We’ve been wanting to get a smoker for backyard entertaining for some time. We’ve struggled to do some of our projects on the grill. We finally gave up when we walked out and found 3 pounds of bacon on fire in our grill. Enough is enough! After much research, we landed on the Smoke Vault by Camp Chef. When it arrived (sorry no pics), it was securely boxed and no evidence of any damage. The instructions for assembly were clear and all necessary hardware other than a screwdriver were included. It only took me about 45 minutes to put it together…that said, you should know that I’m no handyman and I was surprised that it went to smoothly. Assembling things usually ends up in me having a meltdown and language not fit for other humans being uttered. It would go more smoothly with two people, alas Mrs KnoxFoodie wasn’t home yet.

Once you get it setup, you will need to season it by cooking for an hour (I’d recommend a little longer) with wood and water inside. This burns off the chemical smells that you definitely don’t want on your food. The unit features, starting at the bottom, a pan for your wood chips (I just small chips that smoke quickly, and then some larger chunks usually of another variety of wood that take longer to burn out), then a pan to hold water, and 3 racks (two regular and one designed for jerky).

Our first foray was this weekend when we selected 3 baby back rib racks and two chickens (both from Costco, since we weren’t sure what the outcome would be!)

The Ribs... very juicy and a perfect crust.

The Ribs… very juicy and a perfect crust.

For the Ribs
We first let the ribs come to room temperature then rubbed the ribs with regular yellow mustard… this is what the pros do. Then we coated with a rub composed of:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3-5 tblsp ground pepper (ground in our mortar and pestle, but you could use pre-ground if you’re lazy)
  • 1 tblsp garlic powder
  • 1 tblsp dried onion powder or flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or your favorite kind.

Mix well and coat, REALLY coat the ribs. Don’t be shy. Preheat the smoker with wood and water to 225-240 degrees. Watch it closely. Place the ribs on the racks and close the door. Leave it closed! Stop being curious because every time you open it, you loose smoke and heat.

About an hour in, open the door and baste with the sauce you’ve made (not BBQ sauce here! If you want to do that, add it the last 30 minutes… I don’t recommend!):

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tbsp prepared yellow or grainy mustard
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne

Do this about every hour.

Plan on your ribs taking about 4 hours to cook total. An hour before they are finished (that’s 3 hours in), we opened the smoker and put the ribs inside aluminum foil. *In hindsight, we believe they would have been better to have done this 2.5 hours in and then 30 minutes before they needed to come off, take them back out of the foil and place in the smoker to dry the crust a bit.

But oh boy were these good!

Succulent brined, smoked chicken

Succulent brined, smoked chicken

For the chicken, we used a brine of :

  • 3 cloves of garlic (sliced or minced)
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 cups of apple cider vinegar

We brined this for about 4 hours. And smoked until a meat thermometer was at 160° (the temperature will rise another 5° after it is removed. When you take it off the smoker, wrap tightly in plastic wrap (no, it won’t melt), and then in foil and place in a cooler. Let it sit in the cooler for about a 1/2 hour and up to 4 hours. Delicious and the brine is courtesy of our friend Chef Hicks.

CONCLUSION: The Camp Chef Smoke Vault performed really well! We had a day with almost no wind and the temperature was very easy to maintain. We are very happy with the purchase.