Buying a Smoker

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Luke Duke
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Luke Duke » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:06 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:34 am
OK, friends, the OP is back and I think I'm going to bite the bullet this weekend. I've found a number of smokers for sale locally on Craigslist, and am zeroing in on a Weber Smokey Mountain. The convenience factor of an electric smoker still has appeal, but there's more to go wrong with one of those, and not something it seems wise to buy used from a stranger.

I found two 18.5" inch options. One is 5-6 years old, needs both its cooking grates replaced, and is going for $125. The other is brand new, in the box, with a $200 asking price. Frugal though I am, that seems the preferred choice. Grates cost about $25 each, and Weber may have made some upgrades since 2012-2013.

My only hope is this is a considerable improvement over the Brinkmann. My wife was asking about my changes of heart -- I had seemed pretty determined to get a smoker, then pretty down on it after 14+ hours of constant management and attention, and now I'm buying one. That said, I could probably use this 3-4 times, and if I didn't like it, sell it to someone for close to what I bought it.

I wonder if I should try the pork butt again, or ribs?
Get the new one and visit the Weber forum. You will probably want to get several shorter cooks under your belt before attempting an overnight cook.
https://tvwbb.com/forum.php

mind_boggling
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Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:52 pm

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by mind_boggling » Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:02 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:34 am
OK, friends, the OP is back and I think I'm going to bite the bullet this weekend. I've found a number of smokers for sale locally on Craigslist, and am zeroing in on a Weber Smokey Mountain. The convenience factor of an electric smoker still has appeal, but there's more to go wrong with one of those, and not something it seems wise to buy used from a stranger.

I found two 18.5" inch options. One is 5-6 years old, needs both its cooking grates replaced, and is going for $125. The other is brand new, in the box, with a $200 asking price. Frugal though I am, that seems the preferred choice. Grates cost about $25 each, and Weber may have made some upgrades since 2012-2013.

My only hope is this is a considerable improvement over the Brinkmann. My wife was asking about my changes of heart -- I had seemed pretty determined to get a smoker, then pretty down on it after 14+ hours of constant management and attention, and now I'm buying one. That said, I could probably use this 3-4 times, and if I didn't like it, sell it to someone for close to what I bought it.

I wonder if I should try the pork butt again, or ribs?
The correct choice in my opinion. I own a 18.5 WSM and love it.

I don't think I saw a mention in this thread of Gary Wiviott's Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons. You must buy this book and follow it through. It really is the best way to understand how to use the smoker, and it will keep you from going down the rabbit hole and buying too much gear, remote thermometers, etc. It will teach you the importance of a clean fire and the basic recipes for rubs, marinade, etc., along with just a really nice primer on BBQ from different regions.

It won't be too long before you've sealed the door with aluminum tape, quit using the water pan and added on more rack and some garage door handles on the middle section.

Since you mention frugality, I reckon the WSM actually saves me a bit of money. I have two little kids, both parents with full time jobs, so we need easy and quick dinners. Two key pieces of equipment I own are a vacuum sealer (Foodsaver) and chest freezer. And BBQ is all about cheap cuts of meat. I buy when on sale: shoulders (.69 - .99 / lb), spare ribs (1.99) and baby back (2.99-3.99, all HCOL area prices, you can do better at a Costco). The shoulders are packed well enough to freeze as bought. The ribs I remove from the styrofoam flats and vacuum seal.

I plan my big smoking weekend (maybe I do one a quarter) and start defrosting late in the week. Last weekend, after the kids went to bed on Sat, I got my smoker going and loaded up with six pork shoulders. Had a nightcap while waiting for it settle in at 225 degrees and went to be around 11 pm. Set my alarm and got up at six to find it still cruising pretty as you please at 200. Made coffee, napped, kids up, etc., and started pulling butts of late morning. Spent rest of day doing racks of ribs, then some sausages and other little snacks, all the while playing with kids, pulling pork and vacuum sealing 2 lb portions, enjoying a beverage, etc.

By evening I've got at least a dozen vacuum packed bags of pulled pork, a couple baby back racks and a few spare rib racks, all sealed and frozen: easily twenty "heat and eat" meals (or mains, anyway). And in the chest freezer they're good for a couple months.

I realize the above isn't a riveting tale of weekend adventures, but I just wanted to make the case that while smoking is a hobby, like hunting or gardening, it can also be frugal, like canning or making 30 lbs of venison sausage.

