Ready to celebrate the country’s independence? These are some of the best spots in the country to watch fireworks.
When it comes to cooking outdoors, no technique is more revered or more demanding than smoking your favorite meats, veggies and cheeses. If you’re willing to commit the time and energy, the benefits are plentiful. Longer cooking times and smoke from natural woods leads to astounding aromas, tender textures and mouthwatering flavors that will have everyone asking for seconds. Just like with grilling, having the right equipment can help make preparing delicious foods much easier. Read on to learn about the latest models and features when buying a smoker.
Types of Smokers
Charcoal smokers are the tried-and-true, classic smokers. Some experienced grillmasters may even tell you that charcoal smokers are the only real smokers out there. While the equipment you use is largely a matter of preference, charcoal smokers do offer a number of advantages over other types of smokers.
- Authentic flavors – If you’re an outdoor cooking purist, charcoal smokers can provide the ideal combination of smokiness and classic charcoal flavors.
- Customization – Since everything from establishing and maintaining the fire to regulating the temperature using the air vents is done manually, you have complete control over the smoking process.
Gas smokers are a convenient alternative to traditional charcoal models. Like gas grills, these smokers are easy to set up, run and adjust on the fly. If continuously adding charcoal and adjusting the temperature for hours doesn’t sound manageable, then this option is right for you.
- Ease of use –With no charcoals to look after, a gas smoker can be set up and left to cook without much additional hassle.
- Precision controls –If you find that your gas smoker is running above or below the proper temperature, you can simply adjust the knobs appropriately, instead of tinkering with air vents that can require more nuance and effort.
One major advantage of an electric smoker over charcoal or propane styles, is that even the time can be regulated automatically on many models. If you know that your recipe calls for a specific number of hours in the smoker, simply program the machine accordingly and check back when it’s done.
- Safety –Electric smokers use a heating element, as opposed to a burner or lit charcoals, which means that there’s no potentially dangerous open flame to worry about.
- Simple cleanup –Even smoking purists can appreciate how easy it is to clean an electric smoker. Instead of scraping spent charcoal from the interior, you’ll just need to empty the wood ashes and wipe down any spilled juices before closing up shop.
These high-tech smokers utilize preformed wood pellets to continuously heat and smoke your food for a true-to-style taste with less hassle. While they don’t deliver a hardcore charcoal flavor some enthusiasts crave, their ease of use make them a valued addition to any outdoor cooking collection.
- Precision heating –Pellet smokers are able to provide continuous heat by automatically loading wood pellets via the attached hopper. All you have to do is fill up the hopper, adjust the settings and the smoker will do the rest.
- Rich, natural flavors – Some outdoor cooking enthusiasts claim that the fuel used to cook on gas smokers can negatively affect the flavor of foods, while others don’t seem to notice. If you don’t like the taste of food from a natural gas or propane smoker but don’t like operating a charcoal model, this may be your best option.
Features of Smokers
The basics of smoking might seem straightforward, but mastering your technique requires careful attention to detail. Understanding the common features of different types of smokers can help you choose one that complements your skill level and ambition.
- Heating element –The heat source or fuel type can drastically affect the flavor of foods. While gas and pellet smokers directly burn wood chips, gas and charcoal smokers can provide more complex characteristics both in the appearance and taste of the finished product.
- Dampers –Dampers regulate the airflow throughout a smoker. For charcoal smokers, this is the primary way in which you’ll control the temperature inside.
- Firebox –Fireboxes are included on what’s known as offset options. Offset smokers generally feature a standard grill grate inside a cylindrical body. The firebox is attached to one side and is used to contain and help monitor your charcoals and wood as they burn.
- Smoke chamber –The smoke chamber is where your foods cook as the hot, smoky air circulates. This area generally dictates the overall shape of the smoker as well. Styles range from vertical “egg” and rectangular smokers to horizontal offset models and more.
