How to Choose the Best Smoker – A Complete Guide for Beginners

Smokers are designed to cook meat at minimal temperatures and over long periods. They utilize smoke for cooking while maintaining a temperature of 225-275°C that enables them to tear down tough tissues. Melting of the fats keeps the food moist and delicious, and makes it tender and flavorful.

Most people are afraid to invest in smokers because they are huge and pricy. By carefully reading through this best BBQ smokers guide, it will be simple to identify a model that's right for you. Smoked meat is healthy and nutritious. But first, you have to get a smoker that meets all your needs.

People are often unsure about the differences between grilling, barbecuing and smoking. They are usually taken out of context. In simple terms, grilling involves cooking your food using high heat applied directly, and so your food will be ready in a very short time. Food that can be grilled includes steak, chicken pieces (only boneless), hamburgers and chops.

On the other hand, barbecuing mainly relies on charcoal to slowly heat your favorite meat. Barbecue pits can be made to include an indirect heat barrier placed between the coals and the meat by using fireboxes that are offset from cooking chambers. This arrangement could also be direct, resembling that of vertical drums or open pit cookers. An essential point here is that 2-3 feet should be left between the coals and the food. Barbecuing is ideal for big meat cuttings enriched with fats, such as shoulders, ribs, pork and briskets. However, smaller pieces, including sausages, steaks and chicken pieces, can be barbecued as well.

Smoking refers to the process of cooking meat using smoke. Smoked products might sometimes necessitate further cooking, this is determined by the method used, whether it's cold or hot smoking. To obtain flavorful and tender smoked foods, some spices should be added, since the procedure is slow and could even take days or even weeks. Cheese, hams, salmon and slices of bacon are meats that require smoking to reach their best possible taste.

Barbecuing describes a skill that takes tolerance and practice. Multiple techniques and tastes can be discovered. This following pages present an anthology of fundamental smoking tips and beneficial ways you can use your smoker. The provided information will help you grasp some of the basic guidelines for selecting a smoker and will show you what you can do with it once you have.

Types of Smokers

What inspires all chefs is the urge to stay on top of the game as far as grilling, barbecuing and smoking of meat are concerned. And the only way you can achieve your dreams is by purchasing the right type of smoker, using the following quick facts.

Electric smoker

If you are a beginner, electric smokers will be the right choice for you. They have an automated control mechanism that heavily reduces labor strain. Cooking is extremely simple and you don't have to spend hours on outdoor cooking. With so many electric outlets available, electric smokers could be perfect for you. Simple instructions are provided alongside the unit, allowing you to begin cooking straight away, without worrying about running out of coal or gas.

Another advantage with these smokers is that there are no emissions. If you're worried about the risk of gas, an electric model could therefore be the answer you've been searching for. Contemporary models are safe and affordable, and you shouldn't be troubled by the cost of purchasing the smoker or the choice of accessories.

Electric smokers allow you do your barbecuing in the backyard and start preparing delicious food for the family with immediate effect. Once you acquire an electric unit, you will always want to cook and the results will never disappoint. If you love flavorful pork, turkey and vegetables then go for this smoker. Learn more in our guide to the best electric smokers.


Pellet smoker

Source: campchef.com

Pellet models are affordable smoking units in today’s market. With this smoker, you have to use wooden pellets, which can be purchased in bulk to reduce expenses. The pellets are prepared from sawdust.

The latest pellet smokers have more advanced features which allow you to set specific temperatures and the food will be cooked automatically. They are non-polluting, and the food produced is always smooth and flawless.

Despite being referred to as grills, pellet smokers are not good for smoking hot dogs, steaks or burgers. Since they utilize indirect heat, they are ideal for cooking pork and turkey. Learn more in our guide to the best pellet smokers.


Gas/Propane smoker

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If you fancy the expediency of gas then you may opt for the gas smoker. Wooden chips are heated, using gas to generate smoke. You'll need to buy gas, which could increase costs. However, a gas smoker enables you to cook even when there are no electric outlets.

If you want a blend of affordability and usability, gas smokers should be your preference. The food is superbly tasty and aromatic. Learn more in our guide to the best propane smokers.


