Help me decide

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riverjunkie

Newbie
Original poster
Feb 9, 2023
6
7
Hi all
Looking to buy a new smoker / grill. I like a heavier smoke flavor, from actual charcoal and wood.

I currently have a kettle and a pit boss pellet grill. But in the last two months I've also owned a char griller 980 and a char griller auto kamado. Ive also owned a small cabinet smoker in the past. Let me list my pros and cons for each and hopefully you all can recommend something I'll actually like.

1) kettle love everything about it except trying to manage temps or add fuel. Otherwise over the years it's been a favorite flavor wise and ease of use (in regards to simplicity ) Quality has been excellent. I think I left it outside for 2-3 years and it looks the same as when I bought it minus dust.

2) pit boss pellet - really really easy to use, holds temps perfect. Smoke flavor really sucks. Even when using on lowest 180 temp, just has never tasted smoked to me. Otherwise as a outdoor oven, great.

3) char griller gravity 980 - was absolutely perfect till it wasnt. Easy to use, great smoke flavor at any temperature. Goes from 225-700 in like 5-10 mins. Problem - about 6 cooks In got a ERF code... I assume this was due to a flame up I had which then I shoved in the damper and it sounded like the firebox imploded. Was super frustrated that the ERF code came up / grill wasn't working (after 6ish cooks), felt like that was super poor quality. So I took the stupid f****r all apart and returned it to Lowe's.

4) auto kamado - pros - holds temps and uses almost no fuel. Cons - uses almost no fuel hard to get "good" smoke out of it. Also takes much longer to get up to temp, since you basically have to light one charcoal and wait 30 mins for the fan to hopefully get it to the right temp, all whole still messing with tip vent. Bigger problem - cook number 4ish also for a ERF code. I got the ERF to go away by manually spinning fan blade. But also decided quality was poo (because of fan)and returned it.

5) vertical electric smoker - was a little masterbuilt unit worked great for about a year until it didn't. Chip tray broke, paint bubbled all over. But while it worked flavor profile was good.

So now I'm at a impass on what to get. Thinking out loud here's my next ideas.

1) get a spider grills fan attachment to add to kettle. Hopefully this makes managing temps easier and allows me longer cooks without too much baby sitting.

2) try a Webber summit charcoal Kamado. My only fear in this is once again, "is it too efficient" doesn't use enough fuel / only get bad smoke. Another thing I read on some forums is, maybe it can't operate down to 225, due to being so efficient?

3) try a better quality cabinet type smoker? The little masterbuilt made good food,but just kept falling apart.

I'm always going to keep the kettle, maybe sell the pit boss.

I'm looking for a smoker 1st and foremost. I don't grill during the week as we're too busy and the wife cooks. Weekends are very busy as well with kids, sports, etc. So when I finally get to smoke something (usually Sunday) I want something easy to use that is going to produce that deep smoke flavor.

Ideally whatever I end up with will be a perfect smoker and grill, but I know that doesn't exist...

Trying to keep budget below $1250 ideally below $800.

What say you all?
Thanks
 
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lotta "parts failures" ... just saying maybe get something simple you can't break
all I have to say.jpg
 
Another vote for the Weber kettle. Extremely versatile. You might also take a look at the SnS kettle which has a lot of amenities for smoking and slow cooking. Another idea is a drum smoker such as the Oklahoma Joe Bronco. I especially like the intake tube which provides simple use of the Thermoworks Billows fan making long and overnight cooks easy, although it is extremely stable even without the fan. It grills too! Good luck.
 
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Your getting good advice from the guys about fire management in your Weber Kettle. The charcoal snake method works awesome in a kettle for longer, lower temp cooks.

Since you're already a fan of Weber, might I suggest you take a look at a Weber Smoky Mountain smoker? IMO a WSM checks most of your boxes. Excellent build quality, simple design, without a bunch of moving parts that break, easy to use, and well within your allotted budget - you can buy a new WSM 22" for about $550.

Looks like this was your first post here - welcome to the forums! And good luck!

Red
 
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Another vote for the WSM. Mine does everything I want, Harry Soo/Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ has shown they can kinda do anything that's possible in competitive BBQ.

I've got the 18" version, though once or twice a year I do wish I had the 22" for larger cooks.
 
