I already have a Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24” (Model No: SMV24S), and have thoroughly enjoyed a new every weekend hobby for the past year. That said, I wanted to buy another smoker so I can increase output and try new things.
I did my research and was prepared to put out around $2000 for a custom BBQ Pit smoker with water pan, but was having difficulty finding anything in my area in the middle of South Carolina. There’s a boat load of custom makers in Texas, but shipping would cost an “arm and a leg” and I wasn’t finding many with a built in full-size water pan like I desired. I thought if I went the $2+K route, I would start a roadside business and see how it works out. Besides, I’m now addicted to the television reality show “BBQ Pitmasters” and after watching every episode of the show I feel could make folks happy with my food while sparing them the cockiness of Myron Mixon! LOL
Really though, this is just a hobby and I plan on keeping that way, so I settled down on my aspirations and decided to stick with something similar to what I was using. Now the decision to make was whether I should switch to a quality electric or charcoal smoker, or just stick with propane like the one I have. After deciding that I didn’t want to mess with a plugged in device or extension cords on my uncovered patio in a thunderstorm (especially since we lose power in just about every storm), I thought more and more about switching to a charcoal/wood smoker. However, after watching the BBQ pitmaster show and researching more...I began to realize that there’s a lot of “babysitting” to do with a charcoal/wood smoker as you need to tend and stoke those coals more frequently; and rainy, windy, or winter weather can increase that need even more. All that led me to stick with the reliability of a propane smoker. I like the fact that I have the flexibility to move or relocate the smoker anywhere. Though a purist in smoking food would snicker at anyone using anything other than charcoal/wood…I do like the fact that when I’m ready to smoke meats, I can have fire/heat immediately without striking a match. Oh yeah, did I mention how convenient it is to be able to darn near “micro” adjust your smoke/cooking temps with propane? In fact, my Smoke Vault had difficulty keeping the heat under control and the burner lit while on the low setting, so I changed the gas regulator from 10 PSI to 20 PSI and added a needle valve for better control and I’ve never had a better system for “micro” adjustments to my flame (without it blowing out). By the way, for those interested…the BBQ Pitmaster show competitions are for the purists. Charcoal or woodburning pits only…no electric or propane unless being used only for an assist in lighting the fire (but no smoking/cooking on anything but good ole primitive charcoal or wood).
So, the decision was made that I wasn’t going to be joining the BBQ Pitmaster team/show and I won’t be “shigging” (to enter a persons BBQ site with intent of stealing BBQ secrets in an effort to improve one's own BBQ score) any of Johnny Trigg’s or Tuffy Stone’s smoking secrets --- DARN!. I won’t have the chance to compete for a trophy, let alone money, and I won’t get the chance to make Myron miserable by losing to a dumbass amateur like me…so I’ll stick to bringing smiles to the face of my family and friends and share what I’ve learned with them.
Those decisions done; now I needed to focus on another propane water pan smoker but was once again was disappointed by the offerings I saw out there until I came upon the Landmann 3895GWLA 2-Drawer Vertical Gas Smoker. Now the problem was that I couldn’t find an in-depth review of this Landmann Model. I like my Camp Chef Smoke Vault, but knew there were some features that could be improved upon and I liked the Landmann 3895GWLA feature of being able to add more water or wood without having to open up the smoking/cooking area. That being said, this is my first attempt at providing a personal and extensive review of the Landmann 3895GWLA.
Let’s start with the basics. I must say that I was extremely pleased with the care used in packaging the Landmann 3895GWLA. The four primary sides of the smoker were protected by Styrofoam and of particularly note…angled, heavy duty galvanized metal to help protect it from damaging dents to the corners. Once all the exterior wrappings and protective devices were removed, the door opened up to present a neatly packaged group of boxes packed between the grate spacings and big chunks of corrugated cardboard (some close to 2” thick). I had no dent’s or corner damage to the smoker unit or it’s associated parts what-so-ever. I’m not sure if that’s solely a result of the packaging care Landmann took with this or gentle, caring UPS carriers, but I’m betting it was a pleasant combination of the two!
**Note: After unpacking, and when opening the door, be sure to lift it off the hinges and set the door aside somewhere safe. I emptied everything (leaving the door on) and turned the unit upside down to install the legs and burner unit. I didn’t realize that the door wasn’t permanently attached. So, as I turned the smoker upside down, the door fell off when the hinge pins slipped out of their “sockets”. I cringed, blurted out some expletives and rushed to pick up the door to see what damage I had caused. Fortunately, the 3895GWLA box was packed inside another shipping box and when I removed that outer shipping box, I cut it open to use as a protective surface to work on over my flagstone patio. When the door fell off, it fell flat on the cardboard I was working on and didn’t suffer any damage as a result. (For the first time in a long time…I outsmarted “Murphy” on that one!)