Charcoal smoker

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If you are familiar with a charcoal grill, then using a charcoal smoker will be a breeze. Many consumers love what charcoal grills offer in terms of taste and flavor. These smokers generate bigger smoke rings and greater amounts of smoke than other smokers, resulting in an enriched smoky flavor.

Various models of such smokers are available to choose from. These include barrel smokers, cabinet smokers, and offset-side smokers. Each has unique advantages, however, most people prefer the cabinet design, they have a sophisticated insulation mechanism and are easy to operate. Learn more in our guide to the best charcoal smokers.

Grill-Smoker Combo

A grill-smoker combo is best for those who want an all-in-one solution and hesitate in making a choice between grills and smokers. It is perfect for summer cookouts and serves as an outstanding chef’s tool. The unit is furnished with a movable charcoal grate which makes it possible to vary the temperature to suit your needs.

This amazing charcoal grill could be easily modified into a versatile smoker, with the tabletop grill as an accessory. The pan could also be removed for simplified cleanup. These smokers are more convenient and flexible, and so will definitely be very handy for you to use. Learn more in our guide to the best grill smoker combos.


Other Types of Smokers You Shouldn't Miss

Except for 4 main types of smokers, I also want to introduce others that are considered as the best smoker.

Offset smoker

If you have a serious thought of barbequing, you should opt for an offset smoker. The first reason is that it's quite cool for those who want to impress their family, friends, and even themselves. Of course, the result is free from blame thanks to its traditional design with two separate chambers.

The heat and smoke from the firebox chamber will be transferred to the cooking chamber. This brings the maximum heat and consistent temperature through all the meat. In addition, its construction is made from high-quality steel that helps to absorb heat and deliver evenly.

What's more, the offset smoker features large selves for cooking a big amount of meat in one go. Since this unit is not expensive and can last a lifetime, it will be your great investment in the long run. Learn more in our guide to the ​best offset smokers.

Kamado smoker

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The Kamado smoker is a modern version of earthenware cooking ovens that came into use thousands of years ago in China and India. They are mainly made from an array of high-quality materials such as ceramics, terracotta, lava, cement, and other refractory materials.

The charcoal is placed at the bottom, that means you can build a fire even in windy conditions. Besides, the thick sides help to keep and deliver the heat effectively. Since the Kamado's materials come with low airflow, your meat always remains juicer, not dried out.

One more thing to note is that these smokers are quite heavy and can easily break if knocked over or dropped. And always prepare fire-resistant hand gloves to open the lid while cooking.

Water/bullet smoker

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The water smoker has another name of the bullet because of its cylindrical shape and dome cover. If you want a slow and low cooking (2250F-2500F for 4 hours, for instance), this unit will be your perfect choice. Usually, there are three sections with the charcoal burns in the bottom, the water pan in the middle, and cooking areas above. Or you can see more sections for cooking in this unit.

Similar to other types of the smokers, the main objective of the water pan is to keep the heat, maintain the temperature and create an ideal moist smoking environment. Additionally, the thicker and heavier metals help to hold and keep the heat better, offering the consistent heating to cook the meat. Since the water smoker can use either charcoal, gas, or electricity, it's convenient.

Drum smoker

Source: bbq-brethren.com

The next type I want to talk about is drum smokers. These are extremely easy-to-use, lightweight, portable, and inexpensive. The firebox is at the bottom while the cooking rack is on the top. Since there is no water pan, you need to wrap the meat in aluminum foil while smoking to avoid drying out.

Additionally, these smokers are equipped with vent holes for controlling the temperature. Make sure you hold it at a low temp to maintain the oxygen flow low enough. Relying on that, no drippings happen.

Box smoker

A box smoker is literally a box with the firebox chamber at the bottom and the cooking chamber on the top. Similar to the water smokers, the heat from the firebox is directly below, allowing the heat to be conserved. Of course, it comes with the water pan to keep the meat moist all the times. There are also vent holes alongside the smoker, helping to adjust and maintain the consistent temperature.


