You can make some pretty good meat on a regular charcoal grill, but you are going to need a smoker if you want to make the best ribs, turkey, pulled pork and other delicacies. A smoker is a good investment if you like to cook outdoors — it will last for years and will make outdoor cooking a breeze.
A smoker is designed to cook even the toughest cuts of meats at a low temperature over a longer period of time. It uses smoke to cook your meat and often maintains a temperature between 225 and 275 degrees, which allows it to break down tough connective tissue. As the fat on your meat melts, it keeps your food nice and moist so that it becomes more tender. It also gets a delicious smoky flavor that can’t really be mimicked with any other style of cooking.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of buying and using a smoker, but it’s actually quite easy. By following this guide, you can find the model that is right for you. Then, you’ll find that it is basically as simple as using a grill but can produce a totally unique and wonderful flavor. Smoking meat is a healthy way of preparing food, and it’s super easy. First, however, you will need to find the smoker that has the features that you are looking for.
What Type of Food Smoker Suits Me?
There are several types of smokers across many different price ranges, so there is a smoker out there that is right for you. By asking yourself these questions and comparing the different smokers that are out there, you can find the unit that will make your backyard bashes and summer dinners a success.
Best Electric Smoker Reviews
Many people prefer electric smokers because they are easy to use and don’t require a lot of maintenance. Although you do still have to add wood chips to produce smoke, you don’t have to worry about charcoal, gas or anything else. All you have to do is plug your electric smoker into an electric outlet, and you’re ready to go.
Electric smokers are perfect for beginners. You can “set and forget” these smokers, which makes them simple to use if you aren’t into spending hours outdoors cooking. As long as you have access to an electric outlet, you just might find an electric smoker to be the right choice for you. They generally come with very simple manuals and instructions, and you can pick up your smoker and get started cooking very quickly, without worrying about messing with pellets, charcoal or gas.
Many people also like electric smokers because they don’t like the fumes or dangers of gas. Whether you live in a private home and are concerned about the dangers of gas or if you live in a neighborhood or apartment complex that doesn’t allow it, an electric unit can be just the solution that you have been searching for. Modern models are extremely safe, and they are also very affordable. You don’t have to worry about shelling out a lot of cash when buying an electric smoker, nor do you have to stress over picking up a lot of complicated accessories.
With an electric smoker, you can get started with hosting a backyard barbecue or just cooking a delicious dinner for your family right away. Once you invest in one of these easy-to-use units, you’ll want to cook out all the time, and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. If you’re looking for a great way to prepare moist turkey, flavorful pork, perfectly-prepared briskets and smoky, tender vegetables, you are sure to love the ease and convenience of an electric smoker.
Best Pellet Smoker Reviews
Pellet smokers aren’t the cheapest options, but there are affordable models out there. When you use a pellet smoker, you have to use wood pellets, which can be bought in bulk to cut costs. These pellets look much like the food that you would feed to a pet rabbit, and they are generally made from sawdust.
Newer pellet smokers have more features and can typically be set at a certain temperature and left alone while your food is being cooked. They are eco-friendly, and the taste that they produce is smooth and tasty although not as strong as the smoky flavor that charcoal smokers can produce. You can also switch up the flavor by buying different types of pellets.
Although many people refer to pellet smokers as grills, they aren’t the best for cooking steaks, burgers or hot dogs. Because they use indirect heat, they’re typically best for smoking turkey, pork and other meats. For this type of cooking, however, they are some of the best options.
Best Charcoal Smoker Reviews
Many people prefer the taste that a charcoal grill provides. Luckily, if you know how to use a charcoal grill, you’ll find using a charcoal smoker to be a breeze. Some models are easier to use than others, but they all utilize charcoal to heat up the wood chips and produce smoke. In fact, charcoal smokers produce larger smoke rings and larger quantities of smoke than the other smoker options do, which can provide more of a smoky flavor than electric and gas options.
There are actually several different types of charcoal smokers for you to choose from. There are barrel and drum smokers, offset-side charcoal smokers and cabinet-style charcoal smokers, for example. Although each type has its own set of advantages, many people find the cabinet-style smoker to be far superior to the other options; these are well-insulated and are very easy to use because they open up much like a refrigerator. Offset-side charcoal smokers can also be a good choice, but you shouldn’t opt for a cheaper model. If you are on a tight budget and crave the taste of charcoal, a barrel or drum smoker is probably going to be your best smoker grill choice. They are very affordable, are super easy to use and can produce the charcoal-and-smoke combination flavor that you are seeking.
