There’s something special about smoked ribs or beef brisket. It’s the taste of picnics and summertime and good times.

Unless you’re a vegetarian, of course.

The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is not your typical smoker. It’s upright, and looks more like a space ship or a time capsule than something that slowly cooks meat. But cook meat it does.

The dual level, 22.5-inch cooking surfaces give you plenty of room for several racks of ribs or just “a lot” of whatever animal you intend to smoke. The lid-mounted thermometer also lets you make sure you stay in the 200-300 degree smoke zone.

We liked the space saving design. When you already have a grill on the patio, you might not have room for a smoker, which is often the same width or wider. The upright design is also functional. Ribs are especially good. Rib meat comes right off the bones and remains flavorful despite what you might think happens when meat cooks for several hours above a fire.

What exactly is smoking? For nearly as long as people have been cooking meat and fish, they have been smoking it. Early on, before refrigeration, smoking meat provided a way to preserve it from spoilage, as absorbing smoke removes water and kills bacteria on the food. In modern culture, the smoky flavor provides a tasty BBQ delicacy. Smoking meat slowly, at low temperature also renders out the fat and breaks down tough connective tissue, making “rougher” cuts of meat easier to eat.

The Smoker Mountain Cooker is easy to use. Dump in your charcoal and choice of wood chips, and light a fire at the bottom. Don’t use lighter fluid. An egg carton or crumbled newspaper will do the job, but chemical fluid will hurt the pure taste of your food. Make sure the water pan is full — try it with apple juice!

Allow the smoker to warm up to about 250 before you add your meat, or you’ll have a difficult time keeping the smoker in the right temperature range. You’re going to leave it going for several hours, so wake up early if you’re having an afternoon cookout.

This is a vocation. For all you gas grill users, you just turn it off and maybe give it a brush-down when you’re done. Not with a smoker. Cleanup is a process. You have to let it cool down, remove the racks and brush them off. It’s actually better to soak them in dish soap in a large cast iron basin if you have one. The water pan will be a caked mess, especially with us throwing juices and beers into it for more flavor. You have to clean that each time you use the smoker. You also have to make sure the fire is out and the ashes are properly disposed of. But as long as you’re willing to put the man hours in, smoking will give you and you guests a delicious meal.

The Smokey Mountain is well-built and will last you as long as you take care of it properly. It’s $499 and is available at a variety of stores where grills and smokers are sold. It’s a great product, and the perfect BBQ companion. The smoked meats and fish are a great compliment to the super-hotness we often achieve with a traditional grill.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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