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Vertical or Horizontal smoker - Charcoal only!


"To Wiki or Not To Wiki, That's The Question".
Staff member
I love my BBQ! I have two BBQs that need charcoal at the moment. The one that I use the most is the Weber Original Kettle. I do steaks on it (anything direct) and long smokes (chicken, roasts, brisket, etc).

I made some ribs last week-end and cooked them for 12 hours. I usually do them in 6 but decided to go the extra 6 to see how they would fall off the bone (at 6hrs they stay on the bone, 12hrs, the bone stays there when you touch the meat)

I had to reload the Weber twice using the snake method to cook the ribs. While it's fairly easy to pick-up the grill, reload and put it back, I can't stop thinking that it could be easier if I have to recharge the BBQ less or have an easier way to access the fire.

So... From there, I started looking at my options to see what I could use to do my indirect (long run) cooks.

I know that I could put a few fire bricks in the Weber and it would possibly hold the heat better. However, here are my options if I buy something else. I am not interested in an electric smoker. I rather have something that works anywhere, anytime. Charcoal is the right choice as I like the taste. Propane is good but I prefer charcoal.

So, what I found was:
  • The cheap looking horizontal smoker that Canadian tire has for $179
  • Lowes has the Oklahoma Joe smoker for $349 (I think).
  • Napoleon apollo or Weber mountain around $300-$400 depending on which - Vertical
  • Costco has the Kamado vertical smoker for $899

I also saw something called the big poppa smoker that is essentially a barrel with a removable lid. Those did not have good comments on them.

I know that option 1 or two would require a lot of modifications to seal all the joints and potential leaks, plus add a few thermometers, seals around the doors and new paint job as the original seems to be too thin or weak.

Option 3 would need a few add-ons as well as I read somewhere that Napoleon leaks badly. Again, not so much of a problem.

Last option, the most expensive seems to be great as the Komodo has ceramic already which would help for longer cooks. The only issue that I saw is that someone reported a cracked lid which seems to be where you have to replace it. I do not know how it happened so can't say if they crack often or if the user broke it while doing something that involved too much beer. There seem to be a fair share of replacement lids for sale on ebay...

First, I have no idea what works best, vertical or horizontal smoker. It must be a personal preference. I believe that the vertical would cook better but the horizontal looks better when it comes to add a few chunks of wood.

I also know that I'm trying to compare cheap models to the high end models.

I would like to know if someone has any experience with any or all (even better) of those models and what they think. How it was? Would you recommend what you have? How well did the pit grew old? If possible, I would like to keep it for a few years (which I doubt that the Canadian tire model will be more than 2).
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Luc -

I have probably mentioned this before, but I really like the Smokenator insert. I used to do the snake method and it worked well, but this is so much easier. It takes one or two test runs to see where to set the vents on the kettle, but I figured it out and marked them by temperature with a Sharpie. After all these years, the lid to my kettle is slightly warped, so I do use 3 binder clips to keep a good seal. That being said, I can fire it up in the morning and it will hold the heat steady for at least 10-12 hours on one fill of charcoal.

I had an egg that I dropped out of the back of a moving van (Doh!) and although the moving insurance covered it, I still haven't replaced it, because I find that I can use the kettle perfectly fine with the Smokenator for long cooks.

Just another option that doesn't require a separate cooker and will be a little less expensive.


Self Ignored by Vista
I like the horizontal smokers, but that's just my personal preference. I sealed the lid on my thin Char-Griller with some rope gasket and silicone adhesive, and plugged the accessory holes with stainless steel bolts. Also extended the chimney down to almost grate level with some aluminum flashing, and also used the flashing to make a baffle where the firebox attaches to the cooking chamber. Wasn't hard to do. It holds temp. nice and steady now.

My son-in-law got the Old Country Pecos about 3 or 4 years ago. It has thicker gauge steel than my little cheapo, but don't know how the thickness compares to an Oklahoma Joe's. He didn't do any mods. to it and it has worked great. It's not a $1,000 model but it works well. Looks like the Old Country's chimney attaches lower on the chamber than the Oklahoma Joe's does. The Old Country also has a steel baffle at the firebox, but I don't know about the Oklahoma Joe's.


To me adding charcoal or sticks of wood is easier on an offset than a vertical smoker, but YMMV.
Having only owned and still own a Ceramic Kamado (Vision), I love it. It does everything I want and need. It can be used for brisket and pork butts, 12-14hrs and doesn't need to be refilled and holds heat with little to no attention needed.

I don't worry about cracks as I'm covered by a rock solid warranty and don't plan on moving it or transporting it. It sits outside at -40 with windchill and I can have used it all winter, with no issues. I only use LUMP in it with wood chunks and it gives me great smokey flavors.

My understanding with Horizontal smokers is they can be used with ALL WOOD. So you would be doing authentic, wood burning, no coals, smoking of meat. It will likely give you a richer flavor and require constant attention and refueling of wood. But I still want one, especially after reading the Franklin Manifesto (which you also have). As Mike states above, adding charcoal to a vertical (like my Vision) would be a pain, but I always plan in advance make sure to load up enough when doing a long smoke. I'd have to remove the meat, remove the grate, remove the place setter and put them all down somewhere on my wood deck, then add the charcoal then put everything back while it's hot....not fun.

