Middle aged Texan with blossoming waistline here beginning my second time around at smoking. I have been a grill guy my whole life and believe in technology. What I mean by that is I am not necessarily a 'purist' as I have almost always used a good gas grill.
I first tried smoking a couple of years ago by buying one of the inexpensive Brinkman vertical smokers at one of the big box stores and used good ol' lump charcoal. Always had a real tough time maintaining any sort of temperature, couldn't ever seem to hold much above 200. Found it to be very high maintenance. Certainly didn't feel comfortable leaving it unattended. I finally hung up my gloves when the water got low one time, started boiling pretty good, splashed grease drippings from the ribs onto the fire and ended up with flames coming from the top vents (but it sure was rolling smoke!).
About 2 months ago we decided to give it another shot and bought a 30" MES online. Had heard lots of good things about the safety factor, ease of use and ability to maintain an effective temperature. First tried some ribs, but came out a bit chewy. Next tried a brisket (just winging it at this point) and was cooking to internal temp, but knew nothing of the plateau. Pulled it a little into what I now know was the first plateau and then didn't slice against the grain.
Then I found SMF. It has all turned around now!
Based on the plethora of knowledge I have found on here, I have now done several briskest that have been incredible. One went for nearly 18 hours! I feel very comfortable sharing my food with others and receive nothing but compliments. This smoker is just a breeze to use. Have no fear of leaving it going all night or leaving the house while it's going.
I just did some ribs this weekend using the 2-2-1 method and was very impressed. Just did some beer can chickens this morning.
Now that the smoker itself, fuel and ability to hold temp are no longer a concern, I look forward to learning more from you guys are really start focusing on the seasoning and development of the final product.