No matter what the season, or what the occasion may be, dragging out your smoker to entertain family and guests is always a scrumptious idea. Smokers are a staple at huge and small gatherings so buying a smoker is a long-term investment that you can continue to benefit from for years to come; imagine all the parties brimming with delicious and tasty smoked food.
- What is a Smoker
- How does it Work?
- Types of Smokers
- The Final Verdict
What is a Smoker
Dating back centuries, before the invention or existence of preserving chemicals and machines like refrigerators, smoking emerged as one type of food preservation method. A smoker is essentially an outdoor cooking apparatus that prepares food at low temperatures in a completely controlled manner. The all-encompassing smoky environment is the main medium that smokes the food.
The powering source that charges smokers includes a varied array of fuels. These sources include wood, pellets, electricity, natural gas, charcoal, propane, etc. Although being aware of the type of fuel is essential, the main job person intending to manipulate, and the smoker itself is to try and maintain a stable smoking temperature that is approximately 225F or 110C. The traditional smokers will adopt the method of burning wood in order to generate enough temperature that will stimulate heat and also smoke the food simultaneously.
How does it Work?
All smokers generally follow the same basic design. The blueprint includes a water basin and a wood chip basin. These are placed at the bottom of the smoker chamber. Either sand or water is poured into this water basin. The wood is what is going to produce and provide the smoky flavor. Whilst simultaneously the sand/water tries to regulate the internal temperature stability.
There are essentially two ways to smoke meat. The first technique is known as cold smoking i.e. a process that should be used with foods like salmon, various sausages, chicken breast, scallops, beef, pork chop, etc. The selected meat is then very carefully cooked at a temperature ranging from 68° to 86° F. For the perfect end result smoke until the meat is infused completely with a smoky flavor. The trick is to still make sure that it remains moist enough to slice through. This process is adopted for gaining optimum flavor. Cold smoked meat should always be completely cured and also completely cooked before it is deemed safe to ingest.
In contrast, hot smoking fully cooks any kind of meat that is being prepared. Therefore, the meat does not need to be wholly cured before being eaten. The smoker should attain temperatures between 126°-176° F. If it climbs to temperatures exceeding 185° F and it can result in the buckling and shrinkage of meat. Hot smoking is preferred for all kinds of meat like ribs, ham, pulled pork, ham hocks, brisket, etc. Hot smoking adds enhanced moisture and greater flavor impact.
Types of Smokers
Now, the food industry is flooded with a lot of different types of smokers. These choices range from small electric units to huge smoker rigs and infinite options that might overwhelm you. Keep reading to ease some of that buyers’ anxiety as we outline all you need to know:
Electric smoker grills are entirely powered by electricity. These can be a good substitute for a charcoal smoker. A person making use of such a smoker only needs to plug in the smoker grill and then choose the select cooking temperature for the selected food. The smoker will prepare the meat uninterrupted at your desired temperature. There is no charcoal you need to light, no ash to clean up afterward and no need to monitor the propane levels in the tank. The higher-end units include an in-built thermostat that regulates the desired temperature, but lower-end units have only a dial.
- Electric smokers are very user-friendly. They require a bare minimum manual effort. Even an amateur cook can get the hang of it easily as it only requires a flip of a switch.
- Set-it and Forget-it Technology of electric smokers offer continuous unattended operation.
- Space saving and compact design.
- Lower and Relaxed Cooking: A digitally controlled electric smoker smokes at approximately 150F. These lower temperatures are practically impossible to maintain with other types of smokers like a Texas-style offset smoker
- Available in different sizes.
- Even smaller models have a capacity of 2–3 10lb pork shoulders.
- Although in the short-term electric smokers seem to be expensive compared to most traditional smokers. At the end of the day, they are long-term investments and cost-efficient. Traditional smokers require the continuous purchase of the right kind of fuel, electric smokers rely on a constant supply of electricity.
- Conventional smokers require that the flame be kept running for hours.
- These smokers can result in serious consequences if left unsupervised for kids, pets and the house. Electric smokers are much safer.
