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semi-major announcement (of a sort)... wait for it, it's hidden [Nov. 5th, 2005|12:27 pm]
Does anyone know anything about smokers? You know, those barbecue like things that smoke meats and fish?

I've developed a love of salmon jerky and candied salmon, (and beef jerky, of course, but *damn*... salmon candy? Catholics should avoid it on Lenten Fridays to avoid feeling overwhelmed with guilt over the pleasure) and I was thinking of buying one. The biggest thing that makes me nervous is the charcoal ones.

I like the notion of using charcoal, because it has a nice, rustic-y, outdoors-y feel to it. It reminds me a bit of Pa Ingalls and his old hollow tree from the Little House books, lo those many years ago.

I also like the notion of not burning stuff, and not having the fire go out, and being able to plug the damn thing in and forget about it, except for adding the wood chips and making sure the water bowl stays full if it's supposed to. I have ADHD, remember, so these things are important.

They have some at the local Fred Meyer, and probably at the McLendon's hardware store.

I think I'm going to buy one *soon*... as a celebration of my newfound freedom, which might be fleeting. Good DBAs can get hired quickly these days.

See, Tuesday night, I'd been working until 1 a.m.. Wednesday night, I worked late (mind, I came in late, too), and was about to go out jogging for the first time in weeks... and the phone rings.

"Is this John Palmer?"
"who's calling?"
"This is BGI(crackle) ing about a ha(deadair)ority alert."
"I'll take care of it."
"Do you want to know what it is?"
"No. I'll take care of it."
"Do you (crackle) to (deadair) the queue?"
"I don't *care* what you do. I'll take care of it!"

I'm just curious: has anyone noticed something about tech folks these days? If you're on call, they consider that your job. Not something to say "Hey, John, thanks for handling that alert last night," about, and get a "No prob, it's part of the job, you know?" in response.

So, heaven help you if you're cranky, and tired, and frustrated.

Friday, my boss calls me into a meeting to discuss this matter. No, I won't promise I'll never be cranky with another tier 1 person calling over a bad phone line, at night, when I have other plans. It's not gonna happen.

Later, I point out in an e-mail that the common sense solution to this (to ask me to contact the person in question, and apologize for my tone) was completely ignored.

Late Friday afternoon, while I'm working on some database stuff (and, surprisingly, having a bit of fun figuring out how to get things to work nicely) my boss sends out an e-mail. Someone mistakenly sends it out to the discussion group... I am no longer working for Microsoft, via an Indian outsourcing company, via a contracting firm (VOLT!) who shall remain (VOLT!) nameless, because if I ever (VOLT!) expressed how much I despise (VOLT!) them, I might get myself (VOLT! IT WAS VOLT! TURN BACK NOW, YOU FOOL! IF VOLT WILL HIRE YOU, SOMEONE ELSE WILL! IT WAS VOLT! VOLT! VOLT!) in trouble.


I clean off my computer, and Monday, I'll go in to pick up my stuff, and file for unemployment.

Anyway... if you want to sympathize, great, that's fine, but first, remember: do you know anything about how to smoke meats and fish? Any advice?

[User Picture]From: glinda_w
2005-11-05 09:13 pm (UTC)
*sympathy from a one-time contract tech editor at M$*

my friend Randy acquired a smoker this summer, after mucho research. I'll forward this to him (the smoker parts, anyway), so if you get email from Stanley Steemer, it's really Randy.

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[User Picture]From: kightp
2005-11-05 09:20 pm (UTC)
I've pinged crossfire - IIRC he got a smoker this summer and was having way too much fun with it.

I've already said, it, but I'll say it again: You're well shut of the (VOLT!) contracting company which shall (VOLT!) remain nameless. (VOLT! VOLT! VOLT!)
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[User Picture]From: darthgeek
2005-11-05 10:14 pm (UTC)
I've heard bad things about the nameless (VOLT!) contracting (VOLT!) firm (VOLT!) before.
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[User Picture]From: blackthornglade
2005-11-06 05:39 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I don't know much about smokers. Nor do I know much about contracting with good or nameless (VOLT!) contracting companies that suck. My stint as a contractor was blessedly short, though much nicer than yours, apparently. :)

However, I do know about nasty job. Commiseration, sympathy, and congrats all rolled into one. *heh*
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[User Picture]From: firecat
2005-11-06 06:45 am (UTC)
Con(VOLT!)grats on your freedom.

I don't know anything about smoking anything but fermented leaves, but I do know from forgetfulness (I once melted a kettle on the stove), so if I were buying a smoker, I would go for the easy to use kind. I remember seeing one in a catalog the other day that came with premeasured bags of wood chips. That's the kind I would use.
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[User Picture]From: dandelion_diva
2005-11-06 01:48 pm (UTC)
Suckiness about the job situation. I hope you find something better, soonest.

Alton did a show with a smoker...actually, I think he did two shows with smokers...but they were both things you'd put together, not buy all at once. Which doesn't sound like the thing you want. Unfortunately, besides Pa's tree (I'm so jazzed that you remembered that! Love those books so much.), that's pretty much all I know about smokers.

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[User Picture]From: malaechi
2005-11-06 05:17 pm (UTC)
the first advice I will give you is never use bagged briquette charcoal in a smoker.. never ever.. also if you must use charcoal, spend the extra money and get wood chunk charcoal at Lowes, Home Depot or whereever fine charcoal is sold.. it sounds like glass chips when you are pouring it but it is SOO nice..

If you use firewood for the base, try and find somewhere to get firewood that can tell you what kind of wood is in it.. Apple Wood is wonderful if you can find it.. try and avoid pine if possible..

