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Thinking about getting my first smoker!

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi!

 

I am wanting to try my hand at smoking this year...probably mostly butts and ribs.  I am not looking to spend alot of money on it at this point, at least not until I can decide if it is something I really like and can justify the expense for the better smokers :)  I guess my main question at this point is as far as a decent starter smoker  does the brand really matter?  From what I'm seeing so far going cheap means I will probably have to mod it.  Right now Lowes only has a Master Forge one , and I only saw a display model,  Are the cheap Brinkmann's any better?

 

Thanks!

Rob

post #2 of 16
Welcome to the wonderful world of smoke rvial. My first store bought smoker was a Brinkman electric. I smoked alot of butts and ribs on it with very nice results. The main thing with it was you had to be careful and not overdo the wood chunks on it because to get good tempreture the burner ran most of the time and it would burn the wood very quickly making white smoke, white smoke is not good. I used it and abused it for probably 6 years before it finaly rusted clear through. IMHO it would be a good smoker for you if you just want to see if you like smoking.
post #3 of 16

Yep, we all seem to start with the El Cheapos. My first one was the Brinkman, used for years not knowing much about smoking or visiting this site. Fun to play with though and many here still use them fondly. I had one of those Lowes MF gassers for a decent price point as the next step up. Worked OK for what it was but leaked a lot of heat and somewhat difficult to maintain steady temps. I now have a electric unit for the 'set it & forget it' feature I like. Very tight, insulated well and with a good therm produces very decent chow. I do get some temp swings due to it's being analog but for bigger cuts like butts or hams I can live with the swings & the results are always very tasty. Look around on Craigs List or such in your area for steals or sales on older models.....Willie

post #4 of 16
The problem you are going to find is the price difference between the cheapo's and the next step up. I bought a Char-Broil Silver Smoker for my first real smoker. It lasted me about7 years uncovered. Which I might add was about two years too long. But I had built a relationship with it. It cooked some amazing Q. It cost me about 160.00 bucks. So for about two years I searched for a replacement. I knew what I wanted. I wanted a side burner or back burner. Everything that wasn't made out of cheap metal was in the 800.00 to 2000.00 range. So I had heard so much about the Weber Kettle that I bought one of those to try while still looking. I bought the side smoker trays and I have to say it works great. But I wanted something bigger. I bought two 55 gallon drums to make one and got talked out of it by a blacksmith. He said it wouldn't last long. So I kept looking. To no avail. I just couldn't afford a big one made of thick metal. So I bought what Charbroil replaced the Silver Smoker with. Now the problem with these is you have to modify it to help it maintain temps. You can search the forums for the mods for the Silver Smoker. I do highly recommend this unit for your first smoker. You can find it on Lowes Website for about 189.00. The new one has taken over the deck and works great. Maybe when the kids get out of college I can buy a nice rotisserie one. But until then I'll stick with the cheapo's. Good Luck. This sight will help you more than you can imagine.
post #5 of 16

One of the first jewels of wisdom my dad gave me, that didn't have to do with the birds and the bees, was "Buy first what you'd buy last.  You'll save money by avoiding upgrades."  I have used that bit of wisdom for just about everything I've ever purchased from cars, motorcycles, telescopes, computers, you name it.  It might take me a little longer to make the buying decision but by the time I do I know I have something that will last me a long time.   In the process I've learned to enjoy the research, avoid paralysis by analysis, and to build the anticipation.   When I finally slap down the dough I never have buyer's remorse.

 

If you just want something to learn on, heck, for $50-60 you can pick up a used 22" Weber Kettle on Craigslist, a couple fire bricks from Home Depot to use as a firebreak, a bag of charcoal, a bag of wood chunks, a cheap thermometer to stick in the vent, and you can be smoking.  My baby steps into smoking weren't that much different than what I just described.  

 

Shop, research, ask questions, save, buy what will fit your needs not your ego or the neighbor's.  SMF is a fantastic resource and people are passionate about their equipment, fuel, recipes, weather, bourbon, pets, friendships, and just about anything else that can be tapped on a keyboard.  Don't be shy.  Ask, ask, ask.      

 

BTW, the smoker is just the TIP of the smokeberg.  Once you have the smoker, then come all the thermometers, probes, gloves, claws, knives, rubs, storage containers, chimneys, windbreaks, bakers sheets, drip pans, yada yada yada.  It is amazing how you can use your smoker as a reason to NEED something.  You don't need it all, but this smoking thing is addicting!  It's all fun!

 

Welcome to SMF!