- Thermometer – Maintaining a consistent temperature while smoking your favorite foods is absolutely essential, which makes the thermometer one of your most important pieces of equipment. While most models include a built-in thermometer, double-checking the status of your smoke chamber with an alternate thermometer is recommended.
- Water and drip pans – The water pan helps keep your foods moist and tender over the course of the smoking process, while the drip pan collects excess juices at the bottom of the smoke chamber. Having easy access to both will make maintenance and cleanup simpler.
- Hopper –Hoppers are an exclusive feature of pellet smokers. They both contain and distribute the preformed wood pellets.
Whether you’re purchasing new appliances, or moving your appliances from your old home to your new, there are a number of decisions you need to make before moving day. With a bit of planning, you can limit your stress during this time of transition.
SHOULD YOU MOVE YOUR APPLIANCES?
Deciding whether to take or leave your appliances when you move can be complicated and confusing. Here are some factors to consider as you decide what to do with your major appliances as you move.
Before deciding whether to move your appliances, discuss the terms of your purchase agreement with your realtor. You may be required to leave some or all of your appliances in your old home. Often, built-in appliances such as dishwashers and wall ovens are included with a home purchase.
Freestanding appliances like a washer and dryer or a refrigerator often are not included so you may consider moving to your new home, but it’s always best to double check. If you want to move your old appliances to your new home, be sure to include that in the discussion as you sell.
Leaving your appliances
There are a number of reasons to replace your appliances instead of taking them with you. If you are just starting to think about selling your home, newer, name-brand appliances may increase its value. Before deciding to replace your current appliances with lesser brands or used versions in order to move them with you, think about how that could impact your home’s selling price. Older or off-brand appliances may negatively impact your home’s selling value. In the end, the money you’d spend replacing appliances may be less than what you would make selling your home.
You’ll also want to make sure your appliances will fit your vision for a new kitchen or laundry room. Your new kitchen will probably have a different shape and flow and may require different appliances with different aesthetics. Plus, your new home may already be outfitted with appliances that fit its design better, in which case, you should try to get them included in your new home’s purchase agreement.
In addition, consider the running cost and environmental impact of your current appliances. If they’re older, they may use more water and energy than newer models. You may want to replace them or use the ones included in your new home in order to save on utility bills and lessen your home’s impact on the environment.
Moving your appliances
There are some advantages to taking your appliances with you when you move. High-end or expensive appliances may be difficult to replicate in your new space. Taking the appliances with you can ensure you keep the features you’re used to for your everyday life.
Taking appliances such as the washer and dryer can help you make your new space functional more quickly. Your laundry room can be up and running without any shopping or waiting for a delivery of new appliances.
If you are living in a rental home and purchased your own appliances, they probably belong to you. Unless you have another agreement, you are welcome to take those appliances with you to your new space.
Replacing appliances before moving
Make sure that the appliances you’re leaving in your old home are functional. Potential buyers may be turning them on to test them, and you want to be sure everything works. Broken appliances discovered after closing can make the home selling process more complicated and stressful for everyone. Make sure that you test your new home’s appliances to make sure they work.
MOVING YOUR APPLIANCES
If you’ve decided to move your appliances, there are a number of steps you must take so they arrive at your new home in top condition and ready for installation. It’s important to make preparations as you pack to avoid weeks without a kitchen or laundry.
Measuring spaces in your new home
Don’t forget to measure the spaces in your new home to ensure your appliances will fit. Geek Squad® also offers a pre-measurement service that can do your measurements for you. A nominal charge for this service is applied to your major appliance purchase from Best Buy. Stop at a Best Buy store to schedule this service.