And it's a great way to cook turkey on Thanksgiving, 50 wings before the super bowl, and so on. So congrats, welcome to the club, get Mr. Wiviott's book and enjoy.

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Doom&Gloom » Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:25 am

lazydavid wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:47 am
Do ribs. They cook in half the time or less, so you can start to get comfortable with temperature management without feeling like you have to slog through an entire day. Once you're comfortable, going 18+ hours on a good-sized pork shoulder won't be a big deal. When you decide you don't want to maintain the temperature yourself anymore, upgrade to a controller. This is the one I've used for the past 3 years. Yes it will double your investment in the smoking hobby. Yes, it's worth it. :)

I also agree with you about going new. Just not enough discount on the older one given that it needs some repairs that you know about, and may be coming up on ones you don't know about yet.
+1

I recommended that you do ribs early itt. I still do.

Also agree on buying the new one, given those options.

astrohip
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Location: Houston TX

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by astrohip » Sat Jul 13, 2019 1:05 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 8:54 am
Every so often I get an idea, and this time it's getting a smoker. I enjoy cooking, entertaining, and grilling, and this has made me curious. While no doubt I could get excellent technical information and specific product recommendations on a BBQ site, the questions are more about value.
I'm going to address your question of value. Background: I'm an avid smoker, having (or had) Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM), stickburners, electric and Pellet Grills. And numerous grills.

In your case, I would go with a WSM, which it seems you have already decided to do. That was what I started on. Great smoker to learn what you're doing, hard to screw up (keep water in the bowl!), meat comes out great. Briskets, butts, ribs, chicken... everything I did was fantastic. You do have to feed wood for the longer burns, and you have to keep an eye on the temps. Although it rarely swung too far. It's not set & forget, but it's not near as temperamental as a stickburner.

Good luck, and let us know how your first cook goes. :sharebeer

You can stop reading now... :D

Stickburner: Too much trouble. I got tired of having to babysit it (and I know some people love that). Always feeding wood, watching the temps, etc. Just not worth it to me. I do a lot of briskets, which can take 12-16 hours, and I got tired of having to feed it in the wee dark hours.

Electric: Not bad, easy to use, flavor is ok, not great (IMHO).

My current flame (ha, bad pun!) is the Pellet Grill. I have a Camp Chef Woodwind with Sear Box, and it is unbelievable. Temp control is great, it can run for hours without feeding it, flavor & smoke ring are crazy good. The two temp probes allow you to check it without continually popping the hood. I just did a brisket last weekend. Put it on at 11pm, set temp at 225 (and never changed it). Checked it next at 7am, looking great, internals around 150/160. Around 10am, it hit the 165/170 I wanted, so I wrapped it and put it back on. At 2pm, it hit 205, I took it off, wrapped it in towels and put in a large styro cooler. Opened at 6:30pm, it was still steaming hot. Sliced it and served it. One of my best yet.
"Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being." - R Branson

Life Is Good
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Life Is Good » Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:30 pm

I started with a Brinkman years ago. Terrible, but it kick started my interest. Now I use the 18" Weber Smokey Mountain. I've had it maybe 10 years and it works great. Lots of add on mods are available if you like to tinker, but it's great as is.

The amazingribs.com site has dozens of reviews of grills and smokers and doesn't get compensation for any of them, so I consider it pretty reliable.

Good luck!

Cardinalsfan
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Cardinalsfan » Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:39 am

Have been avidly smoking for close to two decades. Lots of forums online to help. Like most I started with Weber and then added a Big Green Egg and finally a Stumps gravity fed smoker. Gave away the Weber gas grill along the way and only go with charcoal and wood these days. In my opinion the big green egg is the most versatile. Great as a grill, smoker, pizza oven etc. stumps is hands down a fantastic smoker. Load it up with charcoal and set it and forget it. Lots of technology available today to help control temperature so invest in something learn it and have fun!

CheCha54
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by CheCha54 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:40 am

Whatever you decide this should be in the budget.
https://www.thermoworks.com/Thermapen-M ... gLdnPD_BwE

keystone
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by keystone » Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:47 am

CheCha54 wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:40 am
Whatever you decide this should be in the budget.
https://www.thermoworks.com/Thermapen-M ... gLdnPD_BwE
Absolutely. I started with a cheap $10 Weber thermometer and upgraded to the Thermapen. It was night a day in terms of accuracy and consistency. They go on sale a few times a year and can be picked up for $59-$79.

astrohip
Posts: 491
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 4:29 pm
Location: Houston TX

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by astrohip » Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:58 am

Great advice. My go-to accessories are:

* Accurate thermopen (critical!!)
* Good set of grill tools
* Chimney starter

The above items are must haves. Some additional items, if you get the bug...

