If you’re a barbecue enthusiast, you know that the best way to cook meat is on a smoker. Smokers add flavor and smokiness that can’t be matched by other cooking methods. There are many different types of smokers on the market, so it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of grill smokers and what each one offers. We’ll also give you some tips on choosing the right smoker for your needs. So, whether you’re a beginner or an expert pitmaster, read on to learn more about smoker grills!
What is smoking ?
Before we get into the different types of smokers available, let’s discuss what smoking is. Smoking involves exposing meat to low heat and smoke for a long period of time. This allows the meat to take on the smoky flavor while tenderizing it at the same time. The food is cooked indirectly with the heat source coming from either an electric or charcoal smoker appliance .
Types of smokers ?
Horizontal offset smoker (for charcoal and/or wood)
The offset horizontal Char-Broil Silver and Brinkmann Smoke ‘n Pit are two popular brands for making your own charcoal smoked meat.
The process is basically the same, but there can be slight variations depending on what you’re looking at when it comes time to buy one of these smokers!
The design is quite simple: a large horizontal barrel cut in half lengthwise with the top half acting as lid and bottom 1/2 which holds all of its contents together. A smaller firebox sits attached at one end just below this cooking chamber; it has adjustable vents so air can enter through these openings, facilitating easier combustion process while maintaining temperature consistency inside both Cooking Boxes (renamed “barrels”) due to them being connected by chimney effect
When you want to cook food without all those pesky chemicals, it’s time for a traditional smoker. The larger smoke chamber usually has an 8-inch diameter chimney protruding up about 12 – 16 inches which allows the breeze inside and outside of your cooking area can flow freely while providing enough oxygen so that even though there are no windows or doors in this type of construction; they still get hot! This rapid movement helps keep any kind deceives away by keeping them flowing right through these delicious meats
With these simple modifications, you can improve your smoker’s performance and make it more enjoyable. One of the most common is to place a water pan on top next to where heat enters into smoke chamber; this creates steam which helps control temperature slightly as well as keeping foods from catching fire by preventing them coming in contact with hot surfaces too quickly (a problem often seen when cooking at high levels). Another useful modification would be extending chimney inside cooking area so its lower than grate level or even just below—this will help draw airflow upwards through food during roasting sessions
Once the desired temperature range has been reached, add meat to grill and quickly close lid. If using wood chunks or charcoal for smoke flavor addition then place 2-3 inch piece of hardwood atop each pile at peak height before placing on top of hotter part(s) where flames are already burning hottest – this will help season food as it cooks!
Bullet smokers (for charcoal)
A bullet smoker is a popular charcoal grill that gets its shape and namesake from the way it looks: like a bullet! The main chamber can be cylindrical or it may come with a conical front end. These smokers are often designed for smaller families who cannot cook as much meat as someone cooking for large gatherings. As we mentioned earlier, they generate high heat inside their cooking chamber which allows them to cook meats fast and efficiently – but this also makes them perfect for grilling your food quickly without worrying about losing too much smoke flavor during the process.
Vertical water smoker (for wood and/or charcoal)
A vertical water smoker has an extra compartment beneath lower firebox; this one holds water and acts as a heat shield to prevent meat from catching fire. This also helps regulate temperature more efficiently by controlling the humidity levels inside your smoker. It can be constructed of various different materials; though stainless steel is typically preferred due to its durability, longevity and resistance to rusting.
It uses a simple design which allows you to easily grill on either side of upper rack while using lower one as water pan (or even place some sweet potatoes on top). If you run out of room or want a better grip for flipping your food without dropping smaller pieces in the water chamber then simply add another grate further down between two cooking chambers!
Beside its simplicity, this design works great when it comes time to put moist foods onto the smoker—the water container will help keep humidity high throughout your cook while keeping your food moist and flavorful.
Vertical offset smoker (for wood and/or charcoal)
Similar to a vertical water smoker, a vertical offset smoker also has an upper compartment with additional racks—this time the lower container holds smoldering coals or wood chunks instead of water. The main difference between this design and others is that the heating chamber comes off at a 90 degree angle from the firebox! Offset smokers are often used for smoking large cuts of meat such as beef brisket, pork ribs or chicken parts. This larger size allows you take better advantage of indirect heat during cooking time so meats don’t dry out too quickly on surfaces exposed to glowing embers.
