Author Topic: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal  (Read 1163 times)

yiplong

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SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« on: March 28, 2019, 11:25:53 PM »
I cook on a Weber kettle and a WSM, but the new townhouse complex I'm moving into doesn't allow charcoal so I will need to get new grill and smokers.  I'm considering two options:
(1) get a pellet grill that can do both direct and indirect cooking
(2) get a gas grill like Weber Spirit, plus an electric smoker.  I'm eyeing the SI #2. 

I cook for a family of 5.  I go for either quick steak/burger on the grill, or on the smoker: brisket, port butt and ribs.  Generally I don't cook chicken.  I'm very happy with the results from my charcoal smoker, but do wish for a bit more set it and forget it convenience. 

I don't care about smoke rings but I do care about taste, flavor, and texture.  If anyone has experience cooking on SI and either pellet or charcoal smokers, please share your thoughts.  I'd like to hear your comparison of the taste, flavor and texture you get out of SI vs pellet/charcoal smokers, and also your experience of using these different fuel types. 

pappabear

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2019, 04:27:13 PM »
  If you use a SI you will never use anything else. Set it and forget it!
Gary
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LarryD

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2019, 04:50:28 PM »
I cook on a Weber kettle and a WSM, but the new townhouse complex I'm moving into doesn't allow charcoal so I will need to get new grill and smokers.  I'm considering two options:
(1) get a pellet grill that can do both direct and indirect cooking

There is a reasonable chance that a pellet grill will also not be allowed since it actively has a fire and could catch nearby structures on fire.  While the SI may, possibly, have the wood combust, there is practically no way it's going to escape the fire box and the smoker in any way that could cause a fire.  I don't know how hot a pellet grill gets on its exterior due to the smoking process, but the SI stays quite cool to the touch in this regard.  (Caveat:  if the SI is in direct sunlight then it can get extremely hot on the outside...  nothing to do with smoking; it's just a big chunk of stainless steel so it conducts heat from sunlight readily.  It's insulated, so it won't impact the smoking process, though.

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I don't care about smoke rings but I do care about taste, flavor, and texture.  If anyone has experience cooking on SI and either pellet or charcoal smokers, please share your thoughts.  I'd like to hear your comparison of the taste, flavor and texture you get out of SI vs pellet/charcoal smokers, and also your experience of using these different fuel types.

I've not owned a smoker other than the SI, so I can't directly compare.  I have owned the #2 that your'e considering for a couple years now and absolutely love it.  I've smoked briskets, butts, salmon, other fish, nuts, turkey, chicken wings, mac & cheese, garlic, and more in mine.  Everything comes out with a great smoke flavor and it really couldn't get any easier.  It is said that the skin on Turkey will come out rubbery, but I don't eat the skin so it doesn't matter in the slightest to me.

The #2 has plenty of capacity for a family of five.  You can do a full packer brisket, or a couple butts, or a 14 lb turkey, or 4 pounds of nuts, or 6 racks of baby backs, etc. in a single smoke.  Even that isn't really to capacity... I've just never had a situation where I needed to try to fill it to capacity.  :)
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old sarge

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2019, 08:41:55 PM »
yipping -  Welcome to the forum.  I would check the townhouse rules regarding the pellet grill but betting Larry is correct on the aspect of fire. I smoked for a long time using an offset stick  burner.  I made the switch to electric and aside from the appearance of the finished product, i.e. smoke ring, I really could not say there was much, if any, difference in flavor or the quality of the finished product.  If there was a difference, I have long since forgotten what it is.
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yiplong

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2019, 11:43:45 PM »
Thanks for your replies.  How much smoke does SI smokers actually produce (outside the box)?  I will be in a townhouse complex.  The unit has a balcony in the back and there is a concrete patio directly below it where I intend to place the smoker.  I don't want the smoker to turn the underside of the balcony or the sidings black, or be bothersome to neighbors.  From youtube video, it looks like SI belch minimal smoke. 

How is SI #2 compared to ST 1400?  I see the two units look almost the same and cost almost the same. Apparently SI used to be cheaper.  Obviously, you all did your research and decided on SI.  Can you share why? 

