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Looking to get my first decent smoker

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi all, I posted in the Roll Call section to introduce myself a bit. In a nutshell, I've been using a Brinkmann all-in-one smoker for about a year, it got a bit warped, and I'm looking to upgrade to the real thing since I've been smoking so frequently.

I'd like to try a relatively inexpensive charcoal/wood smoker because I figure that's the best way to experiment, and good for a beginner and eventually intermediate BBQer to learn with. I can also figure out what works for me in a grill and what doesn't, and drill a hole or two without having a heart attack.

It seems like the Weber Smokey Mountain is highly reccomended, but my experience with the Brinkmann has been that the vertical grills are kind of a pain in the arse. If I have to baste something on the bottom rack or want to turn it over, all the heats gone by the time I get the lid back on because it takes so long. I checked one out in person and it seems nice and heavy for the most part, but the side door was flimsy as hell. I understand that it's not great for grilling on either, which I was hoping to use whatever I got for.

So I've been looking at the off-set smokers, and the Bar-B-Chef seems a good deal there, but I haven't seen any in the NW. I know the big green egg works well because my uncle got one, but they're a bit out of my price range.

I saw an ad for a barely used char broil silver smoker on craigslist for $80 and hopefully it's still for sale. Is that a decent smoker?

What are some good things to look for in an off-set smoker? I'm hoping to find a used there a particular brand or model to avoid? The ones int he $170-200 (new) price range seemed fairly similar to me, but I'm no expert.

One question I have about the off-sets is that, if I understand it right, the heat isn't even from the left to right side of the grill and you need to use a water pan or heat plates (not too sure what they are yet), or something else (I thought I read someone used lava rocks somehow?) to even out the doing the plates or something like that difficult to do?

Thanks for any help you can give!

post #2 of 17
I am new to smoking and I bought an oklahoma joes wild west tradition it is an offset and is available from Academy sports and outdoors it is available online at for $329.00 i think was the price. i really like it and it did a great job and some pics of it and the first brisket are in the roll call section under pics from ok hope this helps
post #3 of 17
oh also i used a cast iron skillet over the fire and it seemed to work well
post #4 of 17
I have the Char-Griller Super Pro with side fire box. I did a couple of easy mods that I found on this site. It holds temp very well, and I'm not tending to it much, as far as adding charcoal. It was fairly priced, around $160.
Welcome to the site, I found it a couple months ago. Alot of good advice, and recipes.
post #5 of 17
To answer some of your questions:
1. When looking at side burners, Look for a heavy gauge of steel. The heavier the metal the better it will hold temps. Also look at the gaps in the steel around the fire box doors, the better the fit the better it will hold temps. And you are correct, Side burners do tend to be hotter closer to the fire box. The main problem with inexpensive side burners is the opening from the fire box into the cooking chamber tend to be to large. You will also need to make a baffle to direct the heat down and into to cooking chamber. Inexpensive side burners usually don't have a good fire grates in the fire box or come with charcoal baskets. Wood grates or charcoal baskets are easy to make.
2. "Heat Plates" I think you mean "tunning plates," they are plates of metal that sit below the cooking grate and are spaced ( tunned ) to allow the heat to travel evenly across the cooking surface eliminating hot spots.

Having said all this there are a lot of good inexpensive side burners out there. I have a side fire box Chargriller Pro which I love. here are the mods I have made. It will give you an idea of how to make a good smoker even better:
I have lined the cooking area with fire brick to help even out the temps and to help hold the temps. When the bricks heat up,( It does take a little awhile) they help hold my temps and even out temp spike when I add wood. The Chargriller all so comes with a Charcoal Grate that is to be used in the main cooking chamber so it can be used as a grill, I took the Grate and turned it upside down and it acts as a baffle to direct the heat down and away from the fire box and into the cooking chamber.
I hope this helps you in your search.
Shop around and look for your best deal, also I am sure the nice people here will give you advice when you decide on a particular model.
Good Que'n
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Wow, so many replies already. Thanks for the tips Wilson!

I checked out that link you sent Roper, and now that New Braunfels El Dorado Grande has me drooling, haha. It looks a lot more my style (aesthetically) than the other smokers I've seen and seems to have some nice features...but really a bit more than I was looking to spend...hmmm....
post #7 of 17
wilson that is some great advice
post #8 of 17
Welcome to the clubhouse and don't forget to show some pics!
post #9 of 17
Well said, Mr. Wilson. <DENNIS!> heh. Your rep points just went up :{)
post #10 of 17
welcome. the silver smoker,chargriller,& brinkman smoke-n-pit are all pretty similar. i have 2 smoke-n-pits & i have them modded differently but they work about the same. i won't get long winded w/ the mods but i can run fron 300f on the hot side to 200f on the far side,with 225-250 in the middle,which works well for me as i can do poultry,ribs, & a slow fatty or abt @ the same time & pull them all together for serving.the snp is a bit cheaper than the chargriller but has a bit more cooking's a link to pics of some poor man mods on mine.hope it helps.
post #11 of 17
Thanks Rich smile.gif
post #12 of 17
I've used a NB Bandera for a while now. Gives you the offset firebox for all wood with the advantage of a vertical smoke chamber. Lots of cooking space and you can hang sausage. The only critical mods are a baffle that can be made from a piece of sheet aluminum and some fire brick or lava rock in the bottom of the smoke chamber. The Bandera is no longer made and the ones that are still on the market are of poor quality; However, Brinkman makes the Smoke King Deluxe which is very similar. Hope this helps.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well, I went to look at the silver smoker earlier today. The guy barely used the thing, and the only blemish it had was dust from being stored for a long time. Seems like he wasn't that great at building a fire and thought it was a hassle, so just bought a Traeger to make it easier (I think I saw a nice-looking propane grill sitting out there as well). He had installed the thermometer (I believe that doesn't come with the grill) and threw in the charcoal, wood, some buckets he used to soak the wood, and a cleaning brush...seems like a pretty good deal for $80.

No way it was fitting in my car so I'll pick it up next weekend when a friend with a truck has some spare time.

I'm hoping to buy a small load of oak firewood and experiment with using a woodfire. If nothing else I'll have a fun time at it.
post #14 of 17
great score for $80.
post #15 of 17
COngrats JM sounds like you got a great deal! Ejoy the new smoker!
post #16 of 17
Great deal!!! I love my BBchef. But it's was much more than 80$ You will get a great feel for the basics on your new grill. Remember it is NOT the cooker but the chef that makes good bbq. Food tastes the same off of my 1600$ lang as opposed to my 200$bb chef. Honestly if I am only cooking for my family I use the bbchef. It uses much less wood than the Lang. Welcome to the family and get us some q-view
post #17 of 17
Hey JM,
Way to go, I always love to here when somebody gets a deal.
I wish all the best with your new smoker, When you get it next week, post us a picture of your new baby.
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