Check out this email about how to identify an original OKJ unit.

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ammaturesmoker

Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
May 31, 2015
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SO.....I was having a conversation with my friend from KC and we got to talking about smokers.....yoders mainly since he is in that state. We went off onto different manufacturers from Weber to Masterbuiltbut but when we got to Horizon, he said he was in contact with them during the summer. He sent me a copy of the email he got back from them when he had some questions for them on their old company the OKJ. I think it is very interesting. He mainly wanted to know how to find an original unit along with some other questions.

I have removed the names but you can kinda guess who it is that responded.

MR. ************

Thank You for your inquiry and questions for some of our history of quality of product.

At Horizon we try to keep the same quality of smokers much the same as our old company. Please reference our site in case there is anything we can do for you. I am happy to answer a few of your questions.

Please understand I will in no way try to slander any company including Charbroil. With that said let me be frank. Charbroil hates my guts to the core. I will not go into details but it’s just how it is.

How to tell if you have an original Oklahoma Joe Smoker made here in Perry Oklahoma:

When Charbroil purchased our company and assumed our debts, much of the welders for the company at that time were let go and only small welds were used here and there. And speaking of small welds, look at the brackets on the handles. An original Oklahoma Joe will have the welds going all the way up and down on both sides of the brackets. Charbroil only did two large spot welds on the bracket handles to the lids. The other is the fireboxes were never bolted to the main chambers. These were always welded. To save on shipping costs, Charbroil later removed more welding including the firebox so they would ship from China at a much cheaper rate. Remember, less welding made for less skill needed and that made for cheaper labor. The other dead giveaway is the tag. The original would look like this. The brand lettering is inside the state logo.
clip_image002.jpg


Charbroil created a new one that looks like this. Any Oklahoma Joe smoker that has this logo on the tag was not made in Perry Oklahoma. So, if your tag looks like this and NOT like the one above, it was made in China. If you were led to believe otherwise it’s not your fault. I will address this later. 
clip_image003.jpg


The myths and the lies out their surrounding the different smokers that first came out of China. First the metal thickness was decent. Charbroil did a nice job keeping them heavy. It wasn’t what they used to be but was heavy. On many of these units the doors were made to be thicker than the actual fire box and cook chamber. The reality is the unit was no longer cut from steel ¼ pipe but was from plated rolled steel. Decent steel too depending on the orders from the distributers. Also, an indicator is the thickness of the steel on the handle brackets. Since they are rolling plate steel, whatever the thickness of the brackets is will be the thickness of the units made that day for the rest of the units. Original units had been put together by precision welding. The units from China needed to be bolted together to save costs on shipping. They are even worse now with more parts crammed into their cheap shipping boxes. But to their credit, Charbroil initially wanted to keep as much quality as they could. It was the big box stores through their channels of distribution that demanded the change from quality to quantity. But those are the target streams for them to sell through. Gone were the days of us selling Oklahoma Joe smokers to feed stores, fairs, festivals and the local hardware stores in Oklahoma and Texas.

Another way to tell is does the unit have a hanger hook underneath? Is not an original without it. It was critical to our manufacturing process.

Now the next part is what’s really going to anger many people. After the sale and the manufacturing went to China in 1998, Charbroil led everyone to believe that the units were still be produced in Perry Oklahoma and that we were still running the company. Many of the longtime distributors until 2008 had been claiming this the whole time when they knew it was incorrect information. However, all units from the end of 1998 were now coming from China. I had left the company by then and had been pursuing a new design for some smokers at a competitor and was heavily involved in cooking competitions. When that ended, we got the band back together a few years later minus Joe and revved production back up under the new name of Horizon and got back to our roots.

Now recently Charbroil has been under fire as of late on how bad their quality is with their products. It was so bad that Joe has been involved again with Charbroil in promoting. They are trying to get it out to the public that Joe is still there and has not gone away to amend their image as if it is a separate brand. But hey for 400 dollars, it really is a decent smoker for a backyard if you are under a budget. And if you cannot afford that, get a Weber. I hope this helps you with some of your questions. I am sorry if I cannot answer most of them because it would be un-ethical of me to do so. BUT, GET TO SMOKING YA’LL!

