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.
on April 22, 2010
A friend of mine has a Masterbuilt smoker that looks very similar to this one and it works very well. His experience, along with everything I've read is very positive for all Masterbuilt smokers, with the notable exception of heating element replacement. Given that, my decision on which model to purchase will be based on whether the heating element can be replaced without replacing a large segment of the smoker.
From my research it seems the heating element is the one part that's most likely to fail, so you'd expect them to be replaceable. After reading in these Amazon reviews that the heating element of this model may not be replaceable, I swapped e-mail with a Masterbuilt rep and here's what I found.
The rep claimed the heating element can be replaced on all of their smokers, although some require a new body assembly - and replacement parts are no longer made or stocked for some of their older models. All of the electric smokers sold on their website allow for replacement of just the heating element. The heating element of this model (#20070106) requires a new body. (sixty bucks plus s&h)
The rep made it clear that model #20070910 is their newest 'standard' 30" electric smoker, and it does allow for easy replacement of just the heating element. It's hard to find on their website, so just search the web for the model #.
The rep also told me there's no way to know when a particular smoker, and thus replacement parts, will be phased out. She said some of their models have been sold for over five years, implying that's a long time.
The following models were mentioned in our correspondence.
30" Electric Smokers
> Model #20070106; sold here on Amazon.
For heating element replacement, you must replace the entire body - and the customer can do this. The cost for the new body is $60.00 plus shipping and handling.
> Model #20070110; smoker with window and meat probe
The heating element alone can be replaced by the customer.
> Model #20070910; standard 30" edition
The heating element alone can be replaced by the customer.
40" Electric Smokers
> Model #20070710; smoker with window and meat probe
The heating element alone can be replaced by the customer.
The rep I corresponded with was very helpful, and I still plan on purchasing a Masterbuilt smoker - just not this one.
on January 20, 2011
I am not an expert but a consumer that does a lot of research before buying something like this. This model has many improvements over the "Non-RF" model:
1) Wheels that work when the unit is tilted, (caveat: the slide on grease drip tray must be removed before you can tilt and roll.)
2) A light inside the unit, (caveat, It's a little hard to see the meat with the smoke and smoke "grim" on the inside of the huge window but still very nice feature.)
3) The meat thermometer. It is a real needed item on this type of smoker. You never have to open the door to check the temperature. *I double checked it against my own digital thermometer and it runs true within a degree or two.
4) A handheld remote control. No AAA batteries included, (2 req.) You can program the time & temp as well as check the meat probe temp & switch the light on & off. You cannot see the current temp of the smoker, i.e.; watch it rise to the temp you set. To do this just look at the display on top of the unit for this info. Speaking of the top digital unit; it automatically alternates between the time left on the smoker and the current temp of the smoker. To see the meat probe temp, just push the temp button once.
The unit is well insulated and comes up to temp well within a reasonable time, (outside air temp = 46 degrees. The smoker came up to temp of 225 degrees within 17 minutes.) The unit appears well built and of solid construction. I did have a small warpage of the bottom back portion of the back metal panel. This impeded the grease tray a little. This could have been due to the shipper, (Fed Ex) but the unit very well packed. Assembly took 15 minutes. Very simple. The chip tray feature will lock in place after you dump a load into the smoker and the alignment mark for new chips is an easy step to miss when reloading, no bigge. It uses no more than one cup of chips at a time and seems to take a while at 225 degrees to burn them. The racks, water pan, grease pan all are easy to remove and somewhat easy to clean. The nice feature of the bottom grease pan is it is tilted to the back grease trap and comes out for easy cleaning. Overall, I like to keep my tools clean and I spent 15 minutes cleaning this unit, not bad.
