I first got into smoking meat a year ago. I saw a youtube video of it and converted my propane gril into a smoker, using some woodchips and aluminum foil pouches. It got the job done, but very poorly.
So for xmas this past december, the parents got me this exact smoker. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/products/cb-cb600x-lp-vertical-smoker
It's great, but I'm having some difficulty with it. I went ahead and purchased the ChefAlarm from thermoworks as the temp gauge on the door is worthless. I also purchased an air temp probe to help me monitor the internal temperature of the smoker. I didn't want to buy a more expensive alarm, so I just hot-swap the cables into the alarm to get a good reading. It works, saved a couple bucks.
The waterpan on this sucker is terrible. I have to open the bottom drawer and add more water every 30-40mins. This is with the burner set to high. Even on it's best day when it is 80 out, the internal temp hovers around 250. This is with me refilling the waterpan when it gets empty. I have tried pre-heating the smoker to 250, and then turning the burner back down to medium or low, and this just fails miserably. The temp won't hold, and it drops down to 180-200. I have found that without water in the pan, I can get the temp up 325ish. But that blackens the skin after a while and I just don't find it desirable.
Having only smoked poultry, the temp limit isn't that big of a problem for me. Most of the recipes I've been following only call for 250. So it kind of works out. I'd like to branch off and smoke some other kinds of meat. Do you guys have any recommendations of meat/cuts for a beginner? Something I could marinate/brine, rub and just throw in the grill. I love the simplicity that comes with smoking chicken. Anyways, some of the pork recipes I've seen call for 300,325 and even 350. This just doesn't seem possible in my case.
I primarily use wood chunks when smoking. They're easier to use than chips, and I find I don't need to soak them at all. My favorite is one large chunk of apple wood, surrounded with tiny chunks of hickory. It gives a nice flavor, with a little pepper to it.
Couple things I'd like some expert advice on.
Can I place an additional aluminum pan in the bottom of my smoker, on a rack? Would this keep the air nice and moist, and prevent me from needing to refill every 30-40 minutes?
When cooking other kinds of meat, is the water pan not necessary? Is this how I will achieve the desired temps?