Originally Posted by stevetheteacher
I am looking at a Smoke Vault at my local Home Depot, I am ready to pull the trigger and buy, but I have a few questions:
1. What are the pro's and con's of a 24 inch vs. an 18 inch? (There are only 3 in my family)? Is it worth the extra $100 for bigger one?
If you want to smoke whole packer brisket the SV-24 will handle 18-22lbrs without cutting or separating them...2 to 3 at a time. They will handle 6-8 pork butts at a time, or 8+ whole chickens, comfortably. However, with a household of 3 myself, I've begun downsizing and have passed on my SV-24 to one of my boys. I now have a WSM 18.5" and unless I'm cooking a lot of food for a gathering, it is more than adequate for grate capacity, even when smoking meat plus taters/veggies. An entire meal can be made in the WSM for the 3 of us and it only has 2 grates...the SV-24 has racks for up to 5 grates. Barring the want/need to do whole brisket, lots of pork shoulder or yard birds, or cooking for larger gatherings, no, you definitely do not need the 24...in fact you may find the 18 to be difficult to load up enough to justify it at some point. Pretty good smoker for the money, though...ran mine for 5 years before I went to the dark side...smoked for a wedding, family reunions, etc. Just be sure to not scrub the chrome finish off of the cooking grates (happened on my old GOSM gasser)...let a good seasoning build up on them and just keep on smoking...knock off the bigger crud with a brush and leave the rest alone.
2. Approximately how many chips do I use when starting?
A handful at time will suffice, but I liked to use a mix of chips and small to medium chunks. Chips smoke faster and before they're gone the chunks begin smoking, which lasts longer.
3. How often can I expect to replenish the wood chips throughout the smoke>
Medium chunks will last 8-10 hours, small chunks about 5-6 hours, while chips may only go for 1-3 hours, depending on the amount used, size of chips, and how you pile them up.
4, Can I use pellets?
You could, but remember that smoke wood size determines how fast it will smoke and how long it will last...they'll go up pretty quick.
5. How much propane will I use during an average smoke?
In winter on 24-28hr smokes with brisket of pork shoulder I've never used more than 1/2-2/3 tank running @ ~225* with ambient temps averaging around 20* between daytime highs and night-time lows, light to moderate winds with some sheltering from the weather. Summer I've used about 25-30% less fuel. BTW, I have my own tanks refilled at a bulk distributor, locally, instead of using Blue Rhino, etc...costs about 1/2 as much, but I have that option, some folks don't.
I realize a lot of the answers to questions are different under different conditions, but approximates are fine.
Thanks in advance for your input!!!