I have wanted a smoker for years and finally bought a Bradley digital....seems like a fine machine but I have issues which I believe stem from pure cluelessness. Before I start dumping in more money or modifying a brand new machine I figured I would come to people in the know.....so here is my tale.
My first smoke consisted of a 12lb brisket. I set the smoker up on my porch, was about 40 degrees out with a wind of about 10mph. I looked up what I thought was a good recipe on the net, let my brisket come close to room temp, cut it in two and seasoned it. I placed the halves on the middle two shelves of the 4 rack machine and began the smoke. The recipe called for a 9 hour smoke at about 230 degrees. I also bought a digital meat thermometer so I could monitor the meat temp as the hours past. Changed out the water bowl about every 2 hours with warm H20 and noted at the end of 8 hours the meat temp had pegged 170, done according to my thermometer. The smoker temp varied between 185-203 no matter what I had the oven temp set to. I decided to take the meat out and give it a cut. It looked good, tasted great, but a bit tough. I couldn't understand why I could not get the smoker temp up to the setting I had indicated yet I figured not bad for the first smoke.....I would have to do more homework.
On new years the family was getting together and I offered to pony up some smoked pork ribs. I bought 3 racks of quality meat, about 10lbs, and looked up a 3-2-1-recipe. The weather was about the same be it a bit more windy. The results were pathetic. Again I could not get the smoker up to temp and ended up with 6 sloppy slabs where the bones were more tender than the meat. At the end of dinner I was told to go sit on the Group W bench and ordered to seek help least I become a repeat offender. Truly what I had done would have been considered a crime.
Back I went to the forums to read more. I understand the concept of low and slow. After a lifetime of oven cooking at 325-425 degrees for 1/2 to 3 hours, cooking for 6-9 hours at 225-240 appears low and slow to me....if only I could get the temp up to do it. 12-15 hours at 180-190 just for dinner seems out of the ball park. Next, I noted that my meats took up about 75% of the rack space.....am I trying to do too much at once? The pics Bradley advertise their smokers with suggests not. I noted that many people have modified their smokers with another 500 watt element. When I wrapped the ribs up for the 2 hours of cook I turned my smoke feed off but noted that the element staying on constantly still caused the three pucks on the feeder to smoke. I also realize that if the element constantly stays on attempting to get the unit up to temp, it will ultimately cause the element to fail prematurely. I am not keen on modifying the unit if I do not have to. In my mind someone paid big money to an engineer to design this thing....it should work if properly operated.
In the end I have learned that when it comes to smoking, contrary to popular American beliefs, not all men are created equal. To achieve the simple delectable dinner, do I need to utilize this unit hand in hand with my home oven? Are my expectations for this unit unrealistic? Should I have bought and axe, chain saw, and one of those units from Home Depot with a smoke stack that doubles for a diesel truck exhaust? The family is on the verge of revolt if I can not get this thing figured out. All feedback will be greatly appreciated......John