My First Electric Smoker - Masterbuilt 40" or Cookshack Clone?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by gathumper, Dec 14, 2014.

  1. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    Title sums it up well, but for a little more info, I've been smoking with charcoal on a 22" Weber Smokey Mountian for about 5 years now and have turned out some really good ribs, butts, brisket, turkey, etc. No complaints at all with the Weber and I'll likely continue to use it for these products.

    Now I'm thinking about geting into some different things where I'm thinking an electric smoker would be a nice addition to my outdoor cooking arsenal. Right now I'm interested in traditional jerky and "sausage" type meats (with or without casings), but would almost certainly try some other smoked/cured meats. My thinking are lower temps and longer, controlled curing/smoking would lead me to an electric smoker. Am I correct?

    Should I spend less to get in the game and upgrade later (if necessary) or spend more for a better smoker and avoid buying twice?

    I'm VERY much open to suggestions and to learn from those who have traveled this path before, so please feel free to share your advice and wisdom, I would appreciate it. I'm reading and researching here and elsewhere, but want to document my research and purchase process here. Maybe my OCD will benefit someone else looking at purchasing an electric smoker!

    Right now I'm considering the 40" MES (either the Gen1 or the new "Bluetooth" version). My reasoning is that I'd prefer the stainless interior, and avoid any of the issues with the Gen2. I can get a Gen1 shipped to Georgia for under $300. It looks like the cost of admission for the new model would be around $400 depending on where and when I purchase. Capacity is listed at 975 square inches with the four included racks. (There is room for two additional racks yielding a total of 1462 square inches) The heating element is 1200 watts and it weighs 72 pounds.

    In my research I saw a lot of mentions for the Cookshack clones, and of course the Cookshack itself. If money was not a consideration, the Cookshack does seem like a good product with better temperature control and is "Made in USA".

    While I'm ALWAYS willing to spend more for a quality product, I am also fiscally conservative and a bargain hunter!

    In the Cookshack line I would consider the SM009-2 or the SM025 currently priced at $675 and $875. My choice to compare is the SM025 due to the 14"x18" grills. It has 2 grills for a total of 504 square inches of cooking surface. It has a 750 watt heating element. They currently have a 10% discount available with promo code "HOHOHO14". Shipping cost of the SM025 to me in Georgia is $77.18 bringing my total cost to $864.68.

    The next smoker I looked at is the Smokin-It line. While I am really tempted by the Model 4 with the included Auber PID controller, I'm going to rule it out (for now) based on cost and size. $1399 + $220.44 shipping woudl cost me $1620.43.

    In the Smokin-It line I've chosen the Model 3 for comparison. It looks like a good size for me and to compare to the MES 40" Inside dimensions are 15"x20". Not sure of the shelf size at this point, but using the inside dimensions yields 1200 square inches of cooking surface with the four included racks. (There is room for a 5th rack for 1500 square inches) The heating element is 1250 watts. The current cost is $499.99 plus $144.94 for a cost shipped to me in Georgia of $644.93. Holiday Special - Free Black Cover, Chip Screen, and rib hooks with the purchase of any smoker.

    After I started looking at alternatives to the MES smoker I also discovered the Smokin Tex line. The Smokin Tex 1400 has 14.5"x14.5 shelves. Five shelves (including seafood shelf) yield 1051.25 square inches. It has a 700 watt heating element. At a cost of $669 plus $65.83 shipping to Georgia the 1400 would cost me 734.83.

    Moving up to the Smokin Tex 1460 gets 14.5"x17.5" inside dimensions yielding about 1269 square inches with the five included shelves. It has room for seven shelves or about 1776 square inches of cooking space. The heating element is not specified. The cost increases to $1069 + $77.17 shipping for a total shipped to Georgia of $1146.17.

    Next smoker I looked at is made by The Sausage Maker. Their 30 lb Digital Stainless Steel Smoker is on sale for $899 with free shipping. Inside dimensions are 15x16.5 with four shelves included for 990 square inches of cooking surface. (They say it can hold up to 12 shelves with 1 3/4 spacing) It has a 1000 watt heating element, (The smaller 20 pound smoker clearly states Made in USA, but no indication on the 30 pound so I'll have to confirm.) The weight is not listed.

    Finally, I found the Iron Chef Kitchen Smoker with 15"x15" inside dimensions and has 5 shelves (including 1 seafood shelf) for a total of 1125 square inches. It has a 700 watt heating element and weighs in at 95 pounds. The cost is $349 plus $50 shipping for a total of $399. For a limited time get a free cutting board and cleaning brush.

    I'd love to hear from anyone with hands on experience with any of these, but will welcome all advice and opinion!

    Thank You!
  2. Here's my .02 cents!

    Why buy twice?   Waste of money!  I won't go into what I think of Masterbuilt products (you can search if ya want).

