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8 Types Of Smokers: Benefits, Features & How to Choose One

8 Types Of Smokers: Benefits, Features & How to Choose One

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bbq smoker with meat grilling

To choose the right bbq smoker, consider the frequency of usage, how much food to prepare, the initial and maintenance cost, and several features of the smoker.

Outdoor cooking can be exciting & challenging at the same time if you don’t have the proper equipment. That said, smokers can play crucial roles in elevating your cooking skills & overall quality.

Smokers hold paramount importance for outdoor cooking. If you don’t want to get your hands busy that much because you have a party going on, you can use smokers to let you relax. Some smokers don’t even need your involvement at all.

However, there are plenty of smokers available in the market. Each of them has unique properties & you need to decide which smoker will suit you the most.

Kamado Grill

The shape of the Kamado Grill got inspired by centuries-old Japanese rice cookers.

If you ever notice an oval-shaped, thick ceramic wall-based smoker then that is a Kamado Grill.

Like the Vertical Charcoal Smoker, Kamado Grills also has a fireplace at the bottom. On top of it, there’s a grate that holds a water pan. You will have three to four additional grates to cook your food. Some Kamado Grills have sausage clippings hanging from the top too. The thick ceramic wall provides an even temperature throughout the smoker.

Besides, you have the exact moisture content that is required to keep your meat moist. All Kamado Grills come with adjustable top & bottom airflow ducts. Therefore, you have precise control over smoke & airflow.

Another exciting feature of Kamado Grill is that you can use it as a grill or an oven to cook pizza & bake foods. The thick ceramic wall provides excellent heat insulation to cook even in cold climates.

However, you have to pay hefty prices for these smokers. Usually, the price starts from $1500 & varies according to quality & brand.

Drum Smokers

Drum smokers, also known as barrel smokers are similar to vertical smokers. However, you can make it in your home as a DIY project. All you need is a massive 55-gallon water drum. After that, turn this gigantic water-gallon into a workable smoker.

Drum smokers are gaining popularity in recent times because of their inexpensive & easy-to-make characteristics. You don’t have to spend more than $200 on this smoker. These Drum smokers also go by the name Ugly Drum Smokers (UDS).

You can make all sorts of delicious dishes with a UDS that will work great with flatbreads.

These Drum smokers have a fireplace at the bottom. You can place grates on top of the fire to cook food. You have the option to put up to 3 grates for cooking. But you can’t ensure a substantial heat-flow as you can’t put water plates. So, your meat will get direct heat from such smokers.

There’s a chance of drying out your food because of direct heat. You need to handle the airflow valves expertly so that your food doesn’t get burnt or overcooked.

However, there are modifications available for this smoker that come with water plates & a well duct-control system.

Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Vertical Charcoal Smoker is one of the most common smokers of recent times. Besides backyard BBQ, for competitive cooking, people depend greatly on these smokers.

These smokers also go by names like bullet smokers or vertical water smokers. A Vertical Charcoal Smoker has two preliminary compartments. The bottom compartment holds space for the charcoal/fire. There is a tray under the bottom compartment to collect the ashes & dust.

You can find a pan on top of the bottom compartment which holds water. The main purpose of water is to deflect the direct heat & allow an even temperature through the smoker.

Thus, your food doesn’t get too much or too little heat. Also, the moisture content of the water imparts softness to the meat. You can further add wood chips with charcoal to add various flavors to the food.

The best part of the Vertical Charcoal Smoker is that you can control the airflow. There are ducts/vents at the bottom & top part of the smoker. You can make mean steaks to mouthwatering seafood with these smokers.

However, you may not get top vents in all the Vertical Charcoal Smokers. Only some of them have top vents.

The main privileges of using a Vertical Charcoal Smoker is that it’s only a couple hundred dollars & is moveable. However, the cheaper ones won’t have adjustable vents.

Offset Smokers

An offset smoker comes from the unused oil barrels. These huge oil barrels are offset to the side & thus, the smoker is made from such oil barrels. An offset smoker is massive & it gives you the privilege to cook & smoke multiple pieces of meats & fishes at the same time.

