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Char-Broil Simple Smoker review: Better than any barbecue (but the app sucks)

Michael Brown | Feb. 5, 2016
It doesn’t entirely live up to its promise to take the guesswork out of smoking your food, but the results are delectable nonetheless.

Char-Broil Simple Smoker 
You can hang shelves inside the roasting basket to smoke smaller cuts of meat. Credit: Michael Brown

Char-Broil recommends wiping down the wire roaster basket and the removable cooking chamber it fits into with vegetable oil each time you cook to reduce the chances of the food sticking, which I did the next morning. I pulled the beef out of the refrigerator, inserted the six-inch temperature probe, placed the meat in the roaster basket, and put the basket inside the cooking chamber. I then selected the brisket recipe and indicated its weight: three pounds (my only other choices being two pounds or four pounds).

The four food groups: Beef, pork, chicken, and turkey

The app has rudimentary recipes for the few cuts of meat it covers, including instructions for preparing the meat prior to cooking, and it suggested cooking the brisket to an internal temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit. The app reported that it would take six hours and 27 minutes to bring that much brisket to that internal temperature. You can use the app to stop the smoker—and the smoker will automatically turn off when your food reaches its target temperature—but you must physically push a button on the smoker to start it. That’s a smart safety precaution that forces you to ensure that no one—especially kids—are lingering near the smoker unaware that it’s about to heat up.

I loaded the smoker box with a couple handfuls of mesquite chips, pressed the start button on the smoker, and then tapped the "add chips" button in the app. You can delay adding chips for as long as you want in order to minimize the smoke flavor, or you can use a different species of wood. Char-Broil’s skimpy user manual suggests hickory, oak, pecan, or mesquite for heavier flavor; or alder, maple, cherry, or apple for lighter flavor. Another time-saver: You don’t need to soak the chips before using them; in fact, Char-Broil recommends that you don’t soak them as that will only delay their smoking. 

Char-Broil Simple Smoker 
The smoker box fits into the front of the smoker, lining up with two holes in the inner cooking chamber so the smoke can reach the meat. Note that the box can accomodate only wood chips, not chunks. Credit: Michael Brown

After 45 minutes, the app chimed to remind me to check on the status of the chips, about half of which had burned away. This sequence repeated every 45 minutes until the food was done. And it was done much sooner than I’d expected. Now I prefer my beef on the rare side, so I took advantage of the apps’s “edit” feature to change the probe’s target temperature from the 220 degrees suggested for brisket to 160 degrees for the tri-tip I was actually cooking. Since tri-tip is a denser cut of meat than brisket, I guessed that it would take close to the same 6.5 hours, but the beef reached my desired internal temperature in less than 3.5 hours—and by its appearance (inside and out), it was more cooked than I would have preferred.


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