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King Kooker 38" smoker review

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I've already benefitted greatly from SMF, so I thought I'd do my part to give back with a not-so-brief and not-very-rigorous review of the King Kooker 38". But maybe it'll help someone out down the line.

Is there any way we can assign the abbreviation (KK) through the forum???

Disclaimer: I've never used a propane smoker before so I have nothing to compare it to in that regard. I'm used to an ECB electric, a Weber gas grill, Weber charcoal, and various other homegrown or purchased grilling/smoking/frying apparatus.

The bottom-line is that I like the KK. It's solid, well-built, versatile, and easy to use. I would recommend it.

Specs and stuff are on their website (http://www.kingkooker.com/detail.php?ID=157) and other places online (like http://www.amazingribs.com/BBQ_buyer...s_smokers.html) so I'll mainly keep this to my experience while breaking it in this weekend. Buyer Beware--I think KK is as guilty as most other companies in that there are "cheaper" versions of King Kookers lurking around that may or may not be of the same quality and build as the 2 on the KK website (website has a 30" high-pressure and 38" low-pressure). I got the Model# 2106 Heavy Duty Portable Propane Outdoor Smoker Package (a.k.a. King Kooker 38").

First, I guess I'll answer why I ended up going with the KK over my other final choice the GOSM 24" as it's highly rated on this forum. Mainly it was on recommendation from my dad, who already did lots of leg work shopping around last year and ended up with a KK himself (and enjoys it). I have never seen a GOSM but he was able to compare his KK with the GOSM at the store and said the KK was much heavier duty (120 pound ship weight!). Plus, it wasn't too much more $$$ over the GOSM since I would have had to ship it anyway or drive 5 hours round trip to get the GOSM from the closest Bass Pro Shop. On their website BSP claimed shipping could take 4 - 6 weeks! And it didn't hurt that KK's are out of South Louisiana (where I used to live)--though the item is clearly marked as being made in China. I know those Louisiana folks know a thing or two about propane powered cookers. I do admit that if I didn't have a little "extra" Christmas $$$ "burning" a hole in my pocket, I may have ended up going GOSM.

I ordered it Monday afternoon from the website and UPS dropped it off Thursday! So far so good! Assembly was pretty smooth even though it was dark and below freezing on the porch. A couple nuts/bolts were missing but it looked like a parts bag ripped during packaging--luckily I had spare in the garage and they give you a few extra bolts. The door was a little bent in the corner where it looked like the box had been hit/dropped. I've ordered enough stuff to know all this is par for the course. And with a simple set of pliers I fixed it without issue. Otherwise packaging was sound (double boxed, lots of foam), parts bags were clearly labeled, instructions clear enough, screw holes well aligned and properly sized, and it all went together easily and with minimal cussin'.

After tightening all gas joints and checking for leaks as per instructions, I did an initial chemical burn-off at full blast for about 2.5 hours which was a good thing as it was really fumey at first. The next night I did a seasoning burn for ~3 hours after spraying the inside and all racks with PAM olive oil and using hickory and oak chips.

It comes with 4 racks (3 regular and 1 with indents for cans/marinade), 8 rack positions, and 3 sausage hanging racks (not pictured). The lower rack temp (right above water pan) tended to read a little lower (~10*) than upper rack temp. Spare ribs (and extra long fattie) had to be laid diagonally to fit, but they went in just fine. With the sliding racks it was easy to access everything. Shelves felt solid, never concerned about too much weight or instability of shelves or the unit. Thick gauge steel construction throughout. A little smoke leakage around the door but not much. Two side dampers and the one on the chimney give you additional air/temp control. The handles are "cool grip" as advertised.

I love the side access panel! It works great in that you really don't loose much heat when you open it. It has a large water pan that I re-filled about every 2.5 - 3 hours. Solid cast iron wood box holds fair amount of chunks or chips. I seemed to get more smoke out of a combo of chunks and chips but feel I still need to work on finding the sweet spot for smoke. I'm used to LOTS of smoke flavor; you might argue too much. And I figure the flavor of the box will develop the more I use it. My ECB is 10 years old after all.

My only real complaint is that temp gauge on the unit reads ~100* lower than my calibrated digital and 2 analog thermometers. While that is a lot, at least it's consistent. Dad says his is only ~25* lower. Will look into a replacement for that as it sounds like many out-of-the-box gauges are off based on what I've read here. ...except my Weber.PDT_Armataz_01_36.gif And it's certainly not the more portable object. You can move it, but it's big and heavy.