- They are easy to start up.
- They can be portable.
- The cooking surface on the device distributes heat evenly.
- Also for indoor use.
- Easy maintenance.
- With water-based electric smokers, ingredients can be added for flavor. The meat is cooked exceptionally moist and tenderly.
- The dry heat from an electric smoker results in a crispy outer layer.
- It takes less time to cook.
- Electric smokers are considered unconventional. A lot of people follow the belief that barbecue cooked in an electric smoker is not of equivalent quality standards or as flavorsome as ones cooked in a traditional smoker.
- Some domestic users enjoy the experience of attending to the meat as it gets cooked. Hence, they feel uncomfortable when using an electric smoker. Most report that they impart the least amount of smoked flavor in contrast to other smoker choices.
- Due to the fact that these smokers are electric-based, most buyers will need to learn to get used to its features and settings in order to get the desired results. Electric smokers are made up of a number of internal components with the possibility of malfunctioning.
- During the winter time, it is difficult for cheap electric smokers to be able to achieve the desired temperature. Cheap electric smokers also suffer in windy conditions. A chilly breeze will suck the heat out of these smokers immediately. Investing in a well-insulated electric smoker can help you avoid this disadvantage.
- Electric smokers aren’t water-friendly. A drizzle can trip a GFCI or throw a breaker resulting in a breakdown.
- No smoke ring is produced. Getting a smoke ring necessitates the combustion of fuel. The smoldering of wood chips in an electric smoker does not work in this case.
- Limited capacity is offered. Because most electric smokers are designed to be competitively priced they are normally not designed for large capacity cooking events.
- They cannot be used in the outdoors if electric outlets are not accessible.
- Requires repeated cleaning so that the grease collected on the plates isn’t a fire hazard.
- Smoky Chicken Breast wrapped with bacon. These universal meats are always a safe option. You can also prepare various poultry options like chicken wings and rotisserie-style smoked chicken etc.
- Pork Butt requires roughly 7 hours to completely smoke it to 165 degrees at 225.
- Venison Steak is very lean meat that can easily trade places with dry, rounded beef roast. It is recommended that users smoke it for about 225/hr. This is considered one of the most ideal meats to smoke in electric smokers.
- Tri-Tip Roast requires cooking in a slow and low way. Therefore, it is the perfect option to prepare meat in an electric smoker. Beef possesses a decent fat amount and it is easy to monitor the temperature throughout the smoking process. Other beef meats options for electric smokers include short ribs, steaks, beef brisket, etc.
- Pork Ribs prepared at 230 for 5 to 6 hours in an electric smoker is wonderfully flavored.
2. Propane Smokers
A propane or gas smoker has been constructed in a manner as to permit the smoking of heat in a completely controlled environment. The gas burner is placed directly underneath a steel or iron box that will produce the heat. The heating chamber contains wood or charcoal that provides the smoke. On top of the gas, the burner is normally a tray or a pan for the sawdust, chunks of wood and smoking chips. Placed in the middle is a liquid pan that keeps the air moist in long cooking sessions. There is no thermostat installed in propane smokers.
- Available in different sizes
- A small physical footprint means it is space-saving and appropriate for small households too.
- Easy to use; only requires users to turn the gas up or down in order to raise or lower the temperature. Instructions that are provided with the unit makes learning how to handle it a breeze.
- Usually budget-friendly.
- Propane units offer portability and therefore can be used anywhere. Moving around and rearrange outdoor spaces become hassle-free. For those considering going on outdoor adventures like hunting, camping or hiking, a gas smoker becomes a helpful cooking assistant. Portable in LPG form.
- Unlike an electric smoker, propane smokers don’t need to be pre-heated before you start cooking. Reduces overall cooking time.
- Manual heat adjustment via the temperature regulation mechanism.
- Ability to choose from single and dual door designs. It can angle upwards at 450 degrees, making it a flexible tool.
- Eco-friendly clean burn, as the by-products are carbon dioxide and water.
- These smokers can be used in places even with no electrical supply. In areas, with power outages, the gas smoker is a valuable cooking asset.
