Super Serious School Stuff
The Last Six

Holy Smokes

Last year, around this time, I decided to get Jason a smoker for his birthday/Father's Day. He'd had one on his Amazon wish list for ages so I figured that's the one he wanted. (I did not know anything about smokers, except that you use them to smoke meat things, and every time we go to someone's house and Jason sees they have a smoker he's like the kids encountering someone else's epic Lego stash.) But when I went to actually check his list, he'd added several different models. And then I began to learn that the world of smokers and smoker accessories is very contentious and complicated. Do you go electric? Charcoal? Propane? Wood pellet? Digital bells and whistles? Super old-school and basic?

The internet is full of people with VERY STRONG OPINIONS yelling at each other over this issue. Just Google "what kind of smoker is best" and they'll probably show up at your house to yell at you in person.

I tried to feel Jason out on his opinion, only to learn that he didn't really have one. He "needed to do more research." Oh, lands, save yourself! I tried to drop hints that maaaaaybe he could do that research somewhat quickly, like within a pre-birthday Amazon Prime free shipping window, but he didn't pick up on it. I moved various makes and models in and out of my shopping cart, second-guessing myself out of purchasing each and every one at the last minute. WHAT KIND OF SMOKER IS BEST. WHAT KIND OF SMOKER DOES JASON STORCH WANT IN PARTICULAR. HOW TO READ YOUR HUSBAND'S MIND ABOUT SMOKERS.

In the end, I wrote "IOU one smoker of your choice" on a piece of paper and shoved it inside his birthday card. 

Guess who never bought himself a damn smoker? Until now! This weekend. When we are mere weeks away from his NEXT birthday, when I have to start all over again with the shopping and the guessing and the man-mind-reading. 

He went with a basic electric model, which I am almost afraid to put out there because I can feel the wrath of the charcoal and wood pellet people from here. It looks like we have a wine refrigerator out on our deck. 


It begins.

A post shared by Jason Storch (@dcfoodies) on

He decided to start out with some ribs, but kept messing with the temperature all day and fretting about whether the smoker was emitting the proper amount of smoke. And then our digital thermometer kept saying the ribs weren't done, even though enough hours had passed to cook the entire damn pig and probably two or three cows. 

The ribs were kind of tough and a pretty disappointing first start, especially after All Of That. (But the grilled corn he let sit in the smoker for a few minutes was incredibly delicious!) So it looks like we need some more practice with the smoker. We shall try a chicken or some sausages next, while Jason likely second-guesses his purchase and heat-source decision. I'm just glad I didn't buy it, because I would have felt personally responsible for the overdone ribs that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I'm weird about presents. 


Those big packs of water balloons that let you fill a ton of them up all at once though? Those are a goddamn genius product that I can wholeheartedly endorse. 


We went through a couple hundred of them.


The great internet smoker wars will rage on most likely, but at least Everybody Throw Water Balloons At Mom is a game everybody can get behind. 



Your backyard is huuugggeee!

Joanna Moore

Yes...soooo jealous of your backyard!


That yard. OMG.

Hope Rutten

I don't have a smoker but I love cooking shows on PBS and watch this guy who smokes everything all the time, and he uses the electric ones for things as well (he uses every kind of smoker and has lots of cookbooks). Maybe this would help?

Brenda Gilbreath

For what it's worth.... you can smoke CHEESE, too! Smoked cheddar? YUM.

Angela (@Aferg22)

We have a pellet smoker after a similar agonizing decision (that I left entirely up to my husband.) It has been a really great purchase, but I am sure once you figure out the ins and outs of your smoker, you will have success as well. Our favorite things to smoke are pork butts, whole chickens and brats. We recently tried pork belly, and it was amazing! My in laws compete in a BBQ competition every June, so if you want any advice, just shoot me an email.


1) the balloons are magic and get carefully supervised and handed out like methadone in my house.

2) an electric smoker basically makes you a monster forever. I'm sorry and Jason is entitled to his opinion but he is wrong ;) J/K but I have found that bingeing BBQ pit masters helped me learn how to smoke quite a but and there are approx 1 million resources about smoking online. Also try something with higher fat (a pork butt is really forgiving) and it might be more his speed, ribs take finagling and matching to your smoker of choice.

Good luck!!


Doug has a smoker he loves and I know nothing about it but I'm sure he would be happy to talk to Jason. I don't eat meat but he makes a damn good smoked lobster tail, smoked egg salad, and smoked nuts. (Other people like the meat).


Enjoy the smoker. I went pellet and ended up blogging about the GMG grill I purchased

I'm happy to share my dry rub recipe, too.


The best smoked thing I've ever eaten is smoked eel. No idea where to get fresh salt water eel in the US though. But high-fat fish in general is delicious smoked. Wish we had space for a smoker!


We did those balloons at a BBQ this weekend too! Legit amazeballs.

Lauren A.

Your lawn! Why are we not spending post after post on the glory that is that lawn, woman!


My husband and I have this same smoker and we love it! A word of advice on the husband actually cooks them in our oven, low (like 200 degrees) and slow (depending on how many ribs he is doing at once, the time may vary) and then finishes them in the smoker to get that "smokey" taste, typically about an hour or so. As another person stated above, ribs don't have much fat and we found that we can never get them as tender when we do them for the whole time in the smoker. We have had some awesome pork butts, wings, chicken, and recently a whole turkey! from this smoker though. You will not be disappointed!!