I smoked two racks of baby back ribs last night and the unit seemed to cook it faster than expected. The internal temp was reached prior to the time I set. Of course it is not an exact science but the ribs were well smoked and delicious. I used hickory with some mesquite chips and the smoke flavor was strong. Mesquite sucks as opinionated by a lot of "experts." I also smoke some pork bellies, (bacon) that I had cured and they will be tried tomorrow after a 24 sit in the fridge. I am now smoking a brisket and we will see how it does. All in all I am very pleased with this unit and all the new features. I am really liking the fact that I can check the internal temp of the meat by using the remote. I can be doing something elsewhere and always click the "meat probe" button on the remote and know when its time to stop the smoking process. pros: all the features that you want from a smoker of this caliber, well built and good smoke. Cons, can't see the current temp of the smoker on the remote, just the "set" temp. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a smoker in this class.
on January 7, 2013
i purchased this smoker last week and have already cooked 5 boston butts on it. They turned out excellent, juicy, moist, and evenly cooked. I have been smoking and cooking barbecue for 50 years and my most recent smoker was an LP smoker. The burner went out on it and the parts were too expensive to repair it. So, I started looking for the best small smoker that I could find for the money. I came upon this one and read reviews, specifications, and design.
I cooked five boston butts on this cooker yesterday and used $0.81 cents of electricity (@$0.11 cents per kwh). Cheaper than gas!!! I am excited about this cooker. The remote control is outstanding!! I will try to include pictures of the cooked butts!!!
F.Y.I A LOT OF THE BAD REVIEWS ARE ON THE OLDER MODEL SMOKER. THIS IS THE NEWER MODEL AND YOU CAN BUY AND REPLACE THE HEATING ELEMENT IF IT EVER BURNT OUT.
this masterbuilt smoker works great for me even when using a extension cord. but if using one it be must be able to handle the power the smoker requires. I used a regular outdoor cord and it took my smoker forever to heat up. I ended up buying a (Yellow Jacket 2883 12/3 Heavy-Duty 15-Amp SJTW Contractor Extension Cord with Lighted Ends,25-Feet) bought on amazon and smoker heated up quick & worked it the way it was meant to work. this smoker is very easy to use and puts out good smoke although it does not put out smoke with temps under 200F not sure if that's because I use wet chips I haven't tried using dry chips yet. I'm very happy with this smoker so far I've only smoked ribs & chicken and turned out very good. there has been a lot of reviews about getting parts for this smoker & dealing with Masterbuilt customer service. I haven't dealt with C/S so I don't know about that as far as finding parts I found a place on the internet called APPLIANCE FACTORY PARTS that sells parts for model# 20070106 & model# 200709010 also I did not buy this smoker from Amazon got mine at WM but thought I would write a review anyway and I payed the same price that amazon sells it for but it took 2 weeks to get it from them.
6 MONTH UPDATE 11/23/12
well after 6 months and 200+ hours of smoking time, this smoker still works great. I've smoked snacking sticks, summer sausage, pulled pork, chicken, ribs, Canadian bacon,turkey, and venison and all turned out great. I never had any problems with the heating element, digital timer, or any other part of this smoker. as far as smoking/cooking I've never set the temp higher then 225 F when smoking, after a few hours of smoke I'll drop the temp down to 200 to 210 F to finish cooking, and use a wireless digital meat thermometer. I've kept mine outside all summer/fall and haven't noticed any signs of rust or any other signs of damage but I have a good cover for it. but I'll keep in the garage/shed over the winter. the cover I bought for this smoker is the Veranda Square 30" Smoker Cover for Price: $29.00 bought on amazon its a great cover. love this smoker. just remember keep it clean buy a water proof cover, if kept outside. if going to use a extension cord I recommend this one. Yellow Jacket 2883 12/3 Heavy-Duty 15-Amp SJTW Contractor Extension Cord with Lighted Ends, 25-Feet. I will UPDATE in another 6 months.
1 1/2 YEAR UPDATE
well after 1 1/2 years of use about 450+ hours this smoker still works great never had any problems at all with it. I did buy the cold smoker adapter for it and that works GREAT, I don't put chips in the main smoker anymore. the cold smoker adapter holds a lot more chips about three good handfuls and produces longer and better smoke then just using chips in the main smoker. you can run the main smoker and the cold smoker at the same time even when using a extension cord in fact I can run the main smoker, cold smoker and my Weber rotisserie at the same time without any problems. the extension I use is a (Yellow Jacket 2883 12/3 Heavy-Duty 15-Amp SJTW Contractor Extension Cord with Lighted Ends 25-Feet) and a ( yellow jacket 2' three plug adapter. again if you plan on keeping it outside make sure you buy a good waterproof cover the black masterbuilt cover is worthless. also I would not keep it outside in freezing weather the cold could damage the digital timer / temp gauge. I keep mine in the basement in the winter months when not in use and never had any smoke smells coming from it.
