Horizon Classic 16" Smoker Review

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by ravanelli, May 2, 2011.

  1. ravanelli

    ravanelli Fire Starter


    I’ve been eager to share my thoughts on my purchase as this forum was a great resource when I was shopping for a new smoker and I’d like to contribute my experience. 

    Here in Portland, quality BBQ products aren’t as easy to come by as you may get in other parts of the country.  There’s the big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowes and some local shops but they mostly focus on direct gas grills.  Fortunately, after some online searches I found a local true BBQ business just outside of town called Sam’s Northwest BBQs, and along with other products Sam happens to be an authorized reseller for Horizon.  This led me to research and eventually buy the Horizon Classic 16”.

    Horizon smokers are made by the guys that used to make Oklahoma Joe’s, so in the photos you’ll notice a resemblance. I learned that Horizon smokers are notable for their quality design and construction, albeit with premium pricing.  They are American made, and their key selling points are the thickness of the steel pipe (1/4”), and the quality of the welding which makes the unit very efficient.  I debated for over a year on this purchase, but in the end I decided that this was something I would have for years and the quality has been worth the investment so far.

    On to the Horizon Classic 16”.  Classic is right: it’s a simple yet robust horizontal offset design.  It looks like an old fashioned locomotive, and weighs about the same as one.  The giant wheels make it easy to move around though, and with the weather here this Spring I’ve had to do some nifty maneuvering from time to time while the smoke was on. 


    Above: Horizon Classic 16"

    Below: Zoom in on the stamped front label


    I was fortunate to have the unit delivered by Sam himself, who gave me a quick lesson in seasoning, smoking, and caring for the unit.  He answered all my questions and has since followed up as more questions have come up.  No pressure sales approach and great service throughout the whole process--I highly recommend Sam’s NW BBQs if you are in the area. 

    Accessories and Seasoning

    The specs on the unit:  16” by 32” in the chamber for 660 square inches of cooking surface. Mine came bundled with every accessory possible:  A convection plate that promotes even smoke and heat distribution, a fire basket, cleaning tool, grease bucket, cover, manuals, etc.  Within 30 minutes of receiving it I had a fire going and seasoned it up:  sprayed a little Pam on the grates and rubbed the interior with some vegetable oil.  This process also enabled me to test the thermometer and play with the dampers a little.  Four hours later, you could tell the difference:


    I’ve read on the forum that most people basically dump their factory thermometer for their smoker and go with something custom and often digital, but Horizon makes a quality one and so far it reads pretty accurate. It obviously isn’t a digital instant read, the probe is well above grate level, and I can’t move it around like my digital.  But I’ve learned to trust it for general temperature reads, and it’s easy to see from a distance if I’m multi-tasking or inside looking out the window.  Here’s a photo I took during a recent smoke:


    Size and Capacity

    The 16” is the smallest of the Horizon offset products.  I went with this one because the next step up was the 20”, which represented a significant price jump and I felt that it would just be too much smoker for me, I was worried I’d be wasting a lot of fuel for small jobs.   The 16” is great for a small family or small parties so it’s perfect for me, but if you have visions of hosting the neighborhood block party or doing a local firehouse cookout, you probably need the 20”.   The firebox on the 16” isn’t quite large enough to hold a typical split fire log.  At first this concerned me, but I’ve since realized that wood that large would probably generate too much heat anyway, and so instead I use half-sized “Chimenea” wood or basic wood chunks. 

    I did buy the Horizon rib rack, which holds 6 racks, but haven’t used it yet.

    Fuel and Temperature Control

    Now, when it comes to building a fire and controlling temperature, like most I use a chimney starter with lump charcoal, then add some charcoal and go with mostly straight wood after that.  Here in the Pacific Northwest trees are plentiful and there’s no sales tax in Oregon, so wood is cheap.  I’ve found a great local source for all kinds of wood varieties at great prices, and it’s actually cheaper for me to use seasoned firewood than lump charcoal.  So I use a lot of cherry, almond, and oak in the firebox.

    The Horizon smoker boasts great efficiency so getting it warm and keeping it warm is easy.  You’ll notice a little smoke leakage right at the start, but after about five minutes it gets into a flow and there’s no leakage at all.  I find myself adding a little fuel about every 60-90 minutes, though in calmer, warmer temperatures it is much easier to load it up and keep a steady 225-250 without constantly adding fuel. Following Sam’s advice, I set the lower intake at about a quarter open, and the chimney exhaust about half open, and that seems to be about right for most jobs, and always results in thin, blue smoke.

