We tested out my MIL's new smoker this weekend.
It is a New Braunfels and she got it for around $400 from Academy. Here is a pic (hopefully).
We cooked a brisket, a boston butt, some country style pork ribs, and some riblets over the weekend on it. Here are my thoughts on it as compared with the smoker that we use.
1. CON: Temperature guage is set too high. It is almost at the tallest point of the door, so it is measuring the temp too high, not at the grate level.
2. CON: Very responsive to temperature change. We found that we had to watch the fire carefully or we had extreme temperature fluctuations. Ours is reverse flow and larger, so this may explain why we do not experience these extremes.
3. CON: wooded handles got hot very quickly and were somewhat akward.
4. PRO: thicker metal than on a lot of other smokers
5. PRO: doors were easy to open as far as weight was concerned
6. PRO: Fire box had two doors for access and had a grating you could put inside to use firebox as a grill
7. CON: Fire box was small and you had to cut your wood smaller than normal.
All in all, it was not a bad smoker, but after getting used to our large reverse flow, I don't think we could go back. Well, that's not true. We could go back - it would just take a lot of getting used to.
As far as food was concerned, so-so is what I thought. I think the ribs got a bit overdone. The boston butt was definately better than the pork picnic I did the other day. We took it off the smoker at 170 degrees per my MIL's instruction. She considered it a roast and wanted it cooked accordingly. The brisket had a decent flavor, but was not very tender. We smoked it for around 13 hours, but because I did not have my thermeters there, I cannot vouch for temps. My SIL brought the brisket, so it was not one we picked out. Could have been a bad brisket, could have not been cooked long enough, or the temperature spikes during cooking could all have affected it.