You can do a couple things with the liquid bowl on the bottom.. you can use water and put your smoking chips in it. mequite, hickory or apple work best.. instead of water you can use apple cider or red wine.. it gives another flavor enhancer.. also dont be afraid to spritz or baste the meat occasionally..

I haven't done a lot of fish smoking, but you can make some killer jerkey in one too...
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[User Picture]From: malaechi
2005-11-06 05:19 pm (UTC)
Oh also.. I'd take propane over electric because you have greater temperature control.. there are several good books on Amazon for smoking or you can get some at Narn and Noble...
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[User Picture]From: elimloth
2005-11-06 05:19 pm (UTC)
> I am no longer working for Microsoft, via an Indian outsourcing company, via a contracting firm (VOLT!)

That always boggles my (VOLT!) mind that an outsourcing company reverse outsources to contract local resources to avoid what meager labor laws remain in force.
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[User Picture]From: teddywolf
2005-11-06 06:53 pm (UTC)
Consumer's Union doesn;t have anything about food smokers. Cook's Illustrated online might, but you'd have to sign up for their online trial membership. Admittedly, CI is an excellent resource for food generally; but I don't have such a membership.
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[User Picture]From: crossfire
2005-11-06 10:35 pm (UTC)

This may be too long for a single comment...

Here from kightp's ping...

I'm, ah, not really sure what you want to know? I see you've got some evangelists already feeding you their tracts about charcoal/water smokers/woods/etc, so maybe I can give you some "holy war neutral" info about equipment...

There's two different kinds of smoking: smoke-curing, and smoke-cooking. Smoke-curing involves using cold smoke to preserve and dry raw meats. Smoke cooking is barbecue, and involves cooking foods slowly over low temperatures (typically between 180-250 F) with hot smoke. Most candied salmon recipes I've seen are smoke-cooked. (Nova Lox is a great example of a smoke-cured salmon.)

You ONLY smoke with hardwood. Ever. Typical hardwoods are oak, hickory, pecan, apple, cherry, and alder. Mesquite burns too hot for serious smoking, but it's awesome for grilling. Most pitmasters have a favorite wood--my preference is for pecan. Some meats pair best with certain woods; duck and cherry, for example, or salmon and alder, but if all you've got access to is hickory, hickory-smoked duck or salmon are great too.

The very best barbecue of all comes from wood-fired pits. If you can afford a good, solidly-built wood-fired pit, that's the way to go. They are terribly expensive, though, and if you don't have someone producing them locally they are prohibitively expensive to ship. They also require a steady source of hardwoods; a wood-fired pit can burn through a LOT of hardwood if you're doing even occasional smoking. They also require the most skill to use, but man, do they ever produce good barbecue. If I had the money, I'd have a wood-fired pit. When I compete with my cousin, we use his wood-fired pit.

If a wood-fired pit is out of the question, then you still have lots of choices at a wide range of prices. The way I tend to break down smokers is by how they produce their heat: electricity, charcoal, or propane.

Electric smokers have the benefit of being very easy to use. Traeger makes great electric smokers; basically they have an electric element that heats up, and a patented mechanism dumps in controlled quantieties of compressed hardwood sawdust pellets onto it, producing smoke. They have a water pan that you can fill or not, as you prefer (there's a holy war right there). My boss and our sysadmin both have Traegers, and they love them. Traegers are very much "fire and forget" and have safeties for automatic shutoff if they overheat, and such. The pellets for them are cheap and readily available just about everywhere (and you can order them online if they're not). Traegers are, however, rather pricey.
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[User Picture]From: crossfire
2005-11-06 10:36 pm (UTC)

Yup, too long for a single response

Charcoal-fired smokers can be much cheaper than electric smokers, but you trade the lower price for higher investment in time and effort, and fuel costs. There are different kinds of charcoal-fired smokers: those with offset fire boxes, and those with the fire burning at the bottom (usually called "bullet smokers" or "water smokers").

I own a Weber Smokey Mountain, which is a mid-range (price-wise) bullet smoker. It runs on charcoal (I buy Kingsford from CostCo), and I buy bags of hardwood chunks from a local barbecue supply store. You fire up the charcoal like a regular grill, toss on 4-5 chunks of hardwood, put the water pan in, then the grills with the meats. Mine produces pretty good smoked foods; my pork shoulder isn't as good as what I can make on my cousin's wood-fired pit, but it's certainly better than the stuff local barbecue joints are selling. And when it comes to smaller cuts of meat like ribs or fish fillets (which have higher surface areas to smoke), my Weber turns out barbecue that's as good as anything from a wood-fired pit.

When I compete, most winners are using wood-fired pits. I've never seen an electric pit win, but I've seen them place. I see charcoal pits, including Smokey Mountains, win frequently. But if there's a wood-fired pit in the competition, it's going to be the one to beat.

To speak to some of the misinformation you've been given, regardless of what kind of smoker you have you you clean it after you use it and cover it up. This keeps it from acting like a "mosquito haven." And you don't just "avoid pine if possible," you NEVER use pine. Pine-smoked food is inedible and tastes like turpentine. ONLY use hardwood. As for the "charcoal sucks" Holy War, well, I already told you want kind of smoker I have. People compete with charcoal (most swear by Kingsford) and win all the time.

I have no experience with propane-fired pits. I've never seen one, never had any barbecue made from one, and can't say anything about them. I know a lot of serious pitmasters consider them heresy, but a lot of serious pitmasters consider electric smokers heresy too, so that means very little.
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[User Picture]From: crossfire
2005-11-06 10:43 pm (UTC)

And finally

Needless to say, if you have any questions, holler. I may very well have not told you anything you were wondering about. :)
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