In this post, we will see how BBQ smoker works and what makes one type better than others. There are different types of smokers such as electric, charcoal, gas, pallets, and of course wood smokers. Barbecue smokers can also be classified according to their design which we have explained below. From the year 2011-2015, there were 9600 home fires call annually which fire departments attended. So don’t forget to read safety tips below for safe grilling.
Recommended BBQ smoker
We compiled the list of best barbecue smokers currently in the market. You can choose from any one of them depending on your style and budget. Don’t forget to read the pro and cons of different design BBQ smoker below.
Weber 15501001 Deluxe Charcoal Grill
Weber 15501001 Deluxe Charcoal Grill has a large table, digital timer, gas-powered charcoal lighter system and 363 square inch cooking area. Products by Weber are known for there versatilely and quality.
This charcoal grill gives a traditional and authentic experience. It is easy to use and designed with features to give you a convenient cooking experience.
This grill has BBQ system cooking grate, porcelain powder coated steel lid and fire bowl and Aluminum vents. Powder coated steel and stainless steel cart construction ensure that it is made with quality.
Char-Griller E1224 Smokin Pro
Char-Griller E1224 Smokin Pro has a design of classic offset barbecue smoker. It is inexpensive as compared to other offset smokers but made of quality materials. This smoker can also be used for regular grilling.
This smoker has non-stick cast iron grills and heavy gauge powder coated steel construction. It has removable charcoal drawers for convenience in adding charcoal or removing ashes.
It has heavy-duty steel construction and wheels for easy transporting. 580 square inches of the cooking area will make sure that you can cook a large portion at once.
Weber Smokey Mountain 18 Inch Smoker
Weber 721001 is simple, easy to use and beginner friendly smoker. If you have no experience with a smoker then this is the one you should go for. This small, 18 inches vertical smoker is easy to use as a grill. In this smoker, you use charcoal as fuel in the bottom and meat on the top cooking area and that’s it.
This smoker has a surface area of 481 square inches, which is enough for the average family. It has a heat-resistant nylon handles and made with porcelain-enameled steel. It includes water pan, build in thermometer and have the individual vents on bowl and lid.
Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
Pit barrel cooker is easy to use and big enough to cook 8 racks of ribs at once. This cooker is very convenient to use and doesn’t require much attention. It is designed to keep the steady temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Classic Pit barrel cooker has one cooking grate of 240 square inches and 8 stainless steel metal hooks. It has porcelain coated steel construction and made in the USA by reputable brand “Pit Barrel Cooker”.
We recommend this cooker because of its simple design and solid construction. It is also versatile and very easy to use. On the downside, you have to use only the Kingsford brand of charcoal in it.
Big Chief Front Load Smoker
Big Chief Front Load Smoker has a food capacity of 50 pounds and smoking rack space of 576 square inches. This smoker has an aluminum construction and single heating element of 450 watts.
If you like smoking fish, cheese, sausages or making jerky then this smoker is just for you. This smoker is good for adding smoke flavor and preserving food because of its lower cooking temperature and continues steady smoke.
This smoker is inexpensive and lightweight. On the downside, this smoker is not good for smoking large cuts of meat. Also, you cannot control the temperature in this smoker.
Smoke Hollow 44-Inch Gas Smoker
This gas smoker is the high capacity smoker with 44 inches smoking chamber. You can easily prepare a large portion of food in its cooking area capacity of 6.5 cubic feet. It comes with 2 jerky, 2 standard, and 1 rib rack which are chrome plated steel.
It has a powder-coated steel sheet metal construction and dual door design. With a smaller door, you can easily access water and wood pan whereas large door is for the cooking chamber. This gas smoker has 2 stainless steel tubular burners which can be operated independently for temperature control.
Kamado Joe Classic II 18″ KJ23RHC grill
Kamado Grills have excellent insulation, high-efficiency, and centuries-old history. They have thick ceramic walls which can hold both high and low temperature efficiently. Good quality Kamado grills are expensive and if you are ready to invest then definitely check Kamado Joe Classic II 18″ KJ23RHC grill.
