There are a lot of lingering stereotypes in the world of barbecue. There’s still a perception that bona fide pit masters have to have a beard, a beer belly, brawn, and a hella big offset smoker out by the woodpile pumping out clouds of blue smoke day and night.
Another pervasive misconception is that barbecuing low and slow should be hard work. Which is why electric smokers are often criticized for being “too easy.”
Let me tell you something: As a denizen of the Great Lakes region, I’ll take “too easy.” As I write this, there’s another major winter storm on the way and the temperature has dropped 10 degrees in the past hour. Here in the north, we winter warriors need a bit of help. And an electric smoker can give it to us.
For the uninitiated, electric smokers—also known as cabinet smokers—are fueled by sawdust, wood shavings, or in the case of Bradley (one of the sponsors of Project Smoke), compressed sawdust disks called “bisquettes.” Some digital models let you program the temperature and length of the smoke session and even track the progress of the cook on your smartphone. (We will talk about pellet smokers—which are also electric smokers—in a future blog.)
Among the other advantages of electric cabinet smokers, aside from their reasonable price (usually less than $250), is they don’t bomb the food with smoke; the flavor is more subtle. (If you desire more smoke flavor, you can always supplement the smoke with a tube smoker or third party smoke generator.) Several models support an optional cold smoker, a real plus in our book.
The environment within the smoke chamber itself can be somewhat moist thanks to low smoking temperatures and a water pan (whether you fill it or not is optional). Although it doesn’t generally produce the crusty bark you get with conventional smokers, it is great for smoking the following foods:
• Beef, venison, or turkey jerky. Sriracha Jerky is pictured above.
• Pork loin or tenderloin
• Hard-cooked eggs for Smoked Deviled Eggs (great for Super Bowl parties!).
• Baby back ribs or spareribs. For something different, try Cherry-Glazed Baby Back Ribs, a hit at Barbecue University. Note: Depending on the size of your smoker, you may have to cut rib racks in half to fit on the smoker shelves.
• Turkey breast or legs, chicken legs, thighs, or wings, or game hens. Bacon, Ham, and Cheese Chicken Thighs might become one of your favorite preparations.
• Tomatoes or tomatillos, chiles, onions, etc., for homemade smoked salsa.
Stay warm and smoke on!