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Recommendations for a charcoal smoker

rbstern

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There's another thread going in the Water Cooler forum about charcoal, which led me to research and attempt making my own. Had a great success, and used it to produce a delicious meal (pork shoulder, brats, and salmon) yesterday on my Weber Smokey Mountain.

I love the Smokey Mountain, but it's an effort to use because of the cleaning chores related to the water bowl. Heavy, awkward to clean, gets rancid real fast if I'm not diligent about cleanup. My primary grill is a Weber Spirit (propane). Also a great grill, but missing that charcoal potential.

Now that I'm making my own charcoal, I want a more traditional charcoal grill/smoker. Something like an Oklahoma Joe barrel style. Interested to hear what you smoking aficionados recommend. What features to look for. What separates the good from the bad (build quality, materials, etc.). Is a "combo" grill/smoker a compromise in some way? Can I direct grill on a typical charcoal-fired smoker, or am I giving something up?

I know a lot of folks swear by pellet grills, but not interested in those. This is about using charcoal made here on the homestead.
 
There's another thread going in the Water Cooler forum about charcoal, which led me to research and attempt making my own. Had a great success, and used it to produce a delicious meal (pork shoulder, brats, and salmon) yesterday on my Weber Smokey Mountain.

I love the Smokey Mountain, but it's an effort to use because of the cleaning chores related to the water bowl. Heavy, awkward to clean, gets rancid real fast if I'm not diligent about cleanup. My primary grill is a Weber Spirit (propane). Also a great grill, but missing that charcoal potential.

Now that I'm making my own charcoal, I want a more traditional charcoal grill/smoker. Something like an Oklahoma Joe barrel style. Interested to hear what you smoking aficionados recommend. What features to look for. What separates the good from the bad (build quality, materials, etc.). Is a "combo" grill/smoker a compromise in some way? Can I direct grill on a typical charcoal-fired smoker, or am I giving something up?

I know a lot of folks swear by pellet grills, but not interested in those. This is about using charcoal made here on the homestead.
The 22" Weber Smokey Mountain is my go-to smoker for small cooks.......2-4 butts or 10 # of chicken leg quarters. Fill the water pan with sand or just leave it empty and wrap it in foil. You can throw away the foil and the pan stays clean. The water helps regulate the heat but if you cook on it enough you will find that the bottom vents also regulate the burn rate thus the heat stays where you want it. I haven't put water in mine in ten years.
 
Oh man, the amount of options you have are huge depending on your intended use. Are you opposed to an offset? That would give you the best of both worlds to direct grill in the fire box and you could even make your charcoal in there, but a fire pit can make much more and faster. There are some good drum smokers as well that use charcoal and can direct and smoke on those too. Just like asking what rifle to buy so many factors, and budget is always the first question.
 
Oh man, the amount of options you have are huge depending on your intended use. Are you opposed to an offset? That would give you the best of both worlds to direct grill in the fire box and you could even make your charcoal in there, but a fire pit can make much more and faster. There are some good drum smokers as well that use charcoal and can direct and smoke on those too. Just like asking what rifle to buy so many factors, and budget is always the first question.

Offset is what I had in mind, but have no experience with them. Charcoal will get made in our burn piles. We have acreage and are always doing some form of cleanup.

Budget? From what I can tell this could be a $100 craigslist reclamation project, or a $1500 mail order unit. Since I don't know what I don't know...I guess I don't know. :)
 
Offset is what I had in mind, but have no experience with them. Charcoal will get made in our burn piles. We have acreage and are always doing some form of cleanup.

Budget? From what I can tell this could be a $100 craigslist reclamation project, or a $1500 mail order unit. Since I don't know what I don't know...I guess I don't know. :)
If looking at an offset a cheap one will need constant babysitting, thin metal and leaks will make it a frustrating experience to try and maintain a temp range. On the higher end that you mentioned you are dead on you could go $1500-$2000 for a thick and well built smoker that can maintain temps much easier. The big box store Oklahoma Joes are middle of the road and good to start with if you can. Not constant babysitting after you get the process down after a few cooks.
 
If looking at an offset a cheap one will need constant babysitting, thin metal and leaks will make it a frustrating experience to try and maintain a temp range. On the higher end that you mentioned you are dead on you could go $1500-$2000 for a thick and well built smoker that can maintain temps much easier. The big box store Oklahoma Joes are middle of the road and good to start with if you can. Not constant babysitting after you get the process down after a few cooks.
Another option to Oklahoma Joe’s is Old Country from Academy. I got the Wrangler and felt it was a little better than OK Joes. I definitely liked the firebox welded to the cooking chamber and I believe it has a little bit thicker steel (I could be wrong). I only burn wood in mine, no charcoal. It takes a while to figure out hotspots, and I plan on getting to some modifications in the future. I’ve yet to have better pork ribs than what it does. I think they are around $600.
 
I've gone through two of these in 20 years. I just gave the old ones away when I wanted a new one. Turned out a lot of great food without spending a lot of money. I don't use them now because I'm old and fat and I don't want to have to check the fire box every 25 minutes.
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I've gone through two of these in 20 years. I just gave the old ones away when I wanted a new one. Turned out a lot of great food without spending a lot of money. I don't use them now because I'm old and fat and I don't want to have to check the fire box every 25 minutes.
View attachment 6305905

Is that a Char Griller?
 
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