The other day one of my buddies asked me what smoker we use for our products. When I told him it was a pellet smoker, that led to a pretty long conversation. He’s a die hard wood/charcoal guy but his wife bought him a really nice Traeger pellet smoker (No I don’t receive compensation from Traeger) for Christmas and he refuses to even try it out!? She is REALLY ticked off about it!!
I totally understand his reluctance. I used charcoal and wood for a long time because I love the flavor they induce into the meat and with a pellet smoker you loose the ability to infuse the wonderful flavor of charcoal…….OR DO YOU?? More on that in a minute.
Over the last several years we’ve used different smokers with different fuels; wood and charcoal, electric, propane and now pellet. Each of them have their pluses and minuses with regard to flavor, temperature thresholds (in my case low for cheese…our whole family loves smoked cheese) and the ability to maintain temperatures over long periods of time for say brisket or pork shoulder. After using these different smokers and trying to find the best all around smoker that fits MY needs, its definitely the pellet fed smoker! Unfortunately, this pellet smoker wont keep a temperature low enough to smoke cheese without melting it. I’ve made my own cheese smoker for that. If anyone is interested in that I can do a quick write up on it, pretty easy. Let me know.
With any smoker there’s a learning curve to it and A LOT MORE to it than what I get into here! After about a month or so of of smoking the first thing I learned is that the temperature probe inside the unit gets dirty and should be cleaned (I NOW clean it before every use) in order to obtain accurate temperature readings going to the controller. Inaccurate readings will give you a low temp fault or the temperature will vary more than you want. The second thing I learned, is that it IS okay to smoke while its snowing or raining BUT the moisture may settle into the unused pellets in the hopper. To avoid this problem I try to estimate the amount of pellets that I will need for the smoke and don’t add any more than necessary. Once that smoke session is done I drain the hopper and let the pellets dry our for a few days before trying to burn them. I’ve also learned that quality pellets are important. Some cheaper pellets out there aren’t 100% hard woods and contain a lot of dust in the bottom of the bag so beware of that. Dust in the hopper or auger chute will also give you a low temp fault especially if it’s moist. Like I said, there’s LOTS more to learn but those are the two biggies I’ve learned.
Now to get to the charcoal….My wife Lori’s pallet is much more refined than mine (or maybe mines been annihilated by all the hot peppers?) and she also likes that charcoal flavor to be present in our foods, especially smoked ribs but not too much. Maybe a year ago, I tossed a couple of racks of ribs in the smoker and my lovely wife had a GREAT idea that we use to this day. She suggested that I take a small iron skillet and put a few charcoal briquettes in it, light them and place it on the bottom rack of the smoker. BRILLIANT!!! So now we get the hardwood flavor and charcoal. It works very well. I’ve found that one briquette per hour of smoking gives a great flavor to our sausages and other meats we smoke.
Our Pit Boss vertical smoker (No I don’t receive compensation from Pit Boss) has seen serious heavy duty for the last two years and even though I have had a few low temp faults; I really like it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new smoker.
I suggest that you do your own research, read reviews and talk to your friends who do lots of smoking before buying a new smoker.
Back to my buddy…After our conversation and me sharing Lori’s charcoal hack for the pellet smoker, he’s been using his pellet smoker just about every weekend! He says “it’s just to make my wife happy” Smart man 🙂