This kamado grill has the cooking surface of 255 square inches. It has stainless steel cooking grates and ceramic body which provide excellent insulation and holds heat evenly. For easy lifting, there is spring loaded lift and removable drawer to clean ashes. It has a stainless steel bottom vent and cast iron top vent to excellent heat control.
Different types of BBQ smoker
Below are some most common types of barbecue smoker. Different kinds of smokers have their own pro and cons which we mention below. We also wrote how they work so you can choose the one which works best for you.
- Vertical water smokers
- Offset smokers
- Box smokers
- Drum smokers
- Kamado grills
Vertical water smokers
Vertical water smoker is affordable and probably that’s why the most popular type of BBQ smoker in the market. In this type of smoker, water is also evaporated with the heat. Water vapors and smoke together helps smokiness to penetrate deeply in the meat while keeping them moist and juicy.
Vertical water smoker consists of three compartments. Bottom compartment holds the heat source which can be wood, charcoal, electric heating element or gas burner. Middle compartment has a pan where the water goes. This helps in controlling the heat and also provides moisture with smoke. The top chamber is where your food goes and gets cooked with moisture and smoke.
Pros of vertical water smokers
- They are small and don’t require much space to use or store.
- Vertical water smokers are inexpensive so doesn’t require much investment.
- They don’t require much fuel to run because of small size.
Cons of vertical water smokers
- You will have limited control over temperature.
- They are small in size so preparing a huge amount of meat can take a long time.
- The biggest con of vertical water smoker is the loss of heat when you open a lid to check food while preparing
An offset smoker is the classical design of barbecue smoker which consists of two parts. One part of smoker is the cooking chamber which is which is usually metal barrel or a long grated. On the other side, the cooking chamber is attached which is called firebox. Firebox is used to create smoke and heat which is transferred to a cooking chamber where food is prepared. This type of design is the classic design of BBQ smoker which is believed to be built by oilfield workers in Texas.
Quality offset smokers are constructed with quality materials which retain the heat well. The doors and seals of quality designed offset smoker seal completely and don’t let any smoke to leak. Quality construction uses the reverse flow of air to provide even heating.
Pros of offset smokers
- You can add wood chips or pallets in firebox without opening the food chamber and losing any smoke or heat.
- You can use them as a regular barbecue for grilling by using grilling grate over the firebox.
- Offset smokers can cook a large portion for food because of their size.
- Wood logs are used as fuel which is cheap and easily available.
Cons of offset smokers
- They are expensive as compare to another type of smokers.
- There are many poorly designed offset smokers in the market which are build using low-quality. materials. These smokers are difficult to use and break easily.
- They are big and heavy so storing and using them can be hard for some people.
Box smokers have a simple design which has a shape like a box. Some other common name of box smoker is vault smoker, block smoker, and vault smoker. Food is cooked in top chambers and has heat and smoke source in the bottom.
Quality box smokers have good insulation, well-fitting door and quality thick metal in construction. This type of barbeque smoker is able to cook a large amount of barbecue within a short time. For most catering companies and restaurants, this type is easy to use and dependable choice.
Pros of box smokers
- They can produce a large amount of food in a short time.
- Sturdy construction and quality build box smokers can last for a long time.
- They come in many sizes and you can choose the one according to your need.
Cons of box smokers
- Good quality box smoker can be expensive.
- These types of smokers are available only in specialty stores and online stores.
The drum smoker is inexpensive, light weighted and easy to use barbecue smoker. They are also known as ugly drum smokers (UDS). You can buy them as ready to assemble a kit or fully assembled smoker.
This simple BBQ smoker is basically a steel drum with firebox to put wood chips in the bottom. And food is barbecued at the top in the cooking rank. Because of simple drum design, there is no possibility of smoke leak except the cooking place.
The trick to preparing smoky and tender meat in this system is to first put charcoal in the firebox. And put food in the top rack before charcoal starts actively burning. You can adjust temperature using vents.
