The Bottom Line
- Lightweight and inexpensive
- Excellent for smoking fish, cheese or making jerky
- No temperature control
- Not really recommended for smoking large cuts of meat
- Single 450 watt heating element
- 576 square inches of smoking rack space
- 50 pound food capacity
- Aluminum construction
- Made in the United States by Smokehouse LLC.
Guide Review - Big Chief Front Load Smoker
Originating in the Pacific Northwest, the formerly known Luhr Jensen Smokers, were designed for smoking in the more classic, European understanding of the method, smoking as a way to food preservation. These smoker were not, and still are not made for traditional Southern Barbecue. You can use them to add smoke flavor to larger cuts of meat, everything from steaks to brisket, but you really can't use them for full cooking. So how would someone smoke a rack of ribs on a Big Chief Smoker? Just like normal. Prepare the ribs as usual. Preheat the smoker and add wood chips to the very little wood chip drawer. Place ribs in the smoker and smoke for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from smoker, wrap in foil and finish off in the oven. If this sounds like a travesty of barbecue, then buy something else. If you want to be able to smoke cheese and put some smoke flavor into your steaks, then you might want to take a close look at one of these, and at prices around $180USD for the Big Chief and $100USD for the Little Chief, the investment isn't much.
One of the things that makes this a great smoker is its shortcomings. The box of this smoker is a single layer of sheet aluminum which means that the 450 watt electric heating element can't keep up the heat unless you are smoking on a warm day. Fire this unit up on a cold day and you don't have a bad hot smoker, you have a great cold smoker. I noticed this many years ago when I thought it strange that a guy down the street would pull out his Big Chief Smoker in November and only fire it up on the coldest days, and run it for days. Of course he was taking advantage of the weather to smoke at low temperatures to cold smoke fish, like that traditional smoke salmon people buy in vacuum packs these days.
So the final word is that for making a good smoke brisket, this is largely a waste of money, but for smoking so many other things that do not fall into the category of traditional barbecue, this is the perfect smoker.