How often do you think I hear that question? I can’t answer it exactly…I kind of tuned out the counting years ago, but it IS a good question! Unfortunately, I get some strange looks when I deliver my standard reply; “One that you’ll USE!” I then go on to make my case as I will here for your Friday morning entertainment…feel free to chime in with your own observations or suggestions!
There are ALL kinds of smokers out there and much like ‘As Seen on TV’ Exercise products…they often get used a couple of times and then relegated to the back of the garage or worse yet, the shed! You can get one at your local Home Improvement or Farm Products store, you can buy them at Wholesale Clubs, you can pick one up at a Stove Shop or a Hardware Store, you can even find them at those ‘Destination’ sporting goods MEGA stores! Obviously some of these are better than others, but if it’s a matter of budget or convenience and it’s a way for you to get started…do it!
Smoking foods is a lot like sushi (I know it’s an odd comparison, but stay with me) in that your propensity to stick with it has a GREAT deal to do with the person or people who introduce you to it! I don’t care what kind of smoker you’ve got or how long you’ve been using it…they ALL require at least some attention! BBQ is most certainly not ‘set-it and forget-it’, it requires time and attention. You should also know and understand the best cuts of meat for the smoker, what else your smoker can cook and how long it takes to cook things to the right temps! Anyone who sells you a smoker as ‘just turn it on and forget about it’ is a highly suspect character in my opinion!
Do your homework, get on the internet and see what other people use. Go to manufacturer’s websites and look for features that are appealing to you or that fit your needs. Make a list (check it twice) and get out there and see some of the units you’re interested in. If you’re buying from out of state, ask for local references and then follow up on them. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see your potential new addition cooking before you buy it! There are LOTS of entry models out there and most of them suck! (sorry…but it’s true) Like any hobby, if you want the best results you’ve got to make the investment; money, time, patience…not all glamorous, but worth while as you partake of the spoils! Find a BBQ store that carries a number of brands and who’s employees are knowledgable about them. If you’ve done your homework before you get to the store, you’ll be able to spot the BS’ers!
Smoking meats, vegetables, cheeses, desserts and everything else that can be smoked is an Art form and requires a commitment. That said, the BEST smoker for you is one that you’ll commit to and USE! Have a great weekend!