Box smoker: the vertical “oven-like” vault or cabinet

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 30, 2022

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Box smokers are also called:

  • vault smokers,
  • cabinet smokers
  • block smokers

Note: A box smoker and smoker box are NOT the same things. A box smoker is an entire smoker unit whereas a smoker box is a small tube placed on top of the grill.

Box smokers are less complicated machines that you can find that are also very useful. They’re used to cook large batches of meat and veggies.

Therefore, they’re perfect for commercial purposes or large family gatherings.

Their design essentially conserves heat just like vertical smokers. This means you can cook more food in its cooking chamber and spend a lot less on fuel for creating the heat.

With good insulation, a box smoker can cook your food really well. Plus, they are spacious enough to feed up to 6 people at a time.

I once saw the Camp Chef Vault Smoker and was instantly in love with its great design.

It just looks awesome and has the room to smoke for a medium-sized party. I looked it up online and it’s not that expensive:

Camp chef smoke vault

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How vertical box smokers work

Box smokers work very similarly to vertical water smokers and, in fact, they also need water to smoke the meat just like a vertical smoker does.

They basically follow the laws of physics too and if you heat the air at the bottom in the firebox, then it will rise up and heat up the water in the water pan as well.

The hot moist air will smoke the meat over time until it will be ready to consume.

Advantages of a box smoker

  • Very easy to use.
  • High-quality brands use good materials like 1/4-inch stainless steel which helps retain the heat in the box and they also use thick insulation to keep the core hot enough and cook the meat in the chamber thoroughly.
  • They’re bigger than a vertical water smoker and can cook more food at a time.
  • The vault of the box smoker retains heat for a long period of time. This means that the temperature is consistent and there’s a continuous even smoke output.

The main benefit of this unit is the control you have over the cooking process.

The disadvantages

Some brands sell poorly constructed products with thin metal sheets and poor insulating materials for the box!

Low-quality materials also cause the box to lose heat very fast. In cold or rainy weather you wouldn’t be able to smoke meat properly as these things need to be placed outdoors due to the smoke they produce.

The box smokers require seasoning and regular cleaning.

How to use the box smoker to cook

  • If you want the most flavor, you need to choose the wood that complements your meats.
  • Add charcoal to the charcoal tray or onto the tray of the gas smoker.
  • Fill up your water pan.
  • Light your fire. For a gas smoker, turn on the tank and ignite the spark. For charcoal units, light the fire with a match.
  • Place all the food on the cooking racks.
  • Insert a food thermometer into the meat to check the internal temperature.

Smoker ovens (Orientation: Vertical)

This smoker oven is more on the high-tech side of smoker grills. It’s usually the top choice of restaurants and catering establishments.

For example, this Cookshack Smokette actually has computer controls and temperature probes. Therefore, you can smoke a brisket while you enjoy your free time:

Cookshack Smokette SM025 Electric smoker oven

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They have a lot of conveniences but are a bit on the more expensive side.

Most restaurants use this type of smoker grill as it partially automates their jobs. This gives the staff more time to attend to other important things.

I also like the Smokin-It Model #2 Electric Smoker which is also designed for restaurant use and it’s cheaper and functions just as well, except it’s not as high-tech.

How do smoker ovens work?

Smoker ovens work similarly to other vertical smokers. But, they’re heavily insulated boxes with rubber seals that make the box air-tight and an electric heating element in the bottom.

Its heat source is from a steel hotplate coil that is electrically induced to produce heat.

The smoldering heat will ignite the wood chips in the pan just above the heating apparatus. Then above the wood chip pan, there is a funneled piece of metal.

Its role is to deflect radiant heat from the pan and the heat source and at the same time collect the drippings (melted animal fat from the meat) which prevents flare-ups.

Advantages of a smoker oven

Easy to operate and can even be left to smoke meat on its own provided it has advanced electronic controls.

Therefore, the temperature doesn’t fluctuate, ensuring even smoking each time.

It can cook meat much faster than conventional smoker grills.

Spacious cooking racks mean that you can cook more meat per pound. So, perfect for restaurants to make more food at a time compared to regular vertical water smokers.

These smokers are lightweight and safe.

The disadvantages

Expensive and could cost from $500 and upwards, basically if you want a quality smoker oven, then you’ll have to pay more for it.

Needs to be sheltered to prevent it from being exposed to the elements and have problems later on.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.