Offset smokers typically have two vents in the side opposite the firebox; this allows you to open one and retain heat while opening other to lower temperature inside. This also lets you leave the top closed during cooking time and only open it when food is nearly done (to prevent overcooking and maintain moisture levels).
Vertical water smoker with offset firebox
Similar in many ways, a vertical water smoker with offset firebox has two compartments: one for holding water and another for smoldering charcoal or wood! The positioning of extra chamber off center makes it easier to add more fuel when needed without disturbing your smoke. This design usually includes 2-4 racks inside which gives you plenty of surface area for food regardless of whether it’s meat, veggies or seafood.
With easy access to both compartments, you can add more fuel in your offset chamber without worrying about water pan going dry. It’s a great way to have it all when it comes to smoking food: great heat control and easy access for refueling plus excellent temperature regulation!
Bubba Keg Grill & Smoker (for charcoal)
The Bubba Keg Grill & Smoker is a little different from the rest because it doesn’t have any firebox at all—the grill uses an external heating source so you never have to open the main cooking chamber during the course of grilling or smoking dinner. It comes with 3 adjustable-height racks that provide plenty of room for even large cuts of meat. The simple design leaves the perfect amount of space to add more charcoal during cooking time if needed.
This restaurant-grade propane grill easily converts into a smoker with the addition of special water pan and wood chip inserts! The best part is that it provides a great combination of both grilling and smoking functions in one appliance. It’s an excellent choice for any backyard chef who wants to take their BBQ skills up a notch or two!
The two most popular types of smokers are fueled by charcoal. Usually wood chips or chunks are added to the top for flavor, but some styles have a little bit more than just that – they also come in box shaped metal barrels which can make cooking at high temperatures easy!
Brinkmann bullet charcoal smoker
The most basic and perhaps the most well-known charcoal smoker is the Brinkmann bullet smoker. Affectionately called the ECB or “El Cheapo Brinkmann” by many of its owners due to its low cost, this smoker can produce some really tasty barbecue. Although the ECB is very touchy and requires a lot of attention, you’ll enjoy it if you’re up for a challenge. The ECB is an 18-inch barrel with three legs, two pans, and two grates. The bottom pan is designed to hold the charcoal, and the top pan is for water or other liquids. The steam from the water pan helps to balance the heat inside the unit. Water boils at 212°F, and as the surface of the water gets hot, it starts to steam.
The steam combines with the hot air in the smoker and naturally strives to regulate the ambient temperature in the smoker to 212°F.
Homemade charcoal smokers
There are also many homemade variations of the bullet charcoal smoker setup. For example, people make charcoal smokers from metal trash cans or steel drums. I won’t get into how to make these, but suffice it to say that the basic vertical design works very well. If you want to find out more about these wonderful homemade contraptions, search for “drum smoker” for a wealth of information about how to make them and where to find suitable steel drums and other hardware. With a few tweaks of these supplies, you can make some of the tastiest smoked foods you have ever had, and you will become very popular in your neighborhood at the same time.
If you want to take it easy, or if smoking isn’t your thing and hot coals aren’t really what get you lit up inside (pun intended), then maybe an electric smoker is just the ticket. With many models that operate simply by plugging them into power sources there’s no need for tending fires nor does one have worry about burning food!
Brinkmann bullet electric smoker
The most basic of electric smokers for beginning outdoor cooks is the Brinkmann bullet smoker with an electric element. Like its charcoal counterpart, it has an 18-inch barrel with a water pan and two grates for food. Instead of a charcoal pan, a heating element and lava rock are at the bottom of the barrel. Wood chunks are placed around the element to provide the smoke flavor. The heat from the element warms the water in the pan above and creates steam to help control the ambient temperature in the smoker. This smoker is nonadjustable in that you cannot control the temperature by means of a dial or controller. It is designed to maintain a temperature of about 250°F at all times.
