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Best Beginner Charcoal Smoker

jaybird1103

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Joined Sep 12, 2013
I am thinking about getting into smoking meats and I was wondering which would be the best beginner charcoal smoker. I am looking for something between the $50-$200 range (this includes grills and smoker boxes) but will go $300 max.
 
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jpayer

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Joined May 25, 2013
My first smoker was the ECB ( el cheapo brinkman) (brinkman gourmet charcoal smoker) and I absolutely loved it. It is a vertical water smoker and is extremely easy to use and has always produced excellent smoked meats. The thermostat on it has no temp readings just cool, ideal, and hot, so that kinda sucks but over all it's great. I bought mine for $45 at the local hardware store about 12 years ago. They are going for about $80-$100 now on amazon. Good luck with your decision.
 

daveomak

SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
OTBS Member
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Joined Nov 12, 2010
Jaybird........ morning and welcome to the forum....  Think about building an UDS (ugly drum smoker)...  they cook very well, and cost anywhere from $50 - $250.....  

Please take a moment and stop into " /Roll Call/   " and introduce yourself and get a proper welcome from our members.... Also, if you would note your location in your profile, it will help in the future when answering questions about smokin'...   elevation, humidity etc....    

We're glad you stopped in and joined our group...    Enjoy the long smokey ride....     Dave
 
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jirodriguez

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Save yourself a lot of frustration and get a 18.5" WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain) - the set-it-and-forget-it of charcoal smoakers. The WSM's are considered the best commercial charcoal smoker you can buy for under $500. There is a 18.5" and 22.5" version - both are very easy to set up and use and produce outstanding BBQ.

I messed around with a horizontal smoker to start with, spent $200 and a lot of time modifing it to end up with OK'ish results. A co-worker introduced me to the WSM and I have never looked back.

The 18.5" WSM is $299 and the 22.5" is $399, they don't need any mods to work well and due to the porcelin coating never rust out or anything.
 

jaybird1103

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Joined Sep 12, 2013
Thanks, however, the Weber Smokey Mountain smoker isn't in my budget right now due to the fact that I'm having to help take care of my 81-year old father, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. My mom, who usually did the cooking, passed away in 2010 of cancer and one of my sisters passed away in 2006.  However, I'll keep the WSM in my mind.
 

jirodriguez

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Joined Jun 5, 2009
 
Thanks, however, the Weber Smokey Mountain smoker isn't in my budget right now due to the fact that I'm having to help take care of my 81-year old father, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. My mom, who usually did the cooking, passed away in 2010 of cancer and one of my sisters passed away in 2006.  However, I'll keep the WSM in my mind.
If you are handy with a drill and some basic tools you could build a UDS for under $100 (Ugly Drum Smoker - doesn't meant they are ugly though just a name). Look under the UDS or builders forum and you will find lots of info on building them, they work very well and make some great Que.
 

dirtsailor2003

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hambone1950

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Joined Jul 23, 2012
Thanks, however, the Weber Smokey Mountain smoker isn't in my budget right now due to the fact that I'm having to help take care of my 81-year old father, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. My mom, who usually did the cooking, passed away in 2010 of cancer and one of my sisters passed away in 2006.  However, I'll keep the WSM in my mind.
Well , the WSM is definitely the best of the smokers in that range , but if its not in the budget , it's not there, so.... If you want something you can take out of the box and smoke with, , ( and it sounds like you got a lot on your plate so maybe you don't want to build or modify) I would say take yourself over to Home Depot and buy the brinkmann cheapo smoker . $60 , I think. You can cook chicken on it. You can cook pork butt on it. Ribs too. You will end up with some pretty decent bbq , but have no illusions , it is a little cantankerous.
There's tons of guys on this forum who cook on them and they can advise you on every aspect of the art of ECB cookery , but dollar for dollar , I think it's one of the better (cheap) beginner BBQ tools. If nothing else , it will make you really appreciate your WSM when you finally get one. And good luck with your situation there with your dad. I know that's a tough thing sometimes.
 

jpayer

Fire Starter
54
21
Joined May 25, 2013
My first smoker was the ECB ( el cheapo brinkman) (brinkman gourmet charcoal smoker) and I absolutely loved it. It is a vertical water smoker and is extremely easy to use and has always produced excellent smoked meats. The thermostat on it has no temp readings just cool, ideal, and hot, so that kinda sucks but over all it's great. I bought mine for $45 at the local hardware store about 12 years ago. They are going for about $80-$100 now on amazon. Good luck with your decision.
Also, if you go this route, don't forget to utilize that water pan. Throw some beer, apple juice, fresh herbs, onion, etc to enhance the flavor of the meat.
 

rondar

Fire Starter
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Joined May 27, 2010
First off welcome this site is full of friendly and very helpful people.I bought a Brinkman off c'list and googled some mods I found the franken brinkman mods the best, the guy even has printable blue prints.I love it, its great for pork butt.But ribs takes some good placement for whole slabs.Good luck
 

bama bbq

Master of the Pit
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Joined Sep 24, 2011
I believe in the cry once principle but if the difference in cooking and not cooking is an ECB I'd get it. You can probably find them for dirt cheap used online.

