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How did you get started in grilling and smoking.

Discussion in 'Blowing Smoke Around the Smoker.' started by gmc2003, Nov 8, 2018 at 10:12 AM.

  1. gmc2003

    gmc2003 Master of the Pit

    I know that when I was just a young lad my dad would grill hot dogs and hamburgers on one of those little Habachi grills. You know the ones with two small grates and three different levels. This was done every Saturday or Sunday to give mom a day off from cooking. Then he graduated to the round generic charcoal grill and the food went from dogs and burgers to steaks and chicken. After a short time and a rusted out grill he bought another generic grill, but this one had a lid, and the family was introduced to spare ribs. All the coals were started with Kingford lighter fluid. Finally he graduated to a Weber Kettle and a charcoal starter. Gone was the lighter fluid taste in his Q. He never really mastered outdoor cooking, as everything was basically well done to almost burnt. Smoking meat never entered the picture - until. That one day at a friends house. Where he was experimenting with smoking ribs on a Kettle. It peaked my interest, but it also faded just as quickly. Needless to say my friends ribs didn't come out very well, but were better then my dads. Fast forward quite a few years and I saw my first BBQ show on television. I remembered the fond memories of my dad cooking outside, and wanted to share that experience with my own children. So my journey started. I needed a new gasser, but also wanted to use charcoal. I liked the taste of charcoal cooked food over that of a gasser, but still wanted the convenience of a gasser if needed. So I got a Char-grillar duo. After a few years of struggling and modifying it. I was able to put out some Q that was respectable. However I soon tired of babysitting it, and started looking into a better quality smoker. I found a Weber kettle for sale on the side of the road and offered 20.00 for it. The man took my money and I loaded into my truck. I started grilling/smoking simple foods to start chickens, steaks and such. Then I tried a pork butt. Holy cow!!! the family loved it. After a year or so I wanted a dedicated smoker. So I decided to stay in the Weber family and bought a WSM. Both my kids are now into smoking and we've had many years of relaxing family outdoor time making some pretty decent food and gaining valuable family time. It all started with dad and his little old habachi. It wasn't great, but who knew it would effect my life in a positive way fifty years later.

    So let's hear your who, what, where, when and why.

  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I could just Copy and Paste the above only changing to a Mecco Bullet as my first smoker. What a PITA to maintain temp in. Much of my Q was burnt or had to be finished on the Grill. Early 90's my MIL and I started watching BBQ shows. Out of the blue, a New Braunfels Offset was delivered a few days before my June birthday. This stepped up my game but still was not perfection. It was finding SMF, 7 years ago, that fine tuned my Smoking technique. Thanks guys...JJ
  3. Being young and stupid I/we would incenerate burgers and such on the grill outside, so we could stay outside where all the people were and drink. Camping left no real alternative.
    Got a place of my own and it just seemed traditional to grill burgers and dogs outside during the summer, so got a cheap gas grill. Being in St. Louis Pork Steaks are a must. Tried them once in a skillet or the oven(can't remember) but they were the nastiest things I ever cooked. They were also delegated to the grill only. When my buddy came over, he usually cooked the porksteaks and he really over-cooked them, I didn't know the difference at the time.
    Then at Walmart the she-beast saw an ECB for $30. We gave it a shot. I did the Thanksgiving Turkey on it and that was suddenly MY job. And the Christmas Ham and another ham at Easter. Thus I continued for the next 20 yrs.
    A neighbor had a moving sale and the she-beast bought a like new Weber 22. Up until now I did all my outdoor cooks on gas unless we were camping or the smoker. I gave it a shot and soon found out the Weber was worth every penny they ask for them. A little web research showed me the versatility in how to use it. Also showed me porksteaks don't have to be incenerated.
    I have been buying used ECB's for parts and got tired of piecing it back together and the weather limitations. A friend got me interested in cold smoking, that led me here where I discovered the MES.
    Being here, my interest quickly branched out to sausages and other meats. I also found out I have grilling for years calling it BBQ and I was wrong. I learned temps mean everything.
    Now if I just had a gas smoker for those rainy days I'd be set...til the next "I can't live without" comes along.
    chef jimmyj likes this.
  4. yankee2bbq