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
I still haven't managed to get my smoker yet but I did take the time to look at the smokey mountain cooker. It seems to be much better made than the cheapos I looked at. Still not sure I want to drop 300 dollars on something I have not done before but I am now leaning closer to spending the extra money. Rven my wife told me if I was going to get ine I might as well spend alittle miney and get a good one! I should take that as a sign. hah. How are they for grilling?
post #7 of 16

Hi, based on my experience of buying a smoker and testing them at the same time...I would not buy the Brinkman electric.  I actually had to take it back and when I did, the fellow at Home Depot tells me that they get more returns on that one than anything else.  I had a problem with it keeping the temperature and figured out that I would have to switch out everything to make it work right.  He also said that alot of people complain that the element goes out after a while, or basically it is a hit and miss.

 

After researching, I bought the Masterbuilt Dual Fuel Pro, which has 2 doors, one for water and chunks; and the other is the main smoker.  I can smoke with gas or charcoal or both.  I really like this smoker and it is mid-range and will keep me for a while after talking to alot of folks who have it.  It sells for $179 or slightly less at Home Depot on the Masterbuilt site and other places.  I like the Masterbuilt tech support, and it was easy to put together, and has some accessories.

 

Based on my research for about 2 years, if I wanted a bigger one, I would buy the Smoke Hollow 44" gas smoker with the 2-doors.  

 

Just a note from the peanut gallery....

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
I saw that one today as well. I dont know anything about them though.
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by rvial View Post

I still haven't managed to get my smoker yet but I did take the time to look at the smokey mountain cooker. It seems to be much better made than the cheapos I looked at. Still not sure I want to drop 300 dollars on something I have not done before but I am now leaning closer to spending the extra money. Rven my wife told me if I was going to get ine I might as well spend alittle miney and get a good one! I should take that as a sign. hah. How are they for grilling?

 

I suppose if you removed the water pan you could grill on the WSM.  They're not really set up for grilling though.

 

I just checked Craigslist in my area and saw two basically brand new 22.5" Weber Kettles, one for $20 and one for $50.  If you want something you can use for smoking and grilling the Weber Kettle is the way to go.

 

If you're handy with simple tools you could make a mini WSM for less than $100 that will work just as well as one made by the manufacturer.  You could grill and smoke to your heart's content.  The homemade mini-WSM almost has a cult-like following it works so well.  I doubt I'll be able to fight the urge much longer to make one!

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
I was hust curious about the grilling thing...I have a grill already. :) Those uds look like they could be fun to build..:)
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by rvial View Post

I still haven't managed to get my smoker yet but I did take the time to look at the smokey mountain cooker. It seems to be much better made than the cheapos I looked at. Still not sure I want to drop 300 dollars on something I have not done before but I am now leaning closer to spending the extra money. Rven my wife told me if I was going to get ine I might as well spend alittle miney and get a good one! I should take that as a sign. hah. How are they for grilling?

I'm pretty new to smoking beyond a chip box and a gas grill.  Using my research and what I've learned here I bought a Smoke Vault 24.  I didn't want to spend a fortune, but also didn't want to have to mod it all up and struggle to do some weekend smoking.  Got mine on Amazon for $280 and am very, very happy.  My first smoke was some fatties to try my hand and they were ok, but I learned about too much smoke and also not to start smoking until the temps are stabilized.  Since then I've done ribs, chicken, ABTs, more fatties and some pork butts and have had great success.  Of course, I'm still playing with seasonings and such, but I can maintain a very steady temp and with the Maverick ET-732 thermometer I can spend my time doing other things and being confident on the temps in the smoker.  I smoked some ribs two weeks ago using the 3-2-1 method and the only time I needed to go to the smoker was at the 3-2-1 intervals.  It's not the best but for a beginner like me it has worked out very well an appears to be very well made.

post #12 of 16
For smoking AND grilling on a tight budget the Weber kettle can't be beat.
For smoking, the WSM is the way to go. It's not uncommon to find a 18" WSM on Craigslist for $150 or so
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
and now I see peopl having good results with the char griller akorn. Many choices put there that isfor sure. Just seen where a buddy of mine has gotten into smoking. Right now he is using a wsm..but may buikd him a uds this spring.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
The only wsm I have found on craigslist locally so far is only about 30 or 40 bucks but is missing stuff and looks a little worse for wear.
post #15 of 16

I haven't done it yet as I have only had it a week, but I am told that you can grill on a WSM.   You just remove the center chamber and use the top grill on top of your charcoal ring.   Don't balance it on the leg bolts as it can tip over.   Now, if you do this, you have to use a smaller amount charcoal, evenly spread out.   I plan on trying it soon for some Korean "Kalbi" ribs.   I'll try to remember to post back when I try it the first time.

post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
I ended up going with the Brinkmann gourmet and it was delivered today. yay!! I am going to give it a try unmodded first hopefully next weekend I want to see the difference nodding it will make :) Not sure what i am going to try firdt I guess it depends on what is on sale next week :)
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