Smoke on the Weber
The new 14.5-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker livens up meat flavor using charcoal and hardwoods, and can be easily stored
A barbecue is almost standard equipment in a motorhome. Most people enjoy cooking outdoors and a barbecue is a great way to get favorite meats, poultry and fish to the dinner table. Another dimension to this culinary experience is to smoke food, a process of slow-cooking meat using some type of wood to add flavor. Smoking food is often done in crude-looking, metal drums that take their cues from various regions of the country that specialize in traditional cooking. Weber has refined that process with the Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker, and the new 14.5-inch version is practical for taking along on motorhome trips.
As a smoked-food addict who worships Myron Mixon’s “Smokin’” book, and an owner of a humongous smoker at home, getting the chance to try out Weber’s diminutive Smokey Mountain Cooker met with some skepticism. The Weber smoker got the evil eye from my hard-core meat-smoking friends, but I touted that its dimensions make it packable in most motorhome storage compartments. So I took it along on a trip and volunteered to cook for a large group. After all, if this thing is going to work, it needs to be able to effectively smoke meat at its rated capacity.
Assembling the cooker was very easy. The instructions are clear and the whole process took about 20 minutes using only a screwdriver and 7/16-inch wrench. Basically, there are three sections: the bottom, which holds the charcoal/wood; the center module for the water pan and two grills; and the lid that sports the iconic Weber rounded look. In order to load the charcoal,
the center section is lifted off the bottom; a lip keeps the components in place and stable without the use of fasteners.
Getting ready for the day’s smoking is a pretty simple process, thanks to the guide provided in the instruction manual. Charcoal quantity, cooking time and the amount of wood chunks are listed by meat type, which takes the guesswork out of set up. In our case, we planned on smoking chicken breasts using one of our favorite recipes in Mixon’s book. Following the guide, we counted out 75 briquettes of charcoal and lit them in a Weber fire-starter chimney; starter chemicals or self-lighting charcoal should never be used, as these can impart an unpleasant taste in the meat. In about 15 minutes, the coals were ready to be poured into the charcoal chamber.
With the center section back in place, the water pan was positioned and the smoker filled with almost 12 pounds of chicken, divided between the lower and upper grates. The recipe we followed called for smoking the chicken in pans, so we bent the edges of disposable aluminum pans to fit the round, plated-steel cooking grates.
Wood type for smoking is personal choice, but the Weber guide offers suggestions based on the type of meat. We went with apple, which always works well for poultry. Some other good choices include pecan, oak and alder, but you should always stay away from soft woods like pine, aspen and cedar. Using long-handle tongs, four chunks of applewood (after soaking in water for an hour) were placed directly on the coals. Access is through a door in the middle section.
It’s best to use a digital thermometer to monitor cooking temperatures. A silicone grommet is provided in the middle section for insertion of probes — one in the meat and one in the cavity of the smoker. The built-in thermometer in the lid can also be used to monitor cooking temperature. A standard cooking thermometer can be used to probe the meat, but every time the lid is opened, the temperature drops rather quickly. Temperature is regulated via aluminum dampers in the lower bowl assembly and lid.
According to the Weber cooking guide, some meat (depending on weight) requires up to 12 hours of cooking. That seems like a long time for the coals to last and our experience with the 2½-hour cooking time for the chicken suggests that adding briquettes and wood chunks during long cooking sessions will be necessary. We did not have to add charcoal or wood to smoke the chicken.
So how did it turn out? In a word, “great.” The chicken was a big hit among our dinner guests.
Cleanup the next morning was uneventful. Once the coals were discarded and the grills tidied up, the pieces were reassembled, the cover (included with the smoker) installed and the whole thing was laid down on its side in a storage compartment. There was not enough height to store the smoker in an upright position, so the pieces got jiggled around during travel. It only took a minute to put everything back in place for the next cooking session.
The Smokey Mountain Cooker has the same porcelain enamel finish found on other Weber charcoal grills, which have a strong reputation for high quality and durability. Retail price for the smoker is $219 and is available at Camping World and many home improvement/hardware stores.
Smoking foods allows outdoor chefs to experiment with recipes and wood. The Smokey Mountain Cooker will certainly make you very popular in any RV park.
Weber | 800-446-1071 | www.weber.com