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Beginner Smoker -- Buying advice?

Beginner Smoker -- Buying advice?
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  • Beginner Smoker -- Buying advice?

    Post #1 - December 12th, 2017, 5:39 pm
    Post #1 - December 12th, 2017, 5:39 pm Post #1 - December 12th, 2017, 5:39 pm
    Hi there LTH:

    My dad has expressed some interest in starting up a smoking habit -- and no, not cigarettes! I'd like to get him a beginning unit -- nothing more than $150 -- but one that would be versatile, reliable and create tasty product. I can tell you that he grills a lot -- and he tends to use his propane grill most often. What kind? I have no idea but it's a nice gas grill with not a ton of bells and whistles.

    I wanted to put it to the LTH community to see if there are any suggestions of smokers that would do a good job and not cost me an arm and a leg. If he wants the Green Egg -- he'll have to get it himself.

    Thanks for your help!

    Shannon
  • Post #2 - December 12th, 2017, 8:22 pm
    Post #2 - December 12th, 2017, 8:22 pm Post #2 - December 12th, 2017, 8:22 pm
    Hi Shannon -
    Just a suggestion. Ask your dad for leads about what he would like.
    He MIGHT want an electric one.
    He MIGHT want a propane / gas powered one.
    He MIGHT want a charcoal / wood one.

    Just a suggestion - might save your money from turning into an unused appliance in the garage.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #3 - December 12th, 2017, 8:24 pm
    Post #3 - December 12th, 2017, 8:24 pm Post #3 - December 12th, 2017, 8:24 pm
    I think you'll need to set your sights a little higher. My daughter received the smallest, least expensive version of the Weber Smokey Mountain last Christmas, and even that was $200 or more.

    Buddy
  • Post #4 - December 13th, 2017, 7:39 am
    Post #4 - December 13th, 2017, 7:39 am Post #4 - December 13th, 2017, 7:39 am
    Here is my concern. You get what you pay for. $150 is not going to be a very good quality smoker. Lower quality probably means your father will be less likely to like it and use it.

    The Weber Smokey Mountain is the gold standard of the lower priced smokers, but costs significantly more than $150.
  • Post #5 - December 13th, 2017, 10:10 am
    Post #5 - December 13th, 2017, 10:10 am Post #5 - December 13th, 2017, 10:10 am
    I'd suggest checking Craigslist as they typically have used ones for sale on a regular basis. I was keeping an eye out for a friend in Ft. Myers, FL and he picked up the 18.5" model with a bag of lump and a Weber chimney starter for $75! Doubt you will find that great of a deal but if you familiarize yourself with the Weber models you may find something used in your price range.
  • Post #6 - December 13th, 2017, 11:40 am
    Post #6 - December 13th, 2017, 11:40 am Post #6 - December 13th, 2017, 11:40 am
    I definitely agree that you get what you pay for when it comes to smokers. Ironically, cheap, low-end smokers require some serious expertise to manage correctly because they typically leak a lot of heat in several ways, and fire management can be difficult. And even then, it's a difficult endeavor.

    I'd recommend a Weber Smoky Mountain as the best place to start and as was mentioned above, maybe you can find used one somewhere online. If you search the Shopping & Cooking forum for Weber and/or WSM in the Topic titles only mode, you'll find plenty of relevant results.

    =R=
    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - December 13th, 2017, 11:49 am
    Post #7 - December 13th, 2017, 11:49 am Post #7 - December 13th, 2017, 11:49 am
    +1 on the WSM and I'd supplement it with Low and Slow
  • Post #8 - December 13th, 2017, 12:59 pm
    Post #8 - December 13th, 2017, 12:59 pm Post #8 - December 13th, 2017, 12:59 pm
    The website amazingribs.com has some great ratings on grills, smokers, etc. You can narrow down your choices by purpose, fuel type, price range, etc. It's a great resource to educate yourself.

    https://amazingribs.com/equipment-reviews?field_manufacturer_target_id=All&field_prod_function_tid%5B%5D=2&field_price_value%5B%5D=1
  • Post #9 - December 13th, 2017, 2:01 pm
    Post #9 - December 13th, 2017, 2:01 pm Post #9 - December 13th, 2017, 2:01 pm
    thetrob wrote:The website amazingribs.com has some great ratings on grills, smokers, etc. You can narrow down your choices by purpose, fuel type, price range, etc. It's a great resource to educate yourself.

    https://amazingribs.com/equipment-reviews?field_manufacturer_target_id=All&field_prod_function_tid%5B%5D=2&field_price_value%5B%5D=1

    Thanks for this tip and link. I am interested in buying a pellet smoker, and this site makes it easy to search by fuel type, price range, and/or brand.
    "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
  • Post #10 - December 13th, 2017, 2:27 pm
    Post #10 - December 13th, 2017, 2:27 pm Post #10 - December 13th, 2017, 2:27 pm
    Hey everyone! Thank you all so much for your advice and tips! I may have to rethink Christmas a bit because I certainly don't want to give my Dad something that will frustrate him and the budget is limited this year. His birthday is coming in March though so we shall see.

