Thursday, March 20, 2014

My New Smoker

Recently, I bought a new primary oven/stove for the house (out of necessity), to replace an older model that finally gave up the ghost.  I weathered quite a bit of anxiety about it (good ones aren't cheap) and we finally chose a nice model and got it installed.  A couple of months later, I was looking at my bbq pit-smoker/grill that was sitting outside on the deck and I thought, "It's time."  Looking back,  my wife and I agreed that I (we) cooked more food on more days outside in the smoker than we did inside with our oven, so it was easy to justify the "need" for a new smoker, but the justification for the "expense" of a new smoker took a bit more doing.
My old grill, "Old Faithful"

I spent almost double the amount of money on an outdoor cooker than I did on our nice indoor stove/oven (the "good" one, with two levels of convection and a steam cleaning cycle).  Why!?  Well, let's walk through the process.  Hopefully, this will help guide you if you're in the market for a grill or smoker.

What I needed:
  • I needed something that could get hot enough to sear a steak, and to grill burgers, chicken or salmon.
  • Something that could support enough hot coals to get a cast iron skillet white-hot so I could blacken steak and fish, and cook pizza.
  • Multiple chambers so that I could slow-smoke briskets, pork shoulders, racks of ribs, or whole chickens, turkeys, or other big hunks of meat.
  • Something that could stand up to heavy use (multiple times/week) in all 4 seasons.
  • Enough surface area to cook for 50-100 people at a time (because that's how I roll at least once a month).
What I wanted:
  • Something that could calm the fires of my testosterone occasionally, without sending me to prison.
  • Enough surface area and head-room to cook for a thousand people at once!
  • Something I could fit an entire animal on, at one time, like a whole pig or a lamb on a spit!  Perhaps some Woolly Mammoth ribs...
  • A completely efficient wood-burning smoker that ran forever on one stick of wood!
What are my options?

Start looking around and you'll discover that every home improvement, hardware, and appliance store is excited to sell you a grill.  I mulled over options from four categories, the Kettle, the Egg, the "Classic" grill, and the Offset Smoker.  I've described the advantages and disadvantages to each of these in a prior blog post, so I won't belabor the point again here... I decided on an offset smoker from Yoder Smokers, in Yoder Kansas.

What did I pick?

The most economical cooker that satisfies every single one of my bulleted "needs" above (as well as half of my "wants") was a Yoder "Wichita" model (loaded).  Sure, it looks just like the offset smoker you can buy at Walmart for $149.00 but there are a few significant differences... First, this is hand-welded 1/4" steel, and it weighs in at just under 660lbs.  It has a lifetime guarantee against burning out the bottom.  The stamped tin/steel grills you find at Walmart won't last a single summer of heavy use, and they leak heat like crazy so, you'll use 10x the charcoal or wood to cook the same amount of meat.  Besides, who wants a grill made out of metal so thin you can bend it with your bare hands?  Other goodies in the Yoder package:
  • The firebox is easily large enough to function as it's own charcoal grill, with over 340 square inches of grilling space.
  • The main cooking chamber has over 1,300 square inches of surface area to pack with meat!  Most "Classic" propane grills max out at about 600.
  • A heat-dispersion plate diffuses the direct heat from the firebox and distributes it more evenly throughout the cooking chamber to eliminate hot-spots and to turn the chamber into a predictable "oven" without the need to constantly rotate everything to get heated evenly.
  • Multiple thermometers allow you to keep a very close eye on the space around what's cooking.
  • The counter-weight on the door makes sure the heavy door won't slam shut on you, and it makes an awesome place to stick your magnetic food thermometers, or to hang your hat.
  • A Probe-port allows you to use a temperature probe during the cook without having to prop the door open.
In the end, what drove my ultimate decision to buy this particular pit, were the people at Yoder.  I visited the factory (20 miles outside of Wichita, KS).  I was impressed.  Here's a hard working group of folks welding and creatively building a quality product in America's heartland, and they each had time to stop what they were doing to shake my hand to talk about what their role was.  It was obvious to me that they took pride in their work.  Welding up all kinds of cookers from small pellet smokers to huge trailer-mounted custom rigs for restaurants or other businesses, Yoder has been around BBQ for decades.

I'd spoken to them on the phone a number of times prior to my visit, and upon my arrival I was excited to see that they'd built my custom pit, and had it all ready to load (complete with a custom ash-rake with my initials welded into it) into my truck.  They didn't even require a paid deposit... There is still a business in America that builds products here with American steel and American labor, who will still do business with a telephone-handshake?  Yes, there is... and it's the people at Yoder Smokers!  More pics from my visit, below.

It glows in the dark!

Damper Control

Firebox grill grate

Multiple shelves

Hand Welded, excellent seal

My own personal ash-rake!

Custom giant

Another giant!



7 comments:

  1. very good grilled smoker and it would have cooked very taste food for you in years. hope to get a good tasty food by it.

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  2. good food, smoker provide you leading edge in making delicious food.

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  3. Great review! I've been speaking to Mike at Yoder, and am looking forward to making my way there from North Texas. Seem like great people and I am excited to spend my hard earned cash with these guys/gals! Your reasons are synonymous with mine...and I have only battled with which model to go with. Loaded Wichita is, like your reasons, a no brainer! Thanks for the valuable input!

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  4. What a manly title for your blog! I can appreciate it. That new smoker is ridiculously nice. What happens to Old Faithful now? Good advice about not buying just any smoker too. You want to have something that will last for years and not need to constantly replace or repair. Now, when are you having the rest of us over for a barbecue?

    Demetrius Guevara @ Solaire Gas Grills

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    1. I donated "Old Faithful" to a friend of mine who sand-blasted it, re-painted it, built new grates for it, and, in turn, GAVE it to a neighbor of his who is new to this country and who doesn't have a lot of money; but who loves to cook outdoors for his family.

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  5. Awesome looking smoker 1300 sq inches of cooking space is huge! Love the personal ash rake.

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  6. I truly get pleasure from while I read your blogs and its content.
    Abe

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