    yankee2bbq Smoking Fanatic

    Great thread Chris. Like you, I grew up watching my dad grill food on the Weber Kettle. I would love to light the mound of charcoal and watch the fire flare up then slowly die out! (Used lighter fluid...a bunch). My dad would grill simple things, nothing fancy, and mostly every weekend in the summer. As I got older and moved away to college, I bought a Weber Kettle, an excuse to drink beer with my buddies and grill wings! This every weekend activity led me to a girl who I fell in love with, and eventually married. During our first couple months together she noticed I enjoyed grilling so much, she bought me a Weber cookbook as a gift. This was my very first cookbook and learned a lot about fire control, cooking methods, and most importantly the WSM!
    As the years past and I now have a family of my own, I carry on the tradition of what my dad has taught me and how important family is! And of course smelling goood bbq around the smoker or grill!
    gmc2003 likes this.
  5. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looking at the future, I have been looking at Hybrid Grills. A gasser with charcoal boxes that can be inserted in place of or on top of the burner. Seems they are all high end. Not sure the direction to go.
    Growing up and even now. Pork Steak (Sliced Butts) was what I knew as Pork Chops, pan sauteed with LOTS of sliced Onions. We ate Loin Roasts but rarely Loin Chops. Mostly because cooked well done , pork steaks are still juicy compared to loin chops.
    This thread is bringing back some great memories!...JJ
  6. smokerjim

    smokerjim Smoking Fanatic

    Same here, remember dad cooking on the grill, couldn't tell you what kind, I remember my grandfather rigging something up to do rotisserie on it for special occasions,then years later he bought a gas grill. Then my brother got into smoking on a char broil barrel smoker,he used that for a couple years then asked me to build him one out of cinderblock, so he drew something on paper of what he wanted and away I went, then he gave me his barrel smoker and that's how I got into smoking, just jogged my memory, I do remember me and a friend trying make a smoker out of an old refrigerator, probably back in the eighties sometime,the first time we used it it caught on fire, and that was the end of my smoking until years later, I started smoking ribs and chicken, not so good,when I first started I thought the more smoke the better, was I wrong.i still use the old barrel smoker my brother gave me but mostly use the mes30 my wife bought me a few years ago.
  7. oldsmokerdude

    oldsmokerdude Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Same old story. Summer time during my youth meant my dad and uncle grilling on a lid-less cheap charcoal grill with lots of starter fluid. When I got married used the cheap charcoal grill for a while then just had to have and ultimately moved to a gas grill. It was like a microwave for grilling. A few years later, I saw an ECB at KMart and bought it. I had always like "mesquite smoked" turkey lunch meat so I thought I would try a small Thanksgiving turkey. Turned out pretty good so did some pork tenderloins, chicken, and other such things for a few years.

    My brother-in-law gave me a gas smoker and I used that for a year or so. LOVED the meat coming out of it, HATED how much attention I had to give it. Started looking around and said "Hey smoker dude, electric is the way to go." I fell in love with the Cook Shack smokers (or at least the advertising for them) but couldn't handle the price. Stumbled across Smokin' It website and bought one of those. Still have and use it a lot.

    I was lamenting that none of my Q had a good smoke ring when Costco started selling the Louisiana Grills pellet smokers. I looked at them for over a year and finally bit the bullet and bought the larger Championship Pro smoker/grill from Costco.