Preparing appliances for a move
Most moving companies will not disconnect or prepare your appliances to move them, so you may choose to hire a licensed professional or do it yourself. If you decide to move them yourself, here are some tips to help move your appliances safely:
- Turn off water, gas and electricity ahead of time for safety reasons
- For each appliance be sure to unplug, clean and secure any detachable or moving parts
- Tape plugs to each machine so they don’t get pulled or tripped on
- Unplug appliances that use water, such as a dishwasher, washing machine or refrigerator, at least 24 hours ahead of time, drain them, and clean thoroughly
- Defrost the freezer on your refrigerator, which may take longer than 24 hours, then clean and dry it afterward
- For a dryer or range that is connected to natural gas, please check with a professional about how to safely disconnect it from the wall
Before you move your appliances out of the home, protect your floors. You can use cardboard, moving mats/blankets, or plywood to protect tile or hardwood from damage. Remove any cabinetry or moldings from the area as well as any boxes that might clutter your space.
Pack any accessories, hoses or vents along with the manuals and warranties for the appliances in a clearly marked box. In order to install your appliances as soon as possible, this box should be readily accessible during your move.
Appliance installation can be tricky, and it may be best to hire a licensed professional to help with your install. If you hired pros to disconnect and prepare your appliances, ask if they have an installation option. They may even transport your appliances for you.
If you’re planning on installing appliances yourself, here are some tips to make it as easy as possible.
- Get a friend or family member to help you, so you don’t hurt yourself
- Replace any vents, hoses or attachments that have significant wear or that aren’t compatible with the connections in your new home
- Turn off water, gas and electricity for your safety
- Protect your floors
- Carefully follow all instructions in the manuals that came with your appliances. If you’ve misplaced the manuals, visit the manufacturer’s website for instructions
PURCHASING NEW APPLIANCES
Imagine your kitchen as you’d like it to function. Be inspired by your new space. Make a list of how you’d like to use your kitchen or laundry room and use it to guide your decisions.
Having the measurements of your spaces before you begin shopping will help narrow your options. Geek Squad also offers a pre-measurement service that can do your measurements for you. A nominal charge for this service is applied to your major appliance purchase from Best Buy. Stop at a Best Buy store to schedule this service.
Set an overall budget for your appliances. If you want a more expensive range or refrigerator, you may have to sacrifice some features on your dishwasher. If your laundry room is important to you, you may want to choose kitchen appliances that are a little less expensive. Knowing how much you can spend will help you set your priorities as you imagine your new home.
Before buying, be sure to research which features are important to you, including ENERGY STAR certified appliances. These appliances can save you money on your utility bills, reduce your energy use, and help protect the environment.
Appliances last a long time, so when choosing the size, think of where your family is headed rather than where they are right now. If you’ll have grandkids or more children, you may want a larger refrigerator or extra-large capacity washer and dryer. If you think you’ll be hosting holidays or large family gatherings in the future, a double oven or warming drawer will give you the ability to cook larger meals at different temperatures.
Style and design
Think about the layout of your home. If your kitchen is an open format that can be seen from your living or dining room, you may want to factor that in when choosing a color or finish so that it matches your home design aesthetic. If you have a lot of built-in cabinets, a counter-depth refrigerator may look best. A cooktop and wall oven may work better with a kitchen island, rather than a traditional range. Use your imagination, and have fun designing a functional new space.
De-clutter your kitchen with some simple steps:
- Go through your fridge, freezer and pantry and throw out any expired food items.
- Recycle any cookbooks or food magazines you haven’t used in the last year.
- Remove any kitchen utensils or gadgets you never use.
- Donate or recycle extra dishes or gadgets you don’t need, like that extra set of salt and pepper shakers you rarely use.
- Consolidate kitchen tools. If you have a citrus juicer and a lemon squeezer, do you really need both? Keep the tool you reach for most often and find a new home for the other.
Streamline your small appliances
Before packing your small appliances, pull them out of your cupboards and divide them into groups according to how often you use them.
If appliances you never use are taking up space in your cabinets, it’s time to find them a new home.
These are the appliances you use only once every couple months, on special occasions or during certain seasons. Your ice cream maker or waffle maker might fall into this category. Start with packing these appliances, and in your new home, store them on an upper shelf.