    Temperature balance within the smoker is pretty good.  I do notice a disparity as you get closer to the firebox, but not dramatic enough to cause problems and rotating the meat keeps things even.  I believe the convection plate helps moderate the chamber. Time will tell how steady the longer smokes are on bigger cuts of meat, so far in my 5-6 hour smokes I’ve been able to maintain the right temperature range.


    If the drawback to this type of smoker is the required attention to the temperature, the payoff is an incredible smoke.  By that, I mean I get a consistent deep smoke ring every time, and a good smooth flavor.  Am I going to enter any BBQ competitions soon?  Most definitely not, I’m still learning.  When I first started with this unit I tended to run it a little hot, always paranoid the temperature was too low, so I know that I’ve occasionally lost points on tenderness and I’ve overdone some ribs.  But my smoke ring seems to always be good and nobody has sent my BBQ back yet:

    [​IMG]  [​IMG]

    Above: Smoked pork spares (left) and beef ribs (right)

    So far I’ve done mostly pork and beef ribs, chicken, and turkey, but soon I’ll be taking on bigger projects like pork butt, and brisket. 

    I have also begun to use the firebox, which has it’s own drop-in grate, for some direct grilling of steaks, fish, and even artichokes and corn.  It’s kind of neat because from the side door you can see in to what you are grilling and tell if you are getting a good sear:


    Above:  Top view and side view of the firebox with a ribeye directly over a mix of charcoal/wood

    Also, the top of the side firebox is flat, and after about an hour it gets pretty hot, making it perfect for warming up a skillet of peppers, beans, you name it. Oh and here’s a trick…rub down the skillet with canola oil and put it in the smoke chamber for about 30 minutes, you’ll get a perfectly seasoned skillet with just a hint of smoke!   

    Price and Value

    This unit MSRP is around $750, and doesn’t include freight (from Oklahoma) and accessories.  I used to have a vertical Brinkman all-in-one, and that was a $125 unit that yielded some great BBQ at lower capacity.  In the end, I felt that this is a long-term buy for me, and probably the only large capacity smoker I’ll ever need to buy.  I really wanted heavy-duty craftsmanship, liked the idea of buying American, and finally my wife convinced me to just go for the Horizon, and I haven’t looked back. 

    To summarize on price: it’s an expensive product relatively speaking, but great value as well.  I can’t imagine not having the accessories, so factor those in as well.  And if you find one used, I would guess it’s in good condition cause they are built like tanks.  Note: buying from a local reseller worked great for me as I explained earlier, though I’ve read of people in the Midwest having a fine experience buying direct from Horizon. 

    Care and Cleaning

    The cleanout tool is handy for removing ash mid-smoke without disturbing the fire or meat.  I also use a cheap little fireplace broom to clean out the firebox before my next smoke, and the little stainless steel grease bucket looks like new after a quick rinse.  The smoke chamber grate is easy to clean in place with a typical BBQ toolset, or you can power wash once in a while to get any residue off.  I diligently use the smoker cover just to stay dust-free, we’ll see if I can stay disciplined on that.


    So what don’t I like about this product you ask?  Well, so far I haven’t come across any major flaws or surprises. While seasoning the unit I did have a little grease drip out of the front door, which created some streaks, and I had to take care to wipe it down so as to not tarnish the outside.  The front tray could be a little deeper to make it easier to hold food trays and such, but that’s getting picky.  Honestly, I haven’t had any moments of “I wish I had known that before I bought it,” and I don’t expect to.


    This product represents classic backyard smoking and I would recommend Horizon and the 16” Classic without hesitation. I hope this review has been helpful for those of you in the market for a new smoker, or if you were just passing by maybe this has been a good introduction to the lesser-known Horizon brand.
    Last edited: May 2, 2011
    pdx210 likes this.
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    That was a great very detailed review. Thank-you!
  3. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Threads just don't come any better than this---great illustrations too!