* Display temp probe (where you can see the meat temp without poking & opening
* Temp probe for smoker itself (usually comes with one)
* Set of gloves for handling high-temp items (eg, the grill parts)
* Set of gloves for handling food (those heavy plastic ones you see)
* Bear Claws, if you ever cook anything that needs to be shredded
* Injection baster (don't use as much as I used to)

And lastly, I keep a variety of foil trays on hand, all sizes. They are handy for prep work, bringing food back/forth to house/grill, even serving. Then throw away when done, no cleanup.

What other items do you guys use all the time?
"Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being." - R Branson

Topic Author
Alf 101
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Alf 101 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:00 am

The OP is chiming back in to report success. I managed to find a 18" Weber Smokey Mountain on Craigslist, brand new and still in the box, which I purchased on Saturday. I then went home, assembled it, and headed back out to buy charcoal, a chimney starter, wood chips, and ribs. I had two racks of baby back ribs, which I had bought when on sale a few weeks earlier, which I pulled out of the basement freezer and started thawing in the fridge on Friday morning.

I got started at 1100 on Sunday. I prepped the ribs, then fired up the chimney starter, and arranged my charcoal using the Minion method. One thing I really liked about the WSM is how it comes apart -- you can fire up the charcoal, then place the middle section, the water pan, and the grates. The start-up process was far less awkward than with the Brinkmann -- night and day.

The other plus was, after fiddling a little with the vents in the first 30-45 minutes, I could stick the temperature at 225 F for hours. After the constant babysitting using the Brinkmann for a pork butt earlier, this was a huge relief. Overall, there were a few things I learned:

1. I had read that, in order to get a great crust -- or bark -- that you should apply a thicker rub. I did that. I coated the ribs with yellow mustard, then used about 1 cup of rub I threw together on both racks. If I could easily post a picture, I would. It was beautiful, if that's your thing.

2. The two racks of ribs took different times to cook. The first was done in about 5.5 hours; the second, probably meatier, took 6.5. With only two of us, this wasn't a problem, but I could see how in feeding a crowd, it might be tough having everything ready at the same time -- if not for foil and coolers that it. I used the bend test for ribs, which also really worked. Thank you Internet. I didn't feel super confident about accurately using a digital thermometer for ribs.

3. I used way too many briquettes. I filled the chimney starter 1.5x, then fired it up about half to 2/3 full. Cleaning up yesterday, I saw I had not burned through a lot of that fuel. This is promising for when I decide to do another pork butt, but I'll have to dial in how to be more efficient.

4. After I pulled the last rack off I closed all the vents, and after giving it a cooler period, dissembled the smoker to try and clean it. I took a grill brush to the cooking grates, and power washed the water pan. I felt like keeping it clean and dry will extend its lifespan. I don't clean my grill every time like this, but it reaches much higher temperatures, 225 F is pretty low.

Overall I felt like I had the tools I needed -- essentially a Thermapen, 16" metal tongs, and welding gloves. A table would be nice, and I might put a foil pan on the lower cooking rack to collect any drippings in the future -- pour into a fat separator and use in a finishing sauce. Otherwise, like any hobby you can probably spend as much as you want, but what I have for grilling worked just fine for what I used for smoking.

In short, so far, so good. I'm already thinking about next weekend, and whether to go with a pork butt or chicken...

lazydavid
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by lazydavid » Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:18 am

Excellent! BTW, don't worry about efficiency under #3. You can re-use that charcoal for your next cook. You should always have some brand-new charcoal at startup, but it can be mostly partially-burned with no issue. Just shake the ash off of it and then mix it in.

Also think about getting a multi-probe remote thermometer. I used this one for the first time last week and it's pretty awesome. 3 meat plus 1 pit temperature probes, very solid bluetooth range and decent mobile app.

astrohip
Posts: 491
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Location: Houston TX

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by astrohip » Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:32 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:00 am
4. After I pulled the last rack off I closed all the vents, and after giving it a cooler period, dissembled the smoker to try and clean it. I took a grill brush to the cooking grates, and power washed the water pan. I felt like keeping it clean and dry will extend its lifespan. I don't clean my grill every time like this, but it reaches much higher temperatures, 225 F is pretty low.

