apologies to the moderators if it's not.) If the link gets removed, just do a search for Minion Method on the Internet.
Jeff uses lump, but I use Kingsford blue because it burns more evenly, and I'm no pro! I recommend the Weber chimney starter: it far outlasts the cheaper ones. You definitely don't want to use lighter fluid or Match Light charcoal.
If you buy the 22.5", you can buy a charcoal grate (not the cooking grate), that's made for the 18.5" Weber kettle grill. It fits right inside the charcoal ring in the WSM, and you lay it in there perpendicular to the WSM charcoal grate. The criss-cross pattern helps prevend coals from dropping to the bottom as they burn.
When the fire is out (or before my next smoke), I stir the leftover coals around to get the loose ash to drop. I carefully lift out both grates and the ring as one, so that the used coals stay in place. Then, I dump the ashes from the bottom bowl. I got lazy a couple of times and didn't dump the ashes. I don't do that anymore: It seems to really hinder the air flow.
Hope this helps!
I think that you might want to get used to it for a while before you try to "set it and forget it". I've especially had to keep an eye on things when the winds are constantly changing. It seems to be easier to get temps to drop by closing vents than to get temps to raise (by opening vents, adding coals, or whatever), so I've been very careful not to let it drop too much.
I sometimes wonder if I'm being too careful to keep it in a certain temperature range for longer smokes...that maybe it's OK to let it get a little high or a little low for a while. (I'd love to hear anyone's opinion on this!)
The important thing is to make sure you get the meat temp up soon enough to be safe to eat...
I've never had a problem with this...everything I've smoked has gotten well into the safe zone within a couple of hours.
I've been eyeing the BBQ Guru myself, but I haven't made the leap quite yet. So far, I haven't cooked anything large enough to require an overnight smoke (although I've had a night or two where I've had to stay up a bit later than I had planned...poor planning on my part), but I've been dying to do a packer brisket. Might have to break down and get a Guru some day soon.
As for the wind shield, I bought a welding blanket and clips as I mentioned above...per Johnny's advice. Got them at a local Harbor Freight store when they were on sale. Here's the link to Johnny's thread:
Haven't needed it yet, but I'm sure I will someday.
Keep us posted with your first few tries with your new WSM. I'm looking forward to hearing your opinion!