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Another FNG To the Forum

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Heya. I found this forum a while back and have been lurking and getting some info but it's time for some questions and maybe some comments. I've been on all sorts of forums from 4x4 to wood working to many food sites and more and this looks like one of the best ones I've ever found. Loads of information that's reasonably well organized and very friendly and helpful people. A few years ago I visited another, "BBQ forum" and I quickly came to the conclusion that the only way anyone on that forum was going to survive was to have extremely thick skin. It was the most vicious forum I've ever visited. I never posted and I didn't stick around.

I'm a married 45 year old father of an 11 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. I've been cooking for about 28 years and I was a chef for about 10 years...Great restaurants, great food, bad hours, bad pay, no thanks. But I still cook a lot and much of that food is smoked, grilled, and/or rotissioried pork, beef, chicken, homemade sausage, fish, and whatever else I could find. I don't claim to be a BBQ/Smoke expert and certainly nobody on these forums would call me a, "Purist". But I have produced many hundreds of pounds of succulent meats that many of my guests have said is the best they've ever had. Okay, so some people are just plain ol' ignorant but my spare ribs, (By my taste buds) have only been beaten by one BBQ joint I've ever been to. But now it's time for me to get a little closer to being a, "Purist" and simplify my process at the same time.

I've owned a Big Chief top loading electric smoker for at least 20 years and while it is far from being a perfect setup it has served me well when combined with other cooking techniques. For a long time now I've been combining 2 or 3 pans of chips with a few hours in my countertop electric roasting oven, (See I TOLD you I wasn't a purist!) and then finishing on my 15 year old Weber gas grill.

I usually dry rub and, (At least for ribs) I finish on the grill with 2 or 3 coats of my own espresso based BBQ sauce. I know, I know, there are those that think that good smoked meat doesn't need sauce. To that I say that a good hot dog doesn't need any condiments and neither does a good hamburger. I really don't see any difference between the two other than sometimes a burger is a little dry. BBQ sauce is a matter of personal preference and anyone who tries to tell someone that they are, "Doing it wrong" is narrow minded when it comes to food. My food philosophy is that if it tastes good that's all that matters. I won't tell you that mustard overpowers the flavor of a good hot dog and you shouldn't tell me that a great BBQ sauce, (Mine is awesome!) overpowers the flavor of a good rack of ribs. No offense intended to anyone and I respect other people's right to their own opinion. I just object to being told how my food is supposed to taste. icon_cool.gif

While I don't consider myself a BBQ/Smoke expert I do claim the title of Expert when it comes to many other types of foods. But I still learn more about food all of the time and now that I've found this great forum I hope to learn more about smoking and more, "Traditional" BBQ than I've been practicing for the past 20 years. Since my introduction is way longer than I intended it to be and it's likely that nobody is reading anymore I think I'll save my questions for my next post.

post #2 of 20

Welcome Bruce, Glad to have you with us. This is the place to learn, lots of good info and helpful friendly Members.

For those New to Smoking, Be sure to check out Jeff's 5 Day Smoking Basics eCourse, you can find it here it's "FREE"...5 Day eCourse

Everyone here enjoys seeing the Qview so be sure to post plenty of pics... Large ones that us old people with bad eyes can see.

When you uploading to Photobucket I always use the Large IMG setting, 640 x 480 it is a nice size...
post #3 of 20
Welcome aboard Bruce, glad to have you.
post #4 of 20
Bruce welcome to SMF you'll find lots of good info and some great recipes here. You'll find lots of opinions on how to do things too all I can say is do what makes you happy and tastes good to you. Have fun and happy smoking
post #5 of 20
Hello from Montana. Welcome and have fun!
post #6 of 20
Welcome to SMF, Bruce. Glad you joined us.
post #7 of 20
Welcome to the forum! You got a nice perspective to start out with....
post #8 of 20
Welcome Aboard.Fire up the Q-View or advice,questions etc........
post #9 of 20
Welcome aboard....you've come to the right place,with the right attitude. Can't wait to learn from you :). Don't forget the qview.
post #10 of 20
Hello and welcome aboard!
post #11 of 20
Hi Bruce,welcome to SMF
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 

Help Me Decide...Electric, Charcoal, or Maybe Gas?--Looong

Thanks for the friendly welcome. I'm in market for a smoker of some sort that will accomplish what my old Big Chief electric couldn't: Complete the smoking and cooking process from start to finish. Well, I currently glaze my ribs, chicken, and sometimes the pork butt on my Weber gas grill but that's just a few minutes, not really cooking it.

Because I'm unsure of exactly what type of smoker I want I wasn't sure of what forum to post this question to. So here I am and if it's in the wrong forum I won't mind if a moderator moves this post to the correct forum. Thanks in advance for that. I realize that a debate over gas, wood, charcoal, or electric has the potential to get heated, icon_rolleyes.gif and personal so I hope I'm not stirring up any old debates.

