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Newbie looking for advice on first offset smoker

samir

Newbie
5
5
Joined Aug 2, 2022
Hi Everyone,

I'm new to the smoking scene and looking to buy my first offset smoker. Based on some of the posts I've seen here, I think I'm in the right place!

Any recommendations for a beginner offset smoker that offers good value for money and costs less than $500?

My original idea was to find a lightly used but higher quality model but so far, my searches over the past several weeks on Craigslist and other sites have come up empty. We don't have many dedicated BBQ/Grill/Smoker retailers or stores around here outside of Boston, MA so I'm relegated to the big box stores and home centers plus internet sites like Amazon.

I appreciate that the more expensive models are built with thicker steel for better heat retention and that the cheaper ones can be a pain to assemble, are made with lower tolerances and can be prone to paint chipping but in addition to the smoker, I have to also purchase things like some basic tools and digital temperature probes.

Thanks in advance!
Samir
 

ddow229

Smoke Blower
108
119
Joined Jul 10, 2022
Welcome from a former New Englander and now Ozarkian!
I went with Oklahoma Joe. I was able to find a used one very reasonably priced. You can find them in some of the Big Box stores not too expensive as well. I am sure others will chime in with other options but I have made some super delish food on mine.
 

tbern

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
1,150
540
Joined Dec 27, 2015
Welcome to the forum from Minnesota! Good luck with finding a smoker for yourself!
 

Marknmd

Smoke Blower
147
112
Joined Jun 22, 2022
If you're new to smoking, then I'm not sure if an offset is the best place to start. You might consider a drum. The OKJ Bronco is an excellent choice.

If you insist on an offset, IMO, OKJ Highland is a great place to start. Not a lot of cash, and you can gradually customize it to cook very nicely. Be advised it is an entry level smoker, probably the best cheap smoker, but still entry level with only 3/32 thick steel, less than half the standard quarter inch. So you're going to want to mod it in the very near future. Good luck
 

samir

Newbie
Thread starter
5
5
Joined Aug 2, 2022
Welcome from a former New Englander and now Ozarkian!
I went with Oklahoma Joe. I was able to find a used one very reasonably priced. You can find them in some of the Big Box stores not too expensive as well. I am sure others will chime in with other options but I have made some super delish food on mine.
The Oklahoma Joe is definitely on the short list. Thanks for the recommendation!
 

samir

Newbie
Thread starter
5
5
Joined Aug 2, 2022
If you're new to smoking, then I'm not sure if an offset is the best place to start. You might consider a drum. The OKJ Bronco is an excellent choice.

If you insist on an offset, IMO, OKJ Highland is a great place to start. Not a lot of cash, and you can gradually customize it to cook very nicely. Be advised it is an entry level smoker, probably the best cheap smoker, but still entry level with only 3/32 thick steel, less than half the standard quarter inch. So you're going to want to mod it in the very near future. Good luck
Thanks for the response. If I may ask, how is a drum smoker better/easier for a beginner? I hadn't really considered one.
 

Newglide

Smoking Fanatic
340
246
Joined Jun 14, 2021
Welcome from NC.
I have an old country offset.
What do you currently have as far as grills and what's your grilling experience?
Offsets are awesome but can be a lot of work. If you're grilling experience isn't there it will be frustrating. I'd suggest a kettle. You can do some awesome cooking on a kettle. Get the feel then upgrade to a better offset if you're still feeling it. I have a gas a kettle and an offset. If I had to have one it would be my kettle
 

Displaced Texan

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
635
501
Joined Nov 11, 2020
I started on a Char Broil offset. There was a definite learning curve. Your budget is going to keep you in the Okie Joe/Char Griller range. Old Country and others are going to be well above the $500 you mentioned.

Personally, I say go for it and get the offset. Plenty of help around here to get you going in the right direction if you do.
 

Marknmd

Smoke Blower
147
112
Joined Jun 22, 2022
Thanks for the response. If I may ask, how is a drum smoker better/easier for a beginner? I hadn't really considered one.
Smoking on an offset is significantly more complex than other smokers. And unfortunately, the cheaper the offset, the more difficult the process. A drum is much simpler to control. So you might consider starting with a drum. Here's a review of the Bronco. Good luck

 

bauchjw

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
3,844
2,914
Joined Aug 3, 2015
I don’t think you should be scared off of the offset, if you get a decent OKJ it’s a lot of fun to learn on. Everything in bbq has its learning curve and adjustments you need to make. Kettle grills, drums, etc all require getting familiar and learning how to control heat based on what you’re cooking. If your goal is to pick up a craft and learn some fire management the offset is very fulfilling, if you just want to make good food and not worry about fire management I’d go with an electric, pellet, gravity, etc. they all have their time and place in my opinion, it’s really just what you want out of the experience.
 

raymo76

Smoking Fanatic
722
37
Joined Aug 8, 2011
When I bought my first offset, it was about $300-350 and it was the house brand of Barbecues Galore. It was decent but would be classified as a typical Cheap Offset Smoker (COS). I could tell the sales person was trying to guide me to the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) for about $300 for the 18.5”.

I didn’t know anyone or anything about smoking meat back then and to me the bullet didn’t look like a smoker. I cooked on the offset for about 9 years. The last year I installed a BBQ Guru and that made it much easier. However it just had a small section in the middle of the cook chamber with an optimal cooking temperature. One side was too hot and the other too cold.

Can you do what you want? Yup sure can. Just be ready for the big or small challenges you may face.

Maybe listen to the advice of these fine folks mentioning some type of vertical less expensive cookers. At least contemplate their advise so you’re happy with your decision.

Sometimes I wish I would have started on the WSM but I’m 20 years in now. I have been a stick burner since 2011. I don’t believe it to be as hard as others say it is. If you have an understanding of the fire triangle and fire management you’ll be good.

Stick burning is fun if you like a challenge and conquering fire.
 

samir

Newbie
Thread starter
5
5
Joined Aug 2, 2022
bauchjw bauchjw , raymo76 raymo76 : Thank you both for your well-thought out responses! This is really a great community.

I think one of the reasons I'm drawn to the offset smoker is that it's a bit like my other hobby, photography. If all you want to do is take some pictures, you can just use your phone or any other automatic camera. But there is something a bit more tactile and engaging with having to develop your own film, mix your chemicals in a darkroom, and really understand the nuances of your enlarger. Even if you stick to digital, you can learn about the trade offs in aperture, shutter speed and ISO and how they relate to exposure. In that respect, (darkroom) photography is a bit like trying to master the art of BBQ. It's relatively easy to get started, but you'll make lots of mistakes along the way. Hopefully, you'll learn something and it will take ages to master. But the journey will be just as rewarding.

Thank you everyone for the outstanding advice!
 

CTXSmokeLover

Meat Mopper
SMF Premier Member
157
180
Joined Jun 17, 2022
Welcome from TX. Agree on the OK Joe or Pit Country at that price point. I have an old New Braunfels offset (not made anymore) that is similar to these models and I have made some great BBQ on it over the years. Don't be scared of the offsets, just be willing to be patient to learn it. It is super rewarding. But to each their own. Good luck in your search
 

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