Last summer there was a decent amount of traffic coming from people looking for information about the Barbecook smoker, or more importantly comparing the Barbecook Smoker and the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker (WSM). I thought I would finally write a post about this as spring comes around and fire hungry people start contemplating a purchase. Since I have thoroughly used both smokers I’ll try to offer some good comparative information.
price: There is no competition here. The Barbecook smoker retails for 69euros and can sometimes be found for 49euros. The weber retails for 299euros for the 47cm (18″) diameter or 399euros for the 57cm (22.5″) diameter. Clear win for the Barbecook.
assembly: The Barbecook is split up into 4 sections, base, two middle sections and the lid. Assembling the legs, cooking grid hooks, charcoal bowl hooks, handles, vent, and the four hinges on the two doors is a bit of a pain in the ass due to the small size, and high number of nuts and bolts. The original Barbecook smoker had a sort of twist to lock feature that secured the sections together but Barbecook has since replaced this system with some simple clips. A much needed improvement. Moving the smoker with the handles on the side is easy once the sections are locked together.
The WSM is split up into 3 sections, base, middle, and lid. To assemble the WSM you need to attach the three legs to the base and then attach 4 metal straps on the inside of the middle section. This is easliy done in a few minutes. All the bolts are easy to get to and are large enough to handle. The sections just sit on top of each other and do not lock together, and there are no side handles on the unit so you can not just pick up the smoker and easily move it.
never move either smoker when it is in use!
build quality: The matte-black painted Barbecook Smoker is made from a very thin steel, and is prone to denting. Infact you will most likely dent or bend the sections out-of-round during assembly. The cooking grates are made from a very small gauge wire and have a cheap looking finish that can scratch off during a good cleaning. After total assembly the unit wobbles quite a bit due to the flimsy leg construction. Most of the nuts and bolts on the unit will quickly rust.
The WSM uses a nice thicker gauge steel with a durable black enamel finish. All of the hardware is rust-resistant, strong and secure. Once the unit is assembled it feels very stable. The Weber is way ahead of the Barbecook in this category.
ease of use: Use of a chimney starter is recommended for getting the Barbecook smoker going. The lit charcoal sits on a grate in the bottom of the charcoal bowl. The only air that can get to the charcoal has to come over the top of the bowl and get sucked underneath the charcoal. Once some ash builds up under the charcoal it starts to choke the fire. If your cook is under 5 hours or so then you can resonably control the temperature in your Barbecook smoker with the top vent and some good fire tending. If you plan on doing anything longer then you will find yourself in trouble. Unfortunately the Barbecook smoker has no control of the air coming in, only the outgoing smoke on top of the unit. Not the best way to control a fire. Measuring the temperature with the built in thermometer can be a bit misleading. I have seen many reports of the thermometer being way off, 50-100°C!
The WSM also works best when used with a chimney starter. Once the charcoal is started it is pretty easy to maintain the desired temperature by only adjusting the three vents which feed air directly to the charcoal. Under the charcoal there is plenty of room for ash so during a long cook you don’t have to worry about choking your fire. Depending on the type of charcoal you use you should be able to easily get 10-12 hours burn time before needing to add more fuel. On my WSM there is no built in thermometer but on the new models there is one. According to others the thermometer is pretty accurate but could be as far off as 5°C in some cases.
overall: The Weber is hands-down a much beter smoker. It offers great quality and is easy to use. However, it is expensive enough to make you really question purchasing it. The Barbecook Smoker won’t last for years and years but it does work and it won’t hurt your wallet. With some practice and lots of patience you should be able to smoke up some good eats… but you’ll probably have to give up hopes of smoking a whole picnic or butt.
recommendation: If you know that you like smoked food and you are an outdoor cooking nut then the Weber will not disappoint. Ease of use, quality, durability, cooking capacity and flexibility will ensure years of great meals for you and your friends.
If you are not so sure that a smoker will really be something that you’ll enjoy or if you’ll only use it once a year then the Barbecook smoker could be the right choice. It won’t last forever, but if you are careful and patient you can get some good cooks out of it. For those that like to tinker with things, you could easily improve the unit with some careful thought and a trip to the hardware store. You can get inspiration for modding your Barbecook Smoker by checking out the many ECB mods, or Brinkmann mods on the net. The WSM is also prone to be modified by some die-hards, but out of the box it already works wonders.
If you are looking for a bargain and you like to work with your hands you could look into building your own smoker. Its not that difficult. Take a look at Alton Browns smoker. Or for a little more sweat and some grinding you could put together a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker).
Just remember, smoking is good for you!