Over the past couple of months I've become more and more immersed in the world of barbecue and smoking. This is of course more than partially due to being at home most of the time, which is giving me plenty of time to cook and explore new ingredients and methods. Cooking outside also means that I'm not stuck in front of a screen in the evening as well as during the day. The time it takes to get a barbecue up to cooking temperature etc., means that you're probably not going to realistically use a barbecue to fry an egg, but getting it hot enough to do a few bits and pieces isn't that hard or time consuming.
While the Weber Performer, which I bought a couple of months back, is a really good kettle grill and you can do pretty good long cooks on it I was interested to see about getting an actual smoker. Why? Sanity I guess! Jokes aside, you can do long cooks on a kettle and the slow 'n' sear is a wonderful addition. However using a device that's specifically designed for long slow cooks makes sense if you're doing them on a fairly regular basis. Trying to maintain the temperature on a kettle for long periods is a bit of a pain! Over the past couple of months I've experimented with several cuts of meat that involved going "low and slow" for several hours at a time and I think I'll get the usage out of an actual smoker.
But which smoker makes sense to get? There's a lot of options out there. Ultimately I decided that the Weber made the most sense due to the overall build quality, size and features. Yes I could have got some kind of Kamado style grill and at some point I might, but for now I think the one I got is perfectly fine.
Weber make a "bullet smoker" called the Smokey Mountain which comes in 3 different sizes (I'm including the US inches as they're very commonly referenced when you're looking at accessories etc even though Weber does not market in inches in Europe):
- 37 cm (14")
- 47 cm (18")
- 57 cm (22")
Now if you just look at those numbers you'd easily fall into the trap of assuming that there's "only" 10 cm between each model. But thanks to the wonder of maths those 10 cm differences are much much bigger when it comes to cooking area and overall size. So you end up with:
- 37 cm (14") - 286 square inches
- 47 cm (18") - 481 square inches
- 57 cm (22") - 726 square inches
I haven't done the calculations for the cooking area in centimetres, but you can see that there's quite a big jump between the various models.
So on Saturday I took a spin out to the nearest Weber dealer to see how the various sizes looked "in the flesh".
I had thought that the 37cm model would be fine for me, but when I saw it in the flesh I realised that it was tiny!
The 57cm model was a bit too big for my liking, so I ended up going home with the 47cm model, which is the one in the left pictured above.
One thing I hate is flatpacked anything. Invariably the instructions are terrible and I often seem to end up with "leftover" pieces. I am not a fan!
Weber, however, provide pretty good instructions for assembly of any of their barbecues. The smokey mountain doesn't require much work on putting it together anyway. You're only putting on the feet, the supports for the racks and the heat shield. Pretty much everything else is already assembled and it's just a matter of slotting them altogether. So all told I probably spent 20 minutes putting it together, which is fine.
Of course as luck would have it the weather here took a turn for the worse on Saturday evening so I've barely had a chance to use my new toy. It's currently in my shed so that it doesn't get destroyed in the current storm battering the country!
My Weber performer is currently wedged into a space where it hopefully can't be dislodged from:
So how is it to use?
Overall I'll give it a thumbs up. It's a bit of a different experience from cooking with kettle barbecues, which I've become used to.
You have to start every cook with the smoker practically dismantled and then you put it back together once the charcoal is properly lit. You also have two levels and grates to cook on. And there's no way to access the lower one without taking the upper grate off. Not a huge problem, but it's a different way of cooking compared to anything I'd used up until now.
So far I haven't cooked anything particularly elaborate, but I have done a couple of nice pieces of beef:
I've already noticed a few things about the smoker that I'll want to tweak, but it's a nice piece of kit all the same.
Hopefully the weather will clear up soon and I can get back out cooking again. While I don't mind cooking in rain, cooking in the middle of a storm is a bridge too far!