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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 09-07-2010, 01:44 AM   #1
snakyjake
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Default Gas or Ceramic Smoker

I have a WSM smoker...great smoker. But with the WSM smoker I usually have to wait too long until I have the spare time to spend tending, plus charcoal gets expensive if I do this weekly.

I'm considering other options: gas or ceramic (Egg) smoker. I want the convenience of set-and-forget, something that can be used in moderate winter temperatures (35º+), well insulated, all weather capable (i.e. heavy rain), inexpensive to operate (charcoal can get expensive in WSM in cold temps), easy to clean, and must have quality build that will last a while.

And most of all, I don't want to sacrifice flavor. This is important. I will not BBQ at all, than to compromise flavor.

Assuming I can get all the above, what are your recommendations? Anyone else go down this path?
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Unread 09-07-2010, 05:50 AM   #2
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With a ceramic you can't necessarily set it and forget it, from what I have found. I would go ceramic because I like charcoal cooked que better. If u do go with ceramic, check out the Primo Oval XL also.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 09:09 AM   #3
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Bubba Grill / Keg is the way I'd go. Specially if you can find one at the discounted price. It's well insulated, very frugal with the charcoal, and consistently turns out a product that you can be proud of. High temp sear, low & slow smoke, baking bread, cooking pizzas, it will do it all.

Just MHO
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Unread 09-07-2010, 09:14 AM   #4
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Gas has no flavor other than fat vaporizing on the hot plates. Ceramic has the flavor, but not set and forget without a fire control like the Stoker or Guru. Ceramic will take a bit of time to get to temp and stabilize.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 09:17 AM   #5
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I currently have an XL Big Green Egg and upgraded last year from a Large BGE. I live in Pennsylvania and so after December it does get cold. I use this as my primary winter smoker because of its insulating qualities. You can put a few handfuls of lump hardwood charcoal in the unit and it will stay at a consistent temperature for a good period of time. Wind plays a significant factor in winter cooking in the BGE. You will get a bunch of temperature spikes. I recommend buying the BGE and a BBQ Guru. Then, and only then, can you set it and forget it.

I cant comment on gas.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 09:26 AM   #6
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I love my gas smoker. I used it for 20 hours straight this weekend. All you need is to have smoke from your wood chip box till the meat reaches 120*, after that the meat wont retain any more smoke flavor. I set mine up with a brisket and would go outside to refill the chip box till the meat got up to temp. After that I would just check every hour to make sure my water pan wouldnt over flow from all the fat that came off the brisket. This was my finished product


and here is the smoker in action



Did a great job on the pork loin too
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Unread 09-07-2010, 09:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieB View Post
Bubba Grill / Keg is the way I'd go. Specially if you can find one at the discounted price. It's well insulated, very frugal with the charcoal, and consistently turns out a product that you can be proud of. High temp sear, low & slow smoke, baking bread, cooking pizzas, it will do it all.

Just MHO
Yes, I would look at the Big Steel Keg (or Bubba Kegg if you can find them). They are similar concept to the Ceramics, but IMO more durable (double steel walled) with heavy insulation in between, which heat quickly and hold thermal temps well. They use very little charcoal when cooking.
I am Canadian and cook year round in the below freezing temps without issues.

FYI, the newer version BSK has some mod's that help control and maintain lower temps without a lot of fussing.

Again, not bashing ceramics, just speaking on the experience and pleasure with the steel version.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 10:02 AM   #8
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I have gas and ceramic. I like the taste of ceramic better
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Unread 09-07-2010, 10:28 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQBeaver View Post
Yes, I would look at the Big Steel Keg (or Bubba Kegg if you can find them). They are similar concept to the Ceramics, but IMO more durable (double steel walled) with heavy insulation in between, which heat quickly and hold thermal temps well. They use very little charcoal when cooking.
I am Canadian and cook year round in the below freezing temps without issues.

FYI, the newer version BSK has some mod's that help control and maintain lower temps without a lot of fussing.

