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Which should I choose?


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So, I’m looking to buy a smoker (as a gift for someone) but can’t see of my two options which is best. 

Options are the full size Bristol Drum Smoker or the Weber Smokey Mountain 57cm. 
It’s likely they would be using this often for large family gatherings hence the larger sizes. 

I’m looking for something fairly reliable and which would ideally be able to be left outside all year round. 

Has anyone got any experience of both/ either of these and able to shed some light on my decision? Or is there any other smoker you would recommend?


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Hi Agatha and welcome to the forum

Often the choice of smoker is down to an individual and, with regards to the end product, either of the ones that you mention will produce great BBQ. The main difference is often the skill of the person doing the BBQing (meat preparation, rub selection, coking times etc). Both of these brands are widely used at professional BBQ competitions, however so is the ProQ Excel. Often a competition team will have more than one brand of smoker running at the same time.


WSMs and ProQs in adjacent stands at BBQ competition

The Bristol Drum,  ProQ and WSM are all good for maintaining temperature control however there are differences when it comes to ease of use - mainly when it comes to getting access to the fire and the food.

With the Bristol Drum smoker all access is from the top and in order to get to the lower cooking grate you have to remove the top grate with whatever is cooking on it. To get to the fire basket you first have to remove both cooking grates. On the positive side it is a very simple design with few moving parts and minimal opportunity for leaking seals. These are generally the most fuel hungry smokers.

The Weber Smokey Mountain gives you more flexibility when accessing the fire basket as the main smoker body lifts off to give access. Limited access for adding more coals is also available during the cook through the large side access door. Because the main cooking chamber is a single barrel though, in order to get effective access to the food cooking on the bottom cooking grate you first have to remove whatever is cooking on the top grate. As with most Weber products the quality of manufacture is great and the seals between the base, main chamber and lid are good. The door seals well too and if you do find that over time there is some leakage this is easily rectified with some self adhesive stove rope.

The ProQ Excel is a similar general design to the WSM however the cooking chamber comes in two round sections that are firmly held together by spring clips. There are doors at both grate levels giving limited access to each cooking grate from the side. The modular rings construction though allows the main cooking chamber to be opened at multiple levels giving direct access to the fire basket and also to the food cooking on either of the cooking grates. Build quality is also good and, as with the WSM, any slight seal leakage over time can be easily rectified using stove rope.

There are others like, the Fornetto Razzo, which have recently come onto the UK market. The Razzo has a very similar design to the ProQ. Some members here have them but I have not used one and so cannot vouch for their build quality. I have seen them on display in a garden centre and it looked to be good.

Which one to go for? That is the question... I have used the drum smoker, WSM and ProQ with equally good results. Personally I prefer the ProQ as the greater flexibility makes it considerably easier to use. 

A possible perceived  "down side" with the ProQ is that the diameter is only 50cm (19.6 inches) whereas the Bristol Drum is 21.5" and the WSM is 22.5". Don't let this worry you though as these are all BIG cooking beasts. Unlike a grill BBQ, where you may want an extra few square centimetres for those extra couple of sausages, when smoking large lumps of meat (including brisket and meaty ribs) in a vertical smoker that is not an issue.

I hope this helps

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