Friday, August 2, 2013


A couple of years ago my brother and sister-in-law gave me their smoker.  It's been sitting on a shelf in the garage ever since.  Until this week, that is.  I kept meaning to try it out, but when I'm butchering, well, I'm busy butchering.  And after butchering all day, it was easier to just make jerky in the oven, rather than pulling out the smoker and figuring out how to use it.
So, of course, I did it all wrong.  It's a charcoal/water smoker.  Charcoal...  not my thing.  I mean, I suppose I could make a batch of charcoal, but really, why can't this thing run on wood?  So I filled up the fire pit and lit it, and waited an awfully long time for all of that wood to burn down to a nice bed of hot coals.

#1 got out the smoker.  We hosed it all down, cleaned out the cobwebs, tried to figure out where all the parts went, then stuck it in the fire pit to burn off any ickiness that was still on it.  Good thing too, because it stunk really bad.  The smoker was coated with some kind of paint or something.  Yuck.

Then we went in the house to watch youtube videos.  We did find a couple showing how smokers were supposed to be set up and used, but most were videos about how other people had modified their smokers.  They all used charcoal.

Back outside, smelling better, I pulled the smoker out of the pit and brushed off all the ash and scum left behind from the paint.  In the pit, the temperature gage- warm/ideal/hot, no actual temperature- was reading hot.

So we put the grate on over the fire pit and put the smoker on top of it.  We put the bowls and racks in place, filled the water bowl, added mesquite chips (they came with the smoker) to the charcoal/wood chip bowl, and waited for the temperature to reach 'ideal'.

Then we added the meat.  One pork shoulder, and one small beef roast.  I coated them with BBQ sauce.  Experimenting with the smoker was enough for one day, I may try a rub or marinade next time.

With the smoker raised above the fire, it cooled down rather rapidly, so we had to keep adding wood.  Wood under the smoker, adding smoke...  Yeah, I guess this is pine smoked pork and beef.  Hmmm...

4 hours later they looked sort of done, it was after 10pm, dark out, and we were tired (and we ate burgers for supper hours before), so #1 brought them in and stuck them in the fridge.  Husband was going to make a sandwich for work the next morning, so he sliced off the end of the pork- and then went looking for sandwich meat in the fridge.  Not done at all.

I had to go to town that day, so I left #1 in charge of smoking them further.  It was a drizzly, rain off and on kind of day, so I told him to skip the grate and put the smoker right in the fire pit.  At some point in the afternoon he figured the pork was done and brought it back in the house.  He left the roast on all day. 

When I got home I looked at the pork, and although technically, it was probably 'done', it was not overcooked and falling apart the way I like it, so I put it back on again.  I never checked the roast.

At supper time, the pork was still not fall apart done, but it was browned all the way through and smelled delicious.  Yeah- where was the camera then?  Oops.  The roast was well done, with the outer edge so over done it was inedible.  Inside was a bit dry, but very flavourful and tender.

All in all, it was an interesting experience.  I think I'll try it again on our next drizzly rain all day type of day.  We tend not to stick close enough to the house on nice days to do a proper job of managing the fire- there be berries in dem woods! 

I think mostly the smoker is like an outdoor oven, which works well over the fire pit, and the smoke, well, it adds a different flavour than you get from the oven indoors.  I may skip the bottom bowl of the smoker, and just add the wood chips directly over the coals in the fire pit.  I'm also tempted to cut a branch or two from the cherry trees to use rather than the mesquite.  I doubt that I'll attempt to use it for jerky, as I'll still be busy butchering, and I can fit more trays in the oven and leave it on overnight without fear of wildlife looking for a snack.  I will probably just use it to break up the 'summer food' diet without heating the house up.


  1. I have no idea how a smoker works. But, this was an interesting post. Could you not have softened up the outside, inedible part? I would have put it in some sauce or gravy. I love the overcooked part of a roast, but apparently yours went far beyond even my taste for hard, dry meat. I'm with you about the berries in the woods. Don't you think the heat from the fire would keep the smoker hot enough to deter wildlife? I can hear bears howling after trying to open the hot You all would be humans they steered clear of. It would be nice to have a smoker for summer cooking.

    1. It was almost like a shell had formed around the outside of the roast. It wasn't very thick, just 2 or 3 milometers, so not a lot of waste.

      Bears are known to knock over BBQs, climb trees for coolers and camping supplies, etc. They have excellent memories, so once they know there's an easy food source they keep coming back. I'd rather not tempt fate, lol.

  2. That was a cool experiment. My brother has been smoking meat for years. He often brings samples to family potlucks. I'm sure you will get all the kinks ironed out (after the butchering and berrying is done). :-)

  3. yuck to mesquite, use any fruit tree wood. Grape vines are wonderful flavor too.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I will definitely try the cherry tree next round then.