Torn between Ceramic and a side fire box smoker

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by harley20, Jul 11, 2015.

  1. harley20

    harley20 Newbie

    Ok so I have read a lot and I have done quite a bit of research on smokers and I am torn between a Primo and a few models of the side fire box smokers like horizon, Johnson, etc.  I don't have a side fire box model figured out yet but its between about 4 or 5.  I do like the Lang but don't like the shipping costs. 

    Anyway here is my question and I know its hard to have an exact answer so opinions will work perfectly.

    If I buy a Primo and get the hang of smoking will I eventually want to get a "real smoker" as I have read people end up doing?  I like the idea of the ease and versatility of the Primo but wonder if that will outweigh the true smoking I would get from a actual smoker.  And will I be giving up the true taste of bbq if I go with a Primo?

    I know there is a lot more that goes into smoking and these are very different but I am trying to get an idea of what I am giving up. 

    Just for info I am looking to spend about $1500. 

  2. rickw

    rickw Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Both will give you great BBQ. I think you should be thinking more in line with do you want, feed the fire every 30 to 45 minutes or would you be more inclined to let the smoker do the work while you sit back and do other activities. An offset requires you to tend to it while the ceramic is more of a set and forget. 

    I just sold my Horizon to get a WSM 22.5 so I can do bigger overnight cooks and get some sleep. 
  3. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I agree with RW, time is the biggest factor. I started on a gas grill then bought a WSM knowing it would be better. Now the $900 gasser is used to sear,crisp and clean the WSM racks! Good luck whichever way you go!
  4. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    Personally I'd go with the Primo. Although I have a 22.5" WSM I've often lusted for a ceramic grill/smoker....Just because I can grill on it too. But I've got a charcoal grill and the smoker so I just can't bring myself to purchase a unit that will do both.
  5. harley20

    harley20 Newbie

    Thanks for the opinions guys. I never even looked at a WSM.  Checked them out a little online and they are relatively inexpensive.  Do they pretty much do the same as an egg?  I did read that a few had difficulties keeping temps on the 22.  Maybe for the money I would be better off with a WSM and then a smaller side fire box smoker and still be able to keep within my budget.  Since I published this in the charcoal section maybe the side fire box guys don't see it because I don't see any opinions leaning that way.
  6. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    .......If I had it all to do over again and the money was there for a ceramic (which it wasn't when I bought my WSM) I'd probably go that route....Being able to smoke and grill on the same unit is appealing to me. Money wise choosing the 22.5 WSM was probably the best smoking decision I've made next to my BBQ Guru.

    But hey, if you have the cash for both a WSM and a good side firebox unit (which I think can also double as a grill) go for it.....I doubt you'd be sorry.

    Smoker wise the WSM will do anything that the egg can do. Maintaining temps is not an issue either. They run a little hot when they are new but once all the cracks and crevices get sealed up (from use) is very simple to hold steady.

    So now you have 3 different smokers to consider.....[​IMG]
  7. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Maybe the stick burners are outside putting logs on the fire!😂
  8. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Sorry, I just saw this. I had a WSM for several years and got good results, but I decided to sell it last fall and get an offset stick burner built. I absolutely love this smoker. It was built by Craig Bell at Bell Fab in Tulsa, OK. It burns clean, the temps hold great, the food is wonderful and the cost is reasonable. Craig is very good to work with and will produce exactly what you want. Check him out at: [email protected]. Good luck, Joe
  9. millerbuilds

    millerbuilds Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member


    I have both a Stick Burner and a Electric along with a Weber 22" Kettle and a Gasser.

    I use them all different and I am not sure I would want only one unit.

    The stick burner is the most work, but I feel I get the best food off of it.  I think it has to do a lot with the passion and time you put into your food when using a stick burner.  I use this for bigger cooks (Brisket, Ribs, Chicken, Turkey, Pork Shoulder, etc...) when I am going to be feeding a large group or to get our freezer stocked.

    The Electric I use for smaller items and when I do not have time to monitor the cook. I use it mostly for smaller items (Eggs, Meatloaf, Jerky, sausages, fish, etc...)

    The Weber get used the most (2+ times a week on average)  I cook many meals on that and typically at higher temps (300+)

    The Gasser also gets used weekly (I use it for burgers, brats, fish, veggies, etc..)  It also has a side burner that I use for pan frying fish and cooking up the bacon I smoke.  The added benefit is the side burner is also used every time I use my Weber or Stick burner, it works great for starting a chimney load of charcoal.

    I have looked at the ceramics, but I could not really give up any of the others.

    Good luck on your decision!

    Smoke ON!

  10. harley20

    harley20 Newbie

    Thanks Damon.  I did read somewhere the temps on the WSM do tend to get better with use.  Not sure I have the cash for both unless I could swing both for $1500.  I think offsets tend to be around that much by themselves. We will see.  One question on the WSM unit, does it hold temps in a cold climate.  I live in northern Illinois and would like to use during the winter too.

    Thanks Joe.  I did check out the pics on bell fab they look like nice smokers.  I didn't see any pricing on there.  Mind sharing any pricing info if you have anything?  Your point of flavor of food is what I hear most of the offsets.

    Thanks Miller.  Looks like you have a wide variety of cooking units to decide what you need for each cook.  If I get a offset and a wsm I will have choices too, but not sure I can swing it.  I am afraid if I skimp on the offset I may be disappointed. 
  11. rickw

    rickw Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I too live in northern Illinois and yes, I smoke year round with the WSM. It holds temps quite well in colder temps. I had a Horizon Offset and it didn't get much use in the winter. 
  12. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I use my WSM all winter long just fine! I have seen members wrap WSM's in welding blankets to help fuel consumption in the cold.
  13. harley20

    harley20 Newbie

    Thanks Rick (Neighbor) Gurnee here.  Wish I was around when you sold your horizon.  So since you had a horizon and now have a WSM, do you see a difference in the bbq between the two?  I know the offset is a lot of work and would probably not get used as much but something still draws me to it.  Maybe the times I would use it would be a adventure and that is a draw.  But you also have a great point in getting some sleep.  Do you get a good brisket out of your WSM?  Have you tried a turkey?
  14. rickw

    rickw Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've had a WSM for years now and am buying a 22.5" to go along with the 18" I have. They make as good a brisket as any smoker I have ever tried. I'm not going to miss baby sitting the Horizon, it was fun but my time can be better spent all a while still getting high quality Q. If you go with an offset you will need to find a good supply of wood too or of course you could always cut and spit it yourself, that's what I did. It was a bit of work. 

    Along with the new/larger Weber I am also going to go with a DigiQ so the WSM will be even more set and forget.

    I am about 2 hours south of you right along the Eisenhower.  

    Oh yeah, turkey turns out great on the Weber, as does ribs and butts. Whatever you want to BBQ can go on there.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
  15. wrbasher

    wrbasher Fire Starter

    So many choices! I feel like the flavor of satisfaction from a stick burner only goes so far if you're smoking regularly. Eventually, I would think convenience wins out, especially if food quality is on par.

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