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Are you eager to get a smoker, but you are unsure which one will best suit you? We understand your needs, tastes, know-how, space, finances, and time is crucial in making a decision, and we will guide you accordingly. The market is flooded with many smokers ranging from simple ones to the most sophisticated designs making it hard for starters. This post will give you handy information, and I won’t miss the best type of smoker for beginners. Let’s explore the culinary world and enjoy all the fun it comes with and let’s help you do that.
What is a smoker?
It is an equipment for cooking designed to cook and add a smokey flavor to foods by exposing them to smoke emitted by the fire. Smokers range in size from starter smokers, medium-end to high-end smokers.
And I will explain them briefly below to show the best type of smoker for beginners. They also come in many designs, but this article focuses on the common ones, namely the gas, electric, charcoal, pellet, and propane smokers.
The best smoker for beginners allows for slow cooking of meat but does not give you much control compared to the high or middle smokers. These smokers can be advanced by modifying them; if you are a tinker and hacker, you can give it a shot.
These come with a better life span and have features perfect for smoking meat. For electric smokers, heat depends on the unit’s insulation and the quality of the heating element. Proper insulation enables better control of the cooking temperature consistency and allows smoking in various weather conditions. They are making it ideal for starters to smoke with ease.
Huge and highly flexible. Advanced design and more space. Highly ideal for those who have experience in smoking and smoking to compete, this is the one. Electric smoker fronts offer remarkably advanced built quality with parts well welded together, the heating unit is consistent and unit longevity. Well insulated. If you are a starter, we do not recommend this one for you.
1. Propane/Gas vertical smokers
These have a cabinet-style design with dampers and a chimney on top. Also, it has a vest and a burner at the bottom. They use a propane tank. Gas moves from the bottle down to the cooking section via a manifold. Produce very high temperatures more than is often used by smokers. As gas flows from the burner valves, it is ignited. A gas smoker does not produce smoke; thus, wood chips are used for a Smokey flavor. This can give you quick smoke.
- These are quite easy to operate. You can set the temperature and put a timer and leave it to smoke. It is ideal, especially when you have to multi-task with time being a constraint.
- Propane fuel is easy to get, and they are fuel-efficient because of the thick insulation. And desired temperatures can be easily reached and maintained.
- In case of breakdowns, it is easy to fix, and the parts are very affordable. Most hardware stores sell the needed parts.
- You can purchase a propane meter for easy monitoring of gas levels, especially when most of your smoking takes much time.
- A gas grill is easy to start taking approximately 15 minutes, and heat can be easily adjusted as needed, giving you full control of your cooking.
- Very portable and can be used anywhere like camping and cookouts.
- You can run out of gas while cooking, so there is a need to check on fuel before smoking, get a propane meter or store an extra tank.
- Combustion chemicals are produced, giving more flavors than is usually desired and expected.
- Some cheap models are thinly insulated, making them not ideal in cold climates.
- Temperature management usually is not automated; it is manually set.
2. Electric smoker.
These usually are vertically built consist of a heating element, water pans, and a food rack. Water pan produces water vapor, which adds a smokey flavor to food. Also, covering the food from the direct heat from the heating element, causing the temperatures to be low and cooking slow. There is no actual combustion; thus, wood chips are placed on top of the heating element to emit smoke. This can give a quiet smoke.
The moisture inside the smoker is super when smoking delicate staff. However, it makes it challenging to get a crust that is crispy on ribs and chicken skin. When you can’t get or use charcoal, wood, or gas, this is ideal.
- Temperature can be set from a Bluetooth app and can be timed, easily controlled, and maintained. Consistent temperatures can be maintained no need to babysit only the water pot will have to be refilled.
- No additional fuel source is required, thus cutting down on costs and stock ups needed.
- Some of the commercial smokers can be easily used at home.
- The parts are overpriced, and the manufacturers make it complex to replace the heating element, typically costing half the whole unit price.
- Electric units can break down, which is not the case with a charcoal smoker; given this a quality unity and a very good warranty becomes essential.
- There is no actual combustion, which is a minus to the flavor.
3. Pellet Smokers
They use chicken like a feed from compressed sawdust supplied into the firebox from the auger drill. The firebox’s heated metal rod causes the pellets to burn to heat and smoke in the cooking chamber on top. An auger system is used to supply compressed wood pellets. A thermostat is used to notify the auger when to drop in more pellets. All the energy used is provided by wood, making the food 100% smoked hardwood.
If you want to use wood without sitting and watching, this will be the ideal one. Space is not to be worried about. The combination of grill, oven, and smoker saves the space. However, that deep smoky aroma cannot be guaranteed.
- Easy to use.
- These are multipurpose as they can serve as oven, grill, and smoker.
- No much clean-up is needed after as the wood burns out, leaving out almost nothing.
- They now come in advanced designs; you can monitor and control temperatures on your smartphone.
- These are not cheap, quite expensive to buy.
- The auger system can malfunction, fail/jam, and electricity is required for the auger to function.
