UK BBQ Mag Summer 2017 - Page 78

78

The Callow smoker is a new entry-level bullet smoker which has recently been launched by Callow Retail. It is available through several outlets online and also soon through a major supermarket chain. It is available from Callow Retail directly through their “Garden Gift Shop” outlet. This smoker has been designed and manufactured to address a large hole that currently exists in the domestic smoker market - which was recently increased by ProQ discontinuing their entry-level smoker range. Although the Callow smoker has a RRP of £149, it has a typical buy price of between £85-£95 and Callow are keen to ensure that this can stay below £100.

Although Callow are newcomers to bullet smoker manufacturing they have been selling the Brinkmann range of smokers for many years. They advertise their new smoker as “One of the best quality BBQ Smokers available… We have taken all of the design flaws form the Brinkmann range of smokers along with their good designs and created our own”. Have they achieved what they set out to do? The only way to find out was to put one through its paces.

Items included in the box as standard

14” vertical bullet smoker

2 x cooking grates

3 x bottom and 1 x top rotary air vents

Sheet metal charcoal fire bowl with bottom holes

Water / sand bowl

Food hanging rack (with hooks) for hanging food

Lid thermometer

Spring loaded body and lid clamps

Grommeted thermometer probe holes

Front hinged door for accessing the fire basket

Weather resistant plastic cover

Assembly

The Callow was ordered online from Garden Gift Shop for £85, which included free delivery. It arrived the following day in a compact box, which looked far too small to contain the smoker. However by the miracle of modern packing techniques everything was inside and as I pulled out the components more seemed to appear in the box. First impressions were very favourable and the manufacture quality of the unit was good. Everything fitted together well and holes lined up exactly where they should. The assembly took less than 15 minutes and only required a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Once assembled the unit was solid and did nor rattle at all. I was impressed by the quality of the sprung catches that clip the base, body and lid together. The additional food hanging rack also fitted snugly maximising the space inside the smoker lid.

Using the smoker - All of the tests were carried out using Heat Beads briquettes and temperatures logged using an ETI ThermaData Logger TC.

1. Low-and-slow. 2 Kg of Heat Beads were placed unlit in the fire basket as a Minion with 10 lit Heat Beads in the centre, the water bowl was half full of hot water and all of the vents were open at the start. The internal temperature at both cooking grate levels were then logged. As the internal temperature rose the bottom vents were gradually closed until the temperature stabilised at 110 ◦C.

The smoker was then left unattended to monitor its temperature stability. The single load of Heat Beads gave a usable cooking time of about 8 hours. The increase in temperature at 20:45 was due to a period of gusty wind.

2. Temperature stability. A number of tests were then carried out using different amounts of fuel (1.5 Kg and 3 Kg) with different configurations of Minion and fully lit coals. For these tests all of the vents (top and bottom) were left completely open to see where the temperature naturally stabilised.

Regardless of the way the coals were burned or the amount of coals used the Callow would stabilise at between 160-170 C. This makes it very easy to use for novice smokers who want to hot roast but who are not skilled in smoker temperature control.

The “howevers”

Functionally the Callow Smoker BBQ is a very easy to use and would fit the right price range for people wanting to start trying their hand at smoking without significant initial expense. It does have several issues though that need to be considered before it is purchased.

1. The thermometer. Although we expect the built-in lid thermometers to be a little inaccurate, the thermometers supplied with the Callow take this to a different level altogether. Of the 4 units that I have seen the thermometer is typically inaccurate by between 30-80 degrees C. This effectively makes the unit unusable out of the box without the availability of a separate thermometer probe. I have since replaced the one in my unit with a more accurate thermometer from ebay that cost me £1.99.

2. The handle. Unfortunately, the handle is made of quite soft plastic and, although it is supplied assembled, the screws work their way out easily allowing the sections of the handle to fall apart. This occurs through normal usage of the smoker and has been a problem with most of the units that I am aware of. The first time it happened to me it resulted in minor burns being sustained from the hot lid. The screws are small and are easily lost and are also difficult to replace without removing the handle assembly from the lid. After the screws came out for a second time it was easier to replace them with tape.

3. Door cover. It is difficult to get this type of door to fit snugly however there is a larger gap around the door of the Callow than I would have expected. However, this gap did not affect the working of the smoker. This could be corrected through the use of simple strips of stove tape around the door seat.

4. The coating. Unlike more expensive units that are enamel coated, to reduce manufacturing costs the Callow is only powder coated. Although this is often fine, the slight gap between the door and the body focusses some of the combustion gasses which has resulted in the powder coating becoming damaged. After only about a month of use this has resulted in the formation of a slight rust line immediately above the door opening.

Conclusion

For the price, the Callow BBQ Smoker offers good value for anyone just starting out smoking and would fit into many people’s birthday or Christmas present budgets. The unit is easy to assemble and the temperature management is very straightforward.

Its biggest problem, in my view, is the thermometer being so inaccurate. Without using an additional thermometer, for low-and-slow cooking this will result in meat cooking at a temperature that is much too high, and for hot smoke roasting it would appear that the smoker was never actually reaching the required temperature. Callow are aware of this and are trying to source more accurate thermometers to supply with the unit.

The quality of the handle is also disappointing and although it does not affect the use of the smoker it is also being reviewed by Callow.

At present, the longer-term effect of the rust is unknown and a better door seal would probably correct this.

For the experienced smoker this unit would probably offer little value and would not be worth considering, however for someone just starting out along their smoking journey this could provide good value for money. In addition to the Callow purchase price you should also budget for a twin probe digital thermometer – but this advice would be the same if you were to invest in a more expensive smoker too.

Callow Smoker/BBQ

–A review by Wade Nash – Woodchurch Smokery