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Best Smoker For Beginners

If you’ve decided to take the plunge into smoking barbecue at home, stopping in at your local big box store or shopping online can feel really overwhelming. There are so many options, but how do you decide which is best? Especially for beginners, you want to keep things as simple as possible. The more …

Best Of Best Smokers Smokers

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By AngryBBQ Team

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Best Smokers For Beginners 2023

If you’ve decided to take the plunge into smoking barbecue at home, stopping in at your local big box store or shopping online can feel really overwhelming. There are so many options, but how do you decide which is best? Especially for beginners, you want to keep things as simple as possible. The more things you have to focus on, the less you can focus on learning and creating great barbecue.

You want a smoker that allows for easy temperature control and stays consistent without breaking the bank. Here at Angry BBQ, we think that the Traeger Pro Series 22 wood pellet grill is a great beginner option. While it may be a bit more expensive than some of the options on this list, it has a digital controller that will maintain temperatures within 15 degrees of your target. You can graduate to higher-end pellet grills, but the Pro Series 22 will get you started and keep you going for quite a while.

Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of upgrades across the board to smokers, whether it’s advancements in the realm of pellet grills or even adding similar functionality to charcoal-based smokers. Pellet grill manufacturers have been working on ways to improve searing capabilities and create even more smoke flavor. Meanwhile, charcoal smoker companies have begun experimenting with adding controllers and fan assemblies to replicate the precise temperature control of pellet smokers while still delivering the flavor of charcoal and wood. All those improvements make backyard pitmasters’ lives easier, and even beginners can reap the benefits. 

In this review, we cover smokers for each category such as electric, pellet, and charcoal. We decided not to include offset or kamado style smokers due to their price and needed skillset to operate. However, some companies are starting to integrate pellet grill-like technology into Kamado-style smokers as described above, so that may increase options further down the road. This is all about keeping it simple and affordable to get you into the smoking/grilling hobby.

Read on to see what other smokers are worthy considerations for you newbies and then stick around to learn about what makes a good smoker for beginners.

FYI: Since you’re new to smoking, checkout our favorite smoker accessories.

Here Are The Best Smokers For Beginners

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBest OverallBest OverallTraeger Pro 22 Pellet Grill
  • Digital Temp Control
  • 575 square inches
  • 18 pound pellet hopper
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRunner UpRunner UpBradley Digital Smoker
  • Fully automated operation
  • Large cooking area
  • Large Bisquette capacity
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRecteq Bullseye RT-B380
  • 380 sq/in cooking area
  • Class Kettle Design
  • Smoke and Grill
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageBest Charcoal Smoker for BeginnersBest Charcoal Smoker for BeginnersWeber Smokey Mountain
  • Consistent and easy to control temperature
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Diverse range of accessories
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageMost EconomicalMost EconomicalWeber Kettle Premium
  • Simple and versatile
  • Quality construction
  • Wide range of accessories
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageHonorable MentionHonorable MentionZ Grills L6002B
  • Sturdy stainless steel construction
  • Large hopper capacity
  • Versatile temp. control
CHECK PRICE

Best Smoker for Beginners – Reviews and Features

1. Best Overall – Traeger Pro Series 22 Review

What We Like…

  • Set-it-and-forget-it functionality with a digital controller
  • 575 square inches of cooking space is plenty of room for most people
  • 18 lb pellet hopper capacity is plenty for even long, overnight smoking sessions

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Does not have a PID controller that helps keep temperatures within five degrees
  • Some customers reported issues with the pellet hopper lid being bent upon arrival

Pellet grills are arguably the easiest smoker for beginners. You simply follow the start-up procedures and then set your desired temperature. The digital controller does the rest of the work, feeding the proper amount of wood pellets to the firepot at the proper time to help maintain your set temperature.

The Traeger Pro Series 22 may be one of the most expensive smokers on this list, but it offers plenty of cooking space at 575 sq in so you can cook large dinners or host parties. You also get an 18lb pellet hopper so you can cook the longest brisket smoking sessions without needing to refuel.

