When I first became interested in smoking meat, I did a lot of research before I purchased the Smokenator 1000. At first, I was drawn to the proven Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker which was extremely popular many of the forums I was reading. However, the WSMC costs a considerable amount of money. The world of smoking my own meat was completely new to me, and I wasn’t sure if this was just a phase. I just wasn’t ready to make the kind of financial investment that the WSMC would require. Unfortunately, I found that many of the cheaper alternative smokers had relatively negative reviews compared to the WSMC.
It was during my research I came across an interesting product called the Smokenator 1000. It was advertised that this product could convert a classic Weber kettle grill into a perfectly functional smoker. I already had the Weber grill which was passed down to me through a friend. At approximately a quarter of the price of WSMC, the Smokenator had my attention. I liked the idea that my Weber grill could serve a dual purpose and I wouldn’t have another piece of outdoor cooking equipment on the patio. Also, many of the larger charcoal smokers seemed like overkill for the quantity of meat I would be smoking at any given time. Still, I was hesitant. Many of the naysayers on the smoking forums said that the Smokenator was “just too expensive for what you get in the box” and “anybody with basic metalworking skill could fabricate their own”. After much internal debate, I finally pulled the trigger on the Smokenator in May of 2012.
I was super-excited when my Smokenator finally arrived in the mail from Amazon. I immediately unboxed it and took it out to the Weber to test the fit. It fit my 22 inch Weber grill perfectly. The Smokenator itself has specially designed tabs that lock it in place by hooking in behind the brackets that support the grill. Additional tabs along the bottom of the Smokenator lock into the charcoal grate that rests on the bottom of the grill. It is a solid, secure fit that makes it seems more kind an official Weber accessory than a third-party product.
Also included in the box are some basic instructions, a metal skewer and a stainless steel water pan. The instructions are a nice touch, but just include basic information. The skewer is included to give you a tool to manipulate coals inside the Smokenator. There are much better tools for doing this, so I ditched the skewer pretty early on. The water pan is made of decent guage of stainless steel and is of good quality.
For my first use of the Smokenator, I decided to go with a pork butt. I had read that the butts are more forgiving for novices to get started with as you are learning how control temps.
Starting the Smokenator the first time was a pretty easy process. With the water pan in place, fill the cavity between the Smokenator and grill wall with unlit charcoal. Pull about 10-12 briquettes back out of the Smokenator and light them using a charcoal chimney. Once the coals are hot, carefully put them back in Smokenator, fill the water pan with hot water. Put the lid back on the grill and wait until the internal temp gets to about 200. This process was all new me the first time so it took a while to get everything set up. After using the Smokenator dozens of times over the years, it’s like second nature.
Once the Weber reaches temperature, I added some wood to the charcoal bin, put the meat on the grill, return the cover and wait. You can keep an eye on your temperature using a remote meat thermometer and adjust vents as needed to stay in the desired range. Check occasionally to make sure that you always have water in the water pan and to see if you need to add additional charcoal. That’s really all there was to it.
Controlling temperatures inside the grill is the most challenging part of using the Smokenator. Since the cooking area is relatively small compared to other smokers, it is more sensitive to temperature fluctuations. I used mine with the top vent completely open and controlled the temperature using the bottom vent. The first few times I used it, I obsessed over monitoring temperatures and adjusting the bottom vent. Now, with many years of experience behind me I can really just eyeball the vent position and know if I’m setting it for the right temperature range. The nice thing about the water pan that they included with the Smokenator is that the water acts like a heat sink and really prevents rapid changes in temperature (as long as you keep it filled).
After about 10 hours on the Smokenator, that first pork butt was a success. The butt stayed tender and juicy. It wasn’t dry at all. The smoked flavor was incredible. The family loved it. I was on to something.
Over the last several years I’ve used the Smokenator 1000 numerous times. I’ve smoked countless pork butts and racks of babyback ribs. I’ve smoked chicken thighs, wings and legs. I’ve tackled the notoriously challenging brisket. I’ve used it to turn fresh jalapenos into an incredible chipotle peppers.
Never once has anything that has come out of my Smokenator equipped Weber been deemed a failure. In fact, I have recieved rave reviews from friends and family – saying things like “your ribs are so much better the ribs from <insert name of famous BBQ joint>” and “these are the best chicken wings I’ve ever had”. The office dubbed me the “Rib King” because of the outstanding flavor and quality of the ribs I brought in to share.
The beauty of the Smokenator is you don’t need to buy a $400 dedicated smoker to get these fantastic results. The Smokenator takes something many folks already have around the house and effortlessly converts into a completely functional Smoker.
The only drawbacks of the Smokenator I would note are the limited charcoal capacity and the price.
The limited charcoal capacity means that you will likely have to add charcoal, wood and water a few times during your cook. Of course, doing this means you have to take the lid off of the grill and interrupt the cooking. I’ve found however that the Weber gets back up to temperature fairly quickly once the grill cover is back in place. This is a minor inconvenience. With a larger dedicated smoker, you may have enough capacity to never have to add fuel and if you do it is likely through a special access panel away from the cooking area.
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