    I own the Smokin-It #2 and couldn't be happier.  That thing is a workhorse and always gives me great results.  I do not consider it a "clone" of  a Smokin Tex or Cookshack.  ALL of those units are well made.  I mean when you make a cabinet style smoker it's gonna look the same.....not much you can do to set yourself apart :eek:

    Do yourself a favor and buy the better smoker first AND last.  I choose the Smokin-It because of price point but ALSO because of the great reviews I saw all over the place. 

    Good luck in your choice and happy Smoking


  3. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    If money is no object I would go with Cookshack 066. I own one and have never had any problems. And it was a refurb. Having said that I wholeheartedly recommend the SI units. My brother has the SI 3 so I can legitimately speak on both. SI: the cord is longer, the element is a higher wattage, the shelves are larger,the wheels are larger, 5% off thru the SI Facebook Social store.

    Cookshack: American made, digital done right, lower shipping costs, 10% off till 17 Dec, and once in your cart you can get 6 months financing with no interest thru PayPal.

    Both units are rock solid. You mentioned the new wifi smoker from Masterbuilt. Zero track record. That would be an unacceptable risk for me. If I was leaning toward MES it would be the Gen 1. Not the 2 because of its record reported here and not the new wifi model until it had been out for at least a year or longer.

    So to echo Scott, why buy twice? You have pretty much eliminated the Cookshack units so in my mind that leaves the units from SI. They are simply put a lot of smoker for the money. No bells. No whistles. Just solid performance.
  4. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I own and love my MES 30 Gen 1 and if I'd had it to do again and had the extra money I'd have bought the MES 40. I think people who don't own Masterbuilts yet still criticize them should remain out of the discussion and leave it to those of us who actually own and use Masterbuilts.

    The MES is a fine smoker for the money and it is what it is: a great entry level electric smoker at a great price. If one has the finances, they learn to smoke on a MES and then sell it and trade up to a more expensive smoker if they wish.

    As for the Cookshack, Old Sarge got a bargain on Made in USA Cookshack Amerique and loves it. But he paid a lot more for his than the $189 I paid for my Chinese-made MES 30. You can't compare the two really because they're two different smoking animals. A number of guys like the Smokin-It smokers but at least some if not all of those are also made in China and are cheaper than the Cookshacks.

    What I question about the Iron Chef Kitchen Smoker (also Chinese-made I'm sure) is since the heating elements is 100 watts less than the MES 30 and has approximately 500 more square inches of cooking space, how would that be sufficient to provide adequate heat? And it costs about $60-$100 more?
  5. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I go along with the old sarge.  Among my smokers are two Cookshacks, the 009-02 and the 066.  The 066 is a set it and forget it smoker that uses very little electricity and little wood, most of my smokes use 2 oz. of wood chunks.  Cookshack has been building quality smokers, residential and professional for over 50 years.  If you are looking for quality in a smoker/oven with excellent customer service, why buy a knock off then wish you hadn't?  Sure they are on the expensive side, but hassle free and I am certain the last ones I will have to purchase. 

  6. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    When has a cheap Chinese knockoff ever been better than a Made In USA original? Those of us on tight budgets buy the cheap Chinese stuff because that's what we can afford. I personally would love to have the disposable income to buy a fine but more expensive American-made anything. But without cheap Chinese products there wouldn't be a Costco, Walmart, Sam's Club, Lowes, Home Depot, etc., etc., etc....
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  7. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I agree daRicksta, LOL.  If you only knew the sacrificing I had to do in order to get what I have.

  8. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Tom, if you'd like to PM me I'd honestly like to know. I just had to ask the wife for the go ahead to dip into the family finances since I rarely buy big ticket items for myself. Yes, we have kids. Yeah they're grown and out of the house now but 2.5 years ago they were younger and still here.
  9. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Rather than cheap I prefer the term inexpensive, unless it is shabbily made and fails one way or another after minimal use be it shoes or a smoker.  But I do agree with Rick that these stores sell what we need everyday at prices we can afford. And they provide a lot of jobs in a lot of towns all across America. What is sad is that name brand companies, in order to meet the bottom line which is profits for shareholders and making payroll had no choice but to move manufacturing off shore.  EPA regulations became stringent, and many factories, plants and mills simply could not or would not modernize.  It was cost prohibitive. But designing an item in the US and overseeing it's production overseas is not that bad of a tradeoff. Not great, but not bad. What is sad is that we were once an Export Nation, and now we are an Import nation.  But all is not lost, for a price sometimes very reasonable, there are still goods and wares Made in America. For those who are interested, here is a good site to visit that scours the US for American made products.

