New to Forums new to smoking. Need help on which electric smoker to purchase.

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by smokeyrobinson, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. Hi Everyone,

    Stumbled across this site while do some research on electric smokers. Read through some threads and was impressed by the level of knowledge and courtesy of the community members. So I joined.

    I'm relatively new to BBQ smoking. I have done pork ribs on several occasions using my Weber BBQ. I used the indirect heat method and cooked the ribs low and slow for 6 hours with a makeshift smoke pouch on the burner. Turned out real well. My family really enjoyed the flavors smoking brought to the meat. My 6 and 1 year old are picky eaters and I never seen them eat as much as they did when I cooked these ribs. Now I'm hooked on smoking my BBQ meats and cooking them low and slow.

    I have decided to purchase an electric smoker so I can free up my BBQ when smoking meats for long periods.

    I've done some research and narrowed it down to 2 machines:

    Masterbuilt 30-inch Electric Digital Stainless Steel Smokehouse with RF remote

    or the

    Bradley 4-Rack Digital Food Smoker

    I have read quite a bit of negative reviews when it comes to the Masterbuilt smoker. Here are some of the issues people have had on fairly new machines:

    - Tripping breaker in home

    - Controller Breaker

    - Heating Element breaking

    - Temperature Probe not accurate

    This is the negative points I have come across for the Bradley smoker:

    - Custom wood biscuits only supplied by manufacturer and are more costly

    - Internal temperature not accurate (off by 20-24 degrees)

    With that said, what product would you recommend and why? I'm ready to pull the trigger on a purchase, but would like to hear some honest feedback from experienced users before firing.

    Other questions I have (if you got time):

    1) I read that you should use an AMNPS with a Masterbuilt. Does this mean you use the AMNPS to provide smoke instead of the machine's built-in burner, or do you use both? What size should I get to fit the 30-inch.

    2) Is there another product I should consider (within the same price range) that might be a better option?

    Thanks in advance for any help/advice.
  2. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Since you have identified the negative with two smokers and listed no positives, have you looked at the Smokin-it line of electric smokers? Very reliable. Very few complaints.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
  3. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You also didn't specify what your budget is. I never considered a Bradley because I didn't want to be restricted to buying their wood biscuits and having to depend on their electric biscuit loader to keep working.

    I bought an inexpensive Masterbuilt 30" electric digital smoker because I wanted a good but cheap smoker with an electric heat source. I have what's called the Generation 1 which is what you'll see on Amazon and some other sites. As for the temp swings, I used to complain about that with mine until some very experienced SMF members/MES owners explained what was happening in regards to how the controller works. With that in mind I've observed that the controller in my smoker keeps the temp rock solid at my set point (+/- a degree or two) over almost the entire time I smoke. It's the guys who keep fiddling with changing temps that I think see the most problems. 

    I'm not officially recommending Masterbuilt but I'm just describing my experience with it. It does what I bought it to do and has done it very well over the 3+ years I've owned it. 
  4. I had a Komado Egg for 2 years and never learned how to use it reliably.  I tried everything to keep it low and slow. Could not leave it for much more than an hour.  Did modifications to close up every possible air leak, bought new thick gaskets, everything…… finally I came to the conclusion that I could not succeed without a thermostat controlled air intake blower.  At that time, the blowers for my egg were over $100.  I  fortunately, came to my senses and took less than half what the blower was going to cost and bought my MES 30.  

    That was 3 years ago. Nowadays I plug in my 30 foot extension cord, load the meat, load the A-MAZ-N saw dust smoker, set the time and temp and go back to bed. Life is wonderful!  I gave my egg to a guy who was remodeling the house next door.
  5. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    Oh no!  At least he's next door.  My fav will always be the Kamado! 

  6. davemhughes

    davemhughes Newbie

    After much indecision......decided on SI 3 myself. Will keep the dead MES carcass to use for pure cold smoking.

    I have had a Big Chief for 20+ years, used it heavily in Alaska for smoking salmon and such. The MES 30 was my first electric smoker like this. I had used wood in my old iron grill smoker but wanted set and forget ease. The MES was a great starting point for learning and eating great tasting food and I purchased it for $139 several years ago on Black Friday at the farm store. With A maz n tray it really changed everything about the quality of Q. So I got my money out of it. It did everything I basically wanted it to do but now I have the means for something better that doesn't break the bank. 

