Originally Posted by KarenC
The temps were in the mid to high 80s when we first tried to smoke something. The last thing we smoked was a Boston Butt. It took about 6 hours and almost constant supervision. I'm thinking about getting my husband a smoker for Christmas but don't quite know what kind would be best. It's just the two of us now so we don't need something huge. I was looking at smokers today and saw some with an attachment on the side.
My understanding is that this is where the coals and wood chips go and it smokes the meat in the next section. Is this easier to deal with than the Brinkman?
6 hours for a Boston is a really short smoke, unless it's a tiny one...maybe 4 lb or so. I've had 8-9lb butts take 12-16 hours @ 225-230* smoke chamber temp just to get to 170-175* internal, then several more hours foiled to bring 'em to 200*. I'd love to get a 6-hr butt smoke...ha-ha-ha!!!
Anyway, the one you speak of having looked at is what we refer to as a horizontal with side fire box (sfb), or offset smoker. They do have many advantages over a vertical, IMHO. You can tend the fire or add smoke wood without opening the smoke chamber and letting any heat escape, or disturbing a water pan and possibly spilling onto hot coals by lifting the barrel off the fire pan assembly (my Brinkmann Gourmet is the same set-up).
Also, when fire tending you can move coals carefully without stirring up a ton of air-born ashes which would float up into the smoke chamber in a vertical smoker. All in all, I'd rather use a horizontal with sfb than a vertical for a charcoal fired smoker. The only real drawback to the horizontal is they use more fuel than verticals do, as they suffer heat loss to atmosphere from the fire box itself, where as the vertical's fire is contained beneath the food, inside the smoke chamber, so mush less heat loss is noticed. Also, the lower smoke chamber grate in the verticals are too low for proper smoking on two grates at one time (unless you do modifications, as I have to mine)...the lowest grate position is more suited to steaming foods as very little smoke and a very high humidity are present there.
If a budget of $150.00 and smaller horizontal smoker just large enough for 4-8 people (or more, depending on the cut of meat you smoke) is on your radar, then a Charbroil American Gourmet for $89.00 may be what you're looking for. It's a small grill/smoker combo with a 12" x 24" food grate (288 sq in, or just a bit larger than a 18.5" kettle grill @ 240"). It's not a heavy duty build, but I've been eyeing it up myself for awhile just for a new toy to learn. I did notice on one of the product reviews that it has a small fire box, but it is afterall a very small smoker. A few simple modifications to the charcoal grate and I think it would get temps up just fine, as well as have enough room under the charcoal grate for ash fall-out and clean-out on those longer smokes like butts or brisket.
Here's the smoker, if you're interested:
Edit: if your hubby is into tinkering, there are several modofications which can be done to the stock versions of the little bullet smokers which make huge improvements in the performance...think of it as super-charging your smoker.