Whether you’re shopping for your first meat smoker or you want to add to your collection, use these tips to pick out the perfect one for your needs.
Over $1 billion is spent on grills and smokers each year in the U.S. alone. Every year there are more and more to choose from. This can get a little overwhelming.
It can be hard to figure out what the right kind of meat smoker is for you. For this article, we are going to focus on different aspects of smokers. Once you have finished reading you will have a better idea of what you are looking for.
What Is Meat Smoking?
Smoking is a form of cooking meats with the use of heat and smoke. It is a slower cooking method than normal cooking or grilling. The temperature at which you cook the meat will be much slower, allowing for the meat to be much more flavorful.
How Much Should I Pay?
Smokers come in all shapes and sizes and offer different gadgets and features. This means they will come in a variety of price ranges.
First, you need to know, can I afford this? Smokers can cost anywhere between $8 – $2,000. Once you know how much you can afford to spend you need to figure out how often you are actually going to use it.
How often you plan to use your smoker can play a big role in how much you should spend. If you are only going to use it every now and again it wouldn’t be cost effective to buy a more expensive smoker.
You also need to look at who you are using this smoker for. Are you using it to supply an entire restaurant? Are you putting it in your backyard to feed your family and friends?
If you’re not cooking for a lot of people, you don’t need a large smoker.
The final factor is the size of the smoker. How much space do you have for the smoker? If you have a small backyard it wouldn’t be practical to buy a smoker that won’t even fit in your backyard.
You also have to consider how much empty space you have around your smoker, as you don’t want to catch anything on fire.
What will you be cooking on it? If you are doing smaller pieces of meat you don’t need a smoker that can fit an entire turkey.
Types Of Fuel For Your Meat Smoker
There are different types of smokers, which means that there are different fuels you can use. The type of fuel you decide to use will have an impact on the flavor of your meats. You can add wood to any variety of smoker (to add extra flavor), but the fuel will still have an impact on the flavor.
This type of smoker is going to give your smoked meats a unique flavor. If you want a bit of a smokier flavor this is a great grill option.
Wood pellets will give you the most authentic wood flavor and the smokiness your meat needs. If you want more of a woody flavor vs. a charcoal flavor, you may want to invest in a wood smoker.
Gas smokers will cost a little more than charcoal grills, but they tend to be more efficient and easier to clean. They will have some smokey flavor but not as much as a charcoal smoker.
If you don’t have a backyard, this may be a good option for you. An electric smoker can sit on your counter in your kitchen (depending on the size). It doesn’t offer as much flavor as charcoal or gas smokers do, but it is a good alternative if other types of smokers are out of the question.
Charcoal smokers will be the hardest to control the cooking temperature with. You need to make sure the coals are maintaining their heat and are not burning out.
If they cool down too much you need to reheat them, which means your temperatures are going to keep changing constantly. These types of smokers need the most maintenance.
Wood smokers use automatic heating, much like an electric smoker. The difference being, you are getting your main heat source from the wood pellets. Keep checking to make sure you don’t need to add more pellets to your smoker.
A gas smoker is the easiest to use when you want a controlled temperature. The temperature is consistent. You don’t need to keep checking it to see if the temperature has changed.
Electric smokers offer a variety of features that can allow for consistent heating. While it does offer some temperature control, a lot of it will come down to how much water you have in there. If it gets low on water you will see the heating distribution fluctuate.
With all methods you can use a water pan for better temperature control.
Extra Features Of A Meat Smoker
When looking at all these different kinds of smokers you might be wondering about how convenient they are for you. After all, they could be more tedious to operate than you might expect them to be. It can cause frustration if you have to buy something later on, that you could have had the first time around.
2 in 1
Maybe you only want to use a smoker only every now and then but still plan to grill a lot. In that case, it may be cheaper to buy a smoker that comes with a grill. It will definitely be more affordable than buying a smoker and a grill separately.
If you want a smoker that has a lot of shelves, you may want to look into whether they are removable. Maybe one day you want to make a bunch of smaller pieces of meat and the shelves are just fine where they are. If you decide you want to make a bigger piece of meat however (like a whole turkey) you need to make sure you can remove some of them to make room for that big bird.
Water pans help with temperature control so they are good to have, no matter what type of smoker you choose to buy.
If you don’t want to have drippings all over the bottom of your smoker, a drip pan offers quicker cleanup.
And if you are someone who likes to make sauces from the drippings of your meat, you will definitely need a drip pan.
Ease of Use
Once you know what type of smoker you want, the next thing you need to know is how easy or complicated it will be to use. Can you easily add the charcoal, water and/or wood to your smoker? You don’t want the most basic things related to barbecue smoking be a hassle – getting the meat done perfectly already is work enough.
Next, you want to look at how easy your smoker will be to clean. Can you easily clean all parts of your smoker or are there hard to reach spots that make it difficult to clean? Do they have easily removable parts that make cleaning up more efficient?
The charcoal and wood pellet smokers will require the most cleaning up because you will have a lot of ash residue left over.
It is important to really be clear about what you want and need from a smoker to make the right decisions when you are looking to buy a smoker.
Once you know what you expect from your smoker, your next step will be to figure out where you want to buy one. You could go into a store or conveniently browse your options online. The best thing to do is to look at reviews online or ask a professional before you make your final decision.
If you have any questions about meat smokers or other types of grilling, feel free to contact us or read up on the resources we already offer – you will be a grillmaster in no time!