Trying to figure out what I should do smoker wise

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Original poster
Jun 15, 2023
Hey all! New to the forums and I am getting back into wanting to smoke some good meats! This may be a longish post as I kind of have a dilemma :

I made an impulse purchase about 2 weeks ago because my "propane grill" rusted and died as well so I pretty much had nothing but my flat top left. I grabbed an Akorn Kamado because I wanted something that could smoke and high heat grill as well (haven't used it yet but read as a smoker it is only okay because it is so efficient you hardly get smoke flavor on meats). The more and more I looked into things I kept reading about off-set smokers and started to really want a stick burner for some authentic smoke flavor. Since I am not in a prime area to pick up one of those great welded 1/4" models, I was going to grab me a Grand Champ to give that a roll. The dilemma I ran into was wood! Turns out, it is not so easy to find affordable cherry, apple woods here in NY (maybe I need to look upstate more at all the apple orchards) and Hickory is non existent it seems. Oak is abundant wasn't really sure how much oak flavor is used (I always hear mesquite and hickory).

Online sourcing seems to be 50lb boxes of wood logs around $100 a box and I would cut those down my self to splits. I am not sure how long 50lb's wood last but it doesn't seem like a lot of wood at all especially for something an Off-set would use. So this led me to try and figure out if I cannot easily source local wood, would going to a pellet smoker be a more affordable option than purchasing wood logs online??

Now yes, I know a pellet smoker won't give the same smoke flavor as an off-set based on all that I have seen and read (to be fair I haven't had smoked meat off an off-set or a pellet smoker) but I have used pellets in a Amazing smoker tube in the past with a propane smoker and the results tasted good to me at the time. Still when trying to figure this out from a "fuel" cost stand point that a 50lb box of wood is $100 and a 40lb bag of pellets is let say $30, and if I want to do a 5 hour rib smoke how much wood would a woodchuck chuck...oh sorry. Well you get the point here, am I going to use more wood on the off-set vs pellet consumption? Would the trade-off be better smoke flavor vs less cost to use pellets but less smoke flavor?

I know only I can judge what taste I like and I do have this Akorn Kamado sitting here that could very well be good enough as well for me. I'm just trying to figure out if I can't locally source wood, if staying away from an off-set is a good idea and just try a pellet smoker? Just looking for some thoughts on this subject. Thanks for sticking around to the end and helping me out!
Just a thought as this is what I do. Use hardwood lump charcoal along with your wood splits. You'll get good flavor from the charcoal plus the addition of the wood makes for an incredible flavor profile. The lump should be readily available and much less expensive than the wood. I built a fire pan that I start my lump going in and add small wood splits as needed. I get my wood logs from Amazon and yes, they are a bit pricey but a $40 box of wood will do 10 or so smoke sessions when used in conjunction with the lump charcoal. Here is the pan I built:

The logs come in far too large for what I need so I cut them down into small splits. Did a few with the hatchet and that was not the best of ideas so I bought a 6.5 ton log splitter and this thing is the bomb!! Just got this last week:

Some hickory that I split for a cook last weekend. I've also split a bunch of cherry and pecan so I have a nice assortment of different woods on hand. Hope this helps.

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Oak is likely the most widely used wood commercially for smoking. You will get delicious results. Get out to the orchard areas and grab some apple or cherry. Use mostly oak and supplement with fruit woods.
I actually have a ton of wood from trees I cut down on my property 3 years ago. I left them in large stump form never cut them down into logs yet. I just started cutting them down as needed for fire pit use. I certainly did not store them well. lot of black on the face of the wood but inside the wood is really dry and nice and brown. Catches fast in the fire pit. Not sure what kind of tree it was though and no idea if it is good to use for food smoking.
Interestingly I did find someone locally who has a large amount of cherry wood seasoned and under 15% moisture so going to grab a ton of it tomorrow. I am sure if I keep looking I'll find other kinds.

I ordered the Grand Champ Off-set so it will be here next week and I am seasoning my Akorn Kamado right now as I type this! So it going to be a fun summer.
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If you go the offset route, look into buying a cord of wood.
You can find them on CraigslList, but beware...
Many will try to screw you and only give you 2/3 or 3/4 of a cord.
Wood stacked 4' x 4' x 8' is a cord if you don't know.
If you go the pellet route, you can get pellets for a lot less that $30 for 40lb.
Pellet grills have one big plus over offsets.
You can put a brisket on at 10 o'clock at night and go to bed. Don't have to feed the fire.

I'm a pellet fan and have a new Lone Star Grillz 20/42 pellet grill on order.
Don't know what your budget is, but you might want to look into it.
Lot of good Youtube videos on it.
Thin blue smoke rolls out of the stack like an offset.

Best of luck which ever route you go.
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I have used an Akorn and after a few inexpensive modifications I got some pretty darn good smoked meats out of it. It took me a while to figure it out but it became my goto unit. You can get plenty of smoky goodness from an Akorn.

Best of luck with whatever you decide on.
I watched a bunch of videos on it and when I seen it on sale I pulled the trigger. I seasoned it today (I made mods when i put it together. Gasket on top around the base and then on the bottom for a tighter seal. I replaced the O-ring with RTV 600 and I also removed the factory silicone around the bottom vent with RTV 600.)

During the season, the temp got away and flew up to over 600! lol It def is going to be interesting to figure it out to see what I have to do to get it low and steady. Part of me wishes now, I bought the Auto Kamado for a set it and forget it option like a pellet smoker and then had the off-set when I want to fiddle with fire. I like the idea of both.
I think most people with Akorns use charcoal. And I'd say using lump is a big step up in flavor from Kingsford briquettes. Now is the time of year when you can start finding off-brands (typically from Mexico) of lump at 50 cents/pound so you might want to stock up. Thowing on some wood chunks (avail at walmart by the small box) can give you more smoke flavor as can just some smoke bombs of pellets. (Empty cans with the lid still connected that you fill with pellets and then push the lid back down and then rest on your coals. Most Home Depots sell 20# sacks of splits too...a carefully used chop saw can cut those down to any size chunk you want.

I agree. Stick burners in the city can be a hassle. Either buying the wood gets expensive or storing large buys gets messy.
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So I was able to pickup a OKJ Highland on Facebook Marketplace for $50! It was sitting under a tarp for years so inside the main chamber had to gunked up water on the bottom and looked to have rusted.

I took out a piece of steel wool and went to work. After 30 min and severe arm pain....I remembered I had an angle grinder. So I stuck on a wire wheel and went to work. Most of it looks good but I'm not sure if I did enough in the main chamber and if I should get a more abrasive wheel (the wire wheel isn't really doing anything else at this point) and hit it more or just move on to deep oiling and seasoning it.

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I seasoned it inside and out (actually still seasoning it). This thing is looking beautiful!


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