Pros of drum smokers
- They are compact and don’t require much space to use or store.
- You can build one at home easily
- They are Easy to use and able to hold temperature for a long time.
Cons of drum smokers
- Because of small size, they have the limited cooling capacity.
- They are not much appealing in appearance.
Kamado grills are inspired by the centuries-old ceramic rice cooker of Japan. This type of BBQ smoker is made using ceramic and uses charcoal to provide heat and smoke. Ceramic shell of kamado grills gives efficient insulation whereas simple air flow allows low and slow cooking.
To maintain the low steady temperature, they are designed to block direct heat from the fuel. For this purpose heat deflector is used which are removable if you want to use a regular grill.
Pros of Kamado grills
- Kamado grills can produce temperature up to 750 Fahrenheit.
- Quality kamado grills are well built and can last for many years if properly maintained.
- They are compact and visually attractive.
- They are versatile and can be used to both high-temperature cooking and low and slow temperature cooking.
Cons of Kamado grills
- They are more expensive as compare to other smokers.
- They are compact so you can barbecue only a limited amount of food at a time.
- Kamado grills require practice to master the art of cooking.
- They have a ceramic shell which may break if it falls and hit something hard.
How does BBQ wood smoker work?
The aim behind BBQ wood smoker is to cook food slowly and at low temperature. In barbecue smoker, indirect heat and smoke from the fuel (wood, charcoal) together cooks the food and imparts the delicious smoky flavor.
Slow cooking can take a long time like 2 hours to 24 hours and in some cases even more. But the end result is worth all this because of delicious flavors and aroma.
In this system, food is placed in the cooking chamber and fuel is placed in the firebox. The heat and smoke from firebox then cook the food slowly. There are many different kinds of barbecue smokers which we mentioned above.
Factors to consider for Barbecue smokers
Quality barbecue smokers last for many years. They are expensive in starting that’s why it is recommended to check out these factors to make sure you are buying the correct one.
Price: BBQ smoker come in the variety of price range. They start from $50 for the basic model and can go up to $10,000 for one with an all-in-one professional model. You can decide on price depending on how often you use them.
Fuel: You can use wood, charcoal, propane, gas, electricity as a fuel depending on the model you choose. Select the BBQ Smoker in which you are most comfortable. For authentic and traditional taste we recommend you to use wood or charcoal.
Quality: Barbecue smokers build using quality materials and good design will decide lifespan and ease of use of your smoker. Choose the one with thick metal sheets. The market is full of inefficient models so make sure to check out our recommended list.
Size: BBQ smoker comes in a variety of sizes. Small size barbecue may be enough for the average family but you will need big if you want to cook a large amount of food.
Usage: Many models in BBQ smoker have features to cook in both high heat and low temperature. These smokers can be handy if you want to use your smoker also as a regular grill.
Temperature and smoke control: As we mentioned above smoker should able to provide steady low temperature with constant smoke for a long period of time. Check out if your potential smoker has enough features to control temperature using vents and thermostat.
Even heat distribution and insulation: Quality smokers have efficient insulation and even heat distribution for the cooking chamber. Features like reverse airflow in offset smokers help to get even heat distribution throughout the cooking chamber.
Tips for safe grilling
In the USA alone 7 out of 10 adults own a barbecue grill or smoker. It means a lot of barbecues all over the country. Unfortunately, there is the risk of accidents if you don’t take proper safety while grilling. Below is the list of safety tips for safe grilling.
- Propane and charcoal Grills should be used outside of the home in the open area.
- Never leave the grill unattended and keep pets and children away from the grilling place.
- Clean your grill regularly for any grease or fat.
- Only light the grill after the opening lid of the gas grill.
- Never use any flammable liquid except charcoal starter fluid. And never add any to the fire.
- Make sure coal is completely cool after usage before keeping your grill back.
- Use a waterproof appropriate extension cord if you are using electrical grill outdoors.
For more details regarding safe grilling, check out this link from the NFPA website.