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Opinions please... Buying my 1st smoker!

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jmunn Jan 24, 2008 03:12 AM

From my reading around here, it looks like I'm going with the Weber Smokey Mountain. I've been doing my ribs and pulled pork dutch oven style but am eager to start smokin'. Please offer your advice and experiences so I get the right product. Thanks in advance. Oh yeah... I'm not going over $300.

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  1. j
    Jim Washburn RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 07:23 AM

    I've had a WSM for about ten years, and I highly recommend it. There's lots of good info on the net about how to use it to best effect. You sure can't beat it in its price range.

    Jim

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      ricepad RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 08:27 AM

      If I were going to buy another cooker, it'd be a WSM. There's a reason they're so common on the competitive circuit: they work well and they're easy to use.

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        fourunder RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 08:48 AM

        Char-Broil has inexpensive models that double as charcoal grills.....last season I saw them at Home Depot for $150 (approx).

        1 Reply
        1. re: fourunder
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          ricepad RE: fourunder Jan 24, 2008 10:38 AM

          If you're talking about the Charbroil Silver Smoker with the offset firebox, I have one of those, and I like it. Still, I think I'd rather have a WSM. With the offset, I have to tend the fire about once an hour or so. From what I hear about the WSM, however, it's almost as if it was a Popeil product...set it and forget it.

        2. King of Northern Blvd RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 09:10 AM

          Another vote for WSM. I bought one last year and made excellent BBQ on my first try.

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            healthyscratch RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 10:56 AM

            I've been completely satisfied with my WSM.

            For any questions you might have about it, the folks over at http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/
            know more about cooking with and modifying your WSM than I thought possible.

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              renov8r RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 02:13 PM

              I have a WSM it is a fun tool that performs very well -- BUT -- I work full time, have family obligations and just do not have time to baby sit the WSM more than a few weekends per year. My neighbor , OTOH, has a vertical smoker that costs a little bit more BUT he can turn on the gas, adjust the heat and go do stuff for hours. When he comes home to a smoker full of dinner.

              I envy him, though it ain't much fun to sit around a gas fired smoker.

              2 Replies
              1. re: renov8r
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                nooner RE: renov8r Jan 24, 2008 05:59 PM

                What you need is the BBQ Guru for that WSM. Do a google search on it. I have had one for about 2 years now and now couldn't imagine not living without it when I smoke. I admit, it feels like cheating, but it really does allow you to do other things instead of constantly checking the smoker.

                The other alternative is to employ the "minion method" (do a google search on that as well) for long cooks. I can get about 12-16 hours holding at 225 for a long shoulder or brisket smoke. Using sand in the pan saves you from having to refill with liquid.

                1. re: renov8r
                  Professor Salt RE: renov8r Jan 25, 2008 08:29 AM

                  The other option in heat controllers is a BBQ Stoker. Similar basic concept as the BBQ Guru, but with different execution.

                  If you're a tech geek, you can hook the Stoker to a wireless router at your house, and monitor and adjust the temperatures of your cooker remotely from work, or any other place where you have a web browser. BBQ by iPhone, anyone?

                  http://rocksbarbque.com/

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                  jmunn RE: jmunn Jan 24, 2008 11:56 PM

                  Thanks for the feedback. I checked a few stores today. No WSM, but I saw a Brinkmann model for $50 at Lowe's that looked similar to the WSM.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: jmunn
                    King of Northern Blvd RE: jmunn Jan 25, 2008 04:09 AM

                    I recall when I was researching for a smoker that most people said the Brinkman was alot harder to maintain an even low temperature. I could be wrong but you might want to take that into consideration.

                    1. re: King of Northern Blvd
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                      RGC1982 RE: King of Northern Blvd Jan 25, 2008 05:35 AM

                      You are correct, and it is because the sides are thin. Using it when living in the Northeast was much more difficult when it was windy or very cold.

                      On the other hand, it was cheap, and we found ourselves preferring electric versus charcoal. Just a ton easier for lightweight hobbyists. Of course, now that I live in Texas, I would be laughed right out of the neighborhood if I still used that smoker :)

                      1. re: RGC1982
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                        jzerocsk RE: RGC1982 Jan 25, 2008 06:05 AM

                        I have the Brinkmann electric. Like jmunn, I spotted it in my local big box hardware store when I went in hoping to be able to see a WSM in person. I was leery about spending $300 and was concerned that the "work" involved with monitoring a charcoal smoker would make me less apt to use it, which defeats the purpose of having your own smoker!

                        If you've never smoked before, it's a good, cheap way to get your feet wet before you invest in a better/more expensive can. I haven't tried it in extreme cold yet. Honestly when winter comes my cravings for bbq tend to wane.

                        1. re: jzerocsk
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                          RGC1982 RE: jzerocsk Jan 25, 2008 03:20 PM

                          The only real problem is that you literally can't use it when you get your feet wet. The outdoor GFIs would trip after a heavy rain when I ventured out to use it, so that is the one big drawback I can see. It is not safe to use in wet weather.

