TL;dr -- I got a new pellet smoker. It's really heavy, and it cooks chicken good.
So we got a windfall. Sara got a pilot's watch. I got a pellet smoker. It's not my first, but I trust it will be my last. The first was an inexpensive Traeger from Costco. Not the cheapest, but I think the cheapest that had a digital controller. I won't go into a lot of details, but let's just say that when it was good, it was very very good. But when it was bad? It was awful. It went away on Craigslist to a retired Boeing engineer who immediately built a new controller for it. I hope he's happy.
I did much of my research on AmazingRibs.com. I own Meathead's book and have been reading his site for a couple of years. I worked my way down a long list of desires and requirements, excluded devices that cost more than an exorbitant amount of money (OK, I probably should have set my sights on a bit less exorbitant), and decided on a MAK Grills 2-Star General.
I ordered from Big Poppa Smokers online, because there doesn't seem to be a MAK dealer in the immediate area. I am perfectly happy with them, except for one thing: their communication on shipping estimates and dates is pathetic. Virtually every communication I got from them (including several I had to initiate) was incorrect. The were quick, pleasant, fixed a problem I caused, and got me the stuff in a reasonable time (I'm making an assumption on a follow up order, but I think it's a good one), but their notification system flat does not work.
Thus, I was not expecting Wild Bill, the UPS Freight guy, Friday afternoon when he knocked on the door. I moved things around to give him a good clear path to the courtyard, and he left me this. Two hundred and eighty pounds (he said, according to the invoice) of precursor to smoky meaty goodness.
Against my better judgement (which was completely overwhelmed by my "it's Christmas morning" anticipation), and the unprovided advice of my entire family (none of whom were present), I reduced the mass as much as possible by removing packaging and subpackages, and wrangled the remainder onto a dolly, which I wrestled around the house and down to the backyard, informally known as the hockey rink. I assembled what was practical for one person, and waited (calm as a hooded falcon)...
The next morning, Kiernan was kind enough to assist me in lifting the ~200 pound top onto the base and to hold the warming drawer in place while I fastened it on.
I loaded up the 20 pounds of pellets provided, and set it to season.
And then, this morning, I loaded the virgin grill up with
a dozen rubbed chicken thighs (following Myron Mixon's advice that dry-rub BBQ chicken is an excellent first dish to try on a new grill.
Fired up the Wi-Fi (yes, my grill has Wi-Fi!) controller.
And waited. Not too long. I watched the "Cooking Graph" on the website:
"Probe 1" and "Probe 2" are temperature probes placed in two thighs on opposite ends of the grill. When they hit 180, I turned the grill down to "Smoke" to add flavor for a few minutes, but when I checked them, they looked properly done.
And they are delicious! Cooked through (tested with an instant read digital thermometer as well as the traditional "are the juices clear?"), pleasantly smoky, nicely moist (I might experiment with producing a slightly drier version that would be easier to eat without making a mess), and lacking only in skin crispiness, which might also be produced with a longer cook or a briefly hotter cook -- either of which should be easy to set up.
Seeing about cold smoking some cheese, now.