I'm new to these forums, but have been reading them for about a week now trying research my first smoker. I first liked the idea of an electric smoker because of the ability to 'set it and forget it', but after reading a lot of reviews and opinions it appears to me that the shortcomings outweigh the benefits - for me anyway.
I'm looking at going to propane, and trying to find something that meets the following criteria:
- Cost under $200
- replaceable/upgradeable/modifiable parts
- reasonable build quality out of the box
- good for wide range of meats:
- fish (rainbow trout, catfish, salmon, etc)
- meat (venison sausage, wild turkey, as well as ribs, chicken, etc)
I've narrowed it down to two:
The Master Forge 15,000BTU Propane Vertical Smoker which is available at Lowes here in Canada as well as the US.
The Masterbuilt Pro Dual Fuel Smoker (Gas/Charcoal) from Home Depot in Canada.
- Both of these are in stock in our local stores, but not on display so difficult to compare. The prices are within $10 of each other, so no difference there.
- Both are two door propane smokers, and about the same size/capacity.
- Both have calibration/accuracy problems with the stock thermometer.
- Both have anecdotal issues with build quality, slightly bent doors, smoke leakage.
- Almost every review I've read of the Masterbuilt suggests using an 8" cast iron pan on top of the wood box to avoid flare ups.
- Almost every review I've read of the Masterbuilt suggests that the water pan is too small.
- Build quality looks similar, however the Master Forge looks to have a lip around the door, which should help when adding a seal.
I'm leaning towards the Master Forge for a couple reasons:
- The smoke box and water box look to be better quality than the Masterbuilt, and should work without requiring initial modifications
- I've heard comments that the position of the gas control on the Masterbuilt isn't optimal, and ends up getting gunked up. Not sure if this applies to the Master Forge as well.
- The chimney on the Master Forge looks to be more thought out than the rear vent on the Masterbuilt.
- The handles on the Master Forge look more substantial and repairable than those on the Masterbuilt.
Writing this all out, it looks like I'm closer to a decision than I thought - but I'm completely new at this and would appreciate any feedback or suggestions that folks have. Am I missing anything? What about 'cold smoking'? Would either of these be adaptable? I'm in Ontario, and its bloody cold here this time of year. My first thought was to set up in the garage near the door, but I think that will probably fill the house with smoke over time. Are either of these better at cold temperature operation? They're both about 15,000 BTU or so...
Thanks for your feedback!