For right now I'm not really considering a gas fired smoker. I have nothing at all against gas and I use my 15+ year old propane Weber all the time. I LOVE it! But I don't run the gas on that thing for 4 to 14+ hours at a time. Around here propane is still really expensive and I just don't think I want to spend a fortune for fuel for some ribs and a brisket. I'm also a little concerned that a gas smoker might be harder to keep the temp down low but to be honest I really don't know much about them. If anyone has some relevant advice regarding my two concerns above I'm all ears.

I'm used to using an electric smoker, (The Big Chief top loader) for about the past 20 years. While it's nearly impossible to control the temperature and it doesn't get hot enough to cook anything more than jerky or salmon, it does produce a pretty good cloud of smoke and I know what to expect. So I've been planning out an electric smoker that will do what I need it to do. I have a pretty decent Miller 185 MIG welder and the ability to cut just about anything and I've done a little bit of fabrication on my Jeeps over the years.

I have been planning something in the range of maybe 2' wide, 18" deep, and 3' or 4' tall. Double wall with insulation and one or maybe 2 doors for the front. The second door might be to get to the water pan and chip pan. I'm not sure if that's necessary though.

I haven't decided on the rack system yet. I've found a few chrome grills that might fit the bill but they ain't cheap. I could also just make my own but I'm thinking I might have a problem with rust if they aren't chrome or stainless. The Stainless is expensive and I can't afford to have something custom chromed if I made if from scratch. If I bought something pre-made it would dictate the size of the smoker. Anyone have any ideas on an inexpensive source for chrome or stainless grill racks somewhere in the range of 24" x 18"? Lowe's has a few different sizes but the cheapest is around $15 a piece and if I put 4 to 6 racks in there it would be more than I was hoping to spend. Did I mention that I'm poor and cheap? I should've mentioned that right from the start, I guess.

There are several different electric heat sources I have in mind but they're all a 110v electric coil between 1000w and 1500w or so and controlled for now with a rheostat. I've been eyeing a couple of beautiful digital thermostats that I came across this company http://www.auberins.com/ and they have several options that look great...But they are pretty expensive and out of my price range right now. But it's something that I could easily add later when I have the bucks. Here's another one that's much less expensive but the temp only goes up to 220 degrees and while that may be perfect for most of what I'm cooking I want the ability to go up into the 300+ degree range if I want to. http://www.pexsupply.com/Ranco-ETC-1...put-11627000-p

I've even considered maybe using one of the remote smoke generators like the Smoke Pistol or one of the Smoke Daddy setups. Nearly effortless smoke, hot or cold. Well, maybe...

Okay, so I've got it all figured out, right? It's the lazy man's way to sucking the smoky goodness right off the plate with minimal effort and consistently excellent results. Of course there is the MEC and one or two others like it but they're a little smaller than I want and from the reviews I read I'm not completely convinced that I'd be getting a high quality, well built smoker that will last me for years. If I make it I know it will survive a bomb blast and, with the exception of the possible electronic thermostat, the replacement parts are cheap and easy to come by...

But then I made the mistake of talking to my brother this weekend who came in from out of town...He told me all about his WSM and how awesome it is. He claimed he could load it up with charcoal and leave it for up to 5 or 6 hours with no problem and the temp would pretty much stay right where he wanted it, (220 to 230). I don't see him very often, we were at my parents house, we don't always get along well...So I decided not to tell him that I didn't believe him. We went home later and I mentioned to my wife that my bro had been feeding me a line about how a charcoal smoker could hold a steady temp for hours on end without messing with it. Yeah, right!

I was curious though. Last night I did a little research and read a ton of reviews about the WSM smoker, mostly on Amazon. I've learned not to believe every review on Amazon or anywhere else but when something gets nothing but stellar reviews and they all pretty much agree with what my brother told me I gotta give them some credence. I think I owe my brother an apology for completely doubting him...But I think I'll just keep it to myself. redface.gif

So what's the problem? I like the idea of an electric smoker. I have a good idea of how to build one, (More or less) and I can make it fairly cheaply at first and then add some more expensive features later as my budget allows. I could also substitute a propane burner for the electric heating element(s) in my homemade smoker if I chose to and be a little bit more self contained than the electric. But the WSM at least appears to be about as, "Set-it-and-forget-it" as you can get with charcoal or wood. And I won't ever need an extension cord. If/when the power goes out, (Weather, natural disaster, didn't pay my bill) I can still cook up some killer grub or I can even take it with me when we go camping. I wouldn't need to wait in line with my propane tanks while civilization crumbles around us and the gangs of thugs try to steal what I've got. (Think Mad Max PDT_Armataz_01_19.gificon_wink.gif) Bags of charcoal are everywhereand at worst I could make my own. This WSM is looking better and better all the time.

