The Bottom Line
The Meco 5030 Combination electric smoker/grill is a small vertical water smoker that can be converted into a small portable electric grill. The base of the unit is a three-legged, round unit, about 15 1/2 inches in diameter. The barrel of the smoker fits into this with its two cooking grates and a small water pan. On top goes the dual vented lid. Sounds simple enough, right?
These type of smokers have been around for a long time and in general, they are large enough to make some good barbecue and easy enough to use to make it fun. This smoker is almost large enough and almost easy enough, but not quite.
- Inexpensive electric smoker
- Converts to an electric portable grill
- Poorly engineered and constructed
- Small cooking grates make smoking large foods almost impossible
- Clumsy vents and doors
- Difficult assembly
- You have to disassemble part of the grill to get the drip pan out
- 351 square inches of total cooking space
- 1650 Watt electric heating element
- Top Rack mounted temperature gauge
- Three part vertical water smoker with lock in place sections
- Two 15 12-inch chrome steel cooking grates
- Converts to an electric grill
- Made in the USA by the Meco Corporation
Guide Review - Meco Combination Electric Smoker/Grill Model 5030
A vertical water smoker, regardless of the fuel, is a trash can shaped cooker with a heat source in the bottom, a water pan in the middle, and typically two cooking grates above, topped with a lid.
Heat and smoke are generated in the bottom, diffused by the water pan and held inside by the lid. Typically these are easy to use smokers, but many have problems holding in smoke and tend to be only big enough to cook for a family barbecue.
The Meco electric smoker is one of these smokers. While you can get charcoal versions of this style of smoker for around $50USD, electrics go for as little as $100USD (this one can be found for as low as $125USD).
As an electric smoker this unit should be very easy to use; set the dial on the electric plug, throw in some wood chips, fill the water pan, and place your meat on the racks and let it go. Unfortunately, the engineering of this unit isn't very good. The barrel section is a wrapped around a piece of thin sheet metal pop-riveted closed on the side. You actually have to spend some time bending it to get it round so that you can put the lid one and they isn't always easy. The gaps in the side and lid connection let the smoke out freely and you have to keep this smoker on high (at 1650 watts) to keep it up to temperature. The access doors in the front of the unit, that let you get in to add water to the too small water pan, or add wood chips to the heat deflector are awkward and also have gaps to let the precious smoke out.
This unit is also very small. Sure, you are not going to be using this to feed a huge gathering of barbecue enthusiasts, but a typical rack of ribs is longer than the diameter of the cooking grates and even with the optional rib rack that goes on top, you will have to cut up the racks to get them on. If you want to smoke an occasional chicken, the size is okay, but you are still going to have to watch the temperature closely to keep it up to the proper heat and your food isn't going to get a lot of smoke flavor.
The Meco electric smoker also works as a portable electric grill. Take the base of the unit and put one of the cooking racks on it and the lid on top of that and you have a portable grill. The problem is that the heating element doesn't produce enough heat to get a very high temperature, so it's grilling abilities are pretty limited and, because you are using electric heat, the food tastes more like it was broiled than grills.
Ultimately the greatest limiting factor of this smoker is the quality of the construction and basic quality control. The metal is thin and prone to rusting. The assembly instructions are difficult to follow and in places misleading. The test unit I was set didn't have a temperature gauge on it so I was forced to engineer a replacement. This is one smoker that I really can not recommend.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.