- Propane requires a spare tank prepped for longer smokes.
- It cannot consistently maintain the desired temperature, especially during the winter.
- A vertical propane smoker has a thin-gauge metal coat that can be problematic. The thin coat and lack of insulation results in smoke leaking out easily. This causes the machine to lose heat.
- If smoke is leaking out, it diffuses in the house. One solution is to try and seal the gaps.
- Requires frequent checking whilst smoking.
- Their compact size means that the rack is small and cannot accommodate large ribs or briskets.
- Constant fuel replenishing requirement.
- It requires a bimetal thermometer.
- Meats including chicken, beef, pork, and sausages. The temperature needs to reach 145-165F to destroy bacteria.
- Smoke any type of cruciferous, crunchy vegetables eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, squash, and artichokes. Veggies smoke quicker than meat, so check every 10 minutes to avoid overcooking.
- Corn on the Cob.
3. Charcoal Smokers
A charcoal smoker requires adding water to keep the meat moist. Continually making adjustments during the cooking process ensures that the temperature of the smoker stays at optimum level i.e. 220℉ (104℃) and below 250℉ (121℃).
- Smokers like electric, pellet and gas smokers simply pale in comparison to taste when it comes to charcoal smokers.
- Cooking with charcoal achieves a great outer bark or crust.
- Capable of producing a good smoke ring.
- Controlling the temperature of charcoal smokers is very easy. If meat requires smoking at low heat, it only requires charcoal removal.
- Charcoal smokers don’t require a power source to function, making them a universally functional gadget.
- The relatively low cost of charcoal makes it an inexpensive option.
- Portable charcoal smokers without heavy propane tanks, wires or cables make it transportable.
- A lot of models are usually outdoor-friendly and small.
- With minor modifications, versatile charcoal smokers are adept at generating high heat, which is perfect for searing.
- They can sit at idyllic temperatures for smoking food. Modifications also allow setting them up for cold smoke.
- It can be challenging to light. An additional 30-45 minutes of cooking time is required.
- Charcoal smokers require constant attention due to fluctuating temperatures.
- There’s a lack of features and accessories because they follow an old school principle.
- Charcoal smokers come with a bit of learning curve especially when it comes to temperature control.
- The cleanup is a hassle. Leftover charcoal and ash can be messy.
- In the bigger picture, purchasing coal can prove to be more expensive than gas or electricity.
Ribs, beef brisket, pork butt, and pork shoulder cuts are chewy, tough meats. This means they are generally poor in quality and require old-fashioned natural smoking.
The Final Verdict
If you adore smoked food, buying grills will become a necessity. Now that you are aware of these types of smokers you might be wondering what works best for you.
Electric is the safest option.
2. Ease of Use
All three are relatively easy to use.
3. Temperature Control
In electrical smokers, the cooking temperature can be monitored throughout the process. The device controls the heat without variation in temperature levels. Propane Smoker requires monitoring of the level of the flame and fuel level. In a charcoal smoker, the temperature is regulated by the amount of charcoal added or removed.
Electric smokers aren’t portable-friendly, propane smokers are but charcoal smokers are the most portable.
5. Heating Mechanism
Electric smokers produce intense, radiant heat waves. Propane smokers provide a high-heat temperature finish. Charcoal smokers provide much higher and direct infrared heat.
Electric smoker units are between 500-750 square inches. Propane smoker capacity is extended if a large propane tank is available. But charcoal smokers are space customizable.
Charcoal units out-sear propane powered smokers. Propane and electric smokers can achieve this do with additional, costly sear features but these will be costly.
At the end of the day, electric smokers can provide very low temperatures to dehydrate and smoke. This is hard with propane-fueled smokers. Charcoal smokers can mimic low temperatures but it is hard. A propane smoker is able to gain higher cooking temperatures which are good for flavor. If your goal is convenience then get an electric smoker, for a smoky flavor, a charcoal meat smoker is preferred if you want convenience with flavor than a propane smoker is the best candidate.