Smoker recommendations

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by appalachian q, Aug 12, 2015.

  1. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    I've been using the MES 30 with AMNTS for supplemental smoke for about a year now and have had some great food off of it. I am now to the point of where I'd like a new smoker ( non-electric) to take my game to the next level and maybe play around in small local competitions that don't allow electric models. Requirements would be: 1. Not costing a ton. 2. Easy to tend to and turns out amazing grub. 3. Better than an MES. 4. Fairly portable for taking camping or to family gatherings ( can haul in the back of my truck) but would like it to be easy to manipulate.
    I will still be keeping the MES for things like cheese, nuts, ABT's and maybe even pork shoulders for pulling and in case I want to cook a ton of stuff in two smokers. Like I said I've been pleased with the results and ease of use with the MES, the only items I'm not completely pleased with is the turn out of ribs and sometimes chicken; which is still good but not great. What are your alls opinions for awesome smokers that meet above requirements in the 250 to 550 buck range?
  2. vwaldoguy

    vwaldoguy Smoke Blower

    Weber Smoky Mountain.  I don't have one, but that will be my next smoker.  I'm in the same boat, use the MES 30/AMNPS to get my feet wet, and ready to upgrade at some point.  I would consider something like a Kamado Joe, but those are out of my price range.
  3. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I'll second the WSM and I do have one.  I love mine and treat it like a smoky oven.  It is a competition level smoker right out of the box.

    Portable?  I've got the 22.5".  Yes, you could easily break it down to fit in the back of the truck, just make something to support the barrel so it wouldn't get knocked out of round when it is in thirds.  The 14.5" WSM is definitely portable, whether you buy a Weber or make one.  Next year when I get some fun money to blow I will most likely either get the 14.5" or make one for the reasons you mentioned: camping (not so much) and family gatherings (definitely). 
  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I am probably the third of many who will reply but I would also recommend the WSM. You will see them in use by almost all of the teams at BBQ competitions over here.
  5. mr roos

    mr roos Newbie

  6. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    There are many out there as you know. The WSM is a great path to go. I built my own version of it with my Jumbo Mini, it has a little more control, but I would only go that way if you desire to be a little more hands on in the build. Not sure what your budget is, but a UDS could also be an option. You can buy them done or even buy the kits to make your own. If you are more into the thought of an offset, there are a ton out there from the Char Grillers to ones like Lang. I have done many cooks and even won some minor comps with the Char Griller. With 2 people you can load them in the back of your truck, done it many times myself. If you take care of it and cover it or store in a shed/garage it will last years. Lowes has one online and in a few store it is called Oklahoma Joe, I think it is made by Char Griller. With only a couple minor mods it looks to be a good one, but is is around $400 and it does have some weight, so loading in a truck might be a bit more of a challenge. If you go the WSM route, they are not that hard to move around, but they to have a bit of a price tag with them.

    It is really hard on what direction to send you without knowing some of the other factors like budget, your build hands on desire and style you are liking......
  7. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the replies. I love Weber products for sure. Have a Weber gas grill that is rock solid, so I've been looking at and researching the WSM too. The 14.5" would be too small for me and portability would just be nice; I can deal with something less portable for sure. I have also been intrigued by the Pit Batrel Cookers, Oklahoma Joe's, and Kamado style, and am not above building something like and ugly drum. Any input on pros and cons of these mentioned vs the WSM's?
  8. gr8day

    gr8day Smoke Blower

    Started out on a MES myself, then I started doing Smokes on a Weber Performer and really liked the BBQ better than what I was producing in the MES, even though at first temperature control was a challenge on the Kettle, after I learned how to regulate my temps it was great.

    I moved up to the WSM for smoking , it is so easy to dial in temps before purchasing I had thought about getting a DigiQ or PartyQ for set it and forget it but found there wan't a need for it, I can do overnight Brisket's and Butt's without tending to the WSM, I just set my Maverick 732 temp alarm incase there is a large temperature swing and sleep like a baby.  

    Also if you think you'd like to try hanging meat like in a PBC you can get the Hanging Kit for the WSM, take out the water pan and you're ready to go, I would suggest either making your own meat hooks or ordering some meat hooks from PBC
  9. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well for me the Jumbo Joe I made really works well for home use. It can cook at many different temperature ranges and is very fuel efficient. The minis that are being made are with a 14.5" grill base, the jumbo uses a 18.5" base. So I can do a couple racks of ribs or as much as 4 butts at a time. So it can cook a lot. I have been able to transport it with very little challenges, even with a hard cover on my F150. Depending on what you do with it on the build you could look at a range from $250 on up. These take a little while to get figured out, but are great and extremely versatile.

    UDS are a very simple design. You have a barrel with some vents, grates and a fire basket at the bottom. They work great as well, just a little more to move around, but can produce some great food. I have seen them built for as little as $50 and as much as $500 (too many bells and whistles). It does take a bit more when loading and if any adjustments are made, but as you learn the cooker and product, that becomes less of an issue. Once you have them tuned in, they are rock solid on holding temps.

    Kamado / Green Egg styles are very fuel efficient and can be very flexible. Some you are tight on cooking space, but they hold temps like a champ. I have only grilled on this style. Moving around is a bit of a chore, you will need 2 people to load into the back of the truck.

    Off Sets are one of my favorite when I want to be involved the entire time. Usually they need mods if bought, some a little more than others. They are what most people picture when they hear smoker. I run mine with a mix of charcoal and wood, but mostly wood after things get going. They can be fuel hogs. They are also a chore to move around in the bed of a truck.

