Hi I was hoping for any tips anyone might have for a newbie. I haven't smoked anything for over 10 years with an old electric tube smoker. I'm going to buy a new charcoal smoker and was hoping to spend $250 or less. I've looked at the Dyno Glo Vertical smoker that I saw for less than $175. A little worried it may be too big for what I want to do to start but the price may be too hard to beat. I've also looked at the Brinkman Heavy Gauge Vertical at Home Depot and Brinkman 8105502W Vertical Charcoal Cooker that I found at Amazon. The second Brinkman and the Dyno I like because of the separate drawers/boxes for checking the fire, but I feel like I am overlooking something. My plan right now is to stick with briskets and pork butts for now possibly once a month (hopefully more) and may branch out further. Thanks for the help. I am sure I am missing something.
Tips for Smoker buying for a newbie
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A 14.5" WSM for $199 fits your budget. Still American made I believe. Or you can make one for less than $100 if you are handy with tools. A full packer would need to be cut in half but a butt/shoulder would fit nicely.
Given a choice between the Brinkman or the Dyna Glo, I'd choose the DG. Both are made with fairly thin metal. Both require mods right out of the box. The door in the BM is the only part with a thicker gauge.
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I bought the dyna glo verticle on sale from amazon last winter . I am just now starting to use it . I did the sealing mods that are shown on the dyna glow thread . It seems like a pretty good smoker for the money to me . I have no complaints . IMO all smokers have a learning curve to get the best results . I have an electric Masterbuilt 40" 1st gen and it took a few smokes to learn how to use it as well .
I am happy with my Dyna glow and would recommend to to a new smoker . It will do the job without a huge investment .
You could easily pick up a 22.5" Weber Kettle for as little as $50 used on CL to $150 new. There are lots of ways to set up a Kettle for smoking that would accommodate a full packer, no halving required.
The Kettle is how I learned to smoke meat. Over the decades I've had friends with all types of smokers, and they all had complaints about their equipment. I now realize those complaints were most likely the result of pilot error and not understanding how their equipment worked.
After tasting some ribs smoked in a homemade WSM (a 22.5" Kettle with a riveted 4' roll steel stainless barrel between the bottom and the lid) I had to start smoking. I had a 22.5" Kettle sitting on the side of the house collecting cobwebs and whatever else. My wife bought me a Smokenator gizmo to turn it into a smoker. It is basically a $70 heat fence. You can do the exact same thing with a couple fireplace bricks for just a few bucks. You can also use the little baskets and a drip pan, or a charcoal snake. There are lots of ways to smoke on a Kettle.
My Kettle taught me technique, timing, and temperature control. I smoked everything on it from veggies to ABTs to butts, ribs, brisket, chuckies, 18 lb turkey, etc.
The Kettle does require a bit of baby sitting, but that's not a bad thing. I still use mine all the time for quick meals for grilling or smoking, or a combination of the two. I'll use it today for a couple of tri tips where I use indirect heat and smoke, then a reverse sear over the hot coals. I also prefer to smoke fish in the Kettle not my WSM.
I was perfectly happy with the Kettle until my wife ran out of Christmas gift ideas one year when I got her something she really, really wanted. She said "buy any smoker you want." I went with what I knew and stepped up to the 22.5" WSM. It was the perfect addition to the backyard addiction.
Congrats on the Kettle!
Charcoal? People are pretty passionate about their fuels. I use Kingsford Original, also known as the Blue Bag or just KBB. It is less than 30 cents a pound on the summer major holidays at Home Depot and Lowes.
Lots of folks prefer lump because the good ones burn cleaner, hotter and more purely. Finding the fuel you like best is half the fun. Some use a combination of both.
Do not use lighter fluid. Get a chimney starter, weed burner, or the little starter cubes to start your coals.
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Lowes and HD always have the best deals a couple times a year. Every year they sell a 2 bag deal for ~$10. It was 2 20lb bags last year, but this year it's 2 18.6lb (or somewhere around that) for the same $10. It's still the best deal you'll find. If you have no HD/Lowes near you then Walmart sells a 2 bag deal also, they're smaller 15lb bags, but they also cost less, around $8. In summary, you get ~37lbs for $10 at HD/Lowes or 30lbs for $8 at Walmart.
These deals usually pop up around this time. I think Memorial Day and 4th of July are the norm. AFIK, all these deals are active right now though. Kingsford re-formulated their charcoal this year and many are up in arms about it. This is why the 2 20lb bags are now 2 18.6lb bags. Same volume, less weight. They're claiming it's better, but the real world tests on the interwebs are contradicting their claims.