    While I love both my smokers, my attention has been turning towards an offset because of the "purity" and intimacy I think it has between the cooker, meat, and cook. Hmmm, could one be in my future next year?
  8. SonnyE

    SonnyE Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Well, BBQ was something that was done on occasions, not so much regularly.
    My Dad was a good cook, my Mom could burn water. When my older Sisters started Home Ec (Home Economics) in High School, Molly came home one day and wanted to do a recipe she learned.
    It was an awakening! We discovered food could have flavor! Flavor beyond charred. :confused:

    When I got along on my own, and married, I use to go up on Stocking Day after work and catch me a limit of rainbow trout to smoke. Loved it! But mostly it came out closer to smoked Jerky fish. But I liked it.
    I didn't do much cooking, that was "women's work." And my first wife was a Gourmet cook, and I wasn't interested in fooling with cooking, just fooling with the cook. :rolleyes:
    Second wife wasn't one for cooking or BBQ. And it was short term anyway.
    I lived around a bunch that did Pork Roasts and other delights on the grill. So still no need to learn, yet.

    Then I met my current wife, and one fine boiling July day we had her Uncle Jim over and I was pressed into Bar-B-Queing chicken for a Family party.
    Since it was going to be in the hundreds, I set up a mister hose that sent a wall of mist to the lawn and cooled the patio a bit.
    I just followed the wife's instructions, and turned a grill full of Thighs and Drumsticks into beautiful fare. I was afraid I'd burn it, so I was turning it constantly. I'd go from one side to the other, then begin again.
    Towards the end I painted on bottled BBQ sauce (forget the brand), and got it grilled on. Then plated it on a platter and in the house it went. I was fiddling with the BBQ for a few minutes, and by the time I got inside ALL of the chicken was gone. So I never got to taste the chicken I'd spent so much time BBQing my first time.

    There's been countless more BBQ's since, and quite a few burned out Barbies. And some smokers, or apparitions thereof.
    I came by the way of SMF by searching info about smokers. I thought it was about time I actually buy a smoker. :confused:
    I wanted one with a nice door, and real racks, and the ability to actually find accessories.
    I gleaned a lot from SMF, and individual friends here, and slid right into a MES 30. I smoke basically for myself. Other members of this Family aren't so much smoked meat fans. :(
    But I'm slowly beginning to win some over. And I've developed a rub they all like, even brought up the heat by introducing some Cyan pepper into it. Just a little bit at a time... :emoji_smiling_imp:
    We still don't Bar-B-Que like some do. Just now and then.
    But they come runnin for my ribs.:emoji_fire:

    So much more a smoker, than a stoker. :emoji_poop:
  9. As a dad...my two areas of expertise (as is common) is anything grilled and breakfast.

    When I was first married and we bought our first house, one of the first things I bought was a small gas grill. And...I hate to admit it, but I also bought a rack of ribs...:) I fired up the grill, put the sauce on the ribs and proceeded to grill them on both sides until they were "done". Needless to say...they were very far from edible...pure leather with crystalized sugared sauce. I thought I could do ribs like burgers and steaks...:)

    A few years later, and I'm not sure why, I bought a brisket and put in on the grill. I turned on one burner, put a box of wood chips over it and put the brisket on the other end. I literally just left it in there until it was tender. My family was amazed at how it fell apart and how moist it was.

    I did a brisket maybe a few more times that way and after doing a little bit of research, I bought a "Smoke Vault" vertical propane smoker. I probably blew through a couple hundred $'s of ribs trying to get it right before I finally hit one. (actually, I asked my wife to take them out of the smoker, when I was gone, and she forgot...they turned out awesome...I finally realized I was under cooking)

    Once I hit that first rack, I was hooked. Last year my wife bought me my dream smoker and I think I've tried just about everything I've seen on this site...some good...some not so good.

    I didn't grow up with a dad who grilled much...in fact, I'm not sure if I remember him ever grilling. But, I do remember how my boys, over the last 10 years, would ask me to smoke ribs, pork butt or whatever teenage boys could chow down. My oldest (whose off at college) texted me to find out if I was going to make beef ribs when he comes home at Thanksgiving...if that's what it takes to get him home...I'm okay with that.

