Spring is in the air and smoker season for some is a year round passion, but for others it’s a fair weather thing. We see it as a year round passion and there’s never a bad time to dig into some amazing smoked meat. So we are going to give you some tips on how to smoke amazing meat all year long! I will also throw in some of my own lessons learned from when I first started smoking to how we do it now at our house. First things first, the smoker, which type of smoker is best for you?
There are several types of smokers on the market and we have most types here in the store so you can come in and see them. The first question I always ask anyone shopping for a smoker is where are you going to use your smoker? Reason why is the first smoker I bought was an electric one, thinking oh I won’t have to buy big wood or pellets, I can use it in the garage or out on my back deck and it will be great! A few things I did really like about the electric smoker were the programmable thermostat, and meat probe. I found the window wasn’t a necessity or more than pretty right out of the box. I thought I would like the window, and I could sit on the deck and enjoy a beer watching the meat smoke. I couldn’t sit still long enough for that. Once you use your smoker the glass gets coated and yes you can clean it constantly, but I wanted to keep that entire seasoned flavor in my smoker. What I forgot to think about was where my outdoor electrical outlets were, right next to the back door. So every time I walked in and out of the house while I was smoking, the smoke came right in the house. To remedy the problem I decided to run an extension cord across the deck, well that was great until it snowed, not only did I now have an wet extension cord, but I almost broke my nose, tripping over the cord hidden in the snow and falling on the deck. Also I never thought about when the power goes out and your 2 hours into a 6 hour smoke? It only happened once, and I did toss the meat in my gas oven to finish cooking it but it wasn’t the same.
So it was time to try and different smoker, propane. This would be the perfect one. I chose the 2 door model, so every time I needed to add chips or water I wasn’t opening the whole smoker and losing all my heat and smoke, which would happen occasionally on my electric smoker. Being propane, I no longer had to worry about tripping over a cord and I could move it anywhere I wanted. This became a great advantage. I didn’t realize all my friends were also getting into the smoking craze and when we decided to have a smoke out challenge, I was portable. I liked that the smoker didn’t use as much propane as my gas grill, which I thought at first may be a down side. But it did great. I did miss the electric thermostat and meat probe timer, but found the smoker held its temperature really well as long as it wasn’t too windy outside. They now make wireless meat probes, so is a great add on if you decide propane is the right type for you and it does not have a probe included. So I’m happy with my propane smoker cooking 3-4 times a month. I started thinking I was getting the hang of this and I need to start smoking more than chicken, ribs, and tenderloin. So it was time to tackle brisket. I soon realized that my cute little 2 door smoker wasn’t quit big enough for a full size brisket. I had to section it and cook it over 2 racks, which worked, but it got me dreaming of a bigger smoker. I was then introduced to the Giudice family smoker, and oh my gosh, my mind went crazy!
So I’m now dreaming of a bigger smoker, but how do I choose? These new pellet smokers had just hit the market and my best friend bought one up right away. A Traeger! Since I was spending all of my time at her house, we were having some fun and amazing meals on this thing. I could not believe how much smoke flavor we could get into our meat! Not to mention, we could bake pizza in it as well. My best friend being Italian could make some great pizza, and great pizza we were enjoining at least once a week. I thought this smoker was the best. It could smoke, it could grill and it could bake. We grilled a ton of great steaks, burgers, and brats. I loved that you could just fill up the hopper with whatever flavor pellets that caught our fancy and start it up and go. It had meat probes, thermostats, and an extra rack for potatoes, veggies or bread. This thing was great; no longer needed a gas grill. This thing did it all. We loved this thing so much we were grilling in thing rain and snow. Only down side was again, where is the electrical outlet? At her house it was right outside the glass patio door and there wasn’t enough cord to not need an extension cord. Again, I tripped a few times and if the power goes out, your smoker is down. We did have some die hard smoking friends who would bring their pellet grills to our smoke out challenge along with their generators, so it can be done. But hence I read a Myron Mixon book after I started my job at Bass Pro Shops and my desire for a full on steel smoker was came to pass.
Hence I’m now the proud owner of a ¼’ solid steel Horizon smoker Horizon Smokers , proudly made in OK, my home state, and readily available in your local Bass Pro Shops store. We did not carry the 20” classic smoker when I first started working here so I bought the 16” classic smoker. Craziest thing was we were living in a second story apartment, busy shopping for a house, but loved the idea of this amazing smoker in our new yet to be found back yard. So being impatient, we bought it and put in in my brother in laws back yard for a few months. This didn’t keep us from cooking up a storm. The cookouts were at the brother in-laws until it made its final destination to our back yard. We could cook full size brisket. We could smoke not only full racks of ribs but 4-8 full racks at one time. All of our holiday turkeys were now smoked and we could do a turkey and a ham at the same time. Best part we don’t need electricity or propane. We can move it all over the patio, so if the wind isn’t in our favor we just roll it to the other side of the patio. We use mostly charcoal, big pieces of oak and hickory log wood for staples. We can get these in bulk and keep all our specialty woods like peach, apple, maple, or orange wood in smaller quantities in chunks that we also sell here at the store. Of course you have to keep the fire going but this steel smoker holds heat like nothing I’ve used before. The hot box stays warm for days, literally. My first 12 hour smoking day, left hot coals for 2 days after in the box. I’m not too worried about someone trying to take off with it out of my backyard either. At a hefty 425 lbs. it takes 3 or 4 hefty guys to pick this thing up. It does have full steel wheels so it is easy to roll but only on a flat hard surface.
My quest for a thermostat and meat probe was also taken care of with our Bass Pro Shops wireless programmable digital probe. I love this thing. You put in the desired internal temperature you want, set it and forget it. I leave the base on the outside shelf of the smoker with the probe attached and put the handheld unit in my pocket. I can move all around the house, sit on the patio and have a cold one, or work on my car out front or just veg out on the coach and the thermostat will beep at me to let me know the meat is done. Hog heaven of smoking has come together and this smoker gets used at least once a week.
Now that I’m an old hand at this smoking thing, the fun has been perfecting recipes. Bass Pro has a full line of rubs and seasonings that keep the options open and taste buds tingling. Nothing pairs better than a marinated brisket rubbed in Jack Daniels steak seasoning, smoked with Jack Daniels wood chunks. Or for our holiday favorite turkey, brine overnight, rub down in Tony Chachere's Spicy seasoning, pack the inside cavity with oranges or clementines and smoke with orange wood. Another favorite is a pork shoulder, marinated and injected in apple juice based marinade/injection, rubbed down in a brown sugar based rub, smoked with apple wood, and then finished off with an apple jelly glaze. Our most often cooked delight is Beer Can Chicken. We use the ceramic sittin chicken accessory, fill it with our favorite brew, rub a whole chicken inside and out, and cook. Amazing!! These are just a few of our favorites at our house. I've added a link I found online Smoker Basics to give some extra tip and suggestions. What I love most about smoking is you can be creative! We'd like to hear feedback and ideas on how you smoke at your house, so what is your favorite smoker or recipe? Be sure to stop by our store or stop by online to find all the great items for smoking. http://www.basspro.com