Everybody starts somewhere in life and it’s no different for those who want to try to become a smoker grill enthusiast
It’s right around fall and a few weeks before winter that retailers are anxious to reduce their inventories of grilling hardware. If you’ll visit the local home depot in your area, then you should be able to find cheap grills that are still in pristine condition. In some cases, they give out discounts that go as high as 75% off of the price tag.
Before you go to the home depot though, you must first decide which smoker grill you want to own, because there are various kinds of these things and there are thousands of manufacturers that sell them.
Choosing the perfect smoker grill largely depends on several factors such as what your experience with bbq smokers is, your budget, goals and the number of people you cook for occasionally. I’d like to call these factors as your smoker personality.
Before we go any further allow me to highlight the 7 smoker personalities to you; so you could find where your personality ranks.
Which barbecue smoker is right for me?
Beginner: The smoker you want is something that’s small in size, preferably has fewer switches and buttons so you could operate it easily. A good example of this include an upright barrel smoker, a ceramic cooker, a water smoker, a kettle-style charcoal grill or other similar grills with tall lids. To get yourself started in smoking and still look the part with an affordable grill, we suggest the Pit Barrel Cooker
Grilling enthusiast but wants to try smoking: You’re a grilling junkie, but you also have a thing for smoking. The smoker grills that will suit your taste are an offset smoker with a firebox and grate, a wood-burning grill, a ceramic cooker, front-loading charcoal grill or kettle grill. We would recommend this Char-Broil Offset Smoker for the grilling enthousiast, as it gives you the ability to grill and add smoke as you please.
Convenience- and results-oriented smoker: You’re cool with barbecued and smoked foods, but prefer the convenience of a push-button gas grill. The pellet grills or electric gas smokers are for you. The Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Smoker might be for you.
Process-oriented smoker: You’re not just a grilling enthusiast, but are in love with every minute detail of smoking like how the whole thing works. You can choose the offset smoker or the water smoker to satisfy your insatiable desire to observe the whole smoking process. You might want to consider a front loading water smoker like this one, so you can check in on the process as it develops.
Smoked food addict: You’ve been addicted to smoked and barbecued foods for a long time, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. The water smoker or offset smoker would be good for you, like the ones we discussed in the previous section, but you can also build your own smokehouse to showcase your smoking skills.
Commercial barbecue junkie: For you the prospect of competing for the best griller is the highest you could earn. You love to please the crowd with your cooking and you hope to start a food truck company, a restaurant or a catering business someday. What you need in order to realize your dreams is a carousel-style commercial smoker or an offset smoker for big rigs. It doesn’t have to be that expensive with the K Top Deal XXL BBQ Offset Smoker, which gives you the offset smoker grill and vertical smoker for some extra space.
Apartment or condo-bound smoker: Since you live in a cramped urban environment, you have little to no space to do outdoor smoking or grilling. To solve this problem, just buy a handheld smoker or a stovetop smoker. You should get yourself a stainless steel one from a top brand like this one from Camerons.
Don’t be confused. A charcoal grill is the same as a smoker grill, because charcoal is the best grill fuel for any smoker grill. Charcoal is a lot easier to work with than natural gas or propane grills. All you have to do is follow the step-by-step setup from the manual on propping up your charcoal grill, add the coals or wood chips and chunks and you’re ready to go! Remember, in order for your cooking to be good, you’ll need a charcoal grill that has a tight-fitting lid. It must also have lower and upper vents which controls the heat and a huge clearance between the grill grate and the lid in case you’re going to smoke large pieces of meat like beef shoulder clod or turkey. The charcoal grill is the best grills in the smoker grill industry, because it’s cheap and is probably the most durable among other grills.
What different types of bbq smokers are there?
Now that you’ve determined what kind of smoking enthousiast you are, let’s look at the different types of bbq smokers you could get, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
The Upright barrel smoker
There’s also a new smoker that’s gaining in popularity and it’s called, the drum smoker or upright barrel smoker as some would call it, because it looks like those oil drums you see in oil refineries. The upper lid has been removed to make room for the grate and underneath it is a charcoal basket which sits at the bottom. Since it’s larger than standard size smoker grills, you have the option to cook food with it vertically by using hooks from rebar rods as oppose to standard smoking methods. By adding wood chips to the charcoal fuel you generate smoke form it. The heat is both radiant and convective, so food smokes faster in an upright barrel smoker. For $300 you can have your own upright barrel smoker at home.
This Pit Barrel Cooker is the one we recommend for beginners.
The water smoker
Another type of smoker grill that brings amazing performance, lightweight and affordable is the water smoker. The water smoker has quite a complex design in order to get that right taste to your grilled foods. At the bottom of it lies the charcoal, wood chunks and chips is placed to create the needed heat, then the smoke chamber sits above it and finally the water pan is placed above. The water pan helps stabilize heat and moisture in the cook chamber, but be careful not to fill it up to the brim because too much moisture will make your food taste differently than what you had expected. The last parts to be added are the grill grates and lid. The ideal temperature range from 225 to 275º Kelvin and you can manage the heat by using the upper and lower vents. There are also large water smoker models that can handle racks of pork ribs; however, you can just buy a rib rack to accomplish the same thing.
This front loading water smoker is the one we recommend to get started.
The Offset barrel smoker
The old steam-driven locomotive-looking smoker (offset barrel smoker) will tell your whole neighborhood what you’re up to, because it’s visible from 300 yards away. Just about in any barbecue competition circuit you will see these macho-looking, hardcore smokers get the spotlight as they ace every category in the competition. Today you can buy new models with sealed quality assurance passed which will redefine the word “cool” in the smoker grill industry. The offset barrel smoker was first seen in states like Oklahoma and Texas. They were built from leftover oil pipes and you use charcoal or wood to serve as fuel. This smoker grill is easily recognizable anywhere as they have distinctive profile features such as the barrel-shaped cooking chamber that has a horizontal lid, a firebox alongside of it but is lowered to take advantage of the heat, and a vented chimney on the top. You could be shedding several hundred or even a few thousand dollars for these bad boys depending on what size and type you want to buy, and they’re heavy too!
We would recommend this Char-Broil Offset Smoker
Kamado style or ceramic smoker
The Japanese are also very good in designing smoker grills as their traditional Japanese cook stove also known as the Kamado-style smokers (ceramic cookers) are famous in America and other countries. In Japanese Kamado means “place for the cauldron” and this smoker grill was made famous by the Big Green Egg store in American. These distinctive-looking cookers have taken the barbecue world by storm. You can use charcoal, wood chunks or chips for fuel with this smoker grill and they are placed on the bottom part of the smoker. Hot air rises to the cooking rack which will heat up any food you want to smoke and if you want to control the heat inside the smoker, then just use the large vents located at the bottom and top of the lid. These ceramic smokers are very fuel efficient and heat retentive which can help you cook several foods with just one pound of fuel. They come in various shapes and sizes, but there’s one thing common about them – they’re quite expensive. But there are cheaper models available now also.
This very affordable Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill is definitely the one to get you started in this type of grilling without spending huge amounts of money.
The Propane fueled smokers
For best price and convenience option, the propane-fueled smokers or commonly called, “box smokers” is the smoker grill that you should buy. Almost everything in this smoker grill is push-button or just turn a dial on/off easy, except maybe when you’ll have to put the sawdust, wood chips, or chunks on the metal pan below or place the food in the grill to cook it – that needs to be manually done. You may notice the difference between the tastes of the smoked food you’ll eat as the offset smoker is better than box smokers; however, the food is still delicious. There’s only a slight difference and unless you’re an expert, then you won’t be able to differentiate the flavors.
If you are getting a bit more serious about smoking I would recommend the Smoke Hollow PS4415 Pro Series Propane Smoker, which is front loaded and has everything you need to do some professional quality smoking without taking up too much space.
The Electric smoker
For those who do not enjoy splitting logs and building fires, you can get the electric smoker. Bisquettes are used as fuel. These are actually sawdust or compressed sawdust disks or wood shavings which are flammable at certain temperatures. The latest electric smoker models have phone apps that lets you control the settings remotely through your smartphone or tablet. Due to the design of electric smokers it restricts airflow in the system to a certain degree and because of this you won’t be able to get crispy meat slabs that you normally get from smoker grills. But it can smoke meat to rare cook levels which makes a reddish-brown texture on the meat.
The Masterbuilt 20077515 Front Controller Electric Smoker is the one to get if you’re into electric smoking.
All of the smoker grills mentioned above are great, but the best of them all is the pellet grill or pellet smoker. Their versatility makes them almost always the favorite pick of consumers 90% of the time. The pellet grill allows you to barbecue, bake, smoke, roast, braise, and even sear on some models when the heat diffuser plate is removed. The fuel used for pellet grills are specially made cylindrical wood pellets that are placed in a side-mounted hopper. There is a rotating corkscrew device connected between the hopper and the chamber below the grill grate which rotates while you smoke food. This is the device that delivers the wood pellets to the grill grate and controls the temperature of smoking chamber. Starting selling price for the professional pellet smoker is $2,000 and the models that have more features are more expensive.
The Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Smoker however, is very affordable and gives you lot’s of space for smoking your meat.
It’s okay if you’re unable to smoke outdoors no matter the reason, because there are indoor stovetop smokers that are great for shrimp, scallops, hot-smoked salmon, chicken pieces, and other small foods. Nordic Ware 365 or Camerons Kettle Smoker are good examples of indoor smokers. Add hardwood sawdust or other smoking mixtures if you want to get the right amount of smoked flavor to your dishes. These indoor smoker grills are less than $100 on any home depot you’ll go and they’re good for quick meals and for impressing your friends.
Stay tuned for more smoker grill buying guides as well as tips, tricks and smoker grill reviews in our future blog posts! We’ve already published the buying guide for beginners part 2!