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lotta "parts failures" ... just saying maybe get something simple you can't breakView attachment 657303
LoL It is true.
But in my defence, my little cabinet smoker I had for about a year. Both the char griller 980 and auto kamado I only had for around a month each. Those I didn't do anything besides normal smoking / grilling. Where I believe both of those fan issues came from is when I tried to take them from 225 - 700, for searing tri-tip. Like I said on the 980 I got a huge flame up and when I shoved the charcoal damper in after a few seconds the firebox like imploded. After that the ERF happened.
On the auto kamado same thing, went from 250-700 for searing and boy oh boy was there a fire going inside that thing. I will say the Kamado got hot inside. Think I could've melted steel in that thing. But anyways all the sudden the controller said ERF and so I just gave up on it.
 
Thank you to everyone for all your suggestions. I have done a long smoke on the kettle before (been some time). Last time I used the kettle for a long smoke I hadn't tried either the minion or snake method. I will have to give those a try. I used to just light some coals and dump them on top of unlit coals and then Sit and fiddle with the bottom vent. I watched some YouTube on the snake method and it seems pretty cut and dry. Thinking about trying to do a small pork butt for superbowl Sunday. It's only like 3lbs or so. So hopefully it won't take too long.
My wife makes fun of me because I severely either over or underestimate my smoking cook times.
Last thing I smoked recently was Pork al pastor. I intended to do it on the 980, but that when I found out it broke. So out to the shed, I grabbed the kettle and fired that up. Took about 6hrs or so. Turned out dam good tho.
 
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Another consideration I have that I hadn't mentioned before is I would like to cook on my back deck, which is wood. It is also covered and only have maybe a 7-8' roof in it's highest point. So I want something on the safe side to be semi left alone.

Would a wsm be safe on a deck like this.
 
Another consideration I have that I hadn't mentioned before is I would like to cook on my back deck, which is wood. It is also covered and only have maybe a 7-8' roof in it's highest point. So I want something on the safe side to be semi left alone.

Would a wsm be safe on a deck like this.
Difficult to say for sure without seeing your deck, but as long as it’s not enclosed, you should be able to safely make it work. Definitely want good ventilation to carry exhaust fumes away.

Exhaust stack height would be a consideration. You don’t want a tall stack exhausting directly under your deck roof.

You might need some sort of fireproof grill mat to place under the cooker, but those are fairly common and not too hard to find.

Red
 
Another consideration I have that I hadn't mentioned before is I would like to cook on my back deck, which is wood. It is also covered and only have maybe a 7-8' roof in it's highest point. So I want something on the safe side to be semi left alone.

Would a wsm be safe on a deck like this.
The fire marshall likely would not like it.

You need to have some sort of fireproof mat under your cooker. And then, of course, think about the method you use to light it up. For example, a tumbleweed would be good.
 
so... here's my 0.02 worth, and since nobody has mentioned it yet, you might consider a horizontal offset. i don't have any experience with pellets or kettles... i bought that 'cheap' offset (char griller grand champ) from HD for like 5 bills, and loved the flavor and had no problems regulating temps so i never looked back. thin steel, though... so you have to be gentle with the firebox lid if you have a hot fire going or it'll bend under its own weight and you'll have to bend it back into shape. i picked up a brazos last weekend at academy sports and it seems much better constructed, but the price reflects that as well - it'd be right at the top of your budget at 1199 if you can find it in stock near you. seasoned it on sunday, and had no trouble rocking it at 425 for 4 hours straight. planning to pick up some short ribs this weekend.

also worth noting - i mostly use charcoal in these - adding splits to give it some smoke or if i need a boost of heat when the coals start burning out.
 
Another consideration I have that I hadn't mentioned before is I would like to cook on my back deck, which is wood. It is also covered and only have maybe a 7-8' roof in it's highest point. So I want something on the safe side to be semi left alone.

Would a wsm be safe on a deck like this.
i use my offset under my carport both for grilling and bbq. have for years. the offset doesn't drop ash out of the bottom, so i don't think a wood deck would be in danger.
 
Just wanted to update everyone. Bought a 18 wsm on Saturday. Fired her up on Sunday for first smoke. Did beef back ribs (first time) and a couple small pork butts. Ran between 225 - 245 most the time settling in around 230. Super easy to use and i really really like it.

I did minion method with cherry and apple buried around fire box. Seen a harry soo video on how he does it and followed that. I'm personally not one to read to much into smoke color, but noticed smoke stayed pretty white until I was trying to speed up the pork and opened all the vents up. Got it to about 280 and smoke cleaned up.

Beef back ribs were absolutely fantastic and a hit with everyone. Pulled pork turned out okay. Shredded real good and all but just seemed a tad dry and didn't have great bark. It's interesting it came out dry as I cooked it right above water pan and then butcher papered.
 
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