Smokey Mountain Smoker by Weber – Review

Smokey Mountain Smoker by Weber is an excellent tool for backyard cooking. Find healthy balance in your life. Fun Friday gear reviews are about good stuff for great life experience.  These are unbiased tests from a wanna be adventurist who works more than he plays. Use these posts to define “your own brand of success” outside of work. In this post, we review the Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5″ charcoal smoker. It is the month of July, the sun is shining, the air is warm with a light breeze. A hint of freshly mowed lawn grass combines with the scent of finely roasted barbecue delicacies. Children laugh and play in yard while parents relax in lawn chairs with something cool to drink in a tall glass. This is the ideal vision of every man with even the smallest urge to entertain family and friends while celebrating life’s priceless moments. Barbecue is an art form for many Americans. We take just as much pride in the process as we do in the result. At the center of every great barbecue experience is the barbecue grill like the Smokey Mountain Smoker. In this case, we are focusing on the smoker. The smoker adds another layer to the complexity of the pursuit of perfection. Properly smoked meats and fish adds flavor that is generally accepted as the ultimate goal for the backyard chef. The purpose of smoking is partly for curing and partly for flavor. Curing and smoking meat and fish was historically used to preserve the quality of edible items for use at a later time. It is only within the last century that people started using refrigerators and freezers to store food for later consumption. Before that, smoking, drying, curing were the options used by almost every culture on the planet. Fast forward to today and many of us still crave the flavor and enjoy the process, the tradition, the brilliant simplicity that is  smoked barbecue from something like the Smoke Mountain Smoker. When selecting a smoker, consider these important features:
  • Ample distance between the heat source and the items to be smoked.
  • An effective way to control heat and smoke.
  • A method of monitoring the internal temperature of both the smoker and the smoked items.
  • Easy cleanup and simple design.
Putting distance between your heat source and the items to be smoked is important. The point with a smoker is to provide low temperature smoke and not always heat to your subject matter. Indirect heat is often the term used to describe this method. If your heat source is too close or too hot then you end up with dry, bland, cooked meat instead wsm_cutawayof slow roasted, juicy, smoked flavor. Good smokers provide a method of controlling either the range of heat or the oxygen level in the smoker. Electric and propane smokers allow you to control the heat source while a charcoal smoker provide a method to control the air flow to the coals for more or less heat. Most quality smokers come with an attached temperature gauge. These are not always reliable and sometimes fail. An extra thermometer is a must and some smokers provide a built in port to insert it where you need to measure heat. Finally, be sure your smoker is easy to clean and store. The more complex the more time it takes to clean. The Weber Smokey Mountain smoker is one of the most popular of the charcoal smokers. Many annual barbecue championships are won with this affordable, simple smoker. The design is a simple egg shape with three main parts. The lid, the middle, and the base. Each part simply sits on top of the next for easy assembly and reverse assembly. Charcoal is placed in the base then the other parts are stacked on top. Temperature is controlled by several air vents which slide open and closed according to your wishes. The 18.5″ model offers two cooking grates for two levels of smoking. The Good And The Great:
  • Charcoal and wood is widely considered the gold standard for the best flavor.
  • Simple but quality construction for easy assembly and cleanup.
  • Built in thermometer port for a wireless thermometer.
  • Excellent egg shape design seems to be idea for surrounding your recipes with great quality smoke.
  • Highly insulated. This thing holds heat from just a handful of charcoal bricks for hours.
The Not Great But OK:
  • Air vents and charcoal do not control heat as well as propane or electric. It takes some practice to master your temps. This is not set it and forget it!
  • The temperature range from the lower grade to the top grate can vary as much as 50 degrees. Pay attention to what you are smoking and where. Keep your temps low.
  • The built in temp gauge in the lid failed after five uses. Get a wireless thermometer and use the side port on the smoker. Trust me on this.
  • This smoker was upwards of $300 so be sure you really want to smoke stuff and eat it.
The Breviary: Enjoy your time outside of work with friends and family. Do it around food. Properly smoked meat and fish tastes awesome. Great smoked barbecue requires both art and science demanding process and commitment. A great charcoal smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker should be at the center of that effort. Photos courtesy of http://www.weber.com/grills/series/smokers.      
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