Newbie deciding between Electric, Pellet or Propane Smoker

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by westcoastbbq, May 23, 2015.

  1. westcoastbbq

    westcoastbbq Newbie

    Hi all,

    Long time lurker first time posting. Really interested in smoking my own meat, looking to get something to get started. I need something either electric, pellet or propane since I live in an apartment complex where they do not allow charcoal or wood bbqs. I also like the convience of the above just being honest.

    I have seen a lot if people own MES 30 or MES 40s and while I like the cost I also see so many threads with issues. I would probably get AMNPS with it as well if i went this route. I would like to spend up to $500 and get something reliable. Electric seems like a good option, does anybody have some other good suggestions? I have seen smoken-it and smoken-tex units but not sure whether they are worth it either.

    Pellet grills intuige me since you get that wood fire taste but the ease of use from an electric smoker. The Rec-Tec mini is right at the top of my price range so that has been given serious consideration as well. Only thing I have heard is that smoking wise it needs additional help with a smoke tube which adds some more complexity.

    Propane also seems nice since its also set and forget but my biggest concern is blowing through tanks of propane with each long smoke. I have a regular gas grill and thinking about filling a propane tank after 2-3 smokes sounds expensive and a pain overall.

    What are your guys recommendations? Gas, pellet or electric, $500 or less, and really just looking at it for smoking not grilling as I have another grill for that. Cost per use is a factor and so is the overall flavor you get.

    Thanks guys!
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  2. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    With a $500.00 budget, there are lots of options.  On the electric, I would recommend looking at the smokers from Smokin-it.  They are all stainless steel inside and out and fully insulated. They are also built very solid. Use the search bar at the top and type in smokin-it.  There are a lot of very happy owners of Smokin-it here on SMF.    Here is the link to the smoker site.  You will find that each smoker has it's own dedicated forum category.
  3. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have a few smokers, one being a GMG pellet smoker. I have the Daniel Boone model which is outta your price range mentioned, but they do have a smaller model called the Davy Crockett that'd be within your range. May be worth lookin at. I noticed ya mentioned the Rec Tec mini... Don't own one of them units but there's a bunch of folks on here that own the bigger version of that smoker & I know they all really like them !
  4. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    Get whatever type you think you'd be most comfortable using they all have advantages and disadvantages. I have a couple propane GOSM's and they aren't that hard on propane. I like the fact I can crank up the heat in them when doing poultry to get the crispy skin but of course you could crisp it in the oven or on the grill. The electrics are more set and forget than the propane units are from my experience. I haven't used a pellet grill personally I just don't like the idea of being locked into buying pellets but that's me.
  5. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    One other thing:  Check with the apartment manager to see if you are permitted to use a smoker. They will smoke and smoke can be a bother to neighbors. 
  6. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Here, here.   I'd hate to see you spend any money at this point only to find out they will not allow you to smoke your neighbors out.    Are you on the ground floor?  Is your BBQ right outside your patio door?
  7. westcoastbbq

    westcoastbbq Newbie

    Good point. I am on the top floor so it shouldn't be a problem. My current gas grill is against a wall but I would probably put the smoker against a far railing so it doesn't turn the side of the building black.

    So it probably comes down more now to either a smokin-it #2 or a rec tec mini...any opinions between those? I realize this is the electric forum but I didn't see a better place to post.

    Last edited: May 24, 2015
  8. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I have zero knowledge about the Rec-Tec except for what I read. If it were me. I would go with the Smokin-it 2 (SI2). Good capacity,  all stainless, feed it wood just once even for an all night smoke.  The cook/smoke low and slow.  Great warranty, low cost  for accessories. Every smoker has it's adherents, and there are pros and cons.  Do your diligent research, feature by feature, and what you ultimately want the smoker to do.  You have a gas grill so if you smoke poultry and want crispy skin, you can finish off on the grill since electric smokers typical do not produce crispy skin. 

    You mentioned originally the SmokenTex (ST).  Great smoker, but more expensive than SI. Compare them feature for feature. SI shipping costs are relatively high, but very quick.  Also, SI has a Facebook page with a social store that can save you 5%. You also brought up the AMNPS.  Some SI users use one for cold smoking, some do not. Some can keep it lit and others cannot because of air flow. While I cannot say for sure, I feel the AMNPS used with the MES is primarily to avoid having to feed the smoker  frequently.  With SI, place a chunk or two of wood in at the beginning of the smoke and walk away. Done. It is analog, not digital, so you have to put up with temperature swings (read the FAQ on their site).  The swings are typical and average out to your set temp. You will need a good thermometer to monitor the internal temperature  of the meat your are smoking, say a butt or poultry.  Not necessary for ribs. A dual problem will let you keep an eye on the smoker temperature, and worry when you see temps other than what you set (which is typical for an analog). 

