Purchasing a beginner's smoker

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by gvandre, Apr 12, 2013.

  1. gvandre

    gvandre Newbie

    Does anyone know a good beginner's smoker to purchase? Something that isn't too expensive but still gets the job done. I'm looking to get an indirect heat smoker that I can use charcoal and wood.

    Any thoughts on vertical vs traditional? 

    Should I stay away from the cheaper versions like this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/t/202656...d=10051&N=5yc1vZbx92&R=202656545#.UWg2lLWG2uI

    In favor of a more expensive version like this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/t/203340...d=10051&N=5yc1vZbx92&R=203340456#.UWg2kbWG2uI

    Thanks for the help! and I'm sorry if there's already a thread about this, I did some searching and couldn't find anything
  2. I recommend the WSM over an offset. 18" or 22" are both excellent choices. You can find em used for as little as $150 or new as much as $400.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2013
  3. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    It really comes down to your budget.  Every smoker or pit has a learning curve as far as knowing your hot spots, your cool spots, regulating temps, how much fuel, etc.  The WSM is a great smoker and is quite versatile, but will run you around $400 for the larger version.  Chargriller makes a few different models of offset, that after a few simple mods will perform well.  These models can be had for less than $200. 

    If you want an offset, the Charbroil would be a step up from the Chargriller and the Brinkman's.  If you have an Academy near you, they carry a brand of offsets, OId Country,ranging in prices from $399 to $1499, depending on the model.  A buddy of mine has recently bought one and really likes the way it cooks.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2013
  4. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  5. jim p

    jim p Newbie

    I have a Char-Griller Pro.  It has done me well for approx 5 yrs, and I currently live in Buffalo, NY and had lived in Minneapolis, MN and have never covered my smoker.  Smoking wise I have made a few modifications to increase the efficiency of the smoker.  Lowe's, in Buffalo, offers the grill part for 119 and the offset for 70, you can get in for under 200.  Is it perfect, nope, but you get to know and understand the weak areas of the smoker.  There has been no tail off of performance over the last few yrs, the smoker is very predicable and gets the job done

    Some smoked food for thought

  6. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    There's nothing wrong with just getting a plain o'le Weber Kettle...at least 22 inch and blocking off a section for indirect heat.  You'll be able to control your smoke side in the 225-250 range.   


    Bricks to block off a section for indirect heat- free

    ...and there you have a smoker.   You'll also have something to grill on and sear steaks on all in one machine!
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2013
  7. ryschoo

    ryschoo Fire Starter

    I second this as being the way to go. I just recently got a WSM but before that I used a kettle grill , not even a weber, that cost me about $45. I used grates that attached to the bottom of the charcoal grate to keep the coals apart and create the indirect heat. These cost maybe $10 at Lowe's. I also purchased a grill grate with hinged ends for $20. This allowed me to add more fuel when needed so I didn't have to remove the entire cooking grate, meat etc. Whole set up cost me about $70 and it did a fantastic job cooking all sorts of meat, ribs, briskest, butts, whole chickens. It also taught me a lot about temperature control and how hot a certain amount of coals would burn.
    The biggest down side is the cooking space is limited so I could only smoke one type of meat at a time.
    I think going the mete route is a great thing for a beginner to do to really help learn and understand the art of smoking.
  8. maple sticks

    maple sticks Smoking Fanatic

    Best beginners grill there is as others have posted. I have picked up three of them like new for fifty bucks each Crairslist. Use them all winter long (in Florida) just try and get the one with a pan for ash that hangs from the bottom of the kettle. It has a clean out handle that works great.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2013
  9. HI:  I would stay away from the offset barrel smoker and get a vertical one. I have a 22.5 in Weber Smokey Mountain. It has good temperature regulation and is about as close as to set it and forget it as one can get. It is easy to use and produces great BBQ.  I had an offset smoker before and it was always difficult to regulate the temperature and clean. If you can afford it, go with the WSM,, the other cheaper vertical smokers at Lowes and Home Depot are not worth it. I got mine from Amazon and saved the sales tax. Weber customer service is very good and they will immediately send defective parts. It is a quality smoker built to last a long time.

  10. ba cyclone

    ba cyclone Newbie

    My first smoker was a relatively inexpensive offset smoker.  I hated it with a passion.  Extremely difficult to regulate temperatures.  Full-time job and sometimes I could never get it close.

    Second purchase was a still-inexpensive Masterbuilt LP vertical smoker.  Love it to death.  Nearly set it and forget it, and all kinds of room to smoke whatever I could imagine for my family.

    Both of these were well under $200 out the door; I scored the MB on a sale.

    I would recommend a vertical smoker of any variety, or if you go super low budget, start with a kettle grill as others have mentioned already.
  11. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    My first one was a very cheap Brinkman Electric.  Moved up to a propane Smoke Vault...and love it.

  12. gvandre

    gvandre Newbie

    Thanks for the quick replies! Looks like I'm going to go with the WSM. Thanks again for all the help, I'll let you know how my first cook goes with the new smoker
  13. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    I'm sure you'll love it! ..but get a cheap kettle sometime, you'll find yourself using that to smoke and grill things that aren't really long cooks. Kettles are amazingly simple versatile cookers. 

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