When it comes to smokers there are many options ranging from the traditional “stick burners” or offset smokers to vertical water smokers to pellet smokers to rotisserie units…there are even homemade jobbies called Ugly Drum Smokers (or UDS for the pros out there).
Each has their own technique and learning curve along with a variety of fuel options (wood, lump charcoal, briquettes, propane, wood pellets) plus the prices can vary quite dramatically…from free (if you can build your own from scrap parts) all the way up to thousands of dollars for industrial sized rigs.
So as a true noobie, where the heck does one start? Well, I looked at a few things namely my experience or lack thereof, my geographic location (because it gets darned cold in the winter), the fact that I would prefer to not have to babysit a fire all day and night while cooking and I was on a wee bit of a budget due to not having a job.
After going through the pros and cons of each style available, I narrowed it down to a gravity-fed insulated vertical smoker. Whew…quite the mouthful right?!? So what the heck is it?
Well, let me introduce you to my new buddy named Stumpy. He stands 49″ H x 36″ W x 24″ D and has enough room inside to hold ribs, brisket, pork butt and even some stuffed jalapeños. The learning curve is relatively short due to the fact that you fill up a side hopper with charcoal and the firebox with wood chunks of your choice. Once lit, the charcoal drops down onto the wood creating the smoke profile that cooks the food (this is the gravity portion of the smoker). Since Stumpy is fully insulated, it holds heat in really well (which is needed in my neck of the woods) and this little guy will burn on its own for over 6 hrs without being tended to which allows me to focus on the meat…or getting items off my honey-do list 🙂 Pretty cool eh?
So where did I find Stumpy? Well, needless to say these kind of smokers are not indigenous to the Great White North and are built down in Centerville, GA which is a bit of a hike from home. The BBQ Gods must have been smiling on me because as I was checking some online classified forums (Kijiji.ca) , wouldn’t you know it someone only 2 hrs from me was selling one! He was an executive chef that used Stumpy in competitions but was going through a divorce and had to unload a bunch of items including the smoker..the price was right in my budget so Charlene and I drove to Toronto and loaded the svelte 400 lb smoker into the truck.
Needless to say, I felt like a little kid at Christmas and couldn’t wait to get him home and fired up for a first cook…..