I make few if any new year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve decided that 2019 is the year when I will take up smoking. For some time I’ve wanted to learn how, and since making my resolution I’ve been doing lots of research. As with any other subject, the internet teems with “how-to” information on learning to smoke, and as it turns out smoking is actually very healthy….Oh, I can see now that this all sounds bad. What I mean is I’ve decided 2019 is the year when I will learn to smoke meat!
A few years ago I bought a nice little Char Broil charcoal grill at a garage sale. The guy said he used it to smoke, but my first and only attempt at using it as a smoker fell flatter than western Kansas and I was ready to declare that smoking meat was just not for me. Then I disassembled an old air compressor I had and declared I’d build a smoker from the tank, but that never happened. I recently spent time with a young guy who was experienced at smoking meat and he convinced me to just buy a smoker and get the learning curve started.
Smoking is the art of slowly cooking meat and vegetables and adding wood, woodchips or pellets to give them a smoky flavor. Commercial smokers are available in several styles and homemade smokers can be made from old tanks, refrigerators, freezers and almost anything else that can be turned into a fairly airtight structure where the heat and smoke can be controlled to cook the product slowly.
Smokers fall into one of two styles; vertical, where the heat and smoke source is directly below the cooking surface, or offset, in which the heat and smoke source is offset from the cooking surface. Smokers can use wood pellets, propane, electricity, charcoal or wood as their heat source, and wood or pellets to produce the smoke.
At my friends urging, as a beginning smoker to learn on, I bought a vertical electric smoker. It’s simply a small insulated cabinet with a heating element in the bottom, a slide-out tray for wood chips to produce smoke and shelves above for holding meat and other food for smoking. Controls on the top allow for setting and adjusting heat within the smoker cabinet as well as the amount of time for smoking. I researched many brands and styles before purchasing, and here are some things I found.
Buying an electric smoker is sort of like voting; you’ll never find one that has everything you want, like you want it, so you have to decide what features are most important to you and buy with those things in mind. I settled on a Smoke Hollow vertical digital electric smoker. It has a large heating element, an external slide-out tray for adding woodchips, legs to raise it off the ground and controls on top where I can use them without bending over, all features that were important to me. Bear in mind, these are beginning level smokers and not competition quality, but after learning a few do’s and don’ts they will still give you tasty meals.
True to our times, the all-knowing internet teems with websites about smokers and smoking food. All brand names have their own websites too and all offer recipes free for the trying. I plan to make my first trial “smoke” a meatloaf called “Not Your Momma’s Meatloaf” found on the Traeger website. I’ve taken the first step toward becoming “a smoker,” and I’ll let you know how this pans out. In the meantime, all you readers with smokers and recipes you would share get them to me along with any advice for beginners like me and we’ll make a column from them. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at email@example.com.