I'm not an expert when it comes to smoking, but there's no better time to learn than the first few weeks of summer. To aid in the process, I picked up the Double-V Smoker Box by Steven Raichlen ($25 at surlatable.com), a bag of mesquite chips, and some chicken and apple sausages. I know what you're thinking: If you know how to grill, you know how to smoke things, and none of it is particularly difficult. Well, guess what—you're all right. But is the smoking kit useful at all? I'd say so, but with just a small dash of hesitation.
The kit comes in three pieces: two stainless-steel chambers and a container that holds them both. Fill the container with water, or get crazy with some wine or beer, and place the chambers into the base to soak the chips inside. Hinges on the opposite side of the base are raised higher, which means that when your chips are nicely soaked, you can flip around the chambers to strain in the same container. Not necessary, perhaps, but definitely useful. Fewer tools to wash and steps to think about make me a much happier griller.
Depending on whether you're using a small grill like the one I keep in my hardly-existent New York City backyard or a full-sized man-dream-machine, you might want to use one box of chips instead of two. Don't want to commit to smoking everything you're grilling? No worries—the containers are easy to insert and remove from the grill. And cleanup is quick and easy, too.
Whether you're new to smoking like me, or just looking to cut out some steps in the process, the Smoker Box is a useful purchase. A good gift option, it gives confidence to grillers who might want to go outside their comfort zone. But if confidence is in good supply in your kitchen, skip it—spend the money to splurge on what's going over the wood chips instead!