Appliances you use every day, like your toaster, coffee maker or Soda Stream, belong on your countertop or in a low, easy-access cabinet. Pack these items last.
Clean out the junk drawer
In the kitchen, junk drawers become a collection spot for take-out menus, spare change and all sorts of items. Dump everything out of the drawer and sort the items into piles. Put pens, paper clips and other usable items back where they belong. Find homes for anything else you still need. If you don’t remember what something is for, recycle it or throw it away.
Make sure everything has a home
Pay attention to what’s cluttering your kitchen counter. Is it landing there because it doesn’t have a designated spot? Find a storage area for each piece of clutter, so it always has a place to go when it’s not being used.
- Have a place in your pantry for shopping bags so they don’t clutter your kitchen counter.
- Leave space in a closet for backpacks, purses, laptop bags and briefcases so they don’t get dropped at the door or on your counter.
Maximize closet space
Go through your clothes and donate anything you haven’t worn in the last year. Put items that need repair or dry cleaning in a bag to drop off at your tailor or dry cleaner the next time you are out. Start packing any clothes that are not in season.
Remove bedroom furniture you don’t use
If you have a couch or chair in your bedroom, do you actually sit in it, or has it become a dumping station for clothes? If it’s just making it easy to leave your clothes in a pile instead of putting them away, recycle or donate it. End tables or nightstands you don’t really use are another piece of furniture that probably need a new home.
Limit reading material
Restricting yourself to one piece of reading material on your nightstand will curb any book and magazine clutter in your bedroom. Keep the rest on shelves in your bedroom or in a different room altogether. E-readers are another good option, especially if you don’t want to limit your reading selection at bedtime.
Set up zones in kids’ bedrooms
De-clutter a child’s room by setting up zones or areas for reading, play, sleep and storage. This helps kids learn to put things back where they belong, and can help you keep belongings to a minimum.
- Move your files to the cloud – Check out cloud storage services like OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud Drive and Box. Choose the one that’s best for you by comparing what devices they support, storage limits, file size limits, monthly prices, and how they let you access and upload your data. Many services offer a limited amount of storage space for free.
- Use an external hard drive with personal cloud storage – Some external hard drives provide you with your own personal cloud, which lets you save all your files on the hard drive and then access them from anywhere using an Internet-connected device.
- Set up online banking – Most banks let you access your statements online and offer free online bill pay services.
- Scan receipts on the go – Portable scanners, like NeatReceipt, let you scan receipts, business cards and other documents on the go, so you can get rid of the paper without losing the information you need.
Organize your documents
Divide your documents into four categories to help with organization:
- Active files – Bank statements, receipts, bills, health records, insurance policies and other paperwork you refer to on a regular basis.
- Inactive files – Tax returns, loan documents and other records you don’t refer to often, but still need to keep, are inactive.
- Safe deposit box – Any permanent documentation such as your social security card, birth certificate, marriage license and car title should be kept in a fireproof safe.
- Recycle – Protect yourself from identity theft by shredding any unnecessary paperwork that contains personal or financial information.
For information about how long to keep financial documents and other paperwork, check websites like USA.gov and IRS.gov.
Make sure everything has a home
Take note of what’s cluttering your desk, and in your new place, make sure those items have a place to live. For example:
- Designate a drawer for your stapler, tape dispenser and other office items.
- Set a standing file holder on your desk for projects that are in progress, and create a separate file for each project. When you’re ready to work on a project, pull its corresponding file out of the holder, and then when you’re done, put it back. This keeps paper from cluttering your desk while making your top priorities easy to see.
Create a charging station
Use the station as a place to charge and store mobile devices when they’re not being used, and then you’ll always know where your devices are.
Manage wires and cords
Before you start packing your office electronics, consider how you will manage cords in your new place. Hiding unruly wires can make a room look less cluttered.
