Learning to use the “Smokenator” and smoking a chicken – a photo post

I guess that all cooking is a journey.

Yesterday, it was good weather so I was going to put “The Smokenator” that I got for Christmas to use. (Here’s a link to what I’m talking about.) After reading the instruction book from cover to cover, I figured that I was pretty much as well-informed as I was going to be.

First, let me tell you that although the gizmo isn’t really cheap, it does work well. And the guy who came up with it and wrote the book for it really deserves the monetary pat-on-the-back that he’s getting through sales of this device. If you look on Amazon (which is where I found it whilst looking for accessories for my Big Easy infrared deep fryer – another story) you will find that this thing has tons of rave reviews. And yes, I’m going to add mine to it.

Why this raving about just an accessory? I’ve wanted to do good work in smoking stuff for years, but can’t just bring myself to throw down the $400 plus all the time and work that a Weber smoker requires. I had an offset barrel smoker but the thing was useless due to its design. Stuff would get WAY too done on the left side while the right side remained raw. Literally raw. There had to be another way, and finally I’ve found one.

So we put it to the test:
We’d gone to the local transfer station to do the recycling, and on the way back we stopped in town and bought a chicken. My wife had already figured out how to prep it, and she went about doing the spatchcock whilst I prepped the barbecue.

Okay, here we go: Here’s the barbecue, fitted with the “Smokenator” and filled (just a little too much) with unlit charcoal plus some leftover unburnt stuff from the last time I’d barbecued. (Yes I’m cheap: I shut down the air on the barbecue and save the unburnt but still usable portions of the coals for later.)

I have some smoking wood (hickory this time) laid in on top, as you see. The two round holes are for adding fuel as the smoking session progresses, and the square one is for the water pan. The guy was smart enough to design his device to use a standard-size commercial pan, as you see here. Note that I’d filled the fuel chamber just a bit too high, but I knew that it wouldn’t take long to burn down so the pan would sit flat.

After I’d done this setup, I started a number of coals in a chimney (did 22 this time as it was near freezing with a 5-knot wind) and dropped those coals on top of the unlit fuel, per the instructions. After about 20 minutes, the unlit stuff was going nicely, generating smoke, and simmering the water in the pan. The real trick of the thing is that the simmering water keeps the temperature at almost exactly the right level for good smoking; plus it adds moisture.

I added a “cheesecake” foil pan underneath a standard broiling rack with the chicken on it, to raise the chicken up into the warmer part of the grill – as recommended in the book… and away we go:

Total time was about 4 hours; I was probably opening the lid too often to check on things, but it’s that inability to leave anything alone…

And because it started to snow, it slowed down the process a bit. So it did take a bit longer. I did learn that next time we’ll want to use some oil on the skin for a crispy finish. But hey, here’s the result!

The butter and sour cream are for the baked potatoes… What a great dinner…

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