For the first cooking session--with a nod to my south Texas roots--I went with something familiar, fairly forgiving, and cheap (though not necessarily my favorite): beef ribs. And I threw in the trimmings from the spare ribs for day 2. And some potatoes, just cause. I did the 3-2-1 rib method and they fell off the bone and were nice and juicy as advertised.

By the second cook session I felt I had a good handle on how to use the KK and what to expect. Once you get the touch of the control and a sense of it's recovery time, the KK holds temp fairly well. At full blast (and below freezing temps with light breeze) I was holding at about 325 - 350*. I was able to keep 275* (for the fattie) and 250* (for ribs, chicken, turkey breast) easily. Adding boiling water to water pan helped maintain temp.

Everything came out great! Turkey was probably the moistest and most juicy and best-cooked I've ever done. Spare ribs rocked. chicken quarters were fine. I attribute all this to ease of use and a good design more than I do my skillz.

I finally cashed the gas tank after ~20 hours of burn time with ~5 h of that full blast. But as I'm a home-brewer, I always have a spare tank on hand.

So yeah, a great purchase and solid competition for the cabinet propane smokers out there.

Beef Ribs and trimmings from full rack of spare ribs on first cook.


Sorry no pre-pics from the main event...only tasty post-pics.

Note:The beer is (obviously) not Guiness but a killer West-Coast Style Pale Ale from our local LoneRider Brewery!

post #2 of 17

Great post

Thanks for the review - been looking at getting a gasser or converting... I like the way this one looks.
post #3 of 17
only heard good things about this gasser.........
post #4 of 17
Looks pretty much impervious to wind - that'd be a good thing here in North TX. What's involved in converting a propane system to natural gas? I've got hook-up s on the patio and in our courtyard.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks all!
Glad to hear chefrob has heard good things, I hadn't heard too much one way or the other.
I still keep coming back to I really like how solid, stable, and well put-together it feels. If portability is your thing, it probably shouldn't be your first choice, but it's spacious (though not overly so) and versatile with the 2 different rack types and hangers..

Yeah, I think it should do well in moderate wind. The main door is recessed and the side access panel really limits the heat loss when opening. Someone on SMF did or was going to put some oven gasket on their KK door, I think. Sure there's some heat loss through the top part of the door, but I'm not sure it's totally necessary, at least here in NC. We'll see over time.

Not sure about a conversion to natural gas as I really don't know much about all that. I imagine it would depend on the heating element (and your skillz)? The element isn't your "standard" turkey fryer cast iron thing, if that matters. Maybe it is on the high-pressure version of the KK? If you download the instruction manual online you can get a general idea of the element and what the biz-niz end of the KK looks like.

...now what to smoke in it this rainy sunday??? Maybe a salmon to see how it does on the lower end of the heat range...biggrin.gif
post #6 of 17
Do you think you could fit a full size packer brisket in that beast? If not, KK really needs to make a larger size. I'm sure it would become the king of gas smokers if they made one 24 inches wide.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
I thought I'd post a quick update.
Measured diagonally the racks are ~20". Not sure how big packer briskets are but it may be just a little narrow for them.

I smoked up some steelhead trout from the grocery (and a "dudestrami") this weekend to see how the KK could handle the lower temp range.

I slightly modified NWhoss' smoked salmon recipe though I may have done something wrong as it was a bit salty for my taste (maybe too long in rub? or too thin of a fillet?) but it was really tasty otherwise. Similar salt level to bacon or jerky. Almost like a salmon candy from the Northwest. And we approached it more like lox and didn't eat an entire fillet at once, just small pieces.

But overall the KK did really well. I cooked them around 150* for 3.5h then 170* for 1 h. Ambient temps outdoors were around 55*. Wood was a wild blend of apple chips, oak chips, alder plank (smashed into quarters), and local cherry.

I ended up using 2 stacked disposable aluminum trays in place of the cast iron wood box as the low temp didn't generate enough smoke for me. And I had to watch for the wood in the box catching fire as that would kick up the heat. But once I got that hang of it, it held a steady low temp and kicked out a steady stream of smokey goodness. In general, I think the KK is more predictable smoke-wise when I use smaller portions of wood more frequently instead of lots of wood at the beginning.

