What smokers do the pros use? Choice of smoker types

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 22, 2022

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The home grilling and the barbecuing game have stepped up a few notches in the last few decades

It’s now possible for anyone to create a professional outdoor cooking setup in their very own backyard and call themselves a pitmaster.

What Smokers Do The Pros Use?

But how to this the right way? What smokers would the professionals go for?

It all depends on your own needs, as for every smoker out there, there are pros who swear by it.

In this guide, we’ll be going over all the things you should be looking out for when deciding which smoker to purchase for your home setup.

Read on to find out which smokers the pro pitmasters use!

Different types of smokers

Of course, there’s more than one kind of smoker you can buy for your backyard setup.

How to buy a bbq smoker video
How to buy a bbq smoker video

Each one comes with its own unique set of pros and cons which might suit it better to you.

Electric smokers

Electric smokers are probably the easiest type of smoker to operate. All you have to do is plug it into an outlet and turn it on.

However, electric smokers are generally less versatile than their other options.

For example, you can’t really use them to grill food because they lack the ability to control heat levels.

That said, electric smokers are perfect for those who want to enjoy some tasty food without having to spend much time tending to the fire.

As a result, these devices are ideal for people who don’t have a lot of experience working with BBQ grills.

If you’re looking for something that will make quick work out of cooking meat, then an electric smoker might be just what you need.

Of course, there are plenty of other benefits to owning an electric smoker, including the fact that they’re relatively easy to clean.

Propane smokers

The most popular type of smoker is the propane smoker.

These are great because they’re easy to operate, and they don’t require any special fuel that you can’t get from most supermarkets and gas stations.

These kinds of smokers come up to temperature very quickly, so you’ll spend less of your time waiting around for everything to be ready for your food to be smoked.

Also, once the smoker is up to temperature, you’ll find it’s much easier to adjust the temperature with closer control than most other kinds of smokers.

However, these types of smokers have some drawbacks too. For starters, propane tanks need to be filled at least once every two weeks.

This means that you’ll need to make sure you have enough space in your garage or shed to store them.

Another drawback is that propane smokers tend to run hot, so if you plan to grill food outdoors then you’ll want to make sure you keep an eye on the temperature gauge.

If it gets too high, you’ll have to wait until the tank cools down before using it again.

Charcoal smokers

If you’d prefer something a bit simpler but still capable of smoking meat, charcoal smokers are ideal.

They work by burning wood pellets inside a chamber where the heat is transferred through the walls of the chamber to the outside environment.

This makes it much easier to regulate the temperature as you won’t need to worry about filling up the tank with propane or anything else.

You’ll also find that charcoal smokers are much cheaper than propane ones. However, they do take longer to prepare compared to propane smokers.

Charcoal smokers are well-known for providing meat with a signature ‘smoky’ flavor that you can’t quite achieve with some other methods of smoking.

If you’re going for a really authentic, deep smoke flavor on your meat, it might be worth the extra preparation time to use a charcoal smoker.

However, because there is a lot of babysitting and taking care of charcoal smokers, both before and after you’ve used it, it isn’t the most practical option.

Offset smokers

If you’re looking for something that will give you the best of both worlds, offset smokers are perfect.

They combine the versatility of propane smokers with the flavor of charcoal smokers.

You’ll find that offset smokers are usually made from stainless steel, making them durable and long-lasting.

You’ll also notice that offset smokers are typically more expensive than either propane or charcoal smokers.

Most offset smokers are designed to allow you to cook multiple items at once, but learning to use it properly can take a while.

Because offset smokers are often multi-purpose, you may even end up using one for things like roasting vegetables or baking bread.

The only downside to offset smokers is that they require a little more maintenance than their counterparts.

Because they contain moving parts, they need to be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria build-up.

Pellet smokers

While pellet smokers aren’t exactly new, they’re becoming increasingly popular thanks to their ability to produce delicious smoked foods.

Unlike other types of smokers, pellet smokers don’t rely on any type of fuel source.

Instead, they utilize a special blend of sawdust and wood chips, called pellets, that burns slowly over a period of hours.

As a result, pellet smokers are able to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the entire process.

This means that you can start off with a low temperature and let it gradually increase until you reach the desired level.

When it comes to preparing food in a pellet smoker, you’ll find that this method produces a great deal of smoke.

It’s not nearly as intense as the smoky flavor that you can achieve by using a charcoal smoker, but it does add an incredible depth of flavor to whatever you’re cooking.

This is why so many professional chefs and pitmasters prefer pellet smokers when it comes to smoking meats.

They’re able to create a variety of unique flavors without having to worry about the smoke getting too hot.

One thing to keep in mind is that pellet smokers tend to cost a bit more than offset smokers.

However, if you plan on using your pellet smoker frequently, then it could pay for itself quickly.

Which smoker is best?

So which smoker should you choose, if you want to get smoking like the pros?

If you’re looking for something simple to use, then electric is likely going to be the best option for you.

Electric smokers are also pretty affordable, which makes them a good choice for beginners.

In addition, they’re fairly easy to set up, making them perfect for anyone who doesn’t have a ton of experience working with gas or charcoal grills.

You don’t get the same flavor out of an electric smoker compared to for example a charcoal smoker, but they’re still perfectly capable of producing delicious meals.

Then, if you’re looking for something with more versatility, then a charcoal or propane smoker may be the better choice.

These devices allow you to cook a wide range of foods, from steaks to ribs to chicken.

But if you really want to go pro one day, and take smoking seriously, then a pellet or offset smoker is the way to go.

An offset smoker is the must-have smoker for those who believe “smoking is life”. For the ones who eat, sleep, and dream about smoking.

These types of smokers are not made to set and forget though, and you will need to monitor the smoker constantly.

It can take quite a while before you master using them as well. But the flavor from a pellet or offset smoker cannot be beaten.

They would probably be the choice of most pitmasters who smoke for a living.

For more tips, check out Malcolm’s advice on the things to consider when buying a smoker:

Conclusion

Each type of smoker has its fan base and professionals who swear by it.

What is the best smoker for your serious cookout set up in your backyard, will ultimately depend on your own requirements, needs, and experience.

If you are just beginning, go for an electric or propane smoker.

If grilling has been your life for ages already and you’d like to branch out to smoking, by all means, go for a charcoal, pellet, or offset smoker.

One thing to know is that no one is ever really done learning about smoking. Even the pros still learn new things each smoking session.

And the best way to learn is simple, of course. Just get smoking! Practice will eventually make perfect, and finger-licking delicious.

Now you have chosen your perfect smoker, be sure to also read my 3 tips on how to make a Outdoor Kitchen with a smoker

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.