Pros: Inexpensive, Easy To Assemble, Smokes Well After Mods
Cons: Cruddy Packaging, Defective Chip Tray Design
The Char-Broil Vertical Gas Smoker is a decent smoker with horrible packaging. Mine was damaged in shipping, but not so damaged I returned it (and let’s face it, returning a large item like this once it is unpacked and all defects are apparent is a PIA).
The Good: decent low end smoker.
The Bad: you need a few mods to get it to decent.
The Ugly: even if the box does not appear damaged, there is a high probability that your unit was damaged in shipping.
WORLD’S WORST PACKAGING:
Damage to this smoker during shipping happens. A lot. The packaging materials/Styrofoam are too thin, and plainly inadequate to protect this unit during shipping (see picture). Fully unpacked, I found:
1) A dented top. The dented top caused the back wall to separate from the top, it was held by the rivet, but see my included picture showing the gap between the smoker wall and the top which occurred in transit.
2) A bottom corner was bent in 1/3rd of an inch. Nothing I couldn’t fix with a pair of pliers, but sheesh.
3) The rack support attached to the side wall of the smoker to hold the shelves broke during shipping. Char-Broil shipped me a new one free of charge, but again, it shows the stress the bad packaging puts on this unit in transit.
A DECENT SMOKER:
Char-Broil Vertical Gas Smoker is a cheap smoker, built to a price. No shame in that for those on a budget/not sure how much smoking they will do. This unit is often on sale for about half its list price. Once assembled, the smoker runs well, and does the job, once you make a few modifications, noted below. Getting think blue smoke and a decent smoke ring on our first set of ribs was fairly easy, and did not require too much fiddling.
Even turned-down to the lowest setting on the controller, even with a full water pan, my smoker runs at 255-260 degrees - just a bit outside the range you want. To bring the temp down to 225-235 for low and slow smoking, you need to turn the controller job past “High” to where there are 3 painted white stripes. For me, the setting on the second white stripe brought the temp down to 225ish.
MODS YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE:
1. The combo water/chip pan does not work because if you use the lower level for water, you will splash water into your chips and the water steams off too quickly because of its proximity to the flame. As others have noted, a baking pan filled with water and placed on the lowest rack stills burns off, but at a slower rate, and poses no threat to your chips. This means you lose a shelf/rack, so …
2. Buy an extra shelf from Char-Broil - less than $20 shipped.
3. Use some Sil-Bond Food Grade BBQ High temp caulk to seal the top so your smoke goes through the vent, not the sides of the unit.
4. Apply some Lavalock High Temp Nomex BBQ HT gasket smoker seal tape to the smoker door, again, to keep smoke and heat from escaping the sides.
All in, this unit was a bear to assemble, but not too bad once you make a few changes to account for the bad design of the chip/water pan. For the money it is a decent value, but you can avoid most of these hassles by spending another $50-$75 dollars for a nicer smoker. I didn’t want to invest the additional funds, and think this Char-Broil is a decent value for the money. I must have the only smoker with a mfgr thermometer that works - at least partially - the indoor thermometer is dead on accurate between 200 and 275, but is inaccurate when the temp is turned higher.