The instructions included with the smoker were straight-forward. Each of the assembly steps basically correspond with a pack of bolts, washers, and nuts that are separately packaged and labeled from A to G. Installation was a breeze and I had the entire process (from unpacking to finished assembly) finished in a little over one hour by myself. All you need to have in terms of tools are two different (one medium and one large) sized Phillip screwdrivers and a small crescent wrench. Be sure not to tighten down the screws on the front legs and leave the front (inside) bolts out until you are ready to install the control/knob panel since the top plate of the control panel slides under the inside corner of the front legs then bolted to the smoker frame together through the same bolt hole. As I assembled the smoker unit I was pleased to find a triangular metal object with numerous “hooks” dropped from it for installation in the inside ceiling of the smoker. This unique contraption is a handy meat/sausage hanger that I plan on putting to use when I make my annual batch of teriyaki venison case linked snack sticks!
The smoker wood chip pan measures approx. 12 ½ x 8 ¼ x 2 ½ inches and is constructed of heavy steel with a vented lid. This is of higher quality and much deeper than my Smoke Vault wood chip pan. From what I’ve read, the Landmann smokers use to come with a cast iron pan…but now they’ve been replaced with the steel one. I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that the consensus of most users is that the cast iron model is more durable. I see where Landmann offers the cast iron pan on their website at: $14 + $13 shipping and the lid is available for $10 + $10 shipping.
The water pan measures approx. 14 x 12 x 2 ½ inches and is constructed of porcelain coated steel while the chrome plated cooking grates above it measure approx 22 x 14 inches. If you are smoking meat products across the entire span of the smoker grates all of the drippings will fall into the water pan with the exception of four inches to the left and right of the water pan since it does not span the entire inside width of the smoker. Those drippings will fall to the steel drip pan that you inserted into the bottom of the smoker during assembly.
The overall construction of the smoker is basically heavy duty, steel sheet metal that is similar (if not of heavier gauge) to my Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24”. I’m not sure what gauge it is, but it does have some flex and will dent with relative ease if something were to strike a heavy blow against it. All you have to do with the bottom drawers is install the handles and insert the wood chip and water pan. Slide those drawers into the grooves that are made for them and they tuck in nicely. They also have stops on them to prevent the drawers from falling to the ground when you pull them out. Though I haven’t used it to smoke any food yet…while seasoning the smoker I noticed that the wood chip drawer stops a bit short to make wood chip/chunk replenishment convenient. Though sufficient to do the job, it only exposes about half the pan and the handle from the water pan drawer above it requires you to lift the vented lid slightly and slide it out to access the tray cavity.
Though I read where the door and drawer handles were improved from a previous coiled version. The handle’s metal hardward seems a tad flimsy, and when attached to the sheet metal construction of the main door and drawers…there was a bit more flex than I expected there would or should be. Fortunately the drawers open smoothly enough that it shouldn’t become an issue. The door handle is exactly the same as the drawer handles. I noted that of the three handles provided, only one is labeled with the Landmann name unlike the example pictured on the box. After 25 years in the Air Force, I’m a bit anal retentive about attention to detail so since I couldn’t stand the Landmann name sitting sideways on the door handle and there was only one of them; I used the Landmann labeled handle on the top “water pan” drawer of the smoker while the others are non-descript black plastic handles
Regarding the door…I already mentioned that it is easily removed by simply lifting up the entire door as you slide the hinge pins out of the hinge sockets. The door wasn’t sitting square to the top edge and right side of the smoker so I had to slightly open the door and pull up the lower right hand corner to bend the slightly bend the hinge pins and square the door to the smoker frame. Before I did this the bottom right corner of the door would scrape against the top right of the water pan drawer. If I pulled the water pan drawer open the smoker door would open because the two made contact with each other. That brings me to another note about the door. It uses two small magnets as the means for securing the door shut. Again, being a bit “retentive,” the magnets don’t seem strong enough to me. Yes, they hold the door shut and I doubt a wind will open them…but it takes little effort to pull the door open. I would just feel better if it held the door with a bit more resolve than it does. I may go to a hardware store and buy some rust proof hasps to secure the door shut more tightly. If you’re looking for a smoker that doesn’t leak much smoke out of the door…you’re going to have to add a gasket or extra seal to this one. Just remember that if you choose to do that, I definitely doubt the reliability of those magnets to keep the door shut with a gasket or seal of some sort added. You’ll have to improvise and modify improvements on your own as I plan on doing.
After getting everything assembled and double checked my connections. I fired up the smoker to season it before using this weekend on food. I filled the water pan, and placed a cup of hickory wood chips in the pan. I followed Landmann’s directions to light the smoker and voila! The rotary ignitor started the burner immediately on the first try, and did so on repeatedly after that. (Zero fails in ten attempts) My Smoke Vault quite often has to be repeated “clicked” to ignite and it doesn’t have a separate rotary ignitor like the 3895GWLA so I definitely like this feature on the smoker and see this as an improvement over my Smoke Vault.