Overall I felt like I had the tools I needed -- essentially a Thermapen, 16" metal tongs, and welding gloves. A table would be nice, and I might put a foil pan on the lower cooking rack to collect any drippings in the future -- pour into a fat separator and use in a finishing sauce. Otherwise, like any hobby you can probably spend as much as you want, but what I have for grilling worked just fine for what I used for smoking.

Congrats on a GREAT first cook. I removed the lower rack, as I rarely used it. And I lined the bowl with heavy duty alum foil each time, then filled with water. Made it easier to keep clean.
"Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being." - R Branson

Teague
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Teague » Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:34 am

fulltilt wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:49 am
Alf 101 wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:34 am
OK, friends, the OP is back and I think I'm going to bite the bullet this weekend. I've found a number of smokers for sale locally on Craigslist, and am zeroing in on a Weber Smokey Mountain. The convenience factor of an electric smoker still has appeal, but there's more to go wrong with one of those, and not something it seems wise to buy used from a stranger.

I found two 18.5" inch options. One is 5-6 years old, needs both its cooking grates replaced, and is going for $125. The other is brand new, in the box, with a $200 asking price. Frugal though I am, that seems the preferred choice. Grates cost about $25 each, and Weber may have made some upgrades since 2012-2013.

My only hope is this is a considerable improvement over the Brinkmann. My wife was asking about my changes of heart -- I had seemed pretty determined to get a smoker, then pretty down on it after 14+ hours of constant management and attention, and now I'm buying one. That said, I could probably use this 3-4 times, and if I didn't like it, sell it to someone for close to what I bought it.

I wonder if I should try the pork butt again, or ribs?
With practice, you will get better at maintaining temperatures as you learn your rig.

A butt is a lot of food to eat. I would do a few practice runs with ribs.
A counterpoint would be that the pork shoulder - a.k.a. pork butt - is probably the most forgiving cut to bbq/smoke. Especially for a new smoker it can be a very good way to "season" the cooker as it slowly releases a large quantity of pork fat some of which gets vaporized and deposited on the smoker walls. Butt or ribs, either should be good.
Semper Augustus

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Doom&Gloom » Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:16 pm

Great follow-up!

When you put the foil pan on the lower rack to catch the drippings, put some beans in it. Yummy! I put in a large can (or more) of Bush's baked beans with onions and add some of my favorite bbq sauce to them. I leave them for the endurance of the smoke (about 4.5 hours for me) but do try to stir them a time or two during the process. I like them almost as much as the ribs themselves. Almost.

Happy smoking!

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Ozonewanderer
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Ozonewanderer » Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:29 pm

etherlinkage wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:29 am
Http://www.amazingribs.com has all the info you could ever want about smokers, recipes, and techniques.
This site is great! Thank you!

ZapRowsdower
Posts: 33
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2016 9:10 am

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by ZapRowsdower » Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:22 am

Glad to hear you stuck with it and took the plunge OP, welcome to the tastiest hobby you can have! I'll be interested to see where you're at in a few months or a year, you'll be a pro by then :sharebeer

BBQ Nut
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Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by BBQ Nut » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:15 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:00 am
The OP is chiming back in to report success. I managed to find a 18" Weber Smokey Mountain on Craigslist, brand new and still in the box, which I purchased on Saturday. I then went home, assembled it, and headed back out to buy charcoal, a chimney starter, wood chips, and ribs. I had two racks of baby back ribs, which I had bought when on sale a few weeks earlier, which I pulled out of the basement freezer and started thawing in the fridge on Friday morning.

I got started at 1100 on Sunday. I prepped the ribs, then fired up the chimney starter, and arranged my charcoal using the Minion method. One thing I really liked about the WSM is how it comes apart -- you can fire up the charcoal, then place the middle section, the water pan, and the grates. The start-up process was far less awkward than with the Brinkmann -- night and day.

The other plus was, after fiddling a little with the vents in the first 30-45 minutes, I could stick the temperature at 225 F for hours. After the constant babysitting using the Brinkmann for a pork butt earlier, this was a huge relief. Overall, there were a few things I learned:

1. I had read that, in order to get a great crust -- or bark -- that you should apply a thicker rub. I did that. I coated the ribs with yellow mustard, then used about 1 cup of rub I threw together on both racks. If I could easily post a picture, I would. It was beautiful, if that's your thing.

2. The two racks of ribs took different times to cook. The first was done in about 5.5 hours; the second, probably meatier, took 6.5. With only two of us, this wasn't a problem, but I could see how in feeding a crowd, it might be tough having everything ready at the same time -- if not for foil and coolers that it. I used the bend test for ribs, which also really worked. Thank you Internet. I didn't feel super confident about accurately using a digital thermometer for ribs.

