Last Updated on April 20, 2020

BBQ Smokers

Which is best: BBQ smoker or grill?

I love slow-cooked barbecue and smoked meat. Years ago, my father made a bbq smoker which we used for a while. It was fun, but the smoking process was rather messy and many times the meat had a too strong smoke flavor. I want excellent results each time, so I’m not going to use homemade smokers anymore. I want to buy one. This is how I got into barbecue smokers research which led me to this review of the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 1/2 Inch Smoker. I tend to trust Weber cookers more than no-name ones, because of the excellent reputation they have amongst long-time users. I don’t want to buy a new smoker every other year, not even every five years. I want it to be good for at least 10 years, if not longer.

To summarize, here’s what I took into consideration in my research:

Why barbecue smokers are better than grills

  • The smoker holds the heat consistently with almost no effort.
  • The vaporizing water in bbq smokers adds moisture to the meat, keeping it juicy.
  • Smokers use the slow-cooking method, which means you can leave the food unattended after the initial setup.
  • Smoked meat is more tender and tastes better than grilled meat. The taste is worth all the extra time required by smoker cooking.

What to look for when buying a barbecue smoker

Choose the smoker type that suite you best. Charcoal smokers are awesome, but if you don’t want to deal with ashes and stuff, you might want to get an electric one.
Being able to control the air-flow, and therefore the temperature, is crucial for obtaining the best results. Smoking is tricky, not getting the temperature high enough will ruin your food. A temperature that is too high will result in burning the exterior of the meat.

Taking into consideration the long cooking times, it’s nicer to be able to load everything you need for a meal at once.

A barbecue smoker is a relatively big purchase, not in terms of money, but in terms of transport and installation. You want yours to last a lifetime. This is why it’s wiser to choose durable materials such as porcelain-enameled steel and nickel-plated cooking grates.

My two finalists were:
Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 1/2 Inch Smoker
Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain 22.5 Inch Smoker

After comparing their features, I am more prone to choose the 18.5 inch one. It is cheaper and it has enough room inside for a ham and an average size turkey, for instance.

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 1/2 Inch Smoker

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker

Weber Smokey Mountain
is a charcoal smoker. Charcoal smokers are better than electric smokers because they give the meat that nice, mouthwatering, authentic smokehouse flavor.

Slow-cooking calls for patience. Cooking times range between 6 and 16 hours. This means such a barbecue party needs advance planning. What I like about the Weber 721001 smoker is that it has a lot of space inside. The interior is divided by two nickel-plated cooking grates. The two cooking sections allow cooking a whole turkey and a ham at the same time. This is awesome. You can have everything ready just in time for your festive dinner or barbecue party. It’s also nice that you’ll only have to clean the smoker once. I know cleaning is easy, because the Weber Smokey Mountain is made from porcelain-enameled premium-grade steel. Even so, I’m still happy to work less on cleaning, whenever possible. There’s no need to wash the WSM on the inside. A simple grill brush will do a wonderful job.

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker - inside view

Another nice feature of this Weber Smokey Mountain cooker is the two-gallon water pan. The water will turn into steam during the cooking process, allowing the meat to stay moist and juicy. This is especially helpful when cooking cheaper cuts of meat such as beef brisket.

The Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 1/2 Inch Smoker is an updated version of an older model, the Weber 2820. Improvements were made based on user experience. The new model is probably one of the best smokers available at a reasonable price. These are the features I like most:

  • Built-in thermometer which makes it easy to check internal temperature
  • No-rust aluminum fuel door, large enough to make loading easy
  • Spring-loaded door latch with lever type handle, much safer than the previous version which had a round knob and no spring.
  • Heat-resistant nylon handle on the lid, much better than the previous model which was made of wood. This new handle stays cool to the touch. I like that because I hate to burn my fingers.

Individual vents on the bowl and lid control the air-flow and help the charcoal to burn longer. The meats will come out more tender and you’ll use less charcoal. You can control the temperature by the initial amount of coal you load into the smoker and by adjusting the air vents.

What others say about Weber barbecue smokers

I was impressed with the big number of Weber Smokey Mountain smokers positive reviews on Amazon. It looks like Weber is a very popular and appreciated brand among barbecue lovers. People who bought it wrote their own review and added photos of the product in use.

Here are a few excerpts:

“The Weber Smokey Mountain is a very well built and highly functional barbeque cooker. Like all Weber products that I’ve used it is designed well and looks like it will last many years.“

“ … very easy to use, retains heat wonderfully, much better than a smoker you’re going to get at your department store”

“Temperature regulation is a snap as is clean up. I highly recommend this piece of equipment. Assembly takes about 20 minutes.“

You can read complete reviews on Amazon.

I found the best prices for the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 1/2 Inch Smoker on Amazon. It qualifies for FREE Super Saver Shipping, which means you’re going to get it delivered to your door at no additional cost.