Dear BBQ Friend:
I get asked all the time... "What BBQ smoker do you recommend?"
That's sort of a stupid question because it is sort like of asking "What car do you recommend I buy?"... it really depends on your wants, needs, and budget. And that's what I usually tell them and then I just refer them to a few BBQ
smoker review sites that I have in my newsletters. So... this newsletter is sort of an updated BBQ smoker review site that is more comprehensive than the scattered BBQ pit reviews I have done in the past. Further down in this newsletter,
you'll see my 2010 Degaque BBQ Competition video in which I tried to include everybody's actual smoker instead of pictures of their sign or site.
I'm going to categorize them by price because that is usually the main driving factor behind a purchase...
First of all note that I start at $150. Except for maybe the good old Weber Kettle grill which can be used for smoking if set up correctly for indirect heat, I do not recommend buying any of those small cheap offset type smokers. The
temperature control on those cheap BBQ smokers are horrendous and that makes it very hard to cook good BBQ.
The first BBQ smoker I recommend is the Charbroil Silver. They used to sell these at Home depot for about $150. Now Home depot sells the very similar Brinkman Smoke-N-Pit for about $159. This is the minimum size I would consider in an offset type smoker. Even with this medium sized BBQ pit, you'll still have considerable hot & cold spots to deal with. But it is OK for the occasional BackYarder.
Another option in this price range are the 18.5" and 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain "bullets" for $299 and $399 respectively. These smokers have been around a long time and are tried and true. They all utilize a water pan to keep your meat nice and moist. A little pricey for what you get, but some of the best BBQ competition teams in the Nation use these BBQ smokers and do quite well.
The Masterbuilt extra wide propane smoker available at Bass Pro Shops for $179 is a good option for back yarders. I don't care what "traditionalists" say... you can cook some great BBQ on a propane or even an electric smoker. Good BBQ is all about keeping a constant pit temperature and with propane and electric, that task is a snap. Of course, propane (and electric) can not be used in most BBQ contests "yet".
In this price range, I'll start out with the Traegers... the Lil Tex and the Texas model. The Texas model can be found for $999 to $1149 if you shop right. The Lil Tex is around $795. Of course these are pellet smokers and they are very easy to use and clean up. Just turn the dial to your desired pit temperature and forget about it. When you are finished, and the
firepot is totally extinguished, just vacuum the ash out and put some more foil on the drip pan and maybe clean the grate a little and you're ready for another smoke. Most other BBQ smoker types have big charcoal ash pans that
need emptying or you have a firebox that you need to shovel the ashes out of. Traegers come with a standard thermostat which simply gives you smoke, medium, and high settings. Be sure to get the optional digital control which allows
you to set an exact temperature. There are many pellet flavors to choose from too which can be purchased from your Traeger dealer or from BBQrs Delight at www.bbqrsdelight.com
The Stumps BackYarder priced at $1000 falls within this category. Stump don't build no junk. All his BBQ smokers are good and always well insulated for long burns. www.stumpssmokers.com
The Big Green Eggs and Primo Grills fall in this price range too. These are insulated ceramic smokers which produce long burns
of 16+ hours on one bag of charcoal. They are vertical water pan smokers similar to the Weber Smokey Mountains but more insulated. The bad thing is they are very heavy and fragile. Many competition teams use them and do very well.
The Lang 36 falls in this category too at an affordable $849. Langs are the original "reverse flow" BBQ smokers where the heat and smoke travel under a steel baffle plate to the other end of the smoker, make a turn, and then it goes
up and over your meat and out the smokestack which is on the same side as your firebox. This all but eliminates hot and cold spots and drastically reduces the temperature difference between the firebox side and the other end of
your offset smoker. They are built like tanks too. www.pigroast.com
Here I like the Cookshack Fast Eddy FEC-100 smoker at $4895. This is the BBQ smoker I use to win BBQ competitions. It is a pellet smoker like the Traegers but a lot bigger. It's about the size of a refrigerator. Very easy
to use - just set it and forget it. It even has a cook and hold by probe feature which will reduce your pit temperature to a preset temperature when the chosen internal meat temperature is reached.
Most of the Stumps Smokers fall in this price range. Their BBQ smokers are mostly gravity fed charcoal systems which makes
things a lot easier. They come in all shapes and sizes from the Classic at $2900 to the Platinum 4 at $4800 to a fully customized trailer like the Stumps WeekEnder at $7900. www.stumpssmokers.com
Of course, don't forget the trusty old Langs. If you like the idea of cooking with real wood for better smoke flavor, Lang is the only way to go in
my opinion. All reverse flow of course and made out of thick steel. Almost all models are trailer mounted. Models include the Lang 48 at $1995, the ever popular Lang 60 at $2495, the Lang 84 at $3495, and the Lang 108 at $5995.
Go to www.pigroast.com for more info.
Note... there are a lot of traditional offset smokers in this price range which I do not recommend. Traditional offset smokers have a firebox on one side and the smoke stack on the other side and usually there
is not a baffle plate to even out the heat distribution. This results in hot and cold spots which can produce some bad Q if you don't know what you are doing. Some of the more expensive BBQ smokers like Jambo pits do have some
features to overcome hot spots, but you would be better off with a Lang in my opinion. A top of the line Jambo can set you back $15,000 bucks.
Important Note... there are 100's of other BBQ smokers to choose from that I have not included here. What I recommend here is what I have personal knowledge of and have features that I think are necessary. Other
BBQ smoker manufacturers may have similar features for about the same price. Of course I can't include them all. Just a few that come to mind are... Meadow Creek, Yoder Smokers, Backwoods Smokers, Superior Smokers, Southern Yankee,
Southern Pride, Jambo Pits, Klose Pits, Ole Hickory Pits, Peoria Custom Cookers, Jacks's Old South, American Barbecue Systems, Big Drum Smokers, Jedmaster, Louisiana Grills, Bubba Grills, Smacker Stacker, BBQ Guru, etc. To find
their websites, just type the names above into www.google.com
Here's the 2010 Degaque video from Talladega Superspeedway which concentrates on all the competitor's smokers...