Advice for a complete nube using an electric grill to smoke please

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by chizotz, Jul 16, 2013.

  1. chizotz

    chizotz Newbie

    Hi all,

    I have a CharBroil Patio Bistro grill (not really by my choice, but my wife though she'd like to use it... well anyone here who is married will get it :)). I ordered the smoking rack, which is supposed to be here on Thursday, so this weekend is my first ever attempt to smoke meat.

    OK, my questions are...

    Jeff says in his basics course on electric smoking both that the wood goes down under the heating element and that it also needs to be replenished pretty often. I know he's probably talking about an actual electric smoker, designed for this. But that isn't what I have. That would be impractical, to say the least.  So I'm wondering if a pan of water in the middle of the grill, surrounded by wood chunks, with the meat on the smoking rack above, would work, or if I would be courting with a bad smoke or even possibly a disaster by doing that?

    Also -- and I admit, I have not yet re-read the basics course, except the part on using electric grills/smokers, or anything else on this point -- do I soak the wood? I don't recall reading that, but I was telling a buddy at work about it today, and even though he isn't a smoker he said he'd heard you need to soak the wood, like, overnight. I had heard about soaking the wood, but not overnight, so... what's the story on that? Especially given my particular equipment, and knowing that this is going to be my absolute very first attempt at this?

    Thank you, anyone who answers!

  2. chizotz

    chizotz Newbie

    Oh yes, also: I have not investigated this either yet, but what cut of meat do you all suggested for a first ever smoke?

    I almost always do pork steaks or baby back ribs on the grill, and then slather on BBQ sauce and bake it on till it's a bit burnt, actually, and everybody loves them. But this is a whole different thing :)

    I think I'd like to stay with pork, this time, but I am open to all suggestions -- thanks!
  3. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★


    I had to download the owners manual and assembly instructions for the smoker to get an idea of exactly what you have. I am not sure I can help but here goes:

    In an electric smoker, the wood chunks or chips typically sit in a vented box above the electric heating element, not below.  This allows for heating the wood to the point of smoldering combustion (smoke). I see no provision on your unit for such a set up.  Also, there must be a source of ventilation for air to enter and exit so that the wood burns and the smoke can vent out of the smoker.  I don't see that provision either.

    You might be able to rest a metal container on the heating element itself, with a piece or two of wood ( 1 or 2 ounces total) and leave the lid propped open a tad for some ventilation. I would also set the temperature to no more than 225 degrees and see if you get smoke ( I smoke everything at 225). If you see smoke, see how long it lasts.  You should get a couple of hours of smoke, slow wispy light smoke.  If it is heavy, it is no good.  Too bitter. If it starts to smoke then quits, and you see nothing for 15 or twenty minutes, check the wood:  Has it been completely consumed or is it not burning.

    I would add no pan of water or meat at this time.  You are just checking to see if it can produce smoke.
  4. chizotz

    chizotz Newbie

    Sarge, I so thank you and appreciate that you actually went to the trouble of downloading the docs on my grill to answer this. That's... a bit amazing, in my experience. I've done similar things for others, but it's been rare that someone has done it for me.

    I guess maybe I _should_ do some experiments before my first attempt... especially using this (totally wrong, and I know it) equipment.

    Or maybe I should just cut loose the purse strings and buy a damn smoker :) It just seems, from my inexperienced POV, to be a an excessive investment without really knowing if I can, or really want, to do it "forever".

    I'm _hoping_ I lose that attitude straight away, in which case a real smoker, very probably a Green Egg (based on my current research level... any comment?), is in my immediate future. But, I dunno, my Uncle Scrooge, I guess, gene is kicking in. I just want to really _know_ I can do this _and_ it's worth the investment before I do that.

    Again, thank you. You went above and beyond for me, and please know it is appreciated. Thank you.
  5. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hey...yeah, Old Sarge is an OK guy with the info & you'll discover many more willing to help you out if you stick around. Now, about buying a dedicated smoker....not a bad idea but jumping into a BGE without knowing if this is a hobby/obsession you will pursue could be a deal breaker with the SO. Just sayin'......For a coupla hundred bucks you can probably get something to start with but you might wanna zero in on what style you like....side burner, wood, charcoal, propane, electric etc. You want 'set-it & forget it' or do you wanna feed it fuel for hours? Even the Black Eggs at Costco are up in the $800 range....I think Green Eggs are pushing a $1,000. There's also Craigs List where many score deals on smokers for cheap & with a few mod's done have a sweet piece of equipment.

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