One of my dad' supervisiors had several "trash can" smokers that he used to use to cook for his BBQ's. This goes back to the 70's, long b4 Jeff's books or programs. Very simple contraption. Had kitty litter on the bottom to catch the grease with the old style hotplates that were a ceramic base with coiled wire in the grooves. On top of that was a cast iron pan w/o a handle sort of like a pie plate full of sand and wood chips. He had oversized bolts protruding into the can to support two grates which the meat was on. Fatty meat went on top to baste the leaner meat below. They made great Q and reflected his Kentucky background in the way he prepared it.
My main thought about the Orion is the speed. It takes low and slow to break down the collagen and render the fat at a slow level around 200-275 degrees. This sounds too hot and much too fast
Funny you say that that. I've also built a trash can smoker and helped several others build some. I love it. It's a great fun way to introduce someone to smoking without costing them a fortune.
As to the time thing with the Orion. I admit that it's very odd. I am a huge advocate of low-and-slow with a good understanding of the science and reasons why. Alton Brown has taught me well.
I don't understand why the food cooked in the Orion seems to have a complete connective tissue breakdown. Everything I've ever been taught says that the only way to do that is low and slow. Yet in the Orion it seems to work faster. I have pictures showing the meat falling off the bones. I have meat that is the very definition of "Fork Tender". Maybe it's the combination of heat, steam and just a little bit of pressure from being all closed up in the cooker. I honestly, genuinely don't know.
What I do know is that it IS juicy, tender and cooked down. Hell, I forgot and left a pan out in my garage after the last time I cooked up a mess of ribs. When I went back and pulled it out the next day it had a perfect little puck of rendered fat in the corner just like my stock does after refridgerating it all night after cooking a pot of meat and bones all day.
I gave up trying to figure it out and just kept eating 'em. :)
Like I said in my first post - this thing will NEVER replace a full size serious smoking rig. But for something to whip up a few racks of ribs, I can't possible imagine anything better. And I damn sure would rather use this than spend a full day working a smoker if it's only 2 or 3 slabs.
Oh - and here's my little Trash Can smoker smoking up a little 4 pound brisket. Heh: