I not only assembled it by myself, I have had great success with the meat I have put in it. . . whole chickens, baby back ribs, a pork shoulder, and a chuck roast.
A chicken cooked in a smoker is perhaps the easiest, and sitting by the smoker enjoying that wonderful aroma is one of life's simple pleasures. Prepare the chicken by letting it soak overnight in a brine. There are many brine recipes out there - online and in smoking cookbooks. The one I use is simply water, kosher salt and brown sugar. Make enough so that the chicken is totally submerged.
About an hour and a half before you want to put the chicken in the smoker, take it out of the refrigerator, discard the brine, rinse the chicken well and then pat dry with paper towels. Cover it with a homemade rub - there are plenty of rub recipes to choose from. Next let the chicken sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.
Prepare your smoker by first pouring cold charcoal in the bin of the smoker. In a charcoal chimney, heat up charcoal (enough to fill the chimney), soak your wood chips for 20 minutes or more. What kind of wood chips? Well, there are a lot to choose from: hickory, apple, cherry, mesquite. . . When the charcoal is ready, pour it over the unheated charcoal and then add the wet wood chips. Next place the bowl of water in the smoker above the charcoal. Now you are ready to place the prepared chicken on the rack and put the lid on. My smoker has a shaded area on the thermometer and as long as you keep the interior temperature in the shaded area, you are fine. You maintain the proper temperature by either closing or opening the vents on the smoker.
I have found, for a chicken, you don't need to add charcoal during the cooking process. For meats requiring longer smoking time you likely will need to add fresh charcoal (heated up, of course!). How often you add moist wood chips is a matter of taste, about every two hours or so. My smoker has a door on the side that you can use to add charcoal and/or wood chips without disturbing the meat above.
Use a quality brand of charcoal, such as Kingsford, for longer lasting coals. A few days ago, I smoked a large chuck roast for 4 hours and 45 minutes and I never had to add charcoal.
When the meat is done, let it sit at room temperature for about a half hour. I always test with a meat thermometer before taking it out of the smoker, except that I have done so many chickens that I learned to tell when they are done without the thermometer, but for other meats, I do use the thermometer. Smoking times given in your owner's manual or in recipes are kind of "ballpark" figures and you may find your cooking time differs.
I clean the rack and the water bowl outside under a water faucet with a steel wool pad. Once a year, you need to clean the interior of the smoker. . . that will be more of a challenge, but the rewards you get from the smoker are well worth it!
Whether you are a beginner or a pro, I would welcome hearing from you and sharing recipes and techniques. If you have never tried smoking meat, you don't know how much enjoyment - and great taste - you are missing!