Initial Review; This is my first smoker, and I've only cured it and used it one time. I'm afraid I jumped on this due to the price, before I had researched smokers. This is rare for me, but I was mainly looking for something with more flexibility than my Son of Hibachi. The Son of Hibachi is great for grilling, but I wanted to do some smoking as well, with the ability to also grill larger quantities than the Hibachi will handle.. What I have found, is that this smoker has all of the short-comings of typical off-set smokers, and that all of those short-comings are made worse by small size and relatively thin metal. I cured it, as per the directions on page 3 of the manual, using charcoal in the firebox. I then added more charcoal, and rolled right into smoking some boneless chicken thighs, a pork roast, and a tri-tip. I used a mixture of hickory and cherry chunks. I put two 8x8 aluminum pans underneath the grills, and a 4x8 loaf pan as well, to catch drippings. I found that, with charcoal, I was having trouble getting the temperature up on the grill. I found that the grill temperature, right underneath the thermometer, was much lower than the temperature indicated on the thermometer. 300 on the thermometer resulted in 200 at the grill surface. I found that the area next to the firebox cooked very quickly, cooked more like grilling than smoking, while the area opposite the firebox remains pretty cool, to the point I could touch the grills. Until I pushed the temperature to 350 with a resulting 225-250 at the grill, the food in the middle did not cook. I wound up relying solely on wood to keep the heat up, and had no issues with temperatures being too low once I did this. Due to the small size of the wood chucks I was using, I wound up having to use a lot more wood than I expected. After a couple of hours of this, I wound up with perfectly cooked chicken thighs, but the other meat had an interior temp of only 120F. If I had had more time, I would have continued smoking and eventually gotten the tri-tip and roast up to temp, but instead, I put the remaining meat in the oven and finished it that way. All of the meat turned out delicious. The roast and tri-tip had very nice smoke-rings. I was very pleased with the way the food turned out. If I did not plan to try some modifications, I think I would use mainly charcoal for fuel, and put some charcoal in the smoker chamber to bring temps up in the far end. My plan is to try putting a baffle in, mainly to shield the food from the direct heat of the firebox, but also to move the heat entry point more toward the middle of the smoker area. I also plan to extend the smoker chimney down closer to the grill, to force the smoke down there. I also plan to find a basket so I can use the Minion Method of fueling the smoker. I feel that these additions will greatly aid the ease of use of the smoker. I do wish Char-Broil would cure the paint in-house. I feel it is impossible to cure the paint at home from the inside nearly as well as could be done in an oven big enough to hold the parts. I feel that curing issues are a large part of the paint complaints received. I'm not sure that, had I done more research, that I would still buy this smoker, but for the money, I feel it is worthwhile. Update; I have since smoked a 4 lb pork shoulder and smoked and grilled some burgers. To smoke the pork shoulder, I took two disposable bread-loaf pans, of the 4x8 variety, punched holes in them for ventilation, and loaded each with charcoal. I tilted the pans and laid the charcoal on it's side in a sort of chevron pattern. I then put another layer of charcoal on top of that in the same pattern. I also cut 3/4 of the bottom out of a mini-loaf pan of the 3x6 variety, and bent the flap of remaining material up to extend the heat shield/baffle. I then put the loaf pan in the hole between the fire-box and smoker chamber with the flap portion up, and expanded the pan to lodge in the opening. This made a nice baffle and heat shield. I then put the two pans in the smoker and lit one end of the briquettes using a blow torch. I lit the 4 briquettes on top at the end closest to the smoker chamber, so the flame had to work back toward the vent. After those briquettes were well lit, and the temperature started coming up in the smoker chamber, I put the un-seasoned pork shoulder in the middle of the smoker, over a foil pan to catch the drippings. I put some cherry wood on the lit briquettes as well as the unlit ones, and let the meat smoke. After about 30 to 45 minutes, all of the briquettes in the pan were lit, and I had to use the air register to keep the heat down. Occasionally I would put a couple of pieces of wood on the briquettes to keep the smoke going. Occasionally I would put a chunk of hickory in, but the smoke was mainly from cherry. With this method, after 3 hours of smoking, the charcoal was still going. I would have left the meat in the smoker, but it was bed time, so I put the pork shoulder in a slow cooker on low while I slept. I put a half cup of water in as well as the drippings from the pork. The next morning, the pork shoulder was fork tender and was easily pulled apart. I had some for breakfast, gave some to a friend to try, and had some more for supper. It was one of the best I've ever had. It was hard to believe the flavor was only smoke and natural pork juices. My friend raved about it. For the burgers, I just put about 30 briquettes in the firebox, lit them, and when fully lit, spread them out and put 8 seasoned patties in the smoker chamber. I smoked the patties using mainly cherry with some hickory, for about 30 minutes. The patties closest to the firebox needed to be flipped at 15 minutes, and were pretty much done at 30. I finished grilling them in the firebox grill, and then grilled all the rest of the patties in turn in the firebox, returning them to the smoker to keep them warm when they were finished. These burgers turned out fabulously! Update2; I smoked a brisket this weekend. This time, I made two additions to my smoker. The first is a Maverick Et 733 Wireless BBQ Meat Thermometer. This lets me see the actual temperature the meat is seeing, as well as the meat internal temp, without having to constantly go out to the smoker. This is a must have item, no matter what smoker you use. I am very much enjoying this purchase. The second was a FDS-875 Stainless Steel Floor Drain Strainer. This is a perforated pan that fits into the firebox and allows one to put a lot more charcoal in for 4 hours worth of heat. It also makes cleanup easier. I have put a photograph of it in the customer images section. I purchased this off of ebay for $20. I have settled on a method of smoking large cuts of meat, where I smoke the meat until the heat dies off, and then put it in a slow-cooker to finish it. This has worked great for pork shoulder and brisket.
Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2014 by Wells Bengston