Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recovering Smoker: A Shared Custody Love Story

When I first moved to North Carolina, my friend Sean and I decided it would be a great idea to go in on an electric smoker together.  We found a smoker on Craigslist for pretty cheap and we drove to Hillsborough - about a 45 minute drive from Raleigh - to check it out.  It turns out that this guy had some crazy setup where he had an inside scoop on returned merchandise at a Bass Pro Shop in the area.  Somehow he got the returned merchandise, and he sold it on Craigslist at deep discounts and prospered.  He had a whole setup of grills, tents, sleeping bags, smokers, everything that you would expect from an outdoors store.  Apparently people would often buy smokers, use them once, and then return them saying that it wasn't what they expected or they just didn't think it would suit their needs.  I guess Bass Pro Shops had a no questions asked return policy.  Sucks to be them - but worked out well for this guy (and us, indirectly).  So back to our shared custody pipe dream - Sean and I would alternate ownership of our new smoker every so often depending on who wanted it and life would be awesome and full of smoked meats.  Well, it was an awesome idea, but Sean kept it most of the time because we decided that would be more convenient, and until now, I only used it once a year (upcoming Christmas post spoiler withheld!).  I decided the other weekend that I wanted to borrow it for some various uses - the real catalyst was this newfound interest in sausages that I have.  I really want to take a shot at kielbasa sometime soon, which means I need to smoke them.

Best name ever for a smoker?

I drove out to Sean's on Sunday morning to pick up the smoker and took a look inside before loading it into my car.  It needed a little love to get back into working shape...

I worked on the interior with a spray bottle of oven cleaner, an old abrasive sponge, and a hose; scrubbing the shit out of it to get it back to its smoky glory.  The oven cleaner smelled like the degreaser that we used at the bar that I used to cook at in grad school, and it brought back plenty of memories of listening to Slayer as loud as possible to drown out the drunk girl's rugby team doing karaoke while I made chicken wings and burgers and crappy wraps.  Good times.

I was unable to get all of the rust off of the very base - it was pretty deeply rusted, but the grates cleaned up well and the main smoke compartment actually looks pretty respectable.  I will probably do another thorough scrubbing on the grates with a better abrasive before using it, but they are stainless steel so I am not too worried about keeping them in good shape.  I heated it up to make sure the element still worked, and the compartment had a good sterile-to-slightly-smoky-seasoned smell to it once it got up to 200 degrees.  I'll have to reseason before using it by smoking it out for a couple hours while it's empty, but I have to say that I am really psyched that my smoked winter meats plan is still a go!

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