Upgrade from Coolabah/Hark Single door

  • Hi all,

    Looking to upgrade from the cheap Aldi jobby I got on clearance years ago.

    I was never really happy with the way it used wood chips, so I added a smokai to the side that I used to generate the smoke for both hot and cold smoking which works a treat, and always struggled with holding temperature's steady so I put together a needle valve, gas solenoid and PID controller to regulate the gas into the burner which also works surprisingly accurately, usually able to hold within .5C to 1C.

    Its been a good little unit for the whole $69 (nice) I paid for it on clearance years ago at Aldi Ringwood and churned out some great bacon, but I'm looking to upgrade for 2 reasons:

    1. I need something bigger (mostly wider). I'm being asked by the family for bacon and smoked chicken more often, coolabah only has 2 racks which I know I can get more of, but they are still small. I've started doing smoked salmon sides and they don't fit

    2. Something insulated that I can hot smoke in in cold weather. It may be my mistake but the last time I smoked in really cold weather a few of my chicken breasts went black from creosote (least I think that's what it is) and we're bitter, so I had to cut all those bits out. The coolabah drops temp dramatically with even a breeze so something that can resist that a bit more would be good.

    I have a masterbuilt 1050 that I know I could use for this, but I'm looking to have something more dedicated for the cured meats stuff that I can also use as a cold smoke chamber that doesn't take up too much space, so I've been looking at vertical smokers, mostly the Hark Big Boss and the Louisiana Grills Series 4 at Costco.

    I've only used gas in the cabinet and that's what I'm familiar with, and use lumberjack pellets in the smokai, but I have no experience with pellets grills/smokers.

    What's best in this situation? Are pellets more expensive to run then gas? Which ones cook more evenly? What would you buy instead that maybe I've missed?


  • Pellet BBQs won't impart the level of smoke that you get from the upright gas smoker. The pellet fire (once it gets going) burns clean.

    If you like the smokey flavour you really need a BBQ that lets the wood smoulder.

    Of course you could add the smokai to anything to achieve your flavour profile and the cold smoking option. If this is the plan, then the LG vertical pellet BBQ at costco would seem ideal in terms of your feature list. I have no first hand experience with it, but have eyed it more than once as I really like the size and shape of it.

    As far as costs, pellets are not very expensive these days.

    Masterbuilt Gravity 800 | Maximus Pizza Oven | GMG - Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Blackstone Griddle | Fire Pit | Weber Genesis |

  • I always wanted one of those Louisana Vertical pellet grills from costco. Pre-covid I was making many slabs of bacon at a time and that grill would be ideal for that, and for lots of jerky!

    I'm not sure how it would go as a cold smoker though, some pellet grills have a cold smoke function which just runs the fan to circulate air but I doubt that one has it.

    A Pit Barrel (or any other barrel cooker) can be used and modified to do hot/cold smoking and you can hang a lot of stuff vertically. :shrug:

    If you really just need a dedicated cold smoker then you could probably easily make something. Any sort of cabinet with airflow and a smoke generator will do.

    Royal Kamado, Primo Oval XL, Akorn jr, GMG Daniel Boone and Pit Barrel Cooker

  • Cheers Narm and Kooka!

    I typically hot smoke my bacon low (80C to 90C) as that's what I preferred when I tested methods.

    You're definitely right about being able to get away with a cold smoking cabinet much cheaper than the pellet grill. I guess I'm trying have a cabinet that can do it all, hot and cold. I'm also not sure about how easy it is to attach the smokai to the LG vertical, to the hark it's easy.

    The only other thing is cost to run, I'm not sure if gas or pellets are cheaper to run these days.

  • , I'm not sure if gas or pellets are cheaper to run these days

    At smoking temperatures you're generally using minimal fuel. At roasting temps you will use more and this is where the price difference might be a dollars or two as opposed to cents. Either way, I wouldn't let that drive your decision. The cheapest BBQs to run (by far) are kamados. Their insulation and reduced air flow mean that once target temps are reached minimal fuel will be used to maintain it. But they won't do your cold smoking as well as the other options and temp control can take a little to get used to.

    I think you've narrowed it down to two good options. I've liked the Costco one for a while, the hark might be more similar (thus safer) to what you have. Being biased I'd go pellet, but I'm not a fan of strong smoke flavour.

    Masterbuilt Gravity 800 | Maximus Pizza Oven | GMG - Daniel Boone | Cyprus Grill | Big Steel Keg | Blackstone Griddle | Fire Pit | Weber Genesis |

  • the nice thing about the square box is, it would be easy to add insulation

    I think he scored a box smoker with insulation included. ;)

    Was nice to meet Bigadz and help him out with a solution.......My Masterbuilt Thermotemp XL 40" gasser should suit his needs well.

    Z Grill MINI.....Aldi Gasser.......Thermoworks Smoke...., Masterbuilt portable Charcoal Grill.

  • Sorry for such a long time between posts!

    I had the pleasure of meeting gourmetgalaxy who fixed me up with his 40" Masterbuilt XL gasser.

    If there was ever a bloke you could sit there and talk this stuff all day with its definitely Rusty, he had so much knowledge and so many stories that he was more than willing to share with me. An absolute champion of a man.

    It was within 15mins of getting the smoker home that I started molesting it with a 3L smokai magnum, threw some brine cured chicken breasts on it for sandwiches and 2 slabs of bacon and gotta admit it worked a bloody treat!

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