Purchasing a Smoker? What should I look for?

artemis_ma

Beyond brands, although I'm willing to learn about those, too. I figure I'd be smoking for a few people, up to say 12 or 15 of us. I'm interested in exploring pork BBQ from the Carolinas, plus brisket burnt ends. I'd likely explore further down the road.


I don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but I'll take a few notches off that leg... if the rationale for that is right...


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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

do you know if you want an electric or manual?

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dcarch7 d c f l a s h 7 @ y a h o o . c o m

Wood? charcoal? gas? pellets?

Long smoke? Quick smoke?


dcarch

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beesneeds

I use a couple things for smoking.

Quick and easy is cedar planks on the grill. But for longer term stuff, I use a vertical barrel type that takes wood chips (manual) and also I have a Trager pellet smoker (electric).

My brother prefers the large horizontal barrel with smoking chamber manual type that takes chips.

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LoneJack Zn 6a, KC

Price range is all over the charts. You can get a cheap electric smoker for under $100 or spend many thousands. I have an Brinkman electric that works well enough for a few slabs of ribs or a brisket. I recently bought a Oklahoma Joes Bronco charcoal drum smoker that I have really liked and it is very versatile.

Alas, like many things, they are both out of stock in most places I looked.


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Sherry

Well, my favorite smoker, The Brinkman Gourmet Charcoal, went bankrupt. It was charcoal, held a turkey and a ham on two levels. I also cooked two 8 to 10 pound Boston Butts. It wasn't expensive, but worked well. There is one that is a copycat, but it does not get good reviews. Mine finally rusted totally out. I will most likely get a Weber barrel charcoal smoker next year, but wow, they are four times what the Brinkman cost.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/brinkmann-gourmet-charcoal-smoker-discontinued-336163

https://www.weber.com/US/en/grills/charcoal-grills/smokey-mountain-cooker-series/

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

Budget first. And how much a family member is willing to tend and enjoy the process. As dcarch above...access to wood. Or small back yard pellet, charcoal.

Our first was a barrel inexpensive from a yard sale. 35yrs ago. Not a bad first go at it. A pain down on hands and knees but we had good success being younger. A good learning gateway without much expense. It will hold low-and-slow smoke five whole chickens or one big pork butt and two whole chickens. We did raise it up on cinderblocks at one point. Flat paver base platform. Not at all well insulated. Cool weather and wind are enemies for good steady temps.

Five years later I upgraded to a wood fired side box. 50 bucks at a Walmart type store with a Fall season sale, 😂. Red-neck hillbilly smoker I still use. Old school. I've had big love for that baby for 30 yrs.

Fast forward to a year ago about this time. Started researching a replacement or 'what is out there now' scenario. Ugh. Bells and whistles, Probes and cell phone apps. Ordering bags of pellets or bags of charcoal. (we have land with acres of forest and old growth plum and apple trees.)

At this time, 2020, it is you-get-what-you-pay-for. I do trust Ricky's (fawnridge) advice. Just had to put my decision on hold right now. We went below 500, then above close to 1,000 at one point. Could not pull the trigger.

My vintage rust bucket smoker can smoke a big pork butt, a couple whole chickens or 2 dozen boneless/skinless chicken thighs, a dozen ears of corn, a couple trays of tomatillos/smoked roasted garlic, tomatoes for smoked salsas. A dozen potato packets. Salmon cedar planked/shrimp or side of salmon....for a crowd. All in an afternoon outdoors. One trick pony appliances make me nervous.

My hillbilly rust-bucket baby....killer pizza, roasted garden veg...cedar planked salmon....

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Jim Mat

Budget and convenience are important factors.

Less expensive smokers require more attention than expensive smokers.

When I lived in Silicon Valley, two neighbors often prepared long smoked items. Their neighbors complained. One neighbor used to babysit a smokers daughters...that ended. Another smoker neighbor mentioned their neighbors complained.

Days would be hot, cools down at night...natural air conditioning, not when one lives downwind from a 12 hour smoke.

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Sherry

Lone Jack, Unless you can find a used one, you will not find any Brinkman's. The company went bankrupt in 2015.

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LoneJack Zn 6a, KC

Sherry - I wondered about Brinkman since I hadn't seen them in stores for a few years. Mine is about 12 years old and still holding up pretty well. I replaced the lava rocks and the element a few years ago.

