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ISO a decent affordable smoker:

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Can someone recommend a basic, small-ish, and affordable outdoor smoker? As a beginner I don't really want to invest in one of the fancy ones, and I'm not going to be doing, like, whole animals or anything. Something around $100, or is that foolish? Also would you recommend electric or other? Thanks!

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  1. Google WSM Smoker, then peruse Craigslist. That's where I'd start.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Fake Name

      Agree with Weber Smokey Mountain 14 1/2" model. Available online only @ 199.00. 18 1/2" was too big when I saw it in person.

      1. re: letsindulge

        Except once you start using 'em you realize you can only do a rack or two of ribs in an 18". A 14"er is very small. If you're looking cheap, I started on a Brinkmann I picked up on sale at Home Depot for about $30 for years, before I went to the 18" WSM. It was fine, though the WSM is far superior for maintaining temp.

        1. re: justbeingpolite

          The 14" works well for my husband, and I. I've done 4 racks of baby back ribs by rolling, then tying them with cooking twine.

    2. Brinkmann, I think the name is Smoke and Grill. It is charcoal. There are similar smokers that use gas or electric, may be over your price.

      Little Chief and Big Chief are electric.

      1. Do you already have a weber kettle grill? If you really want cheap then just start there. Get your feet wet, see where you want to go with it and then upgrade when you are ready.

        1. I don't currently have a working grill. A grill/smoker combo would be perfect. I appreciate all the input so far.

          1 Reply
          1. re: NonnieMuss

            I've tried to use the el cheapo brinkman. They're a pain, they don't hold temp and without a lot of mods, they just don't perform. Everyone I know who has had one has hated it.

            If you want to spend less than 100 bucks, get a Weber kettle. I do pulled pork, chicken, turkey, and ribs in mine when I don't feel like firing up the WSM. It's too small for a whole brisket but can easily handle a flat.

          2. As you do your research, you'll find a LOT of recs for WSMs (as Fake Name did) for a good reason. They're very good, and not too expensive. Do NOT, however, be tempted by the looks of an ECB (echoing chileheadmike's rec). ECBs look a lot like WSMs at first glance, but they certainly don't perform like them. On closer inspection, it's easy to see why, too. WSMs are built with fairly close fitting parts, whereas ECBs are like submarines with screen doors - they leak air like crazy.

            If you can't afford a WSM, get a Weber kettle. It's great for learning how to control fire, and you can grill on it, too.

            7 Replies
            1. re: ricepad

              I don't put a ton of stock into leaks around doors. Considering the amount of smoke that exits the stack (or vent in a WSM) what little you lose through a leaky weld or door isn't going to affect much. metal thickness does matter, though.

              1. re: swoll50

                It's not that you lose too much smoke through the leaks. The problem is that all those air gaps make fire control really difficult.

                1. re: ricepad

                  What ricepad said. Air control is fire control.

                  The only WSM mod I've done (I don't have one, but my parents and a few friends do) is to buy an ECB water pan to replace the stock one. It's deeper and holds more water/sand/whatever.

                  1. re: ted

                    I cook w/o my water pan more times than not. LoL

                    1. re: JayL

                      Interesting. I only cook on one occasionally so not a lot of experimenting in producing the Thanksgiving turkey and the like.

                  2. re: ricepad

                    id been taught to keep it as tight as possible. lately ive been playing with my offset some and im getting much better results out of higher airflow and maintaining temp by fuel output.

                    1. re: swoll50

                      I'm not sure I get what you mean. By tight, I don't think either of us mean necessarily low airflow. Just having control over the air to the fire as a way to regulate how hot the fire burns. How much fuel is in there is a separate issue (I think).

                      If you mean that you cook with a small, hot fire with a lot of airflow, that's fine but I think it'll be a lot more work to maintain the fire than if the size is regulated (via airflow) to what's needed for the cooking.

                      I originally rationalized buying an insulated, super-tight cooker with the thought that the infant Chowpup didn't get up any different time if I'd been up all night or not. So, I went with something where I could get some sleep while cooking.

              2. Another WSM devotees here, but if you plan to be saving up for one and need something fast and not pricey, I got a lot of great food off my Old Smokey, which was a fixture in Texas grocery stores in late 70s/early 80s, usually stacked on top of the freezer cases.