The Pro Series 22 has a good temperature range of 180°-450°F so you can smoke low-and-slow or grill burgers, hot dogs, and chicken. This versatility means that not only is the Pro Series 22 a great smoker for beginners but it works well for just about any type of cooking you want to do outside. You can even experiment with baking on your pellet grill. I’ve done it on mine, and it just adds a little extra flavor. Brownies work especially well.

If you like being able to move your grills around depending on what you’re doing or to store them in the off-season, the Pro Series 22 weighs just over 100 pounds and has two large wheels along with a sturdy handle so you can wheel it around. The Pro Series 22 is also built to last, made from steel and backed by a three-year warranty.

2. Runner Up – Bradley Digital Smoker Review

What We Like…

  • Makes smoking food easy and accessible for absolute beginners
  • Fully automated operation and large bisquette capacity allow for long, slow smoking
  • Great for a variety of different foods, can produce good smoked flavors
  • The large cooking area makes it great for family meals
  • Variety of flavors can be achieved through twelve different kinds of wooden bisquettes
  • Optional extras can extend the functionality
  • Affordably priced

What Makes Us Angry…

  • The flavor and smoke ring formation are not as good as pellet or charcoal smokers
  • Can sometimes produce too much smoke and impart a bitter taste to the food. Might require the use of the Bradley bisquettes saver product to reduce the smoke formation and bisquette usage
  • The digital controller can sometimes be unreliable when used in cold temperatures.

Electric smokers, as discussed earlier, can be one of the easiest ways for beginners to get started with the world of smoking food. The Bradley Digital Smoker is a versatile, affordable, and easy-to-use electric smoker and our pick for the best overall smoker for beginners. The Bradley Digital 6 Rack Smoker is a popular option and contains several meaningful features that can make the smoking experience much more rewarding.

With the Bradley Digital 6 Rack Smoker, you get the main smoking chamber that provides 858 square inches of cooking space and can accommodate four adjustable racks. The large height also gives you enough space to hang meat hooks if you want to smoke sausage, bacon, ham, or jerky. At the center of the smoker is a digital smoke generator that provides heat to the wood bisquettes used by the smoker, which come in twelve different varieties.

A water basin at the bottom catches the bisquettes and grease while a drip tray is used to funnel cooking liquids. A smoke diffuser is provided with the unit to promote an even distribution of smoke.

The main appeal of the unit is the automated operation and great temperature control that is possible with the digital controller. Cooking time and heat output are measured by the unit periodically and the controller automatically releases new wood bisquettes into the burning area to keep heat and smoke levels consistent. Spent bisquettes are collected in the water basin and new ones take their place on their own.

This can give you a great degree of granular control over the operation of the smoker. You can set the cooking time, target temperature, and the level of smoke you want and just leave the unit to do its thing. Once fully loaded with wood bisquettes, the unit can keep operating for up to nine hours. The build quality is also good with the insulated stainless steel chamber proving capable of retaining heat. Cleaning up is easy and the fit and finish are solid.

Assembling the unit is fast and easy with detailed instructions provided with the product. The interface of the digital controller is also simple to operate and a few minutes with the manual should allow you to start smoking food immediately. The set-and-forget nature of the smoker and how it handles its operation automatically make this is a particularly salient choice for beginners with a minimal learning curve.

You can also go for optional extras like the Bradley smoker cover for added protection and the Bradley cold smoker adapter that turns it into a cold smoker.


3. Recteq RT-B380 Bullseye Review

What We Like…

  • 380 sq in of cooking space offers plenty of room for a family
  • 15lb pellet hopper will fuel just about every single cook you can do on this grill
  • The 200°-750°F temperature range means this grill can smoke and can grill

What Makes Us Angry…

  • No included grease tray to funnel drippings away from the fire pot area
  • Some customers complained of wild temperature fluctuations, but the RT-B380 comes with a PID controller which helps regulate and most customers said it holds a steady temperature

At first glance, the Recteq RT-B380 Bullseye does not look anything like a typical smoker. In fact, it looks more like someone welded a pellet hopper onto the side of a large stainless-steel kettle grill. In fact, it is capable of reaching around 750°F thanks to Recteq’s RIOT mode.

