This article will take a close look at the vertical water smoker, explaining what they are and how you can pick the best one for BBQ smoking.
Smoked meats are a popular menu item at barbecues that you can easily have at your own home thanks to smokers. There are quite a few different smokers on the market today, so if you are going to invest in one you need to know which one will work best for your needs.
Understanding how the different smokers work will be an essential part in figuring out the one that will be best for you.
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What are Vertical Water Smokers?
Vertical water smokers are some of the most popular smokers on the market. One of the reasons for that is because this is the smoker of choice for beginners. Sometimes also referred to as “bullet smokers”, these are small and compact types of smokers that are perfect for patios of all sizes.
It is also a very easy to use smoker, since it lacks a lot of electrical or mechanical parts. These are smaller smokers, so you won’t be able to cook a large amount of meats in there. However, you can cook between 2 and 4 10lb pork shoulders or up to 10 racks of baby back ribs inside of these smokers. Best of all, this type of smoker is one of the cheapest options.
This allows you to try your hand at smoking meats without having to invest a crazy amount of money. These can be bought pretty much anywhere locally that sells grills. You can easily transport it around as needed, even easily broken down if needed to transport it. You just have to remember to remove the ashes before you transport your vertical water smoker.
There are some downsides to this type of smoker. It is smaller, so you won’t be able to cook as much as you could with another option. The water pan can get dirty very easily, meaning that you need to wash it frequently. You should also keep in mind that vertical water smokers are really only designed for BBQ smoking, but they do the job more efficiently than other types of smokers.
Different Types of Vertical Smokers
There are 3 different types of vertical water smokers: electric, gas, and charcoal.
- Gas smokers are one of the easiest of the smokers to use and offer decent temperature control.
- Electric smokers lack the same temperature control in some cases, though you can get electric options that offer this.
- Charcoal smokers are the cheapest options, but it can be more difficult to maintain the temperature when using these smokers.
This section will take a closer look at each of these types of vertical water smokers so that you can decide which one is the best option for you.
Electric smokers are very convenient options. You don’t have to worry about fire and purchasing fuel as you would with the other types of vertical smokers. As previously mentioned, some models have temperature control features while others don’t. Whether or not you get one is based on your own personal preference and what you are willing to spend on a smoker.
Typically speaking, as long as you keep the water pan inside full there shouldn’t be a problem with keeping the temperature around (or lower than) 220 degrees. Using an oven thermometer, you can keep track of the accuracy of the internal gauge to ensure that this is the temperature that you want.
One of the best things about the gas smokers is that they are the easiest ones to control the temperature with. Generally, you can purchase gas vertical water smokers with a chip box which allows you to get that smoky flavor you want in your meats.
People worry that with a gas smoker, they will taste the gas in their meats or that it might otherwise negatively affect the flavor. This is not something that you need to worry as much about if you have a clean burning gas flame.
To determine if the flame is “clean”, you can check the color of the flame. It will typically be blue or blue with a little yellow in it. However, if you notice that the flame is yellow or orange you will need to clean the burner (or replace it).
Then there are charcoal smokers, which are popular because of how inexpensive these smokers are. These are also very portable options. You should know that these can be more difficult to use than the other options. It does require a bit of knowledge to properly use these smokers.
You need to take care in choosing the charcoal for these smokers, because the temperature control is dependent on the right charcoal. There are a few approaches that you can take when starting the smoker.
You could either set the bricks of charcoal on fire inside of the smoker, then add more as needed while cooking to adjust the temperature. Or you can fill the pan with unlit charcoal, then add charcoal that you started to burn in a chimney starter on top of the unlit bricks. You can add wood to the charcoal fire for the smoky flavor you want.
How a Vertical Water Smoker Works
There are 3 parts to the vertical water smoker:
- the bottom where the heat source is located (also known as a fire box in charcoal smokers),
- a water pan,
- and the cooking chamber.
The water chamber has a door that you can open to add more water or fuel to the smoker to maintain your desired level of heat in the smoker. This is the midsection of the smoker. At the top of the smoker is where the cooking chamber is located.
The heating source at the bottom heats up the entire smoker. As the heat travels upwards, it first heats up the water pan. Calling it a “water pan” can be misleading.
While most people do put water in this pan, some more adventurous grillmasters use other liquids like beer or cider in the water pan. Water just adds moisture to the smoke, creating a perfect environment for smoking tender and mouthwatering meats.