    Maybe someday they will talk about how their dad loved BBQ and some great memories they had...and maybe they will catch the bug.
    SonnyE and yankee2bbq like this.
  10. retfr8flyr

    retfr8flyr Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    I grew up with the assortment of charcoal grills that my father would use. My father was a pilot and was gone a lot so my mother did most of the grilling. Then in 1960 my father brought home a Kamado type grill from one of his trips to Japan. This grill couldn't be used for high temp grilling just smoking and lower temp grilling. I learned how to use this cooker along with my mother and we cooked everything but searing steaks on this grill. What everyone calls reverse searing now, was the way we cooked steaks back then. Low and slow for about an hour and then a quick sear on the charcoal grill. We didn't have all the fancy temp probes and related stuff back then. we just cooked by feel. I still cook on Kamado grills today but I have lots of temp aids these days and can do high temp cooks on the modern Kamado's.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018 at 8:14 PM
    RickNess likes this.
  11. dcecil

    dcecil Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    For me it was a total fluke, we didnt do much bbq growing up and mom, God bless her made meals that were enjoyed with lots of ketchup or A1. Dads way of handling dinner was packing us up and heading to either Happy Steak or Sizzler for over charred T Bones. When I was in my first house my brother lived with me and He bought this huge fancy gasser that was infrared. We decided to do some ribs on it and at that time the flavor was all about the condiments we used. I dont even remember how the ribs turned out but apparently I picked a good Q sauce because everyone loved the ribs. For me, that turned a light on. I found absolute joy watching people enjoy something I prepared. I knew that was something I wanted to continue. Theres just something about having people enjoy something you created and cooked. I started watching the TV shows much like everyone else and fell in love with the opportunity to make Q like what I was seeing on TV. So of course I got online and found the BBQ Pit BOys. From that point on it was on. To be honest I ruined a bunch of meat but its definitely come a long way from when I started. Started on the Weber and added the OK JOe until I just about wore it out and then came the Lang. Im am still in Love with the hobby we all share. Had a few successful catering events and a ton of good family times. My wife has joined me in the addiction but she decided Im the grill man and she handles the sides and let me tell you she gives me a run for my money with flavor. The way I figure it I have about 20 more years to practice so I can do some catering when I retire. Its pretty cool when people are always asking if I would cook for an event they are having. Its very humbling when your labors pay off. Lots of great post on here on the Topic, Good discussion Chris
    RickNess likes this.
  12. Like a lot of people I grew up watching my dad grill from the time I was very young. Assisted him when I was a bit older. He had a few different charcoal grills but no smokers. He did a lot of burgers, hot dogs etc. for the kids and would make awesome chicken, steaks grilled sausage and pretty good ribs for just grilling them. When I got into junior high he went to a Weber gas grill and I missed the charcoal but he never wanted to go back.

    After I moved out I still loved BBQ stuff but never got a grill. Fast forward a good number of years and I came across some BBQ shows on TV. Got my interest up again but still didn't really do much about it other than try some BBQ at local restaurants. About the same time tried to get my dad back into it and talk him into getting a smoker, he always said he was interested but never did. So that Xmas me and my sister got him a Little Chief smoker to work with.

    About the same time I was talking with a guy at work who wanted to go back to school for culinary arts and I asked him if he BBQ'd and he said he did occasionally. We got together and had a few barbecues and I showed him the BBQ Pitmasters show. We eventually went to check out a couple of local comps and decided to compete. We practiced quite a bit got a cheap Brinkmann and have done a couple of comps but nothing regular.

    Found this website somewhere in between these things when I was wanting to figure out how to smoke my own almonds and it came up in a google search. Glad I found this one before I found the BBQ Brethren site. IMHO this place is much better thanks to all the good folks here.