on September 7, 2012
I thoroughly investigated this product before buying it. I was aware of the complaints from some reviewers and now that I have the product and have used it I'd like to address some of the issues. By the way, the company seems to continually make changes to their products so it's important to know which model # you're getting. Mine is model #20070311 purchased 9/5/2012.
Customer Service; I had some questions before and after sale. I emailed customer service and at their suggestion also called technical support. I had no problem getting an email response or in getting through to technical support. The representatives were pleasant, patient, helpful and knowledgeable I thought. I found them very easy to deal with and anxious to please.
Door gasket seal and latch: The latch is adjustable and the manual suggests adjusting it as necessary to get the right amount of closing force. The door gasket seems to be a silicone product, not rubber as some people indicated (that would melt and smell). It seems adequate to the task, however I do have a small gap (1/32") at the top of the door which no amount of latch adjustment will close. Tech support indicated that the seal is not designed to be airtight and a certain amount of heat and smoke leakage is normal and can be expected. I sent them a picture of it and together we will decide whether the gap will appreciably affect smoker performance in winter.
Yesterday I cooked two pork shoulders and a brisket; the smoker produced plenty of smoke and readily maintained the set temperature even though a small amount of smoke (and presumably heat) leaked from the top of the door. When I opened the door after a few hours' cooking to insert the meat probe, a quantity of smoke and steam billowed out; this unit does what it's supposed to.
Controls: I found the remote works really well even from inside our house when the MES is parked on the opposite side of our garage. Both the remote and the control unit have buttons to turn the smoker on and off (just be careful not to accidentally hit the remote's Power Off button because as some people noted, this turns off the smoker, not just the remote!), set and change the desired temperature and cooking time and turn the inside light on and off.
Displays: The control unit LCD alternatively displays remaining cooking time and smoker internal temperature. The remote's LCD displays both remaining time and set temperature separately, as well as indicating when the heater is operating. On the remote, to have it display the internal current temperature of the smoker, you can hit the Temp Set button twice and for a few seconds the temperature display will alternate between the set temp and the current internal temp. And of course on both the control unit and the remote, hitting the 'Meat Probe' button causes it to display the internal temp of the meat the probe is stuck into. I can't think of what more you would want from the controls except for an audible or visual indication of set temp being reached or the unit turning itself off.
Setting the temperature: When setting the heater temperature, the display starts at 100 degrees. Using the + button will increase the temperature, but if you want a high temperature rather than scroll all the way through the temp range, just hit the - button and it will jump to 275 and go down from there.
Cold smoking: The temperature range of the unit is 100 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures below 180, the wood chips will not ignite, so no smoke is produced. I asked the customer rep about using an aftermarket smoke machine for cold smoking and discovered they have an electric Cold Smoker that attaches to the 30" or 40" Electric Smoker (where the chip loader usually goes) for $69.95 plus shipping available from them or at Bass Pro shops.
Metallic taste from the chip loader paint: my chip loader isn't painted on any part of it that goes into the smoker, so I'm not expecting that to be an issue. Maybe earlier models had that problem but mine doesn't. Time will tell if I develop a metallic taste otherwise and I'll update the review if that happens.
Assembly: Not difficult but allow at least 30 minutes as some of the screw or bolt holes don't readily line up the first time. Also, the instructions on how to mount the water bowl are kind of vague and make it look like you balance it on top of the wood chip burner but it actually fits into some indents in the bottom part of the bracket that holds the racks; once you realize this it's a no-brainer.
Update: I made the mistake of completely filling the water bowl, resulting in it overflowing and making a mess on the bottom of the smoker. This is because the water bowl also acts to catch much of the drippings from the meat. In the future I'll just fill it half way and try that; in the 10 hours of smoking yesterday, the smoker produced plenty of moist smoke and steam but the water level didn't ever drop below the rim.