    Thanks for showing,

  4. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Kudos on putting together a quality review and pictorial of this product. You are to be commended for your attention to detail. [​IMG]
  5. ravanelli

    ravanelli Fire Starter

    Thanks guys, I'm just now realizing there is a "Review" tool on the site so I just copied my review there as well.
  6. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Nice Review.  and great pictures...
  7. I just got one yesterday, and am burning it in right now. I can't wait to use it this weekend.
  8. ravanelli

    ravanelli Fire Starter

    Congratulations on the new rig, I've had mine just about 3 months, hope you have as good of an experience as I have.  
  9. ermot

    ermot Fire Starter

    Great review.  I have had the 20 inch for a little over a year now and really like it.
  10. themagicone

    themagicone Newbie

    I have the same one you do. Your firebox grate is a lot nicer than mine though! Some advice from reading your review - Do not use the chimney damper to control heat. Just the firebox damper. You want the smoke to kiss the meat and leave. By closing the chimney damper the smoke builds up. It states this right in the user manual from Horizion. 

    My paint has lasted about 3 years, the main box is pretty much fine but the firebox is turning into rust. I ordered some very high temp paint and will be repainting it soon. And lastly the grate the coals sit on will be toast in a year or so - make sure you source replacements. The high heat from coals/wood basically melts the metal and it turns to a glob of metal, rust and ash after about a year. 

    Great review though and glad you like yours. I love mine but wish I would've of went with the 20" to start with.
  11. edmondsmoker

    edmondsmoker Newbie

    Thinking about buying this 16" or 20" Horizon, but I can't decide.  I'm curious how much food you can cook on the 16".  What is the tipping point?  Also, are you able to smoke the food evenly on the extreme left and right sides of the smoke chamber?  Or is the right side too hot to leave food for a long time?  Bla BLa...  Thanks for any help and comments you have.
  12. ravanelli

    ravanelli Fire Starter

    Here's a post that shows it loaded up:  http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/fo...res-baby-backs-country-style-beef#post_650906

    You can comfortably fit several racks of ribs flat, or more with the rib rack.  However, if you are debating I would suggest the 20", just to give yourself plenty of room around the edges.  I'm happy with the 16" but I don't normally do large jobs.

    On the heat distribution, I would say there's a 20 degree difference from one side to the other, significant enough that if I am cooking a lot of stuff I will rotate it every hour or so.  I also will put certain types of meat on one side or the other, for example poultry I don't want too close to the firebox because they can dry out quickly, but ribs and beef I'm less concerned about. 

    If you look through my posts since this review, I think you'll see consistency in the smoke ring this unit produces and it's really a matter of getting used to the temperature nuances.  I've also purchased a digital thermometer to help monitor different parts of the chamber which has helped.   
  13. pdx210

    pdx210 Fire Starter

    its looking like a Yoder for me the horizon dealer in newberg appears to not stock them and has odd hours..closed weekends only open part of the week and I shot off an e-mail 3-4 days ago no reply?

    So, there's a shop that sells/stocks  yoder smokers near Seattle so I might make the trip this weekend 
  14. striper

    striper Meat Mopper


    I have the Yoder YS640 and could not be happier with it.  It to is built like a tank.


  15. pdx210

    pdx210 Fire Starter

    Did you buy it from foothills ? 

    For some reason I have my hart set on an offset wool/charcoal smoker but the pellet smoker looks very nice  
  16. michael ark

    michael ark Master of the Pit

    your review[​IMG]Have you tired a water pan to get more uniform temps.As for the rusting in the fire pit .Ashes when left to gather moister(humidity) makes a acid or corrosive that pits metal.That why they make metal vacuums to clean stoves and fire palaces but it never caught on for smoker or grills cause they are outside anyway. 
  17. smokeamotive

    smokeamotive Smoking Fanatic

    Great review Ravanelli! I have the Horizon 16" Ranger with a vertical chamber on the side. Yes they are a little pricey but, I had to have some place to hang my sausages (with a minor mod). Glad you got one with a good thermometer. Mine are off by 30 to 40 deg. No big deal, I use a digital anyway. Enjoy your toy and good smoking to you.
  18. striper

    striper Meat Mopper

    No, I bought it direct from Yoder.  I like it cause I usually don't have the time to be toying with the wood/charcoal to keep an even temperature.  Gives as much of a smoke taste as I want also.

    That said, that Horizon does look nice.

  19. Jusr ordered mine this morning. Can't wait, every review points to good times ahead. Ordered over the, went with bbqguys, dude cut me a killer break on price to offset shipping costs. Made sutr to include the convection plate.
  20. raymo76

    raymo76 Smoking Fanatic

    Good job man! I've suggested a buddy look into their pits and since then he is in love with them. Awesome review, thanks a bunch.

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