So my room mates are getting in to smoking this season, too, and have pushed for a new smoker. Cost is coming before quality here due to impatience and they selected a Southern Country/Meco (I think 5031, it's a charcoal water smoker with 2 openings in the body and 1 sliding panel that operates in both of them) against my warnings. I've lurked around here and the internet in general and can't find any real input on this particular smoker. It's the one with the two doors on the front of it (both open at the same time as they're just one piece of sheet metal behind two cuts, so no independant control) and no low body dampers. I know it's a cheapo but it seems like some people have gotten it to work for them.
To date we've only done the initial cure/burn, with an underwhelming amount of charcoal, no wood, and a consistent, albeit low, temperature. We're hoping to toss some wings on for trial tomorrow. Long run will be everything from sausage and ribs to butt and brisket.
Short of talking them into the leap toward a WSM, can anyone give me some advice with these?
-How did you get yours to reach temp? To hold it?
-Are there any mods you recommend? (beyond a replacement temp gauge)
-Would it be wise to insulate the body, and if so how?
-How does one control the heat on this as there is no built-in damper on the bottom, only two smoke venting dampers on top?
-The instruction manual says to open the front/chamber doors for air intake, which opens on the bottom on the charcoal pan and on the top even with the bottom food grate/directly over the waterpan... To me this seems like charcoal and water refill doors that would let out heat and smoke if left open. Any input here?
-Super noooooooob question, but what in the hell is the "cover plate" for? It's a rectangular piece of metal, approx 4" long x 1" wide, with a half circle cut into it to make a notch and a handle; it is screwed in on one side, and tucks into the slot in the base on the other. I feel like I've seen this on other portable charcoal grills but have never known its purpose.
If no one has very much experience with these, can anyone tell me:
-How to cut/build dampers into a smoker myself
-How to insulate a bullet style vertical smoker
-If Lowe's will return an item (at least for store credit) that has only had 1 fire in it
-Please only respond to this part if you've already read and hopefully responded to the rest, but would I save myself some hairline and a few years of life on my heart if I just returned this thing and got the WSM? How "hot to trot out of the box" is the WSM?
Thanks for reading ya'll, my room mates and my GI tract much appreciate any and all input!