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dcarch7 d c f l a s h 7 @ y a h o o . c o m

If you have a BBQ, or an electric roaster oven, an easy, inexpensive ($15) way to get pretty good end result: Get a smoker tube and some pellets.

I recommended to Ann_T. She was amazed how good it worked with her electric roaster oven.


dcarch

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fawnridge (Ricky)

I have been smoking meat for decades and have gone through dozens of smokers in that time. During the 11 years I cooked competitively on the barbecue circuit, I used a Backwoods Party. It lasted through 8-1/2 years of constant abuse. My next big cooker was a Spicewine. Nice, but too heavy. Currently, I'm using a Backwoods Chubby. It's small, but has enough capacity to cook two Boston Butts and three racks of ribs at the same time. I cook a whole, packer-cut brisket in it, but cut it into the flat and point.

If you buy a cheap smoker, it won't last. If you buy a barrel type smoker with an offset firebox, you'll be fighting temperature all through your cook. I can't say enough good things about the Backwoods product.


Backwoods Smokers

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nancyofnc

I bought a small Char Broil electric digital smoker 5 yrs ago or so. It's about the size of a microwave. It is just the two of us and don't do red meat so it's used for chicken, turkey, Cornish hens, salmon, cod, trout. I use about 2 or 3 pans of chips = Alder for fish, apple or pecan for poultry. That's about a cup each pan so not much. Mine has a remote temperature probe so you will need to have some kind of thermometer to be sure the correct temp is achieved. I do know some people who bake their red meat first to proper internal temp then put it in the smoker for flavoring.

It is important to marinate the fish in the refrigerator overnight then leave it in the air to create a pelicle (stiff shiny glaze). The marinating salt should NOT be table salt or rock salt - it has to be Kosher or Pickling/Canning coarse salt. I don't notice a difference when I use herbs except garlic, but I do put in some sugar with everything to be smoked.

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

And now I want a Backwoods Smoker!

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artemis_ma

I'm interested in a charoal/wood smoker. Figure some long and some quick smoking.

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artemis_ma

Thanks, all. I'll check out some of these suggestions. While I won't go thousands of dollars, I do want quality, and I don't want to be hovering over the temperature constantly. That Backwoods Smoker sounds worth a look... will check the link shortly.

I'm not worried about neighbors being bothered by the smell... they're far enough away!

Nancy, thanks for some good seafood tips. What's the rationale for the salt specificity? Iodine?

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dcarch7 d c f l a s h 7 @ y a h o o . c o m

Don't forget about smoked cheese.


dcarch

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nancyofnc

artemis_ma - You don't want impurities in your salt brine, and so rock salt is not for human consumption. Table salt has iodine which will discolor the fish or react to the agent they put in to ensure free flowing of the calcium chloride. Canning or Pickling salt and Kosher salt do not have impurities and dissolve better in water. You might use sea salt or Himalayan salt but those are quite expensive relative to how cheap Kosher or Canning salt are and no one really knows how they react to the fish.

Comment on the temperature - the digital electric Char Broil has a thermometer to put in the meat and a thermostat that keeps the temperature constant, plus a timer. I think I paid about $350 for it and never have had a problem with it.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

I'm so glad this thread came up. I've had my short list for a while. The Backwoods Chubby may have moved to the top of the list. Just re-visited AmazingRibs.com. They have extensive reviews. I like that the Chubby is light weight, 130 lbs. The side firebox modeI like is twice the price but a beast. I do like that the beast is a multi-cooker. The firebox can be a regular grill, On top of the firebox will heat a pot of sauce or soup, chili, etc. I can put a cast iron griddle inside, can cook multiple things. Pizza etc. Wood fired.

Not in a hurry. I'll fence sit a while longer. I'm a hands on cook. No countertop appliances. No toaster/toaster oven/insta-pot/air fryer, etc. When outside and smoking I'm outside all day gardening. Don't mind babysitting a fire.

Pellet smokers are pretty passive. And have electronics of some sort. Trager voids their warranty if you use another brand of pellets. Costs about 2 dollars an hour to run. I have friends that love theirs but they are not surrounded by forest and free wood.

We have one more big Fall smoking session. Probably next weekend. Using my old trusty vintage beast.

