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What i've learned (so far) using my Masterbuilt upright 2-door propane smoker

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    What i've learned (so far) using my Masterbuilt upright 2-door propane smoker

    so a couple of years ago i got this smoker from my then girlfriend (now wife) for christmas. i was super excited because i have never smoked before but i loved bbq.

    after reading a lot and experiencing some, i found this is about as cheap a smoker as a person can get when buying a dedicated smoker. i'm not faulting my wife, she shouldn't spend a lot of money on it if she isn't sure i will use it a lot.

    i have made a few things with this smoker now. here are the things i learned about this smoker.

    1) this thing is leaky. everywhere. if there is a seam it leaks. these didn't bother me as much as the gap between the door and the smoker proper which is probably 3/16ths of an inch wide. with a design like this why even bother putting in an exhaust in the back? I went on amazon and bought some grill/bbq/smoker weatherstripping. the stuff worked really well, just make sure you clean the bejesus out of the surface you plan on adhering it to. i used kitchen cleaner and wiped until i saw no more residue. the stuff works pretty good and the smoke now only billows out the back and slightly through every seam everywhere else on the grill. best i can i hope for i think. this also helped me maintain temperature quite a bit. i used to have huge swings when the wind blew. now i stay pretty darn steady.

    2) And you will never get smoke if you don't do the wood chips right. this thing was designed poorly. the first thing i tried is putting the wood chips directly on the wood chip tray. i got a camp fire. well, i thought, i should wrap them in foil. so i wrapped them in foil and placed them on the 3 locations between the "ribs". if you have this smoker you know what i mean. the wood chip tray has 3 vents with metal ribs that go from outside to center cutting the round tray into 3 sections. when i placed the chips in the bottom, closest to the flame, i did get smoke but only half of my chips actually went char. the rest looked entirely untouched. wasteful. so the next time i made a big FLAT wood chip packet and placed it on the very top, covering most of the wood chip tray. the first time i did this i thought all was well until the chips caught fire. that was because of too much air getting in through my excessive slicing of the foil. since then i have left smaller holes and never had a problem. as a side note you will have the foil melting to the wood chip pan.
    it seemed like a lot of work just to get SMOKE to happen in a SMOKER.

    3) the top and only vent in this thing is on the back. if you put food up at the top shelf it will cook slower than the shelf beneath it. i have had a pork butt sit at the top shelf and one on the shelf right below it. the internal temp was different by 10 degrees. not a big deal but this is information!

    4) the front thermostat is actually pretty decent on my particular unit. i still don't trust it and use a maverick. still, if you need a quick idea how the internal temp is doing it's nice to see it.

    5) the water pan is very small. you should be checking it every 2 hours at 225.

    6) use a cooking tray (9x13) to catch the drippings. i don't care if you use them. this thing is a pain to clean. all of the drippings drop into the water pan and you end up with a water pan of pork grease. your water pan no longer does it's job and did i mention it's a pain to clean? and remember those ribs on the chip tray? yeah, those are also a pain to clean. this whole thing is a pain to clean. edit: put as much water in this thing as you do to fill the water pan. it won't evaporate like the water pan does but it does help hold some temp

    7) since this thing is so leaky you will want to adjust your times if you based them on this website or this forum or the food network or anywhere. your food will take longer to cook. anything with a stall? double it. at least until you learn your particular unit. my pork shoulders take over 20 hours, my ribs take 8+ hours, my chicken 3 hours. i'm not saying anything turned out bad, but be prepared to be waiting more than you should. edit: this is only if you are trying tfor 225 - see note 9

    8) this thing doesn't come with a cover. you can find a cover made for this on amazon easy enough. it comes in 2 sizes and i got the bigger one by mistake. it is a loose fit but even if the wind is blowing it stays on alright. just a warning - the covers fade in the sun like crazy. they are black covers; mine is a little over a year old and it is completely white on top. in addition, when it rains, the water pools on the top of this thing. good thing i have a cover!

    9) EDIT: do NOT cook at 225, it's a waste of time. cook at 250-280 and you will find that times are much closer to what everyone else reports.

    over all i have learned to love this little thing after learning all this. after all, who can stay mad as something that helps you make such tasty meat?
    Last edited by DeusDingo; March 28, 2017, 11:10 AM.

    #2

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      #3
      Nice write up. To paraphrase Elaine from Seinfeld- "Maybe the Dingo smoked your baby...back ribs."

      Comment


        #4
        None of what you write is limited to Masterbuilt. It doesn't matter if you're using Charbroil, Masterbuilt, or Charmglow, offset horizontal, vertical, or bullet, electric, gas, or sticks. All inexpensive smokers act the same. Anyone who has started with a baseline smoker just to get their feet wet has experienced the same thing. They will still make good food, it just takes a bit more effort. If you like smoking, time for an upgrade.