- Go wireless– If you don’t already have one, consider upgrading to a wireless home network as part of your move. Then any of your devices that are Wi-Fi–ready or have built-in Wi-Fi can connect to the Internet without a cord. Wi-Fi–ready devices will also need a wireless adapter. For help setting up your wireless home network, contact our Geek Squad® professionals to set up an appointment.
- Use powerline adapters– Powerline adapters move your Internet connection from one room to another through your electrical wiring. This is a good way to reduce cord clutter if you’re moving to a large house with areas that will be hard to reach wirelessly, as you won’t have to snake cords through multiple rooms. Install several powerline adapters to share the signal with a variety of smart devices.
- Bundle and hide cords
- Hide multiple cords with specially designed cord cover kits or cable management sleeves
- Bundle cords together with Velcro or color-coded straps
- Drill a small hole in the top of a desk to thread cords through
- Use a wall plate to pass cords through a wall
Quick tip – Take pictures of the front and back of your computer and other components before you pack them, so when you unpack you’ll remember where cords go.
The TV is often one of the last items people pack because it’s a source of entertainment amid the tedious packing and stress of moving. Because of this, packing the TV becomes a rush job. Instead, if you plan just a little, you can avoid common mistakes and prevent damage to your TV.
Start by taking a picture of the back of your TV and any home theater components. This will help you identify which cables go where when you’re setting it up in the new location. Print this photo and pack it with the TV, so it’s handy when you need it. You can also store a backup on your phone or tablet. Just don’t rely on that solely, in case your device gets misplaced during the move.
Label the various cables with colored electrical tape or painter’s tape, which can be removed easily. You can put different colored pieces of tape above each input used on the TV. Then wrap a piece of matching tape on the cable that should be connected there. Or, you can write “power,” “to Blu-ray player” or other helpful labels on the tape and secure it to the cables.
While it might seem helpful to pack the cables in the box with the TV, they could shift around and cause damage. It’s best to use a separate box for cables, remotes and the stand that can be unscrewed from the TV. Label this box of accessories with the room where the TV will be located, so it’s easy to find when you’re ready to set up the TV.
If your TV is mounted, refer to your manual and remove it from the mount. Recruit someone to help, especially if it’s a large screen.
Clean your TV with a soft, dry cloth before packing it. Shifting dust particles can scratch the screen or clog the inner electronics. Refer to your TV’s manual for more detailed cleaning instructions.
Contact your cable or satellite provider a few weeks before your move to have service cancelled at the current location and initiated at your new home. Then you can access your favorite programming when you’re ready for a break from unpacking. If you’re moving to a location not serviced by your existing provider, you need to select a new company and purchase any necessary equipment. If you own a smart TV, you also need Internet service to access the wide variety of additional content.
Maybe moving to a new home means it’s time to upgrade to a new TV. Recycle your old TV before you move, and purchase a new one just for your new location, saving you the trouble of moving it.
Flat-panel TVs continue to become lighter and thinner. But don’t let that fool you. They contain a full face of glass. Combine that with the thin design, and you have an extremely fragile device. Plus, if the TV is 50″ or larger, the sheer size can make it difficult for one person to maneuver. So it’s especially important to carefully pack your TV, whether large or small, using the following guidelines. These easy, but often overlooked, steps can help ensure the TV is operational and free of scratches and cracks at the end of your move.
- Pack your TV in an appropriate box– If you have the TV’s original box with protective covering and foam, you can reuse all of that. If not, you can purchase a heavy-duty box designed for flat-panel TVs from a moving company, hardware store or online moving supply retailer. They are sold based on the size of your TV screen, measured diagonally. The box shouldn’t be too much bigger than the TV itself, leaving enough room for packing material, but not so much room that the TV can rock back and forth once it’s packed inside. Use a double-wall corrugated box since anything else could be punctured easily or damaged in transport. Use packing tape to seal the base of the box, then line the bottom with Styrofoam peanuts or bubble to cushion the TV.
