Smoker Recommendations

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by flyfish, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Was hoping someone could get me started in the right direction. Currently have a chargriller offset and planning on upgrading. Would like to try my hand at some competitions and small catering.

    What size of smoker would be good to start with. Much of what I do is small cooks for family but looking to expand a bit.

    Was looking at Lang 60 and some of the assassin gravity fed models. There are so many options just looking at where to start. Would like to only make one big purchase now (all wife will let me) so it has to be the right one. No rush on this so I need to get it correct.

  2. smokinal

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

    Your going to get a lot of opinions on this. I see a lot of Lang's on the BBQ circuit, they seem to be very reliable & not too expensive. Wish I had one!

    flyfish likes this.
  3. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Thanks. That is what I am hoping for.
  4. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    First you'll have to decide which smoker type suits your wants and needs best.  You mentioned offset pits (Lang) and gravity fed smokers (Assassin).  These are both great smokers in their own right, but are designed entirely differently.  

    From my personal view, offset rigs are for those who enjoy fiddling with the fire to keep their pit at desired temps and producing the desired smoke.  Those gravity fed rigs are more for those who would rather not have to worry so much about fire maintenance...a bit more of a set-and-forget-it type rig.

    What would be important to me might not mean as much to you, but I've always admired the looks of those high end gravity fed smokers.  If I were going to start doing comps, and money were no object, I'd look real hard at the Stump's line of gravity fed pits.  They are very nice rigs, and seem to be well respected on the comp circuits.

    flyfish likes this.
  5. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Thanks. I definitely see the pros and cons to each. I enjoy fiddling but also like the idea of set it and go with the gravity fed. The upright would be more consistent as well from a temp perspective I'm assuming since you don't have the spikes from the firebox.

    How much of an issue is it with juices cross contaminating? With the offset it wouldn't be a problem but could see an issue with the upright.

    Is it 50/50 in use for competition / catering? Fuel is another issue as well.

    I know there are a lot of variables and decisions to make. I'm sure others have gone through this as well so looking for a little more advice.

    If it was just for home use, would go with an offset so I could just fiddle all day with it but looking for other uses long term to help justify the investment.

    Also, in a state around the Great Lakes so cold weather use is something I don't even try with the chargriller

    Thanks again
  6. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Cross contamination between poultry and other meats can be a concern in any vertical cabinet style smoker, but with a little planning and forethought, it's easily manageable...just have to put the poultry on the bottom racks so it can't drip on anything else. But it's not a bad thing for pork and beef to drip on one's actually kinda tasty IMO if one bastes the other while they cook.

    Can't say which is more prevalent in comp circles...if I had to venture a guess, I'd say gravity fed. I believe all gravity fed rigs are insulated, so I'd assume they'd be more efficient on fuel consumption...also the insulated and double walled construction might make them more practical in your cold climate.

    Don't want to slam high quality offsets...they're good pits that have they're own strengths. Whichever you end up picking would probably be a good choice.

    Last edited: Feb 18, 2016
  7. gordito

    gordito Newbie

    So I can give my input here a little, I was just in the same position as you for the most part. (I do own an offset already).

    I recently relocated from Houston to Denver and I had the pleasure of learning to fight the cold. I am a weekend BBQ'er and we enjoy hosting friends over. I usually cook for 2-20 people or somewhere in between.

    With that little background I think it all depends on your needs. As previously mentioned I have an offset and I love it, but for cold temps you really need an insulated box or at least a 1/2" in my opinion. You also get the joy of tending the fire more and being heavily involved in the cooking process. I would not want to fight ambient temp plus fight internal temp while cooking, I did it once and I didn't enjoy myself. Another benefit of having an offset is you can grill depending how you have it built either over the firebox of some are able to put coal in the chamber.

    I chose to buy a vertical smoker instead of replacing my offset and I must say I would do it again in a heart beat. In my opinion LSG or Humphrey's are two of the best vertical smokers out there, Humphrey's units for the most part are reverse flow units and they are incredible. LSG makes both offsets and vertical chambers and have many many years of experience in the business. A vertical smoker, I find the efficiency is incredible, you can set and leave if you want to cook over night, cross contaminating is very easy to handle and take care of I personally don't find it to be an issue.
  8. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Red and Gordito. Thanks for the information. I was leaning toward the vertical from an ease of use as well as the insulating factor. For me charcoal is a lot easier to get than wood although not impossible.

    I have the current offset which does double for a grill so right now not replacing that. Will look at the verticals and start down that path. Winters are brutal here and running out all the time to feed fuel is not fun and a reason I don't do much in the winter.

    Thanks again.
  9. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Sounds good...keep us all posted on your search!  [​IMG]

  10. darbinco

    darbinco Fire Starter

    I've recently been down the same path. I have a reverse flow stick burner that works extremely well but the down sides were beginning to show.

    While I have access to fruit orchards nearby having to go collect the wood is kind of a pain. Constant maintainence, seems every 45 minutes I'm out throwing on more wood. Temp swings can be fairly large. Overnight smokes left me with little to no sleep.

    After hours of reading and tons of research I ordered an Assassin 24 and have never looked back. I burn Royal Oak and a variety of other charcoal in it. I full chute will last 14 hours pretty easy and the temp stays very consistent even in the cold weather. i would be hard pressed to say anything bad about it. Imwould highly recommend it.

    Here's all my tools of the trade, you can see the reverse flow in the back ground. For size comparison that's a large green egg and a regular full size Weber Grill.

