Best type of smoker | A Beginner Guide of 2024

Best type of smoker

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Are you seeking best type of smoker? If so, now you are in right place.

Smoking meat gives it a taste and flavor that’s unparalleled. This however depends on the cook’s smoking skills. Smoking has to be done at a relatively constant temperature, which boils down to regulating the amount of fire in a meat smoker utilizing charcoal or wood. this balance calls for constant watch throughout the cooking. But did you know that there are more than five types of meat smokers? Well, today we look into the common variants so you know which type fits your specific grilling-cum-smoking needs.

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There are primarily six major types of meat smokers. There’s a lot of innovation around the field of cooking, of course, explaining why you’ll still come across some other types that I might not mention today. You’ll most likely think of modifying yours or making one once you’ve read through this article. Here are some popular meat smokers:

  • Pellet smokers or pellet grills
  • Electric smokers
  • Offset smokers or horizontal smokers
  • Drum smokers
  • Vertical water smokers or bullet smokers
  • Kamado grills

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1. Pellet smokers

Pellet smokers are a high-tech combination of a smoker and oven. They run on electricity and have a thermometer, fitted with a temperature controller. Just like an oven, you set the desired temperatures and the electronics hold it in.

They feature a hopper, where sawdust-compressed food-grade smoking pellets are filled. The pellets are made of hardwood sawdust that is compacted and then reduced to 0.25” round balls. They are fed to a small firebox in the smoker with help of the auger.

What happens is the metal rod in the firebox starts to heat up upon switching the machine on. Igniting the pellets. There is a servo-motor in the high-end models, that is numerically controlled by a computer. The cheaper models call for manual adjustment by the user.

Each type of meat smoker has its advantage and disadvantages. See below what to expect of a pellet smoker.

  • Advantages of pellet smokers
  • Can double up as a smoker and a grill
  • Produce good quality smoke from the hardwood pellets
  • The advanced ones are very easy to operate
  • Lesser cleanup required since pellets leave nothing behind apart from a little ash
  • Disadvantages of pellet smokers
  • They’re quite expensive. No good-quality comes for any less than $400
  • You need a close power outlet to power the motor and the heating rod
  • The fuel, pellets are not readily available and thus you may need to stockpile them

Who’s it for?

Again, if you like the convenience of setting everything up, say mid-morning, and run some errands till late evening, and without having to worry about your smoking meat going wrong, you should definitely get an electric griller.

It is also the way to go if you can’t access gas, wood, and charcoal around your locality.

2. Electric smokers/smoker ovens

Electric smokers are the most modern of the eight types, offering a solution that lets you fire and forget. Essentially, you do not have to worry about fuel, translating to lesser cleanups afterward. These smokers rely on electricity entirely.

Electric grillers have a heating element at the bottom, which is the primary heat source. Then there are wood chips suspended above the heating element from whence the smoke comes from. Just above the wood chips are water pans which serve two functions; supplying water vapor to encourage a smokey flavor, and obstruct direct heat from the element below. This keeps the temperature and cooking conditions just right for smoking.

The food racks are above the water pans, and this is where you place the meat.

  • Advantages of electric grillers
  • Absolutely easy to operate
  • The use of electricity alone and the compact sizes allow for space economy. You don’t need a stockpile of charcoal
  • The more modern ones can be set up in the morning and have the barbecue ready by evening. Absolutely convenient.
  • Disadvantages of electric grillers
  • Must be used outside unless if specially vented for indoor use
  • The flavor is usually incomplete due to lack of combustion and smoke formed at a very low smolder temperature
  • Meat smoked in this oven lacks a smoke ring due to the absence of carbon monoxide and nitric oxide

Who’s it for?

Again, if you like the convenience of setting everything up, say mid-morning, and run some errands till late evening, and without having to worry about your smoking meat going wrong, you should definitely get an electric griller.

It is also the way to go if you can’t access gas, wood, and charcoal around your locality.

3. Offset smokers Or horizontal smokers

Arguably one of the oldest types of smokers, an offset smoker initially would utilize an oil drum, giving these smokers their signature barrel shapes. This chunky but spacious smoker is more than enough for the whole extended family.

Evident from the name, these smokers consist of a cooking chamber and a firebox that is offset below the cooking chamber. When fired, the smoke and heat find their path through the cooking chamber, smoking the meat. You’ll notice the chimney located opposite the firebox, for some offset variants.

Some other offset smokers use the reverse flow system that forces heat and smoke to travel under and over the food, and exit through a chimney on the firebox side.

  • Advantages of offset smokers
  • Large enough for big families or groups
  • Some models come with a grill plate to be attached just above the firebox for grilling
  • For a smoker utilizing charcoal and/or firewood, you can refuel the firebox without disturbing heat flow in the cooking chamber
  • Disadvantages of offset smokers
  • Needs constant attention, unlike the electric grillers and automatic pellet smokers
  • The cheaper ones are usually of poor construction, resulting in poor heat retention and thus dry smoky meat
  • Takes about an hour to fire up and get ready for cooking

Who’s it for?

