Backyard BBQ

I love smoking meat, and I love having friends and family over to eat it with me. Of course, eating it is the prize at the end, but the journey from start to finish is just as enjoyable to me. Maybe it’s because it gives me a reason to stay home and not run around town doing errands: “Sorry honey, I can’t go. I have to keep an eye on the smoker”. Perhaps it’s because it is relaxing, I can forget about the things that cause me anxiety and stress. It’s relaxing and usually while I’m smoking meat, I have the joy of knowing soon I will have friends and family over for some company! I would say smoking meat is a bit therapeutic for me and even though it often is a lot of work, started days in advance, it is enjoyable work. Many times I’ve been juggling a handful of side dishes, the smoker, the grill and trying to time everything just right to be ready for guest. It seems stressful but it is not, it is enjoyable. What is stressful is if I think I don’t have enough for everyone! The result is I usually have way too much and send everyone home with large to-go bags. This is fine, my friends seem to have the same problem as I often come home with go-bags from their cookouts!

I had a Masterbuilt gas smoker for many years. After all that time I had a pretty good handle on cooking the few things on it that I wanted to. Primarily ribs, but I’ve had some chicken and sausage in there. And there was that time I smoked some Mackerel but will never make that mistake again! It took forever to get the fish smell out of it. Being a gas smoker with nothing but a dial to adjust I had to babysit the Masterbuilt to keep temperatures where I wanted. The temperature always seemed to be creeping up, or down and every 30-minutes or so I’d go out and tweak the dial a bit but really it wasn’t much of a bother it just meant I was tied to the house for the duration. But it also meant that I didn’t dare try overnight smokes because I wasn’t interested in staying up all night to keep an eye on it. I had a solid rib game on this smoker but had never smoked some of the larger cuts of meat. Despite this, I was not keen on changing it because I knew how long it took me to get the timing down to get consistent results.

When COVID hit I found myself stuck at home with a lot of time on my hands and smoking meat is a good way to spend some of it. I wanted to smoke some meat even if I couldn’t have my friends and family over to enjoy it with me. It was just as I wanted it the most that my trusty Masterbuilt gave its last breath. I don’t remember exactly when I bought it, but I’d say I must have had it for 8 years or more and have made 100’s of smokes on it. Given the small cost of the smoker I more than got my money out of it and it prepared food for many, many gatherings.

In typical fashion, I spent the next six months on the internet and stopping by local shops to view smokers, and then again back on the internet to see forum posts, reviews and all the info I could glean. Some purists think you must have a wood fired smoker and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to have one. Before the Masterbuilt I had a small offset wood smoker and these small sized wood burning smokers are incredibly hard to keep the fire “just right”. The fire was either way too hot, or not hot enough. It required even more work than the gas smoker I was so fond of which is probably why checking on the gas every 30-minutes seemed like an upgrade. As a bonus, when the gas did creep it maybe went 25° tops so my desired 225° was more like 200° – 250°. With the small-sized wood burning offset smoker I had adding small pieces of wood would cause temps to go up 50° and often much more. I’ve heard the larger wood smokers are much easier to maintain, and I’m sure an experienced pit master could pull it off but for me it was a challenge, and my results were inconsistent and rarely great.

So, with that experience wood was out and I was left with either charcoal or these new “pellet” smokers to consider. Some pellet smokers had bad reviews and it almost turned me off them. But I kept reading about these new PID controllers on some of the pellet smokers. These things were closed loop controllers that monitored the cooking chamber temperature and could keep it within 5° of where you set it. This was tempting as it opened the door to some unattended overnight smokes of the larger cuts of meat I’ve been wanting to try.

There were many pro’s and con’s I had to weigh out, and as always it takes me forever to make some of these decisions. After months I finally settled on the Smoke Daddy, Inc. Pellet Pro vertical smoker. This thing seemed to have everything that I wanted. I had to wait quite a bit for it to come in stock, in fact it wasn’t until January of 2021 that it finally became available again and I jumped on it. It arrived on time, and I was quite excited to get to smoking meat again.

That first rack of ribs that I cooked was a bit of a letdown, it didn’t have a smoky flavor like what I was used to and seemed a bit overdone. Over the next couple months I think I cooked one rack of ribs for Donya and I every Saturday finally getting my new recipe down and experimenting with various smoke generators, wood chunks, wood chips and different pellet brands. I was able to get more smoke by using quality wood pellets (Lumber Jack) and adding a tube-type cold smoke generator. Since then I’ve smoked many racks of ribs, a couple beef chuck roasts, some beef sirloin caps and recently I’ve smoked pork butts a couple times with great results. The pork butts were new to me since they require an overnight smoke to be ready for lunch and I have to sleep and trust the smoker to keep things steady. So far, so good! I do have a wireless thermometer with alarms so if something happened I would have been awaken, but it didn’t happen. Every time I’ve done an overnight smoke it turned out well and I didn’t have to stay up all night tending to it. The beauty of a quality closed loop controller that can maintain the temperature steady.

Over the coming months I will attempt to document some of my favorite items to smoke, providing times, temperatures, procedures, and what spices and rubs I use. Of course, there will also be some pictures detailing the steps, but for now a few pictures of past smokes as I’ve gotten to know the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro and finally get to a point where I feel like I can cook consistently good food, the way I like it. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures of the smokes I’ve done since I got this unit!

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