- It tends to cost six times more than other types of smokers for the smallest units.
- The heating rod, fans, and drill run on electricity so that a socket will be needed close by.
- Wood pellets tend to be not easy to find, so you will need to stock them up.
- It does not bring out traditional smoking exposure, and some feel the food is too smokey while others label it under smoked.
4. Charcoal Smoker.
These come in different sizes and designs. They range from little Weber Smokey Mountain to highly advanced one like the Big Green Egg. Air intakes close by the coals regulate the volume of heat that is produced. If your channel in more air to the firebox, the charcoal will burn more. Non-carbon organic compounds will have to be burned off until not much smoke is being produced. Smoke is produced from the wood chips that are placed on top of the charcoal.
If you are incredibly devoted to smocking, then a charcoal smoker is ideal for you. Designs can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want. Extra hands will be welcome because there is no need to worry about things breaking.
- These are very affordable, easy to use, and better cooking volume.
- You can easily pick one that goes with your space as they range in size.
- Charcoal gives the greatest unbeatable flavor because of the heat; every BBQ’er and meat smoker will tell you that.
- They have a longer life span.
- You require about half an hour to light briquettes and let them ash, which can be painful.
- The fire will have to be maintained slow, low for consistent temperature, which can be a hustle.
- The art can be mastered, but the learning process might not be easy.
- The air has to be properly managed as a lot of air will result in tough and dry food, while little air will result in bitter food from the ash and smoke.
- Cleaning of the particulate and ash. Charcoal might have to be removed during smoking if it mounts up, temperatures will drop.
- In the absence of a separate fuel door adding charcoal can be a challenge during smoking.
5. Kamado grills
These are designed after the olden clay oven but now come in oval shapes made from ceramic material. Ceramic can be a thick one lining perfect for retaining heat, while some are lighter material with low heat retention. They use charcoal as fuel.
If you want a smoker that will last, multipurpose, requiring not much space, then consider going for this one. However, if you are in a cold climate, ensure you get the one with a thick lining or your food will not smoke.
- These are very versatile; many can be done on them; you can sear, grill, smoke, and bake.
- They are easy to use and master.
- They are usable in cold climates.
- Long life span and occupies less space.
- When a slow and low cook is desired, a diffuse plate is introduced.
- The thick ceramic walls do not heat up easily.
- They weigh more and are complex to move around.
- Ceramic material is subject to cracking when it’s very hot.
6. Offset Smokers.
This type is also known as barrel smokers, stick burners, or pipe smokers. Originally these were made from unused drums of oil. Huge, heavy, and very spacious to smoke big amounts of food. Burning charcoal/wood in the firebox heat and smoke travels across food inside the cooking chamber then goes out of the chimney. Some have reverse flow structure causing smoke to move over and under food, giving a perfect aroma.
These are ideal for one who is ready to put in their time and effort for excellent food that comes in large volumes. And you will need to have enough space as they are big. And use the same space when smoking as they are not easy to move around.
- Large amounts of food can be easily cooked because of the huge barrel cooking chamber.
- Some designs have a grill plate resulting in both smoker and griller.
- Since the cooking chamber and firebox are separate more fuel can be added to the fire with no smoke and heat being let out.
- You need to learn how to operate it to get the best from the smoker.
- Full control over temperature; thus, you can make it low and slow or quick.
- Longer life span, and there is no electronic to break.
- However, cheap ones bring out poor results since they tend to be poorly constructed, meaning food can be dry, leakages, and low heat retention.
- It takes time to get to the desired temperatures and start smoking.
- The fire needs constant monitoring.
- They are heavy to carry, not ideal for cookouts.
- They are vulnerable to smoke leaks.
Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Smokers
(i) Horizontal Smokers
There is a need to learn how to operate one, but they give that deep smokey flavor to food. It comprises of two parts, which is the cooking chamber where you adjust heat levels and airflow. It also allows you to turn food and air out excess smoke. This type of smoker is ideal for experts.
Benefits of a horizontal smoker
- They have a firebox to put up fire.
- Wood chips and fuel are easily added, giving better temperature control.
- It allows for cooking large amounts of food.
(ii) Vertical Smokers
A vertical smoker has three parts. The bottom layer consists of either electric element, gas element, or charcoal. This is the part where heat is generated or produced. The second layer is where you put the smoking chips that make the smoker smoke. The third part is for the water pan. The upper part is where you put your meat. There are grill racks for placing the meat for it to get smoked all over.
Vertical smokers are small in size and compact, making them ideal for family use as they easily fit on any size patio. They are highly suitable for apartment use and small homes.
Benefits of vertical smokers
- It occupies less space and still enables the cooking of large amounts of food.
- Fuel costs are low.
- It can be used as a grill and smoker.
Even if faced with a flooded market and adverts, you should now have a clear mind of the smoker to go and grab and get yourself started. If you are clear of what suits you most, then there is no way you can get trapped or end up with that smoker you regret buying. You can help others make that best buying decision best type of smoker for beginners.