This past Christmas, the family bought and received appliances as gifts that offer new or different ways to prepare and enhance foods. These cooking appliances and methods included a smoker grill, air fryer, pasta maker, and sous vide precision cooker.


Apparently, hubby and I were on the same wave length as our two grown sons — give gifts that could be enjoyed while still being mostly homebound during the then peak of the pandemic. Those gifts extended to indoor entertainment too, including; board and card games, books, puzzles, craft supplies, and subscriptions for coffee, the NY Times, and streaming services.

One of those gift subscriptions was the ability to take MasterClass courses on our big screen TV, computer or mobile phone. There is a wide variety of topics. While Preparing for a Puppy, and before bringing Whiskey home, I took a great course on dog training. Hubby particularly enjoyed a series on what it was like to be an astronaut.

Since we are all foodies, ways to either prepare new dishes, or make foods faster, healthier and tastier, are particularly appealing. And no one was traveling or eating out then. Living in center city Philly and Manhattan, both our sons really missed dining at restaurants. Take out just wasn’t the same.

So, we all were experimenting either in the kitchen, or outside barbequing on the new smoker grill. With Labor Day Weekend barbecues around the corner, I thought it was time to share our experiences with a smoker.

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Why a Smoker Grill?


Barbeque rack of ribs almost ready to be served on our son’s smoker grill.

For tender, fall-off-the-bone barbeque infused with smoky flavor, consider purchasing a smoker grill or giving one as a gift for the enthusiast in the family.

After all, smokers are what most BBQ competitors and many speciality restaurants use.

Smokers are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, fuel types, and technology levels, each with their own properties and cooking capabilities. Despite these differences, all barbecue smokers have one thing in common: cooking food at low temperatures for long periods of time. This aptly named cooking method transforms even the largest and toughest cuts of meat into incredibly juicy and tender barbecue, all while infusing them with mouthwatering, smoky flavor.


Santa Smoker — Ho, Ho, Ho!

This past Christmas, eldest son gifted both his brother and dad each a Tragaer electric and wood pellet smoker. They even are Bluetooth enabled!


When the smoker, grill cover, and big back of wood chips was delivered on a cold, snowy January, I must admit I rolled my eyes. Where were we suppose to set it up?

After all, we already had a traditional gas grill on the porch. Did we really need both? “Yes,” both my sons enthusiastically replied. I remained skeptical, but figured it was a guy thing; like the beer brewing all three enjoy.

But, then hubby used the smoker to make several different meals , including pulled pork and BBQ wings. Oh. My. Goodness! So tender and smoky. What a treat in the middle of winter!

And what fun Mr. Buzz and the boys have sharing recipes and tips, as well as texting photos back and forth. And me? I get to sit back and let them do the cooking lol!

A Smoked Feast

During a May trip to our younger son’s urban Philadelphia row house, the ribs pictured above were part of a barbeque extravaganza for the extended family. Both the visit and feast were a great way to celebrate all being fully vaccinated, and a return to family gatherings.

My son had set his alarm for 5 AM; to start the hours-long prep and smoking process! By the time the rest of us got out of bed, both puppies were already salivating from the smell coming from the back deck.


Why so early? Large pieces of meat, like a beef brisket or pork butt, take a lot longer to cook than say ribs or wings. Plus D wanted to make many different things, requiring rotating foods in and out of the smoker — use a low oven temperature to keep warm.


Here’s the host and master barbecue chef himself, putting out the feast — buffet style. His visiting grandmother couldn’t have been more impressed or proud!


And there wasn’t just barbeque ribs, beef brisket, and wings — even macaroni and cheese baked in iron skillets were finished in the smoker. The best mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever had!


Younger son keeps a variety of seasoning mixtures stocked with other herbs and spices in the kitchen. They are particularly good for preparing dry rubs. Here’s one of two types of prepped and seasoned wings, ready to go on the smoker grill.


These spicy wings were hot off the smoker grill and ready to eat.


Hubby sliced the smoked BBQ beef brisket. It just fell apart on the plate and tasted divine! And, my son made a delicious, homemade barbecue sauce to squirt on top.

Have Tableware, Will Travel


Meanwhile, my job was setting up the snacks and beverages.

Before we left Pittsburgh, I made a shopping run to Home Goods for the first time in about over a year. There, I picked up outdoor table and server ware for our son’s first barbecue season in his home.

