Jay Selman wrote: ↑May 21st, 2020, 5:10 pm
I have used a stick burner for roughly 25 years years and it took me 15 of those years to develop proficiency. They are definitely more time intensive and require a much higher skill set than a pellet smoker. The crux of the arguments against pellet smokers tend to fall into 2 categories. One of those categories tends to be some version of it’s too easy, I am a purist, it’s a cheat, it doesn’t require much skill etc. All of these are true but obviously have nothing to do with the quality of the end result. it’s basically “I don’t like the concept”.
The other category of arguments against the pellet smoker tends to be that they don’t produce enough smoke. Pellet smokers definitely need to run at a lower temperature to produce satisfactory amount of smoke. So there is a bit of substance to this argument.
One small advantage that a pellet smoker has over a stick burner is that a pellet is less vulnerable to user error.
Again, I use a stick burner and I’m happy with it but to be dismissive of pellet smokers and the accolades they have received in barbecue championships seems a bit strange.
You hit upon the reason I didn’t go with a pellet smoker, and that is they make more smoke at low heat. I like to cook a prime rib roast on low heat (around 200 degrees) on my smoker. I want some smoke but not too much. For beef I’ll use mesquite which IMO has a pretty strong smoke flavor so I take it easy on how much I use, just a couple of chunks.
However, Pellet smokers make impressive conventional BBQ, just Google “Ban pellet smokers from competition BBQ” and there are a number of stories of old time stick guys moving to pellets. If you can’t beat them, join them type of thing.
My first smoker around 40 years ago was a charcoal bullet type with a water pan and I replaced it with a second one. Cooked some amazing whole turkeys, but at the time I did ribs on my charcoal Webber kettle.
I then went electric with a Bradley that used compressed wooden pucks. I liked the way I could cold smoke on it by just running the puck heater. It was convenient, automatic and easy to control the amount of smoke and simple clean-up, but I didn’t like the flavor of the smoke. The pucks also seemed to loose their “flavor” pretty quickly after opening a new pack.
I now have a Stumps baby with a BBQ guru which automates the operation. I’m able to do the slow smoke on a beef roast that I wanted to do and I like cooking with charcoal. What I don’t like about it is the clean-up when I’m done.
I’ve never cooked on a stick smoker so I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about them. But every type of smoker has its pros and cons, you just have to decide what’s important to you and understand that may not be what’s important to someone else.
I don’t believe there is one holy grail that checks all of the boxes.