As instructed, I started the seasoning process on low heat and it wasn’t long before I noticed the temperature rising steadily and the smoke started flowing. It seemed to smoke faster and more efficiently than my Smoke Vault. The Smoke Vault leaks smoke around the door and the vents, but the 3895GWLA vents smoke out the chimney, the vents, the main door, water pan drawer, and the wood chip drawer. I expect there will still be enough smoke inside to perform a nice job on the meat products I smoke, but it sure could make a person wonder. I’ll post an update to this after I do some pulled pork and C.A.B. beef brisket this weekend.
Everything was going well until I noticed that the temperature gauge was starting to “steam up” with water condensation inside the thermometer face. It got to the point where I could barely read what the temperature reading was…remember my “retentiveness?” Well after seasoning the smoker for an hour…I barely let the smoker cool down so I can remove and inspect the temp gauge. The temp gauge “housing” appears to be cast aluminum painted red and seems pretty durable. The actual “guts” of the thermometer looked like a piece of….well…Chinese crapola. I noticed that the backside of the actual thermometer was a thin metal plate fastened to the housing by four tiny (eyeglasses tiny) screws and the metal plate sandwiched a thin rubber-like “gasket”. The front glass to the thermometer is not waterproofed with a silicone seal or anything so I can see the thermometer steaming up every time after a good rain if used in an uncovered area or stored uncovered. Being the self-sufficient handyman that I am; I thought no problem! I’ll just grab my eyeglass screwdriver kit and disassemble the backplate from that thermometer, dry the glass, and add a thin bead of heat resistant silicon to seal the backplate water tight. I was only able to remove three of the screws from the backplate, and noticed the two bottoms ones weren’t very tight at all. In fact they appeared to be cross-threaded in their slots and that resulted in the screw head not falling flush with the back plate to give it a good seal against that so called gasket. The top left screw was tight alright…they must have used an impact wrench or lock-tite because I couldn’t remove it for the life of me! After a half hour I gave up and decided to contact Landmann’s customer service. I did contact Landmann via their web-site customer service contact us link and by the end of the day I received an e-mail from them asking for my mailing address and a telephone number so they can send me a replacement. I hope they inspected it before sending to me, but fear not…I’ll update this diatribe of mine once I get the replacement item. Again, that said…Landmann customer service seems to respond well to it’s customers.
I gave the smoker another another “seasoning” session and discovered that the smoker thermometer is off by 30-35 degrees below what it should be reading. I determined this by installing a calibrated digital thermometer probe to the inside middle section of the smoker. This thermometer was positioned very close to the thermometer probe of the Landmann supplied thermometer. Disappointing to say the least, but typical of most reviews of thermometer comparisons between company supplied smoker thermometers and the more accurate digital probe inserts. Additionally, I find the Landmann extremely difficult to control temps with the standard set-up. I may try experimenting with a more robust regulator like the one I installed on my Camp Chef Smoke Vault. It’s amazing the difference it can make by swapping the standard 10 psi propane regulator with a 20 psi regulator.
Overall, that’s it. I still see some areas I would improve upon if I were the manufacturer of this smoker which should only drive the price up a couple more dollars. I purchased this unit on eBay brand new for $400 shipped, and I see internet prices ranging from $349 to $650 retail. Keep an eye open and I’m sure you can find a decent deal on it. I think I paid $259 for my Smoke Vault over a year ago, and I definitely think the cost of the Landmann 3895 GWLA was money well spent and worth the extra money over the Smoke Vault. The 3895GWLA’s five chrome plated cooking grates was a nice touch as the Smoke Vault only came with three (2 regular grates and one “jerky” grate). The rotary ignitor is a sweet and reliable touch on the Landmann. The meathook/hangar in the smoker’s ceiling is a nice bonus, and the unit is appealing to the eye. Though I must say that the stainless steel front of my Camp Chef Smoke Vault looks pretty spiffy on the patio. All in all, using baseball vernacular… I would say Landmann hasn’t hit one out of the park with the 3895 GWLA, but close. This smoker is a solid “triple bagger” and worth the money below $450. I score it 4 out of 5 stars!
- Easy access** drawers for water pan and wood chip replenishment
- Heavy duty steel construction
- Welded cooking chamber
- 18,000 BTU cast brass burner for dependable heat and long life
- Square leg construction
- Total Smoker area: 1570 Sq inches
- Fully adjustable heat control
- Adjustable top chimney vent
- 2 side vents for heat control
- Rotary ignitor
- Magnetic door closure
- Meat Hanger
- Durable plastic drawer handles
- Large side handles for easy moving
- Porcelain-coated enamel water pan
- Large capacity steel wood chip box with lid
- CSA Certified
- UPSable packaging
- 10 year burner warranty
- Overall dimensions: 48" x 26" x 21"
- Cabinet dimensions: 38" x 24" x 16"
- Product Weight: 103 lbs