Friday, April 13, 2012

Smokers, Smoke Houses and Keeping it Clean

12 April 201

In my last post, I talked about smokers and talked mainly about the Brinkman’s vertical water cooler that I am currently using. This is an excellent little smoker and despite some of its cumbersome aspects it produces good food. The pork butt I smoked on 11 April turned out very nice. I don’t yet have a meat thermometer so I “eyeballed” it and it was done perfectly at 0530 in the afternoon, after 9½ hours in the smoker. It was tender, very juicy and had that good smoky flavor that I love. So, “job well done” there.

There are other smokers that I have not used and would love to try. Another of the vertical smokers on the market looks more like mini vaults to me. This is one I have not tried primarily because its propane powered, but if you look at the video in the YouTube link below in the “Related Links” section you can see what I’m talking about. The video has the smoker cranked to about 400 degrees and in my opinion, if you/re dong that you might as well go back and cook in your kitchen oven! But the process is well demonstrated here. You see the heat source, with the wood chips in its pan on top of the flame and sitting on top of that is a water tray. At the proper temperature, this set-up would provide for some good smoked food. I’m just not a fan of the gas.
A smoker I have used is the horizontal smoker with the firebox attached to one side and slightly lower than the grill area. The design allows for oxygen to enter through the firebox area and then the heat, smoke and air travels through the grill area to the smokestack on its opposite end. The model I used was a Charbroil brand.  The grill area was more than large enough to do large scale smoking and it was very easy to clean. My only concern was that with its horizontal design, the grill area was hottest near the fire pit, obviously, and the cooking temps decreased with distance. That can be good for some things but if you are smoking a brisket or turkey, it doesn’t provide for a uniform cooking temperature over the entire meat surface. Therefore, you have to do a lot of turning and flipping to get an even cook and prevent one end/side burning.

Ultimately, I intend on building my own grill and smoker. I even have thoughts on building a smokehouse but that could be a tad bit bodacious on my part!!!  I envision something made out of brick and stone and have been going over designs and plans to get an idea on coast and materials. There will be a grill or rather a fire pit that I can also use as a grill. And there will be a smoker, separate from the grill. Near Austin, Texas is a restaurant called “Salt Lick” which is famous for their high quality BBQ. I fell in love with their grill pit the first time I saw it. It was like seeing the Vatican or something!

Grills and smokers are expensive today. Gone are the days when you can go down to your local Mega Mart and purchase a simple grill for 10 bucks. Nowadays purchasing a quality grill can coast you upwards of 100 plus dollars! My simple Weber 22 inch grill cost me 80 dollars when I bought it in 2011. A good smoker today starts in the 150 dollar range and I am being conservative. When I was growing up, most people didn’t do much for their grills after they bought them. Some people still don’t. But if you want to maximize the use and life of your grill, you’re gonna have to clean it. You should clean your grill considering the money you spent on it!  I do so religiously after every use. My comments are directed towards use of the standard charcoal grills and smokers. If you clean it after every use, it doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to do so.

If you used a starter chimney like I do, the cleaning process starts before I even start cooking! When I dump the coals in the chimney into the firebox or grill area, I’ll rinse the chimney out with the garden hose.  It knocks off any remaining carbon material and dust and it makes that cool steam sound when you douse the cold water on it. I am easily entertained. Once the coals are in the firebox and the grill racks are in place, I’ll give the grill racks a quick “once-over” with a sturdy grill brush after they’ve heated up a bit. Just to make sure anything on there gets taken off. After all the cooking is done, and while the grill is still hot, I’ll run the grill brush over the grill racks. The heat makes any food material or carbon come right off. If you’re cleaning smoker racks, place them over the fire and scrape away. After scraping, set your racks off to the side. The rest of my cleaning takes place the next day.

Once the coals have cooled I’ll empty out the firebox area and place the ash in a plastic bag. My wife likes to use the ash in her garden and flower beds so I save it for her. I’ll give the grill and racks a good rinsing with the garden hose and wipe down the exterior of the grill.

Afterwards, the grill or smoker insides get a quick scrub down with a brillo pad or steel wool. This is an important step as the scrubbing gets rid of a substance known as creosote. Creosote builds up along the insides of your grill and smoker and it’s from the burning of wood and charcoal. It can add an unpleasant taste to your food if left to build up over time. After a good scrubbing, the grill is left to get a good air dry. I then turn my attention to the grill and smoker racks. I give each one a thorough cleaning with the brillo pads and rinse afterwards. These too are left to air dry.

Once everything is dried out, I put it all back together and place in a dry and covered area. It’s not good to leave your grill and smokers out in the rain to rust. An accomplished outdoor chef wants to have their grills and smokers presentable, clean and ready for use when it’s time to start the fires! I can’t stress enough that cleaning your grill extends the life of the grill. My grills will last for many years and will never wear out or otherwise not be “kitchen ready.” At today’s prices, who wants to have to keep buying grills! Happy Grillin’ Ya’ll!!!

Have a Blessed Day Ya’ll!

Todays “Did ya Know?” It is National Peach Cobbler Day!!!! Peach Cobbler goes great with any kind of BBQ too! I love the gooeyness of good peach cobbler and its tart sweetness. Peaches are my favorite fruit and I think today I will celebrate this observance by making a nice peach cobbler and maybe some ice cream to go with it!!!

Related Links:

YouTube video on the “Vault Smoker” BBQ and grilling article on cleaning grills and smokers:


  1. I am so guilty of failing to clean my grills after each use. I end up getting the power washer out and spraying them down.

    You are right about the prices going up. I decided last year to just purchase a really cheap gas grill for routine grilling of steaks and the cheapest smoker grill for other times. I figure, if I'm going to end up replacing them every few years, I may as well keep it inexpensive.

    That grill pit at Salt Lick looks awesome!

    1. They do some great ribs there at Salt Lick. If you ever go there you should bring cash because they didnt take debit or credit when we were there!!