OOOOOooh Doggie!!! Choices, choices. Who doesn’t love smoked meat? With Christmas coming up last year I wanted to buy hubby a new smoker to replace his massive metal smoking box with something smaller, more convenient, and operational. A friend of ours had kindly gifted us a very old standing Brinkmann and while it worked well in certain circumstances, we rarely used it because it was a GIANT PAIN in the tukus to use or set up – and was starting to rust so it had to be washed out before any usage. We had to buy the right charcoal otherwise it would never get to temp, and if the wind was blowing too hard or if it was chilly out it would never get hot enough. We waited HOURS for our end results even in the best of weather/charcoal circumstances, so it could really only be done on a weekend day and when you had nothing else going on at all, which is rare for us. Also it was hit or miss on if the items turned out great, overcooked and dry, or under-cooked.
Electric, charcoal, propane?
Like I always do, I spent hours, nay, weeks, researching what to replace this with. I grew severely frustrated with the lack of information on which type of smoker is best, electric, charcoal, propane, the options were ample but confused the heck out of me – I should mention the kitchen is typically the place I go to get a drink mostly – I am not a good cook. So, which one he might want, I had no idea. There were plenty of great articles for recommendations once you had picked your desired style of smoker but getting there felt impossible. I was prepared to spend up to $500.00 or more to buy something which he would enjoy and use more often. There seemed to be tradeoffs for each type of burning method which I just didn’t understand – electric was more even heat but didn’t produce the good flavor that charcoal did – blah blah blah… it all sounded like gibberish to me.
What the Heck’s an SRG?
I took a chance with a “none of the above” option for smokers after reading a LOT of reviews then watching videos and seeing how easy and enjoyable this experience was for so many people. What I picked is called the Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker, Roaster & Grill which uses a propane tank, infrared heat, and a wood chip smoking mechanism – (note, this is not a review of the oil-less fryer, we don’t have that but it looks similar and is made by the same company). So what do we think of our new SRG? Holy potatoes Batman – we use this thing weekly. Life-changing. You can’t mess up a meal… just, can’t – not that we have tried to mess things up, but it always just seems to “happen” with everything else. Not with the Big Easy. Best purchase I’ve ever made – why, because it works fast, is easy to use, and has inspired my hubby to bbq a LOT, AND he seems to think he’s doing it out of his own volition. If I’m in the mood I just say, “how about smoking some chicken or fish tonight?” and he’s pretty much programmed to say “sure”, excitedly even. Every wife who wants to eat well should get this as a “gift” for their husband, wink wink. Get ready for pure YUM in your mouth, every time – I am drooling a little as I write this. Also, it was considerably less expensive than going with some of the well-known professional “smoker” brands – plus no pellets or whatever those things take. It’s also fairly small so helps with reducing the space needed for most of your traditional smokers.
This is very sad news, but Char-Broil no longer makes this grill (WHY!?!?!?! It is the BEST!). I hope it is because they are about to release a newer model soon but for now you can find it in some obscure locations still and Char-Broil says you can still get parts for a few years from their site. The picture below has a link for another location you can purchase this – but for how long I don’t know.
The Not so Fun Part
The only bummer about this magical beast is cleaning it, although I had a breakthrough on that front recently. It usually takes me a good 20 minutes to scrub the basket thing and extract all the pieces of chicken skin, burnt whatevers and goop off of it. However, I decided I would buy some steel wool and try that because I usually just can’t loosen anything even with the green scrubby side of the sponge. Well, that worked – steel wool is the ONLY way to go – it’s still a little bit of a pain but nothing like before. It actually makes it look silver again too, whereas the traditional scrubbing leaves it kind of a rusted bronze. I’d say my cleaning time is now reduced to about 5 minutes.
There are pros and cons to choosing this in lieu of a “real” smoker, but I personally could not have been happier with this decision.
• As an all-in-one, you will probably use your regular BBQ grill less because this is just that much easier.
• The Big Easy will make the juiciest meat you’ve ever had, quickly.
• Options for big or small items – we have done everything from a turkey for Thanksgiving in this, to 2 full size chickens, or just a potato. It’s flexible.
• The Big Easy uses very little propane so a tank lasts a while. We get about 8-10 uses out of one tank minimum. (If you are doing a turkey or something large that will take a few hours just make sure you have enough to finish the job.)
• The roaster is small and doesn’t use too much space.
• The infrared heat is even and creates a great crusty skin on the outside but retains the juicy moistness of the meat inside – cooking is very even, you won’t have one side done and one side raw.
• The smell – we use this in the garage with the garage door open (so we can do it in winter) and I’m sure all of our neighbors are craving BBQ afterwards. Going in and out of the garage even a few days later will make us hungry from that potent smoke smell. It could also be a con if you don’t like the smell of the smoker since it can be a little overpowering.
• It seems like this is a healthier option since a lot of the grease will drip off – but I may just be hoping for that.
• This is not a true smoker and will not produce that full “smoked” flavor that comes from an all-day smoking. Using the smoking chips and cooking the meat for 20 minutes to an hour will give the meat a great flavor but only a light smoky taste (similar to what a smoke seasoning might provide). For us, this is enough, but if you are a true purist about smoked meat, you may not feel this is smoked enough for you and the temperatures will not go low enough to make it a true smoker.
• There is no temperature gauge on the unit. This seems to be a big sticking point for a lot of people who were unhappy about the purchase due to this – I agree it is a slight inconvenience but if it is that important you have two options: 1) buy and install a temperature gauge – people say this is not terribly hard to do, or 2) we use a meat thermometer, which is probably preferable anyway since the temperature of the grill doesn’t necessarily reflect the inner meat temp.
A couple of items to mention before/if you choose to purchase this:
• Installation was not hard and took about 20 minutes (although we thought we were missing a piece but found it in the lid area). Some people have complained about the unit falling apart, I would imagine this is from not properly securing the screws – as with anything, make sure you are using the right threading and tightening all of the nuts and bolts properly.
• Follow the instructions when assembling and before first use in seasoning it properly – this is important. You are supposed to season it every time you use it – admittedly, we do not but should.
• Some people have complained about the wood chip box, but we haven’t had any issues with it. Sometimes you have to jiggle it a little when it heats up and expands, but you shouldn’t have severe problems getting it in/out. No need to soak the wood chips prior to use.
• We put foil down at the bottom where the drippings occur – this needs to be changed now and again.
• If purchasing from Amazon, you won’t need the accessories suggested unless those are something you want to get (shish-kabob skewers and wing hooks) but we did get the cover to go with the grill. As recommended by others, you will most likely want the little bunk bed basket too at some point. We use this a lot for cooking in levels, with the hottest items being the top-most items, so adjust times accordingly.
• Use steel wool to clean the basket(s).
• Hubby puts a plate under the basket when he lifts it out and we let the meat drip for a bit in the kitchen on that plate before moving it off. If you just bring the basket in without something underneath it the oily drippings will be everywhere in your house.
• We bought this beer can holder thing as an accessory and it’s kind of neat, albeit messy.
Our overall thoughts are that we love it!