                          However, it worked most of the year and we had some great meals. I'd suggest going cheap to see if you have the disposition to really tend to barbecue. In as much as everyone says you can sit in a hammock and drink beer all day, in reality for most people it means that you are required to stay at home, stay awake and tend to it on a regular basis. It can also mean getting up early in the morning or in the middle of the night before to start the brisket. That is why, I must confess, with great barbecue professionally prepared and just up the road (I have several to choose from), we have thus far not replaced our smoker. Barbecue is too darn easy to buy here in Texas -- more common than pizza, in fact. But -- there is nothing like doing it yourself. It's fun. I definitely want to try it again, but this time it's going to mean a respectable investment in something like the Green Egg or a big model with an offset firebox. Anything else would be regarded with suspicion around here, and I already have my Yankee reputation to overcome.

                    2. re: jmunn
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                      ricepad RE: jmunn Jan 25, 2008 08:22 AM

                      Do NOT get an ECB (El Cheapo Brinkmann)! You're far better off ordering a WSM online (Amazon sometimes has them for about $150-175, IIRC), and there's a world of difference between them. Not only is the WSM made of heavier gauge material, it also fits together more snugly so it doesn't leak as much. The lid on an ECB doesn't fill the opening fully (by design), which makes it harder to regulate temps. ECBs may look like WSMs at first glance, but you'll regret buying one. I bought one, and eventually I gave it away.

                      1. re: ricepad
                        Professor Salt RE: ricepad Jan 25, 2008 08:27 AM

                        Exactly. Can't go wrong w/ the WSM. Spend the extra money if you're considering the ECB. It's worth it.

                        I found mine used for $90 in a local classified. I periodically scan Craigslist so I can pick up another one in good condition.

                        1. re: ricepad
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                          Jim Washburn RE: ricepad Jan 25, 2008 08:34 AM

                          The WSM has three adjustable vents on the bottom that give you good control over the air flow. The ECB does not. I think WSMs are still available for under $200. Great value. The ECB is so hard to cook on I wouldn't want one at any price. Even free.

                          Jim

                          1. re: ricepad
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                            RGC1982 RE: ricepad Jan 25, 2008 03:34 PM

                            You are right about choosing a good one IF AND ONLY IF the OP is absolutely sure that they want to dedicate the eight to twelve hours of smoking a big hunk of brisket or the four or five hours for the usual chicken and ribs often enough to justify the expense. If that is the case, and it is not likely to be regarded as a bother in order to get good barbecue, go for it. Heaven knows, I've spent more than $300 on a pot. For us, it was more the trouble of adding charcoal that was a nuisance. My experience is that DH and friends were not inclined to prep the charcoal enough before adding it, (it was a disaster, thus precipitating the switch to electric), and that a cheap Brinkmann electric for the one time a month we used it was about the right model and heat source for us. The results were occasionally fantastic. You need to really know yourself and your own inclinations.

                            1. re: RGC1982
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                              ricepad RE: RGC1982 Jan 25, 2008 06:24 PM

                              While it's true that some cooking sessions last longer than a Hollywood relationship, if you use the Minion Method on a WSM, you wont be constantly feeding charcoal for an 8-10 hour cook...once, maybe twice, and that's it. With an ECB, as leaky as they are, you'll be throwing fuel in the little door every hour. That's the beauty of a WSM vs an ECB...or even an offset like I've got.

                        2. weinstein5 RE: jmunn Jan 25, 2008 06:16 PM

                          For my birthday my wife got me the brinkman smoker and I have really enjoyed - http://www.brinkmann.net/Shop/Series....

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: weinstein5
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                            ThaiNut RE: weinstein5 Jan 26, 2008 09:00 AM

                            I've been smoking for many, many years. For most meats I like the Char-broil Silver smoker which you can get at Lowes for about $200. It's a well made smoker, but the biggest advantage to this smoker is that, like the more expensive Brinkman Pitmaster, the firebox is offset from the cooking chamber. Barbecue needs to be cooked long and at relatively low temps. The offset firebox allows the temp to drop before it gets to the meat. And you'll find that the temp varies a lot from the end nearest the firebox to the far end. This enables you to place the meat at the point where the temp is closest to what you want.

                            But primarily I smoke salmon, and for this I swear by the Meco Model-5031 barrel-type smoker. Smoked salmon requires the addition of more smoking wood after about 1.5 hours. What I don't like about most barrel-type smokers is that to add more wood or charcoal you have to do it through small doors on the side of the barrel. These are a true pain. But in the Meco 5031 the entire barrel lifts off of the base. You pick the barrel up by the two side handles, set it down on the ground, consolidate the charcoals, add more smoking wood, and then put the barrel back on top. Totally painless. If you look at pictures of the Meco-5031 on the Internet you will see that it does have two access doors on the side but I use these only to control airflow. Oh, and the Meco-5031 can be had for less than $100.

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                            jmunn RE: jmunn Jan 27, 2008 01:44 AM

                            Thanks for the help everyone! I'll be ordering my WSM shortly!

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                              exvaxman RE: jmunn Jan 28, 2008 06:34 PM

                              For electric, I like my Brinkman. For Charcoal, you can't beat the Big Green Egg. The WSM as mentioned also has a place in the backyard.
                              For smaller (inside) I have been using a cameron for doing cheeses and salts.
                              Rival has a small electric unit for $50 for outdoor use for oen or two people. I also have a couple of larger stack units in the garage that I was given for doing fish, but I never really used them so I will not comment. Skymall has an Anuka(sp?) smoker that I was given as an xmas gift that is supposed to be for outside use. It looks decent, if not small. Haven't tried it yet.

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