    If the MES had not died I would be using it right now......if you catch them on a really good sale it a solid purchase.....but always be planning to replace it. YMMV
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
  7. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Good solid decision.  And as you said, the MES did all you wanted it to for several years. The Big Chief has been around for decades. Ever here of the 'Old Smokey'?  Another oldie but goodie.
  8. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

     I will tell you right off...Get the MES 40". I have a family of 5, three girls, and no way would the 30 have been big enough! Yes most of the time I make 1 Butt, Brisket or Chicken, however, for any party or picnic, it is LOADED with 4-6 full racks of Ribs plus beans and a shelf of appetizers. The wise old Bearcarver and many others said years ago when I was just getting started, " What ever size smoker you think you need...Get the next bigger size! " You will have to cut Rib Racks or Briskets in half to fit the 30 and bigger diposable roasting pans will not fit.

    The MES40 is the most affordable electric on the market at $300 - 400 and is popular. In the last 4 years Masterbuilt came out with 4 Digital units with Remote Controls. The Gen1 Model # 20070311 is a 40" unit, all Stainless Steel. Academy Sports has the best price lately.   I own two Gen1 MES40's, both work great and this is the one most of the oldtimers have. The Gen2 was a total piece of crap! A redesign that was junk. The Gen2.5 was a Gen2 with the stupid stuff replaced, better but not a Gen1. Last is the MES Bluetooth that is new and, so far, getting good reviews. 

    Everything else electric is a Cookshack ( best on the market and big $$$$) or a knock off. The knock offs vary greatly in price and size but to get the same size as the MES40, you will pay almost twice the price with shipping. The best knock off for the price is the Smokin-it #3.  however it does not have any of the bells and whistles of the MES and does not work with the AMNPS. I believe the Smokin-it can use Todd's Tube Smoker (AMNTS) but check with Todd if you choose this unit. 
  9. divotmaker

    divotmaker Smoke Blower

    Smokey, Old Sarge is right!  If you haven't researched the Smokin-It line, you owe it to yourself to do so!  I, just like you, considered the same choices you are.  I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on either, what with all the MES failure problems, and reports of fires with the Bradley (when the feeder stops working).  When I finally stumbled upon the SI line, I was convinced.  All stainless steel construction (no plastic or gaskets to wear out and breakdown), built like tanks, and certainly the most "bang for the buck" of the commercial line smokers (Cookshack, Smokin Tex and Smokin-It).  Haven't regretted, for a second, my decision!  I actually have a Smokin-It model 1, 2 and 3!  Yeah, I know I have a problem![​IMG]   But, I've been an owner, and avid user for over 2 years, with ZERO problems, and produce some of the simplest "Lazy Q" you'll ever have!

    When you go to the Smokin-It site, click on the forum link and check out the 1600+ really satisfied owners (the forum is just over 2 years old).  What you will find is the most active "manufacturer's" forum on the web.  Register, and ask all the hard questions you can think of!  We're not afraid to help folks make the right decision, and some time around the boards will show that it's not fake, or some kind of "sales pitch."  Just owners being honest.  Great info here, but check it out to "broaden your horizons!"

    Hope to see you around!
  10. Thanks for all the help and advice.

    In the end I went with a Smokin-It 3 (wanted the size that didn't require to cut your meats in smaller sizes). It was a little more than I was willing to spend, but the reviews from satisfied owners is what made up my mind. Plus, I like the look of the machine and from what I hear it's built like a tank, so I'm confident it will provide me years of smoking enjoyment.

    Question to owners of the Smokin-It:

    I bought wood chunks (not chips/pellets) as fuel for the smoke.

    What is the purpose of seasoning the smoker? What's involved? Just burn a wood chunk for 6hrs?

    Should I add the wood while preheating the smoker? Or add it after the smoker is at working temperature?

    How long does one chunk burn for if it was the size of a softball? Trying to gauge how much I need one a 6hr cook.

    Should I burn 2 chunks at a time, or, is one enough?

    How do you clean the smoker after a cook?
  11. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    You might want to post this on the Smokin-it section of this site.  All good questions and you should get all of them answered by SI owners.

    The SI site also has a lot of owner-user information as well.