Again, not bashing ceramics, just speaking on the experience and pleasure with the steel version.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlieB View Post
Bubba Grill / Keg is the way I'd go. Specially if you can find one at the discounted price. It's well insulated, very frugal with the charcoal, and consistently turns out a product that you can be proud of. High temp sear, low & slow smoke, baking bread, cooking pizzas, it will do it all.

Just MHO

^^^ What they said ^^^^

Went with the Bubba Keg due to affordability and cooking similarities.
[(Bubba Keg - version 1.0) (Big Steel Keg - version 2.0)]
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Unread 09-07-2010, 10:41 AM   #10
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I've been told gas and charcoal do not have a discernible flavor. But then sometimes I read that people prefer the taste of charcoal BBQ over gas.

I also hear it isn't the cooker, but the cook. This leads me to believe anyone can use any cooker and achieve the same flavor, but maybe because they cover the meat in a BBQ sauce. I don't (and won't) use sauces or spices.

For either gas or charcoal, I plan to add wood flavoring. In my WSM, I use wood chunks.

Steel keg: that's a good option. It doesn't have to be ceramic, just similar characteristics (insulated and reduced fuel consumption). Sounds like the steel keg might be even better (more insulation, more durable, and better price).

Set & forget: I don't mind setting up the temps, and a few tweaks. The Stoker/Guru are definitely options on the table for me to consider.

Thanks for the input and recommendations. The experiences are very helpful.

Jake
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Unread 09-07-2010, 11:18 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snakyjake View Post
I've been told gas and charcoal do not have a discernible flavor. But then sometimes I read that people prefer the taste of charcoal BBQ over gas.

I also hear it isn't the cooker, but the cook. This leads me to believe anyone can use any cooker and achieve the same flavor, but maybe because they cover the meat in a BBQ sauce. I don't (and won't) use sauces or spices.
In my experience, there is definitely a flavor difference between charcoal and gas. I believe it is for the same reason as there is a flavor difference between your oven and a smoker. The smoke and fumes from one's heat supply penetrates the meat and ads flavor.

That being said, I currently use *gasp* gas for the many of the reasons you posted. I have used charcoal and prefer the taste and technique. I just don't have the time or space, and must be vigilant about avoiding wild fires from a rare stray ember. After we move, that will change.


Whats wrong with spices?
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Unread 09-07-2010, 11:31 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 82muchhomework View Post
Whats wrong with spices?
I prefer the flavor of the meat and the wood. If others desire a different flavor, I have them add the sauce and spice after the cook on their own plate. To me, if sauce/spice is added, the meat might as well been cooked in the crock-pot.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 12:30 PM   #13
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Why not build a UDS and Stoker/Guru it? You get the best of all worlds, fuel miser, set and forget and charcoal taste.
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Unread 09-07-2010, 12:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokin Newbie View Post
Why not build a UDS and Stoker/Guru it? You get the best of all worlds, fuel miser, set and forget and charcoal taste.
I currently have the WSM, therefore don't need a UDS.

Stoker/Guru is an option to solve one of my objectives.

Have been hoping for better either fuel conservation than the WSM or cheaper than charcoal, hence gas as an option. Approximately $10 a bag, and doing this once a week adds up to $500+ annually. If if I don't do this as often as once a week, it still adds up to a lot.

Have never been sure if charcoal has a different flavor than gas. I hear some people say there's no flavor difference, others say there is. Also, I'm talking about non-lighter fluid charcoal. I've been assuming charcoal, gas, electric is simply the heat source (no flavor); for flavor add wood. Not sure why there would be a flavor difference if both are using wood chips/chunks. But I haven't done a taste test between charcoal vs. gas, and hoping someone else who has can chime in. If there is a definite flavor difference, my choice can be narrowed down significantly.

Thanks,
Jake
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Unread 09-07-2010, 01:02 PM   #15
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"I already have a WSM, so I don't need a UDS"? I've never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life.
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