However, don’t let that look and the upper end of the Bullseye’s temperature range fool you. The RT-B380 is equipped with a 15lb pellet hopper and uses a PID controller to regulate temperatures as low as 200°F, plenty low enough to properly smoke up to four racks of ribs on its 380 sq in of cooking space.

The Bullseye does come with one included meat probe so you can monitor the temperature of that pork butt for pulled pork. However, it does not have WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity, so you’ll need to stay nearby unless you use a wireless thermometer like the ThermoWorks Signals or Smoke X4

What really sets the RT-B380 apart is its versatility. You can do direct flame searing on this grill for steaks or burgers (it can hold up to 20 average-sized burgers per Recteq) and smoke low-and-slow whether it’s those ribs or two of those pork butts. The food sits on porcelain-coated steel so it can hold up to high temperatures while also being easy to clean.


4. Best Charcoal Smoker For Beginners – Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18″ Review

What We Like…

  • Imparts the classic, authentic deep, smoky flavor to the food
  • Easy to control temperature and keep it consistent for a long time
  • Large cooking capacity for larger meals
  • A large, diverse range of options when it comes to accessories
  • Inexpensive and built like a tank

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Needs a lot of charcoal to function
  • Has a learning curve
  • The lid is not hinged
  • The charcoal door can sometimes leak heat

An immensely popular choice for many BBQ enthusiasts, the Weber Smokey Mountain is the quintessential charcoal smoker that boasts of simple, easy-to-use design and big, bold, smoky flavors. For beginners, this iconic model can be a fabulous choice for cooking excellent smoked food while also learning about some of the operations aspects of using a charcoal smoker.

The distinctive appearance of the Smokey Mountain, a capsule with legs, is often associated with smokers of this kind, sometimes known as bullet smokers. A defining feature of this smoker is the large water pan. This means that you do not need to refill the water periodically and can rather focus on your cooking and the flavors of your food.

Apart from the main cooking chamber, you get the water pan, the center section, the lid, and the porcelain-enameled bowl. You also have a heavy-gauge charcoal grate and plated cooking grates, both made from sturdy steel. The 18-inch model provides a cooking area of 481 square inches divided into two layers. There is also an integrated thermometer that makes it easy to monitor the temperature.

The design of the Smokey Mountain has seen very little change for over forty years, which is a testament to its great quality and effectiveness. The porcelain-enameled steel retains heat very well and there is also a heat-resistant handle made from nylon which makes handling easy and safe. Using this smoker involves the use of charcoal mixed with woodchips for optimum flavor. You can choose your flavor profile by choosing the kind of wood you want to put into the mix.

There is a dedicated charcoal door that allows you to replenish your charcoal once you start running out. Similarly, there is a silicon grommet that allows you to insert an external temperature probe into the smoking area without having to compromise with heat retention. There is also a very large number of accessories that you can purchase for the Smokey Mountain, that you can use for simple workflow tweaks all the way to dramatically changing the functionality of the smoker.


5. Best Budget Smoker For Beginners – Weber Kettle Premium Review

What We Like…

  • Simple, inexpensive, and versatile
  • Excellent build quality can make it last for a long time
  • Several accessories are available to extend the functionality

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Using it as a smoker can require a bit of extra work and accessories

The Weber Kettle is somewhat of a legend in BBQ circles. This versatile grill can also double up as a smoker and give you a range of cooking options for a really affordable price. This basic 22-inch model provides a cooking area of 363 square inches and is primarily used to grill meat quickly and get a hard sear with grill marks. 

The main cooking area features hinged grill grates that enable you to easily add more charcoal during the cooking process. The dampers can allow you to precisely control the heat in the grill by controlling the flow of air. Closing the dampers completely is also an easy way to extinguish the charcoal when you are done cooking.

The one-touch cleaning system makes the Weber Kettle Premium a breeze to clean. The heat resistant nylon handles make for easy handling of the lid and the provided wheels can be used to move the grill with ease. If you are looking to use this as a smoker, you can do this easily by taking advantage of dedicated accessories like the Slow’N Sear that can effectively give you a cooler cooking area that you can effectively smoke food in.