3. I used way too many briquettes. I filled the chimney starter 1.5x, then fired it up about half to 2/3 full. Cleaning up yesterday, I saw I had not burned through a lot of that fuel. This is promising for when I decide to do another pork butt, but I'll have to dial in how to be more efficient.

4. After I pulled the last rack off I closed all the vents, and after giving it a cooler period, dissembled the smoker to try and clean it. I took a grill brush to the cooking grates, and power washed the water pan. I felt like keeping it clean and dry will extend its lifespan. I don't clean my grill every time like this, but it reaches much higher temperatures, 225 F is pretty low.

Overall I felt like I had the tools I needed -- essentially a Thermapen, 16" metal tongs, and welding gloves. A table would be nice, and I might put a foil pan on the lower cooking rack to collect any drippings in the future -- pour into a fat separator and use in a finishing sauce. Otherwise, like any hobby you can probably spend as much as you want, but what I have for grilling worked just fine for what I used for smoking.

In short, so far, so good. I'm already thinking about next weekend, and whether to go with a pork butt or chicken...
Another congrats!

Good choice and sounds like a good cook!

Plenty of tips and mods for the WSM. I love mine.

Paddygirl
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:09 am

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by Paddygirl » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:02 am

Everyone in my area of Maryland who hunts and fish swears by the Traeger smoker, top of the line.

John88
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:57 pm

Re: Buying a Smoker

Post by John88 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:21 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:00 am
The OP is chiming back in to report success. I managed to find a 18" Weber Smokey Mountain on Craigslist, brand new and still in the box, which I purchased on Saturday. I then went home, assembled it, and headed back out to buy charcoal, a chimney starter, wood chips, and ribs. I had two racks of baby back ribs, which I had bought when on sale a few weeks earlier, which I pulled out of the basement freezer and started thawing in the fridge on Friday morning.

I got started at 1100 on Sunday. I prepped the ribs, then fired up the chimney starter, and arranged my charcoal using the Minion method. One thing I really liked about the WSM is how it comes apart -- you can fire up the charcoal, then place the middle section, the water pan, and the grates. The start-up process was far less awkward than with the Brinkmann -- night and day.

The other plus was, after fiddling a little with the vents in the first 30-45 minutes, I could stick the temperature at 225 F for hours. After the constant babysitting using the Brinkmann for a pork butt earlier, this was a huge relief. Overall, there were a few things I learned:

1. I had read that, in order to get a great crust -- or bark -- that you should apply a thicker rub. I did that. I coated the ribs with yellow mustard, then used about 1 cup of rub I threw together on both racks. If I could easily post a picture, I would. It was beautiful, if that's your thing.

2. The two racks of ribs took different times to cook. The first was done in about 5.5 hours; the second, probably meatier, took 6.5. With only two of us, this wasn't a problem, but I could see how in feeding a crowd, it might be tough having everything ready at the same time -- if not for foil and coolers that it. I used the bend test for ribs, which also really worked. Thank you Internet. I didn't feel super confident about accurately using a digital thermometer for ribs.

3. I used way too many briquettes. I filled the chimney starter 1.5x, then fired it up about half to 2/3 full. Cleaning up yesterday, I saw I had not burned through a lot of that fuel. This is promising for when I decide to do another pork butt, but I'll have to dial in how to be more efficient.

4. After I pulled the last rack off I closed all the vents, and after giving it a cooler period, dissembled the smoker to try and clean it. I took a grill brush to the cooking grates, and power washed the water pan. I felt like keeping it clean and dry will extend its lifespan. I don't clean my grill every time like this, but it reaches much higher temperatures, 225 F is pretty low.

Overall I felt like I had the tools I needed -- essentially a Thermapen, 16" metal tongs, and welding gloves. A table would be nice, and I might put a foil pan on the lower cooking rack to collect any drippings in the future -- pour into a fat separator and use in a finishing sauce. Otherwise, like any hobby you can probably spend as much as you want, but what I have for grilling worked just fine for what I used for smoking.

In short, so far, so good. I'm already thinking about next weekend, and whether to go with a pork butt or chicken...
Good choice but be aware before you know it you are adding wheels, a lid hinge/holder, stainless door, handles, side tables, etc. or you can get an entry level Kamado like a Vision, Pit Boss or Akorn which has all those mods built in along with more efficiency. I know I was there. But you will gain experience with the WSM for sure.

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