However, some grillmasters prefer using other liquids to add flavor to the moisture which gives their meats a little bit of a kick during the smoking process.
This is a very simple process, which is why beginners love vertical smokers. They are efficient because they are so small, allow you to use less fuel to operate them. They are easy to use because you just need to start the fire and put the meats in, allowing the smoker to just do its thing.
A problem with this type of smoker is that if you open the top to check the meat, you are allowing all of that smoke to leave which will have a negative effect on your meats.
There are so many different options as far as smokers go, which means that it can be very overwhelming to pick the right one for you. This section will give you buying tips to help make the purchasing process a lot easier on you.
Before you can get started on buying a smoker, you need to think about a few things.
Do you want something with a large capacity to it? If so, a vertical smoker is not the ideal choice. You also want to think about how comfortable you are using a smoker. Charcoal smokers can be on the complicated side to use, so it may not be the best choice for beginners.
Lastly, you want to think about a budget. These can vary greatly in price, from inexpensive to very expensive.
You want to find an option that has some stability to it. Splayed legs tend to offer the best stability for smokers. The reality is that vertical smokers tend to not be quite as durable as other smokers, so having that extra stability can make a huge difference. And that isn’t some empty advice – it comes from personal experience – sadly…
While these smokers are on the smaller side, there are various sizes of vertical water smokers.
Think about how much you want to smoke at once. Do you just need enough room to smoke meats for your family? Or do you want something that can be used for entertaining a lot of guests? Are you planning on cooking a lot of ribs or are you just smoking small items?
These are things that will help you to determine the best size of smoker.
Then you have to look at the features of the smoker. If you are looking for versatility for your smoker, you want something that has adjustable shelves that you can easily adjust for your needs.
Front door loading smokers make it so less smoke escapes when you check the meat. Different smokers have different temperature ranges, making it important to consider this when buying a smoker. Certain meats like fish require a completely different temperature than a turkey would.
Learn about the best temperature for smoking the type of meat you are interested in working with, then look for a smoker that can work for you.
Lastly, you should consider getting an option with 2-door access. This allows you to adjust the heat and moisture in the smoker without opening the chamber where the meat is located.
The final thing to consider is the type of smoker you are going to get: gas, charcoal, or electric.
Charcoal smokers are the cheapest one, but it can take some trial and error to master its use. These are manual, requiring a bit more knowledge to use.
Gas smokers are great for those people who want to just set it and leave it alone. These are very simple and easy to use.
Electric smokers are the easiest ones to use but they are also among the most expensive options. If you are comfortable with a learning curve, charcoal smokers tend to offer preferable flavor results to other options.
How to Use a Vertical Water Smoker
While the process can be different depending on the type of smoker you use, the steps are generally the same. This section will give you a brief overview of how to use your vertical water smoker.
- Fire up the smoker
- Fill the water pan with your liquid of choice
- Place chamber on top of the fire box
- Add the wood of your choice for the smoky flavor
- Preheat the smoker for about 10 or 15 minutes
- Put the meat inside after preheating
The first thing that you need to do is fire up the smoker. If you have a charcoal smoker, this means that you need to prep the charcoal to be lit and started up.
The more charcoal that you use, the hotter the smoker will get. As the coals start to get hot, fill the water pan with your liquid of choice ensuring that the pan is about 3/4ths full. Place chamber on top of the fire box.
As the fire starts, this is when you can add the wood of your choice for the smoky flavor. Preheat the smoker for about 10 or 15 minutes before you put your meat inside. Once preheated, you can get your meat inside.
Your job isn’t done once the meat is in the cooking chamber. You should check the water levels regularly to ensure that there is plenty of liquid in there. You should also continue to check to make sure there is still there is still a fire going.
Since it’s in a different chamber than the meat, you can tend to the water and fuel as needed without affecting your meat. After your meat is smoked to perfection, remove it and enjoy. Be sure to clean the smoker while its still warm for easier cleaning.
Vertical water smokers are excellent items to have for your home. These are small and can be inexpensive options to cook up delicious smoked meats. Instead of just grilling all of the time, you can up your grillmaster game by investing in a vertical water smoker.
These are highly portable options that keeps the meat moist during the smoking process. This prevents the meat from drying out during the cooking process. Vertical smokers are also more fuel-efficient than horizontal smokers. Unfortunately, these are smaller and may not smoke as much meats at once or larger cuts of meat.