One thing to point out is, if you want to use this as a smoker, go and get the Slow n Sear accessory. The slow n sear will help you turn this into a great smoker because it contains two baskets, one for charcoal and the other for water. It allows a slow burn of the charcoal and makes it easy to add more charcoal later.


6. Honorable Mention: Z Grills L6002B Wood Pellet Grill Review

What We Like…

  • A quick and easy way to enter the world of pellet grills
  • The automated pellet feeding system and temperature control make for easy and hassle-free use
  • Large hopper capacity great for extended cooking
  • Versatile temperature range allows it to be used for many forms of cooking

What Makes Us Angry…

  • Not as large as other pellet grills
  • No wifi or bluetooth connectivity
  • Does not contain a side table for use as a work surface

If you are looking to impart more intense smoky flavors to your food, getting a pellet grill can be a great idea. For beginners who want to get started with pellet grills, we picked the easy-to-use, versatile Z Grills L6002B as an excellent option. This is a smaller pellet grill that sports robust design and quality while providing automated operation and versatile cooking. 

The most important feature that you can get with this grill is the digital temperature control system which can make this a set-and-forget kind of smoker.

The Z Grills L6002B, apart from being a very capable pellet smoker for beginners, can also be used to grill, bake, roast, and braise food. The unit has a built-in fan that moves the heat and smoke around and helps the cooking process through convection, much like a convection oven. The cooking area is large at 600 square inches which makes it a terrific choice for family gatherings and parties.

As far as the core of the smoker is concerned, the hopper can accommodate ten pounds of wooden pellets at a time, allowing you a consolidated cook time of approximately ten hours. The electric starter helps heat the pellets and the smoker can be started in very little time. 

The versatility of the smoker comes from the range of temperature it can help achieve with 180 degrees at the lower end and 450 degrees at the higher end. For searing, you can use the direct flame which will get you much higher temperatures.

The ease of use and convenience comes courtesy of the digital control system. Once you start the cooking process by setting a temperature and cooking time, the digital control board takes over. The electric ignition kicks in and the smoker reaches its target heat quickly. 

The control board then monitors the temperature and time and automatically adds pellets to the hopper to control the temperature and keep it within the intended limits. Along with the automatic temperature control, you can also monitor the temperature using the real-time temperature display on the unit.

The automatic operation means that you can enjoy the superior smoky taste brought out by a pellet grill without having to contend with a steep learning curve. The cart design is robust and the unit comes with quality casters that make movement easy. The bottom cart area is also fitted with a storage compartment with a door where you can keep your wood pellets dry and ready to go. 

The unit has a smoking and warming rack, foldable shelf, and sturdy stainless steel construction. 

The Process of Smoking Meat

Grilling meat involves quickly cooking it and creating a hard sear on the outside with the help of very high heat. Smoking meat is, in essence, the opposite in terms of technique. The process involves placing seasoned, brined, or marinated meat in an enclosed space that has indirect, low heat, and smoke. The smoke usually comes from heating a wood product, like wood charcoal, wood pellets,  or wood chips, and the type of wood you select has a significant contribution to the overall flavor profile of the finished product.

The meat is cooked low and slow for many hours and the flavor of the smoke infuses into the meat. Apart from flavoring and tenderizing the meat to a great extent, this also helps create a hard crust on the outside, sealing in the flavor.

You can smoke any cut of meat and have a great flavor experience. However, this method is really great for tough or unwanted cuts of meat. The slow cooking can help break down connective tissue and collagen in the meat, rendering these tough cuts incredibly tender and juicy. A great example of this is brisket.

What Makes A Good Smoker For A Beginner?

With so many options for smokers out on the market, how do you figure out what you should be looking for in a first-time purchase? You want to consider how much money you have to spend, and you want to know the type of smoker you’re looking for because different smokers require different amounts of work.

Budget

This might be one of the hardest parts of purchasing a smoker as a beginner. You might not have the biggest budget for the latest and greatest in barbecue technology, and that’s okay. You don’t need the biggest smoker or built-in Wi-Fi connectivity to create good barbecue.

