Help me choose a hot/cold smoker.
January 13, 2008 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Need a smoker for both salmon and pork shoulder.

I'm looking for a smoker.

I've already seen this post on stovetop smoking and this one on cardoboard box smokers. I've also trolled all over the interwebs reading up on hot vs. cold smokers and all sorts of advice, tips and tricks.

Problem is, none of them provide what I am looking for - a recommendation for one that I can buy that meets the following requirements:
1. Commercially available
2. Cost no more than $250 USD
3. Be capable of both hot and cold smoking, enablling me to:
a. smoke already-cured gravlax
b. smoke raw pork shoulder

I will consider both electric and charcoal models, though I would prefer an electric. If an electric is a dumb idea, maybe someone could offer their opinion as to why. If such a smoker doesn't exist, that's fine too - just let me know how I should adjust my expectations.

I am originally from Memphis, and as such crave chopped pork bbq sandwiches whenever I can get my hands on them. More specifically, I have an obsession with Payne's, which some old-school Memphians consider to be the best in town, if not in the world.
posted by charlesv to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Finding one that does hot & cold smoking will be hard. Getting down to cold smoking almost requires separation between the wood and the food.

Here's what I know, but it doesn't meet all your requirements.

I have this smoker from Great Outdoors Grill Company (Walmart link since I can't find a company web site.).

It works well and I got good service from the company for a broken thermometer. It runs off of propane gas and you get good temperature control. I've done everything from jerky, to brisket, to ribs, to turkey in it.

I would have preferred an electric one, they work great, but the one I'm using was a gift from my wife. I've only run out of gas once while cooking. ;)

It's a hot smoker (I usually run around 225 for a long brisket cook). To get down to real cold smoking below 150, I doubt it will do it. You'd need second compartment style smoker.

I can explain how I've built a two stage smoker out of metal trash cans if you want. ;)
posted by Argyle at 3:58 PM on January 13, 2008

Yeah, I was thinking you'd probably be best rolling your own, or choosing which of the two you want to spend bucks on, then make the other yourself.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:10 PM on January 13, 2008

So I'm the guy who tried to make a cardboard box smoker. I succeeded spending several hours running around and getting the parts together to put together a device that heated inconsistently and produced smoked salmon that tasted suspiciously like cardboard.

So I then went out and bought a Brinkman Electric Smoker. I am very, very happy with this product and used it just yesterday to smoke up some meat for chili and some salmon for snacking.

If you want a hot smoker, I recommend it. If you want a cold smoker, you're better off making your own. If you want something that can do both... you'll have to make your own. Alton Brown has a Junkyard Wars spoof bit where he makes a cold smoker out of an old locker. You could use the hot smoker as a heating/smoke element that funnels smoke into another unit (trash can?).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:24 PM on January 13, 2008

The Weber "Smoky Mountain" Cooker (aka the Weber Bullet) has a huge following among the backyard barbecue cognoscenti. It does traditional hot smoking exceptionally well, and has been tweaked to serve equally well as a cold smoker. And it's currently available for less than $210.
posted by deCadmus at 5:46 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I own a Weber Bullet. I love it. Easy to use and has delivered some amazing pork shoulder every time. It is charcoal, not electric, but I have to say that aside from having to pay a bit more attention to keep the temperature constant, it's been easy to use.

I found some instructions on converting a Bullet into a cold smoker here. It's might be helpful depending on how McGyverish you're feeling.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 6:24 PM on January 13, 2008

Posting for my boyfriend:

I second third the Weber Bullet. It looks like the much less expensive Brinkman model, but it has a superior design. By closing the air vents you get a complete seal, which allows for much better temperature control. The bottom three vents also draw air past to the fire, so you can raise and lower the temperature quickly.

Temperature control and the need to monitor closely were the main problems I had with other smokers I had owned. The Bullet makes great slow-smoked pork, it’s easy to use and modify, and it’s relatively small and space efficient. Of course, the size means it couldn’t hold a split pig or really large cuts of meat, but it apparently handles 25-plus pounds of pork without a problem.

Also, here’s some smoker reviews. The Bradley Electric Smoker is designed for both hot and cold smoking, but costs well over $250.
posted by climalene at 7:51 PM on January 13, 2008

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