We are here to describe the types of smokers available in the market. But, we feel it necessary to define what a smoker is? What is it? And how to use the smoker? Well, A smoker is a platform set for you to cook the food, either indoors or outdoor. It allows you to set the temperature and measure it with the thermometer you want to provide to the food getting cooked. The heat stays inside the cooking chamber for long, generating flavored smoke that surrounds the meat to absorb it. Best smoker designs are capable of doing everything described in the definition. Each is having a wide cooking surface area, allowing you to cook as much as the barbeque amount in a single cycle.
Different kinds of smokers include offset, electric, pellet, wood, charcoal, or gas smokers. Each type of smoker brings its properties, and each has a few disadvantages as well. What to buy? It depends on your choice of what you want to smoke, what kind of barbeque you want to burn, or how much effort you want to put into cooking. You can read grilling safety tips.
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Types Of Smokers
There are these different types of smokers taking care of the needs of buyers in every possible manner. The types of smokers for meat described below will answer what kind of smoker you should buy?
1. Offset Smokers
Most of the offset smokers contain two significant parts. The cooking chamber is the first part that mostly consists of a box or a metal barrel having longer grates inside it. This room also has a pull-type door and a smokestack that saves the smoke. The cooking chamber has a direct connection with the fire chamber. The fire chamber can be on either side of the cooking chamber. It always has a side or top access door and a vent as well. The firebox is capable of creating heat and smoke. These two travel through tiny holes between spaces entering the cooking chamber.
Acceptable vs. Not Acceptable
That’s unfortunate for the buyers that they always get to know the right thing after buying the smoker. When they light it up, everything becomes crystal clear. If the smoker starts leaking the smoke, it is not acceptable. These smokers might leak smoke through any door or the bridge between the fire chamber and the cooking box. Smokestack should be the only area that can leave the smoke after its function finishes.
Another problem users of offset smokers are facing is uneven heating of the food. In ill-designed offset smokers, the cooking chamber side on the firebox can have a higher temperature than the cooking chamber’s opposite side. Some cheap offset smokers of these kinds use thin metal that doesn’t have the capability of retaining the heat for a long time.
To be very honest, there are several unreliable offset smokers present in the market. They are unreliable because of their design, but you don’t need to worry about it. We have discussed the best offset smokers based on our experiences. The design of any smoker affects a lot over the cooking of food. They can not be placed in an acceptable category if they don’t have a practically engineered design. This truth has changed buyers’ minds, even though Offset smokers are the most efficient and perfect smokers available in the market.
The Better Ones
A better offset smoker always has a sealed door that shuts tightly. An acceptable design makes sure the smoke reaches where it is required. It also has an improved airflow system proving it more efficient. The best offset smokers in the market consist of a reverse flow system that makes sure heat reaches evenly to all parts of the cooking box. They also dismiss the infrared heat coming from the firebox. Its implementation is simple as the designers only have to put a metal sheet on the bottom of the cooking box.
Heat and smoke coming from the fire chamber pass under the metal sheet and reach the far side of the cooking box before cooking the food. Heat and smoke keep moving towards the fire chamber, where a smokestack is available to collect the used smoke. A reverse flow system in smoker increases the temperature of the cooking chamber indirectly. It also tends the cooler smoke to mix flavors with the food. These kinds of smokers have the best smoker designs classifies into the best types of meat smokers.
The more you pay, the more you get
If you decide to buy an offset smoker, you should consider owning an expensive one. It is going to be a profitable investment if you choose to have a perfectly designed offset smoker. If you have the amount needed to buy an efficient offset smoker under 2000, you will be able to enjoy great barbeque parties. Lang and Jambo have designed impressive offset smokers producing large amounts of barbeque to satisfy a vast gathering needs.
2. Pellet Grills
Wood pallets, as a fuel, help pellet grills to smoke the food. The wood pallets are always natural. These hardwoods are in the form of smaller pieces. Most of the time, you can predict the BTU output. It makes you eligible to light up the fire cleanly, producing smoke flavor for food. Many buyers use it as indoor smokers, but since 1980, Joe Traeger provided Traeger grills that can help you cook outdoor as well. A Grill or a smoker can produce smoke and flavor, which is very efficient to cook flavored food. You can try grilling in the rain.
