From Zero to 270 (Smoker): Trial Run

In the course of getting married, Cara brought up the subject of wedding gifts for each other. I’m sure most men out there could spend a good half an hour ranting about this need women have to exchange gifts for every occasion, and often multiple times for the same occasion. This can get particularly crazy when the Wedding Industrial Complex is involved. Many a man might even think of saying, “Isn’t getting married to me gift enough?”

Of course I’m not stupid enough to say that. Okay, I am totally stupid enough to say something like that, but sometimes I surprisingly resist such urges.

Besides, I like presents, too. And we weren’t doing a traditional wedding. So why not? She decided that while we were in French Polynesia (I highly recommend going there, by the way), she’d like some Tahitian pearls. One of the many reasons I love her is that if she wants a gift, she doesn’t make me guess. None of this, “If you knew me and my soul, you could walk into any store and find the perfect gift.” Which seven times out of ten only results in that “Holy shit. You think I’m THAT kind of person?” face when you come back with the wrong thing.

270FrontOne of the other reasons is that we’re both very Sheldon Coopery when it comes to gift giving. And by that, I mean we like to keep things equal. The problem with this was that after getting a little carried away buying the pearls (at Ron Hall Tahitian Pearls in Moorea; if you’re on the island, get your pearls there and yes I realize I’m sounding like one of those super rich women and I’m doing it on purpose) I couldn’t quite think of something I wanted or needed that would get me in the same ballpark.

Then, one day, I was farting around on AmazingRibs.com and it hit me. Duh. I NEEDED a new smoker. And it wasn’t going to be something made of aluminum that I bought at Lowe’s and then assembled with thumb tacks. Oh no.

I initially settled on the Backwoods G2 Chubby. It had a lot going for it. Sturdy, solid, made in Louisiana, held temp for a katrillion hours. And it was called a Chubby. Eventually, I figured out to get one I’d have to hook up with the folks at Mason Dixon BBQ in Pennsylvania (and Maryland). But when I started noodling around the website, I stumbled across the 270 Smoker and thought, “Hmmmm. Maybe I should check this out.”

So I did. Well, I did as much research as I could online. When you start getting into shelf space and charcoal load and “can hold 4 briskets” it all gets a little confusing. But from what I could tell, the 270 was a good bit bigger than the Chubby, thicker than the Chubby and just as solid. And while it was more expensive than the Chubby, adding wheels to the Chubby would wipe out the cost differential. And the 270 came with wheels. It also had a higher profile so that I wouldn’t have to be doing squats with a 16-pound piece of hot brisket. (Is some of this sounding vaguely sexual to you? Good.)

Though it shamed me greatly to go against my home state, I picked the Virginia-made 270 over the Louisiana-made Backwoods. One day, guys. One day.

That day may never come. As Eric at Mason Dixon said, “You’ll probably never need another smoker after this one.” I might have if I hadn’t been able to get the damn thing off the pallet and through the apartment and into the backyard. But I succeeded, without taking off a door frame, ruining the floors or giving myself a hernia. That thing is heavy.

Eric at Mason Dixon also said, once you get it going, you don’t have to do anything.

I’m happy to report, he was not lying. The way I used to barbecue — in a fairly solid Oklahoma Joe offset smoker — involved about 40 pounds of charcoal, multiple fire-starter cubes, a big-ass fan and two days (partly because I live in Brooklyn and the neighbors would have a fit if I started cooking at 2 in the morning).

With the 270, I put a water pan on the bottom of the smoking chamber, 10 pounds of charcoal in the fire box. After getting a quarter of a charcoal chimney going hot, I dumped that on the fire box, closed the fire box door, opened the vents and let it go. About half an hour, 45-minutes later, it was at 275. I let it get up to 300 because, after working with an offset horizontal smoker for years, you get really nervous about losing temperature fast and struggling to get it back up again. I was also pleased to see that despite its vertical height, there were really no temperature zones going on in the cooking chamber. I had three digital thermometers going and all were within five degrees of one another for the entire time I watched.

It hit 275 at 10:30. It was still at 275 at 8 p.m. when I got tired of waiting to see how long it would go and shut the vents and let it cool for the night. That’s right: nine and half hours later, the thing was still going. And the only thing I’d had to do the entire time was refill the water pan.

Oh, yeah, I’d put some meat in there. Two racks of baby backs and a four-pound brisket flat. I haven’t cooked with a water pan before. And I’d obviously never cooked with the 270. Even without wrapping, the brisket was at 205 internal temp in 4 hours. Which is fast for a brisket. I let it keep going for another hour or so just to see. I had it on the lower shelf closest to the heat, so it was a little crispy around the edges but fine in the middle. The ribs, I wrapped after two hours and let them go a total of four. They were damn fine. My only mistake was not putting more wood to get more smoke on them, but I was paranoid about another visit from the FDNY. The ribs weren’t seasoned as well as they could have been because after taking off the plastic wrap before cooking, I didn’t reapply any of the rub that came off. But I was just cooking for us.

In conclusion, my wedding gift, a 270 Smoker, is amazing.

P.S. I’m a novelist. Buy my books.

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