    All of these have their areas they excel in and have areas that they don't. In my humble opinion, if you are looking at competing, you will need multiple smokers or a bigger one that you need to tow. The last one I did, I used my FIL's Char Griller. But we only had to cook 3 meats. It was very hard to time manage the cooks and ended up over cooking my chicken and pork butts. This year if I do the comp again I am bringing multiple cookers, the char griller and my jumbo mini. This way I will be able to cook at higher temps for chicken and keep things normal for the pork butt and ribs. As I said earlier they all have good and bad, sometimes just need more tools to do the job. I have access to 5 different smokers and use them all for different things.......when the wife complains, I just ask her why we need so many different animals for pets.....
  10. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    How do the WSM's do during cold winter weather? How many racks if ribs, pork shoulders can you get comfortably in the 18" models? Will Webers hanging kit work well with an 18"? I'm on the fence between the PBC and WSM or possibly making a UDS if I can track down a barrel here locally. In not completely off of the Akorn ceramic but i know for sure that BGE's are way out if my league. I think I've ruled out the offsets at this point.
  11. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I'm sure the BGEs are great smokers, but I know three people with them and no one can seem to get theirs dialed in for long-term smokes.  They use them to grill steaks, burgers, and hot dogs.  I know it is operator error but that's a lot to spend on just a grill. 

    The WSM is the priciest of the smoker lot you mentioned.  PBC is a great smoker.  If you have the skills the UDS is another great smoker.  None are insulated.  If it gets too cold just wrap them in the cheapest welder's blanket you can find.  Temps in the upper 30s low 40s with wind and rain is the coldest I've used mine and it wasn't wrapped.   

    I can't answer any of your other questions, but someone will be along.   
  12. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    Thanks, I agree the Eggs are way too expensive for what I'm wanting to do. I have the ability to build a drum smoker but want to make sure it would be better than a WSM or PBC before I waste time and resources doing it. I want something that will last if properly cared for and turn out great BBQ!
  13. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have a 18.5 WSM if you roll your ribs you should be able to get six racks, I haven't tried it but always cook three racks at a time laying flat usally all cut in half. You could find a rack to hold them and probably do a lot more with the right rack. For butts it's going to be based on the size and how you put them in there Leah you want the fat cap unless will fit I have taken to removing all the cap for more bark then you can set them on there edge so more will fit! I suggest you look at one in a store and load it with stuff to get a better idea how much you can get in there with a little imagination! I live in Michigan and have no problem all winter long with mine no issues but it does sit just inside my garage.
  14. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    Sounds good.! Never thought of loading one up in the store but that is a great idea!
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
  15. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    That's basically what I did, had to go to three stores before I found one assembled, but it was worth the look to me. I took one of the grills off and set it on an Oklahoma Joe, about the same size as the Brinkmann trailmaster I was looking at. Yes, you can get quite a bit in the 18.5" model, but the round grills killed it for me, lots of lost space in that circle.
    I chose grate space over the better efficacy of the WSM. Sunday I plan to cook three slabs of baby backs and two whole chickens, I just don't see being able to cram all that on a WSM! Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great smoker, but if I'm putting in the time and burning the charcoal/wood, I'm going to make it worth my time and eat for a week each smoke!
  16. golfpro2301

    golfpro2301 Smoking Fanatic

    I have some friends with WSM's that are used in comps. They work very well. I have an egg and after playing around with it you will learn to dial it in. You could find one on craigslist for decent price. Problem is transporting them in truck not best of ideas. They crack pretty easily. I will throw in what I think is best and get a GMG daniel boone. They just dropped in price and if you throw in a smoke tube it will turn out aome great que. Used many in competitions and have ran them at home for over 24hrs with no issues.
  17. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    I found a free unlined 16 gallon barrel and have decided to build a mini UDS until I can find a larger barrel. I am going to use the grates and lid from a Smokey Joe. Can anyone point me toward a set of plans for where exactly to place air vents using a ball valve like on the full size drums? Will the lid vent from the Smokey Joe be enough exhaust for a small smoker of this size? I'm also thinking of adding a second grate and using rebar to make a hanging meat attachment. I think in will use stainless bolts with wing nuts for holding the grates in place. Should I add legs to the charcoal basket to increase clearance from the bottom of the drum? At what point should a thermometer be installed? Thanks for all the help!
  18. golfpro2301

    golfpro2301 Smoking Fanatic

    Thats a good find. I will start with feet on basket I would say yes. Will allow ash to drop to the bottom goving you good clean coals. Ball valva is must have. I played around with location on homemade amokers and I found great place is roght at bottom of charcoal.basket so Air blows across bottom. You wont need a very large vent at top. 3 decent size hols with a wheel to control draft will be good. I would add aome aort of heat deflector from coals to racks. Either a bowl you can fill with sand or water. As far as thermo goes TelTru makes the best but they are expensive. I would get a maverick unit that way you can monitor pit and meat. Also if you have the cash get a control system like a guru. You take your time and build it right with recommendatikns above that thing will go 15hrs at 250
  19. golfpro2301

    golfpro2301 Smoking Fanatic

    Apologize for the spelling. Reply on phone is sometimes difficult
  20. appalachian q

    appalachian q Smoke Blower

    I know about spelling with the phone! That all sounds great, do you think that I will need more than one valve and should I also do pipe nipples for additional air flow? Should the thermo go at grate level, top of smoker, in between grates?

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