Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

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Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  dangleberry on Tue May 25, 2010 5:02 pm

Hello, I'm in the market for a new BBQ and stumbled across the low 'n slow smoking method which ultimately has led me here. Smoking food sounds like a much better option than the traditional burned sausage kettle BBQ I am more used to. There is much useful information on this site and I think I am ready to take the plunge with a ProQ Excel. However, judging from what I have read smoking food is not that straight forward and involves much trial and error and I am a little nervous that I won't have the patience. So, a couple of questions if you don't mind?

Realistically, am I likely to have a few cock-ups before getting a successful result? (I appreciate that this a bit vague but suppose I just want a little reassurance!)

Is can the ProQ be left outside year round under a cover?

Hotsmoked currently has an offer on for the ProQ Excel for 229 which includes the cold smoke generator and 2x1kg pack of wood supplies, one in dust form and the other in chip form. Is this a good deal? I don't mind paying a bit extra so I presume that it is worth going for the Excel over the Frontier?

If I wanted to cook a joint of meat (say a rib of beef or a chicken) for lunch is it realistic to think that I could start this in the morning and get it done for lunch - it seems that large joints may require longer cooking times?

Finally, it seems that people talk of smoking overnight - does this require maintenance (ie getting out of bed) or once someone is proficient at smoking is this fairly straightforward?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

dangleberry
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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  steveheyes on Tue May 25, 2010 11:06 pm

Hi,

To deal with your questions in order.

1. You will probably get some great Q from your first cook. There is a learning curve and you'll get better with practice but this cooking method is very forgiving, I was happy with the results from day one, although I'm a million times better now than I was.

2. The Excel is pretty resilient to the elements. One of mine lives outside year round and is fine. I do keep the grills and charcoal basket in the shed though.

3. The 229 deal sounds like a good one to me.

4. A chicken will be done in a few hours, and a rib of beef will be medium rare in a few hours too. You can do these for lunch time. Although the ethos is cooking at 250F you will find that you can cook quite a bit higher and get amazing results. Some people will disagree but I'd put my power cooked pork up against anyone's I'm that confident that you can cook good Q at 300F.

The joints you will read about that take 10hrs+ tend to be the tougher joints like pork shoulder and brisket. These are cooked to much higher internal temperatures in order to render out all the fat and collagen in them. Sounds like a lot of effort, but I bet you end up trying it Very Happy

Overnighters on an Excel can be either easy or a nightmare. I use the clay saucer method, which means I put a big clay saucer in my water pan instead of water. this combined with a well constructed charcoal basket means I can get mine to run all night no problems. However it does need a kick every few hours to shake the ash off the coals and if it's a windy night then maintaining temps can be a pain.

The Excel is a great cooker for the money. It's straightforward to use, pretty reliable and will cook more good Q than you can eat. I'm sure you'll love it if you do buy one.

HTH

Steve
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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  dangleberry on Wed May 26, 2010 2:33 pm

Steve,

thanks so much for the answer. I think I'll go ahead and order. Of course, by the time I get set up our brief summer will be over!

Would it be worth purchasing anything else - the site also offers a starters set for 17.50 which includes Wood Smoking Pellets in Oak - 450g bag, ProBBQ Wood Smoking Chips in Apple -400g drum, Spicy Herb Rub - 125g pack, stainless Steel Smoker Box, Hot Smoked Recipe Ideas, Hot Smoked Tips & Techniques for Hot Smokers.

I presume a chimney starter and digital thermometer might be more useful?

One further question - do you put a cover on the Excel you use outside?

By the way, the deal I am looking at is through www.hotsmoked.co.uk. Does anyone have any experience with this site? Good or bad?

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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  steveheyes on Wed May 26, 2010 3:02 pm

Hi,

My smoker lives under a vinyl Pro Q cover. The Pro Q covers are the same as standard BBQ covers but they're the right shape which makes them worth buying over your bog standard one from B&Q.

