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MAK vs vertical smoker

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    MAK vs vertical smoker

    I'm the market for a smoker to supplement my trusty old WSM. I'll keep it for charcoal duty but don't use it as much as I would like, so looking to get a pellet pooper which should see more use since it's much more convenient. After cook quality, ease of use and maintenance is most important. I think I've narrowed my choices down to a MAK or a vertical pellet smoker (most likely a Pellet Pro or a Pit Boss Copperhead). Of course, there's a huge difference in price between the two.

    For those who have been in a similar situation, what did you decide? If you ended up with the MAK, what have you used it for that made it worth the extra cost?

    Some other details:
    • I have an infrared gasser which I will keep and use for grilling and searing.
    • I live in the northeast. Whatever I get will stay outside, covered.
    • I would like the ability to cold smoke, though that's not a primary use.
    • Besides meat, one of my favorites is pizza. Not sure which smoker lends itself to that.
    Do you think I should get a MAK or does the vertical smoker make more sense? I realize I'm posting to a biased group, but presumably everyone here has made a similar decision before.

    One concern I have is the smoke profile compared to charcoal. Besides cost, this an area where I think the verticals have an edge.

    If your recommendation is for the MAK, which one? I like the 2 Star, but the I'm having a hard time justifying the extra cost for a smoker box and stainless construction.

    Thanks for your help.
    - Dave
    Last edited by dth122; June 15, 2020, 11:31 PM.

    #2
    I have a mak 1 star and love it. The smoke profile is lighter then a charcoal wood fire is. One of the most recent cheats/hacks I have learned of is to start a cook on a wsm and the move it to a pellet cooker after a while. I have not tried this yet but how could it not be good. Obviously this would only be done for a long cook, say over night.

    If you are interested in a mak, and want to be frugal about it, you could get a 1 star and upgrade it over time with same capabilities of a 2 star. I believe all the parts are interchangeable and the dimensions are similar.

    Comment


      #3
      If you want to cold smoke, the 2 star is the way to go if you're wanting to smoke below 180 degrees. While the 1 and 2 star can hum along at 160-175 it doesn't hold there except in the winter in the main chamber. The 2 stars warming box is generally 100 degrees less than the main box and is further affected by ambient. I do loads of cheese when it's 60 degrees or less outside, and can still do harder cheeses as long as it's below 80.

      The 2 star gives you an easier to maintain cooking chamber/exterior surface with the stainless and the option to add a purpose built cold smoking box (expensive) on top of the warming box. You could in theory build your own box to sit on top of the warming box if you wanted.

      If you have the money go for the 2 star. If you mean 180-200 when you say cold smoking, then the 1 star can do that. Also the newest 1 stars have almost all the features of the 2 star now. Neither of the finishes will rust, but you have to use more care when cleaning the coated surface vs the stainless.

      Never hurts to join the MAK facebook page, lots of folks are selling their not so old 2 stars recently at $2K or less so they can upgrade to the new all stainless 2 star.

      No experience with vertical smokers other than food from a few electric ones which was good, but IMO less smokey than any pellet cooked food. I've been able to compare food on a few popular brand pellet smokers and the MAK definitely puts out more smoke. Just depends on your personal preference, some will never be happy with the smoke profile from any pellet cooker. Some will actually prefer them.
      Last edited by ItsAllGoneToTheDogs; June 16, 2020, 10:32 AM.

      Comment


        #4
        Pizza won't work on either. Pizza is a high temp thing and pellet smokers aren't really high temp. You CAN do NY style 'za (bakes at oven temps) but not the high temp, fast stuff.

        I'd encourage you to think about why you don't use the WSM now before you spend on something like a MAK, too.

        Comment


        • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
          ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
          Editing a comment
          People do frozen and homemade pizzas of all styles on the MAK and other pellet grills all the time, max set temp for MAK is 600 and grate temps in excess of 800 degrees which is close enough for most pizza styles.

          Your suggestion about thinking what they don't use their WSM for to help decide on what to compliment it with is extremely valid though.

        • rickgregory
          rickgregory commented
          Editing a comment
          600 is more NY style... but 800 on the grill? Damn, didnt realize it got that hot. Good info.

        • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
          ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
          Editing a comment
          rickgregory the max used to be 450 and then 500, it was updated to do 600 via firmware in the last year or so. A few other grills have been updated to do higher temps too. I think the Weber out of the gate had a 600 max as well.

        #5
        Originally posted by ItsAllGoneToTheDogs View Post
        If you want to cold smoke, the 2 star is the way to go if you're wanting to smoke below 180 degrees. While the 1 and 2 star can hum along at 160-175 it doesn't hold there except in the winter in the main chamber. The 2 stars warming box is generally 100 degrees less than the main box and is further affected by ambient. I do loads of cheese when it's 60 degrees or less outside, and can still do harder cheeses as long as it's below 80.
        That sounds good and would work very well for me. I'm talking about cold smoke cheese, nuts and fish < 100. I guess the question is... is the cold smoke experience and result on the 2 Star worth the expense over the 1 Star? I know I can cold smoke in a 1 Star using a $20 Amazen tube, but I'm not sure of the results.


