Get involved with barbecue and, like anything else (guitars, cameras, home brewing, etc.), it’s all too easy to get caught up in the arms race. “If I only had this then I could do that.” You spend so much time thinking about what you could be doing that you’re hardly ever actually doing what you’re already equipped to do. Would it be nice to have a barrel smoker with an offset firebox that allowed you to forego charcoal altogether and just burn hardwood (preferably wood you chopped)? Sure the hell would but for a lot of people, my apartment-dwelling self included, that’s simply not practical. What is practical is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
I’ve been barbecuing on this thing for about four years now and whenever I get obsessed with upgrading I just go out and smoke a few racks of ribs. The results always convince me I can wait until I have a yard and deck to call my own.
For the price , the WSM is tough to beat. I’ve cooked in all seasons, smoked a turkey for Thanksgiving and thick cuts of steak for Christmas, thrown barbecues for 20 or 30 people and cooked a slab of babybacks for myself after work. After a few failed experiments, the thing now just sits right at the slow and low temperature I want it to.
Occasionally you’ll see a WSM show up on some of the competition barbecue shows on television and those people are probably viewed as amateurs but that’s what most backyard chefs are as well. The WSM is nowhere near as sexy as it’s nearest competitor, the Big Green Egg, but I’m okay with that for two reasons:
1) The price difference from the 18″ diameter Egg to the 18″ WSM is around $400. That’s a lot of meat and beer money.
2) I like that the WSM isn’t sexy. In fact, the problem I have with most of the competition barbecue circuit is that’s it’s too sexy. Too much finesse, too many folkloric theories, too far away from what barbecue was–a way for people to take tough, cheap cuts of meat and cook them for a long time so they became edible. This was simple food. Marinade-injected brisket can be delicious but it doesn’t have to be injected or rubbed with seven different spices to be that way. Salt, pepper, and patience work wonders as well. The WSM can do that.
If you’re interested in the WSM there are two resources you’ll find invaluable. The first is Gary Wiviott’s book Low & Slow. He’s got cooking instructions specifically tailored for the WSM, recipes, cool illustrations and he’ll have you believing that you can turn out restaurant quality BBQ when it’s all said and done.
The second is the Virtual Weber Bullet. This is the site that convinced me to get my smoker and they’ve been around forever. Videos, discussion boards, smoker modifications, everything’s here. And, just so happens, that their annual WSM Smoke Day is this Saturday.
If you want to take part in that day–sadly, I’ll be on the road– Home Depot usually has WSM’s in stock at most locations. Just walk past all the cheap $80 smokers and you’ll find it. If you can wait, Amazon is almost always the place to go. Right now they’re selling the 18.5″ WSM for $289.97 and the 22.5″ for $386.00.
Don’t take the hard sell to mean I’m an Amazon Affiliate or anything. I’m not. Just a fan of quality BBQ at a good price. The way it should be.