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More specifically, I'm looking to determine if there is value in acquiring a smoker to accompany my current grill.

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Do you mean to buy a smoker attachment for the grill, or a stand-alone smoker? –  mfg Apr 7 '11 at 20:39
    
Does the BBQ tag refer to BBQ in just North America, or the more globally recognised activity? –  TFD Apr 7 '11 at 21:36
    
Hmmm... great questions. In this situation, I'm referring to a stand-alone smoker. When I say "standard BBQ", I'm referring to my gas grill. Perhaps I should re-phrase the question? Suggestions welcome! –  Liggy Apr 7 '11 at 22:09
    
What is a grill to you? A gas cooker with a metal plate (solid or mesh) on top designed for outdoor use? Is the smoker a box shaped metal lid that goes over it? maybe some pictures could help –  TFD Apr 7 '11 at 23:33
    
Note -- you can do high-temperature smoking in any standard grill. In a gas grill, you simply need to be able to turn off half of the flames and place the wet wood on that side. Leave the cover closed as much as you can while you cook -- the smoke will flavor the meat. So the real question would be about lower-temperature smoking, as mentioned below by Sean Hart. –  Martha F. Apr 10 '11 at 20:51

1 Answer 1

While it would be helpful to know:

  1. What kind of grill you currently have.
  2. What kind of smoker you're talking about acquiring.

I think I can still give you some decent feedback. Generally speaking, a smoker is better suited for cooking foods for a long time at a low temperature -- which is the traditional definition of "barbecue" in America -- than a grill would be. Conversely, a grill is better suited than a smoker for cooking foods at high temperatures over high, direct heat. This is not to say you can't cook on indirect heat using a grill, nor is it to say that some smokers can't be adapted for grilling. It's just which is the more suitable tool for what job.

For barbecue, a smoker offers the advantages of better heat control at lower temperatures, and greater food capacity in the cooking chamber.

I would suggest that if you want to do a lot of barbecue, particularly things that require really long cooking times (a pork butt or brisket can go as long as 14 hours), it would be worthwhile to get a smoker. If not, it would make more sense to adapt your grill for barbecue on the occasions that you would need it. Actually, I'd recommend you do that first, anyway, to see if you like doing that kind of cooking. An entry-level Weber smoker can run you $300, and I would not recommend going on the cheap with your smoker. The ones on the low end of the market do not work very well, and they will sour you on the concept.

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The value in a $50 backyard smoker is enormous. Simply roasting peppers or any other number of applications (your own BACON EXPLOSION!) can make the small investment worthwhile. I agree 100% you're not going to want to worry about control on one of these because it is not as exact; however for someone putting their toe in the water there's plenty of smoking to do in the summer that a cheap one can get done. The Chargriller line is remarkably flexible under that $300 entry point you make. –  mfg Apr 7 '11 at 20:51
    
I've actually considered using my old Brinkmann as a cold smoker. Just haven't had the reason to cold smoke anything yet. My point was more that if you're not that serious about doing a lot of barbecue, you're just as well off to mod your current grill (if possible). Btw, have you done the bacon explosion? I haven't tried that one (yet). –  Sean Hart Apr 7 '11 at 21:12
    
I too still need to mod mine, but warm weather just got to ohio and I'm starting a planter box for a bunch of pepper bushes. We did not do the explosion but we have done naked fatties –  mfg Apr 7 '11 at 21:31
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Liggy, I bought my WSM back in September, and I'm very pleased with it. I opted for the 18.5" model, since I don't generally cook huge quantities. Check out tvwbb.com for some good discussion on the WSM, Weber grills, and BBQ/grilling in general. –  Sean Hart Apr 8 '11 at 13:34
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Note: my father has been making smoked turkey in his Weber kettle grill for years. He piles the charcoal on one side of the grill, and puts the wet wood (wrapped in aluminum foil with lots of holes) on the other side. Then he leaves the cover on as much as possible while the turkey cooks. Quite yummy, but VERY different from long, slow, lower temperature smoking. –  Martha F. Apr 10 '11 at 20:53

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