Accessories For Best BBQ Smokers

Here are a few accessories that you might want to look for in order to get the most out of your BBQ smoker:

Wheels

Moving heavy smokers can be a challenge, so you may want a unit with functional wheels. Ensure that your smoker has larger wheels that can aid movement across your deck, and the wheels are properly assembled to reduce the chances of having to spend on unnecessary repairs.

Cover

Almost all smokers come with a built-in cover that keeps your smoker clean and prevents it from being damaged. However, you can always purchase a cover if your smoker doesn't already have one.

Rack

This is an essential smoker accessory as it helps you stash the grilling tools as you cook.

Movable Inner Shelves

When preparing different kinds of foods with your smoker, frequent adjustments of the shelves, to ensure that everything fits perfectly, are inevitable. Therefore, you should purchase a smoker that guarantees this option.

Necessary Barbecue Accessories

  • Barbecue Meat Thermometer - With barbecue thermometer you don't need to worry about food poisoning. You don't have to cut each sausage in two when checking with these excellently designed stainless steel BBQ Thermometers. Take one and carefully stick it into the small cut, and its dial will clearly indicate its state: "rare, average, or well-cooked".
  • Smoking Chips - Also known as wood chips, these fine accessories are made using genuine aging oak barrels which have been soaked in whisky. Serving your smoky meat with a whisky will definitely give you and your guests a memorable experience. And the result is a placid woody boozy taste in your smoker. 
  • Quick Oak Smoking Papers - Even when it's raining, these smoking papers will allow you to carry out normal smoking tasks without much trouble. Soak the sheets in water or beer, usually for perfect, moist chicken. Then, wrap the food with the sheets and place it on the Barbie. Allow enough time for proper cooking and infusion. The papers can be obtained from oak or beech trees, both of which burn at a slower rate for a moderate smoky flavor. However, lighter papers are more convenient for poultry, as well as seafood.
  • Barbecue Bear Paws - There is something primordial about huge hunks of meat and hot coals. However, if you prefer unleashing your cooking passion, these accessories will do you good. They are designed to resist heat and are so ideal for handling hot grilled beef as you carve and cook pulled pork.
  • Barbecue Apron Guide - BBQ Aprons complement the ingenious barbecue tips and instructions for a thrilling cooking experience. So, don't smear your Smartphone and laptop with meat oil if you have a pressing question. Purchase a BBQ apron and take your barbecue cooking experience to the next level.
  • Bamboo Barbecue Tool Set - Amaze your pals with this stunning 18-piece bamboo tool set. Basting brushes, BBQ forks, knives, cleaning brushes, skewers, tongs and cooking holders are all contained within this set. However, before you rush into purchasing this set, ensure each of these tools is made of stainless steel. 
  • Weber Marinating Jar - You need a great container and it can perfectly marinate the meat without necessarily having to leave the stray bristles. Its lid is hooked with a handle for easy handling. When the kit isn't being used, it is advisable that the lid is twisted and locked to avoid any spills.

BBQ Smokers: Buying Guide

Different types of smokers suite different meat preparation techniques. However, from a performance and efficiency standpoint, having a smoker with optimal features is paramount. Here is a quick guide you can use for your selection.

Type

It's very important that you assess the different types of smokers to ensure you get the value for your hard earned cash. Electric, pellet, gas and charcoal smokers all have a set of merits and demerits, and critically analyzing them can be a great help in choosing the best one to suit your needs. 

Whereas some love the enthrallingly smoky taste permeating from the charcoal grill, others will go for that smoker that guarantees convenience as well as user-friendliness. Studies show that considerable number of people prefer purchasing electric smokers, their main reasons being simplicity and where they live.

Size

Apart from assessing the type of smoker you need, it's also important to ensure that your choice is slender and compact. You should go for a smoker that fulfills only the intended purpose. For instance, if you need a smoker to occasionally smoke your meat for your family, a small size will never be a bad thing.

Conversely, a bigger model is what you need when it comes to business purposes. On top of this, never forget to consider the availability of space in your house when purchasing your electric smoker. If your space is limited, go for a smaller-sized electric smoker.