Best Gas Smoker Reviews
If you prefer the convenience of gas and don’t feel like messing around with charcoal, you might opt for a gas smoker. Gas smokers use gas to heat the wood chips that you add to the appliance in order to produce smoke. The downside is that you do have to buy gas for the device, which can get costly. You can’t really beat the convenience of one of these types of smokers, however, and you will be able to use it even when you don’t have access to an electric outlet. You can even bring these camping and to outdoor events without a concern for electric outlets or bringing along a lot of charcoal or pellets.
As some of the cheapest smokers on the market, gas smokers are highly recommended for those who are on a tight budget. The flavor is very similar to what you will achieve from other types of smokers, and many find the taste to be far superior to the taste of food that is cooked in an electric smoker. If you want a combination of affordability and functionality, a gas smoker might be your best choice. It won’t produce the same level of smoke or the same charcoal flavor that you can find with a charcoal smoker, but many people find that amount of smoke that these units produce to be more than sufficient.
Although the accessories that come with a smoker shouldn’t be the sole selling point, they can help make your unit a lot more handy. For example, some smokers even have grills attached to them, and some have racks that make it easy for you to hang up your grilling tools. Many come with covers that can help you preserve them longer and that can help them withstand the elements. Comparing the accessories and features of each unit can help you come to the right decision.
These are a few accessories that you might want to look for so that you can get the most out of your smoker:
- Wheels – Lugging a heavy smoker around isn’t easy, so you might want to look for a unit that has wheels. Make sure that the wheels are large enough that you can easily move your smoker across your patio or deck, and ensure that they are well-made and attached properly so that you won’t have issues with them later.
- Cover – Being able to properly cover your smoker will help you keep it clean and will prevent it from getting damaged from rain and other elements. If your smoker of choice doesn’t come with a cover, however, you can purchase something to keep it properly sheltered.
- Grill – Some smokers actually come in the form of grill-smoker combos. If you don’t have a grill and would like one unit that does it all, you might want to look for one of these options. However, you should know that you will have to spend a bit more money for one of these units, and you should also ensure that you are still getting a high-quality smoker; otherwise, you might be better off simply investing in separate units.
- Rack – Having side racks and small, attached tables can make it easier for you to stash your grilling tools while your food is cooking or to place food, condiments, seasonings and more where they are close at hand. Some units offer these accessories while others do not, but it might be something for you to look for.
- Movable Interior Shelves – You will probably be preparing all different types of meats and other foods in your smoker, and you might need to adjust your shelves every now and then to make sure that everything fits. Therefore, you will probably want to look for a smoker that gives you this option.
- Easy Cleaning – Some smokers are easier to clean than others. For example, those with stainless steel interiors are often easier to wipe down. Just keep this in mind when looking for your smoker; it can save you a lot of clean-up work later on and can help ensure that you are able to keep your unit clean and sanitary.
Smoker Buying Guide
First of all, you have to determine how much you have to spend on your new purchase. If you are on a tight budget, you might want to look at a charcoal or gas smoker; these are generally the cheapest, and you can still get a nice model with great features for a low price. If you have a little more to spend, you might choose to invest in a pellet smoker. Among each different type of unit, there are also some pretty wide price ranges. In most cases, you probably won’t want to go with the absolute cheapest models. However, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a model within your price range due to all of the many options that are out there.
Smokers come in many different sizes, and choosing the right one will help prevent you from dealing with any hassles later on. If you are single or will only be cooking for a smaller family, a smaller smoker might be a good option. If you have a large family or will be cooking for a crowd, however, you will obviously need a much larger model.
You really have to assess the different types of smokers to ensure that you choose the right one for you. Electric, gas, charcoal and pellet smokers all have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, and looking at these things will help you choose the one that is best for your own needs. Some prefer the charcoal taste of a charcoal grill, while others prefer the convenience and ease of use that goes along with a gas model. Many prefer electric because of how simple they are to set up and use or are only able to have electric smokers due to where they live. Regardless, assessing each different type will help you make the right decision.
Construction and Durability
A well-made smoker that is properly cared for can last you for a long time and can provide your family with delicious meals for many years to come. Therefore, you will want to look at the materials that your potential smoker was made with and the quality of its construction to choose a model that will stand the test of time. Although you might think that the best-made models are the most expensive, this isn’t always the case. It is entirely possible to find an affordable smoker that will last your family for a long time to come, but you will definitely want to take a look at the quality of its construction.
For a lot of your smoking needs, you will probably want to cook at lower temperatures and for extended periods of time. If your potential smoker allows you to set the temperature, however, you will probably want to opt for a model that allows you to reach temperatures of 500 degrees or so; these higher temperatures can be used for caramelizing foods and more. Finding a model that allows you to set the temperature can make it easier for you to achieve the right level of heat, and it can also make it a breeze to set your smoker and food up and forget them until your meal is done.