        Comment


        • DeusDingo
          DeusDingo commented
          Editing a comment
          i'm just trying to give some information to anyone that was thinking of buying the same smoker that i have. possibly because they don't want to invest a lot in something they have never done. maybe they already have it and are wondering what other people did with the same problems that they were having. I feel like you are trying to negate my review by claiming i didn't have to write anything because all cheap smokers are the same and i should have known that. not everybody knows everything going into something and that is what this post was meant for. what does more information hurt?

        • Huskee
          Huskee commented
          Editing a comment
          Your post is very much appreciated DeusDingo. I think what UNV is getting at is simply that the same pointers will actually apply to many other entry level smokers, especially those of the same shape/layout, not to undermine your efforts here.

          I started with a Brinkmann upright 2 door charcoal smoker ($80 at Home Depot), and everything you said applies to that one too...plus I had to drill vent holes in the charcoal bowl (which was the exact same bowl as the water bowl, solid, useless for charcoal). Today it serves as a box to hold my preburnt logs and set my chimney on.

          Thank you for sharing your tips!

        #5
        I have a 40" MasterBuilt that had all the same issues but they are VERY easy to fix. Go to the auto parts store and get a tube of black RTV, run a very small bead of it along every seam, edge, and joint then immediately wipe your finger over the bead to wipe off the excess. You dont need alot, just a tiny bit in the joint will work as its not under pressure.

        You already took care of the door issue...

        As for the chip pan with the vents in it... Throw it away. Pick up a cast iron skillet (got mine at a garage sale for $7), 12" should work, then drill 3 5/16" holes around the outside bottom of the skillet. Get 3, 2" long 5/16 bolts and 6 nuts. Screw one nut all the way down each bolt, then insert the bolts from the bottom of the skillet and screw the other nut on top, securing the skillet between the nuts.

        Using the bolts as legs to hold the skillet above the burner, you can wind the bottom nuts up or down to adjust the height of the skillet above the burner. Fire up the smoker to 225f, and place the skillet on it with a chunk of smoke wood. it will take about 10 min, but it will start to smolder. If it ignites, raise the skillet away from the burner, then start again with a new chunk of wood, repeat as needed until you get the wood to smolder without igniting. Once you get the right height, tighten the top nuts against the skillet to get the height locked in. If all the bolts are adjust properly, and the nuts are tight, you will have a very stable chip/chunk pan that will not catch fire. Plus it makes emptying it a snap by using the skillets handle.

        If you look close at the pic, you can see how my skillet is set up and one of the bolts at the front. I used 1/2" bolts because thats what I had on hand. Make sure you drill the holes/use a skillet large enough to span the ring of the burner. You want the bolts to rest on the floor of the smoker, not the pan resting on the ring around the burner.

        I also hung some concrete backer board (the kind that goes under tile flooring) on the 3 interior walls to add thermal mass. This helps it recover very quickly when you open the door. After you do all this, make sure to do a dry run with just smoke wood to make sure its all dialed in and burn off any undesirables.

        Comment


          #6
          Thanks for the info; just what I was looking for. How did you drill the holes in the cast iron skillet? Did you need a drill press? A cobalt bit?

          Comment


          • Mike99
            Mike99 commented
            Editing a comment
            No need for a cobalt drill. Cast iron will crumble into powder as you drill it. Decide where you want your holes center punch each location and then drill away.
            Last edited by Mike99; June 18, 2020, 05:59 PM.

          #7
          Great writeup DeusDingo, and great followup Smokin_Dave .

          Comment


          • NortheastAl
            NortheastAl commented
            Editing a comment
            +1

          • crpeck
            crpeck commented
            Editing a comment
            +2 Great thread everyone! Lotsa good info... My comments on the smoker...
            I've had it a couple of years (I think it was a couple, but, then does 2020 count as a year? LOL).

            Assembly - from what I remember it was a major PITA! Not impossible, it just took a long time and I can't remember why...
            Leaking - yeah, mine leaked like crazy, I took a tip from one of the PBC folks and added gasket around all the doors, helps tremendously.
            Bigge Issue - the temp dial broke on me, but, gorilla glue fixed.

          #8
          Very thoughtful, helpful, an' informed tutorial!
          Thanks, gentlemen!

          Comment


            #9
            I still use this smoker, I've got the temp dial spot on now, but, I still use a temp probe to verify & also to alert me if I run out of gas & the temp drops. I can dial it in at any temp, did ribs the other day,. 7 hour smoke at 225, no fluctuations in the 225, well, +/- 2-3 degrees. I've thought about going with a pellet, but, why bother, I got me a tube that I can load pellets in for a diff smoke source.

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