Looking for advice

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ghost_smoker

Newbie
Original poster
Oct 1, 2022
10
0
Hey everyone! I've browsed this topic a bit already, but would like some input from anyone who has used a wide-variety of smokers, or even one of the ones I have listed to give me some specific feedback.

I am looking for a smoker that is easy to get going and to use overall, as I have two kids under 4 who love to help, lol.

Ideally, I would stay around $300 for my smoker, though there would be some wiggle room.

I normally only smoke a pork butt or a couple of racks of ribs at a time, so I don't need anything gigantic.

Thoughts, or ideas, ive gathered from reading posts on here:

1) WSM (used) and get a controller to make it set it and forget it after light up (currently none on FB or CL near me)

2) PBC - seems very set it and forget it. Though, it seems too good to be true.

3) Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal - terrible reviews online, but I do like the concept or idea of it.

4) K4L smoker? A person I spoke with on the phone at a store an hour away recommended it, said it was similar to the Gateway smoker, but thinner metal.

5) BGE (large) is for sale near me. I know they hold temp steady, but don't know much about their smoking ability/flavor.

Pellet grills - meh, haven't had great luck, I would prefer something I'm not relying on electronics as much, hence my apprehension about number 3 above.

Quick recap:
Budget: $300~
Most I would ever feed at a time: 15 (very rare, typically 5).
Want: ease of use, I want to play with my kids / feel comfortable being away from it for an hour or more playing with the kids vs. Babysitting a smoker.

Thanks for the help!
 

mneeley490

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Jun 23, 2011
3,463
1,867
Everett, WA
Hi ghost _smoker, and welcome to the forums.
Normally I suggest a Weber kettle for newbies. I've been at it for many years, and still wouldn't be without one. IMO, it's the most versatile piece of equipment you can buy, and on the low end of the $cale, to boot.
But you indicated that you want something that you can ignore for an hour or more. Since you don't like pellet smokers, that leaves electric. I own 3 of those, different sizes for different purposes.
I've had 2 Masterbuilt electrics. First one went for almost 10 years before it died.
But if you can find it, I'd look for a Smokin' It or Smokin' Tex. They are a clone of the Cookshack smokers, and very well built. These are as close to "plug & play" as you will find in a smoker. I bought mine used on Offer-Up for $80, and couldn't be happier with it. And if you miss the taste of charcoal, you can always place a briquet in the bin with the wood.
 

JWFokker

Smoking Fanatic
Mar 5, 2019
513
173
If you can't find a cheap WSM, the PBC is a great alternative. As for the ATC unit, the BBQube Tempmaster Pro is the best value hands down. The manufacturer has created individual algorithms for a bunch of different cookers. The PBC is one of them.
 
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Kvgsqtii

Smoke Blower
SMF Premier Member
Feb 28, 2022
81
109
SC
You can't go wrong with the verstality of a Weber Kettle. And yes, you can walk away from a kettle for more than a couple of hours.
I walk away from my weber kettle all the time. I use the snake method and once you get your vents set they will hold temp for hours. They're also the perfect size for a butt or a couple racks of ribs.
 

SecondHandSmoker

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Jun 30, 2018
3,769
2,591
SE Arizona
I walk away from my weber kettle all the time. I use the snake method and once you get your vents set they will hold temp for hours. They're also the perfect size for a butt or a couple racks of ribs.

I do too. I even sleep through my overnight cooks on the kettle.
Bowl and lid vent position plus fire management is the key.
 

yankee2bbq

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
May 7, 2017
3,052
3,168
Arkansas
Hey everyone! I've browsed this topic a bit already, but would like some input from anyone who has used a wide-variety of smokers, or even one of the ones I have listed to give me some specific feedback.

I am looking for a smoker that is easy to get going and to use overall, as I have two kids under 4 who love to help, lol.

Ideally, I would stay around $300 for my smoker, though there would be some wiggle room.

I normally only smoke a pork butt or a couple of racks of ribs at a time, so I don't need anything gigantic.

Thoughts, or ideas, ive gathered from reading posts on here:

1) WSM (used) and get a controller to make it set it and forget it after light up (currently none on FB or CL near me)

2) PBC - seems very set it and forget it. Though, it seems too good to be true.

3) Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal - terrible reviews online, but I do like the concept or idea of it.

4) K4L smoker? A person I spoke with on the phone at a store an hour away recommended it, said it was similar to the Gateway smoker, but thinner metal.

5) BGE (large) is for sale near me. I know they hold temp steady, but don't know much about their smoking ability/flavor.

Pellet grills - meh, haven't had great luck, I would prefer something I'm not relying on electronics as much, hence my apprehension about number 3 above.

Quick recap:
Budget: $300~
Most I would ever feed at a time: 15 (very rare, typically 5).
Want: ease of use, I want to play with my kids / feel comfortable being away from it for an hour or more playing with the kids vs. Babysitting a smoker.

Thanks for the help!

A used WSM for a smoker. No controller necessary. I have a controller for mine and rarely use it.
Second choice would be a weber kettle for a smoker. Its all about how you set your charcoal up.
 

mneeley490

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Jun 23, 2011
3,463
1,867
Everett, WA
I walk away from my weber kettle all the time. I use the snake method and once you get your vents set they will hold temp for hours. They're also the perfect size for a butt or a couple racks of ribs.
Ah, forgot about that. I haven't done the snake method in years.
I do remember one winter day, even with the wind was blowing, my Weber kettle stayed spot on at 245° for 4 hours. I guess I just check the temp every 20-30 minutes now out of an abundance of caution.
 

bill1

Master of the Pit
Apr 25, 2015
1,530
646
I partly disagree with all who say they walk away for hours from their non-electronically controlled smokers. Yes that's true (assuming you don't demand extreme temperature stability) after you've spent some time with them, as in a half dozen smokes or so. So if you can invest that kind of time, great! But if your Dad Duty won't let you come up the learning curve and learn the tricks of setting these things up , you probably need a cooker with electronic control.

