June 1, 2012 2 Comments
A 1965 Chevy pickup, manual transmission, white over red. Other than our old gray Ford tractor, that is the vehicle my dad used to teach me to drive. That old pickup kind of looked like this, but without the fancy wheels.
Oh sure, we had another car — automatic transmission and all — he could have used for the driving lesson, but my dad’s main idea was this; if you could learn to drive a crappy old truck with a four-on-the-floor manual transmission, you could pretty much drive anything after that.
A couple of years ago, when the mere thought of trying to smoke meat scared the living bejeebers out of me, I wanted to make sure I could tackle this new pastime without ruining too much meat in the process. I know, I know, our fine farm and ranch families will produce more…but stilll. I also did not want to make a big investment in equipment, just in case smoking meat did not turn out to be my weekend calling.
So…I started out small. You have likely seen my Charcoal Chucker posts about my cheapo offset smoker($89 at Walmart).
It served me well for about three years. The price was certainly right. And it
allowed me to try my luck at the art of meat smoking without making a big investment. Well, the cheapo finally started rusting and I wanted something that could hold heat better, and something that perhaps I would not have to reload with charcoal every two or three hours.
Well, my Charcoal Chucker brothers certainly would recommend to me that I go whole hog and purchase one of the coveted Big Green Egg ceramic cookers. Truth be told, I would have loved to have been able to do this, but I am but a simple Kansas farm boy (with three kids in college to boot) and I just could not get over the mental hurdle of plunking down a stack of greenbacks for a smoker that would leave me unable to buy meat for such a nice smoker (I exaggerate).
So…in the process of scouting out a possible replacement smoker, I was checking out the stock at our local Lowe’s store. A very nice new Char Griller offset firebox smoker caught my eye in the $299 price range. Nice. Very nice. Metal was much thicker than the cheapo and the cooking area was nearly double the size.
It was almost love at first sight. Almost.
Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a wink. I did. Off to the side sat a flirty little number that looked very much like the coveted Big Green Egg of my dreams. I strolled up nonchalantly and said in a deep manly voice. “Is your Dad an astronaut? Because someone took the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.” I fumbled as I reached for her price tag, thinking she was very much out of my league and expecting very bad news. Then, BOOM, a cascade of fireworks. My eyes could not believe what I was seeing. $299. Holy cow. This had the earmarks of a long, lasting relationship. (OK, that’s enough of the creepy old man stuff.)
So…after a bit of research (mainly from John Setzer). He has a number of videos and blogs devoted to the Char Griller Akorn. I also sought out other feedback, but mostly after my mind was made up. Not long after, I brought her home to meet the family.
Her maiden voyage…after a quick 400 degree heat-up to cure the grate, was two slabs of pork spare ribs and two chickens. I wasn’t sure it was all going to fit, but it did due to the warming basket, which can double as a second tier cooking basket during low-and-slow smoking.
I would have to conclude that overall, the results were very good.
And judging by the reactions of the consumers of the first yield off the iron grate kamado, this could turn into a great decision. I am so pleased that I have exited the offset firebox highway for a turn down the road toward kamado-style cooking. And my Charcoal Chucker brothers have led me down that path. the only difference is that I will continue to truck down the road in a triple layer steel and porcelain smoker instead of a ceramic one. But since I learned how to drive with an offset firebox smoker, I feel like I am riding in style. But you know that if I could find a 1965 white over red, four speed Chevy pickup today, and if I could afford it, I would add some of those fancy chrome wheels to go with it.