Monday, May 19, 2008

Smoke gets in your eyes

Good song, good title for tonight (suggested by an earlier commenter); and in this case factually true.

It hit 110 here today in the valley of the sun, and is expected to be hotter tomorrow; which to me signifies the beginning of "don't use the oven in the house unless you have to" season.

Unfortunately, the grill we bought when we moved in here a few years ago has rotted itself out. Not that I'm complaining. For $90 it did two full seasons of yeoman service; more than can reasonably be expected for a Wally World special.

Anyway, I got a craftsman club email this morning, and Sears had grills and smokers on sale; so Mel and I went down there to take a look.

Frankly, I've been planning on making the charcoal grill last another season, and picking up a decent quality gas grill for the convenience factor; but the old girl is well and truly dead. Not only that, but we've REALLY wanted a smoker for quite a while; especially since we got in on the beef Co-Op (hmmmm.... brisket).

Anyway, I wasn't really impressed with what I saw at Sears. Both the size, and the quality were lacking... of course the smoker they were selling was only $140.

But... the idea was in our head...

So we headed on over to Bass Pro; and quite frankly were disappointed there as well. They used to have a bunch of smokers, of all different types and sizes; but apparently they've cut back. There were only a few, and they were either HUGE (and expensive), or junk.

Finally, we ended up at Sportsmans Warehouse, because we know they had a large variety of smokers (Cabelas is 35+ miles away, and more expensive anyway; though their selection is also excellent), and we ended up with one of these:

That's a Landmann BlackDog 42, sidebox grill and smoker combo; called thus, because it is both a sidebox smoker, and a charcoal grill.

In fact, it's a double smoker and double grill; because you can hot smoke (up to about 700 degrees over the firebox), cold smoke, grill over the charcoal in the main firebox, or grill over the smoke fire in the sidebox.

Honestly, when we started this, we were still thinking about a propane vertical box smoker, and a gas grill separately; again, because of the convenience. I prefer the results you get with a wood sidebox smoker; especially that you have the option of hot or cold smoking; but they tend to be unweildy, heavy, expensive, and they take up a lot of space.

When we saw this one, I started thinking hard again how much I prefer lump charcoal to propane... and how good real hardwood smells... and that's a pretty solid grill, and a good size... and on heavy discount (less than half the retail list. Not the lowest online price, but not much higher; and no worries about shipping).

What the hell, kill two birds with one stone. Less money, less space taken up, more versatility...

Aright, is it perfect? No. It's not a $1500 Pitts & Spitts, or Traeger (yes, that's how much the equivalent Pitts costs); but it's also about 1/4 the price. It looks good, it smokes good, it draws good, it fires good.

The only thing I'm not happy with, is that the welds on the lid aren't great. The frame and firebox welds are clean continuous, and pretty good; but the lids are only welded along every inch in six, and they leak too much smoke (and thus requiring more wood to maintain the right amount of heat, and making it harder to control the burn rate and draft).

That my friends, is why the lord made Devcon high temperature epoxy (1500 degree tolerant, metal filled epoxy). I'd re-weld the things, but honestly, I don't want to grind the paint off and then have to respray it; and I don't have a welder right now...

...and I don't want this to end up as a Steve H. project; where I start off wanting to fix a smoker lid, and end up with a new industrial compressor, a set of air tools, a new welder, and a new 220 drop...

Anyway, we didn't pick the box up til 5, and it took about an hour to get it together; and we wanted to smoke tonight. To keep it quick and simple, we grabbed some large pecan chunks, applewood chips, and oak lump charcoal; and we smoked some chicken splits, and hot links tonight (because they all smoke fast).

I swear to you, I'm a connoisseur of good barbecue, and that was absolutely the best smoked chicken I've ever had in my life. Being able to control the heat, timing, rub, and smoke yourself is absolutely the way to go. Straight off the smoke, onto the hot grill over the firebox for a final bit of char, and then right off the bone (and oh yes, it fell right off the bone).

Why didn't we do this two years ago?