Good "starter" charcoal smoker set for newbie?

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by kquinley, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. I've grilled with charcoal for many years, but am thinking about buying a smoker.  What "introductory" or basic set-up would you recommend?  I saw an ad for a Char-Griller Texas-style charcoal smoker and was intrigued.  Thoughts?  Tips?  Advice?


    Kevin in Virginia
  2. realtorterry

    realtorterry Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to SMF if your new to smoking check out the free E-course offered here. It will give you all the basics. As to the smoker is going to depend on your budget & how handy you may be?
  3. meateater

    meateater Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    What are you grilling with right now? A simple weber kettle will work, fire on one side and meat on the other. The smoker you are looking at will work fine. Are you wanting to use charcoal, electric, propane? I would suggest looking around a bit and see what catches the eye. Myself I like the old nasty barrels. [​IMG]
  4. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

      Kevin,as said,make a Budget for yourself and get the bestMADE you can gat for the money.I would suggest the Webber Prods.,good,made decently and not a fortune to start.Learning to smoke on them is a slight learning curve,b ut do-able.

      Wish now I would have started smaller, but I had no idea the Health was going to get me on the down-hill side.

      Good luck and.....[​IMG]
  5. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    If you have a decent steel barrel hanging around the house you can cut a couple of holes in it and make a drum smoker like Meateater suggested.  I've never used one but I know they can make some great food.  Another starter smoker is the small barrel shaped Brinkmans 50- 60 bucks.  Many of us started with this little smoker and still use them for backup or for extra room when our main smoker is full.

    You really do need to spend some time reading threads about the advantages and disadvantage of the three/four different types of fuel.  Wood/charcoal, electric and gas.  Get the basics down and tell us what you like or dislike about the different types of smokers and we can be more helpful. 

    Good luck and welcome to the forum.  You'll like it here.

  6. lvbbqman

    lvbbqman Newbie

    Based on my recent experience as a newbie I would concur that depending on your budget the Weber products are a good start.  I would recommend against many of the non-Weber products you see at the big box stores as they are made with thin metal and often poorly fit making the temperature control so crucial to good smoking results even more difficult for the newcomer due to loss of heat through the metal and leaks between components.  They also frequently have burn through problems in short order particularly in the firebox unless you retrofit them with the fire grates and charcoal baskets they typically do not come with.  I found the most important question I asked myself is what is the amount of meat I will normally cook at one time and what is the most meat I might ever cook. I found that the smaller less expensive (but not cheap)  products met my routine smoking needs and I am in the process of perfecting my skills on the smaller quantities.  I am also finding out the things that are most important to me to help me buy the right smoker for me for those larger occasions.  No sense wasting good money on meat until I get my smoking skill perfected and no sense buying a big smoker and cooking for a big crowd until I know how to do it and understand the best cooker for my needs.
  7. desertlites

    desertlites Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm also partial to barrels and started with an ECB than built a drum. Very good starter smoker. And u can pick up a new 1 for less than $40
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
  8. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    [​IMG]    Glad to have you with us!

    You may want to look at a Weber Smokey Mountain.

    It's very easy to use. Holds the temps. well & will last for years.
  9. [​IMG]Like Craig said use the search tool to research all the different types. Just about every smoker configuration imaginable is on here somewhere. Good Luck.
  10. heyer5

    heyer5 Meat Mopper

    Weber Smokey Mountain - I'll 2nd that.

    I was a newbie as of April or May, not sure which.  The Weber was the best investment I have made!  It is easy to start, holds temp like you wouldn't believe, and you can turn out quite a bit of meat with it!
  11. nwdave

    nwdave Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Just as an example of the prices you're looking at:  I just purchased a Weber Smokey Mountain (aka WSM) 22.5 from Newegg for 339.00.  Shipping also has to be considered.  I've gone thru several "styles" of smoking (the adult kids love the hand-me-downs) from propane (principally) to now charcoal.  I recommend, as others have, starting out by reading everything here, lots of good pro's and con's information AND a lot of advice ready to be given when we find out your particular desires.  Electric (MES) and Pellet smokers are fine unless you want to take the smoker camping with you (something I do rather frequently) and have to depend on electricity from a generator or the camp ground services.  Propane has their own proponents and is a good starting point as well.  Charcoal, well you know about as you have a Weber Grill.  Let's not forget the stick burners (those who use wood exclusively).  And with no intention of slighting other smoking disciplines, I'm sure there are others I've overlooked.  We were all newbies when we discovered the joys of smoking (unless you came out of the womb dragging a bag of charcoal) so please ask when a question arises.  This site not only exists for the joy of smoking but to also help the beginner rapidly achieve their desired goal of cranking out some envious food. 

