Recently we purchased a new Masterbuilt propane fired vertical smoker unit. I'd been looking at them for some time, ever since we saw the units this spring when we visited the BassPro Shops in Foxboro. This one seemed like a pretty good value with some nice features and was in stock at HomeDepot for $179. I know that the hard-core only use charcoal or wood fired units to smoke meat. This unit is dual-fuel and can actually handle charcoal as well, though I really like the efficiency, stability and ease of the propane heat source.
For the first attempt I tried a bunch of different meats and filled the unit right up, though still not completely full, with a full rack of pork ribs, three chicken leg quarters and a couple polish sausages for good measure. I cranked the unit up on low which was a steady 200 degrees and filled it with soaked hickory and mesquite wood chips. The plan was to let it roll most of the day and that was what we did.
This unit uses a water pan over the heat source to infuse moisture and help maintain even heat as well as catch drippings. I've got to say it works pretty darn well. The only issue I had was keeping wood chips in it to maintain the smoke. They recommend the small chips but they really don't last long. I've also tried some slightly bigger ones and will probably further experiment. My initial results are showing that in the course of a six hour smoke I need to replace chips a few times.
In the future I'm going to start using some domestic wood (ie. harvested from the back yard) like maple or apple and see what I get for results. I've got to say that there is no easier way to grill chicken. No flame ups or burnt results and you can basically slow cook and set it up, go do your stuff for a couple hours and just check in on it periodically.
So far so good and the results have been pretty good. Not stellar, but not bad by any standard. A little more time and experimentation and we should be good to go.