The BackwoodsChubby and Co. has gone through some changes over the years. I watched a dealer video from 2014. They started at 1,500 back then. Made in Mississippi. Now made overseas and the racks are cheap compared to the older ones. Though the price now is cut in half if the info is correct. If this is my final winner, I'll put it on a stainless restaurant counter on locking casters. In and out of the garage/barn. I could use it right through the holidays. I've figured out how to use it for many other cooking uses. Most, if not all, of the competition users have them at counter height.


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Sherry

Well, for me the Backwoods Chubby is still way too heavy, large, and expensive. Of course the one I liked weighed less than 30 pounds and cost less than $75 AND was top rated in 2008. It cooked 50 pounds of meat, which was WAY more than enough for me. The company went bankrupt in 2015 and I didn't catch that until none were left.

https://www.amazon.com/brinkmann-852-7080-7-gourmet-charcoal-smoker/dp/b000hvce24

I will probably buy one one of the Weber Smokers, they come in three sizes, simply because the Weber Performer charcoal grill I have works great. It is NOT as good as the aluminum grill I had before it, but that also is not made anymore, because THEY went bankrupt. The Performer's lid is too low for the beer can chicken and I like the rectangle shape better than round. I have had it for 10 years and it is still going strong. Since Weber is so popular now, it is easy to buy parts.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

This is not apples and oranges. It is electric coil stove vs BlueStar, dual compressor fridge vs the cheapest builder grade. (I happen to have the worst fridge on the planet at the beach home). And the Brinkman bullet smoker is in the basement at that home. 20 years ago I may have given it 5 stars. (-ish). Calm day at 70+ temps it is ok for five chickens. Coastal winds and below 70, disaster. Forget a pork shoulder. It is a nightmare in certain climates. Impossible to keep steady temperatures.

JuliaChild's first cooking shows used a coil stove, 😂. I cooked for many reunions on my mothers coil. Can be done but what a nightmare at times. Big kitchen dance. Never leave the pot or kitchen even to pee. Her fridge would freeze veg so I kept a cooler in the shed or the truck bed.

I made a really bad appliance purchase a few years ago. I am very cautious and research.

Oh, the 2014 video I mentioned...HERE





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Sherry

Sleeevendog, you had a different Brinkmann than mine. There is NO WAY you could of put five chickens on my barrel smoker. NO WAY. It held TWO, One on the top grid and one on the second.

You may not of liked yours, but I adored MINE. It cooked fine. It was great. Don't knock what you DO NOT KNOW!

It was not a side to side, it was a true barrel! Fire in the bottom, water, then grill, then grill at the top, then the lid. IT WAS THE BEST EVER! No wasted charcoal, not overpriced,(I wish they had charged more and kept making them)

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Sherry

I also NEVER had a problem on the original coil stoves. The stove cooked great and the pans were great. I cooked on one all my life until this summer. The oven died and you could not buy parts. If I could have found an ORGINAL coil stove in my price range, I would of bought it. The refurbished stoves cost three or four times a new stove, because they are so much better. I would not and did not buy the new nanny coil stoves.

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fawnridge (Ricky)

Sherry - The bullet smoker you're describing was a great cooker if you knew how to maintain the airflow and temperature. I had five or six of them over the years. The Weber Smoky Mountain was the best of the lot. Low price, easy to use, weighed around 30 pounds. You could fit four chickens, but they would be small ones. One oven-stuffer roaster per rack was the best you could do.



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Sherry

I would PREFER the Brinkmann over the Weber if I had a choice.

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dallasannie

The first thing you look for is a place to use it so as not to smother your neighbor or your neighborhood.

We have a really big problem in our neighborhood with our immediate neighbor. He makes our outdoor space unusable with his. We have invested in building this space right outside of our door and he renders it unusable.

I understand that this is not unusual.

There are other dimensions to this situation that I will refrain from detailing.


Just make sure that you have a place for it that the smell will not permeate your neighbor's home. Smoke is of small molecules and it finds it's way into any space that is not air tight. It permeates and dominates and is absorbed by everything that it has contact with in your house, or your neighbors house.. There is a reason why there are businesses that are experts in dealing with smoke after a fire. It is hard to eliminate.


z




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dcarch7 d c f l a s h 7 @ y a h o o . c o m

I don't understand why no one makes a smoker that has precise temperature control that can also refrigerate to allow for cold smokes on a hot summer day, very long smoking time so you don't have to stay up all night to tend fire for a "low & slow" smoke, and a smoker that can smoke indoors, so you can smoke during a winter snow storm.