So we have a charcoal smoker and my husband has - about... a year and a half in, I think? - more or less perfected the timing, or can at least pretty closely approximate how long things will take. But the first go-round? Oh no. No. The exchange went something like this:
Him: What time do you want to eat dinner?
Me: I don't know, 6ish?
Him: *does insane amount of research on how long to smoke the hunk o' meat*
Him: *determines start time*
~ hours pass, it is now around 6:30 ~
Me: So. Food?
Him: *consults all manner of temperature devices* It will be done soon!
Me: *feeds child something else*
~ 7ish ~
Me: Foods?
Him: Almost done!
Me: *puts kid to bed*
~ 8:30 ~
Him: It's... not done yet.
~ 10:00 ~
Me: *eating cereal*

He finally ate like half a brisket by himself at like midnight. Special times!


We had an old school smoker that my in-laws set out on the street and my loving husband decided to rescue... and it sat on the side of our driveway for 3 YEARS! Until I finally set it out on the curb. A neighbor from across the street picked it up... so - we shall see if it makes it back to the curb in the next 1-5 years...


I bought my husband a similar electric smoker and he loves it! He used to have a charcoal one but it was just too high maintenance for him. He has a wee bit of a problem with timing so we have had delicious smoked things at nine and ten at night. Try smoking chicken wings. They don't take as long and are a good way to get used to the smoker. We should have had some last night but that timing problem showed up again. You can't put something in the smoker when you have to leave for a baseball game in a hour or so!


We have an electric smoker and found the factory heat controller/sensor was far from accurate. (I had a food thermometer that was also complete crap for accuracy. Always said stuff was under temp, even when moving solidly into overcookes by all other standards) My DH basically made his own thermo-controller with good results. We do ribs in the smoker successfully so it's doable. Though I do prefer pork over beef so the fat content might differ.

Sue W

Two words. Beer can chicken. OK. That was three. Sorry.

We don't drink can beer, so I use one of hubbies empty Coke cans and pour said beer into the can. Shove it up the chicken hoozie and use it's wee legs as a tripod and smoke about 1.5-2 hours. Devour chicken. Then use the skin and bones to make the best. damn. soup. you. will. ever. eat.

My dad useta smoke our turkey every year for Thanksgiving. He didn't have a smoker, but he had a humongous grill with the rotisserie and he'd do the Jack Daniel's wood chips soaked in water and he'd fuss with that thing for hours. Best. damn. turkey. EVER!

Susan B

We also have that same smoker and my husband is really happy with it as a beginner.

I second the comment on the pork butt - it's pretty forgiving. My husband usually winds up doing the smoking the day before just in case the timing is off and it warms up really well in the crock pot. If you feel like indulging throw a pan of baked beans on the shelf below the meat - they'll get a nice smoke flavor and catch all the drippings.


I tried the electric smokers and the heating element went bad in 2 years. Went to the Weber kettle smoker it has made the best ribs I've had in years. Takes a little more effort learning to adjust the vents and to add charcoal. This smoker has gotten the best reviews. I will never go electric again.

Jason C.

I've smoked in all of them: offset, electric (pellet and chips), drums (from the Weber one that looks like R2D2 to just a barrel we found). I had a similar electric when we lived in an apartment in the city and had a small deck. It's good for smaller things. Jason might enjoy curing then smoking pork belly for bacon, or a small brisket for pastrami in it.

The bottom line with smoking things (especially larger critter pieces) is that the device that permits the larger granularity of wood, the better. Smoking-wood ranges from sawdust to logs. You'll see all the pro's and commercial ventures typically just burn wood (see the hickory or oak fires in Texas). I like a compromise - the Pit Barrel Cooker lets you use fist size hunks of wood and charcoal. It's a cinch and predictable.

Then you get to obsess over what wood types and charcoal types. I like that the barrel lets you hang the food. And the whole ritual of starting the fire is fun for the kids. Get a fire insulating pad for your deck, a chimney starter, some paraffin starters and a butane torch.


Smoked Gruyere...omg


Get him a new digital thermometer for this birthday! My husband got me a thermapen and this thing is legit. I get excited every time I see people on Top Chef or Great British Bake Off using them.


what happens to the water balloon bits that end up all over the grass? because my kids love water balloons but we haven't done buncha balloons yet because of the clean up factor.


I think ribs are all about low and slow. This recipe is for the oven but it's INCREDIBLE and it's never let me down. I'm sure it can be adapted for your new smoker (if you have 6 hours to spare):


We have that exact same smoker. It doesn't leave stuff "smokey" enough for my taste (previously we used a weber kettle grill), but it sure is easy to use, and we got it used off craigslist for less than $100, so I don't complain too much. A couple tips:
1) Google the 3-2-1 method for ribs. There are a million recipes; they're all essentially the same.
2) You can get pellet trays that sit inside the smoker to augment the amount of smoke. This is the one we have:
3) ALL OF THE YESSES to smoking cheese!!! Smoke some hard cotija, it will keep a very long time in the fridge, and then crumble it over everything.
4) Chicken is super-finicky in the smoker. Make sure to brine it really well first, or it will dry out like a mofo. A skin-on whole turkey breast is a much better bet.
5) I don't like eggplant. Eggplant is amazing in the smoker.

Have fun, and good luck!


i too went through the great search for a smoker for my husband three or four years ago. I settled on the Pit Barrel Smoker which is known as an UDS or Ugly Drum Smoker. People apparently make them themselves when they get really into it but I decided to buy one preassembled. It's a 30 gallon drum with horseshoes and rebar for handles and rails. All the meat hangs while cooking. I will say everything that comes out of it has been fantastic and generally super easy. Not that any of that is useful information now. I'm sure y'all will get the hang of it. Try a pork butt, they're pretty forgiving and you end up with a mountain of pulled pork at the end.


Smoked sausages are absolutely impossible to screw up since the skins keep all the juices inside (unlike on a bbq where they drip everywhere and come off dehydrated wrinkled sad shadows of what they used to be). They are quick, easy, and mindblowingly delicious. Essentially, smoked sausage is the shit.

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