    I hope you all have a great, great, and delicious holiday!

    Shannon
  • Post #11 - December 13th, 2017, 2:51 pm
    Post #11 - December 13th, 2017, 2:51 pm Post #11 - December 13th, 2017, 2:51 pm
    What about just getting him a smoker box that he can use on the gas grill he already has? Obviously it won't do as well as a dedicated smoker, but it would come in well under your $150 limit.
  • Post #12 - December 13th, 2017, 3:33 pm
    Post #12 - December 13th, 2017, 3:33 pm Post #12 - December 13th, 2017, 3:33 pm
    nr706 wrote:What about just getting him a smoker box that he can use on the gas grill he already has? Obviously it won't do as well as a dedicated smoker, but it would come in well under your $150 limit.

    Great idea—that, along with GWiv’s book, so he could start reading up on the process to decide if it sounds like something he’d enjoy, seems like a good plan.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #13 - December 13th, 2017, 8:24 pm
    Post #13 - December 13th, 2017, 8:24 pm Post #13 - December 13th, 2017, 8:24 pm
    Actually.
    If he's anything like the guys I know...
    A great gift for ME, would not be the smoker itself. I need a year to hem and haw and kick tires (finally settled on a Kamodo, and my first brisket this year was about an 85% success, and I'm a pretty harsh judge.)

    A coupla books, and a BIG gift box of rubs from the Spice House, maybe some specialty fancy bbq sauces might get the ball rolling on his purchase, and leave you with a decent amount of money to spare*...











    Rib.
    Made you look :P
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #14 - December 14th, 2017, 8:51 am
    Post #14 - December 14th, 2017, 8:51 am Post #14 - December 14th, 2017, 8:51 am
    I had gotten a barrel smoker as an work anniversary gift, of the sort that's under $100, and it was a disaster: there was no means of adjusting the air flow and therefore no means of adjusting the temperature. It would run hot one cook, cold the next, and you're stuck with it. I bought my 18.5" WSM off Craigslist, from another LTHer as it turned out.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #15 - January 19th, 2018, 1:40 pm
    Post #15 - January 19th, 2018, 1:40 pm Post #15 - January 19th, 2018, 1:40 pm
    Get a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. Foolproof and you don't have to babysit the temperature all day. Works great.
  • Post #16 - January 19th, 2018, 2:47 pm
    Post #16 - January 19th, 2018, 2:47 pm Post #16 - January 19th, 2018, 2:47 pm
    +1 for the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. It's a great first smoker. It only costs $150, requires very little attention and even the inexperienced can make some wonderful BBQ. The convenience of an electric is unmatched, which means you'll likely use it more frequently than you would a charcoal or gas rig. If you decide you really enjoy BBQ, you can always upgrade.
  • Post #17 - January 19th, 2018, 4:59 pm
    Post #17 - January 19th, 2018, 4:59 pm Post #17 - January 19th, 2018, 4:59 pm
    egghead wrote:+1 for the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. It's a great first smoker. It only costs $150, requires very little attention and even the inexperienced can make some wonderful BBQ. The convenience of an electric is unmatched, which means you'll likely use it more frequently than you would a charcoal or gas rig. If you decide you really enjoy BBQ, you can always upgrade.


    have you tried the Amaze'n Pellet holder? Works well and you never have to add more chips/pellets.
  • Post #18 - January 19th, 2018, 5:01 pm
    Post #18 - January 19th, 2018, 5:01 pm Post #18 - January 19th, 2018, 5:01 pm
    Another positive experience for the Masterbuilt smoker. Echoing what has been said, it is my first smoker and is perfect for smoking with minimal supervision. As a novice smoker, I appreciate not having to tend to it and worry about temps. All I need to do is feed it wood chips and have a terrific piece of smoked meat by the end of the day.
  • Post #19 - January 19th, 2018, 5:16 pm
    Post #19 - January 19th, 2018, 5:16 pm Post #19 - January 19th, 2018, 5:16 pm
    Dlongs wrote:Another positive experience for the Masterbuilt smoker. Echoing what has been said, it is my first smoker and is perfect for smoking with minimal supervision. As a novice smoker, I appreciate not having to tend to it and worry about temps. All I need to do is feed it wood chips and have a terrific piece of smoked meat by the end of the day.