    Back on topic.  The smokers available today, regardless of the country of manufacture provide pretty good value for the dollar spent. Some provide better value than others. Some are more robust than others, but at a higher cost, and should therefore last a lot longer. Companies like Smokin-it, SmokinTex, Masterbuilt, Cookshack and others are family owned and run businesses providing good products at a fair price based upon their operating costs. Regardless of what one pays for an item, it should work as intended, and reliably whether it costs $100 or $1000. Modifications should be something to make its use easier, not something necessary just to get it to perform is basic function. 

    I stated earlier that if one is leaning toward the MES, get the GEN1 model. I have no experience with MES except their turkey fryer and it is top notch.  But I rarely read about the GEN 2 without there being some problem with it be it a small or big problem. Sometimes I feel that the purchaser had higher expectations than the smoker could deliver.   And I stand by with reservations on the new wifi model. No track record. It could turn out to be a Cookshack killer, or it could be nothing more than a GEN2 with fancy makeup.  Time will tell. The bottom line is research all the forums, PM those who own what you are considering, buy what you need and can afford. 

    And now it is time for a cold Pabst.

    One other thing.  These companies have pretty standout warranties.  Not all customers keep what they buy and back the go to be checked out, repaired as necessary, and sold at a great price.  But you have to ask. Which is how I got the Amerique.  Refurbished with a new warranty.  So ask.  You might be pleasantly surprised. I was. 
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  10. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    Thanks so much for all the replies! Money is definately an object for me as well, so that's how Cookshack got eliminated. I could MAYBE stretch into the $500-$1000 range, but no way can I justify over $1000 at this time in my life. I had originally planned to spend $300 for the 40" Masterbuilt, but would not have a problem going up to $500 for a better smoker. Anything over $500 is going to be a stretch, but I'm guilty of stretching before, and I'm sure I'll do it again.

    I'm almost always guilty of budget creep, and when I can afford it, I like to buy quality and buy once. Just ordered a grinder last week, started looking at $100 grinders, bumped up to Cabelas "Pro" line, and then ended up buying the 3/4 HP Cabelas Commercial grade. The metal gears, stainless steel, and 5 year warranty made me do it! (I think I got a pretty good deal on it, for $308 after a $20 discount with free shipping)

    Right now I'm leaning toward the SI Model 3, but no decision has been reached! I'm planning to call SI and talk to them about the Model 3 and Model 4. I'm also going to give the folks at Sausagemaker a call and see what I can learn about their smokers. Wondering if their 30 lb Digital Smoker is made in the US like the 20 lb, and I want to learn more about the "digital temperature control".

    Still haven't ruled out the MES, but would probably order a Gen1. Under $300 would be nice!

    Anyone have any experience with the smokers from The Sausage Maker?

    Thanks Again!
  11. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Because one can never have too much stress in one's life, here is another smoker.  Cabella's sells these, and smaller ones as well. These are made by PS Seasonings, and are primarily for sausage, but also suitable for ribs and buts. A black version with stainless interior is also available. Ken Hanni at PS Seasonings is the point of contact.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
  12. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great post. But I'm not one for polite euphemisms. Cheap is cheap says I.

    I will say that Masterbuilt is a great company and I really wasn't aware of how good they were until after I bought my smoker because I didn't know any smoker brands before I started my pre-purchase research. Yes, Masterbuilt makes the Butterball turkey fryers which are also highly regarded.

    If my disposable income had its druthers, it would seriously consider a CookShack or some other American-made smoker of solid repute. But as I've stated many times, the MES 30 and 40 is designed to be a fine entry level or affordable smoker, which it more than succeeds at being.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2014
  13. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    Thanks for the links! I overlooked this one on Cabela's site and had not seen the Pro Smoker from PS Seasoning either.  I have been VERY busy the past 2 weeks preparing, interviewing, AND being selected for a new position at work, but I have had a little extra time this weekend to do some more reading and writing. Posted questions over at the SI Forums about the SI #3 vs #4, since I was leaning a little in that direction. Talked to Steve at SI yesterday and he was helpful, too.

    I'll re-iterate that the folks I spoke with at Masterbuilt were very friendly and helpful as well, they see like a good company, too. So two good companies, two good options at each price point.

    And I haven't ruled out the MES yet either. A lot less money to get in the electric smoker game, it looks like a good budget based option, and adding an Auber PID could make it a really good budget smoker! I can get an all stainless Gen1 and run it as is, then add a PID for precise temperature control.