How does Pellet Grill work?
An external storage bin is a vital part of the universal design of pellet grills. This bin or hooper needs wood pellets. A machine system is responsible for moving wood pellets or chips from the tray to the firebox. The firepit burns the pellets producing the required heat and smoke. The Auger or the machine system can have a specific speed. Users are free to set the speed of it in the less confusing wood smokers. A computerized system in more reliable pellets can set Auger’s pace according to the situation itself. The more efficient and modern pellets grills make the user capable of setting the required temperature.
There are a few heat probes in modern designs capable of decreasing the grill’s heat to a specific temperature. The cooking of meat gets more straightforward and reliable through this process. Designwise, pellet grills are similar to gas grills, and their working is almost identical.
There are many Kamado style grills eligible to work as a smoker as well as a Grill. Pellet grills are the same. Due to the burning of wood pellets, produced heat and smoke are more than enough to follow any cooking style. It can be a smoker, or it can work as a grill according to what you want. Practically, smoking is a better option. The computerized system makes it more comfortable to use the pellet grills. It becomes as simple as operating an oven. What you need to accomplish is to heat the chamber for a specific period. Then you have to place the meat with setting meat probes as well. Start the computer, and it will do what it needs to do.
You will always find a high price Pellet Grill. Its machinery has been faulty in recent years, and buyers have a lot of complaints against it. As we already described the working of these kinds of smokers, it is clear that there are several mobile components in its design. Auger can jam anytime, or the mechanism may fail due to motor failure. The worst you may face is paying a considerable amount to repair it if the warranty can not help you. These Pellet Grills seem like their manufacturing site is a garage. There are a lot of designers of Pellet Grills in the market. They belong to small businesses and do not spend on the improvements needed in most Pellet Grills. Most of the Pellet grills are undoubtedly the most efficient smokers, but they don’t work well enough as grills.
Summing the things up
Pellet grills are mostly reliable grills and very efficient as smokers, but be careful before purchasing. This pellet grill is not a prominent type of smokers, but several manufacturers are still in the market. So better do your research.
3. Vertical Water Smokers
A list of most popular smokers in the market contains Vertical water smokers at the top. That is because these types of smokers are amazingly inexpensive. The one which tops the list of the best vertical water smokers is Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
How does Vertical Water Smoker work?
You should know that a vertical water smoker has three primary chambers. The lowest one is managing the heat source or fuel. Fuel type may change in different types of vertical water smokers. There are various designers and sellers in the market. For example, charcoal is a fuel source in Brinkmann and Weber smokers. Other types of smokers for meat use gas as a fuel source or electric heating.
The second chamber is a water pan. This water pan is the most crucial part of vertical smokers. The function of the water pan is to reserve and adjust the heat of the smoker. The direct heat coming from the firebox can damage the food, so the water pan deflects direct heat. It creates enough moisture in the cooking atmosphere that prevents the food from drying a lot.
The third chamber is the cooking chamber, where food gets to smoke. You can operate it effortlessly. Just build a fire, fill the pan, and put on the meat. You may want to know how to use a smoker.
Vertical water smokers don’t take too much space. They prove to be more efficient than those smokers taking larger space. That is why they don’t need too much fuel to operate. Their price is slightly lesser than many smokers on the market. Vertical water smokers are better for beginners who want to try cooking through smokers without investing a lot.
Vertical water smokers have got a few disadvantages. The smaller size and finite control system are the major ones. Brinkman’s models do not come with adjustable vents. It will perform better only in a suitable smoking temperature range. You can only use Brickman’s models, ideally, if you have got experience in handling them. The smaller size of the Pellet Grills can bother many users, especially the cooking chamber’s volume. Many of these girls have only two racks. The lower one is accessible only if the upper one is removed. If the top shelf or grill already has food, it becomes tricky to access the lower rack. Because these types of smokers are minimal, they can’t cook too much food at once.