However, you don’t want to go too far in the other direction either. Unless you’re able to get an incredible deal, just about any smoker you buy for under $200 will give you headaches. Either it will be hard to maintain temperature due to construction issues that allow heat and smoke to escape, or the grill will simply not last due to shoddy materials.

If you’re looking for a good smoker, you’ll want to have a budget of somewhere between $300 and $600. Most smokers in that range will be reliable and get you started in your backyard pitmaster journey.

Different Types Of Smokers And The Amount Of Effort Needed

When it comes to smokers, there are essentially two larger groups of smokers: those that control the temperature and those you need to work to control. In the first category, you have pellet grills, electric smokers, and gas/propane smokers. In the second category, you have charcoal and wood-fueled smokers.

In the first category, most of those smokers have a way to set a target temperature so you don’t have to make adjustments throughout the cooking process. Now gas and electric smokers utilize wood chips to provide flavor and do require reloading periodically. Most pellet grills have enough of a pellet capacity that as long as you make sure you’ve filled it before starting, you’ll be able to handle even the longest brisket or pork butt smoking sessions.

Now charcoal and wood-fueled smokers are a different story. You typically need to manage fuel levels and vent adjustments to help regulate temperatures throughout the entire process. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them as a beginner, it just means you need to be a little more patient and put a little more effort in. In fact, I began my barbecue journey on a Char-Griller kettle grill, learning how to smoke meat using indirect heat or charcoal snake methods. It just takes more effort than other options.

Read on for a more detailed breakdown of the different types of smokers covering their pros and cons.

Electric Smokers

For beginner BBQ enthusiasts, electric smokers can present a no-nonsense, simple, and quick route towards delicious smoked food. If you are a true beginner, the simplicity and convenience of this set-and-forget type of smoker will surely be a welcome feature. 

Check out our article dedicated to the best electric smokers on the market today.

This kind of smoker is also great if you do not really have the time to properly monitor the smoking process by spending a lot of time in front of your smoker. With these smokers, all you need to do is plug the smoker into a power source, add wood chips of the kind you prefer, set a particular temperature and cooking time, and add your protein of choice. 

These are excellent at maintaining precise temperatures and can take out quite a lot of the common headaches associated with smoking. However, do not expect the same depth and complexity of smoky flavor that you can get with some of the other types of smokers. Also, using an electric smoker means that you are dependent on having a running electric supply throughout the cooking process. 

If the power goes out while cooking, the cooking stops then and there. If your home power supply is unstable, it can be a good idea to look for alternatives.


Gas & Propane Smokers

Another poignant choice for a beginner smoker, gas smokers use clean-burning fuels like propane or natural gas. The learning curve is minimal. Just like electric smokers, you put in the wood chips, set the temperature, and come back when your meat is smoked. 

These do not require much cooking space and you do not need to be tethered to a wall socket for electricity. It can also be very easy to get them going fast with the instant ignition of the fuel. The clean-burning nature of the fuel means that you do not end up with unpleasant smells, tastes, or deposits on your meat. These can also be very easy to clean. 

Gas smokers are generally inexpensive and can help you get your foot in the door smoking with minimum hassle. However, you would still not get the deep, smoky aromas that you can get with other methods. We recently completed a review of the top propane smokers here.


Charcoal Smokers

If you are looking for the classic flavor of smoked meat and a defined smoke ring formation, buying a charcoal smoker is the way to go, if you do not mind a little added work. 

There are a few things you would need to research and get right if you want great results from a charcoal smoker. These include choosing the right kind of charcoal, the right kind of woodchips or wood chunks, and learning to manage your charcoal fire, timing, and airflow via the vents in the grill. 

While it does take a little practice, using a charcoal smoker can bring you the authentic smoky taste that many BBQ enthusiasts look for. Charcoal is also extremely cheap. On the flip side, it might take a while before you get really good at smoking meat using a charcoal grill. 

These are also harder to clean and require a more open space for setting up. Starting the charcoal for a smoking session can also take a lot more work than the previous alternatives and require you to use an additional device like a chimney starter.