This smoker does what it is designed to do pretty well, and I have nothing derogatory to say about it. For those all-night briskets or any other meat that requires many hours of heat and smoke, this is ideal—especially if you have a hectic schedule.
I won’t go into a lot of detail on this smoker, since it’s about as simple as you can get. But I will say this: keep a watchful eye on the water pan. The temperature of 250°F remains consistent only as long as the water pan is full. If you let the water pan get low, the heat will begin to rise (and really spike), which just doesn’t jive with the low and slow we’re looking for. Other than that, relax and enjoy the smoke.
Cabinet-style electric smokers
Another style of electric smoker is the cabinet-style model. Two good examples are the Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smokehouse, commonly called the MES, and the Cajun Injector Smoker. Both look something like a small refrigerator. The top and sides are insulated, and they have a digital controller with which you can manually set the temperature. The heating element cycles on and off to maintain that temperature. Some models also have a timer with an automatic shutoff feature, and some have a very handy chute on the outside that allows you to add wood chips without opening the door. The trick to using this type of smoker is to replenish the chips every 30 minutes or so to keep the smoke flowing. This should be done for about half of the total cooking time depending on how much
smoke flavor you want. For instance, if you are smoking a whole chicken, which takes about four hours at 240°F, you would add wood chips every 30 minutes for the first two hours. After that, the chicken will finish cooking with heat only.
Another well-known cabinet-style electric model is manufactured by Bradley. This smoker uses a smoke generator to create smoke from wood biscuits that look like pucks, and delivers it to the cooking chamber. Since the Bradley has two separate heating elements – a small one to convert the wood biscuits to smoke and a larger one to control the heat inside the cooking chamber—you can also easily use it as a cold smoker for foods like cheese and fish by turning off the larger element (see more about cold smoking later in this chapter). Each wood biscuit smokes for 20 minutes, after which it is automatically pushed into the water pan and replaced by a new one.
This easy-to-use, hands-off smoker is especially suited for all-night smoking sessions. I can tell you from personal experience that the Bradley is not just fun to work with, it also produces some very tasty vittles. I have used it to smoke ribs, meatloaf, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños, and many other popular menu items with excellent results.
Traeger electric smokers
Traeger produces an electric wood smoker that uses an auger to feed wood pellets into the firepot of the cooking chamber. The pellets are ignited via an electric element and, once ignited, they provide the heat and smoke that cook and flavor the meat. This unit is also great for long cooking times, since it can be controlled with a thermostat to maintain a certain temperature. I know many folks who set these up before going to work in the morning and let them cook supper while they are gone for the day.
Propane and Natural Gas Smokers
Propane or natural gas smokers are also very common, and the concept is quite simple. Instead of a wood or charcoal fire or an electric element, a propane or natural gas tank is attached to a regulator and a burner. Once the burner is lit, wood chunks or chips are placed in a metal box over the flame. The flames from the burner provide the heat source while the smoke from the wood provides the flavor. Although it depends on the model, a water pan usually sits directly above the wood chip box; this creates a barrier between the flame and the food and adds some much-needed moisture to the air.
Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain
One of my favorite propane smokers is Landmann’s Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain (also known as the GOSM). It’s superb: it is easy to maintain and can create smoked meat that tastes like it was cooked on a wood-fired smoker. Brinkmann, Cajun Injector, Masterbuilt, and Char-Broil produce similar propane models.
Before you begin a smoking session, make sure your propane tank is full; I also suggest you keep a spare full tank. There’s nothing worse than getting a good start on a turkey only to realize an hour later that your fire has gone out and there’s no propane left in the tank, much less a spare tank in the barn. Allow this to happen on Christmas Day and you’ll be stuck finishing that smoked turkey in the house. Have fun explaining that to your house full of hungry guests who fully expect to be eating that wonderful, smoke-flavored bird just like they did last year, when your turkey was the hit of the party. Yeah, been there, done that (in case you can’t tell!). You should be able to get approximately 30 hours of use from a normal 20-pound tank of propane.