Have you got some good space in your back yard? …and do you like challenging yourself to produce the best from relatively unforgiving tools? If that’s true for you, you certainly deserve an offset smoker, at least.

4. Drum smokers

Proudly the cheapest smoker, it is quite unsurprising that it has a rather unlikable alias; UDS, standing for ‘ugly drum smoker’. Anyway, since it’s still the simplest, any of you with a thing for DIY projects should be nodding with approval right now.

A UDS heats the food directly, as there is nothing else separating the meat and the firebox other than the grate on which the meat is placed. Despite being simple in design, and thus ridiculously hard to operate, this is actually one of the best smokers in the right hands.

  • Advantages of drum smokers
  • The simple design can be replicated at home
  • They cost the least among all types of meat smokers
  • Disadvantages of drum smokers
  • Temperature control is very hard
  • It may not be the best for certain types of meat

Who’s it for?

Perhaps you can already guess- this smoker is for those who’ve got the DIYer’s DNA, and only if they have space and resources at their disposal. Else, you might end up with a smoke pit, instead of a smo

5. Vertical water smokers / Bullet smokers

This is a rather simple smoker, but that which does a great job, at least without insane skills at meat smoking. It works just like a pellet smoker but without the electrical function, or pellets as fuel.

A bullet smoker entails a fireplace at the bottom. Charcoal and the chosen wood chips are combusted here. The smoke and heat pass by the water pan right above, heating the water to produce vapor. The pan also prevents direct heating. Above the pan is the smoking chamber where cooking takes place.

  • Advantages of Vertical water smokers
  • Cleaning up is very easy due to the design
  • They have the most ideal sizes for under-50lbs smokers
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Disadvantages of Vertical water smokers
  • They still need attention so that the fire doesn’t run out

Who’s it for?

Beginners will find this an amazing smoker to learn with. The traditional sense of smoking, and producing a fantastic handcrafted barbeque, along with a non-complicated heat control mechanism, a bullet smoker would be suitable for classes.

6. Kamado grills

If you’ve used the famed Big Green Egg, congratulations to you- used the earliest forms of smoking meat. I mean kamado grills have been around for around three millennia, as of now. It has just evolved under various brands into what we see and use today.

The most distinguishing feature in this smoker is the egg-shape that mimic the ancient ovens, and a thick ceramic wall for heat and moisture retentions. The fireplace is at the bottom of the cooking chamber, with a water dish sitting above the burning charcoal and wood chips. Burning is regulated by closing or opening the inlet vents at the bottom, and the exhaust vents at the top.

The dome shape ensures that as the heat and smoke rise over the meat, they’re directed back onto the food.

  • Advantages of Kamado grills
  • Works fine even in cold climates where other smokers would struggle to retain heat
  • Can be used to grill, bake, and as a pizza oven
  • Reduced airflow ensures the meat is sufficiently moist throughout the cooking
  • Disadvantages of Kamado grills
  • They cost a small fortune, some going for over $1,000
  • Temperature control is a tricky affair, requiring patience. The ceramic walls do not respond instantly to increased heat and do not cool down fast

Who’s it for?

Kamado grills are not easy to work with, at least not initially, and are really expensive. If your budget can accommodate your curiosity, you should go for this ornamental meat smoker. It also goes without much reasoning that the kamado grill should be the way to go if you live in cold climates.

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Other types of meat smokers

The above are only the major types of smokers. As technology advances, more ways of doing the same thing are developed, and so are the tools for such tasks. Meat smoking is widespread throughout the world. You don’t need to be an adept chef to be aware of the numerous meat smoking competitions taking place. In such competitions, you’ll notice other types of smokers, that may be unpopular among the general population. These smokers may include:

  • Kettle grills
  • Stick burners
  • Propane/ gas smokers
  • Box smokers
  • DIY charcoal smokers

Additional meat smoker accessories

Honestly, given the fuel, the smoker, and the meat, you’d possibly complete the task but not as efficiently as you should. Below are the accessories that make your meat smoking interesting and worthwhile:

i) Meat thermometer.

The thermometer allows you to cook at a rather determinate temperature.

ii) Tongs

Any meat handler needs a pair of tongs. Just ensure the length not less than 15 inches

iii) Heat-resistant gloves

Before you touch the hot chimney with bare hands, the importance of wearing heat-resistant gloves may not sit well with some people, unfortunately.

iv) Grill brush 

This brush is necessary for cleaning. Go for a solid wire brush.

v) Bear claws

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Final words

That’s all for today’s class. At this point, I expect you’d quickly point out a given smoker amongst others. That means you can make the best choice when you decide to own one. There’s still a lot to learn about each meat smoker, but we shall leave that for another day.

Remember to always use the smoker outdoors unless you have a special venting installation for that purpose. Fabulous smoking.

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