I'm a pretty avid smoker and griller. By that, I mean that I grill on my Weber Spirit a minimum of 3-4 times weekly and smoke meat every weekend or more. As far as smoking goes, I have almost 4 years under my belt. I started with the Brinkman Home Depot $50 special and from there I was hooked. The little Brinkman smoked lots of ribs, chicken, turkey breast and etc. It was very sensitive to ambient temperature and the type and brand of fuel used. Once I thought I had the hang of the overall process and developed a cooking style I graduated to the Chargriller Smokin Pro w/offset smoke box.
The Chargriller was the absolute worse choice and investment I could have possibly made. Out of the box, the assembly of the smoker was the first sign that the smoker would end up being a pain in the you know what! Keeping in mind I am very well mechanically inclined. Anytime you build something not made of wood with a hammer, chisel, pliers, adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, drill, and two people (not to mention the number of screws/bolts) you will begin to second guess your purchase decision. Furthermore, anytime a smoker needs mods out-of-the-box to make it usable you should be concerned. So once the grill is assembled I moved on to seasoning the grill. First thing I noticed was the massive amount of fuel it takes to get the beast above 200 degrees. On to the first smoke. My first smoke was ribs and a boston butt and they proved to be the worst since I began smoking. For the next 18 months, I struggled with smoker mods, changes in my technique, fuel types/brands and etc. Feeling completely defeated, I finally reached the pinnacle of frustration and gave up smoking all together for months.
Fast forward to June 2011. Since good smoked meat restaurant options in these parts is very limited I was forced to throw my hat back into the ring. Like they say "if you want something done right...may as well do it yourself!". However, this time around I was determined to make sure I had the right equipment for my need. I was previously convinced my lack of success with the Chargriller was not my fault all alone. So the hunt was on for that perfect smoker. I looked at cabinet smokers, more barrel smokers, and propane smokers. Since the smoker will be only for my family leisure I choose the Weber Smoky Mountian. It fit my space, cooking surface and operability requirements. It was the best decision I could have made! Yesterday was the first smoke and all I say is "amazing". For the Chargrillers out there, imagine not checking the temperatures every 10 minutes or imagine lighting five pounds of briquettes and cooking for 9-10 hrs. After ten hours of smoking, my family enjoyed Pulled Pork (one Boston Butt), Skirt Steaks, and several racks of St. Louis style Spareribs.
In conclusion, the lesson learned is "you get what you pay for". My chargriller will be passed along to another to uncover its poor cooking mysteries (more mods) and most likely serve the future purpose of nothing more than a charcoal grill without a sidebox. Weber has earned its spot in my outdoor cooking arsenal hands-down.