Jeff’s extended instructions for propane and natural gas smokers
When I first purchased my Big Block version of the Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain propane smoker (which has a much wider body than the standard model), I noticed that the instructions included in the box left a lot to be desired. Due to the popularity of this smoker and the tons of questions I have received about it over the years, I have written some better instructions that will increase your success in the use of this smoker. (These instructions will also work with other propane and natural gas smokers.)
- Hook up the propane tank and make sure it is snug. The newer 20-pound tanks all have a large, black-handled knob that uses normal right-handed threads to tighten the connection to the propane tank.
- Open the door of the smoker by turning the handle 90 degrees counterclockwise. Remove the smoker box and fill it to the top with dry wood chips or chunks. Replace the lid on the smoker box and return it to the wire framed cradle just above the burner where you removed it originally.
- Line the water pan (located just above the chip box) with a large piece of heavy-duty foil. Make a habit of this step to save a lot of time. Instead of cleaning all the goo that accumulates in the water pan, you can simply remove and discard the foil, leaving a clean water pan ready for your next smoke.
- Go into the house (or, if you’re lucky, to the sink in your outdoor kitchen area) and fill a ½-gallon pitcher full of hot water. Pour the water into the foil-lined water pan.
- Now for the fun part! Turn the large knob on the left a few clicks and make sure it is emitting a spark next to the burner. If there is no spark, remove your hand from the knob and feel below the control area (the area just below the two knobs) for a wire; make sure it’s securely connected, then try turning the knob again. IMPORTANT: (optional) Do not touch the wire while you are turning the knob or you may have a shocking experience! If the burner sparks properly, turn the right-hand knob to high and immediately turn the left-hand knob a few clicks to ignite the propane burner.
- While the smoker is coming up to temperature, you need to make sure the vents are set properly. If you have the type with two lower vents, close them as far as the tab stops will allow (which is the “GOSM way” of helping you avoid the mistake of closing the vents all the way), then set the top vent to the same position (closed at the tab stop). If you have the type with only the top vent, simply set it to closed (at the tab stop). I know some folks who have learned that with certain milder woods they can get more smoke flavor by bending up the stops and closing the vents a little more. For now, leave them be and stay on the safe side. IMPORTANT: (optional) On any smoker, it’s crucial to set the vents correctly to allow proper airflow in and out of the smoker. This allows your fire to burn properly, and lets the smoke “kiss” your meat instead of settling on it and building up creosote.
- Let the smoker continue to burn on high for about a minute, then set the heat control knob between low and medium to allow the temperature to settle in at 225°F
- The wood will start smoking in about four or five minutes, or maybe even sooner, so you want to get your meat into the smoker quickly. If I’m smoking only a small amount, I use the rack that sits at the same level as the thermometer, just to make sure I know what the exact temperature is at meat level. If I’m loading it down, I leave a little room around each piece of meat to allow plenty of airflow, which ensures everything is smoked properly.
- Once you have the meat in the smoker, close the door and latch it by turning the handle 90 degrees clockwise.
- Sit back for about an hour or so with your favorite beverage, checking the smoker occasionally to make sure it is maintaining your target temperature or to make small adjustments to the heat control knob (higher or lower as necessary). You’ll find that it sometimes takes as much as two or three minutes for the temperature to level out once you make a change, so make a very small adjustment and wait to see what happens. With practice, you’ll learn exactly where to set the knob to maintain a specific temperature. You’ll also notice a difference based on how much meat you are cooking; a smoker full of cold meat will need more heat to reach and maintain your target temperature than a smoker with, say, only one Pork butt in it.
- After about 90 minutes you’ll probably need to add more wood chips or chunks to the chip box. (A telltale sign that it’s almost time to add more wood is when the smoker starts smoking heavier than usual.) Quickly and carefully open the door and, using heavy-duty tongs (big channel-lock pliers also work great) and a welding glove or other heat-resistant glove, pull out the chip box carriage. Remove the lid and then the chip box with the tongs or pliers, and set them on the ground. Quickly close and latch the
- door so the smoker maintains its temperature while you are replacing the wood chips or chunks.
- Pour the ashes and pieces of coal still in the chip box into a metal container, making sure nothing flammable is in the vicinity.
