Need help in choosing a smoker

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by sunf, May 3, 2016.

  1. sunf

    sunf Newbie

    Hello, I'm opening a craft beer bar with sausages in Russia. And of course I want to have at least one hot smoked sausage in the menu. Could you please help me to choose the right smoker? Number of seats approx. 80, I think that I will need not more than 25-30 lbs of smoked sausages every day. 

    Unfortunately, as you have probably heard, our economy is doing really bad (and exchange rates too), so my budget is pretty limited - let's say $1000 plus taxes and transportations costs. 

    I thought about electric smoker, but many people say that the flavor will be not really good. So my most probable choice is simple and popular Weber Smokey Mountain 18,5 (cause it's much easier to keep lower temperature in that model than in a bigger one). 

    I wasn't able to find any information about indoor use of this smoker. I can guess that it could be prohibited by US laws. In my country if it's not an open fire, you may use charcoal smokers indoors (if you have proper ventilation system with necessary features installed). 

    So is it a good choice? Can you suggest me any other smoker which is suitable in my situation? 
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Are you talking about fresh sausage or cured sausage?

  3. sunf

    sunf Newbie

    I think both - it depends on a recipe and smoking temperatures. 
  4. slimc

    slimc Smoke Blower

    This is a very subjective topic, here is some info I hope helps you.

    I have 3 smokers:

    1. Masterbuilt 30 inch electric smoker
    • uses wood chips that smolder over a tray on top of a heating element
    • great smoke flavor
    • very very easy to use, set it to temp and forget it
    • can't hold wide cuts of meat such as a full packer brisket or rack of ribs without reconfiguring
    • does not perform well in temps below 35 degrees F, heating element gets cool and cook temp is not consistent in cold conditions
    • overall works great if this fits your need and takes least amount of babysitting
    • light and easy to move around
    2. Old Country pecos offset smoker
    • uses a wood fire in a side fire box
    • has one large cooking great which can fit 4 large racks of ribs flat, or more if using rib racks
    • hardest to use, requires constant babysitting of fire, the firebox is not insulated very well and loses heat
    • offers the cleanest smoke when you get the fire right since you control the smoke directly by your fire skills
    • makes you feel good when you get it right because it takes so much skill over time and you learn something new each time you smoke on it
    • required some fire gasket and steel plate mods to fix air leaks and help spread heat across cooking chamber
    • Also tough to cook in cold temps, helps if you throw a heavy moving blanket over the cooking chamber when it's cold out
    • Flavor depends on how good your fire skills are, if you keep thin blue smoke then the smoke is subtle and is driven by the type of wood you are using
    • heavy but can be rolled easily on large wheels
    3. Large Big Green Egg
    • uses charcoal with wood chunks that smolder over the coals
    • great smoke flavor
    • easy to use, once you get the coals lit and setup for smoking this thing will burn for up to 10 hours or more with a full load of charcoal without having to reload it
    • best insulation since it is ceramic
    • expensive and to get it ready for smoking requires accessories which bring price point above $1000 USD.
    • small cooking area, can fit 2 pork butts side by side OR 1 brisket packet OR 2 racks of ribs with stands
    • heavy and difficult to move around, requires 2 people to move if you need to tip it so you don't drop the ceramic
    The electric smokers and pellet smokers with electric assist are the easiest to use since you can set the temp and the electric module keeps the temp for you, if you are short on time and don't want to babysit the fire use one of these or a charcoal smoker. Remember my notes on heat loss and low temps.

    The offset smokers or pits which use real fire are amazing when you get your skills up on fire management and are the best tasting when done right, but if you are short on time running a business this is difficult and requires a lot of fire management time. If you do get one of these I recommend getting thick steel (1/4 inch thick) and an insulated firebox to help with heat loss. Don't open the lid and look at whats cooking with these as you will need to get them back up to temp and lose cooking time.

    Hope this information helps, let us know what you choose!
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
    sunf likes this.
  5. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hello SunF.

    I am certainly no expert in such matters, but I would personally never feel comfortable running a bullet charcoal smoker indoors.  Those WSMs are excellent outdoor cookers, but are not designed to prevent smoke and carbon emissions from collecting in enclosed spaces...and I imagine it would be a real challenge to design a ventilation system that would address this.

    The first suggestion I thought of as I read your post was a cabinet-style pellet smoker, such as the Fast Eddie By Cookshack FEC 100.  They are sealed and insulated cabinets that use an electrically powered auger system to burn wood pellets.  I'm not a food service pro, but it is my understanding that these smokers are very easy to set up for indoor, commercial use.  Just requires a flue that attaches to the smoker's exhaust stack.  The drawback is that the smoker I mentioned is well beyond your stated budget...but you could probably make contact with the good people at Cookshack and they'd be willing to off you their expertise and advice.  They also have a whole line of commercial grade electric smokers.  Just Google Cookshack if you want to check out their website and make contact with them.

    Perhaps some of the more experienced food service experts will offer better options, but that might give you an option to consider.

    Good luck!

    sunf likes this.
  6. slimc

    slimc Smoke Blower

     I agree, do NOT burn charcoal smokers indoors! You will end up killing yourself or someone else due to carbon monoxide poisoning!

    I only know of commercial smokers for indoor use for this purpose. If you have proper commercial exhaust hoods and setup for a grill already you could also look into using an existing gas/propane line setup for an indoor gas smoker. If you don't know what you're doing here just run the smoker outside because you don't want to end up dead, burning down your building or hurting someone else just for some smoked sausage!
  7. sunf

    sunf Newbie

    Thank you.
    Well, as I can see the only appropriate option for me is an electric smoker. I like pellet smokers - but it's a impossible to buy clean pellets for smokers where I live. So, electric smoker is the choice. As far as I understood, quality is just fine, safety and ease of use are outstanding.
    The only question left is which one? Fast Eddy is very expensive, but I heard that Smoking Tex 1400 is a good copy of it. On the other hand MES is the most popular (and affordable) smoker here. In my case reliability is the most important thing (I will not be able to receive any service from the manufacturer). Smokin-it? Smoking Tex? Or couple of MES?
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
  8. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    It is difficult for me to tell you how to spend your own sounds like you are on a tight budget.  However, I would worry about quality and durability if I were considering using a smoker designed for back yard use in a commercial setting.  The smokers you mentioned are fine for personal use, but I wonder how long they would hold up to the constant use needed for a commercial operation.  My advice is to buy the best smoker you can afford, and not to try and go cheap.  If you can't afford the cost of a Cookshack or other comparable commercial electric unit, then maybe a Smokin-it or a Smoking Tex would be least for the short term until you could afford something better.

    Again, I've never operated a commercial food business, so my advice is from a layman's point of view.  But if it were me, I wouldn't cut corners.  If I couldn't afford to purchase the appropriate equipment for my business, I would hold off until I had the money to do it right.

    That is only my opinion for what it is worth...

    Good luck! 

    Last edited: May 5, 2016
    sunf likes this.
  9. sunf

    sunf Newbie

    Thanks to all of you. Finally, I have chosen this one:

    It's Russian made (which means that it is considerably cheaper than any American smoker) and it's for commercial use. Load is approx 35 lbs and price is about $1000. Will see how it will be working. 
  10. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Congratulations, SunF...I'm glad you found a commercial grade smoker that you could afford. It's difficult to know for sure - I'm assuming the language in the link is Russian - but that smoker looks pretty similar to the Cookshack line of commercial electric smokers.

    Good luck with your business venture...and please let us know how it goes! Thumbs Up


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