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
  11. As for me I like offsets and to fiddle with charcoal, wood etc. A coworker and got a couple of awards in a comp on a very cheap Brinkmann offset but it was large enough to get all 4 meats on. A lot of people also had the Weber Smokies as well, which you might want to consider. Right now I am looking at possibly getting a Yoder offset, it is heavy duty and has great reviews, pretty spendy though. Have not seen any Langs in my area but from what I understand they are great as well.
  12. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Forgot to say thanks to Al.

    Darbin. Thanks for the info and pics. This really helped. Is there a reason you went with the 24 vs the 28? Still trying to figure out the best size. Guess I will need to give them a call and talk to them.

    Brett. Thanks for the info. I like to fiddle too but trying to keep constant temps especially with the wind and cold is hard. Plus I don't have an ever ending supply of wood so would have to get deliveries.

    I guess you can use anything for competitions and such since it is all about the cook and not the tools. However having the better tools does make the job easier.

    Thanks again!
  13. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    So also looking at this from a different angle -- WSM 22.5. What would the capacity be for this? From a cost perspective, I could buy 4 of these and still be ahead of the cost of an assassin. Plus I wouldn't have to buy a trailer to move it. I know it wouldn't be as efficient as a vertical and would be more work. Just trying to look at all the angles.

    Again also looking long term for competition and possible catering. Just trying to pick a direction and go with it

    While I like the offset and like tinkering it is nice to set and go with a vertical whether it be a WSM style or assassin.

    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
  14. darbinco

    darbinco Fire Starter

    I went with the 24 for a couple reasons, price being one of them. Nobody out there offers a gravity feed smoker of that size, with these options for the same money. Secondly I figured it would be big enough to do most anything I wanted. With 4 racks you can put a bunch of product in it. I recently smoked a bunch of meat for the Super Bowl. Even after having to remove a rack (because of the height of the pork butts) I still smoked 2 large butts, 2 full chickens and 6 racks of ribs. I probably could have got a couple more racks of ribs in it had I needed to.

    Another big difference between this Assassin and my stick burner is the flavor. The stick burner gave a real heavy smoke flavor, sometimes I think too much. I never had any complaints but it was just something I thought tended to overcome the flavor of the meat. The Assassin is a lighter flavor of smoke, it doesn't override the meat. It took some getting used to the difference but I believe the food I'm turning out now is much better than before.

    I like to fiddle as much as the next guy but setting the temp on your pit with the IQ120 and being able to walk away sure is nice. It leaves a bunch more time to prep other food or more importantly, visit with friends and family.
  15. darbinco

    darbinco Fire Starter

    I'll give you some as soon as I figure out what a wsm 22.5 is..
  16. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Darbin. Thanks. A WSM is a Webber Smokey Mountain. A smaller vertical smoker and not really in the same category as an assassin.

    It sounds like the 24 would suit my needs. Just trying to look at all the angles.

    I know what you mean about being a little too smokey. While good in some ways it was a little too much. Probably more due to me than the smoker.

    The assassin also has a lot of other benefits such as cold smoking or if I wanted to try my hand at sausage It looks like this would support hanging where the WSM wouldn't.

    Again thanks for all the info.
  17. darbinco

    darbinco Fire Starter

    Ok the Weber smokey mountain units.. I'll keep this to the obvious differences between the units. I won't say you can't produce good product on the wsm because you can and people do use them for comps.

    Sure you can buy a truck load of them compared to a gravity feed unit. But more doesn't always mean better. In this case it's just more running around, 4 fires to light and burn 4x the charcoal. On the above mentioned cook I did for the Super Bowl. I smoked all those meats with about a 1/2 chute of charcoal or around 5 pounds, give or take. The assassin is extremely efficient when it comes to charcoal consumption. A full chute lasts about 14 hours at 225deg.

    Limited space. I've got the large BGE which is about the same size as that WSM. You just can't fit as much as you think you should be able to on one. The limited capacity of the BGE is the reason I built my reverse flow stick burner.

    Temp control is a must. After using an IQ120 I would never be without one so adding those units to the Webers will be extra money to the tune of about 200 bucks a piece for a total of about 800 more dollars. Sure you can use the WSM without them but that's just more running around checking temps and tending vents, a PITA.

    They are non-insulated so cold weather cooks are going to be a challenge at best. I know the Assassin will rock out the bbq at below freezing temps. I've done it LOL it just takes a little more time to warm it up.

    The only upside I could see would be being able to have separate cook temps. Not a deal breaker for me at all. I smoke just about everything at 225 anyways.

    All you need to smoke sausage is some wooden rod or 1/4 round steel rod to span the inside of the assassin to hang the sausage. I smoked some jalapeño sausage this last fall and it was wonderful.
  18. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Darbin, thanks. Really appreciate your feedback. It is really comparing apples to oranges. Just trying to look at all the angles.

    Again appreciate all the feedback. Will let you all know what I decide. Still looking for any other opinions.
  19. flyfish

    flyfish Fire Starter

    Here's a little update. Have narrowed things down to the WSM and Pit barrel cooker. After standing outside recently in the cold doing some grilling I realized that as much as I like fiddling with the fire in an offset what I really want is a set it and forget it cook. While an assassin is what I would love and there are a lot of pros to it, most of my cooks are small so cost payback is pretty low. For the cost it is really hard to justify.

    So with that said any thoughts to help me make my choice. The pit barrel cooker seems like it would meet my needs more but so would the WSM. How do both do in the cold. I know I could get a welding blanket

    Again thanks for all the help you have given.
  20. krex1010

    krex1010 Smoke Blower

    I have a wsm and I love it. They do pretty darn well in the cold, I was running mine the other week in windy, -2 degree temps and other than taking about 10 minutes longer than normal to come up to temp it ran great and held temps well. I've never used the PBC but it seems to have a loyal following, i chose the WSM because I feel like it is more versatile right out of the box. I doubt you'd be unhappy with either

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