Price

When looking for a movable, long-lasting smoker, you may be worried about the pricing range. There are numerous brands and smokers offering varied prices to choose from. To find the best deal, you must determine the amount you can comfortably set aside to purchase this equipment.

For instance, if you do not have much to spend, it's prudent to purchase gas and charcoals smokers. They are generally the best and they are low-price compared to the electric smokers, plus you may end up landing on a nice smoker with the finest design and technical features at a very affordable price. However, if you have the money, go for the pellet smokers.

Usability

Knowledge of an electric smoker's user-friendliness would greatly be beneficial to you as you make your item selection. Many people find it relatively hard to embrace smoking at home due to the deeply-rooted misconception that the method is heavily time-consuming. Whilst it can be quite challenging, this is the case only when the wrong smoker is chosen. You should settle for a model with features that favor smooth operations as well as making kitchen work smart for you.

Alongside this, it is also crucial that the smoker bears an accessible control mechanism that can be easily monitored and operated. Its positioning is really important since it allows you reach it with ease. Again, choosing a wheeled smoker would be a positive for you since it will perfectly meet your portability needs. Such a feature means that transferring it from one position to another should not necessarily be a complex matter.

Temperature Range

Most of the smoking requirements will prompt you to cook at low temperatures and over long periods. If the potential smoker allows you to adjust temperatures flexibly, you will definitely want to pick a model which gives you the chance to comfortably attain temperatures above 5000C or more. Such temperatures are suitable for caramelizing and many other cooking options.

Getting a model which lets you personally set temperatures will make it relatively easy for you to attain the most appropriate heat levels. This can also make smoker settings effortless, allowing you to prepare your food and have time to relax until the meal is fully cooked.

Construction and Durability

You certainly don't want to invest in a product prone to failure and incapable of lasting for a long period of time. Therefore, you must carefully study the design as well as the materials used.

Easy Cleaning

Preferably, you should spend money on a smoker that requires minimal maintenance and cleaning. If the unit's cleaning process is simple, then it is more likely to endure over time. After all, you wouldn't be happy cleaning the device over and over again during lengthy smoking periods.

How to Use a BBQ Smoker: Smoking Tips and Tricks

There are a considerable number of points that should not be left out when setting up an electric smoker, these tricks and guidelines will immensely enhance your cooking, turning out scrumptious food that will thrill your family and visitors:

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    Be patient - The purpose of a smoker is to carry out low and slowed cooking, so be patient and allow enough time. Don't rush. You should not be too keen to raise temperatures at any point in the urge to speed up the cooking .
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    Go through the provided manual - Your smoker will come with a manual guide. Take time reading it so as to grasp every detail on how to operate the entire unit.
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    Select suitable wood chips - Go for oak or maple. You can also choose from other varieties, bearing in mind that each of them produces different smells and a distinct flavor. People have varying preferences, so you may have to try a variety to see what your family likes the most.
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    Get your charcoal ready - If you decide to use a charcoal smoker, be sure to replace burnt charcoal with new ones every time you begin smoking. Also, allow about forty minutes for the charcoal to become red hot prior to placing the food on the smoker.
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    Avoid flames - The whole cooking process involves only smoke, along with indirect heat, and no flames at all. If your smoker gets flamed up, quickly use the provided water hose to spray off the flames or try adjusting the racks to prevent the flames from reaching the food.
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    Give time for the meat to cool down - Although the meat's classy appearance and flawlessness will tempt you, you need to give it a few minutes for the juices to cool off.
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    Experiment - The benefit of an electric smoker is that it allows you to perform a whole range tasks with it. Its adaptable units are fit for all kinds of meat as well as vegetables, and more. Be confident in using different chips, finding different flavors, and setting different temperatures. This method is the best approach to devise yummy recipes that are entirely unique.

The Bottom-line

Smoking your chicken, beef, ribs, and turkey is really not hard. You shouldn't panic. With a good smoker, reliable accessories, perfect recipes and practical smoking tips, you're ready to go! 

Imagine getting embarrassed because your friends are partying at your place and you can't even smoke beef. To avoid such embarrassments, use this guide and let the party commence.

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