June 16, 2016
Summer is here and with it comes another season perfect for cooking outdoors. Two months ago we reviewed the larger Char-Broil electric smoker that came away with a really great review score and even tastier smoked chicken, so we wanted to take the smaller version for a whirl.
The Char-Broil Simple Smoker, or what I like to refer to as R2-Meat2, is a smaller capacity electric smoker with some brains added in. SmartChef, powered by DADO Labs out of Portland Oregon let’s you essentially set the type of meat you are going to cook and the size, and get updates along the way without having to constantly keep an eye on things. Though we thoroughly reviewed the technology in April, we decided to revisit whether or not it’s truly helpful or nuisance (hint – it works well).
The main differences between the Simple Smoker and the Digital Electric Smoker are its size and capacity. Due to its smaller capacity it can’t cook a full wrap of ribs without a bit of butchering, and the wood chip container is smaller and requires filling every 45 minutes or so.
Overall the Simple Smoker is great, but we did find a small bug while trying to trigger the wood chip refill option. For some reason, after the first round of chips, it did not appear to heat the wood chip basket container after asking it to do so a second time. Besides that the pulled pork, salmon, and chicken we cooked on separate occasions all came out incredibly moist and infused with applewood smoke flavoring. It was also easier to baste the chicken due to this having a lid rather than a latched door, and I felt like it was not losing as much heat in the short window of time we did that.
Just as we found when using the larger electric smoker, the simple smoker also had a day-one update. We found the same issue where you’ve got to keep a close eye on the flashing DADO button, because if you walk away you’ll have the start the process over again. Beyond that it works incredibly well as long as you are within an ideal distance from your router. You create a lot of unnecessary issues when you are outside of it’s ideal range. Smartchef is more than your remote temperature gauge, it also allows you to take actions accordingly. From making sure it’s pre-heated, to adding more wood chips, it essentially helps coach you through the smoking process, which is an art form in itself.
Unlike the first review, we relied more on using the manual settings versus the planned cooking options. I prefer meat to meat a little less well done, so by following some external recipes I was able to get the meat cooked exactly like I wanted it. Through the app and Smartchef, manual cooking is still just as advanced as their recipe flows, but gives more control to you.
With a smaller cooking capacity, there were also a few different cooking options available and a few less than the larger electric smoker. Seems pretty logical to us as you wouldn’t want to try fitting an entire rack of ribs in there. The unit also includes half shelves for manipulating where you want the food and to ensure it cooks more evenly. The guided recipes will also give you information about how you should adjust where the meat is placed.
Simple Smoker Design
Although I really liked the stainless steel look of the larger electric smoker, what I didn’t realize is that it takes a bit more elbow grease to maintain its appearance. The Simple Smoker is sleak, all black, and really looks like what R2D2 would be if turned into a smoker. Smokers are supposed to be seasoned and a bit dirty appearance (but it’s not), that’s where all those wonderful flavors come from, and with this design it’s a lot easier to ignore that.
Pros and Cons
Although the smoker is great, we did find a few issues. Most of them were based on human error or external conditions.
- WiFi-connected, monitor from anywhere with a connection;
- Great for beginners, great for advanced users; and
- Great design which hides the appearance of a well-seasoned smoker.
- Connectivity is iffy – unit needs to be near router; and it's
- Not super intuitive, but neither is smoking meat in general, read the instructions!
Recommended to Buy
Should you buy the Char-Broil Simple Smoker with Smartchef tech? Yes, absolutely! At the time of writing, it looks like it’s extremely affordable on Amazon as well, coming in at $103. On Char-Broil’s own site it’s listed at retail for $300, and it’s certainly worth it’s current price.
Based on its current price and the quality of food that comes from it, we give the Char-Broil Simple Smoker with SmartChef tech a 4.5 out of 5. At it’s regular retail pricing we’d probably bump it back down to a 4 though.
Price: $103 ($300 regular)
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