Wheels and brackets; seem plenty sturdy - I haven't had a problem with them.
Drip pan drain; there's a drain hole at the back of the pan that lines up with the tube that drains any drippings and fluids to the outside rear of the unit. If the pan is in backwards or the MES is tilted forward, then these fluids can instead drain out the front through the door seal. This isn't a defect - you just need to get the pan in the right way and have the smoker level then you shouldn't have any problem. The pan itself has a lip on the front that causes it to tilt toward the back of the unit; it's pretty obvious which way it's supposed to go in I think and you don't need to actually tip the smoker backwards to get the desired drainage. Be sure to periodically empty the grease tray at the back (outside) of the unit because the smoker produces a prodigious amount of delicious drippings...we had to drain ours (with a baster) while cooking 20+ lbs of pork and brisket.
Bottom line is that I don't expect perfection from any product, particularly one priced this well and with so many features. As long as the company stands behind its product with good customer support, I can tolerate the inevitable issues that will arise from time to time with any mechanical / electrical / electronic device. So far, I'm pleased with my purchase and I've had a good experience dealing with the company. I'll let you know if that changes.
on January 26, 2009
This used to be a five star review for Masterbuilt with me raving about the awesome customer service I received from them.
I hate to do this but times have changed and so has the service. I have read numerous accounts here and on a smoking forum I frequent of smoker owners with bad units being ignored. This is an awesome unit when it works but the weak link is the heating element and when it goes bad there is no replacement offered. This fault has been problematic since the first models and as far as I can tell not addressed. I'm guessing there are too many bad units in the field to repair now and the company is providing no solution or repair.
Before you buy check the warranty to see what the company will do for you should the element go bad. Maybe Masterbuilt will get back to taking care of the customer, I certainly hope so but seems now they have joined the majority of producers who only have eyes for the bank once the money is in their hands. Pity.
I used to be a hardcore dyed-in-the-wool charcoal pit smoker. I decided to take the leap with an electric smoker after checking out the reviews on this machine and thinking to myself, "man it sure would be nice not to have to worry about tending the fire".
This baby does the job and it has tons of room. My first smoke (after curing per instructions) was huge. I did 2 briskets, 2 full racks of ribs and 8 chicken quarters (see product shots) over apple wood. Smoke permeation level was exceptional. The manual recommends adding a new wood chip dose (via the convenient external access wood chip tray) every two hours. I did exactly that for a total of 3 doses of chips over 7 hours @ 200 degrees. The results were phenomenal.
The window, remote control, internal light are all exceptional features. Other than refilling the chip tray, I never had to go outside to tend the smoke once. I could easily monitor the smoke level inside via the window and the light with the remote control.
Excellent machine. Very happy with the purchase and seems to be well made. I'm a little worried about the heating element going out based on other reviews, but as mine is brand new everything seems to be in order now. I'll check back in after a few months to a year and update.
It held temperature within 2 degrees for the entire cook.
One sort of odd caveat I had to figure out was that you have to set BOTH temperature AND time for your cook. If you only set temp the unit won't start and it will shut off when the timer expires.
My dog LOVED the easy access to the drip pan in the back. Thanks to him I never had to empty it :)
You can't go wrong with this unit. Would easily buy again.
on May 15, 2011
I'm very pleased with this unit and have been using it a great deal. So far I have smoked eight racks of beef ribs, two sirlion tip roasts, hot peppers, corn, and black tipped shark!
I love my beef roasts rare and really appreciate how easy it is to get good results with the temp control and the internal meat probe this unit has. The remote control allows me to keep a close eye on things without being tied to the thing. A very nice feature.
I feel that this was a good purchase and represents an excellent value. It will see a lot of use!
***I just wanted to add a quick edit*** here to address what some others have been saying about the remote control.
While it is not obvious, you CAN get the temp reading for the inside of the smoker on the remote and it can be done in two ways:
Either push the temp set button twice which will cause the readout to flash between the temp setting and the actual temperature inside the smoker for ten seconds or so.
