Pros: Elevated for easy access; replaceable element
Cons: Thermostat with low, medium hot setting...requires some tweaking to hit the temp
Purchased at Bass Pro.
First, the legs elevate this smoker to a nice comfy level as compared to the digital model. The element is large and in plain site which makes it easy to replace if necessary. The door mounted thermometer was surprisingly accurate. I hung an oven thermometer inside on one of the racks and they were close. The markings on the door thermometer were a little difficult to read, but it does have colored zones which make hitting the "smoking range" easier. The one thing this smoker can do is get much hotter than the digital model. When I was seasoning it prior to first use, I set it to medium and it pegged 350-degrees. Both thermometers confirmed this. I assume the high temp setting would definitely get it on up to around 400-degrees as advertised. The door handle never even approached hot so opening the door was easy. The drip pan is mounted right to the bottom and is a breeze to slide in and out. The water tray and chip tray are both right on top of the element. Loading the chip tray is easy when the unit is cool, but requires a pair of pliers or a glove to pull out the shelf once it's hot. Sliding it back in can slosh out some water if you are not careful but there is no harm done. So, the chip chute that I thought was a gimmick on the digital model is probably really useful. I have not cleaned it yet and I think it may be a little difficult to clean the inside bottom. That is mainly due to the large element and it's mount that cover the entire bottom. I was going to line it with foil and make a hole to drain the juices into the drip tray. The element, water pan and chip tray made that a little difficult and I just decided to skip it. Next time, I think I will make the effort to like it with some foil.
I cooked an 8lb Boston Butt on July for 10hrs. It was extremely moist and basically just fell apart. The blade bone pulled out just like I've seen the pros on TV. Next, will be ribs or a brisket.
Overall, I think this is a very good electric smoker and it does everything as advertised. The temp control took some tweaking to zero in, but was pretty good once I found the sweet spot. If you are looking for a smoker that can get hotter than the normal smoking temp, then this is a good one to consider. It did take some tweaking to zero in the temp. I am probably going to buy one of these PID controllers from Auber Instruments. They market it for the Bradley smoker, but it will work with this unit just fine.
It will drive the cost up, but I think it will be very accurate.
Edit: 05 July 2010:
I cleaned it this morning and it was actually not too difficult at all. Just simply slide out all the racks and everything cleaned up quite easily. I will still use a little foil next time.
Edit: 05 Sept, 2010
Still quite happy with this smoker. I have now smoked several racks of St Louis ribs in addition to the butt and am still quite happy. Cleanup is pretty easy and now that I've used this model a few times, I have decided that I like the chip tray and I don't mind sliding out the shelf to load it (just use a pair of pliers or a glove and you won't get burned). I think I can add a lot more chips with this tray than the digital model's chip chute. I never give perfect scores, but I feel that I can now give this another half star.
Edit: Aug 06, 2011 (13 months later):
Still getting good food from this smoker. I smoked a 6.5lb butt yesterday. It does need to be heated to 225 or so to get the smoke started. So, I ordered an A-Maze-N pellet smoker yesterday to get smoke at the lower temps. It has some nice smoke character built up on the inside that enhance it's performance. I do always clean the the racks after every use...but I leave the sides alone.
Edit: Jan 09, 2012
I thought I would throw out another quickie followup. On Saturday, Jan 07, 2012, I smoked an 8.5lb Boston Butt. I used my Auber smoker PID (225F) and my A-Maze-N Pellet Smoker. I placed a large pan on the shelf just below the butt and filled it about 1/4 with apple juice. I placed the pellet smoker below that pan to keep the drippings off. I used a mixture of Hickory, Maple and Cherry pellets. The big burner in this smoker set at about 3/4 combined with the Auber PID and the pellets were a great combo. The PID reacted quickly and the big burner got the temp right back up to 225 quickly and held it. It is literally a walkaway unit now. The first several hours, I did spray it with apple juice which I have never done before. Next time, I'm going to start it around midnight and keep an eye on it for an hour and then I'm going to bed.
04 June, 2012:
One last quick update: I still use this as my main smoker and the results are still great and the people eating the food can attest. Admittedly, it is a little modified now that I use the Auber Smoker PID and the A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker. But, I'd probably put the accuracy of it up against any of the other homeowner electronic models on the market. It's big burner combined with the PID gets it back up to temp with no effort too. I smoked another shoulder for 16 hrs overnight on 01 June. I simply added my meat, a large pan with apple juice under the meat and then my pellet smoker under that pan. It quickly came up to my preset 220F and I went to bed. I checked it once in the middle of the night and it was still on 220 and smoking away.
I still think the best features are the legs that get it off the ground for easier access and the larger than normal burner. Someday, I'll probably look for something larger, but I'm in no hurry.