    Since then I had a friend give me an old gas grill that I use with charcoal and wood, my dad upgraded to a Traeger. Last year he gave me a great compliment and told me my ribs are better than his and he wants me to cook them more for family get togethers. Also my brother in law and sister got a Kingsford smoker and I have a number of friends and some neighbors that have also gotten into smoking after my enthusiasm and trying some of my food. I always refer to them here of course. Don't think any have signed up for the forums but I know several have been lurkers and tried out some of Jeff's recipes.
  13. gmc2003

    gmc2003 Master of the Pit

    The Mecco looks real similar to the WSM. My Char-griller was also a PIA to use, but I enjoyed every set-back I encountered - sort of a one step forward, two steps back thing(learning experience). I joined SMF 2012, asked a few questions then disappeared for a couple of years. I came back when I got serious about smoking, and my kids started getting into it. I haven't looked back as I've learned so much from the folks here - both past and present. I only hope I can contribute to the tradition.

  14. gmc2003

    gmc2003 Master of the Pit

    Justin, I totally agree, there's nothing better then time spent with the family. It's the small things that you remember that mean the most and can be past on. My sister and I share very different views of growing up. It's amazing how only a five year age difference can give you a different perspective, but cumulatively it's the same.

  15. gmc2003

    gmc2003 Master of the Pit

    Cool story Mos, I've burned many a burger and dog on the grill. Never had a pork steak that I know of. We had plenty of very thin boneless pork chops which maybe the same thing. Most of which were charred beyond recognition. Some of the best fire cooked food was brookies tossed into a camp fire, stuffed with butter while camping with the buds. The Boones farm may have made them taste better. Who knows, it was a long time ago.

  16. jcam222

    jcam222 Smoke Blower SMF Premier Member

    I spent about 5 years in my early 20s grilling large scale steak (London Broil for sandwiches) and Italian Sausage at fairs, festivals and races. I can run a grill like a beast :) , have loved throwing meat over fire ever since. I also grew up loving to cook with my grandmother. The two together have given me a true passion and love of cooking of all kinds including the grilling and smoking.
  17. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Pretty much the same thing for me. I grew up with my Dad BBQing burgers and dogs on an Hibachi. There was always LOTS of lighter fluid involved--when you grow up with it, you don't even notice the taste until it's absent. BTW, when I grew up in Saskatchewan, nobody had a smoker. Grilling was simply called BBQ. Everything that came off the grill met Saskatchewan Meat Standards of that era. In other words, it was cooked to beyond well done. God forbid there be the slightest bit of pink showing. It wasn't until I moved to Alberta in 1975 that I discovered that steak cooked to medium safe to eat (and unbelievably delicious). Who knew??
    When I moved on, I bought a gas grill. My first burgers on it displayed an amazing resemblance to charcoal. New learning curve.
    Then one day, after we moved into the bush around Drayton Valley, my neighbor's daughter was selling their smoker. So I bought it--cheap. It was a genuine Wally World El Cheapo wood burner. While searching the web for info on how to use it, I discovered SMF and the rest is history. Eventually Miss Linda bought me a MES 30 Gen 1 smoker for Father's Day, and I've never looked back.
  18. gmc2003

    gmc2003 Master of the Pit

    Nice story Jim, to bad about the refridge build - it would have been cool if it worked. I remember the first time I worked on my car. I was changing the transmission fluid on my 69 Chevelle with my dad watching over me. He thought it was better to learn the hard way so you don't forget what you learned. Anyway I had drained the fluid and removed the pan. I eventually found the filter after removing an ungodly amount of other bolts. The problem I was experiencing was that the replacement filter was much larger then the filter in the car and I was looking for something similar in size. After he finished having a good laugh at my expense he got down and showed me the error of my ways. He did help me put it back together and all ended well.

    If I was a little younger and the kids were still living at home I'd love a stick burner. At my age I don't want to split wood or stack it. So I'll keep my WSM. I've been seriously thinking about an electric for certain items. We'll see.