- Refill the chip box with chunks or chips and return it to the chip box carriage in the reverse order of removal as quickly as possible to minimize heat loss. For ribs and poultry you’ll probably need to refill the chip box only a couple of times, but for larger cuts like brisket and Pork butt you may need to do it three or more times. A good rule of thumb is to keep refilling the chip box until the temperature of the meat reaches 140°F.
I think everyone will agree that the taste of meat cooked on an authentic wood fired smoker is unbeatable in every way. The time spent building, tending, and poking the fire just appeals to the inner Neanderthal in all of us. And believe it or not, a certain part of our brain is put into a trance-like state when we watch flames dancing upon wood. Aside from the psychological aspect of it, the intense flavor of meat cooked over a real wood fire is second to none. I personally enjoy cooking on a wood-fired smoker more than on any other kind, but it is labor-intensive. You can’t walk away for too long because you need to adjust a vent or add a stick of wood quite often. I usually reserve cooking on my wood smoker for days when the weather is good and I have other things I can do outdoors and close by—but it can also be a great excuse to grab your favorite beverage and a lawn chair and just treat yourself to some real rest and relaxation.
Most wood-fired smokers are built very similarly to the horizontal offset charcoal smoker, with a large cooking chamber for the meat and a slightly smaller area on the side known as the firebox. A vent lets air into the firebox and a chimney protruding up from the cooking chamber allows the air/smoke mixture to exit.
There are two types of wood-fired smokers built in this horizontal offset fashion: the direct flow and the reverse flow. In the direct flow style, the heat and smoke flow from the firebox directly into the cooking chamber through a semicircle-shaped hole. The smoke travels immediately up to the grate where it cooks and flavors the meat. Some smokers have a baffle that directs the heat and smoke downward.
In my experience, the temperature in the direct flow type of smoker is not as balanced as in the reverse flow. The latter is so named because of the way the heat and smoke flow out of the firebox, under the grate, and all the way to the far end of the cooking chamber before finally rising and moving across the grate to the open chimney on the firebox side of the smoker. This reverse flow is made possible via a heavy steel plate welded just under the grate, which forces the heat and smoke to stay down until reaching the far end of the smoker. The metal plate tends to absorb some of the heat, and this helps to balance both the temperature inside the cooking chamber and the movement of air through the smoker. Many fans of the reverse flow style feel a balanced temperature is paramount in
cooking great food, whether for home use or in competitions. I have used both types of wood-fired smokers and, while I prefer the reverse flow design, both styles are widely used. More important, each can be fine-tuned to produce the tastiest and most mouthwatering food on the planet.
Tips for Choosing the Right Smoker for You
There are a few things to consider when deciding on a smoker grill. In order to choose the one that is right for you, answer these questions below: How often will you smoke food? Do you plan on using your smoker mostly when cooking just a few servings at a time or when smoking larger quantities? If it’s just occasionally, then perhaps just investing in a less expensive bullet smoker is best. However, if you want something with longer lasting power and more capabilities , a water smoker may be worth considering instead.
How much space do you have available in your yard? If you have enough room outside, then either type of barbecue grill can work for your needs. However, if you’re tight on space, then you may need to look at some smaller models for smoking. Do you plan on traveling with your smoker grill? Traveling with your smoker is possible but not recommended. Since water smokers are more popular than bullet smokers , this blog article will focus on the best options for those who want a travel-friendly model. However, keep in mind that these types of grills can be heavy so it’s not easy to move them from one spot to another when they have food loaded in them.
Do you want a charcoal or gas fired smoker? While there are other types of grills out there available, we wanted to stick with just two different kinds: propane and charcoal . The reason being is that these two types of grills tend to be the most popular for smoking.
What is your budget? While both propane and charcoal smokers can be found for cheap , you will want to consider how much money you’d like to spend. This will help narrow things down so that you don’t waste time looking at models that are outside of your price range .
The different types of smokers each have their own unique benefits that can’t be found with any other grilling method. We’ve outlined the most popular smoker types and what they offer so you can decide which one is best for you. If you haven’t already, we suggest trying out a smoker to see how much better your grilled food can taste. Thanks for reading!