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Broadbill 08-10-2001 03:06 PM

What Smoker to buy?
I've always borrowed a friend's smoker this time of year to deal with bluefish filets.

Friend has moved and I'm smokerless. Don't feel the need for particularly large capacity and generally think plain old wood-fired or electric is high-enough tech for me. The one recommendation I have is the Cabela's electric.

What are you using? What would you buy today? Thanks in advance

juro 08-10-2001 03:26 PM

You're hittin' a topic near and dear to me... living in the northwest meant smokers in every backyard during salmon season!

I have owned the Luhr Jensen Little Chief and Big Chief and have had great results with them. The BC can handle whole fillets that are aethetically a thing of beauty when serving. The LC requires that the fillets are cut up and placed on the small square racks. I like the big one better, it is just that much easier to user as well.

A few tips:

Fresh fish varies widely in condition and brining can have a range of effects on the meat. It can be too salty or not cured enough, even in the same batch. Frozen fish is consistent (consistently worse to eat, but...) to brine and even though it's not as good to eat it is easier to smoke. It all seems to come out the same. If you are sure of the condition of the meat and the relative brine times, then fresh is superior of course.

Letting the pellicle form over several hours is the key to holding the moisture inside.

The electric heating element is about the only thing that can go wrong with these units. Eventually you may need to replace it. The rest of it is indestructible.

I prefer applewood chips for fish, it comes mixed with alder. Hickory is strong for fish, but bluefish might be gamey enough to take it.

Ambient temperatures make all the difference in the results and smoke duration. A long cold smoke makes the meat rubbery and the pellicle leathery, I like outdoor temps that permit a 6 hour duration in these units. I've had 4 hour smokings and 12 hours smokings, one too hard smoked and the other too stiff.

MMMMMM I am jonesin' for a nice slab of applewood smoked wild sockeye!

Hawkeye 08-10-2001 04:32 PM

I've used the BC Juro mentioned for years out west and I loved it. It can handle a ton of fish and is easy to use. The only thing I really didn't like was the top loading rather than the front loading I believe the LC has.

Man I wish I hadn't left that thing in storage out west! I'm drooling on my keyboard.

saltRon 08-10-2001 07:22 PM

The LC has been my smoker for a no of years and agree with all Juro,s remarks but I tend to use a lot of ALDER the traditional PNW smoke. It all turns out very good, comes with a good set of instructions and recepies for the neotype.

Broadbill 08-12-2001 08:22 PM

Thanks, guys, for coming back with such complete responses.

Juro, did you find yours here in New England or on the other coast? If NE, where? (I was in a couple of outdoor/tackle/mega-sporting goods stores today and drew blanks.) Thanks again.


juro 08-13-2001 09:02 AM

I believe Kittery was the last place I saw them, I think - I know I found the Luhr Jensen wood chips there and stocked up.

Feel free to test drive either of mine, the little chief element is getting a little weak but in summer conditions it's more than adequate. The big chief still cranks. Let me know, it's really no problem.

Every department store in the northwest has them now that you mention it! :)

Fred Evans 08-15-2001 06:16 PM

Agree with all the above but one additional suggestion. I found that if I was smoking and it was quite cold out side I'd take a length of 1.5" insulation bat and wrap it around the smoker. Secured thing on top with a wood pants hanger. Worked fine, kept the smoker warmer, etc., and etc.

juro 08-15-2001 10:12 PM

Fred -

You'll get a kick out of this... when I first moved back to the east coast, I just had to have some smoked salmon for the holidays. The problem was, there was snow piled up everywhere and the temperature was near or below freezing during the day. I bought a whole farmed salmon and built a miniature ventilated greenhouse using heavy mil clear plastic sheeting and strapping boards to encase my smoker in. I opened the garage door on a cold but sunny day and it worked famously! The smoking time was about 7 hours and the end product was delicious.

As usual, my family and the neighbors thought I was nuts. No one complained about eating it though ;)

Tod D 10-10-2001 08:33 AM

FWIW, saw a 'gourmet' smoker in Bean's fall hunting catalogue for $99 (excl. shipping).

Based upon what I've read & seen, it seems like a nice unit & you've got the Bean guarantee.

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