    These are sometimes disparagingly referred to as lazy-q because they offer a shortcut for the novice. The only downside is that you don't get into a Vulcan mind-meld they way you do with a conventional smoker where you have to be on top of things with some consistency and learn more about the smoking process and how to gauge your meat for done-ness. It's absolutely possible to learn well on an electric but the lazy convenience makes it less necessary.
  • Post #20 - January 19th, 2018, 8:50 pm
    Post #20 - January 19th, 2018, 8:50 pm Post #20 - January 19th, 2018, 8:50 pm
    I think you don't learn much about making bbq using an electric smoker. I've no doubt it turns out decent product but as far as learning the process, it's kind of a dead end. You've got to play with fire to learn bbq. As was posted above, grab copies of Low & Slow 1 and 2, and burn it up on a WSM!

    =R=
    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #21 - January 22nd, 2018, 11:42 am
    Post #21 - January 22nd, 2018, 11:42 am Post #21 - January 22nd, 2018, 11:42 am
    And my opinion is that pretending it's all that different is a bit self important. ;) Heat and smoke are heat and smoke. If you want to say that it's hard without the electric, you're right. But it tastes just as good. Less work = better, IMO.
  • Post #22 - January 22nd, 2018, 11:48 am
    Post #22 - January 22nd, 2018, 11:48 am Post #22 - January 22nd, 2018, 11:48 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I think you don't learn much about making bbq using an electric smoker. I've no doubt it turns out decent product but as far as learning the process, it's kind of a dead end. You've got to play with fire to learn bbq. As was posted above, grab copies of Low & Slow 1 and 2, and burn it up on a WSM!

    =R=


    I agree you probably don't learn as much with an electric smoker, but part of that is that you don't need to. I think of it in a similar vein as sous vide in some respects. You won't learn as much as far as doneness, timing, temps, etc but you can turn out a very good, perfectly cooked meal. Is the final product as good as traditional? Maybe, maybe not, but I (and my guests) have been pretty damn happy with the results and I have less failures to date because of it. Which of course is nice when you don't want to ruin a monster piece of meat :D
  • Post #23 - January 23rd, 2018, 5:50 pm
    Post #23 - January 23rd, 2018, 5:50 pm Post #23 - January 23rd, 2018, 5:50 pm
    +1 also on the WSM
    love everything about mine, except dealing with the water pan after the smoke
    love the food
    "If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home."
    ~James Michener
  • Post #24 - January 23rd, 2018, 6:06 pm
    Post #24 - January 23rd, 2018, 6:06 pm Post #24 - January 23rd, 2018, 6:06 pm
    Chitown B wrote:And my opinion is that pretending it's all that different is a bit self important. ;) Heat and smoke are heat and smoke. If you want to say that it's hard without the electric, you're right. But it tastes just as good. Less work = better, IMO.


    I couldn't disagree more. That's like saying a burger from McDonald's is just as good as a burger from, for example, Red Hot Ranch. They're both burgers, right? There's an obvious difference between meat cooked in an oven (which is what an electric smoker is) and meat cooked over a live fire (which is what a true smoker is). Just throwing in a couple of wood chips is hardly the same as cooking over real wood and charcoal.

    Of course, if you can't taste a difference, then what I am saying wouldn't make a lick of difference to you, but if you've got any kind of developed taste for BBQ, the difference between a smoker and an electric oven with wood chips is night and day. (And by you, I don't mean Chitown B in particular. I mean you in the general sense.)
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #25 - January 24th, 2018, 5:19 pm
    Post #25 - January 24th, 2018, 5:19 pm Post #25 - January 24th, 2018, 5:19 pm
    irisarbor wrote:+1 also on the WSM
    love everything about mine, except dealing with the water pan after the smoke
    love the food


    Wrap the water pan in foil before you start. It takes only a little work and is worth it. You don't need to wrap the outsides, just the insides where the water will sit. I get extra wide heavy duty foil for this purpose, but regular will work just fine if you piece it together.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #26 - January 25th, 2018, 10:28 am
    Post #26 - January 25th, 2018, 10:28 am Post #26 - January 25th, 2018, 10:28 am
    leek wrote:
    irisarbor wrote:+1 also on the WSM
    love everything about mine, except dealing with the water pan after the smoke
    love the food


    Wrap the water pan in foil before you start. It takes only a little work and is worth it. You don't need to wrap the outsides, just the insides where the water will sit. I get extra wide heavy duty foil for this purpose, but regular will work just fine if you piece it together.


    Same here
  • Post #27 - January 25th, 2018, 11:10 am
    Post #27 - January 25th, 2018, 11:10 am Post #27 - January 25th, 2018, 11:10 am
    I love you guys. I ended up not getting the smoker at Christmas due to fundage (or lack thereof) but his birthday is coming up in March. We also discussed this at Christmas and he's focused on a few things. I'm going to share this thread with him so that he can hear all of your good advice. I suspect i'm going to do a related to smoking present as suggested by seebee -- I wish I'd have seen that before Christmas! Although he seemed to like the wallet. Oldest daughter gets to choose the easy to please wallet!

    Anyhow -- if you have more to contribute, do so! I can't help but think this is a good thread for lots of folks and I'm still gathering evidence!

    Cheers to you all!

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