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Vertical Charcoal Smokers item created by bmudd14474, May 24, 2010
Pros - Everything there to modify, rack space
Cons - Bad engineering
This smoker really does suck... that having been said, the basics are all there for you to make it useful. As you will find out, if you use it in it's recommended configuration, you will find it very difficult to get this baby up to 200 degrees F. The good thing is that you can pick them up used on craigslist for a steal!
SO, you must rearrange it a bit to make it useable. Step 1) leave the charcoal tray where it is... on the bottom. It will now become your ash collection tray. Step 2) go out and buy one of those inverse pyramid looking vegetable cooking baskets for the grill - the one with all of the holes in it, and handles on either side (for example: Weber Style 6434 Professional-Grade Vegetable Basket) this vegetable basket will become your new charcoal holder. The handles will allow you to slide it where the wood-chip holder previously was. This is good, because now it is elevated - allowing air to circulate all around. Step 3) position your wood-chip holder above the new charcoal basket. Step 4) position the water pan above the wood-chip holder. Now you are almost ready for makin bacon... Step 5) fill the wood chip holder with soaked wood chips. Step 6) fill the new charcoal basket with hot coals. Step 7) fill the water pan with BOILING HOT WATER!!! The water acts to keep the heat stable (as a heat sink) and keeps your food moist. It is critical that the water be pre-boiled otherwise all of the heat will go into heating the water, rather than cooking your food. Note: you do not need to use water if you intend on making jerky or salmon or some other dried form of smoked food. But the moisture will help in getting the smoke to bind to and penetrate your food item, such as a roast, shoulder, etc...
Now you have a useable smoker that will easily achieve 250 degrees F in 10 minutes with vents only half open. I have found that the charcoal needs to be replenished about every 2 hours. Don't worry about all of the smoke coming out the door seam, you do need some air flow to prevent creosote buildup on your food... and to make the neighbors jealous.
Pros - Cost, size
Cons - Heat loss, thermometer
Being a part time "smoker", I was looking for something that was easier to use than the standard Brinkman tube (which had finally given up on me after 10 years) when I saw this on sale at a big box store outside of Chicago. It looked great - plenty of room, no need to pull half the thing apart when adding charcoal, easy to baste on all layers. Since I usually smoke a large turkey and ham for Easter, this looked like it would be a hit.
I got it home, and I have to admit, it went together fairly easily without any problems/dents/missing parts. I seasoned it with half a bag of lump charcoal, and that's when I realized that the thermometer sucked. It sticks and likes to jump 20-40 degrees at a time (up and down). I've learned to deal with that by getting an auxillary thermometer (what do you expect for $130). But I also noticed that the door leaked a lot of smoke, and charcoal really didn't seem to last as long as it should. Parts of it will be completely ashed over in certain parts of the coal tray, and other chunks have hardly burned. Once I started using it, that's when also realized that it took MUCH longer to get meat up to desired temperatures.
Bottom line - it does an OK job, but plan on using more charcoal, and plan on multiplying the cook time by at least 1.5 - if it's colder outside, even more and longer.
Pros - lots of room
Cons - does not hold heat needs lots of mods to work properly
all I can say is it is very similar to the brinkman that looks just like it and the same mods are required. I have been following brinkman threads to figure mine out
Pros - size
Cons - temp maintainence
I received this as a christmas present a couple years ago, and have found that it doesn't maintain it's heat very well. Although I have not given up on it, I have heard of some options for getting it to hold heat better that I have yet to try: using wood instead of charcoal, & only opening vents partially at bottom instead of wider.
Pros - Low price, large capacity, cast iron wood chip box
Cons - Poor heat control, leaky door, cheap thermometer
I got one one of these on sale at a big box hardware store in Michigan. The first thing I did was mount it on a 3/4" plywood platform with casters and install a side shelf. That made it mobile and a little easier to work with. After a couple of uses I decided that the door was too leaky so I made a gasket out of hi temp RTV and installed a latch to keep it closed tight. After all that, it was starting to get cold outside in Michigan. That's when I discovered how difficult it was to get the thing up to temperature and hold it there due to the heat loss through the thin metal doors. Wrapping with blankets helped, but it was a struggle to keep the temp up, especially when using the water pan. I had to get an electronic thermometer because the one built into the door was so inaccurate.
All that said, though, this thing has plenty of room inside and it has a huge cast iron box for wood chips. I was able to make some delicious pulled pork, smoked chicken, and smoked sausage during the few months I had it. I had to sell it when we moved, unexpectedly, out of state. I never did get to use it during the summer, but I suspect it would have held the temperature just fine.
Now that I am moved, I don't think I will get another one of these, but if you're on a tight budget, it will do the trick. Think about the propane model if you want to use it during a cold winter.