Pros: Reliable, readily available and cheap fuel, bullet proof construction, set it and forget it, (Nearly) design, I wouldn't have to build it, I could just take it out of the box and put it together. I suppose I could also add that I wouldn't have to hang my head in shame when comparing Q notes with the hardcore, anti-electric, anti-propane purists either. icon_wink.gif I'm sure there are some other Pros to be listed here but I can't think of any right now. Feel free to add any you can think of.

Cons: The Weber is darned expensive for something without a plug, battery, or gas valve or even a single LED or LCD display. Especially the 22" model, which is the one I was really eyeballing. Plus, even with the surprisingly positive reviews regarding the WSM's ability to hold a steady temperature for hours, it's still not as convenient or idiot-proof as an electric smoker with a thermostat. It also appears to be harder to load, or at least the bottom rack does. I'd have to add up the possible square inches of rack space in my proposed homemade electric design but I don't think even the 22" WSM will hold nearly as much meat. I could be wrong on that one though.

What do you all think? Stick with my electric design and maybe upgrade as I go along? Spend more money than I can really afford right now and get one of the 2 sizes of the WSM smoker? Or maybe use propane with the box I was planning for the electric smoker? I wish my brother hadn't told me how great his smoker is...I was all ready to go down and buy some steel on Tuesday and get to cutting and welding.

So, I realize that this was a ridiculously long post but I had a lot to say on the subject and when asking for advice I want the people I'm asking to understand my parameters. Thanks in advance for any and all advice. It is much appreciated.

post #13 of 20
Howdy Bruce...nice to see you here. I agree with you on the sauce part buddy. If I'm going to spend two hours making a reduction and a fine sauce....it's for darned sure going to be on my ribs when they are served.
post #14 of 20
First off welcome to SMF. You'll like it here cause there are abunch of good folks here that would just love to help you out with just about anythignto do with smoking. We really like to have newbies here because they can bring in a new propective to how things are done. There's nothing like a new set of eyes to give and new way to make things that little differant to make things alittle better. So I hope you know about the Qview here. We like to see your smoker and what your smoking on. So grab your camera and show us how you do it.
Welcome To The Addiction
post #15 of 20
Welcome Bruce. You will find as I did this one of the friendliest forums around. Lots of good folks here willing to help out and loads of good information.
I know what you mean about some other forums being harsh. I belong to several car and gun forums that can be brutal at times. Mods will let some people run wild.
Many forums have the keyboard equivelant of the loud mouth drunk at the end of the bar but I have yet to see that here and doubt that I will.
Enjoy the forum and looking forward to learning from your expertise. PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif
post #16 of 20


Welcome to our addiction Bruce,
You may want to check into maling yourself an UDS.( Upright drum smoker.) Charcole burner and probably the most efficiant way to smoke w/ coal from what i have read in the forums.
Loots of folks here have built their own and have plans and mods available.
post #17 of 20

Welcome to SMF

Welcome to SMF!! I’m so happy you decided to join us.


post #18 of 20
Welcome Bruce.

You are right about having your own home made sauce. I spent lots of bucks and several years tweaking my BBQ sauce to get it just right for me. Everyone raves about it now but at first it was just basically Ketchup with sugar in it and quite frankly really awful. However that being said, I have to admit that I now don't use it very often preferring to eat my ribs without sauce. Done right they are that good. Knowing that most guests like sauce I do most of them with sauce and keep some ribs naked for those that like them that way. I am slowly but surely weaning my inlaws and family off of the sauce. Its a 12 step program hee hee.
You mention that the webber could be used in a power crisis and you could even make your own charcoal if you had to. In the case of not having charcoal, a thing which happened to me when we forgot the darned bag of lump once. 50 miles from a store. Instead of the 100 mile round trip we just shoveled the coals out of the campfire for the charcoal grill. Adapt or die I always say. You can easily make a burn barrel in the back yard for making coals.

By the Way, In my opinion, "Rediculously long posts" are good for asking all the questions you need answers to. So don't concern yourself about that.

I did notice at the only two comps I went to as an observer, that a lot of the people were using the Webbers in both the small and larger models. There were guys with computer controlled smokers and some commercial grade smokers and some very elaborate home brew smokers. Still when push came to shove. It turned out that a lot of the winners were using WSMs. That Impressed the hell out of me.

I agree what you said about other forums. I have been on some non-censored forums that are just horrendous and completely out of control. Thankfully the SMF mods screen the newbies here at the start. So a lot of that crapola does not even get started on here. I get a little upset about the censorship of some common words in the chat but its a small price to pay for the friendly helpful forum that we have here.

