Smokers Buying Guide

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Written By Emma Roberts
Smokers Buying Guide

Cooking over a fire goes way back in history as man took huge strides forward in culinary evolution. Today we still utilize the rather traditional cooking over fire but with more specific techniques to match our taste and preferences. We have our very own backyard grillers that refine that process of fire-based cooking while adding some more technical methods like smoking. If you are one of those who want to go a step-up from the usual barbecue, then a grill smoker combo just might be for you. How do you go about choosing just the right combination of grill and smoker for you?

Smoking As A BBQ Style

The principle behind smoking is similar to your basic barbecuing method. Instead of applying direct heat from the fire, which is what grilling essentially is, you use indirect heating methods like the air entrapped in the bbq grill. In a smoker, you have the smoke which is what is cooking your food. This gives off the delicious taste such as hickory.

Grill and Smoker General Parts

Grill smokers have these following parts that make the smoking process possible:

  • The Fire box
    This is where the charcoal or fuel is located as well as the wood profile you have chosen to help with the smoking flavor. Depending on the kind of smoker you are getting, this could be seen as an attachment to the side or directly underneath the grills and racks. It is important to have an easily accessible and adjustable opening to control the flow of air going in the chamber. This airflow control will determine the temperature inside the main chamber. 
  • The Main Chamber
    Carrying the actual smoking process, smoke from the fire chamber is then flowed in here. The wider the chamber, the more space you have to pack in more meat. If you have an upright barrel like the Pit Barrel, then you can expect a water tray for the water bath or trap just below where the racks are. The main chamber is just one with the whole smoker itself for these vertical set-ups. The main chamber also has a vent through which the smoke exits. This completes the airflow pathway from the fire box where the air enters and then the main chamber as the final point before exit.
  • Storage shelf
    Below the grill’s main chamber is a space for storage. You can opt to put your fuel or wood there. 
  • Smoke stack
    A smoke stack looks like a mini-chimney that sticks out on top of the main chamber. This can be adjusted to control the amount of smoke and air coming out of the smoker.

The physics of the smoking process is where cool air enters the chamber from a lower point of the smoker. That is why the valve is located near the bottom and not on the top of the firebox. This air travels and is heated; it circulates the main chamber before making an exit through the smoke stack on top.

Choosing Your Grill Smoker Based on Fuel

Though it is quite clear that a grill and smoker combo would be most effective to really get grilling, barbecuing, roasting and smoking, your choice of grill will further be narrowed down when you have decided which fuel you are more inclined to use. 

The different fuel types have advantages over each other. Going through each of their strong points and characteristics can help you choose.

Coal Smokers

1. Lump Charcoal
More popular in traditional style of grilling but is now gaining popularity across households because of its rather natural preparation method. There are no chemicals or additives to produce it and is similar to wood that has been carbonised and dehydrated. You can choose the size of the coal that you are using. This is ideal for long cooking processes or slow-cooking at low temperatures. Great choice for smoking. One could also say this is the most flavorful fuel especially depending on the choice of wood. This kind of fuel works well on a very basic kettle grill set up. 

Lump Charcoal Smokers

2. Charcoal Briquettes
They look like pellets and are actually the most recognized fuel sources for the backyard griller. They are created to be convenient and consistent in working as a fuel source. Some of these briquettes are pre-soaked with an assisting chemical to quickly get it burning. Although it is convenient, it might produce a smell or flavor you will not like. 

Charcoal Briquettes Smokers

3.  Gas
If you do not want to go through the inconvenience of having to start the fire with wood or fire, then you can get the heat going quickly with gas. With your choice of grill, make sure you have an option to attach a gas tank or if the grill itself can work with gas as fuel. Some grill smokers actually have two segments where a gas burner is located and the other would be a portion for your solid fuels.

Gas Smoker

4. Wood
Now if you want that all-natural flavor found in great smoked food, wood is your best choice. However some pitmasters have decided not to use natural wood because of the work it requires to keep the fire going. Especially if you are doing a slow-cooking process, you have to constantly monitor the wood.

Further Factors to Watch Out For

Grill Smokers

You may have chosen the kind of fuel you are going for. Now if you do choose multiple fuel choices like a combination of gas and solid fuel, then expect spending more, probably a good four hundred to five hundred dollars more than the grills which only utilize one kind of fuel.

Ask yourself the following question to guide further in the size and model of your future grill and smoker:

  1. Who am I cooking for?
    If you are cooking simply for yourself or a small number of people, then you do not have to find the largest grillers in the market. Even a basic kettle grill or pit barrel grill can already do the job. However if you are looking to create a variety of food and for a larger number of people, then a thirty-two inch size grill will give you more space for varied heat concentrations as well as more space for food to be smoked. 
  2. Do I need to move the Grill?
    Depending on the grill and smoker design, not all of them are made to fit quite nicely on an outdoor countertop which you might have already built. Check with your supplier if the grill you are considering, has that option and flexibility. Now if you are considering a moveable grill, a simple look at the legs can tell you if it is one that does not require too much manpower to move as opposed to a grill that has no mobility components like wheels. 
  3. Am I cooking frequently?
    If you are going to frequently use the grill, let us say everyday, then you better check on the material of the grill. Check if the burner has a thick build and most especially the racks and the grids. Even if they are stainless steel it is possible that they wear off quite easily if they are made thinly. Always remember when dealing with heat, you want to get the most out of your metal. Thicker means longer lifespan for your grid.

How Much Are We Looking to Get Cooking?

Grills on its own can be as cheap as a hundred dollars for a mini grill, and up to five hundred dollars for a more sophisticated grill. Now having a grill and smoker combo, you will need to budget at least around eight hundred and up to a thousand five hundred dollars for one.

Whatever grill you choose, you just have to remember it all boils down to what you want to cook and how you want to cook it. It does not matter if you get a rather expensive grill but you cannot make the most out of its features because you do not need them.

Our team has considered all the factors outlined in this buying guide, along with their expertise and knowledge in Smokers, to recommend the top choice for you. You can shop being confident that someone has considered all relevant information and you will get the best Smokers to meet your needs. Happy shopping!