    And congratulations!
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015
  12. divotmaker

    divotmaker Smoke Blower

    Congrats, Smokey!  Great decision, on the SI #3!  When you lay that first full packer brisket in that bad boy, you'll smile and any doubt about your decision will quickly fade!

    If you haven't yet, come on over to the SI forum, as well as this one.  Lots of guides and instructions, over there, and answers from lots and lots of happy owners.  Enjoy!
  13. davemhughes

    davemhughes Newbie

    Smokin-it #3

    Mine just arrived today, unboxed, put the wheels on, cleaned out the inside, loaded it with mesquite wood and fired it up. It came with a few blocks of wood but I thought the mesquite I have that I very very rarely use would be great to season it. Smoke started supper quick and I figure I will let it smoke this evening for 4 or 5 hours.

    Super well boxed, but even then had some scratches and such......but I could care less about that as I am going to paint it eventually. I looked it over real good. Looks like spot weld type construction. Stainless steal inside and out. The dial is difficult to see the temp settings. I would of paid an extra $100 for digital controls (They sell a $200+ digital box add on). Digital controls are cheap now days and they should upgrade these. But I did know this before hand so....that's on me. You need a stand or cart but I will build one to bring it up to a height that is easy to work with. More of convenience issue really. The overall construction is solid and seems very well constructed. Even though its listed at somewhere around 138lbs it was not that heavy to deal with or move around. Great caster wheels for sure.    

    Smoke leaks around the top of the door. It pretty roomy inside and glad I went with the #3  vs a smaller unit. It uses one long 1200 watt element running center mass in the bottom of the smoker. With shipping which was $112.00, I paid $682.00 My shipping was quick and there was a hand written 'Thank You" on the receipt in the box and I thought that was a very nice touch and I would rather put money in people's pocket that care than just some corporation. 

    Buyers regret......maybe. A little let down I think given my expectation was so high but when I really critically look at everything maybe i am being slightly unrealistic as to what $700 buys in a smoker or should I have spent more on something else???????? But I bought it because of the great reviews and i want something that's going to last 15+ years and i will learn to use it and be grateful that I am in a position to have a nice smoker......

    Plan to smoke chicken and ribs this weekend and I am sure not matter what, first bite and it will all be water under the bridge

    Anyway......that's my first impressions

  14. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    davemhughes - leakage at the door is normal for non-casketed compression seal be it the SI, ST or Cookshack.  In time, the smoke residue will seal it, or most of it. 

    See the link I posted above for SmokeyRobinson for the Smokin-it section here at SMF.  There is also a user group under groups at the top of the page.  You can get a lot of good info there as well.  At the SI site, there is a section dedicated just for the model 3.

    Digital will lock down the temperature swings to within a degree or two of set, rather than dealing with the 20 or 30 degree swings of the analog as per the FAQ at the SI site.  These swings are also explained at the SmokinTex site FAQ.  Some folks want the digital accuracy while others live with the swings and all is well. 

    Good luck and enjoy.
  15. Had I seen this thread earlier I would also have chimed in with a recommendation for the SI-3.  Bought mine in March and have loved it every time I use it.  Smoked 4 pork shoulders for a neighbors family reunion a couple weeks ago, put them in the night before, added 6 oz wood and went to bed, not a single worry in the world.  You only need to add wood ONCE, you set the thermostat and you are done.  A good digital probe thermometer with dual probes lets me monitor 2 of the 4 butts and remove them when they hit temp and then check the next 2.  the ability to put full slabs in front to back is a huge bonus and the fact you don't need to babysit the smoker and add wood and adjust air dampers really makes this a great machine.  Congrats on your purchase and welcome to the wonderful world of lazy-q.  Smoke on!  So far we've done many slabs of ribs and lots of pork shoulder, will play with a brisket and some salmon this summer sometime soon!
  16. Anyone know how to get to the SI specific forum using the tapatalk app? I went to electric smokers but couldn't find the sub-forum. Lol.
  17. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Last edited: Jul 22, 2015
  18. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Glad to be of assistance.  
  19. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    That's a great story! I took a one-day BBQ class and got to observe and briefly work with a BGE. I saw firsthand its limitations for low and slow cooking although you do see it used in some BBQ competitions on TV (but those cooks never win). My MES 30 Gen 1 is small and flexible and puts out great Q. I use a 25' extension cord when I have to plug it into one of my outside power outlets.

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