The Weber Smokey Mountain, also known as "The Bullet" will be the best $250-$350 you will ever spend and will reward you with years of enjoyment and smoky meaty treats, unlike many of the Dead-Finger gadgets you'll see picked by ZDNet's bloggers this summer. (Photo: Jason Perlow)
In anticipation of the great summer tech news doldrums, our fearless editor asked the ZDNet bloggers to provide him with a list of "Dead-Finger Tech", the gadgets and tech toys that we'd rather part with over our cold, dead fingers. I pondered the types of things that would likely appear on that list: Smartphones, Laptops, PCs, multimedia gadgets, cameras, and any number of beeping things with LEDs and that require electricity and Internet connectivity. All of which, within the course of maybe a year, would be obsolete and would likely be replaced with a new model by the same bloggers who love them. Because newer is better.
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But not always. Sometimes the best tech is low tech, especially as it relates to the production of smoky, mouthwatering, juicy and meaty comestibles. I'm talking about Barbecue. You can take away my Blackberry and HDTV, but if you take away my smoky meat during the summertime, I might was well not be alive.
Baby Back Ribs, smoked on a Weber Smokey Mountain for 4.5 hours. No BlackBerry or iPhone will ever satisfy a man's basic needs this way. (Photo: Jason Perlow)
Many Americans believe "Barbecuing" is cooking over an outdoor grill over high heat -- which is really more appropriate for steaks and burgers and the like. No, that is "Grilling". I'm talking about cooking low and slow over burning charcoal and fruitwoods, at temperatures of around 220-250 degrees for several hours, until the smoke from the fire has penetrated the meat and formed a pink smoke ring. There is nothing on the entire planet that tastes like this, or will evoke more primeval emotion in a hungry male.
Chicken Mojo Criollo, marinated overnight in a sour orange/lime/garlic mojo and smoked for 3 hours on the Weber Smokey Mountain with Hickory Wood.
There are many ways to do Bar. Fanatics who do competition-style have been known to spend thousands of dollars on their rigs. However, by far one of the best and most inexpensive setups you can use for amateur, home-style barbecue is the Weber Smokey Mountain, or WSM, which is a simple water basin chimney smoker which has a basic design that hasn't changed in several decades. The WSM is so popular that it has created its own cult following, with a community as engaging and opinionated that matches or exceeds that of any well-known high-tech gadget.
The WSM -- also called "The Bullet" is a capsule-shaped outdoor cooking vessel that is composed of three main parts. A bottom bowl, a center cylinder, and a top dome.
The bottom bowl contains a removable fire ring which holds your fuel, which typically is a combination of briquette or lump charcoal and pieces of smoking wood, such as Apple, Cherry, Hickory and Mesquite to add flavor to the meat. A single load of lump charcoal will fuel the WSM for 8 hours of continuous cooking.
The center cylinder has a door for stoking the fire and adding more smoking wood, and holds a water basin for storing liquid which produces steam to moisten the food and regulates temperature. The center cylinder supports two metal grates for placing your meat, one directly above the basin and one on the top of the cylinder, which is covered by a dome. The dome and the bottom bowl have adjustable vents for regulating air to control temperature. Once fully assembled, the WSM resembles a redneck version of R2-D2.
In 2009, the basic 18.5" wide WSM which was in production for at least 30 years was upgraded to a larger 22" model, which includes an integrated temperature gauge. The classic 18.5 inch version, Model 2820 which I use is easily capable of smoking several chickens or an entire turkey and three racks of ribs simultaneously, and can be found on the web for as low as $209.00. The newer and significantly larger by volume 22" Model 731001 streets at around $330.00.
If cleaned and covered regularly, a WSM should provide you with many, many years of enjoyment. Should you decide to purchase one, be sure to pick up a copy of Gary Wivviot's Low and Slow: Master the art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons. Here he will teach you proper fire building technique and how to make perfect smoked Chicken, Pork Shoulder, Sausages, Ribs and Texas Beef Brisket, among other dishes.
Do you use a Weber Smokey Mountain? Talk Back and Let Me Know.