Not sure what you don't like about the electronics on a pellet smoker but anything that controls temperatures for you is utilizing electronics to some extent. So I think you (and your kids) will enjoy a MES or Smokin' It but you should realize they're using electronics just like Pellet machines.

You really are the target demographic for modern pellet smokers. I wouldn't count them out too soon.
 

gmc2003

Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Sep 15, 2012
14,432
9,929
When the weather isn't favorable around here, I sit my arse in the living room while my kettle is toking away. Once you're dialed in on your target temp using either the SnS or the snake method you're good for quite a few hours. For your situation I would save a few more pennies and get the 26" kettle. The extra room is amazing, and comes in handy more then you think.

Chris
 

mcokevin

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
Oct 18, 2016
676
796
Orlando FL
I've got kids that love to "help" too. I have them help me with the setup, they are not yet old enough to help or even "help" with it lit, though I have had the older one move some hot dogs around when it's in grill mode.
 

clifish

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
May 25, 2019
2,934
3,011
Long Island, NY
I am not sure what a PBC is? I started with a used MB electric that I added a PID using a pellet tube...meh, bought a 22" kettle and it gave more flavor but came with a little learning curve a 26" would be better. I lucked into a MB 800 gravity at Walmart for $347 on clearance (now is the time to find them there) and I love it. I will say once it is going there is very little to do, it holds temp great. Most of the bad reviews are about the app and switches. I spray the switches often with electric contact cleaner and rarely use the app, instead I use my remote thermometers. Part of the problem for me with the app is the smoker is 200 feet from the house so the Wifi is spotty.

To me the gravity gives the smoke profile of my kettle but is pretty idiot proof, going to the neighbors house or drinking in the pool...no worries.
 

SecondHandSmoker

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Jun 30, 2018
3,769
2,591
SE Arizona
I am not sure what a PBC is? I started with a used MB electric that I added a PID using a pellet tube...meh, bought a 22" kettle and it gave more flavor but came with a little learning curve a 26" would be better. I lucked into a MB 800 gravity at Walmart for $347 on clearance (now is the time to find them there) and I love it. I will say once it is going there is very little to do, it holds temp great. Most of the bad reviews are about the app and switches. I spray the switches often with electric contact cleaner and rarely use the app, instead I use my remote thermometers. Part of the problem for me with the app is the smoker is 200 feet from the house so the Wifi is spotty.

To me the gravity gives the smoke profile of my kettle but is pretty idiot proof, going to the neighbors house or drinking in the pool...no worries.
I keep forgetting about those MB gravity feds.
 

thirdeye

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Dec 1, 2019
3,723
4,740
The Cowboy State - Wyoming
WSM's have an excellent reputation and a pretty short learning curve, they are one of the best values around. But I don't own one.

I've cooked on Big Green Eggs for about 20 years and on drum smokers for maybe 15 years, each has their own pros and cons. My Eggs are an all-season cooker, I've cooked overnight when temps were -20°F. They can grill, bake, smoke, barbecue or virtually anything you do in your home oven like pizza or casseroles. I can get really long burn times on my Large Egg, over 20 hours. I do have an analog pit controller I use on overnight cooks.
y6jVoMd.jpg

Drums are very easy to use and produce an old school 'open pit' flavor. Danny Gaulden called it the Grandpa smell, and it comes from little flavor bombs of fats dripping into the coals. My drums are nothing fancy, but they are heavier gage and taller than a 55 gallon style. I use grates and a hanging rack, and in the winter I use them for cold smoking bacon and hams. I've never cooked on a PBC and one observation I have is how they seal tight enough to let the charcoal go out so some can be re-used on the next cook.
hzeptd1.jpg
 

babydoc

Smoke Blower
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Aug 13, 2022
134
99
So...rumor is that the KJ Kettle is on sale at select Lowes for $200. Which is a killer deal for a killer grill. Can't look online cause the price is listed at $500, but instore marked down. Might be worth a look.
 

JWFokker

Smoking Fanatic
Mar 5, 2019
513
173
Kettles are okay but can only run half as long as a WSM and the smoke flavor isn't as good as the WSM. PBC is a close second. Kamados do run for many hours but the smoke is even milder than a kettle. I firmly believe you need to decide between WSM and PBC. The other recommendations aren't comparable.
 

ghost_smoker

Newbie
Original poster
Thread starter
Oct 1, 2022
10
0
Kettles are okay but can only run half as long as a WSM and the smoke flavor isn't as good as the WSM. PBC is a close second. Kamados do run for many hours but the smoke is even milder than a kettle. I firmly believe you need to decide between WSM and PBC. The other recommendations aren't comparable.
So, which do you think?
 

ghost_smoker

Newbie
Original poster
Thread starter
Oct 1, 2022
10
0
I partly disagree with all who say they walk away for hours from their non-electronically controlled smokers. Yes that's true (assuming you don't demand extreme temperature stability) after you've spent some time with them, as in a half dozen smokes or so. So if you can invest that kind of time, great! But if your Dad Duty won't let you come up the learning curve and learn the tricks of setting these things up , you probably need a cooker with electronic control.

Not sure what you don't like about the electronics on a pellet smoker but anything that controls temperatures for you is utilizing electronics to some extent. So I think you (and your kids) will enjoy a MES or Smokin' It but you should realize they're using electronics just like Pellet machines.

You really are the target demographic for modern pellet smokers. I wouldn't count them out too soon