I also see that there are a digital model and analog model.  What is the practical difference?  I know the analog will have more temp swing, can you translate this into real world consequences for me?  If I buy the analog and find the temp swing to be too much, is there anyway to fix?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2019, 11:56:22 PM by yiplong »

LarryD

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2019, 02:34:30 AM »
Thanks for your replies.  How much smoke does SI smokers actually produce (outside the box)?  I will be in a townhouse complex.  The unit has a balcony in the back and there is a concrete patio directly below it where I intend to place the smoker.  I don't want the smoker to turn the underside of the balcony or the sidings black, or be bothersome to neighbors.  From youtube video, it looks like SI belch minimal smoke. 

I would expect that your nearby neighbors will definitely smell it.  That said, mine sits 10 feet from my french doors to my back courtyard and I often run it with my back door open.  I'll smell the smoke, but the house never gets smoky.  It's also just under the eve of my garage and I've noticed no discoloration of the eve. 

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How is SI #2 compared to ST 1400?  I see the two units look almost the same and cost almost the same. Apparently SI used to be cheaper.  Obviously, you all did your research and decided on SI.  Can you share why? 


The SI #2 delivered (in the continental U.S.) is $519.  The ST1400 is $595 + $65 shipping.  With the SI #2 you also get 4 stainless steel racks/shelves instead of 3 (not stainless), three years of warranty instead of two, two latches instead of one, and an 800 watt element instead of 700 watt.  It probably doesn't matter for your use, but the Smokin-It is also NSF certified.  And, of course, you get our beloved community here.  You're welcome to hang out with us even if you get the ST1400, though.  :)

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I also see that there are a digital model and analog model.  What is the practical difference?  I know the analog will have more temp swing, can you translate this into real world consequences for me?  If I buy the analog and find the temp swing to be too much, is there anyway to fix?

The analog is going to have a +/- 40 degree temp swing from where you set it.  So far I've had exactly zero cases where that has mattered.  However, I'm about to do some jerky and that *might* be an exception where the finer temperature control will be a very good thing.  For the majority of smokes it's simply not going to matter.  (I just got a barely used SI #3D Wifi.)  I'm actually a big proponent for the analog control because it's truly just set it and walk away.  You don't have to worry about (mis)programming it, you don't have to worry about a momentary power outage cancelling it, you don't have to worry about a faulty probe/reading causing any funkiness, and there is less to break and cheaper parts if it does.  (Rheostat is probably $50 where a new PID is more like $200.)  I'm keeping my #2 until I've proven to myself that I'm happy with the 3DW.

If you go with just the #2 and decide later that you really want to have the PID control then one can be purchased separately.  You'll find posts here on the forums that talk about ones folks have used and how they installed them.
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Lipster

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2019, 08:19:44 AM »
Neighbors will smell it, but as long as there is no charcoal or wood burning, you should be ok as far as rules go.  Would a George Forman or an electric pizza oven or microwave be illegal?  Then your smoker should be ok as well.  If someone says something, give them a sample of the product and show them that there is no burning in there.  Then give them another sample.
Smoke just comes out in wisps.

yiplong

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2019, 09:14:51 AM »
I've read some reports of uneven temp (bottom grate being hotter than top grates).  How bad do you find this?  With there being multiple racks, I think this is due in part to people over-stuffing the lower grates, preventing heat from rising to the top of the unit. 

Another problem I've heard is the unit not being able to get up to temp.  Some said they could only get to 220f or so, some even lower.  Is this common?  I live in the north, winter can be cold (sub-freezing but not sub-zero), and I like to smoke year around.  Any problem there? 

Neighbors will smell it, but as long as there is no charcoal or wood burning, you should be ok as far as rules go.  Would a George Forman or an electric pizza oven or microwave be illegal?  Then your smoker should be ok as well.  If someone says something, give them a sample of the product and show them that there is no burning in there.  Then give them another sample.
Smoke just comes out in wisps.

SI should have no problem.  They only explicitly ban charcoal.  Lots of units have gas grill.  I have seen quite a few grills on the patio directly below the balcony. :o ::) ??? I think that's crazy and a lot more dangerous than properly handled charcoal.  I was just trying to anticipate how other people would react to SI in operation. 

barelfly

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2019, 09:45:55 AM »
To help with the ďhow much smokeĒ

I leave my 3D under the patio, that is finished dry wall above and donít have any issues. There is ample air flow under the patio so that helps with this, but I donít have any issues.

