Reviewers praise the 18.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain as a reasonably priced charcoal smoker that can hold its own against models costing much more. One expert says the 18.5-inch Weber smoker can maintain lower cooking temperatures than its 22.5-inch counterpart (*Est. $400) (*Est. $400), an important factor because long, slow smoking produces the most flavorful foods. Like any charcoal smoker, the Weber Smokey Mountain requires continual monitoring of its fuel supply, but a hinged door (which one reviewer calls "slightly flimsy") makes it easy to restock charcoal as meat smokes. There's also a 10-year warranty against rust and burn-through. Weber added a thermometer to 2009 models, but we read complaints about its accuracy -- a common comment about built-in smoker thermometers in general. The more expensive large Big Green Egg (*Est. $750) has a lifetime warranty and can cook at an even lower constant temperature (150 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with 220 degrees for the 18.5-inch Weber).
No source covers more charcoal smokers than AmazingRibs.com, and reviewer Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn says the 18.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain is a great value for the price, although a tight fit for a full rack of ribs. Cook's Illustrated magazine's editors test the 18.5-inch Smokey Mountain along with two other smokers and rate and compare them. We found other credible reviews from About.com's Derrick Riches, Food & Wine magazine's Christine Quinlan and blogger Jason Perlow. TheNibble.com and ProPitmaster.com also offer brief reviews and recommendations. Amazon.com has more than 350 owner reviews, and Chowhound.com and Buzzillions.com offer more; most owners report a high degree of satisfaction with their Smokey Mountain smokers.
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Editors at Cook's Illustrated magazine tests three smokers, including the 18.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain. Editors evaluate ease of use, temperature control and the quality of the resulting smoked foods. Editors pay special attention to how much babysitting a smoker needs.
Review: Smokers, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, July 2010
Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn reviews charcoal smokers in a wide price range. The Weber Smokey Mountain is on the lower end of that price range but still gets a Hot Stuff award. He says the 18.5-inch model can cook at lower temperatures than the newer 22.5-incher, but it's hard to fit a full rack of ribs on the grate.
Review: Buying Guide, Reviews, and Ratings of Charcoal Smokers, Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn
About.com's guide to barbecues and grilling rates the Smokey Mountain a perfect 5 out of 5 stars. The only thing he finds to criticize is that the "front access door is a little flimsy" (this is the door where you add coals while it's in operation). (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5 Inch Smoker, Derrick Riches
Restaurant owner Phyllis Haskins joins the editors of TheNibble.com in naming the best smokers. They include the 22.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain and "any Weber kettle grill," along with the Big Green Egg.
Review: How to Make Barbecue, Page 7: Barbecue Classes, Books, Smokers, Phyllis Haskins
5. Food & Wine Magazine
The 22.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain is included among the best grills, smokers and infrared cookers in this review by Food & Wine magazine's Christine Quinlan. Each unit is briefly described, but no comparisons are made. Quinlan notes that Weber added a built-in thermometer to the Smokey Mountain smokers in 2009.
Review: Outdoor Cooking: Grills, Smokers and Infrared Cookers, Christine Quinlan, June 2009
Jason Perlow, founder of foodie website eGullet.com, says the Weber Smokey Mountain is "by far one of the best and most inexpensive setups you can use for amateur, home-style barbeque." But no other smokers are mentioned, and it's unclear how many models he's tried.
Review: Dead-Finger Tech: The Weber Smokey Mountain, Jason Perlow, July 2009
Konrad Haskins, the pitmaster who writes this blog, says he just looked at a buying guide for smokers that cost under $400 (perhaps at About.com), and he considers some of them "excellent choices." One of these is the Weber Smokey Mountain. Haskins doesn't give a size, but writes later that when buying a Weber kettle grill or smoker, "the bigger 22" version is almost always better."
Review: Best Smoker under $400, Konrad Haskins, Jan. 2010
More than 350 owner reviews combine to give both sizes of the Weber Smokey Mountain a very high average score, with more than 80 percent giving them the maximum rating. Even users who post critical comments say it's a good smoker -- they instead complain about a 2009 price increase.
Review: Weber 2820 Smokey Mountain Cooker/Smoker, Contributors to Amazon.com
A long discussion thread in this forum centers on the question of the best charcoal smoker. Lots of people name the Weber Smokey Mountain; a few recommend one of the Weber kettle grills with the Smokenator accessory.
Review: Charcoal Smoker Recommendations, Contributors to Chowhound.com
Of the approximately 50 owner reviews, only a couple give the Weber Smokey Mountain a rating of less than 4 out of 5 stars. Some of these reviews are old; references to the lack of a thermometer are no longer true.
Review: Weber 18.5 Inch Smokey Mountain Smoker Cooker -- 721001, Contributors to Buzzillions.com