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Complete Novice Needs Help

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I'm finally gonna buy a smoker. I have previously smoked pork butt on my Weber Kettle Grill, but that's the only experience I have.

I've searched around the threads in this excellent forum, and I've decided I want to buy a charcoal smoker. What kind of smoker should I buy? Vertical, offset, bullet?

I anticipate smoking pork butt, chicken, and brisket. I most certainly will not need a smoker with a large capacity (the wife don't eat meat...don't get me started). I'm looking for something small and in the $150-$200 range. I hear the Weber Smokey Mountain is excellent, but I'd rather not spend $300.00.

I want something small and high-quality. Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 14
Welcome to smf. I have a horizontal offset so I am partial to those. But an ECB can turn out some great bbq. Nothing wrong with starting out on one of those. You could also build a UDS for the price range you are talking then you would have more capacity than the bullet but it still wouldn't be huge by any means.
post #3 of 14
gaga -

welcome to the forum. i'd like to give two recommendations based on my experience. both of these choices require some modifications, but turn out some excellent Q. they're both readily available at whatever-mart, which makes them handy.

a) brinkmann verticle smoker - this looks like a little black R2D2 and is perfect for small-scale work. also, it only costs 30$. here's a link that will show you how to really make this puppy sing with just a few dollars' worth of modifications:


b) is the brinkmann smoke'n pit. the modifications here are a little more invovled, but you will be able to handle any situation that comes to your door. here's a link:


everyone is going to belt you with an opinion, but those are mine - either one is a perfect introduction to this particular art. to me, the smaller one (we call it the ECB, standing for el cheapo brinkmann) is the best to start with as it is really a good way to learn the fundamentals. from there, work your way up - the food will always be good no matter what you use, but as your skill level grows, you will want to challenge yourself, hence the growth to something bigger, such as the SnP.

no matter what you do, i strongly recommend that you download this word document file (it is a safe zip file) called the BBQFAQ.


this has more information than can be imagined once again giving you excellent fundamentals. between that and this site, you will be covered very well!

good luck and don't be afraid to ask if you have any questions at all. i've done the mods for the ecb and am getting them started on the SnP - if you choose either of these, i and many others will be happy to offer assistance.
post #4 of 14
Hello and welcome to the forum. Can't help you with the charcoal burner since I have an MES, but looks like your getting plenty of good advice.
post #5 of 14
Welcome! Also try www.Craigslist.com You never know what you might find near you that might be used but in good shape. I will be building a UDS soon as I want a little more space and more temp control than I'm getting now on my ECB.

Let us know what you end up with and post some pics!
post #6 of 14
Welcome Gaga.
Glad you joined up and enjoy the smoke.
I spent a LOT of time reading, asking and deciding on what new smoker to get. It was between a Snp (Smoke n Pit) and a GOSM which is propane.
After much research and help from people on this site I decided the best next step would be to get the SnP and do a few mods. After a mod here and a mod there it seems like a great smoke can be produced and they generally run $158 at all 3 of our local Walmarts. And they are pretty...
post #7 of 14
Well, here I thought I was going to be a smarty and suggest you check Craigslist, but Bilbo beat me to it.

Vertical bullets are good if you won't be cooking for the masses. In your case, I would probably check around for a good quality used Weber smoky moutain. My smoker (which I like and makes good food) is a Brinkman vertical, the "Gourmet" model. It costs aroud 65 bucks at Home Depo. It also does double duty as a portable covered grill. I don't know what makes it "Gourmet." However, many (but not all) of the mods in the link Tasunka gave you have already been done. You can turn a Gourmet into a runner with 3 or 4 stainless steel bolts, a coal grate from a Weber 18 inch kettle, and a lid thermometer. Total cost for everything to modify is less than $20.00 and takes perhaps an hour if you're a perfectionist.
post #8 of 14
Here is my input based on my experience with the WSM and a GOSM-like unit, and a heck of a lot of reading and shopping.

With only a screwdriver and pliers, you can be up and running with the WSM (charcoal) or a GOSM or clone (gas). And you'll never need to do any modification to these units to get great performance out of them.

With a GOSM, you don't need to store or shop for firewood or charcoal and you won't need to learn about all the differences between the available varieties of each. You also don't need to learn about how to tend the fire and coax it into giving you the temp you want for as long as you need it.

With the WSM, you can choose to operate at a low-and-slow 225 for long overnight cooks or up to around 425 for shorter periods, and you can do a direct-grilling sear by setting the grate on the lower section atop the coals.

Some of the factors in choosing the right smoker for you would be
*Climate - if you're in the north, some cheaper units struggle to keep up temps in the cold without some modifications
*Space - if you don't have room to store and cut wood, go with charcoal or gas.
*Handiness & availability of tools - You can't build even a UDS without some tools, and low-end offsets seem to really benefit from some modifications.
*Love of playing with Fire - Even with charcoal in my WSM, part of the fun of the cook is working with different fuels and learning how to get the fire to do what you want. I assume this aspect is much greater for stick burners. It is totally absent in a gas and especially electric smokers.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone who replied.

I' found an ECB, brand new, still in the box, on Craigslist for $50. They are $65 + tax in stores. I'm going to modify it as per the instructions I found here. I don't want to "set it and forget it", cause I like the idea of tinkering every few hours. I'm interested in the process as well as the results.
post #10 of 14
Welcome to SMF. I was at Home Depot on Saturday and they had Silver Smokers for around 185.00. You can use as is, and if you want to follow a few of the modifications recommended here and make it even better.
post #11 of 14
Which model?
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
I lied...actually, I changed my mind.

I'm now gonna buy an offset smoker. More surface area for ribs. And they look way cooler! Plus, I got a buddy who is a sculptor, and he can help me with the necessary mods like the baffle.

Not sure what brand I'm gonna buy. Lowe's has only one offset smoker by "Char-Griller", but I'm gonna check Home Depot and Wall-Mart to see if they have a better selection.
post #13 of 14
thats a little pricey for a ECB.... i just bought one at walmart in sault ste marie michigan for $37 and the local kmart had them on for $32

post #14 of 14
Every bullet smoker Brinkman makes is referred to as "ECB." The gourmet costs about 65 bucks at Lowes. Is it worth double? I don't know, but it needs less mods than the $30.00 model.
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