Where is a good place to look up recipes?
Most smokers come with a list of basic recipes, but the real fun of smoking meat is finding exactly what you prefer. There are two sites I frequent when I have questions or inspiration about anything - but boy do they have some great recipe ideas!
Smoking Meat Forums
The first is the Smoking Meat Forums (SMF). I love this forum because most of the people on it smoke using live fire, so they have different techniques to how they do things. This helps me understand a lot of the concepts better, and I can usually figure out how to make my electric smoker do what they do with a few changes. They also offer a 5 Day Smoking Basic eCourse that is geared towards those new to smoking. It is a great way to understand the basics of live fire smoking, and covers topics like how to build a good fire, maintaining consistent temps, and how to choose the right cut of meat. Excellent site and resource. Be sure to create an account and participate in the forum.
The other place to find wonderful recipes, and more, is the Cookshack forum. This forum is more focused towards electric meat smoking, which is very helpful. Similar to the Smoking Meat Forums, much of the information found here is applicable to any type of smoking. I’ve found some really great guides to doing more than just meat smoking too (like cheese and jerky).
There are a lot of great books focused on all sorts of things BBQ. One I appreciate is Smoke and Spice. The focus is to give you a bit of a baseline for sausces, rubs, sides, and more. It is a great way to develop a sauce or rub to your liking. There are plenty of other books out there to help with other BBQ topics as well. Check out the books section of the store.
How can I convince my spouse to let me buy a smoker?
There were a few things I did to convince my wife that this was a worthwhile hobby. First of all, we were familiar with real BBQ. Not the sauce called BBQ from the local fast food joint, but real, slow cooked BBQ. Find a BBQ joint near you that makes good BBQ, and tell your spouse that you can match it…if not beat it. Everyone who has had meat out of my smoker has said they like it better than from a restaurant (including my father who grew up in Texas). Once your spouse has an understanding as to how good this stuff is, they’ll be a lot more interested in you getting into it. The reason you can promise to be able to match restaurant quality is because you can cater to your families tastes. If you like it spicy, you can make it spicy. If you like it sweet, you can go sweet.
Second, its worth talking about the benefits of cooking your own food. By smoking meat yourself instead of buying ‘smoked’ stuff from the store, you control everything about it. You choose the cut of meat, how much fat will be left on, what its marinated in, and you eliminate the preservatives that are so prevalent in pre-made meat products. The control means you can hone in on what you enjoy most and make it better for you. The more I read about how many preservatives there are in food, the more impact this point has for me personally.
For the last point, I asked my wife what attracted her enough to the idea to allow me to pursue it. The main reason was that it was one less meal she had to cook. I laughed a bit at that answer, but it makes sense! I enjoy smoking meat way too much for it to be even close to work for me - but it takes some work off her plate. Talk about a win win. One of the best feelings I get is when she walks down the hallway as I’m cutting up the meat after its just come out of the smoker and she says “can I try some yet?!”.
Even if it means starting with the cheapest unit you can find,do it! As I stated before, I started off with a low end sub $100 unit. A few months after I got it, we had the good fortune to purchase a home that needed a ton of work. Because we needed everything for the kitchen (including drywall!), and my wife had fallen for the smoked meat I was making out of the low end unit, we bought a lower end stove, and invested the rest in a nice smoker that would last a long time. To this day I’ve used the smoker significantly more than the oven. Once people get a true taste of what can come out of a smoker, they are willing to invest in it.