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100% new to smoking! Trying to decide which cheapish smoker to buy...

jonny5

Newbie
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Joined Dec 17, 2018
Hi all. I'm trying to make my mind up as to what type of smoker to buy, for my first foray into "low and slow" smoking. I've dabbled with the technique and recipe using the domestic oven, and produced some pretty tasty ribs, but of course they didn't have that marvellous smoky flavour.

Have mulled over a few different smokers, my main criteria being that I'd like the capacity to cook 2 or 3 racks of ribs at once. I'm trying to avoid spending loads, and of course the resulting grub must taste magic :)

As far as I can tell my options in the UK are...

<£80: Cheap offset smokers on ebay. Need significant modding to perform properly. I'm handy enough with my MIG welder but would rather spend time cooking on the thing than tinkering with it! Plus they're unlikely to last more than a few years due to flimsy construction.

£90: Callow vertical smoker. Reputedly performs quite well, but it's not very big - I think I'd struggle to get 3 racks of ribs into it.

£150: Weber Kettle 57cm Original. Decent size and well made, but setting up for indirect cooking/smoking looks like it sacrifices a lot of cooking area.

£180: Pit Barrel Smoker. Again a decent size and should last, but looks like it'd be awkward to add wood or briquettes once it's loaded and up to temp.

£260: ProQ Frontier Elite. Definitely top of the budget, but it's bigger than the Callow vertical smoker, and has easy access to the charcoal basket and to the water pan via side doors.

What would you experienced smokers recommend? Have I missed any cookers that would be ideal? And beyond the smoker itself, a chimney starter and plenty of fuel, are there any other must-have accessories?
 

smokin monkey

Master of the Pit
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Build Yourself a UDS (Pit Barrel) can be built for as little as £60.00.

Should not need to add any further Bricketts, and after the first few hours of smoking there would be no need to add anymore wood, as it would,be a waste of time.
 

fivetricks

Master of the Pit
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I was just gonna jump in and suggest a UDS but I was beat to the bunch!

Tldr; +1 on the UDS suggestion. You can find out more about them in the smoker builds forum on this page!
 

Fgignac

Smoke Blower
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Joined Oct 6, 2018
And beyond the smoker itself, a chimney starter and plenty of fuel, are there any other must-have accessories?
I can't really offer any help with the cooker. But the number 1 accessory I would no longer want to cook without is a wireless multi-probe thermometer.

You want one with at least 2 probes, one that will monitor the air temperature inside your cooker, and the other to monitor the internal temperature of your meat. When smoking/bbq, these readings are everything. I also like the fact that mine is wireless, so I can carry it around with me and keep an eye on things while I am doing other things around the house.

If you plan on cooking several cuts at the same time, you can get thermometers with several probes
 

SonnyE

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I would stop looking at size, and be thinking half-rack shelves.
I always cut me Baby Back Ribs in half to start with. Much easier to work with for freezing/storing, and much easier to cook anyway I choose to do them.
Mostly, I cook my ribs on a gas Barby. I'm fortunate enough to live in Natural Gas Country, so I use that instead of Propane.
I would suggest you think about what is the better method to BBQ there in GB, then select based on that. Whatever you decide, savings can mean more meat to incinerate.
I've arrived at a rib recipe my Family does not want to allow me to stray from. So they've handcuffed me to the grill... so to speak. But I enjoy doing Half-Rack slabs for the ease of doing them.
Then I cut them into individual ribs in a large pan or roaster, and let everybody pick their own bones.

I have my Gas Grill, and a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker I've highly modified to suit my cooking needs. And made to use Pellets or saw dust (Dust).

I've seen pictures of the Callow smokers and they look nice.
 

gmc2003

Legendary Pitmaster
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Joined Sep 15, 2012
You can do two racks of ribs with a kettle, three if you use a rib rack. Charcoal basket make it easier to control the placement of the coals.

Chris
 

jonny5

Newbie
7
12
Joined Dec 17, 2018
Thanks all.

I did consider building a UDS, but to do a decent job using decent materials would end up costing well over £100, and then I'd have to spend a day or 2 building it. For my first foray into smoking I'd rather buy something ready-made which I know will work - that way, the first free day I have after delivery can be spent setting up and cooking on it.

Good to know that one "charge" of fuel and wood should get me through a cook. That's one misconception down, probably a few more to go mind!

Great call on the wireless dual-probe thermometer. I've got a cheapish single-probe wired jobbie, which I've used a lot for measuring oven temps (turns out Zanussi thermostats are actually quite accurate), along with a thermo-pen style thermometer that I use for measuring internal temps of food. Wireless, though, would definitely be useful - especially if I'm cooking in the garden in grim British weather. And they're not half as expensive as I thought - bonus! Ordered one just now for £20 on Amazon.

Rib rack is a good idea too, and they're not expensive - so once I've picked a smoker, I'll order a rack that suits the internal dimensions of that smoker.

So back to the smoker... Of the entry-level smokers on offer in the UK, which to go for?

I'm leaning toward the Pit Barrel, as a compromise between capacity, cost, quality of construction and reputed cooking ability. But I'm not sure about the "meat juices dripping onto the coals" feature; I think that might lend too much of an acrid smoke flavour to the meat, rather than the nice mellow wood smoke flavour that I want. Is there room in these things to add a drip pan/water pan between coals and meat? Or am I defeating the object of the PBC here, and better off with a different smoker?

Scrub the above. After some more research it seems the PBC doesn't really have enough height for a drip pan. And also I've stumbled across a 57cm Weber Master Touch kettle grill for £170 - so I'm going to order one.
 
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