    You could get an Auber controller to tighten up your temperatures (see SI site); or if you have the money, get a Cookshack.
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
  9. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    In my opinion, a Masterbuilt electric smoker would be your best choices since you live in an apartment building and you have a balcony off your apartment. This is the smoker I own and has been the most popular model that Masterbuilt sells:

    When I was researching smokers, I ruled out a charcoal smoker because I already own a charcoal kettle grill. I ruled out propane because I didn't want to hassle with buying and refilling cans of propane gas. I decided on an electric smoker because it would give me a steady, relatively cheap source of heat and power. I didn't want a pellet smoker like a Bradley or a Traeger because I didn't want to hassle with buying wood "biscuits" or hassling with an electric pellet loader (in a Traeger, the wood pellets are fed into the firepot by a motorized auger). I also didn't want a Traeger because I didn't want a smoker/grill that had to be left out in my backyard where it could rust.

    With my MES 30 I bungee cord it to a small hand truck and store it in my garage. It's very easy to wheel in and out. It's only 30" wide and fits atop a small table or a stand (I use an old, small card table but Masterbuilt also sells a rolling stand). I'm using mine as I write this to smoke a beef brisket. I've had my smoker for 3 years and it's worked like a champ. I started off using wood chips but early on I found out that wood pellets work much better and are much less hassle. I can tell you more about that some other time.

    The current price is $177 but you'll see it fluctuate up and down about $30 so if you're patient you might get a real deal. I wasn't patient so I paid $189 for mine. But, you can't find a better smoker for the money at this price which makes it the best entry level smoker on the market. This is an easy-to-use smoker to learn on and on which to perfect your smoking skills. There's also 30" models with windows and remote controls and meat probes but this basic, no-frills model has suited me fine. Also, Masterbuilt offers great customer service. Check it out and compare with the other smokers that have been recommended here and then decide what will work best for you. Keep in mind that the best Masterbuilts are the Generation 1 models, which the one I linked to.
    Last edited: May 24, 2015

  10. Country ribs yesterday

    I've had a Smoken-tex for about 6yrs and have had no problem's. Love being able to put a couple Butts on around 9PM and go to bed get up the next day and around noon there done. I use a dual probe  maverick with remote to track progress. I can do 6 racks of BB rips split in half.  With the AMNPS I can cold smoke my bacon, cheese, nuts, and seasonings. I haven't had any experience with other electrics or propane. I'm sure what ever you get you'll learn the tricks and you just can't beat smoked food.
    Last edited: May 25, 2015
  11. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    These look really great. I've read good things about the Smokin Tex smokers.
  12. westcoastbbq

    westcoastbbq Newbie

    I think overall what I need is to be able to sample what comes out of a pellet or electric smoker. I have only had out of a stick burner and I don't know anybody who has an electric or pellet smoker in my area (nor cal). I think its hard to make a decision just based on a lot of subjective reviews online!
  13. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Where in Nor Cal?
  14. westcoastbbq

    westcoastbbq Newbie

    Bay Area, Santa Clara specifically
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've been using my MES 30 Gen 1 with wood pellets for about 3 years now. In my opinion, the stuff that comes out my smoker tastes every bit as good as Q I've eaten in BBQ restaurants--even better than some I've had in the restaurants that really didn't cook up real Q.

    We bought baby back ribs at Dickey's BBQ Pit and I know that the baby backs I smoke are just as good or better than theirs. I just smoked a brisket I'll put up against any stick burner product. It was the best brisket I've ever smoked and turned out exactly the way I wanted it.
  16. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I feel your angst about buying without trying.....especially when spending large amounts of cash. Sarge offers very sound advice....I listened back when and decided on the Smokin' It #3 & have not been sorry ever since. It didn't break my bank like some of the American made similar ones, is built like a Sherman tank and I find the analog controller quite satisfactory for my needs. There is not a lot of billowing smoke ever unless you decide you know better than the manufacturers suggestion of 2 ounce wood per smoke. We cook to temp and when the Maverick sez it's ready I can tell no difference in some temp fluctuations during the smoking process. I'm 67 and can pick it up myself if needed so it's not a huge unit, although big enough to not have cut a rack of spares in half, something I don't like doing. On many smokers this is not possible. I feel VERY comfortable leaving it on overnight with a large butt or a load of Slim Jims in it and I would not feel comfy doing that with a MES. I also really like my pellet smoker, although not a Rec Tec, which is a fine unit as well, but in an apartment with rules I think it might smoke a little to much for you. HTH, Willie
  17. I have the Traeger Junior Elite pellet smoker. Cost me $400 and came with a lot of nice freebies. I like the fact that when I use it, it is set and forget (except for refilling the pellet hopper for long smokes) Never had any problems with it, have had it for a year and half now. I don't mind buying pellets for it. I just look for deals. To me its the same as buying charcoal for my other offset smoker.

    Thats just my 2 cents.

  18. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Try not to overthink this. It will drive you crazy. 

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