If cash is an issue but you have tools and basic skill, I'd go UDS vs ECB.

If you could find a WSM on Craigslist in the budget I would.
 
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tstalafuse

Fire Starter
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Joined Dec 18, 2012
Just my two cents... I would go down to Home Depot/Lowes and buy a regular 22.5inch weber charcoal grill ($99) and order a smokenator ($60) to fit.  You would have the best of both worlds on a limited budget, a very good charcoal grill and a Weber "smoker". Otherwise, I would hold onto my cash until I could afford the WSM.
 

jaguarken

Newbie
23
11
Joined May 24, 2012
The el cheapo Brinkman - no question. Cut my smoking teeth on it and very low cost to start with.  Be sure to do the mods, primarily putting the legs on the outside....big big help.
 

texas ray

Smoke Blower
78
14
Joined Dec 17, 2012
Here is my two cents:  I used a Brinkman (make sure it is the one with the enclosed base) for years and it does a good job (just keep the charcoal ash cleaned out of the vents).  I have a WSM 22.5 Bullet that I love, but for those who have tight budgets I recommend building a UDS or a Mini WSM.  The mini is my go to smoker for smaller smokes.  See my post http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/147033/mini-wsm-build-first-smoke (make sure to view all this post as I made several modifications due to good inputs from this Forum).  Also see the following links on how to build a Mini WSM or UDS --

 

 
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grimm5577

Meat Mopper
187
20
Joined Aug 6, 2012
I have a brinkman and have been pleased, it's well worth the $60.
 
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jrl50401

Newbie
1
10
Joined Jun 22, 2013
I bought a ECB at Wal-Mart for $47.  I drilled five 1/2 to 3/4 inch holes in the charcoal pan and added a temp guage opposite the ECB guage.  It works great.  But, I too really wanted a Weber Smokey Mountain.  I kept looking on Craigslist and I was able to find one for $125.  It's very clean, though an older model.  I want to add casters and a temp guage to it.  I haven't fired it up yet, want to complete the mods, then will do so.  So, my recommendation is keep looking on Craigslist....something will turn up, just gotta be patient!  :)
 

pargeman

Fire Starter
50
12
Joined Jul 20, 2013
I am new also to smoking meat so I bought the cheap Brinkmann....I have smoked chicken and ribs already and have enjoyed some great tasting meat...I bought a new gauge with numbers and doing the small and easy meats before I buy something new to do bigger meats!!! Good luck...
 

overground

Fire Starter
66
14
Joined Dec 23, 2012
 
Save yourself a lot of frustration and get a 18.5" WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain) - the set-it-and-forget-it of charcoal smoakers. The WSM's are considered the best commercial charcoal smoker you can buy for under $500. There is a 18.5" and 22.5" version - both are very easy to set up and use and produce outstanding BBQ.

I messed around with a horizontal smoker to start with, spent $200 and a lot of time modifing it to end up with OK'ish results. A co-worker introduced me to the WSM and I have never looked back.

The 18.5" WSM is $299 and the 22.5" is $399, they don't need any mods to work well and due to the porcelin coating never rust out or anything.
I agree with JlRodriguez. Get the WSM...you'll be very, very glad you did.

I started (and needlessly tortured myself) on a modified ECB.....search my threads on here. 

Pros:

I learned a ton.

I paid my dues.

Although at least 10x more work, it turned out some great Q.

Cheap

Cons:

Cheap

At least 10x more work than a WSM.

Essentially useless without some relatively difficult (depending on tools / knowhow) and potentially pricey modifications.

Almost forced to use Kingsford Blue...Lump will spike temps out of control.

Flimsy.

Nowhere near airtight.

Nearly impossible to use an ATC (Automatic Temp Controller), unless you get the model with the enclosed base...and even then.

You will want a WSM after the first or second cook...so pretty much a waste of money.

Hard to sell.

Tiny cook space.

Will rust out.

Just more difficult on all accounts.
 
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lawman2391

Fire Starter
71
13
Joined Jun 13, 2013
I agree with tstalafuse (a few posts above), my advice would be to go to any "big box" store and invest in a regular Weber kettle grill.  I have really good results (even for a newbie) with mine andlike he mentioned, you will have a dual purpose item (smoker/grill).  Please feel free to look at my profile and see the pics I have posted if this option interests you.  Also, if you go this route, you can find some awesome videos on YouTube for ideas of how to set things up for specific cuts of meat (I learned some good things from "The BBQ Pits Boys" about utilizing my Weber Kettle).  I cannot comment on the Smokinator, since I have never used it, but I have had good results with just smoking wood chunks (again, available at the big box stores).  I have done brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, and chicken all with great results.

I also got an ECB (El Cheapo Brinkman) from my brother in law for free a few years ago and have had fun doing mods to it and have had some decent sucess with it, but not nearly as good as the results I get on my Weber...just my 2 cents...

Feel free to send me a personal message if you want specifics, I'd be glad to help if you need it...

I'll say some prayers for your dad also...
 

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