As a side-note the "dudestrami" and the eastern NC BBQ sauce marinated chicken wings rocked too. And my better half made a tasty rye bread and some great "german" potato salad to accompany the meal!



AL foil smoke tray

Dudestrami and wings

post #8 of 17
Looks great, nice work! :)
post #9 of 17
WOW, thanks for taking the time to give that review. I am in the market for a smoker, and I think you have helped me make up my mind. Sure looks well built, and the food looks superb!!!
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Absolutely! I know all the info on this website helped me when I was shopping so I figured I'd contribute back. I'm still happy with mine and KK is gonna send me a replacement thermometer. points.gif

I will say I got to see the big block GOSM in person recently. It does look like a well built and well thought out rig, especially for the money (I didn't end up catching the price but I'm assuming it was the $200 one). But the biggest downer for me in the design is that access to wood and water is only through the front door on the model I saw.

I also stopped at Sears the other day after all that snow and they had the Kenmore version of the propane cabinet smoker on display. It seemed better built than I initially gave it credit for. The front door was double hulled and it seemed pretty solid overall. But here again, only access to wood and water was through the front door. And it seemed pretty narrow bodied. But for sub-$200 it seems like a good deal.

Paraphrasing someone else on SMF, no smoker is perfect for everything and I'm sure whichever one you end up with you'll enjoy and will pump out some good grub! PDT_Armataz_01_12.gif

I owe some qview of a killer pork butt that I did last week using lessons learned from SMF...Perhaps my best butt ever!
post #11 of 17
Excellent review thank you very much! What do they mean when they refer to "low pressure propane smoker" and "high pressure propane smoker"? Is that in reference to the propane? Thanks.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
I'm not entirely sure but I think it has to do with how the regulator outputs the pressure of the gas. The high pressure one can get much hotter (higher BTUs, think frying turkeys) whereas the low pressure one isn't as hot (lower BTUs) but lasts longer?

Might be worth an email to KK direct (or a search on SMF) to see if anyone more informed can shed light on the subject.
post #13 of 17
Thanks for the great review! I currently have the Kenmore version and it has been trouble free and overall a good buy.
How do you rate the KK vs the Kenmore ( aside from having to open the fron door to load wood and add water)? Is the KK larger? because that is what I am looking for.
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Without getting my hands dirty using it, I gotta rely on a "5-min with my squirming 1 year old son in my arms" impressions only:

The KK is wider. I measured my rack straight across at 18" and diagonally at 20". If you're looking for super wide, a GOSM, or smoke vault, or other 24 incher would probably do you.

The door on the Kenmore was double hulled, KK is not.

Seemed like similar heavy gauge steel in both.

The side door thing...

I like the KK's chimney but I don't know that it affect performance.

Overall more space, more rack positions, and more rake variety (indented rack for cans, sausage hanging racks) on the KK

I do like the ez access, sliding water pan and cast iron wood box on the KK. But I can't say that they Kenmore version of those perform differently. I just pull out the water pan an inch or two and add water when necessary. The cast iron wood box is a bit more involved to get at, but it holds it heat and wood really smolders in there.

Post up a review and or some pics of your kenmore. I'd love to see it rocking!PDT_Armataz_01_36.gif
post #15 of 17
I have a KK also. I guess for like 4 years now, maybe 3, I forget...I'm with you in that I LOVE the side access door for the wood and the water pan. It's the one thing that set it above others like GOSM for me as I was in the position you were in and had a little xtra cash. I did take some rope insulation and put it around the main door. Mine leaked quite a bit actually. I put that around it and it's fine now. Also my thermometer wasn't reading correctly...I do wish they would come out with a 24" model though. I had to cut a full rack of spares in half to get them in, but bb's do fit diagonal...It is great at handling low temps, I've done jerky in mine a couple of times and it held well, and conversely, it will crank up high enough to crisp up chicken skin! Good review!
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info Shellbellc! It's good to hear that you're still digging your after a couple years of use. Good trick to crisp up the chicken skin, my last chicken attempt ended up with soggy skin. And Jerky is on my real short list of things to smoke in there!
post #17 of 17

Thanks to all on here who share their experiences!!  I am a Nu-B with a High Pressure KK.  I got that one versus the Low Pressure so that I can turn around and use the base with the 60 qt pot I also acquired!  I can go camping and not have to take an extra burner with me!  I haven't used the smoker yet, but am planning on it very soon.  
Keep posting so I can keep up, and I will let you know how things turn out on my end...

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