I need a new smoker!

  • I can’t afford the pk 100. I want to be able to smoke summer sausage along with everything else. So on a $500 budget what should I look at? Anyone?

  • Regular Contributors

    @crismccarthy I think you will have 20 opinions but I have both the Masterbuilt 30 and 40 inch and they work fantastic! I have zero complaints.

  • @crismccarthy Pit Boss makes several series of vertical smokers that are very affordable. I have the 7 series which is the largest of them and you can get it for around 600. They make a 3 series and a Copperhead series which is a bit bigger than the 3 series. I am very pleased with mine. 20190328_173713.jpg

  • I agree on the Masterbuilt 30 or 40. I if you can afford it I would go with the 40 with the larger capacity . I personally use a A-MAZE-N 12 " smoker tube in the smoker instead of chip dropper it comes with as one tube of pellets gives off 4 hours of uninterrupted smoke.


  • Power User

    I’ve been a fan of the Masterbuilt models for some time even though I tend to break them. They are still good value for the money. I’ve had a few thermostat issues with my current model I picked up in December. I received the replacement parts yesterday and still ended up with some temp issues. I’m sure I’ll get it figured out. Until then I will just rely on using a thermometer not hooked to the smoker itself and manually adjust temp as needed. I just got off the phone with Masterbuilt and they are sending me a new cabinet. Not ideal but they were friendly and more than willing to help. It makes me wish I would have used their warranty on previous models. lol

  • @crismccarthy The pitboss 3 series has 800" of cooking space and a 40lb hopper for pellets. This will allow for around 40-50 hours of cooking on 1 bag of pellets. You will not have to feed the smoker throughout the cook due to the restricted chip/pellet tray in most electric smokers.

  • @crismccarthy I have noticed that most of the users throughout this site with electric smokers have worked around the issue of limited chip/pellet tray sizes with another smoking device.

  • Power User

    @erich52 I added the cold smoking attachment to my Masterbuilt when I first got the smoker and have yet to bother with the chip tray outside of the initial startup procedure.

  • I currently use the Masterbuilt Pro Temp XL. This is LP. Under $300. Thermostatically controlled. Just recently quit using the chip tray. A-MAZE-N pellet tube sent that tray to dust shelf. Would love that PK100 but, out my budget.

  • Walton's Employee

    @crismccarthy I agree mostly with what has been said here but first I want to say you should look at the Weston Vertical I have one in here, I don’t use it much because it I have access to the PK-100 but it seems to work okay. It didn’t really want to hold temps at lower ranges but that seems to be pretty standard for that price range.

    Have you considered getting a pellet combo grill? You wouldnt be able to hang but most of those will start at 150° and it will give you some versatility. Just a thought!

  • In addition to the a-maz-n tubes, you could also look into the Big Kahuna cold smoker attachment. https://smokedaddyinc.com/product-category/cold-smokers/ This will allow you to use normal wood chips/chunks opposed to buying pellets (which can add up $$ over time). I own an older Traeger, but like yourself wanted to be able to hang sausage, snack sticks, hams, etc… I tried using different chambers and piping in the smoke from my pellet grill with a 4" dryer hose (which I dubbed “The Hillbilly Cold Smoker”), then I started adding single electric burners (the $10 Walmart models) to introduce low temp heat. I ended up finding an aluminum enclosed pan rack on Craigslist and building something I could work with.

    While I ended up adding a separate pellet hopper assembly to this, I would say that I use the cold smoker + the electric burner combination 99% of the time. With the 2 burners, I can get this up to about 165 degrees. If you were to buy the Weston Vertical that Jonathon mentioned and added a cold smoke generator (then maybe an electric burner for the 100 - 120-degree range), then you should be able to do anything that you need. IMO
    20161022_153008.jpg 20161022_154701.jpg 20161022_142158.jpg 20161023_104615.jpg 20161023_104621.jpg 20161023_104628.jpg 20181214_160137.jpg

  • @rjsenk
    Nice set up.