Thank You

******************
 
I was looking at the Horizon smokers and they look outstanding. Glad I passed on the OKJ few weeks ago. It's hard to get around but I really hate most Chinese crap. If I don't end up building one this year I'm in for a, Made In The USA Horizon. Just my 2 cents.
 
Yeah no doubt....they are keeping true to their roots for sure. I wish I bought one of them 2 years ago. But I have since had my OKJ modded so it's not a big deal. Some manufacturers though have now gone from 1/4 inch to 3/16. Yoder did that last year. Sad part is there a a lot of guys out there that probably want to kill Charbroil for lying to them. Many probably thought they had an original when in fact they dont.
 
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Great read.  Sounds very similar to the demise of New Braunfels smokers once CharBroil took them over as well....
This was a nasty 20 years....Charbroil and Brinkmann went head to head. Brinkmann lost now they are out of business.
 
I am looking at a used OK Joe smoker. The seller says it's an older model, and in the pictures it does look like a beefier unit than the new Joes that I've seen up close.

I am guessing it might be an older Chinese unit? I've attached a pic of the label and the smoker. Seller is asking $300


 
Unless it is 1/4" steel it's not an original OJ. In my opinion 300 is to much for the smoker you have pictured.
 
Any idea if it's any better/different than what you can get in stores today? Or is this just the unit available anywhere, but with a different color front plate? The OK Joe was $199 at Lowe's a couple weeks ago, so obviously don't want to overpay. Thanks for the tip about the thickness!
 
Any idea if it's any better/different than what you can get in stores today? Or is this just the unit available anywhere, but with a different color front plate? The OK Joe was $199 at Lowe's a couple weeks ago, so obviously don't want to overpay. Thanks for the tip about the thickness!
My guess would be probably the same quality. My OJ has 2 gauges, I see the one pictured only has one gauge. Not sure if the 2nd gauge was something that was requested.
 
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The heat plate on that firebox lid and the tac-welds on handles are the dead giveaway. When original unit are selling for less than 200 for 1/4 in units, I would not pay more than 50 bucks for that smoker.
 
A little late to the party, but I have some info which may be useful to somebody, somehow, some day, somewhere. I researched this a few years ago and came with similar conclusions although I did not find this thread. What I read was that when Charbroil took over, they reduced the thickness of the steel, but just slightly. It was still a very heavy thick steel at first. It was just under a quarter inch, although it was measured in mm. It was described as being as close to a quarter inch as possible without being a quarter inch. What my source said was that they were being made in Mexico at first. But then, later, Charbroil reduced the thickness drastically, even as it may have had the same face plate shown above. That may have been when they began coming out of China? And this seems to be confirmed in the middle of the letter in the OP above - At First the metal thickness was decent. Charbroil did a nice job keeping them heavy. It wasn’t what they used to be but was heavy...

So, it seems if one could find a very early Charbroil OK Joe offset with the nearly quarter inch thick steel, it may be worth considering. But apparently you cannot tell from the old Charbroil OK Joe face plate what the thickness may be.

Or better yet, just find an original Oklahoma Joe made in Oklahoma.

Or buy a Horizon.
 
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I have one of the units like in your picture. It is a New Braunfels Oklahoma Joe Longhorn. Mine is made entirely of 3/16" steel, solid and heavy. The firebox is bolted onto the cook chamber however it has never leaked at the joint. The CC lid also seals well. It was purchased it from Academy Sports around 2003. It does a great job in the central Alabama climate with oak & hickory splits about 10" long x 2 or 3 inches. I read somewhere that some of the New Braunfels models were made in Mexico before things moved over to China. I can remember putting it together and am 99% sure the packaging was not Chinese.
 
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