So, you’ve always wanted to have a smoker for those backyard barbecue parties but never really had the right gear. While a grill is about the first thing you get, the right is what you eventually want.
What’s a smoker, anyway?
Smokers are, essentially, low-temperature cooking appliances. They’re usually meant for outdoor use. And they work by consistently holding lower temperatures of heat as the smoke gradually cooks the meat.
There’s no lack of reasons for preferring smoked meat, from the chewy textures to the smoky flavors. Also, the potential health benefits, when prepared correctly, add to the allure of it all. Smokers can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. And once you know which one works for you, you can easily smoke many food items!
To start with, you need to have a basic grasp of some of the significant types of smokers. This way, you can narrow down your smoker options before you can buy the model that suits you best.
1. Electric Smokers
Electric smokers are appliances that come with a heavy, insulated oven with an electric heating element below. It has a pan that holds the wood chips, which provides the smoke when heated. A metal funnel in between prevents direct heat as well as flames from building up. The racks in the oven hold the meat/food in the place. And you usually get computerized controls that provide more comfortable operation.
Who needs it?
Electric ovens combine elements of traditional barbeque as well as modern tech. The controls allow you to set cooking temperatures, which can come down to holding temperatures after some time. So, it’s ideal for people who prefer a barbeque but without all the manual approach hassles. The Masterbuilt MB20074719 is an excellent choice if you want one of these. You can also check out some of the other great electric smokers available today.
Some of these electric smokers come at affordable rates. But because of the tech element, it’s better to invest in a medium-to-high end product if you want one of these. So, if you’re on a tight budget, there may be better budget smokers available for you. Also, you need a constant electricity supply nearby, which isn’t as convenient as traditional sources of fuel.
2. Gas Smokers
Gas smokers are much more affordable appliances that run on gas as a heating source. They’re also called vertical propane smokers because of the direction and type of gas they run on. The body is usually stainless steel or cast iron case. They may seem similar to charcoal smokers at times. But the heating element is from a completely different fuel source.
Who needs it?
Gas smokers stand out because of their simplicity, ease of use, and affordability. The built is pretty easy to figure out, but you still get a wide variety of options to choose from. And it’s best for those users who need a budget-friendly smoker because you can get great gas smokers in a few hundred dollars. Click here for a more detailed list of some of the best gas smokers available today.
Since they run on propane (or sometimes natural gas), gas smokers need more supervision and attention. So, if you’re somebody who doesn’t prefer continually checking in on your smoker, other automated smokers may be a better choice. Gas smokers also don’t have insulation that can match up to other well-enclosed smokers.
3. Kamado Smokers
Kamado smokers are based on ancient clay oven designs from thousands of years of use in ancient Japan. The fire source sits below the cooking chamber, and the meat is smoked on the grill/grate above. It has vents both above and below to regulate the level of heat. The cooking source is usually a combination of wood chips and a dish of water. The smoker’s body shape directs the rising smoke towards the meat to give it a lovely cook.
Who needs it?
The Kamado restricts some airflow so that the meat doesn’t completely dry out. So, it’s an excellent alternative for users who want their meat to be both moist and juicy. Also, Kamados can double up as ovens or grillers, depending on your need. The Kamado’s thick walls provide better heat retention and distribution for those who live in colder climates. Check out some of the best Kamado smokers here.
Kamado smokers are incredibly versatile, but they come at a higher price range. So, it may not fit a tight budget if you’re only looking for a cheaper smoker. Also, it takes some practice before you can efficiently control the dual vents.
4. Pellet Smoker
Pellet smokers combine the best parts of a combustion smoker with the convenience of electric smokers. One of the main elements here is sawdust, which is compressed to form small pellets (hence the name). The hopper on the side feeds these pellets into the firebox. Here, the pellets combust and provide both the heat and smoke for the cooking.
Who needs it?
These versatile units can enhance any smoking, grilling, and oven experience. With the right electrical regulation, you don’t even have to keep checking it for heat levels. The wood pellets are also energy efficient and create much less debris compared to wood chunks. Pellet smokers are an excellent option for anyone who can afford it.
Pellet smokers aren’t all that cheap. And you’ll have to cough up a decent amount just to get a basic model. Also, because of the electrical components, you need accessible electrical ports. The fuel (pellets) isn’t as easy to find as regular wood, gas, or charcoal.
5. Charcoal Smokers
Charcoal smokers rely on a combination of wood chips and charcoal. Charcoal is, essentially, wood that has lost its organic compounds (besides carbon). Charcoal smoke contains more chemicals that can add to the food’s flavor (but shouldn’t be inhaled directly). The airflow can encourage the burning of charcoal. And it’s regulated by a combination of air intake vents, chimneys, and dampers.
Who is it for?
It’s the ideal choice for users who want a rich, smoky flavor in their food. Charcoal smokers set the bar high for smoking flavors, and they consistently deliver on taste and aroma. It will also suit users who enjoy the manual side of controlling and regulating the smoke and heat to get that precise flavor and taste.
It’s not the best choice if you don’t have a lot of smoking and grilling experience. Charcoal smokers need a lot of attention and considerable skill to operate correctly. So, if you want a more casual/relaxed form of smoking food, you’re better off with pellet or electrical smokers.
What type of smoker you buy depends on your cooking habits. These smokers are the significant types of smokers that form the basic design that influences other hybrid models. So, there’s no lack of options and alternatives today.
We’ve described the advantages to help you decide what suits you best. Also, we’ve outlined the drawbacks to prevent you from buying something you may regret later.
If you want to learn/know more details about each smoker’s pros and cons, check out this list. Whatever your choice, smoking is a cooking art that fits all lifestyles. So, go ahead and get a smoker that you like and start your smoked-food journey!