        Originally posted by ItsAllGoneToTheDogs View Post
        No experience with vertical smokers other than food from a few electric ones which was good, but IMO less smokey than any pellet cooked food. I've been able to compare food on a few popular brand pellet smokers and the MAK definitely puts out more smoke. Just depends on your personal preference, some will never be happy with the smoke profile from any pellet cooker. Some will actually prefer them.
        This is really the question. I haven't found anyone with experience on a virtual pellet smoker, let along also on a pellet grill. It's hard to draw a conclusion about the best path.

        I'm 100% positive I'd be happy with either MAK. The question is whether the benefit is worth the additional expense considering the fact I already have a good gas grill.
        - Dave

        Comment


        • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
          ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
          Editing a comment
          You can't do sub 100 on a 1 star, unless you use it with a pellet tube/tray and don't turn it on. At which point you're better off just using a cheap safe as your smoker The MAK will last forever though, and they hold their value fairly well. You might be able to find someone within driving distance or at a BBQ competition (if those ever start back up for public access) where you can check out a few pellet smokers.

        #6
        Originally posted by rickgregory View Post
        I'd encourage you to think about why you don't use the WSM now before you spend on something like a MAK, too.
        Excellent point. The short answer is that it takes too much time to set up, too much tending and is too hard to clean. (on a regular basis) Basically, smoking on the WSM is a whole day affair the way I see it. It takes about an hour to fire up and build, another 30-60 minutes to let the temp settle and start the cook, then monitoring at least hourly for temp adjustment, adding charcoal and wood, etc. Then 30+ minutes after the cook to clean up and put everything away.

        Let me be clear, I'm not complaining about any of that stuff. I enjoy it actually. However, there are too few days I can commit that level attention for that amount of time. In normal circumstances, I'm at the office or away somewhere all week, so I only have weekends. And that time is precious for other activities. I know I can get ATCs to manage some of the tending, but they can't refuel or add wood.

        The appeal of the pellet pooper is the ability to spend 30 minutes getting a cook started and then go about my day. At the end of the day, food is ready and I spend a few minutes cleaning up.

        If you agree that my logic leads to a pellet grill, the path to MAK is a desire for quality of finished product, quality construction, good controller, versatility, ease of cleaning and maintenance.

        If I receive responses that say "I love my MAK but grilling isn't great" or "I only use it for smoking" or similar, then that would be a point towards a vertical instead.

        With that further explanation, if you have thoughts on other ways achieve smoking perfection with minimal effort, please share. That's what I'm here to figure out.
        - Dave

        Comment


        • rickgregory
          rickgregory commented
          Editing a comment
          All of that makes a disturbing amount of sense.

        • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
          ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
          Editing a comment
          So the newer 2 stars (2019+ or even older ones that can accept the current flamezone and have upgraded software) can grill fairly decent on stock grates. Though best results still come via sear grates. I plan on adding a flat top grill to compliment my 2 star at some point because while it can grill, if I want to do a reverse sear or something it's just faster to have a second heat source, time from off to grill is pretty quick but time from smoke to grill takes a little longer.

        • klflowers
          klflowers commented
          Editing a comment
          I have had a wsm for years now, and I can get it to run at 225-250 without many problems for hours without messing with it. Then I got a cyber q controller and pit viper fan and it is even easier to set it and let it run. The only problem I have with the cyber q is that it runs on batteries, so I put new ones in whenever I do an overnighter. But I can understand where you are cominf from - pellet grills are easy to use. I have a small Traeger too!

        #7
        LOL... yes. I've spent way too much time thinking about it, yet still can't come to a decision.
        - Dave

        Comment


          #8
          figured I'd post this pic so you can see grilling without grill grates or the MAK searing grate (those definitely enhance the grilling capability though!) Also if you look in the Show Us What You're Cooking thread, probably 98% of my posts are made exclusively on the MAK.

          Click image for larger version  Name:	94310051_10221320835030957_897298429972054016_n.jpg Views:	0 Size:	89.3 KB ID:	863847
          Last edited by ItsAllGoneToTheDogs; June 16, 2020, 02:48 PM.

          Comment


            #9
            Looks great! That would work for me.

            Comment


              #10
              Late to the party. Super curious to hear if you’ve made a decision. I’ll just add that after 25+ years of outdoor cooking and 20+ cookers having gone through my backyard, including several WSM’s... the MAK 2 Star has hands down been my favorite overall cooker to date. Absolutely love it!

              Comment

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