I would buy a chimney starter and a Maverick ET-73 thermometer if I were you. For the Maverick, Mack is (I think) the only person in the UK selling them. You can get them from the US but I'd just buy one from Mack if I were you. For the chimney starter, I'd recommend the Weber one which is bigger than any others I've seen and is a top quality piece of kit. You can buy these from any garden centre that sells Weber BBQs or online.

Hot Smoked is part of Usefulstuff. I bought my first Excel from them and they were brilliant, mine arrived with some shipping damage and they just replaced the parts with no fuss whatosever.

Regarding the 17.50 starter pack, personally I wouldn't bother. The smoker box can be replaced by making a pouch out of tin foil and pricking some holes in it and this is the most expensive part of the kit. You can buy chips from Garden centres and supermarkets, but I'd recommend getting chunks. These are fist-sized pieces of wood and they burn slower, my competition team is sponsored by www.smokingwoodsupplies.co.uk who sell very reasonably priced net bags of English hardwoods grown in their own wood in Hampshire. Get in touch with Paul and let him know Steve from Royal Q sent you there, he'll sort you out with a good deal, I recommend going for some oak and some cherry but also ask him if he's still got some green (ie not yet seasoned) apple left, because it's wonderful stuff.

Anything more you need to know just shout out.

Cheers

Steve
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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  dangleberry on Wed May 26, 2010 3:26 pm

Steve, thanks again for your help - it really is appreciated.

I'll take you up on your offer to ask any questions..

Looking at the store Mack doesn't seem to have the Maverick thermometer in stock. Having a quick look around I came across what I assume to be the same here
http://www.smokingbbq.co.uk/product/Redi-Chek%C2%AE__Wireless_Remote_Smoker_Thermometer_ET-73

This retails at 49.95 - is this about right?

Regarding the chunks I'll take your advice. For a cooking time of say 4 hours, how much would I be looking at needing? Essentially, I want to get everything I need to get cracking right away (after sealing the unit first of course), so the Excel, chimney starter, chunks, charcoal etc...

Again, thanks so much.

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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  steveheyes on Wed May 26, 2010 4:32 pm

That site is one of Mack's. It's the only site that has the Maverick's in hte UK as far as I'm concerned. Price sounds about right, it's not cheap but is a really sound investment. I've got two and the only thing that would make me get rid of them is if I moved up to a Stoker.

As for wood chunks, you might be surprised at how little you use. This is particularly relevant with English Oak as it's got a very strong flavour. It's not so much about time as it is about the meat that's on there but that's a learning curve you'll pick up over time, the trick is to start with a little and work up to the level of smoke you are happy with.

As an example, let's say I'm doing a pork loin that will take about 3 hours to get up to 165F. I would set up my basket for minion method, and I'd nestle one each, fist size chunks of English oak and cherry into the unlit charcoal near the vents. I'd then put my half chimney of lit charcoal on top, with the lit coals right next to the wood to get it lit. I'd then close the cooker up and dial the temperature in. I'd only expect the wood to be smoking for about the first hour or so of cooking, by this time the meat will have absorbed all the smoke I want it to.

I used to add extra wood during the cook and I liked the flavour but got slammed at competition. After that I backed off with the wood and found, much to my surprise, that the lighter smoking produced a much better end product.

Cheers

Steve
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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  dangleberry on Wed May 26, 2010 4:50 pm

Steve, thanks. I'll go ahead with the Excel deal, get a weber chimney starter and the thermometer. I'll get in touch with smokingwoodsupplies as well. Not cheap but hopefully this will do the job for years to come. I appreciate all of your advice and can't wait to get smoking!

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Re: Looking to take the plunge and wanting some advice

Post  steveheyes on Wed May 26, 2010 5:00 pm

It's not a cheap setup but if looked after will last for years. It's about the best value setup around as well, if you went down the WSM route it would be more expensive.

The only problem is you get bitten by the bug, I'm currently eying up a smoker from the US which will cost me the best part of ten grand by the time I've shipped it to the UK. It's a hell of a lot of cash and my wife thinks I'm mad but I'm hooked on BBQ, it's like crack Laughing
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