If my budget was limited, in Canada like you, I'd say your best bet for charcoal smokers would be the WSM from Home Depot. This time of year, they are usually on sale for $100 or more of the regular price. I contemplated making an Ugly Drum, but couldn't a food safe barrel and didn't want to be messing around with making it. It's too bad the Vision at Costco seems to have almost doubled in price since I bought mine 4y ago. I think I paid $500 or so, maybe $549....$899 would have been out of my budget at the time.

Anything you get, you'll be able to smoke great meat on it. After a few uses, you can look at tweaks and DIY improvements or store bought accessories to make your smoking easier.
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The sheet metal horizontal (log) smokers work OK, provided you have the time to tend the heat. Lots of mods on-line to improve their performance. I like mine when I need a heavy smoke, like a brisket. Otherwise, the ceramic cookers, I have a BGE, are fantastic. I load it and forget it. 4-6 hour cooks in the wind and 20 degrees without having to tend to it. Love it!! I think the learning curve is shorter for the ceramic cooker also.
If you can find an oil drum you can easily make one with minimal tools. If you find one with a removable lid then all you'll need is a few drill bits and a metal hole saw. Ugly Drum Smoker plans are all over the net :thumbup: Super effective charcoal smokers and much cheaper (and more efficient, imho) than modular vertical smokers.
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I recommend the pit barrel. I bought one for my brother which he loves. I also have one in the mail for myself!


"To Wiki or Not To Wiki, That's The Question".
Staff member
Good suggestions so far, keep them coming.

Insulation seems to be the main concern if I want to use it during winter. While I think that the Komodo is the only insulated one, I am still thinking about those horizontal smoker... Mmm... Still thinking... Those seem to require a ~$100-$150 investment in bits and parts to make the thing much better. Which brings me closer to the Komodo. I guess I will need to have a closer looks at my options to understand the build.

I read somewhere that too thin, the metal will rot and/or have a hole in it within a year. Too thick, it takes forever to heat up.

I saw the barrel option, the other one that I saw was the Big poppa smoker which is pretty much the same. Some say it works well, some don't. I have no clues on this one.
My UDS works better than my Pro Q Excel if that's anything to go by - much more stable temps and uses far less fuel
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Fussy Evil Genius
For size and price, you can't beat the WSM. If you go horizontal, you really need them to be large enough to not effectively be vertical. This is my rig, 24x36, and I wouldn't think of going smaller.



"A Boy Named Sue"
For size and price, you can't beat the WSM. If you go horizontal, you really need them to be large enough to not effectively be vertical. This is my rig, 24x36, and I wouldn't think of going smaller.

What is the brand name for the one in the picture?


Self Ignored by Vista
Those seem to require a ~$100-$150 investment in bits and parts to make the thing much better. Which brings me closer to the Komodo. I guess I will need to have a closer looks at my options to understand the build.

I don't think that I put but about $25 in the mods. I listed for my cheapo Char-Griller, plus I also replaced the firebox rack with some expanded metal and that wasn't real expensive. I've heard the Okie Joe's aren't as good as they used to be, but I don't believe I've ever looked at one. The metal should be much thicker than the $179 one you looked at.

As for insulation, a lot of people that use offset smokers throw a welding blanket over them in cold weather. You can get them for about $20, but I've never used one so you would need to ask someone who has used one about it.

You can borrow my butane tank smoker if you want, but you'll have to come pick it up and have it back within 2 weeks. :lol:

I need to get out there and paint that sucker while the weather is still nice.

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I had one of the earlier Weber bullet types years ago, too many pieces rust was a problem. Later I had one of the horizontal type smoker grills It was ok, but hard to control temperature. I finally got a large Big Green Egg a couple of years ago and could not be happier. Sometimes I wish I could get a denser smoke but overall it has been the best for me, plus no rust problems.


Fridays are Fishtastic!
If money isn't a problem, I would go with a kamado. One tool to do it all- smoking, grilling, and pizza oven. Some even use them for baking.
I'll put a plug in for my 18.5 WSM that I got from a friend of mine once they "lost" their water bowl. $20 later I had a new bowl from a Brinkman, that works really nicely and I have a very nice wood handled WSM. I've smoked a lot of butt in it, and a number of other things including cauliflower;)
I know things are more in Canada, but a 18.5 on Amazon is ~$300. I've seen the smaller 14 inch ones that are about $200, not sure if I'd go with one of them or not.
My WSM has been pretty solid, It was fairly old before I even got it and I've had it for about 4 years now. No issues. It even sat outside all winter long one year as I was planning on trying a winter smoke, but that never quite happened....
If money is not a problem I'd go with a ceramic cooker. My next choice would be a WSM, I currently have the 22 and the 18 and think I prefer the 18 so far.

Now, if you don't mind the looks of the home made ugly drum they are very hard to be for the $$$$. I built a few of them and still use one at work. They just flat out run making great BBQ.
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