Title sums it up well, but for a little more info, I've been smoking with charcoal on a 22" Weber Smokey Mountian for about 5 years now and have turned out some really good ribs, butts, brisket, turkey, etc. No complaints at all with the Weber and I'll likely continue to use it for these products.
Now I'm thinking about geting into some different things where I'm thinking an electric smoker would be a nice addition to my outdoor cooking arsenal. Right now I'm interested in traditional jerky and "sausage" type meats (with or without casings), but would almost certainly try some other smoked/cured meats. My thinking are lower temps and longer, controlled curing/smoking would lead me to an electric smoker. Am I correct?
Should I spend less to get in the game and upgrade later (if necessary) or spend more for a better smoker and avoid buying twice?
I'm VERY much open to suggestions and to learn from those who have traveled this path before, so please feel free to share your advice and wisdom, I would appreciate it. I'm reading and researching here and elsewhere, but want to document my research and purchase process here. Maybe my OCD will benefit someone else looking at purchasing an electric smoker!
Right now I'm considering the 40" MES (either the Gen1 or the new "Bluetooth" version). My reasoning is that I'd prefer the stainless interior, and avoid any of the issues with the Gen2. I can get a Gen1 shipped to Georgia for under $300. It looks like the cost of admission for the new model would be around $400 depending on where and when I purchase. Capacity is listed at 975 square inches with the four included racks. (There is room for two additional racks yielding a total of 1462 square inches) The heating element is 1200 watts and it weighs 72 pounds.
In my research I saw a lot of mentions for the Cookshack clones, and of course the Cookshack itself. If money was not a consideration, the Cookshack does seem like a good product with better temperature control and is "Made in USA".
While I'm ALWAYS willing to spend more for a quality product, I am also fiscally conservative and a bargain hunter!
In the Cookshack line I would consider the SM009-2 or the SM025 currently priced at $675 and $875. My choice to compare is the SM025 due to the 14"x18" grills. It has 2 grills for a total of 504 square inches of cooking surface. It has a 750 watt heating element. They currently have a 10% discount available with promo code "HOHOHO14". Shipping cost of the SM025 to me in Georgia is $77.18 bringing my total cost to $864.68.
The next smoker I looked at is the Smokin-It line. While I am really tempted by the Model 4 with the included Auber PID controller, I'm going to rule it out (for now) based on cost and size. $1399 + $220.44 shipping woudl cost me $1620.43.
In the Smokin-It line I've chosen the Model 3 for comparison. It looks like a good size for me and to compare to the MES 40" Inside dimensions are 15"x20". Not sure of the shelf size at this point, but using the inside dimensions yields 1200 square inches of cooking surface with the four included racks. (There is room for a 5th rack for 1500 square inches) The heating element is 1250 watts. The current cost is $499.99 plus $144.94 for a cost shipped to me in Georgia of $644.93. Holiday Special - Free Black Cover, Chip Screen, and rib hooks with the purchase of any smoker.
After I started looking at alternatives to the MES smoker I also discovered the Smokin Tex line. The Smokin Tex 1400 has 14.5"x14.5 shelves. Five shelves (including seafood shelf) yield 1051.25 square inches. It has a 700 watt heating element. At a cost of $669 plus $65.83 shipping to Georgia the 1400 would cost me 734.83.
Moving up to the Smokin Tex 1460 gets 14.5"x17.5" inside dimensions yielding about 1269 square inches with the five included shelves. It has room for seven shelves or about 1776 square inches of cooking space. The heating element is not specified. The cost increases to $1069 + $77.17 shipping for a total shipped to Georgia of $1146.17.
Next smoker I looked at is made by The Sausage Maker. Their 30 lb Digital Stainless Steel Smoker is on sale for $899 with free shipping. Inside dimensions are 15x16.5 with four shelves included for 990 square inches of cooking surface. (They say it can hold up to 12 shelves with 1 3/4 spacing) It has a 1000 watt heating element, (The smaller 20 pound smoker clearly states Made in USA, but no indication on the 30 pound so I'll have to confirm.) The weight is not listed.
Finally, I found the Iron Chef Kitchen Smoker with 15"x15" inside dimensions and has 5 shelves (including 1 seafood shelf) for a total of 1125 square inches. It has a 700 watt heating element and weighs in at 95 pounds. The cost is $349 plus $50 shipping for a total of $399. For a limited time get a free cutting board and cleaning brush.
I'd love to hear from anyone with hands on experience with any of these, but will welcome all advice and opinion!