Barbecue smoking can be considered one of the most challenging ways to cook. On one hand, you have to manage the fire to get a steady temperature and on the other, you need to time everything right and make sure you have enough fuel for your entire cook.
Want to make sure you’re choosing the type of smoker that will take away all the guesswork and let you focus on cooking? Then read on till the end!.
Types Of Smoker
There are five common types of smokers available on the market: offset smokers, box smokers, drum smokers, kamado grills, and pellet smokers. Each type of smoker has its unique features and benefits over the other, allowing you to decide what suits your needs.
Below is a rundown of all the different smokers. It also includes a section on how they work, their pros and cons, and to whom they are best suited.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Smoker?
Before we explore the different types of smokers, let’s have a brief overview of the process of smoking.
Smoking is a version of barbecuing where you cook the food with smoke from slowly burned chunks of wood varieties including hickory, apple, mesquite and cherry. With smoking, instead of putting the meat directly above the heat source, you put it on the side to allow the hot smoke to pass over it and around it, engulfing it until it’s cooked.
Moreover, smoking occurs at a lower temperature than conventional grilling. It’s a prolonged cooking process, where it takes at least 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size and cut of the meat. This cooking process requires more skill and expertise if you want to get the best flavor of the meat.
Of course, you have to invest in a smoker before you can smoke. There are many types of smokers nowadays, and you have to choose the right kind for your needs. Without further ado, let’s get to the list.
Offset smokers are also known as horizontal smokers or stick burners. They are the original Southern style of low and slow cookers, designed to cook food at low temperatures. If you are looking for an authentic barbecue meat flavor, this type of smoker will help you achieve that.
How They Work:
Offset smokers come with a firebox mounted on the side just below the main cooking chamber where you put the food. It works by slowly filtering out the smoke out of this firebox, then directing it into the main cooking chamber so that the smoke is absorbed, giving you a smoky flavor to foods.
- It has an oversized barrel chamber that allows you to cook massive amounts of food.
- Some models of this type come with a grill plate, giving you a two-in-one griller/smoker.
- Since the firebox is separated from the main cooking chamber, you can add more fuel without letting out the heat and smoke.
- Starting up might take an hour for you to get the right temperature.
- It takes a lot of practice to master how to use it.
Offset smokers are an excellent choice for people who have the patience to put the time and effort into learning it. Once you’ve learned it, it can cater to large volumes of food. Moreover, it requires ample backyard space because they are not small.
Box smokers are also known as vault smokers, cabinet smokers, and block smokers. They looked like a box with a heat source at the bottom and a cooking chamber on top. Since the heat source is directly located below, the heat is conserved.
How They Work:
Box smokers have three compartments – the bottom chamber holds the heat source and is designed to use charcoal or wood. However, modern models can use gas and electricity for cooking food faster than charcoal. (but you can’t achieve that authentic smoky flavor with gas)
You can burn wood below the charcoal for more smoke to generate more smoke. Moreover, the chamber above the heat source comes with a water pan that controls the heat inside the cooking chamber and prevents the meat from drying out.
- They are large enough to cater massive amount of food
- They are space-saving because they are vertical
- They have a sturdy design that can last for years, and their configuration makes them more energy-efficient.
- Because they have large cooking chambers, it may take some time to reach the desired temperature
- They are not versatile because you can’t use them for grilling
- Some models have a point-of-access issue because you can only add and remove food in a single direction
If you’re serious about smoking food, this box smoker is the right one for you. Their designs are simple and not complicated to use. However, getting the preferred temperature may take some time and effort.
Drum smokers or Ugly Drum Smokers (UDS) are steel barrels that look like those used for shipping bulk cargo. However, they are redesigned with grilling racks, a charcoal basket, meat hooks, air vents, and a chimney.
How They Work:
To use a drum smoker:
- Fill the firebox with charcoal and light.
- When the charcoal is ready, put the food on the top rack.
- Place the lid, lock it in place, and adjust the vents to your preferred cooking temperature.
Keeping the unit at a low temperature can keep the oxygen flow low enough to keep drippings from causing unexpected flare-ups.
- They are compact so that they won’t take up much space in your backyard
- They are affordable, and you can buy a kit and assemble your smoker
- They are easy to use and require minimal monitoring
- They can fit four 10-pound pork shoulders in one go
- There’s a chance of food drying out because of direct heat
- It doesn’t ensure a substantial heat flow
If you lack the budget to buy a smoker, drum smokers may be a great option. Aside from being highly affordable, you can make it in your home as a DIY project. It would be best if you had a massive 55-gallon water drum, and you could turn it into a functional smoker.
Pellet smokers are a combination of oven and smoker. They use the extra smokey flavor of actual combustion with the convenience of an electric smoker. One of the great benefits of this kind of smoker is that you can use it as an oven, grill, and smoker, making it a three-in-one solution.
Pellet smokers use both electricity and firepower. They have an electronic controller which regulates the temperature inside the built-in thermostat and a temperature gauge inside the cooking chamber. All you have to do is have to set it to the desired temperature and let it do the work.
How do they work:
A hopper at the side of the grill get’s filled with wood pellets which are essentially compressed saw dust. The wood pellet is then fed into a firepot via an auger where it is ignited and burnt. An electronic controller automatically controls the whole process to maintain the set temprature.
This wood fire provides the main source of heat and wood-fired flavour when cooking food.
- They are versatile and can be used as smokers, grills, and oven
- The wood pellets burn down almost completely, which means there isn’t much to clean
- They are easy to use and don’t require a lot of effort to operate
- They can be expensive
- It would help if you had a socket nearby since the heating rod, the fans, and the drill use electricity
- Wood pellets aren’t always available, so you need to stockpile
If you want a smoker that burns wood without all the hassle, then the pellet smoker is your best bet. This smoker is versatile because it’s one cooker where you can smoke, braise, bake,, and more importantly grill.
Kamado grills, known as ceramic smokers, are the old-school type of grill that gained popularity in the 1970s. They’ve become one of the most preferred smoking equipment. This smoker has a shape and configuration perfect for low and slow cooking.
Keep in mind that not all Kamado grills come in different shapes and sizes, but no worries since they all have the same general working mechanism. Most of the Kamado Grills are made from ceramic designed to last a lifetime, which makes them expensive.
How do they work:
Smoking in the Kamado grill is pretty straightforward. To achieve that smoky flavor, you have to load the firebox with high-quality lump charcoal. It is equipped with a removable heat deflector plate between the firebox and the grill grate.
If you want to cook your meat directly over the open flame, like an ordinary grill, remove the heat deflectors. On the other hand, insert the heat deflectors to block the flames from reaching the food for low and slow cooking.
- They are multi-purpose that can work as a smoker, grill, and oven
- They are perfect for chilly weather because the thick walls of the Kamado grill will ensure a steady temperature
- Less chance of food drying out
- They are quite pricey
- Temperature control can be tricky
It takes some experience to best use Kamado grills, but it’s a versatile cooking system if you master it. This smoker is best for people who love making burgers because you can cook the bread for your sandwich while smoking the meat.
Also, if you live in cold areas and struggling to keep heat in your smoker, then the Kamado grill can end your dilemma and have a fun smoking experience.
What is the best type of smoker?
If you are looking for the best type of smoker that will suit anyone including beginners, then pellet smokers are the way to go.
This type of smoker uses an electronic controller and auger to automatically regulate the temperature so you can focus on cooking.
If you’re in Australia, definitely check out the Z Grills pellet smoker range, If you want to learn more about our smokers, don’t hesitate to give us a call or chat with us.