Smoking Hints and Recipes
Intelligence is something we are born with. BBQ’ing is a skill that must be learned.
Edward de Bono
If you’ve never used a smoker before, you might be a bit nervous about putting your new outdoor cooker to work. Luckily, smoking delicious meats is easier than you probably think. Ensuring that you have the necessary accessories, that you know how to use your smoker properly and that you use the right recipes, then you shouldn’t have any problem preparing delicious meals and taking advantage of all of the advantages that your smoker has to offer.
Before you can get started, you will need to stock up on a few accessories. You will obviously need things like mitts, seasonings and other essentials that you would use while cooking on a regular grill, but you will also want to invest in a thermometer; this will help you keep your smoker at the right temperature and will allow you to check your food to ensure that it’s done. You will also need charcoal or pellets, lighter fluid and other essentials, depending on the type of smoker that you opt for; if you have an electric model, however, you won’t have to worry about any of these things.
Smoking Tips and Tricks
Check out this video for some handy tips & tricks on how to get the most out of your new smoker, once you buy it.
Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when getting started with your smoker; these tips and tricks will help you turn out delicious meat and vegetables that are sure to please your family or guests:
- Don’t try to rush things. – The whole point of a smoker is to cook things “low and slow,” so don’t try to rush things. Don’t be tempted to jack up the temperature to get your food done more quickly, and allow yourself plenty of time to get dinner on the table.
- Read the manual. – Your smoker should come with a manual, and you should definitely take a peek at it to ensure that you understand how to use all of its features.
- Choose the right wood chips. – You can choose between oak, maple, hickory and more, and each type of wood produces a different smell and a totally different flavor. Different people have different preferences, so you might want to choose a few types to see what your household prefers.
- Prepare your charcoal. – If you opt for a charcoal smoker, you should make sure that you use new charcoal each time that you smoke something. Also, give the charcoal between 30 and 45 minutes to get hot before adding your food to the smoker.
- Avoid flames. – Your food should be cooked from smoke and indirect heat, not a flame. If you notice that your smoker is flaming up, you can spray the flames down with your water hose or adjust your racks so that the flames aren’t touching your food.
- Don’t dry it out. – Meat that is prepared in a smoker should turn out unbelievably moist and delicious. If you leave your meat in after it has finished cooking, however, it can dry out; therefore, you should remove the meat as soon as it is done for optimal flavor.
- Allow your meat to rest. – Although you will probably be tempted to start eating your meat as soon as it is fully cooked, many meats need a short resting period to ensure that they are moist and juicy. For example, briskets and other larger cuts of meat should rest for about five minutes; otherwise, the deliciously moist juices can come out when you cut it.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. – The joy of a smoker is that you can do a lot of different things with it. These versatile units can be used for all types of meat, vegetables and more. Experiment with different chips, different meats, different flavors and different temperatures and cooking times; this is a great way to come up with tasty recipes that are all your own.
As you experiment with your smoker, you are sure to come up with a few delicious recipes of your own. These tips can help you get started when first preparing your favorite meals in a smoker. Plus, you can check out the many cookbooks and cooking websites out there that offer tried-and-true smoker recipes that your family is sure to enjoy.
If you’re bored with roasted turkey and want to do something different for the holidays or any time of year, a smoker is the perfect choice. It’s very easy to dry out a turkey when baking it or preparing it with other traditional methods, but a smoker will ensure that it’s so tender that all of the tasty turkey meat is falling off of the bone. Some seasonings will help produce a better flavor, but the overall smoke taste is sure to be enough to make your turkey unforgettable.
The perfect way to prepare pulled pork is in a smoker; this is because the smoker will break down even the toughest cuts of pork and make them so moist that they practically melt in your mouth. You can add salt, pepper and other seasonings to your pork, and you can add on a tasty barbecue sauce after they’re done. Otherwise, you can just shred the flavorful, moist meat and eat it as-is.
If you are looking for a way to produce ribs that are so tender that they fall of the bone, your smoker is the ticket. Plus, it can give it that tasty smokehouse taste that you can find at your favorite restaurants. You can add a nice rub and eat them plain, or you can smoke them with light seasonings and add thick barbecue sauce afterwards; the choice is up to you.
Many people use their smokers solely for preparing meats, but they are great for preparing vegetables as well. Whether you’re prepping them as a side dish for your grilled meats or want to make them the main event, smokers are great for giving them a delicious smoky flavor. Smoked potatoes, peppers and onions are delicious as a side dish or a topping to your favorite grilled foods, but you can experiment with other delicious veggies as well. Adding a bit of seasoning can help bring out the flavor of your produce, but you shouldn’t have to add much; the low, slow process and the delicious smoky taste is sure to be the main flavor profile of your newly grilled vegetables.