These negatives surely don’t belong to The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Its smaller version is even more significant than others’ bigger versions. There are three adjustable racks in the base and a lid as well. This provides a secure temperature control system. The only reason why most people prefer Weber Smokey over other vertical smokers is due to its temperature control system and its capability of providing delicious barbeque in return.
4. Propane/Gas smokers
Natural gas or propane gas is a primary source of fuel in these types of meat smokers. Gas and propane are interchangeable words. You can also consider propane, sometimes a Liquified Petroleum Gas.
If you don’t have a gas connection in your home, the gas for these smokers is mostly in a refillable cylinder or a gas bottle. You can easily find the gas from nearby gas stations. It is not difficult to find this stuff if you are living in a mobile area.
How do they work?
Cabinet style has the burner and vents attached in the lower part of the smoker. The chimney and dampers are usually at the upper portion. The gas from the fuel chamber goes through a manifold and then reaches the cooking chamber. It gets started moving towards burner valves.
It is quite similar to electric smokers. Electric smokers don’t produce smoke naturally. Similarly, gas smokers produce smokey flavor using wood chips.
The best thing about these types of smokers is their ease of use. It is just as simple as we use electric smokers. The fuel is easily available.
You have full control over setting the temperature of the cooking chamber. If we compare it to charcoal or offset smokers, these gas smokers have a comparatively easy temperature control system than charcoal or pellet burners. A gas grill starts much quicker than a charcoal grill. You can easily set up a cooking atmosphere within 15 minutes. It is actually impressive if you are running out of time.
Propane gas is the primary source of fuel, and we know that gas results in more combustion chemicals; that is why many users say that it results in the taste of bacon. To be safe, you should have at least 1 more bottle of gas in case if you run out of gas. You need t check the status of gas every 30 minutes. If gas finishes, smoke is finished, and you won’t get what you want to.
Who should buy one?
Gas smokers are really popular among those who love camping. There are two reasons; one is the availability of fuel is not an issue. Secondly, these types of smokers are easily movable. So, if you love camping and usually go out to stay somewhere, you can take gas or propane smokers with you.
5. Charcoal / Wood Smokers
A charcoal smoker is one of the most popular types of smokers for meat. There are several charcoal smokers available in the market. Each of them has different shapes and different sizes.
The creation of smoke and smokey flavor depends on wood pellets combined with charcoal to produce flavored smoke. Charcoal smokers need a little more care when you use it. It needs cleaning, babysitting, asking for more set-up than electric or gas smokers.
How do they work?
When the wood you added gets heat above 1000°F, the non-organic components inside the wood get burnt. The result of this procedure is “char.” This char gets enough heat to burn but produces limited smoke. The same char, when formed up into briquettes, becomes charcoal.
Charcoal is surely the heat providing fuel for charcoal smokers. This results in producing a few chemicals like C02, CO, and NO that add flavor to food. If we need more smoke, wood chips help us to create the required smoke.
Heat regulation is the task of air intakes near the coals. If you let more air come into the firebox, the charcoal will burn hotter. The Chimney of these smokers helps drag the heat and smoke to the food placed above the coals. The control of airflow and heat flow is really important while cooking through charcoal smokers.
If you allow too much air, the food will become tough and dry. If you allow very little air, the resultant food will be a bit bitter.
Charcoal smokers give you the best smokey flavor than any other types of smokers available in the market. They vary in shape, sizes, styles creating room for you to select the one that fulfills your needs fully. You can have amazing taste due to charcoal and nitrogen oxide produced during the heat process.
Charcoal smokers are not for beginners. An experienced user can use it perfectly. These smokers are not set-and-forget smokers. You have to be around the smoker every time you put the food inside to cook. For those who feel easy in the set-and-forget method, electric smokers are suitable for them.
It takes time to light the charcoal and start cooking. Due to the ash produced during charcoal heat, you have to do a lot of cleaning once you have finished cooking.
Who should buy one?