The other and best way is to press the meat probe button once which will cause the meat probe reading to be displayed and then smoker temp set and actual smoker temp reading to alternate on the remote display. It does not matter if you are actually using the meat probe for this to work.
The issue of the window getting too dirty to see through is a bit over blown. I find it easy to clean with some warm water and mild dish soap. The grime softens as you repeat the task of wiping it down a few times. The same thing for the light.
Hope these tips are helpful for everyone to fully enjoy this gem of a smoker. I love it more with each use.
on November 24, 2011
This is now my third smoker, and probably my last (assuming it keeps working flawlessly as it has been). Before this I had a cheapo Brinkmann electric smoker, and then a Weber Smokey Mountain. I've only had this unit for about 3 weeks now, but I've smoked probably 7-8 different items on it, and here is my opinion on the unit itself.
LCD control - makes this thing brain-dead simple to use. Set the temp/time and it continuously cycles the heat on/off to maintain this temp to within several degrees. Also has things like a light to turn on, as well as a built-in meat probe to check the temps on.
Remote - Love, love, love this feature. Allows you to change the time/temp away from the unit. My favorite part of it, however, is that you can check the internal temp of whatever you're smoking if you're using the built-in thermometer. Very handy.
Wood chip side-loader - why don't more companies do this? Makes it sooo easy to add chips without losing heat. My biggest frustration with the last two smokers was that you had this tiny, tiny door that you were somehow supposed to fit a fistful of chips through without burning yourself. Thank you, Masterbuilt, for being the first ones to realize this flaw.
Window - I've had no issues with mine smoking up during using. I suspect people that are getting heavy grime build-up during their smoking is allowing too much smoke to be produced (you want a very thin, light amount of smoke - thick rolls of white smoke will make very bitter food).
On/off on remote - this turns the actual smoker on/off itself. Once the smoker and remote are on, the controller cannot be turned off. Very annoying.. I still can't fathom a single reason why you would want to turn off the smoker from a distance, but I CAN think of why you'd want to turn off the remote when you aren't checking/changing anything.
Timed on/off for heating - you have to set a specific time on the timer before it'll heat. If this timer runs out, the heat turns off. I just don't get this 'feature'. I have no idea how long something is going to take to smoke, and if I set it to 5 hrs and it takes me 6.. it'll just turn off after 5. It's just a 'feature' that gets in the way because I always set my smoker to 24 hours and then turn it off myself when it's done.
Size - the length and width dimensions on this thing are spot-on, but I really wish Masterbuilt would've made it a few inches deeper. For reference, I just threw in a 13 lb turkey and that's about as large as you can fit. At 13 lbs, it's already pressed against the back wall of the smoker. Slightly disappointing for the large size as I would've liked to smoke our 18-20 lb turkeys in it.
Build quality - for the price, I feel like the unit could be sturdier. Lots of parts are held together by two screws that bend when in use. The wheels also squeal after using it for a few times. Also, the seal on my door doesn't fully seal (I've adjusted the latch and door to no avail). I emailed Masterbuilt and they got back to me promptly offering to replace it for free, so +1 to their CS.
Heat retention - this unit has very little in terms of heat retention. If you open the door for a few seconds to add something or whatnot, it will literally lose 50* or more (and this is on a decent day, say 50-60* outside). I wish they had lined this thing with some lava rock or something so that it would retain heat when the door opened.
Overall, I would highly recommend this smoker despite a few flaws it has (in my opinion). I've produced some great results with it, and it has immensely simplified the work needed to properly smoke something.
********************* UPDATE *******************************************
After having this thing for about two months now, I'm demoting it from 4* to 3*.
1) The build quality on this thing is really suspect, as I noticed previously. The wheels now squeal terribly whenever it's used, and they're rickety. Furthermore, after maybe my 10th smoke on this thing, the light bulb has either burned out or just stopped working.
2) The unit originally came with a door seal that didn't seal the top of the door fully. I emailed Masterbuilt about this, and they told me it was normal (it's not, they lied to me). I found out it wasn't normal, they said they'd ship me a new one right away.. 6+ weeks later, no sign of it, no shipping information, no email back from Masterbuilt.