    Now, over at the SI site I've been considering the #3 vs #4 and it's still a toss up. But if I decided the #4 was the size/price point I was interested in the PK100 from Cabelas/PS Seasonings begins to look mighty interesting! On sale now at Cabelas for $1199, it would run me about $1275 including tax and discounts. (saving $155 shipping by picking it up since a Cabelas is nearby);BRprd715132;cat104582880

    I'm going to give this one the old OCD treatment, advertised to be Made in USA, 18 guage 304 SS, 1250 watt dual zone heating element with digital temperature control from 65-250, this thing looks like a contender! Has anyone got one? I'll definately be giving Ken a call at PS Seasonings/Pro Smoker 'N Roaster next week!
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014
  14. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I just looked at the PS pro smoker page. What I saw eloquently presents the case for wood pellets over wood chips and biscuits. It also states the difference between BBQ pellets and heating pellets:


    - FLAVOR = Wood pellets provide more flavor and offer a variety of flavors

    - SMOKE = Wood Pellets provide more smoke with more consistency

    - HEAT = Heat source is 100% natural wood pellets, no fuel or hot coals etc.

    - CLEAN BURNING = Wood pellets product very little ash with very little creosote build up

    - SAFE = Danger of fire from removing hot ash and embers is eliminated, unlike log burning units


    Pellets are easily obtainable through the U.S. [The best are made from] 100% wood, food grade barbecue pellets specifically produced for use with food.  Barbecue pellet are made from hardwoods that contain fewer resins and are produced in a controlled process to ensure a food grade product.  (Heating pellets, on the other hand, are produced specifically for heat stoves and do not meet food grade requirements.)  Barbecue pellets are made by pulverizing hardwood sawdust and extruding to a uniform density through a rotating die under enormous heat and pressure (400 degrees F @ 10,000 PSI).  Naturally occurring lignin in the wood binds the pellets into their shape.  Pellets are then cooled and placed in...bags."

    I took out the stuff pertaining to the company's own wood pellets because otherwise this is a nice little essay providing great info on wood pellets, including how the best ones are manufactured. I buy mine only from Todd Johnson at A-MAZE-N.
  15. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    All Right, somebody needs to stop me from going ahead and buying the Cabela's branded Pro Smoker PK100ss while it is on sale!

    Is there any reason NOT to choose it over the SI #4? They seem to be comparable in size and features and I really like that the PK100 will hold a lower temp. I might want to smoke some cheese.

    It's on sale for $1199, (final cost about $1275) compared to $1550 including shipping for the SI #4, a $250 savings. However, Steve is coming to Nashville in February, so I can drive up there and pick up the SI #3 for around $1330. Now it's a toss up again!

    I really like supporting US Manufacturing, but I also like supporting small businesses, so maybe a wash, maybe a slight edge to the PK100 for being made in the USA.

    PK100 has a door gasket and two latches vs 3 latches on the #4.

    I wonder if the digital controller on the PK100 is equal to the Auber?

    EDIT: Talked to Cabela's and they looked at the manual. It appears to just be digital temperature control, not programmable. +1 for the Auber on the #4!

    Cabela's rep said the sale price should be good through the first of the year, and the current sale price is the lowest he has seen it.

    Thank You!
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014
  16. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I would stick with the smokers from SI. Plenty of owners on both SMF and SI should you have any questions or just need to learn from others as well as share experiences.  The CS Amerique is larger than the SI 3 capacity wise but the racks are a tad smaller and the smoker costs more than the SI4.  Great smoker, and the digital is built it and tight.  But from what you have posted here and elsewhere, I think the SI is for you. 
  17. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    Thank You! Confidence is HIGH on buying the SI smoker, just need to decide #3 or #4.

    I don't NEED the #4, but I want it!

    The #3 WOULD meet my needs, and a fella can always buy another one (or something different).

    Heck, I just "accidently" ordered one of these! On sale, $20 rebate, $10 Club points, looks like a fun cooker to take to the lake!;BRprd1625098;cat104276880
  18. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Morning.... If I were in the market for a new smoker, I would seriously look at the SM country style smoker... Reading the owners manual, it will control temperatures from 50 -200 deg. F.... I like to cold smoke bacon, cheese, salmon, steaks (before putting on the grill) etc... During the winter, having the smoker control temps at 50 is a big plus... The additional height for hanging sausages or bellies for bacon is a plus.... It's American Made...

  19. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    Thanks for the link! I had looked at this one earlier, along with their other smokers. The thing that concerned me about this one was the 200 degree upper limit. I would like the versatility to go up to at least 250 for some smokes, and I'd really like the ability to go up to 300 if I wanted to. Otherwise this looks like a good option for the low temp, cheese to sausage, smokes.

    But, thanks again, I appreciate ALL the input on the decision making process. Maybe I really need TWO smokers! yea, let me see how I can speak THAT by the CEO! I've managed to convince her we NEED another smoker for the low and better controlled temps, but I don't think I could sell her on the idea that I really need TWO smokers! But then, I did manage to sell the idea of a wood fired pizza oven in the outdoor kitchen next year, so you never know!
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2014
  20. gathumper

    gathumper Newbie

    My understanding is that you would bypass/eliminate the on-board digital controller?

    Not my area of expertise but I'm sure someone else will help out!
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2014

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