You will really enjoy the smoker. I got the 3D because thatís what I wanted, but my mom got my dad a 2 because I told her I didnít really see much of a difference in the analog vs digital. Would I change my purchase to a regular 3?? Probably not but my dad gets the same results I do so the boxes are producing great food with very little babysitting!
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LarryD

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2019, 12:00:27 PM »
I've read some reports of uneven temp (bottom grate being hotter than top grates).  How bad do you find this?  With there being multiple racks, I think this is due in part to people over-stuffing the lower grates, preventing heat from rising to the top of the unit. 

When I do nuts I do four grates at the same time.  The bottom grate does get a little more done than the top grate, but never to a degree that it's been a problem.  I do fill the grate pretty full, so there is no question the bottom grate would be acting as a bit of a heat shield for the others.  The other time I fill up 3 or 4 grates is when I do wings and I've not even noticed a difference with them.

When I do butts, brisket, or ribs I only do two grates at a time and put them toward the top of the smoker so I don't even detect an lack of evenness with those.

Quote
Another problem I've heard is the unit not being able to get up to temp.  Some said they could only get to 220f or so, some even lower.  Is this common?  I live in the north, winter can be cold (sub-freezing but not sub-zero), and I like to smoke year around.  Any problem there? 

If you poke around the forums here you'll see rare cases of that and a (typical) solution of adjusting the knob placement for the rheostat.  I don't recall ever reading any post saying that they gave up and could just never get it up to temp.  You'll also find lots of posts on here talking about using the SIs in freezing weather.  The most common problem I recall reading about is the fat drippings solidifying in the drip pan and blocking drip hole.  Those same posts talk about how they avoid that situation.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2019, 06:17:28 PM by LarryD »
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old sarge

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2019, 04:29:21 PM »
Here is a little experiment you can try and see if there will be a problem.  If you have an old electric skillet, fire it up on high on the deck/patio or what have you and put a little wood in it over the element and fire it up.  Lid on, vent open. That should give you an idea of what to expect.  Might ruin the skillet; might not even work.  But it is a thought.  As for the smoker, here are a couple of photos of my 3D working:
David from Arizona
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Pork Belly

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2019, 08:25:25 PM »
Trager Pellet Grills are nice but there are issues. The  'Smoke" setting is not cold it is fairly hot. They Highest setting is not searing hot. Another issue is the heat will always be the hottest in the center over the furnace pot. Not an issue with small items but a big deal with large cuts of meat.

However you get good flavor Tragers, if you can live with the limitations. I own a small Trager and have smoked and smoked on a large one so my opinions are based on experience.

If it were me I would get a good quality gas grill that allows you to sear meat especially steaks. Also get the SI if space is not an issue. Remember the flat top of the SI can be a side table when not smoking.
Brian - Michigan-NRA Life Member
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Jisoo546

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2019, 09:28:17 AM »
Neighbors will smell it, but as long as there is no charcoal or wood burning, you should be ok as far as rules go.  Would a George Forman or an electric pizza oven or microwave be illegal?  Then your smoker should be ok as well.  If someone says something, give them a sample of the gadget and show them that there is no burning in there.  Then give them another sample.
Smoke just comes out in wisps.
Yeah I got into trouble with neighbors when I kept my electric smoker in the balcony when I was a beginner. :P

yiplong

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2019, 01:35:13 PM »
Yeah I got into trouble with neighbors when I kept my electric smoker in the balcony when I was a beginner. :P

How did this happen?  SI produces enough smoke to bother neighbors? 

old sarge

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Re: SI #2 vs Pellet vs Charcoal
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2019, 03:15:24 PM »
SI smokers produce smoke. Depending upon location relative to wind and windows it can be smelled.
David from Arizona
US Army 70 - 95
SI 3D & Big Red Controller
CS 066 (retired to my son's home)
Lodge Sportsman Grill
Weber Kettle
Ducane Meridian 42 inch Grill
LEM MaxVac 1088A
LEM Big Bite #8 Grinder
Chef's Choice 665 and Rival Slicers
Old Hickory Knives
InstantPot Duo80 Plus