- Cover the TV– If you have the original dust cover that came with your TV, slide it over your TV. Or wrap the TV with a soft blanket without buttons or zippers that may scratch the screen, providing maximum coverage without adding so much bulk that the TV won’t fit into your box. Secure the blanket with rope, moving-grade shrink wrap or packing tape, making sure it doesn’t touch the TV directly. Or wrap the TV with clean bubble wrap and seal the ends with tape.
- Keep the TV upright– Once the TV is wrapped, slide it into the box vertically. If you have a large-screen TV, have someone help you. Always keep a flat-panel TV in the upright position during moving or storage to avoid pressure on the lightweight glass, which could cause permanent damage. Plasma TVs suffer the most damage when laid flat since they contain two layers of glass that can be very heavy and fragile, a dangerous combination.
- Label and secure the box– Add more packing material along the sides and on top of the TV so it’s firmly padded, and unable to tip or shift. Seal the box with plenty of packing tape, and use a permanent marker to write “fragile” in multiple places on the box. Finally, indicate “this end up” so it is carried and stored properly.
Packing a Small or Very Large TV
When moving a small TV (about 27″ or less) for a kitchen or bedroom, you could skip the box — although a box is still your best protection, especially for keeping it upright. If it’s raining the day you move, wrap the TV in an extra blanket that can be removed once it’s in the vehicle to ensure the TV won’t retain moisture.
If you have an especially large TV or are concerned about properly packing the TV yourself, you can pay your moving company to do it or hire a professional packing service. If you use a moving company to transport your items, purchasing moving insurance could also give you peace of mind if your TV is very expensive.
TRANSPORTING AND STORING
If you are packing your own moving truck, place the TV upright between wide, sturdy, flat items, like mattresses or the backs of sofas, bookshelves or dressers (avoiding drawer pulls). If something shifts during transport, you don’t want it to dent or pierce the TV box. Do not set the TV on top of anything where it is at risk of falling. Also, do not set anything heavy on top of the TV box. If you have professional movers, let them know which box(es) contain a TV so they can protect it properly in the truck.
Follow these directions if you need to store your TV for a while before moving. Store it upright between flat, sturdy items in a climate-controlled location to prevent damage. Humidity can create moisture on the sensitive electronic components while extreme cold can cause some parts to warp or crack.
Are you within the return period?
This one’s a no-brainer. If you’re still within the return period (which is often extended beyond normal guidelines during the holiday season), keep your box.
Some retailers, such as Best Buy in the US, do accept returns sans boxes (which eventually appear as “Open Box” items on the sales floor), but you can ensure the smoothest and easiest return process by including the box the product came with.
Can you resell the product when you upgrade?
I don’t know about you, but there’s something about an included box that makes a used product that much more enticing.
Selling a used item with the original box can help instill a little confidence in the buyer that you’re capable of taking care of your equipment. If you plan to sell your phone, computer or even camera through an online marketplace sometime in the future, consider keeping the original packaging. It will likely boost your cred and make your product more attractive than gadgets housed in lackluster bubble wrap.
Do you plan to move soon?
Some products — especially oddly shaped items — are much easier to move with their original box and styrofoam support. TVs, for example, can be a hassle to wrap and transport, as can monitors, larger printers, gaming consoles and small appliances. The styrofoam (and the included box) will help keep the product secure, easy to move and a breeze to unbox when you’re ready to settle it into its new home.
Are you a hoarder?
Do you have a pile of product boxes from years past? Do they sit there, collecting dust, bearing no purpose at all? If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, you may be hoarding. In some rare cases, you may decide to keep a product box for storing a device you’ll one day retire, but keep around (often seen with iPhones). But in most cases, product boxes have no use and should be broken down and recycled.
If you still have a box for a product you no longer use and you don’t plan on selling it, it may be time to get rid of both.