Smoking meat is something that, in my opinion, all men should know how to do. There’s nothing more delicious than smoked ribs, pork, or brisket. Although most of us own a grill, most men don’t own a smoker. Smokers can get expensive, but what if you’re on a budget? If you have a backyard, then you should definitely own a smoker. Let’s talk about the best budget smoker for guys who want to become backyard pitmasters. It’ll up your “grill game” and the delicious smells will drive the neighbors crazy. There’s no more manly way to cook a meal for you friends and family than throwing it in your smoker.
What kind of smoker is right for you? There are a ton of different smokers on the market with prices ranging from $100-$5000+. A rookie pit-master can get lost in what the right choice if for them. Don’t worry, we’re here to make it easy on you.
Who Makes The Best Budget Smoker?
First, the more options you add to your smoker the more money you’re going to pay. For this review, we’re going to set the parameters this way;
- Must be a stick burner (burns wood).
- Must be less than $500.
- Must be large enough to smoke a 10lb brisket.
The UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker)
When you’re smoking meat you need a container, fire, and a way to hold the temperature steady. At smoking’s very core, that’s all you need. Everything else is window dressing.
That brings us to the UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker). These smokers have been a mainstay of budget conscious backyard pit-masters for years. In a nutshell, they’re 55g drums with holes drilled into them for temperature gauges, vents, and cooking grates.
With a measuring tape, a drill, and a unibit the average guy can make a really nice UDS that can smoke just about anything, hold temperature like a champ, and save you big money!
Even better, you can buy everything you need from places like Big Poppa’s Smokers. They have kits available to help you get started on your journey. You can even buy a stainless steel drum directly from them. (or source your own on a site like Craigslist).
The Offset Smoker
My personal favorite smoker. I love offset smokers so much I can’t imagine smoking on anything else. When I look at some of the other smokers on the market, they look more like you’re baking brownies than smoking briskets and pork butts. In my opinion, offset smokers are as important to the history of smoking meat as Hank Williams is to country music. But trying to find a decent offset smoker for less than $500 is a completely different animal.
“Smoke Brisket, Not Crack.”Thomas Jefferson- 1776
Our choice for the best value offset smoker is the Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Offset Smoker at $449 and for the even more budget conscious the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland at $299. Are they great smokers? No, they’re not. But they are pretty good smokers for someone just starting out. I personally own a Highland that I’ve smoked hundreds of pounds of meat on over the years.
In my opinion, using a smoker is a lot like shooting a gun or a bow. I can pick up my bow and easily hit the target. However, if you pick up my bow, you’ll probably miss the target by a country mile. Why? Because it’s not your bow. The same thing goes for a smoker, you’ll know how it works when it’s yours. As I stated, I smoke on a Oklahoma Joe’s Highland. Over the years, I’ve made some of the best tasting bbq I’ve ever had.
The Oklahoma Joe’s line is fully capable of delivering the goods on briskets, pork butts, and anything else you’d like to smoke. The “spring” handles stay cool during a cook, there’s plenty of workspace on the shelves, and you can even warm your sauce on top of the firebox.
These smokers leak and they struggle to hold temperature. However, you can easily find with a quick online search there’s an army of people who’ve “modded” their Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers. Moving temp gauges, adding dampers, applying sealant. It’s almost become an underground club. It seems there’s no end to what you can modify on these smokers.
But let’s be clear. I haven’t done a single modification to my smoker (other than make a cheap charcoal basket). I’m very happy with the performance of my smoker, because I know exactly how it’s going to perform through experience.
Another issue that the Oklahoma Joe’s smokers had is the paint peels. The paint peeled off my smoker during seasoning. I contacted them and they sent out a new firebox.
In the end, these are all really capable smokers that can give you years of great tasting meals without breaking the bank. The main thing to remember is that smoking is all about temperature control. We suggest starting with inexpensive meats like pork butts and working your way up to packer briskets.