Smoker Test and Cook-off

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by duckjockey, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. The scientist in me would LOVE to do a controlled test between three different kinds of smokers: Electric, Pellet and Charcoal. There is so much discussion on which type of smoker produces the best Q, that someone needs to do this. Alas, I don't have the necessary equipment, but maybe someone out there does. Here is what I would suggest:

    One or two types of meat are chosen: Baby Back Ribs and Pork Butt, for instance.

    One each of the three types of smokers is chosen: Smokin-It electric, Humphrey's charcoal, Rec Tec pellet, for example.

    Each smoker is properly seasoned.

    Meat and smoker temp probes are used.

    Rubs and marinades, etc., are identical.

    The smokers are readied according to mfg's directions. For instance, the meat is put in a cold Smokin-It electric smoker, but the others are heated.

    The temperature is brought to and kept at the same level, say 225F.

    It is kept there until the meat in each smoker reaches the same temperature.

    If additional treatment is used, like the Texas Crunch, it is identical for all meats.

    Once the meat is judged done, rested, and ready to eat, it is cut, prepared and labeled by a third party to present to the taste testers.

    Ten testers will be blindfolded, and will sample meat from each smoker, judging it on flavor, moisture, and tenderness (and maybe other things).

    The results will be compiled and presented in the smokingmeatforums.

    Any takers?

  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    That would be fun but think it may be Fruitless. There is some truth in the saying, " It's not the Pit that makes the Meat, it's the Pitmaster... "

    There is something Magical that comes out of a 50 year old Wood Fired Pit, cooked by a Pitmaster that been making Q even longer. But a great Pitmaster can learn to use any type of smoker and with a few tricks, tweeks and mods, use it to make outstanding meat. 

    A case in point, I went from a 20 year old New Braunfels horizontal offset to a MES40 and do not regret it at all. Yes they are different in the sense that the combination of burning Sticks and Charcoal gave somewhat more depth of flavor than the typical One Note of an Electric. But since I started using mixed woods, A-MAZE-N Products Pitmasters Choice Pellets, Hickory, Maple and Cherry, the difference is diminished. If I was to place a Charcoal Briquette in the Chip Tray and use the Pellets, all the flavors from the NB would be there. 

    I don't own a Pellet Fired Grill/Smoker, but from reading the posts on this forum, owners are happy with them.

    No ONE smoker does it all perfectly and for every piece of meat and in every situation straight out of the box. Stick Burners need attention and take a lot of practice and patience to master, Electric can be Set and Forget and can be easily varied from Ambient to 275° but need a seperate smoke generator to do it. Unfortunately, there is no Hot and Fast smoking, 300°+ in an Electric. Pellet units make good low and slow smokers but add a AMNTS Tube Smoke generator and you get much better flavor. Additionally since Pellet Smokers are more designed to be Grills, they can hit the high temps Electrics can't making one step Poultry and Hot and Fast smoking simple..

    Food Network used to have a Food Science/ Food Myth Show, can't remember the name. They once made ribs on a grill with natural wood smoke and ribs in an Oven using Liquid Smoke. Both were prepared by a Pro Chef using the same rub and were cooked to the same tenderness and had similar bark. The tasting panel, network Foodies, not only had difficulty telling the two apart, some of the tasters PREFERED the Liquid Smoke sprayed ribs...[​IMG]...What does that tell you about a great Pitmaster?...JJ
  3. Chef Jimmy J,

    A great reply, even if I don't get my wish for a cook-off.  What it DID do was to get me researching various aspects of smoking, and doing a bit of testing myself.  I learned a lot, and though most barbecue enthusiasts would have me drawn, quartered and slow smoked, I'll tell it like I think it is anyway.

    The only real difference between food cooked in a smoker and food cooked in a kitchen oven is:  SMOKE.  At least as far as taste goes (smoke rings are aesthetic).   And smoke, like all the other ingredients in rubs, marinades, mops, etc., is applied to the outside of the meat.  Injections can be applied with either method.  Smoke does NOT penetrate the surface of meat, nor does water or anything else other than SALT ions.

    So, given what you said about he Food Network test, I researched liquid smoke and it's possible affects on health, compared to smoke from a smoker.  Liquid smoke TASTES like smoke because it is condensed smoke, not something artificial.  When applied in the correct amounts, at the correct time, it gives the meat a very smokey flavor.  In addition, it does NOT contain the PAH's that are carcinogenic like airborne smoke does.  I learned that smoked meat does have very significant amounts of PAH's on it, and smoked fish can even exceed the recommended safe limit with one serving, with chicken coming close as well.

