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Highest quality "cheap" smoker?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
My Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouse broke last week so I'm looking in to getting a new smoker. Before picking up the Masterbuilt, I had bought one of the original Camp Chef Smoke Vaults, but retunred it due to quality issues (the body was twisted, the feet weren't level with the ground, the door didn't shut right, paint was chipping off, one of the brackets for holding the rack was broken, and the sheet metal was flexible and cheap feeling). I see that the Smoke Vault has become a popular unit now, but it would take some major convincing in order to get me to try the unit again. I was happy with the overall feel and build quality of the Masterbuilt.

Having said that, which of the cheaper units have the best build quality with the best reliability (smoking wood properly, correct heat without the flame going out, etc.)? I'm willing to go up to the $300 range.
post #2 of 18
Propane, electric, or charcoal????
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking about going propane this time (would love to go with a pellet cooker if I had the money right now).
post #4 of 18
Have you thought of fixing the MES? There are a few tutorials here on how to do it.


Here is one and there may be others.
post #5 of 18
Well i am still a noob here but i recently purchased a perfect flame from lowes and i am very happy with it
post #6 of 18
I would fix the MES if at all possible. If not you can get a great deal on a 6 rack digital Bradley here for 376.32 + Shipping, That is $222.00 of MSRP of $599.00, a real good deal...

I bought one, I ordered it on Tuesday and it shipped the next day and I got it yesterday.
post #7 of 18
I haven't had to fix my MES yet which I bought in early spring this year, but I would definitely go with MES again in a hearbeat if mine died and I couldn't fix it. I've smoked food in it at least 3 times a week since March of this year, and it has held up well for me for the $200 it cost. I've even made that money back since then cooking food for friends picnics and bbq's.
post #8 of 18
I have had to fix my MES & it took about an hour. It has not missed a beat since & is used about 2 times a week. I personally, at this time in my life, would not have anything else than an electric "set it & forget it" type of smoker. I would buy another new one tommorow if imine could not be repaired.
post #9 of 18
The MES looks to be a well-built and well-insulated smoker, and the "set and forget" aspect is a great feature, but I went with a propane smoker because, sooner or later, you will have problems with the wiring and/or the heating element. It's just the nature of electric heating.

Heat greatly contributes to oxidation and you are passing a significant amount of current through those connectors. It looks like the factory wiring terminals are the push-on type of connector, which won't last very long at all. There simply is not enough surface area in contact, nor enough contact pressure, to withstand any kind of heat (think expansion, contraction, oxidation) and that kind of amperage. Once those small areas of contact start arcing, resistance grows, and the electricity flowing through the connector starts to heat up the connector, causing more oxidation and arcing. It's just a short matter of time before complete failure at that point.

Silver soldering the wires to the element is the best way to make the electrical connections, or bolting the wires to the element would be minimally adequate when repair time comes. Avoid crimp-type or push on type of connectors at the element for longest service.

Propane offers its own set of disadvantages but is extremely close to "set and forget", as well as being portable.
post #10 of 18
This will bore those that are regulars, but I have posted the reason I bought the MES was due to the service life that could be realized with some simple repairs.

I don't know which model you have psychobrew but if you have the SS 40", to get a sheetmetal shop to build a SS double walled, insulated, cabinet with hinged door and latch, would be $400-$500. Then throw in the digital controller and heating elements. If you have the galvanized cabinet, you can still keep that cabinet operational with a little extra care for 15-20 years. The inside is SS so there should be no worries there.

The internet has sources for the heating element, and a replacement digital control (and there are 3rd party replacements), the wiring should be no problem to find, you can actually improve on the MES with upgrades as things fail.

I have the older version with the solid door, so maybe the windowed door may have a few issues later in life, but that should also be a relatively easy repair.

BTW, I have owned the MES 40" SS model for 15 months and have used it 30-40 times and so far still operationally good, and kickin out great Q.
post #11 of 18
Bought the Perfect Flame from Lowes and it is AWESOME!
post #12 of 18
I have the Bradley but have heard only good about the MES.
It would definitely be cheaper to repair than replace...
post #13 of 18
Another (very) happy perfect flame customer...
post #14 of 18
for $142(@ Bass Pro Shops) I couldnt ask for a better smoker than the GOSM propane smoker. Easy to use without any mods, holds a steady temp for hours, and turns out great bbq every time.

I was glad I learned on a Chargriller with the side fire box, but am gald to have moved on.

If I was to buy a charcoal smoker for under $300 I would buy a WSM. If I was to buy a gasser, I would buy a GOSM again. I dont know anything about electric smokers.

good luck with your purchase.
post #15 of 18
Personally I have a Gosm and to me it work just fabulouslly. I can smoke just about anything I feel like and it does a good job. It was a gift so I don't know how much it cost but I know it wasn't much. My wife is pretty cheap. But her hearts in the right place.
post #16 of 18
For the money spent, I haven't seen a better buy than a GOSM. It's a no-frills basic smoker that has satisfied alot of users, including myself. My only regret (had I known then what I know now) is that I got the smallest one. Mine is over 5 years old now, and still a part of my arsenal.

The Smoke Vault 24 is a sweet rig (not 100% sure on the cost as it was a gift). I've had nothing but good results with it as well.

post #17 of 18
We've only had our GOSM BB for a very short while but it does everything I want it to do. I did buy a needle valve for it so I could get the temps lower and I made a cold smoke generator to provide smoke control, but I've been very pleased with the stable temps I can get with it...and the capacity! Wow!

But by all means, find out what is wrong with your MES and consider fixing it rather than replacing it! A good smoker and a good BBQ (Weber charcoal kettle with rotisserie) are almost like family members in this household...

BTW, I love my rotisserie! That's my next project for the GOSM...I'm just waiting for my money to catch up with me...
post #18 of 18
I'm with you FastEddie, my trio MES, Weber gas grill, Weber Kettle, does everything I need to do in cooking. I am using the kettle tomorrow for 2 tri-tips, I used the weber gas last night for grill sausage/peppers/onion sandwiches, and grill pineapple shortcake, the MES saw duty earlier in the week smoking some tators, and mushrooms.
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