  • @rjsenk
    Nice looks similar to mine
    HILLBILLY ingenuity i converted mine to 220 vac and used a dryer heating element 5400 watt so far i had it up to 300 degrees and am using the fireboard to control it from my cellphone 20190309_174352.jpg 20190309_092603.jpg20190324_103110.jpg

  • @rhjbarney
    That is a pretty serious setup. I have been looking for a better electric heating element than the single burners. The pellet hopper can go from 160 - 500 degrees in 5 degree increments, but the lower temps (160 - 175) don’t really burn right after an hour or two. It seems that the pellets in the firebox don’t burn correctly; it might be a vent issue. I just haven’t had the time to sort it all out. So far, it does what I need it to do. lol

  • @crismccarthy

    Hi Cris,
    I’ve been smoking and making jerky for around 50 years now. Never owned a store bought smoker before last year.
    But I decided to get a Masterbuilt, and I chose a 30.
    I was highly disappointed in the first time I used it. I smoke a lot of Salmon, but also smoke most anything else, make smoked trout, smoked almonds, halibut… on and on.
    Much of my use is cold or warm smoking. My brand new MES 30 wouldn’t make smoke below 200° F. I want to smoke things, not bake them and add smoke. So right out of the gate, I modified the holy pazzolly out of it to make it work right. I wanted a smoker, what I got was an outdoor oven.
    The problem is it would not heat the chips enough to make them smolder.
    So I did my own version of a Mailbox Mod, stripped out the sheet metal chip feeder, and separated the heater for the box, and the smoke generation. AHHHH, got a good smoker after that.
    I’ve since got and built an Inkbird PID controller to work the sub-100’s temperature control, put a bypass switch across the control relay so I can use two methods to do my smoking. Basically, ambient (cold smoking) up to MES self described 275°, which in my case is more like 310-320° F. Because my MES 30 runs hotter than most.
    I found my MES 30 was marginal when I began smoking my own home cured bacon. I wanted more capacity. When I began making meat snack sticks, I found I wanted more height.
    I got lucky when a guy gave me his non-working MES 40. I bypassed the temperature control and plugged it into my Inkbird PID, and wa-la, a resurrected MES 40.
    It serves to smoke my cooler smoked items just fine. (Using my Mailbox Mod)

    At your price point I can suggest two good alternatives to the others, A Smokin It #1, or a Smokin it #2.

    I set out to get rid of my Bradley Puck feeder, because of their golden puck prices. Pellets are much cheaper, widely available and competitively priced around me, and now… I dissolve them, dry the dust out, and smoke with dust exclusively. I use an Amazen tray and get a full 6 hours from a load of dust, or 11 hours from a full tray of pellets.
    But I like the TASTE I get with the dust best.
    So my experience and needs are quite different from the box stock MES smokers.

  • @rjsenk
    I have a separate 110 vac element for my smoke that works independently from the main heating element the one in the back right corner and has a pan that drops in over the hole 20190406_141601.jpg 20190406_141719.jpg

  • I have a Bradley six rack, don’t remember exactly what I paid 3 years ago but it was less than 500. works pretty well if you don’t mind moving into the oven after smoking just to speed things up. It seems like it takes forever to get from 140 to finish at 165. A biscuit every 20 minutes does a good job giving the meat smoke flavor.

  • @rhjbarney My smoker is similar, I converted it to Natural Gas as our Electric is very expensive and gas is cheap.

  • Had a mes 135 electric for years … Its ok
    Just got a Pitt Boss 3 series electric. Wow what a difference. 5 year warranty as well.
    If cost is not an issue a new pit boss pellet smoker is what i would look at. Again a 5 year warranty.
    Keep in mind an electric is far less cost to operate but a pellet smoker WILL give you a better tasting product

  • Power User

    @DeerSlayer Pit Boss is high on my list for pellet grills

  • Power User

    @crismccarthy Even though I’ve had some issues with my new Masterbuilt 40 I’d still recommend them. The company has been very easy to deal with and more than willing to send replacement parts. I just received a new cabinet yesterday. I have enough extra parts now that I might be able to homebrew an entire new smoker or rebuild one of my dead soldiers


  • @Joe-Hell That side cold smoking attachment is worth its weight in gold. Really completes the unit.

