Prior to that and an Oklahoma Joe’s vertical BBQ, I had a $100 Coleman water smoker than was tall enough to BBQ, and that’s where I started getting people’s attention with some great Q. The Masterbuilt 7-in-1 Smoker Grill we reviewed is almost identical to my old Coleman at around $150. The challenge in BBQing is to get the product far enough away from the heat source to get the surrounding temp around 225 deg. There are only two ways to do this–vertical height or horizontal length.
To get a REALLY GOOD barbeque, you’re going to have to spend over $1000 due to the heavy steel and industrial grates used. To get a PERFECTLY USABLE BBQ, I’d look at a Weber Smokey Mountain, reviewed here for $300 . The main disadvantage is that these units are not strong enough to use cordwood as your heat source; you use charcoal and wood chunks. That gets expensive and charcoal is not as good as cordwood, but it’s so close many cannot tell the difference.
The advantage of a vertical unit is that they are cheaper. The disadvantage is that you will not be able to do a full rack of ribs without cutting them up. Frankly, I like vertical as the heat is more even, so if you can find a large one, go for it. The horizontal BBQs are more common as they can take 50 lbs easily. The disadvantage that the fire box is on one end so the heat is uneven. You simply rotate the product every few hours, not a big deal.
Want to build a barbeque? Google “Barrel Barbeques” and you wil find instructions on how to build a more than adequate BBQ from a 55 gallon drum. It’s fairly easy and can be done for under $200 with the racks and hardware. Of one thing you can be sure; it will be MUCH sturdier than a Home Depot unit.
You can smoke with a BBQ, but you have to be careful to keep a very small fire to keep the temp down. I smoke about 25% of my products on the pit. You can BBQ with a Cookshack as well, but you have to work at it. This is a very heavily insulated unit and thus moist from the wood burning. I’ve been very successful with turkey, chicken, my BBQd rice in small quantities, and killer pastrami, but for ribs that need a good “bark” I have yet to be satisfied. Many owners, through opening the door to let out the moisture, report excellent results, however.
This is a fine product from the Northwest. For as little as $300, you can get a Traeger that burns pellets, and can smoke, barbeque, and grill. This is an electric unit.
The disadvantage is that it doesn’t reach a high enough temp to blacken when grilling, and you do not have the control over the other temps you might desire. Most Traeger owners love their units, however. I wouldn’t say no to looking and testing if you’re willing to part with the money. Personally, I don’t like them. I want to see heavy wood smoke and work hard when BBQing–the electric element doesn’t do it for me. But that’s personal. I also think they are overpriced. The Cookshack is a better unit and a much better buy, in my opinion. This can be generally confirmed with owners who have both, in several discussion boards, but I’ll reiterate the Traeger has many happy users too.
Just a few comments here. The most common discussion is gas vs. charcoal. I think the answer is simple, and I have both. I use gas when 1) I am lazy, or 2) when the grilling process is under 5 minutes. No way in 5 minutes is your food going to benefit from the added flavor of the burning charcoal. And, those smoker boxes in gas grills are worthless. My gas Weber will be 23 years old this June and works great. Weber, for the money, is the best buy out there. They are not inexpensive, but they will last two decades or more. The Weber Spirit Series starts at under $500.
I have a Weber Performer charcoal grill with a gas lighter. That REALLY makes it easier and I would totally recommend one. I, and you should too, only use lump mesquite charcoal, not “Kingsford” crap with the binders and such. Yes, charcoal grills impart a nice flavor and they often burn hotter than gas grills. For any kind of roasting, or grilling more than a few minutes, charcoal grills are better.
There you have it, at least the basics. Remember, you can’t BBQ with a smoker, but you can smoke with a BBQ. And, as to the time involved, there’s saying most of us have learned to live with–“it’s done when it’s done.”
Your next step might be to scan our Reviews to see what’s available for how much money, what people are buying, and what we like and recommend.