I know you will fit in here just nicely, so once again welcome to the family.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
To sauce or not to sauce...That is the question! Hmmm...I still think it's a matter of personal preference regardless of if they are, "Done right" or not. Even with my non-conventional method I still think my ribs are almost as good as any I've ever had before, either with or without sauce. But I do agree that poorly done Q benefits greatly from a good slathering of sauce. I just also think that properly done Q does also.

When discussing this subject or reading about it I've found that more often than not the anti-sauce people are more likely to be the people cooking the Q, (Usually accomplished BBQ cooks) and the people who like the sauce cooked on the Que are the other people who are just eating the Q. Notice I said, "Usually". My brother is a pretty good BBQ cook and says, "No sauce" but when he eats my pre-sauced ribs he sure does chow down on them. I guess he doesn't object too much!biggrin.gif

I really think this parallels the hot dog condiment debate. I'm not a picky eater. But when I eat a hot dog I like ketchup on it and I don't want mustard on it. If you listen to the blowhard, "Hot dog experts" that you see on Food Network shows that focus on Chicago and New York then I'm some kind of a psycho freak! Uh, I eat it that way because I LIKE IT that way. Nothing wrong with my taste buds either. As a pro chef I worked in some excellent restaurants and made a lot of people very happy with my own creations.

That's a great idea. I hadn't even considered this. I guess I've been relying on electricity to produce my smoke for too long. I've seen a few BBQ joints on TV that supply their pits using the same method. I have a lot of oak trees in my yard. Too many actually. I've trimmed them and dropped a few and mother nature has done the same without me asking. During the summer months we aren't allowed to burn but during the winter months I burn the branches. I think next time I'm going to take a shovel and dig deep into the coals and use them in my new smoker. Why waste them? Plus I'll have something to eat after a long day of trimming, piling, and burning branches and limbs.

I've never been to a competition but I have read about this same fact on a couple of other BBQ forums. Yet more proof that you don't always have to spend a fortune on equipment to get great results. This applies not only to WSMs but also to the new ProQ Excel 20. More on that in a minute...

Thanks for the welcome. I was strongly considering the WSM but I came across the ProQ Excel 20 smoker. It appears, (To me anyway) that the company took the best of the WSM and improved upon it. Since my last post on this subject I've found a lot more information on the ProQ. Almost 100% of it is positive. I have found 2 or 3 negative comments though. 1 or 2 about minor shipping damage. A couple have complained that the latches and side handles get too hot to touch. Yeah? Wear some gloves. And a couple from newbies who couldn't get the smoker up to temperature. I've seen this exact same complaint from WSM newbies too so I guess it's just a matter of figuring out the fire and how to control it. For the hot handle issue I plan to wrap the side handles with this special cloth used to wrap exhaust headers to help keep underhood temperatures down. I just hope I can find it in a small enough quantity and not have to buy enough to wrap a couple of headers. Either that or I may buy a cheap high temp silicone cookie sheet and cut out some pieces to attach to the handles. That sounds easier and cheaper, actually.

Other than that, it is made from the same gauge metal as the WSM, it's supposedly as easy to regulate the heat, it's bigger than the 18.5" WSM, and with the available 3rd level stacker it's bigger than the new 22.5" WSM. Plus, it has several features that I really like that the WSM doesn't have. And if all that wasn't enough I bought one with the 3rd level stacker for only $240 shipped to my door. It arrives tomorrow! I'm all ready for it...Sort of. Now I just have to learn how to actually use the thing.

Finding info on the relatively new ProQ Excel 20 wasn't easy. The WSM is everywhere and everybody and their mother has one. It's a great smoker so that's understandable. I spent a little extra time and learned quite a bit about it before I bought one. So if anyone is interested I'll tell you what I've learned and/or share some links to the info. And of course I'll keep the forum up to date on what I think of the new toy when it arrives tomorrow. I'm already stocked with 2 different kinds of briquettes and one kind of lump charcoal. That should get me started and give me a good idea of how each kind works. I think I have to season it before adding meat to it so I don't think I'll be able to actually cook anything tomorrow.icon_sad.gif But that's cool. The seasoning process will give me a chance to get used to using the vents and controlling the heat without messing up a batch of ribs and chicken.

post #20 of 20
welcome Bruce,

electric, propane, charcoal, stick burners, its all good. Same goes for sauced, not sauced, sauce on the side, foiled or not foiled, etc. As long as your turning out Q' your happy with & take pics folks here are all ears, and full of compliments, tips, and recipes.

I used a WSM for about 6 weeks this summer, and found it simple to use and maintain temp(I was using a leaky modified Chargriller offset(I couldnt even give it away at my garage sale this past weekend) before the WSM so that may have something to do with my observation). I didnt want to drop the $200 for a WSM a month or so ago, and went propane, as easy to use as the WSM, and turns out great bbq. I will be buying a WSM soon(one of the mottos here seems to be: "you cant have too many smokers.")
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