We have all the technologies to do all the above.

dcarch

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I hope I'm not hijacking, but can anyone recommend a cheap smoker that will do 6 whole boston butts at one time? I like to do that once or twice a year and used my Weber for years. However, I have a new Weber now and don't want to smoke in it.


My initial 17 hour smoke in my old Weber ruined the interior looks permanently but I kept smoking in it for 12 years.

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fawnridge (Ricky)

The inexpensive offset that both HD and Loews sell will work perfectly for Boston butts and you can get at least 10 of them in at once. The only caveat is that you'll have to shift the meat around to account for the colder end of the cooking chamber. I did this in competition for years, cooking butts and briskets at the same time.



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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

Sherry, why are screaming. So silly and unnecessary. We used ours for a few years. And smoked many chickens on it. As I said above, we liked it at the time. We get organic pasture raised chickens. They are small. It would hold six, three on each rack but we seemed to go for two on the bottom for better airflow. We had trouble maintaining temps on windy coastal days. If you can't maintain temps it is hard to get a good outcome. Takes double the time, so it was hard to plan. DH would rather be out on the water fishing than tending the fire all day.

I did not see the above deleted comment.

I agree about considering your neighbors. We don't have that problem so I did not think of it in making my list of choices.

Dcarch, the BigChief, (and LittleChief), will hold a good temp around 165 I think. Designed for smoked salmon and jerky. Will also cold smoke. Not a 'cooker' for meats like chicken and beef but can be finished in the home oven or smoked after cooking. An electric pull out pan is where you add wood chips. They make an insulated blanket for it. Outside only.

DavidChang uses one at Momofuku but their vent is the size of a car.


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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Ricky, thank you! That's exactly what I was hoping for!

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bragu_DSM 5

Very much like my Orion smoker. It is a barrel, three racks inside, and you put your wood flavor chips on the inside bottom around the drip pan. You place your charcoal on the outside in a ring, also in the 'hat' on top. They are readily available. Have had mine for three years. I can do three butts/shoulders or a whole turkey and much more. Lots of recipes on the Orion recipes website.

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fawnridge (Ricky)

I used an Orion for several months and sold it. Couldn't get any smoke flavor because the smoke has no contact with the meat. It was a great turkey cooker, however. One step up from the Orion is the La Caja China. Same concept, but much bigger and primarily used for whole hogs or suckling pigs.


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bragu_DSM 5

that looks nice Ricky!

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dcarch7 d c f l a s h 7 @ y a h o o . c o m

"----Dcarch, the BigChief, (and LittleChief), will hold a good temp around 165 I think. Designed for smoked salmon and jerky. Will also cold smoke.---"

My cold smoke salmon temperature is no higher than 85F for 12 hours, and cheese at 90F, doesn't matter if it's 100F or -20F outside because my smoker is indoors with PID temperature control within one degree accuracy.


dcarch

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

I was talking about hot smoked salmon. I leave cold smoked fish up to the experts. I do cold smoke my homemade mozzarella and other purchased cheeses.

Back to the original issue looking for a stick smoker, for 12-15 people....I do have a research file that is erratic and gets confusing....and why I put my purchase on hold last Spring. We dislike junk, but some under 500 will do ok for a while. (not really), you get what you pay for. Some are in the incredible bang-for-the buck category. Most of the cheap big box store varieties come in a big heavy box that needs assembly. Not welded, thin steel, not using high heat paint that peels pretty much immediately. 2-5 years before failure. Why mine is still working? old stock and before the China game. (rust is holding it together no doubt.) 😂

This is what I look for. Just watch the first three minutes. Costco a couple years ago. Best offset grill for the money.


Brazos is 1/4inch steel, made in Mexico. Tejas and Lonestar are USA made, (changes all the time so don't hold me to that)

Big box stores have cheaper side fire box smokers. Comes in a big heavy box that needs to be assembled. China crap but for a gateway to this type of grill'/smoke it is fine-ish. Depends on your personal political stance on recycled disposables.

At 800-to a thousand, ?, so many great options. Welded seams, Massive thick grates...


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artemis_ma

Lots of ideas here to look into. BTW, regards neighbors:

This is the view from the front yard. The smoker will be in the back. The only thing closer is a Nature Conservancy property. I'm safe here. The neighbors are safe, there.


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