Most helpful positive review
1,263 of 1,304 people found the following review helpful
Great for novice and experienced
on January 7, 2009
The Masterbuilt smoker is a wonderful product for the price. Whether you're new to smoking, or an experienced smoker who wants a less hands on, labor intensive smoke, this is simply the best you can get for the $$.
1. Digital thermometer: If you've smoked much, you know keeping the smoker at the right temperature is often what takes the most attention. As an electric smoker with a built in thermometer, you can set your preferred temperature and then just focus on keeping the woodtray filled, the contents mopped, and you're good to go. (You will still want to use a digital thermometer on the meats themselves to check their internal temperatures, but that's a different matter.)
2. Well insulated: Unlike a traditional side smoker, bullet or most other form factors, the masterbuilt is nicely chunky and really doesn't care overly what the outside temperature is at (within reason)
3. Capacity: Four racks (though with chickens, big roasts, shoulders and ribs you may only end up using two at a time. Still, I've loaded it up 30+lbs of meat at a time which for a product that often drops under $200 when on sale, is not bad at all.
4. Economy: It runs on electricity and with small amounts of wood relatively speaking. Rather than going through large amounts of wood and charcoal, you have a much more affordable smoke, which if you want to smoke regularly (or smoke small batches) is great.
5. Customer Support: You'll find repeated reviews of this online, but Masterbuilt's customer support is second to none. Its hard to find companies that stand behind their products the way Masterbuilt does. If something is defective, they will fix it with little to no questions asked.
So why don't I give it a 5 stars?
1. Size: Masterbuilt has a 40" version, but it is very hard to find. Really, if they made the 40" the standard, that extra little bit of space would allow you to use all four racks more often even with larger cuts.
2. Temperature Range: The Masterbuilt only goes up to 275. This is excellent for red meats which will often cook between 220 and 250 and fish, but not as good for poultry, where you want it up to 350 to get the fat in the skin to render (and avoid chewy skin).
3. Power: The Masterbuilt's electric heater sometimes doesn't seem to have quite enough oomph if you really load it with meat. I've had a hard time keeping the temp up when its full. There are people online who add their own heating elements to help boost it.
4. Needs direct plug: Masterbuilt requires you plug directly into an outlet. So, given the relatively short electrical cable that means you need to install an outdoors outlet if you believe them. I did use it fine with an industrial extension cord, but talking to their customer support, they felt it might be a reason for problem #3 above.
So, what do you have? A great form factor for a smoker, with good capacity, that maintains a set temperature, with multiple racks for different products, and that gives a consistently result. On the other hand, they have a slightly larger product that is only distributed much more limitedly, and they have odd limitations on the product based on max temp and wattage to the heating element. Given the price difference between the Masterbuilt and its nearest competitors, perhaps these limitations are forgivable. I still regularly recommend it to friends, and have many, including some who run a couple of well respected restaurants loving the products that come out.
Things I'd love to see from Masterbuilt as aftermarket products or even just upgrades:
1. External smoke box that attaches to the wood feed hole, so that you can do cold smokes for sausages, cheeses and salmon and other products.
2. A higher wattage heating element that can be swapped out for the standard one.
3. A higher max temperature so I don't need to take the chickens and game hens out 30 minutes before done and toss them in the oven to crisp the skins.
Regardless, to come full circle. If you want to dabble in smoking and are intimidated (which is easy), this is a perfect smoker to make things easy. And if you are experienced in smoking and just want to have either a more affordable smoke so you can do it more often, or a less labor intensive one, once in a while, this is the perfect supplement to your existing set up.