Everyone needs a smoker

This is what I’ve been telling my wife Carmen for years now. I’m not sure why I believe this – maybe because my barbeque sucks or maybe I’ve watched too many BBQ competition shows or maybe I just had too much empty space on the deck. I do have some prior experience. As a kid I smoked fish with my parents at fly-in fishing camps and when I worked at a butcher shop in high school I loved to smoke sausages and hams.

Recently we tracked one down a unit that met my demanding requirements: electric programmable, able to use any type of wood chips and on sale for 50% off. I added some hickory wood chips to my order, packed it into the subaru and figured I’d soon be eating large.

I admired the shiny chrome racks and stainless steel interior as I assembled it (it’s never looked that shiny since). Eager to get started I cracked the minimal intsruction manual to find an initial smoke-in was required.

The next weekend I did the smoke-in and that’s about it. Time has a funny way of slipping away and it wasn’t until our friend Steve was staying with us a month later that the stars aligned for the smoker christening.

When trying something for the first time conventional wisdom says start small. I say go big or go home so I bought chicked legs with backs attached, pork side ribs and some nicely marbled pork steaks. I made the default rub listed int he instruction manual and let the meat maninate for 2 hours. Everything went in at the same time and I tested the results every 30 minutes. This wasted heat and smoke so next time I’ll add things in a staggered fashion. I feel a little sorry for the neighbors becasue it’s not really fair to make someone endure 6 hrs of smoking smells and then get none of the product.

For a first try I was very impressed with the results. The chicken cooked the quickest and could have come out a little sooner but it was moist and very flavourful. The ribs ricked but the true star was the pork steaks. The meater steaks worked best with the spicky rub and the marbling kept the meat very juicy.

I’ve used the smoker box and infoil pouch with wood chips in all of my BBQs. While I got asome smoke flavour the BBQ isn’t able to maintain the constant low temperature and flow of smoke required for really good results.

Like my quests to make the perfect rissotto or pie crust, I expect smoking to be a lifelong series of experiments that I force my friends and family to evaluate with me.

The best thing I did was to start smoking diary.  I found the perfect leather bound notebook with a kettle BBQ and the words “Let It Marininate” embossed on the cover. I record everything I try (products, dry rubs, marinades, times & temperatures) and log both sucesses (more) and failures (less). Honesty in cooking is very inportant – no one ones to make the same bad meal twice.

What next? I’ve tried salmon since and it was nice but once again I left it in a little too long. Tomorrow I’ll be cooking ribs and fish with a different rub but I expect ther esults to be just as tasty.

So go out and buy a smoker, you’ll never look at your gas BBQ the same again.

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