  • Power User

    @rdab I absolutely agree! When I got the smoker put back together I did the initial break-in and used the tray only. It almost felt clunky using that method and it seemed to take quite a while to start producing smoke. With the cold smoker attachment it is nearly instantaneous. It’s really easy to add small amounts for gentle smoke additions. It is perfect for cheese! Masterbuilt has a new smoker just released that also has a broiler built-in. That would come in handy for crisping chicken skin.

  • I have owned three smokers. One bullet charcoal smoker, one cabinet smoker that’s electric and charcoal. Then one I have now is a gas cabinet smoker. This last one is the most I had ever spent on a smoker. $150.

    If I was to do it over, I’d buy a pellet fed smoker. My local Walmart has them. Not sure on the brand. It’s all electric, you fill the hopper with pellets, set the temp (it’s digital), let it heat up and drop food on it. It’s a like an oven that smokes.

    https://wisepick.org/best-smoker-grill-combo/ - also a nice source about smokers combos

  • Ok… A lot to unpack here. What do you want this for? Just smoking? Grilling? Roasting? Baking? Pizza oven?

    For your first smoker, the easiest and cheapest options are electric or propane. Those are smokers you don’t need to constantly babysit to get good results. You can get plenty of smoke flavor with electric, BTW. You won’t get a “smoke ring” with electric, but you’ll get flavor. I started with a Masterbuilt 40" propane smoker that I bought for about $150, and the main reason I got it over the electrics was capacity. Most of the electrics are not as wide or large. But both options are great for learning.

    If you want something BGE-style but don’t want to pay those prices, pick up a Char-Griller Akorn. It’s every bit as good functionally as the more expensive ceramic kamado grills. Being metal, it has the chance that it might eventually have rust problems, and I’ve heard their build quality may not be at BGE levels. But for the price, you get a great Kamado. FYI I say that as someone with two Kamado Joe’s, one Big Joe and one Joe Jr. I have no disdain for the Akorn as a “cheap knockoff”; the Akorn is a solid grill at a great price point. The learning curve of a kamado is steeper than an electric or propane smoker, but they’re also more versatile. You can sear the hell out of a steak. You can use it as a pizza oven.

    I like the idea of a pellet smoker if you already have another grill (for searing) and if you’re okay spending the money. They’re definitely “set and forget” and will produce good food. But again, typically the starting price point is a lot higher, especially if you want to be cooking larger quantities of food – you can fit more in a typical “box-style” electric or propane smoker than the smaller, less expensive pellet grills. And when you start getting into the bigger pellet grills, you get up into the $700-1000 range. And they still can’t sear. That said, a good pellet grill is a long-term purchase, whereas an electric or propane smoker might be a “learning tool” smoker; at least it was for me.

    What you probably want to avoid are cheap smokers. The build quality usually leaves a LOT to be desired, they are hard to temp control and both get a hot enough fire to burn off volatile compounds while also not getting the cooking chamber well over the desired temp. And you’ll have to babysit them constantly. I know the allure of “cooking with a stickburner” is strong, but IMHO it’s not worth it at these price points.

  • I do over 200 lbs of smoked sausages and 100 lbs of smoked fish a year and have found that the five most important considerations in purchasing a smoker are #1 The temperature control range and stability, #2 The size of batches you want to do at a time determined by the physical size of the smoker, #3 The smoke Generator mechanism, I like using the A-Maze-N 12" and pellets, #4 The cost of fuel used to operate the smoker, I just converted mine over to Natural Gas, and last but not least how much money or time and energy you want to spend to get a good smoker


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