  19. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've told this before, but this thread is a good place to repeat it, with more detail.

    I too grew up with my dad grilling on an el cheapo open grill. Burgers, steaks, kebabs.

    Eventually Dad invested in a Weber 22, here he is with a family friend (he has the glasses) sometime in the 1970s (looks like kebabs):

    (Kind of spooky for me to look at that because I'm already older than he is in that pic)

    So for many years we grilled on the Weber and we loved it. Years later a friend introduced me to grilling chicken marinaded in Italian salad dressing, and I was amazed because I had never tasted grilled chicken like that. But no smoking yet, just grilling.

    Fast forward, I'm camping on a friend's rural ridgetop property. I found a Weber 18 behind the cabin, in a pile of clutter. It looked nice and new except it had no legs. ?? But there was also a car wheel rim and the Weber fit in it like a ball in a socket. I used it at the campsite in the pine woods, which had a slight slope, and I could pivot the grill to level.

    Still just grilling with charcoal.

    One Fine Day I had split chicken breasts to grill. But I didn't have enough charcoal, and I was too cheap and lazy to drive to town to get more. There was a lot of windfall red maple, most of it approximately the diameter of my wrist. So, with bow saw and hatchet I made a fire in the Weber.

    But I couldn't cook over an open flame like that. Then I realized that I could choke the fire with the top vent (bottoms were open) and that's how I first experienced Thin Blue Smoke. I smoked the split chicken breasts, and I was hooked. I came Down From the Mountaintop bearing the news.

    I still choke using the top vent. As far as I know, I'm the only one here who does that; everyone else chokes with the intakes.

    By this time Dad's first Weber had rusted out, and he got a 1980 Weber 18". I showed the smoking method to my parents but they weren't very interested.

    Fast forward many more years, the parents have passed away, and I have the 1980 18". My sister and I were in a Sears hardware store, and they had a Masterbuilt offset floor display model marked down from $150 to $100. I said I always wanted an offset, and she said get it. So I did, and so arrived the Good Neighbor.

    I have been loving it. As far as I know it's the only Masterbuilt offset on this board. (Model 20042111 "Classic barrel grill with firebox" ) I gave the 1980 18" to a friend but I don't know if he has used it much.

    I found SMF because more than once I saw a link pointing to it from the Ohio Game Fishing discussion board. There is some cross-membership between the boards.

    Fast forward again, I've moved to my own home, still have the offset. My neighbors had to move out in a hurry and among a huge amount of clutter there was a 1990 22" which I bought from them for $10. Now I split my cooking/smoking between the offset and the kettle.

    Life is an adventure, and it smells like smoke.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018 at 8:30 AM
    yankee2bbq likes this.
  20. Big Glenn

    Big Glenn Newbie

    I don't remember our family grilling much except when we were camping, which usually involved incinerating hot dogs and hamburgers. As a teenager I begin to love BBQ and would search out BBQ joints. As I got older my friends and I begin having keg parties, often outside, which of course demanded food. one friend in particular had seen someone cook a pig and learned a little about it. He and I and a couple of others decided the next keg party we were going to cook a pig. So with a large hole in the ground, some concrete blocks, expanded metal, tin and a 130lb half pig we thought we were ready. We started the night before the party, cooked all night and all the next day and finished the first keg before the pig was done. We finally decided it was done after 24 hours. I remember it as the best thing I had ever eaten. Everyone else loved it so we had found our calling. Over the next few years we cooked probably 6 or 8 pigs and a few turkeys.
    As other things took over lives we drifted away. After I got married I always had a grill but it was mostly for burger and steaks with the occasional smoked turkey. But I have always loved BBQ. In recent years a friend has invited me to a "smoking" party where several people bring something to put on his pit. I have fallen back in love with smoking. Since I am about 8 months from retirement I am planning to make smoking one of my pastimes. I will be getting a pit soon and look forward to learning a lot more from this site and making some great Q.

    Big Glenn