Pellet Smokers

For a nice balance between the flavor profile of charcoal smokers and the ease of use and convenience of gas smokers, you can go with a pellet smoker. These versatile smokers derive their heat from wood pellets. I would say the pellet smokers are the best type of smoker for beginners.

These are fitted with digital controllers and sensors that monitor the interior temperature and automatically add pellets to the fire pot to keep the smoker at a consistent temperature. 

The learning curve is minimal and usage is easy and convenient. These are versatile machines that can be used for a variety of cooking methods. They heat up fast, can maintain precise temperatures, and do not require you to babysit the smoker constantly. You can also have quick access to a wide range of flavors depending on which wooden pellets you choose. However, these also require electrical access and can be priced on the higher side in general.



Offset Smokers

If you’re familiar with BBQ, you’ve probably heard of offset smokers. These typically large smokers have a firebox to one side where wood logs are burned to provide heat. These smokers are the pinnacle of smoke flavor in the BBQ game whether you’re a backyard pitmaster or running a barbecue restaurant. 

These smokers are usually large enough to fit plenty of chicken, turkeys, and pork butts to serve a crowd. You monitor the temperature of the cooking chamber with an external temperature gauge (or gauges if it’s a really big one.) However, in a list of the best smokers for beginners, you’re not likely to find many offsets due to the time learning how to properly manage the fire to get consistent temperatures.

Conclusion

Any of the above options would allow you to get a foot in the door when it comes to creating tasty, flavorful smoked food at home. If you take a look at the features and pros and cons of these products, you would have a great starting point from which to make a meaningful purchasing decision. The Bradley Digital Smoker stands out for us because of affordability, easy temperature management and layout. You can’t go wrong.

FAQs:

Question: What Kind Of Smoker Should A Beginner Get?

Answer: It truly depends on what the beginner wants to do, but if you are looking for the simplest and easiest way to produce tender and moist smoked meat with some level of wood smoke flavor, it’s hard to argue with pellet grills. The development of PID controllers ensures you’ll get nice, even temperature control throughout the entire cooking process. You can splurge for a high-end pellet grill that has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and there are even brands that are putting that functionality into cheaper pellet grills, but if you find one without it, just get yourself one of our favorite wireless meat thermometers to track temperatures throughout the cooking process.

Question: Which Is Better: Electric Or Pellet Smoker?

Answer: While electric smokers are incredibly easy to use, typically all they can do is smoke. Most pellet grills have a greater temperature range than electric smokers so you get more versatility. You also typically get more smoke flavor from a pellet grill than an electric smoker.

Question: What Kind Of Smoker Gives The Best Smoke Flavor?

Answer: If you’re looking to achieve the best wood smoke flavor at home, you’re going to want to learn how to use an offset smoker. Most other smokers use wood pellets, wood chips, or even wood chunks to give you the wood flavor. Offset smokers use wood logs, giving you the most wood flavor you can get in your backyard.

Question: How Do I Get More Smoke Flavor On My Pellet Grill?

Answer: One of the biggest issues that pellet grills have is the lack of wood smoke flavor when compared to an offset smoker. So how can you address that? There are a few options. One: you can purchase a smoke tube or smoke box and burn wood pellets or wood chips separately. O

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBest OverallBest OverallTraeger Pro 22 Pellet Grill
  • Digital Temp Control
  • 575 square inches
  • 18 pound pellet hopper
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRunner UpRunner UpBradley Digital Smoker
  • Fully automated operation
  • Large cooking area
  • Large Bisquette capacity
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageRecteq Bullseye RT-B380
  • 380 sq/in cooking area
  • Class Kettle Design
  • Smoke and Grill
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageBest Charcoal Smoker for BeginnersBest Charcoal Smoker for BeginnersWeber Smokey Mountain
  • Consistent and easy to control temperature
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Diverse range of accessories
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageMost EconomicalMost EconomicalWeber Kettle Premium
  • Simple and versatile
  • Quality construction
  • Wide range of accessories
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageHonorable MentionHonorable MentionZ Grills L6002B
  • Sturdy stainless steel construction
  • Large hopper capacity
  • Versatile temp. control
CHECK PRICE

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