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Choosing First Smoker - Masterbuilt vs Master Forge

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hi Folks!


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!


post #2 of 3
I have both smokers on my deck right now. The Master Forge door handles are cheaper and the little clips that hold them on come off easier. I prefer the door latches on the Master Built better. Its 26 degrees Fahrenheit this morning and I have no problem with the masterbuilt smoking a turkey at 250. The heat is turned down between low and medium. The doors need to be sealed in both units, and the chip tray needs to be replaced with an iron skillet to keep fires down. I used my master forge for charcoal only and had to make several vent mods to have it work for charcoal. Never used it for propane. The regulator on the masterbuilt was stuck out of the box, but after lighting the burner a couple times it opened up and works great now. I also love the handle and wheels on the masterbuilt because it is a little heavy moving around. Also replace the thermometer in either unit. I have a tel-tru 3" unit that I love. I don't mind the size of the water tray on the masterbuilt. The masterbuilt seems a little more solid. Overall they are both good, but I prefer the masterbuilt. Hope this helps.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply, Ryguy.  I appreciate your feedback.


I was at Lowe's on Saturday, and they had the Master Forge set up.  This one had wheels on the back legs to help with moving it around.  It looked reasonably solid - but I don't have anything to compare to...  I think I'll head to Home Depot this week and see if they have any display models there, although that's not likely in Ontario this time of year - there's not enough room with all the snow blowers on display :)


Good to know that you can get the Masterbuilt up to temp in the cold.  That's important for me.  It runs around 25F - 35F here most of the winter unless it gets cold.  I'll probably set up in the garage with a big door open to help with the wind. 


The wife has given me the go-ahead to pick one up as my Christmas present.  She has ulterior motives though - she wants smoked turkey for Christmas dinner! 


Looked at the Tru-Tel thermometer you mentioned, and they looked well made, but a bit pricey for a bi-metal thermometer.  ($40 something on Amazon)  Reading some of the info on this site, I'm torn between getting a Thermapen or one a Maverick ET-732 or 733. 




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