    So, given that the heat source only provides heat, not flavor (that coming from the smoke), and given that liquid smoke is real and gives flavor that some people even prefer over airborne smoke, I decided to try it myself.  I used Wright Liquid Hickory Smoke, and put it in my own homemade sauce, and cooked baby back ribs in the oven with the 2-2-1 method.  My oven has a 50F swing, so they were cooked at 200F - 250F.  At the end I brushed Stubb's Spicy BBQ sauce on them and broiled them until I got a light char.

    The result?  Of course they would not win any contest at a competition, and they can't be classified as real barbecue, but they WERE real good food!  Very flavorful, smokey & spicy, tender and moist. 

    Barbecuing is not only cooking, it's a hobby, and some see it as an art form, or certainly a craft.  For many it's the journey as much as the result, and frankly I would prefer to eat the Q a pit master achieves on his/her stick smoker than anything I can produce either in my oven or in a smoker.  But now I at least know that I can make a reasonably healthy (except for the red meat thingy), delicious, moist and tender product without polluting the air, harming my lungs, eating PAH's, making a fire and having to clean up that mess and the cooker, and I don't have to buy a smoker to do it. 

    To tell the truth, I'm pretty disappointed in discovering that, because I too like to fuss with the fire and I do enjoy the results.  However, being a three-time cancer survivor I might rest a little easier knowing the "Q" I produce is not going to turn me into a hypochondriac.  And I still get to tinker and fuss with every rub, marinade and mop that everyone else uses.

    So, I thank you and I wonder: is my membership going to be revoked???

    smokin phil likes this.
  4. smokin phil

    smokin phil Smoking Fanatic

    Membership revoked? No. You're entitled to your opinion AND most especially, your health. We all have to make choices that affect our health every day. Myself, recently I found I have to cut my "meat intake" WAY down. To me, this just means smaller portions of VERY tasty meat.

    I also VERY MUCH respect people who tell it like it is, regardless of fallout.

    Bake on, I say, bake on!
  5. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Congrats on being a Cancer survivor. My points agree with you. There are many tools out there, different types of Smokers to get the flavor on the meat, including Liquid Smoke and Smoke Powder, I use both. I never admonish a member for using any tool at there disposal, ok, I may tease a bit here and there. There a great deal of fun in using a smoker, but when family or guests are hungry I will finish in an oven. I even once microwaved under cooked Turkey Legs to get the meat on the Thanksgiving table! I have been cooking a long time and have seen some amazing tricks used to turn the seemingly impossible into fabulous meals and have worked with Chef's to feed hundreds of people with limited equipment. Whether it's Smoked meat or any food, the goal is to make it taste great, by any means at your disposal...JJ
  6. Thanks, Chef Jimmy J,

    I have to admit that I have not completely given up on the idea of getting a smoker and going with it.  Most things in moderation isn't a bad way to go.  I occasionally hear how someone gets excellent results with an electric smoker, like a Smokin-it, but I'm concerned that the type of smoke produced in such a unit is not the "light" kind that is strived for, but rather a smoldering, heavy smoke that would be bitter and full of creosote.

    Anyone care to comment on that?  

  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The Culinary School I taught at had a Smokin-it #2. The amount of wood added determined the amount of smoke. For light smoke a single  small chunk, 1" X 1" X 2" of Fruit Wood was all that was used, adding another as needed. For heavier smoke 2-3 chunks are used. With the Masterbuilt, MES40, I use an AMNPS, A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoke Generator. A single load of Pellets gives a 10 hour steady stream of Thin Blue Smoke TBS. Even smoking a Butt ten hours straight does not add a strong flavor...JJ
  8. smokin phil

    smokin phil Smoking Fanatic

    With the addition of an AMAZEN product of your choice, you'll have the TBS you're looking for. An MES would do you great I think.
  9. rogerfromco

    rogerfromco Newbie

    When I was trying to decide between a pellet and ceramic cooker, I saw my local ACE Hardware was doing a demo weekend with Trager and BGE, so I stopped in. They used the same brine and rub on pork loins, as well as same cooking temps and were sampling right off the grill when we were there. I liked the BGE pork better - thought it was moister. My wife liked the Trager better - she thought there was more smoke (I disagreed).
  10. Jimmy J,

    That's interesting, because I heard that TBS was really not available in an electric smoker.  Dr. Blonder (of, and his own website,, said that the smoke generators smolder at such low temperatures that they produce harsh, bitter smoke.

    But it's the result at the end that matters, right?  I guess if so many people get good tasting Q with their electric smokers, they must be working!

  11. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Looks pretty Light to me...[​IMG]  There are some smoke generators out there that Billow White Smoke but the AMNPS is no one of them...JJ

    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015

Share This Page