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A How to Smoke question


Joined Jan 5, 2010
I am very new to smoking food. In fact i do not even own a smoker as of yet and before I invest money into equipment I have a few questions.
I would like to buy a smoker but I do not want this big huge piece of equipment in by back yard, so what is a nice smoker that will not be a eye sore to my neighbors.
Since I live in the mid-west and right now we are having lovely cold wave (0 to -10) is is still possible to smoke meat outside in this frigid weather? If so what are some ways to get the best results.



Smoking Fanatic
Joined Dec 28, 2009
You ask 100 and you will get 100 different answers . My advice wouild be go to home depot and buy the brinkman ELECTRIC smoker for
$ 69.95 ... burn it in ... read the manual and let the fun start . Very easy for anyone to use . Then you can go on to bigger and better things . I use this one and have for years. I use the electric burner to start the heat and wood .. then I unplug it and just use wood with some char lumps .. Have fun

dick bullard

Meat Mopper
Joined Jun 22, 2007
You might want to do a little reading here on the SMF.....check the forum pages for the different kinds of smokers available (a lot in all shapes and sizes)....but if you do a little searching and reading around here on the SMF you can first make up your mind what kind of smoker you might want .....(1) charcoal or wood.....(2) propane.....(3) electric...once you make up your mind on that then you can narrow down the choices available to suit your needs and wants.!!! GOOD LUCK!



Meat Mopper
Joined May 22, 2009
I agree that a WSM sounds like what you are looking for. However, they are a bit pricey & you are paying for quality. There are quite a few WSM type smokers that are less expensive & still decent quality. Brinkman & CharBroil are generally good, less expensive options. Like with most things, you get the quality you pay for. There is nothing wrong with inexpensive bullets (often refrerred to as an ECB). I have a no name brand ECB that I started with & it has produced some outstanding butts, turkeys, etc.

Cold weather smoking can be challenging. It will take longer to get your unit up to temp & more fuel to maintain temps. Wind & snow/sleet/rain will really rob your smoker of heat. If you can protect the smoker from these elements, cold weather cooking will be much less of a challenge.

Check your local Lowes, HD, Walmart, etc. They may have some good deals right now on outdoor products to clear them from inventory. Check local want ads or Criags List & you might find a good used WSM at a bargain price.

Whatever your budget is, be sure to leave enough for at least one remote probe type therm. With weather as cold as you mentioned, you don't want to be opening the smoker to check temps any more than you have to.

fired up

Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
Joined Dec 12, 2008
I would not consider a huge smoker an eye sore. Heck I would let you park it on my front lawn year round.


Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
Joined Jul 26, 2009
Before you make up your mind - look at the links on the left side of the forum and read the write up on the different types then spend a little time here in the areas below seeing what folks think about the different types. Each type has its own section below with posts on how to and mods
Good luck


Smoke Blower
SMF Premier Member
Joined Feb 3, 2009
I have a MES and really enjoy it. This is one that you can set the time and temperature like an oven. Another plus is adding woodchips without opening the door. They are fairly common and easy to get, small and easy to store, and somewhat economical.


Meat Mopper
Joined Dec 1, 2009
Agreed on the MES.
I think it is a very nice looking unit, has good insulation and is easy to use.
I keep mine on my back deck against the house. I was worried at first that it would be too close to the siding (for heat reasons), but I can feel very little heat escaping the unit do to the insulation.


Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
Joined Feb 7, 2009
Once your neighbors smell the smoke and then taste the Que they won't care what it looks like. Personally I use the MES and my neighbors love it. Can't help you with the low temp reviews. It's 70 here in Wickenburg today. Remember it's what is on the inside that counts!


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Jun 5, 2009
Bang for the buck a Brinkman charcoal or electric seems to be the easiest way to get into smoking. They are smaller and can usually be found for under $70 (sometimes as low as $20 on used ones). The downside being limited grill space.

If you are at all handy and have some tools, then you can build a nice vertical drum smoker (Ugly Drum Smoker - UDS ). They do not take up much space, have a good amount of grill surface, and according to some people will run at 250° for 5 days on 12 pieces of charcoal!
(just kidding) But they are very fuel efficient.

I personally wanted lots of grill space and went with a horizontal off-set firebox smoker. Can be run with wood or charcoal, but is as big or bigger than most 3-4 burner gas grills. Not as fuel efficient as some, cost about $170 new, but can fitt a ton of stuff on them. I usually cook in batches and then freeze the meat for later use in other dishes.

And as others have pointed out there are some nice propane vertical smokers as well. If you really are not sure what you want then I suggest start with something small (like a Brinkman) and just learn the basics. Then when you have a feel for what you are doing and what direction you want to go, you can spend a bit more and get a bigger smoker.

No matter what way you want to go there are people here who will give you some great advice and tips on how to use whatever smoker you pick. Best of luck!


Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Mar 12, 2009
First off welcome to SMF and if you will stop by Roll Call please. Now as far as your smoker needs go get a GOSM they are cheap but well made and will last you along time too. Mine lasted 2 years with no problems till I bought a smoke vault.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined May 27, 2008
i strongly recommend a 30-dollar brinkmann smoke-n-grill, otherwise known as an ECB. looks like a short, black R2-D2 from star wars. found in wal-mart, k-mart and other "marts." cheap, but durable - [edit]i've got one over a dozen years old that cooks better now than it did when it was new.[/edit]

this smoker is easy to use and turns out very, very good barbecue; it can help you "get down to fundamentals" of fire control, temperature control, airflow etc. and it is nearly impossible to actually ruin a piece of meat when using it. further, with about 15$ in modifications, it can be made to work even better and allow you better control of airflow, smoke, temperature etc. the ECB is a charcoal smoker that allows you to learn barbecue the way it was meant to be learned, with wood (and charcoal) that force you to develop skills that will make this more than a passing interest - the challenges involved will step up with each advance and your quest for knowledge and skills will allow you to grow to a true pitmaster.

finally, after trying this and getting good with it, you can decide if this barbecue/smoking meat is really the thing for you. if it isn't, you're only out 30 bucks; but, if it is, you can continue to cook VERY good, VERY authentic barbecue with it and improve your recipes and methods, or you can "step up" to another type of smoker. i say "step up" in quotes because your ECB is perfectly capable of cooking barbecue as good as a more "advanced" smoker, but there are nuances etc. that an offset or other "advanced" smoker can take advantage of, plus they are usually bigger and will allow you to cook for a crowd (all those neighbors up and down the street who have been smelling your barbecue!). in other words, if you truly have an interest and a knack for barbecue, a more advanced smoker can make a good pitmaster better - but keep in mind that the best pit in the world won't make a novice into an expert or a bad pitmaster into a good one.

[edit]one more piece of advice - if you want to read up on some outstanding barbecue fundamentals, go to http://www.eaglequest.com/~bbq/ and download the barbecue FAQ. this is a safe, informative word document that will teach you quite a bit and give you soemthing to read while the weather improves. to answer that question, yes, you can barbecue in this weather, but your temperature control will be difficult. your biggest enemy is wind and if you can thwart that enemy, you're halfway there.[/edit]


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jun 3, 2008
There is a lot to ask or tell us besides the info you provided.

How much are you willing to spend?
Do you want to tinker or set it and forget it?
Are you already into bbq grilling and this will be an extension of your backyard cooking?

To some choosing a smoker is almost a life style choice, do you like to tinker and fuss when cooking, are you a traditionalist or you want it simple and clean, with least amount of hassle?

Buying something cheap to get your feet wet and decide which way you want to go is good advice, unless you hate spending money twice, many people want to get the smoker they think want the first time and just learn to use it. I thought I would build a trashcan electric and see if I took to smoking bbq. Then after pricing everything and weighing what I wanted to accomplish, which for me was having 3 or 4 bbqs for up to 15-20 with smoked ribs, each year. I didn't want to cut the rib racks to make them fit and I wanted to cook up to 12 racks all at once. So after I figured what I really wanted then spending a reasonable amount of money was ok.

pit 4 brains

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Group Lead
Joined Dec 16, 2009
Build a UDS! (Ugly Drum Smoker) as they call them here. You'll look and feel like you know what you are doing right away..


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jul 25, 2007
WSM would get my vote( I have owned a ECB, Chargriller offset, GOSM gasser, and now a WSM, Im glad I used, and cut my teeth on those other smokers, but am even happier I have the WSM now).

The WSM burns charcoal/lump, turns out great bbq, is easy to use, and looks good.

For those handy, have tools, access to the materials, and have free time a UDS would be a good option, for me it was cheaper to buy/get a WSM when I took into account buying tools, gathering materials, and the cost of my free time(I work 60 hours a week, and have a family, the last thing I have time to do is go driving around gathering materials, and building something in my garage, plus my free time is worth alot of $$$ to me).

Personally, I am not a fan of electrics(electric users please take no offense, its just my opinion).

Gas was ok, but it was just missing something taste & texture wise for me.

Im kind of glad I went the route I did before getting the WSM I started on an electric ECB 10+ years ago(tossed it in the garbage after a while and gave up on smoking meat for a while). Then moved to the Chargriller offset w/ sfb( really taught me fire control, and how to bbq). I had a loaner WSM this past summer, and liked how easy it was compared to the offset. Next was the GOSM, tHe GOSM was an inexpensive option where I could smoke food, & still sit on the couch and watch football without tending temps in the cold Chicago fall/winter weather. It took a while but I finally got the right smoker for me, the WSM

good luck with your choice, the above is my opinion, and experience, not to be taken as a slight, or dig to any type of smoker or method.


Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
Joined Aug 11, 2005
Jim, Congrats on the WSM!!

IAHawk, as far as 0 to -10, I smoke year round in those outside temps on a WSM and offset in a Weber Kettle. The question is more a matter of fuel consumption, and wind blockage/insulation.

On my ECB, I used to have a little blanket that covered it.

For the WSM and Kettle, I have a bottomless moving box I toss over it to block the wind. You block the wind, you retain heat, and you burn less fuel.

I will over fill the WSM charcoal ring with charcoal and wood chunks in these outside temps, as I am definitely going to burn more fuel just to maintain smoker temps.

I rarely use the Bandera offset in those temps, unless I have a few face cords of lumber laying around!!

Once you choose a unit, make sure to check back here to get some tips from these guys!!


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jul 25, 2007
thanks...it was a great x-mas present, ive already used it 3 x over the past 2 weekends. spares this Saturday.


Smoke Blower
Joined Dec 15, 2009
Wow this thread shows how helpful everybody is around here!

I think somebody may have mentioned it already, but I think the best thing I did when choosing my first smoker (last month) is to first decide on my source of fuel.

Gas vs. Charcoal vs. Electric is a big difference.

I'm very happy I went with gas because learning how to smoke is definitely fun, but I personally didn't want to worry about tinkering with the coals TOO much. I'm learning the basics of controlling temp, seasoning meat, cook times, sauces, etc. without the extra headache and cleanup of charcoal for now.

I'm thinking that if I keep learning as much as I am, however, then I'd like to try charcoal/wood down the line.

Just my opinion thus far with my limited experience :)

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