If you want to cook for many people, using an offset smoker can be the perfect solution. You no longer have to worry about changing batches of meat. The barrel-shaped offset smoker has a fire compartment at the bottom of the barrel. As the smoker lies sidewise, the cooking compartment lies on top of the firebox. There is a pre-installed chimney that comes with the offset smoker.

The chimney is on the opposite side of the firebox. Hence, it carries smoke & heat evenly across the food & finally exhausts the smoke.

You can use charcoal & wood chips as fuel. The wood chips will add a variety of flavors to the food.

If you buy a low-quality offset smoker, chances are, heat retention will be poor, food may get dry & also, there’s the possibility of heat leaking. So, always prioritize quality over price. Usually, a decent offset smoker will cost you around $800 – $900.

Pellet Smoker

Pellet smoker uses wood pellets as fuel, just as the name represents. These cookers are automatic & versatile. You can use a pellet smoker as a grill, oven & smoker, depending upon your purposes.

A pellet smoker is usually rectangular shaped & has a hopper & auger drill. Hoppers remain at one part of the pellet smoker & supply pellets while cooking. The auger drill feeds these pellets & the firebox, upon feeding, provides uniform heat.

There is a pre-installed thermometer inside the pellet smoker that controls temperature & always makes sure that the meats remain in optimum temperature & moisture. The thermometer regulates airflow & smoke upon need & imparts an exciting smoky flavor into the food.

As the whole process is automatic, you need electricity to run this smoker. Any disruption of electricity while cooking can be dreadful. So be careful while buying. Pay extra if the brand provides a warranty. Usually, these pellet smokers’ prices start from $500.

Propane Vertical Smoker

A vertical propane smoker known as a box smoker is almost similar to a charcoal smoker. However, they run on propane or natural gas rather than charcoal. You need to have a gas tank, which is also refillable, to run this vertical propane smoker.

If you don’t want to use the refillable gas tank, make sure you have a gas hookup at home. They come in cabinet shapes. The chimney & exhaust valve lies on top of the box, while the bottom part holds cooking chambers, burners & vents.

The gas comes through a manifold from the can to the burner & gets ignited to produce heat. You can also put wood chips in the burner to add a smoky flavor to the food while igniting.

The temperature of a vertical propane smoker is much easier to control compared to pellet or charcoal smokers. It is also light-weight. Hence, you can carry it anywhere with little fuss. However, the insulation property differentiates the good vertical propane smokers from the bad ones.

So, while buying, consider the insulation property carefully to make a great BBQ.

Electric Smoker

An electric smoker is an ultimate smoker that genuinely supports the feature “set it & forget it.” They are like the vertical propane smokers in appearance & have the elements of a charcoal smoker. But they use electricity for cooking rather than gas or propane.

The firebox is at the bottom. A water plate is on top of it. There’s also a metal block that radiates heat & collects drippings so that your foods remain well moisturized & cooked. You can set the cooking temp through BlueTooth from your smartphone.

When the food is ready, the temperature drops automatically to a hold state as long as you don’t come. Thus, you always get served smoky hot meats.

However, you need to maintain this smoker & store it inside when you do not use it.

Kettle Grills

It is not typically a smoker but works like one. These are temporary solutions until you buy a real smoker. If you don’t smoke meat often, you can use a kettle grill.

The firebox is at the bottom. On top of it, there is a grate that has two portions. One part contains coals & wood chips on top. The other portion includes a water plate. The food remains opposite to the grill grate.

You can’t control the airflow or smoke here. So, the performance is not too good.

Types of BBQ Smokers

  • Kamado Grill
  • Drum Smoker
  • Vertical Charcoal Smoker
  • Offset Smoker
  • Pellet Smoker
  • Propane Vertical Smoker
  • Electric Smoker
  • Kettle Grill

Final Thoughts

The type of smoker you will go for depends entirely on you. Before you buy, go through this article to get an insight into their unique features. But make sure you do not compromise on the durability and quality of a smoker. A durable smoker will last 5 times longer than a cheap replica and save you unnecessary expenses.

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