There was some minor assembly required. Plugging in and mounting the digital control panel, one way plug and one screw. VERY simple.
The packaging had some damage but the contents were not damaged in the least.
The directions tell you to season the smoker by letting it run at 275 degrees for 3 hours, adding wood chips for the last 15 minutes. However I would recommend a few additional cycles at 275 and lower, adding wood the entire time as needed to maintain a constant smoke. This will give you a better feel for the timing of adding wood chips to maintain your smoke, better familiarize yourself with the controls, and the more the smoker is used the better the food tastes!
So far I have smoked Salmon, Beef Ribs, Pork Ribs, Chicken Leg Quarters, and a Pork Shoulder.
All turned out excellent!
I have been smoking meats for years using real wood for the fire and water soaked chunks to generate the smoke. I would go thru 50 to 75 pounds of wood for my fire to keep a supply of coals to feed the smoker. Adding coals as needed to maintain my desired temperature. A "normal" smoke would take 12 to 16 hours of constant tending of the fire, watching the temp in the smoker, opening or closing vents adding chunks for smoke, lather rinse repeat.........
This smoker has put an end to all of that hard work. Pick the temperature that you desire, from 100 degrees to 275 degrees, pick the time that you wish to smoke, up to 24 hours, and let the smoker do the work.
It is NOT completely "set it and forget it". You are still required to add dry wood for smoke generation as needed. The intervals between adding chips is dependent upon your chosen temperature, the higher the temp the faster the wood smokes out and the sooner you will need to add more chips. The all day smoke of the pork shoulder at 225 degrees required additional wood every 45 minutes to an hour.
I say chips but you can use whatever form of wood that you prefer....... twigs, chips, chunks, pellets (food grade)..... As long as they are small enough to fit into the loading mechanism.
You load your chips into the barrel loader, insert barrel thru the right hand side of the unit until it stops, rotate 360 degrees to dump chips into the chip pan, and wait for the smoke to start. A note of caution, the handle of the barrel remains cool but the rest of the barrel WILL BE HOT!
I use dropped and trimmed limbs from the trees in my yard cut into pieces about the size of your thumb. They are Oak and Maple. To Smoke the shoulder all day took about half of a gallon pitcher filled with thumb size and smaller chunks of wood. Compared to burning 50 to 75 pounds of wood before to attain the same results is terrific!
This unit is also very well insulated. After several hours with the temperature set to 275 degrees the outer shell is barely warm to the touch!
There are four cooking racks inside. With the eleven pound shoulder I could only use three racks since the shoulder was taller than the spacing for the racks. It was a very thick shoulder.
If you have smoked meats before with charcoal or wood fires and you are used to seeing billowing white smoke from your soaked chunks of wood, don't be alarmed when you only see wisps of Thin Blue Smoke exiting the vent on the top. The smoke being generated is "just enough" smoke and no more. When you open the door to mop your ribs or spritz with apple juice you will be met with a cloud of smoke in the cabinet. The vent on top is the only place that you will see smoke escaping since the door has a gasket seal and an adjustable latch..... no smoke thru the door unless you open it.
The temperature recovery after opening the door is very quick. Within a matter of minutes it will return from 140 to 225.
Over all I would highly recommend this smoker to anyone wanting to smoke foods. Anyone from novice to pro can easily create great food in this unit!
Also with the ability to control the temperature down to 100 degrees you can smoke cheeses, nuts, and most anything else that you can think of including making fantastic jerky!