Navy and white melamine plates and bowls decorated with fish motifs, along with matching plastic glasses, made for easy buffet dining.

Most fun were the boat-shaped basket and servers for chips and dips (Nautica). The little boats even had little oars to use as spreaders. So clever!

Mom and I also made a large salad full of fresh veggies to accompany all the barbecue meats and mac ‘n cheese.

There was so much delicious food, we agreed to use the leftovers for a second dinner the very next day!

BBQ Smoked Ribs for July 4th

As I explained in, Return of Traditional Summer Activities & Family Visits, the boys later came to Pittsburgh for an extended July 4th holiday.

As part of my June birthday gift, I got a break from planning, shopping and preparing many lunches, and most dinners, while they were here.


That’s because we were out and about at breweries and restaurants all over city, and also spent time at a Pirates baseball game and at Kennywood amusement park. Eldest son’s girlfriend V, even treated me to a Cultural Cooking Adventure: Vietnamese Dishes.

And both sons brought fresh vegetables from their Bountiful NYC Urban Garden and Philadelphia Rowhouse Urban Rooftop Garden.

For Independence Day, younger son planned ahead with his dad to use our smoker. Right after breakfast, D started prepping four racks of ribs, using different seasonings.

Take It Nice ‘n Slow

Later in the afternoon, he took a well-deserved break; enjoying a frozen watermelon margarita hubby had made. He continually checked the temperature and slathered on barbecue sauce throughout the day. In between, we ate lunch, played board and card games, and enjoyed a round of Flamingo Croquet.


Pictured below are the racks of ribs almost ready to serve. See the bark? That’s the incredibly tasty crust on smoked meat. Bark forms when the surface of the meat is exposed to heat and oxygen.

It’s actually the result of some complex chemical reactions that happens during the cooking process. Greek to me, but understood by Mr. Buzz the engineer. He and our sons enjoy discussing the science behind using a smoker grill.


And, they are also always critiquing their smoker grill results — amount of bark, tenderness, and juiciness of the meat. Everything they have made has looked and tasted wonderful in my book!

But, I guess part of the fun of using a smoker is learning how to use your particular grill, perfecting the process, and experimenting with different ingredients and recipes.

Special Sauce Secret

Many of the barbeque sauces are made with apple juice, apple cider vinegar and honey.


The secret ingredient to making a fabulous-tasting sauce — Mike’s Hot Honey. It’s honey with a kick! Infused with chili peppers, it perfectly balances heat and sweetness. And there are recipes to use it in everything from cocktails, to chicken and waffles, to BBQ sauce!

Have you ever used Mike’s Hot Honey?


Too Much of a Good Thing?

After eating a big breakfast, hot dog lunch, cocktails and munchies, there was no way any of us had room to each consume an entire rack of ribs — no mater how mouth-watering!

Plus we had corn on the cob, my Memphis Baked beans, and hubby’s strawberry-rhubarb crumb for dessert.

But, D had wanted to experiment with those four different rubs.

No problem! I broke up the leftovers into several freezer bags.

Later, all I had to was warm the ribs in a low temperature oven, while reheating the extra barbeque sauce on the stovetop. Mr. Buzz and enjoyed several more quick and delicious meals over the next couple of weeks.

Do you like barbecue? Have a smoker yourself? If so, any tips or recipes to share?

Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

For Thanksgiving this year, youngest son is planning to prepare a turkey in his smoker grill. It’ll be City of Brotherly Love Thanksgiving 2.0, as we had to cancel last year, due to the pandemic.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but likely the turkey meat will be delicious — tender, juicy and smoky. Meanwhile, we’ll be preparing stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and other traditional holiday dishes in his large, well-outfitted kitchen.

Smoker Grill a Great Gift Idea

Speaking of holidays, a smoker grill would make a great gift for a barbecue enthusiast. Or, maybe as a wedding or birthday gift?

Our son uses his smoker year-round.

This fall he’s planning on pulled pork sandwiches and wings for watching football games with friends. And, D will likely use his air fryer to make French and sweet potato fries.

Have you ever used a smoker?

Later, I’ll share our experiences making foods with the air fryers, pasta machine, and sous vide precision cooker. All make wonderful gifts for family or friends who like to cook or experiment with new foods and methods.


Update: For Christmas 2021, my son Smoked Ham out on our deck. Smoking a ham would be great for Easter too! We also had a family past making party, and enjoyed three new Asian theme meals at home.


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