For people who love to smoke food, charcoal smoker is the best option for them. Their designs vary according to your choice. You can choose whatever you want.
6. Electric Smokers
Electric smokers are perfect SET AND FORGET smokers available in the market. You are free from putting efforts into putting charcoal or wood on the fire or arranging any gas like propane smokers. These types of smokers don’t require too much clean up after you finish the cooking.
The usage of electric smokers is quite simple. You just have to set the temperature f the cooking surface area using the temperature control system provided by the company. The control system can be digital or Bluetooth control as well. It depends on which company you have relied on. Then you just have to put the meat and wait for it to finish cooking.
How do Electric Smokers work?
A heating element is available in all Electric smokers. This element is responsible for creating the heat required for cooking. Electric smokers don’t need any other fuel type to create heat. The smoke required for cooking comes through the wood chips. You have to place the wood chips over the heating element.
Most electric smokers are vertical. The heating element is usually at the bottom of the smoker. The wood and water pans are between the heating element and food grills. You have to place wood chips on the wood pan.
There are two functions the water pan has to perform. The first one is the creation of water vapors. These water vapors will produce a smokey flavor in food.
The second task the water pan has to do is create an indirect cooking environment. It will direct the heat to the meat. It keeps the temperature and heat time slow.
These types of smokers for meat are the best beginner smokers. If someone has never used a smoker for cooking food, electric smokers satisfy them and convince them to go for other types of meat smokers.
You are free from arranging fuel source for electric smokers. Only wood chips are more than enough for electric smokers to create the required heat. This way, you don’t have to manage a lot of things after the cooking process terminates.
The best electric smokers retain suitable temperatures and don’t run out of fuel in any case. You don’t have to stay there all the time when cooking continues. That is why we call it SET AND FORGET types of smokers.
Electric smokers produce a totally different type of smoke as compared to other types of smokers. This is due to the non-usage of actual combustion fuel and the low temperature used to heat wood chips.
Non-usage of the combustion fuel will not create smoke rings in the meat. Co2 and NO are responsible for creating smoke rings, but electric smokers don’t use either of them.
Who should buy Electric Smokers?
It is clear from our recent discussion that electric smokers are the best for those who are new to this field. Their coking procedure is really smooth and easy.
These smokers are also those who don’t have access to fuel types like charcoal or gas etc. near them.
Aspects to consider before buying a smoker
Your budget matters a lot when you are going to buy a smoker. The amount in your pocket can tell you what dimension to choose.
If your budget is under 500$, you should not consider buying an offset smoker. This is because offset smokers are very bad if they are cheap, and they are the best if their price is above 500$. The more you pay for the offset smokers, the more quality you will get in return.
Prices of charcoal, propane, and electric smokers are between 200$ to 500$. If you can spend above 1000$, you should g for offset smokers or Kamado smokers.
Even after you have decided on your budget, you still have to consider which fuel type will benefit you. You have to analyze which of the fuel will be easily available to you.
If you want to train yourself over barbeque, charcoal smokers are the best for you. Pellet smokers are suitable for those who want geat for and can spend some amount as well.
Propane or gas smokers satisfy the needs of those who don’t have much to spend, and they also want their smokers to be of the set-and-forget method.
Try offset smokers at the end, when you have budget and experience as well. Offset smokers will satisfy you the most.
How much food do you want to cook?
Choosing a smoke type is always tricky. You have to consider a lot of aspects before choosing one. For example, do you want a smoker for home use or a huge gathering?
All types of smokers for meat offer different sizes. The size of the cooking area is comparable in square inches.
After reading the whole thing, you must have got the idea of which type of smoker suits you the most. That’s it, that’s the one for you. You can only learn when you do it by yourself. Just go for it. Try it and enjoy the smoker you want.
This is Lionel Andres. I am the Co-Founder of theoffsetsmoker.com. After a deep interest in cooking, especially BBQ, I decided to learn every bit of it. I am a BBQ lover, and in the past few years, grilling becomes my hobby. In this blog, I am sharing my reviews and experiences of the equipment which we personally use. I hope you will enjoy the journey.