I personally smoke some kind of meat at least a couple times a month. Since we are here in Texas, that is year round! I started smoking meat about 33 years ago. I got my first charcoal smoker as a wedding present from my father in law. I have personally gone through at least 12 different smokers. I have smoked meat on charcoal smokers, propane smokers, electric smokers, as well as a custom built trailered, wood smoker.
Back in 2003, my father in law “upgraded” me from a charcoal smoker to a propane smoker because one of his buddies said it did a really good job and made life much easier. I was very skeptical because I was violating the unwritten code of smoker purists. I have to tell you, I was hooked immediately. Once you get the temperature adjusted it is very easy to go back to the control knob and repeat the settings. The real advantage was, I could go back to sleep after putting the turkey on for Thanksgiving. I used this type of smoker for 10 years, smoking everything : brisket, turkey, sirloin, roast, chicken and some awesome standing rib roasts (prime rib), with great, consistent results.
Last week I purchased “Smoke Hollow PS 4400” Propane Gas Smoker from Sams Club. I don’t normally give endorsements (unpaid endorsement) to a store but in this case I will, because one of the benefits of buying from Warehouse Clubs is they tend to include a number of extras for no additional cost. The extra on this unit was a cover, Amazon priced it at $44.00.
This is a big smoker. It stands almost 4 feet tall. I could smoke four- 15lb turkeys or 21 racks of ribs. Because of the size of this smoker I would suggest that if you are a beginner smoker or your plans are for smoking a couple of turkey legs and a whole chicken once in a while this may be too big for your needs. However, as big as it is, it is still a nice size for your average patio.
Breakdown of the Smokers Components
This model comes with two doors, one for the food and the other for the water pan and wood chip pans. This model from Sams comes with a glass upper door. If you can afford a model with a glass door, it is well worth it. I like being able to see what is going on without opening the door and losing the heat. If you need to add water all you need to do is open the lower door and you don’t lose the heat in the upper cabinet.
This model does not come with door gaskets and every review I read talked about this. I was concerned about heat loss as well as smoke coming out around the door. Before I fired up the smoker the first time I applied a thin bead of high temp gasket maker material, left the door open for 24 hours to cure and didn’t have any problems with heat or smoke loss. The doors come with 3 adjustable door latches, two for the top door and one for the bottom. It gives a very secure fit.
The 4400 comes with two burners. I am not sure why because with one burner at medium I can reach 300 degrees. I smoke at 235 degrees. One possible use is this smoker comes with two fire chip pans and I suppose one could fill both pans with wood and when it is time to start the second round of smoke one would only need to turn off the first burner and start the second. Maybe an unintended benefit would be that there is a second burner if the first burner wears out.
Water and Fire pans:
Overall I am happy with the pans. The water pan holds approximately 1.25 gallons which gives about 4 hours cook time before refilling. The one suggestion I would give to you is when it is time to drain the pan, have a 5 gallon bucket close by to pour into. That way you don’t need to carry the greasy water where it can splash on you. Another suggestion is I triple layer my pans with foil to make it easier to clean up as well as it protect the pans from developing holes. After 33 years and 12 smokers, all pans will develop holes if you don’t protect them.
The fire pans are of a good size to hold a large amount of wood. The downside is that only the center 1/4 to 1/3 of the wood is used up. The outer perimeter creates charred wood. I don’t think it has a big overall effect but I like to use up material.
The overall measurements are 44″ x24″ x16″. It is tall enough to comfortably add or remove food items. The handles are a good height to make it easy for two people carry. It is not very heavy so it would be easy to move short distances.
The legs create a wide enough footprint to give it stability, but as with the rest of the construction the legs are made with light weight steel and it will not take a lot of rough handling i.e. in the back of a pickup; off road.
This smoker comes with 5 racks: two regular, two jerky racks and one rib rack that will hold 7 racks of ribs or it can be turned over and used as a regular rack. If you are going to use the jerky racks for something other than jerky I would suggest a sheet a foil to prevent sticking to the racks, because it is a pain to clean the racks.
I was pleasantly surprised at how accurate the temperature gauge was. In a side by side comparison with a digital probe it was only off by 5 degrees. I did find that it was 15 degrees cooler at the bottom of the cabinet.
The smoker comes with a drip pan although it didn’t catch any drips. There is a large vent hole on the bottom that pan does not cover and this is where the grease dripped out. I solved the problem by putting an old tray under the smoker.
When I purchased the smoker I was asked if I want a new in box or a floor model. I didn’t want to put it together, so I gladly took the floor model. That said, I don’t know the ease of installation but from everything I read it takes about 1.5 hours without too much difficulty.
I like this smoker. There are some flaws in design but nothing that can’t be fixed inexpensively. I would definitely make or buy a gasket to help retain the heat and smoke. I would keep a tray under it, especially if you keep this on the patio. And finally wrap the water and fire pans to ease the cleaning as well as prolonging their life. I am looking forward to many years of good smoked meals with this smoker.