Ya know, I have done a lot of meat smoking over the years........
So for you home smokers (not competition...you guys are a whole other breed!) here's what I've learned over the years. Given it's anecdotal, but I think I'm close to the mark here...opinions thoughts etc are welcome!
I've owned a C.O.S (cheap offset smoker) vertical water smokers, Weber kettle grill, coupled with a PitMaster IQ.... I now own a Ninja Woodfire Grill and a Masterbuilt 800 Gravity series.
I know that there are sometimes threads here asking for advice on what smoker to get. So in that regard I'll cut right to the chase, and then go over some of the reasons.
In my humble opinion, nothing beats a standard Weber kettle grill with temperature monitoring. This may be coupled with a passive temp controller (passive b/c it can increase temps, but obviously can't lower them) like a Pitmaster IQ.
Electric pellet smokers - To me, this is simulated smoking....it does not offer the full robust flavor nor the finish on the meat that naturally occurs when using coals and wood. The electronics are subject to failure at the point of the heating element, the power cord, etc, and is exacerbated by the fact that these electronics are stored outdoors......in other words...at some point it will fail you and then you are at the mercy of their customer support...coals and wood never fail
Offset smokers - probably my 2nd option. Can also be controlled with an electronic device like a Pitmaster IQ.
I feel, due to the size that the temps are a little harder to maintain, unless you have larger wood (huh-huh...I said "large wood!!). I could be wrong about that though. The key here with an offset smoker is buying one that has quality thicker metal. You will fight a leaky O.S.S all day, so it's essential to lay out the bucks for a quality one.....
Traditional smokers with built-in electronic to control temp. While these may be considered the "Cadillac" for home smokers, I'd advise against it. My experience is with the MasterBuilt Gravity 800 series which cost me about $750 and about another $200 in replacement parts. I've smoked some fine meals on this grill. The smoke flavor isn't as intense as other methods. From Day 1, I noticed the electronics were quirky. I supposed this was because of the cold weather when I first purchased it. I am still not sure if that's the case, but I think cold weather has something to do with it. At any rate, smoky grills, with rich fat meats and rubs, marinades etc, that are stored outside (even with MFR's cover) DO NOT MIX...It's not a question of IF your electronics fail, but rather WHEN....for the money, if you're happy with less than optimal smoke, cooking about 20 meals and then trashing it...have it it!, otherwise stay away!
Big Green Egg, Komodo, etc "clay oven type" smokers....No experience....but from afar, I can't imagine why anybody would get one of these?...not to offend anybody with one of these grills, but essentially isn't this 2 clay pots, hinged with a rubber gasket, and a coal grate and cooking grate? I don't see the advantage over a plain standard Weber kettle grill, and for the exorbitant price, I don't get it???
Vertical water smoker - I've only owned a cheap one, very early on. I understand that the Weber vertical water smoker produces excellent smoked meats, but I shied away from these after my first experience....especially since water can be added to any traditional pit smoker.
Weber kettle grill smoking. The superior quality of the Weber provides for a very tight chamber. You can off-set the coals to one side, or you can do a "snake" method. The superior construction also lends itself to awesome temperature control. Once your fire is going, you could almost control it in 1 degree increments by adjusting the bottom vents. The kettle shape lends itself to a nice rich robust smoke and if wanted, you can easily add a small water pan to the bottom next to the coals. If you MUST have automated temperature control, it does complicate things a bit. A Pitmaster IQ is my rec, it attaches to your grills vents with an air hose, fan and temp monitoring. The set-up though is actually more expensive than the grill itself even for the bottom of the line model of the Pitmaster IQ. If you don't mind tending to your vents once in a while, I'd recommend a good quality (ThermoPro?) pit thermometer......don't buy ThermoPros on Amazon....must be company direct....(too many fakes)
Did I miss anything? Thoughts experience, ideas, etc are welcome....
Have a Great Thanksgiving everybody!!...my wife is cooking a traditional turkey in the oven, but I will also smoke a nice big breast (huh-huh) in my Weber. Purchased a brining kit and rub from Kosmos BBQ....hoping for good results!