  12. rowdyrawhide

    rowdyrawhide Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I'll throw another vote for a WSM.  I first smoked on mine about 7 years ago with really no previous knowledge of smoking, other than very very passively watching my father (I had very little interest in smoking when I was watching him, I was obviously Very lost at the time).  My first smoke turned out pretty good, did a briskett, it was tender and juicy, I overpowered it with mesquite, and had some creosote taste because I was using the damper on the top to try to control temps.  Since then I have learned to leave the top open all the way, control temps with the bottom vents, I now use lump charcoal instead of match light kingsford, just to name a few things I learned on my own and then I found this site, now I am pretty proud to have other people eat my Que.  

    My father in law gave me the 18.5 inch WSM as gift, so I can't complain about the price.  With that said I would recommend getting the 22 inch, the 18.5 gets pretty tight especially when doing ribs.  

    Hope this helps

  13. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I tried to start cheap with one of the big box store horizontal offset smokers, after spending time modifying it, and tending the fire all the time, I sold it for less than half what I paid for it and got a 22.5" WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain). Have never regretted it once! A lot of folks consider the WSM one of the best smokers you can get for under $500, and if you look online you will see them being sold at some places with free shipping. I know a lot of folks here have used a site called and been realy happy.
  14. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I think you can still get the Lang 36 for under a grand with shipping,  Heck of a great smoker for the family and most larger parties.
  15. ecto1

    ecto1 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    three letters UDS or if you like electricity MES
  16. And Ecto has proved the UDS can make award winning BBQ too.
  17. nhbuck

    nhbuck Fire Starter

    The sky is the limit if your rich. So many different smokers out there. I am a newbie only ventured into the smoking world the beginning of this month. I bought the little R2D2 looking Brinkman Smoke n Grill. $40 bucks new. Maintaining temps consistently is the biggest issue I have had. I am beginning to do the suggested modifications from this forum. I have been using a mixture of Kingsford and Pecan wood. I thas been a good starting place and will be a back up by next spring. Over the winter I plan on building one. I have the welder, an old steel bedframe for leg, roll steels and an old set of chrome pipes off my Harley. Need the time and that will be in January after the holidays and deer season.   The night before I bought it my buddies and I were talking about deer season and how we wanted to have a whole deer turned into jerky at the processor. The next morning I decided to smoke some venison jerky for my first smoke. My neighbor was the first to sample it. After his second bite he looked at me and said " We ain't paying nobody to make jerky this year, we will just have you make it." I have had the whole neighborhood full of smoke since then and get requests for venison jerky daily from the neighbors and their kids!!  The wife is afraid I am going to piss off the neighbors with the constant smoke. I have also smoked ribs, a pork roast, 4 batches of jerky and  beef liver since then. Beef liver was a nightmare but I was trying to make jerky treats for the dogs and was looking for an excuse to fire it up as I love the smell of the smoke.  There are ribs on it as I type. Just sent out a text alert to my friends that Labor Day weekend I will be doing my first brisket on it.  

    I would recomend it as a good starting point. It is easy to use and learn on and if you don't like it you are only out $40 bucks or so.    
  18. Kevin, I think it is worth asking you what your priorities are as you embark on exploring smoking and what sort of talents you have. Some here have mentioned making your own smoker out of a 55 gallon drum. That is great if you are handy, have the right tools, and have perhaps more time than money to get it done. Others have mentioned the idea of getting the best smoker you can afford. That makes sense if you know you want to continue with the pursuit, because more expensive smokers generally hold a temperature better and longer and hold more food.

    I would suggest that you start by modifying whatever equipment you have and use that.If you have been using charcoal then perhaps you have a Weber kettle. If you do then as mentioned there are many ways of getting great results from your kettle. Googling "Weber kettle smoker conversion" will give you an endless supply of links showing various strategies for the task.

    So, tell us a little bit more about what equipment you've got, how much you want to spend, what you think you want to do with it, etc.  All that information will help us to make suggestions that work for you and your needs.

    I for one will caution you right out of the gate about buying an inexpensive side firebox style smoker, which is what the Char Griller is. While with patience, experience, and a few modifications it can turn out bbq as good as any other, it can be a challenge. Someone once said "more people have been turned off of smoking by buying cheap SFB smokers than for any other reason" and I would tend to agree. They can be recalcitrant and frustrating beasts.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011
  19. All great advice there Kevin!  I sold everything (including my smoker and grills and all when I left Minnesota, and upon arriving here I realize what a dumb azz I was for getting rid of my smoking stuff.  Left with a cheap grill at the villa I was at and refusing to use it...I went out and got myself a 22' Weber Kettle grill at the only store here and that is what I am currently using as my everything unit - grill, smoker, cold smoker.  That said, anything can be a smoker but I would not want to attempt the stuff I have been doing on anything but the Weber due to it's quality.  My next step to a "real" smoker will be the 22" WSM - and it will cost more to get it here but I think will be worth it. 

    Good luck on your decision!

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