Hoping to ramp up your outdoor grilling game? Then you definitely shouldn’t overlook buying a smoker. Smoking meats like brisket, ribs and pork belly can bring out mouthwatering flavours you just can’t achieve in a traditional oven.
As you embark on your meat (or vegetable) smoking journey, it’s important you understand how smokers work so you can make the best decision for your needs. In this beginner’s guide to smokers, you’ll learn all about the different types and the benefits of each.
View our guide as a slideshow, at the end of this post or follow this link!
What Is A Smoker?
A smoker is an outdoor cooking appliance, generally used to cook foods’ low’ and ‘slow’ in a smoky environment. The smoke can be produced from different sources, but wood chips are most often used. Interestingly, different types of wood can impart different flavours to the food being cooked.
Smoking food is a form of barbecue, and the smokers you can buy range from familiar-looking propane grills to egg-shaped enclosures. Finding the right backyard smoker for you will depend on how much work you want to put into the process and what you’re hoping to get out of it!
What Are The 3 Types Of Smokers?
Although various styles and models of smokers are available, they generally all fall into one of three categories: gas/propane, charcoal/wood and electric.
Each of these types has its own strengths and drawbacks, making some more suitable for beginners and others a more worthy choice for the seasoned smoker.
Below, we discuss the three main types of smokers and the pros and cons of each.
Simply plug them in, and they’re ready to go! Electric smokers use a heating element to smoke wood chips or pellets to impart that smokey flavour. Some may consider the pellet smoker its own category, but these also use electricity, so we’ve included them here.
- With superior temperature control and safety features, this type of smoker is the easiest and most convenient to operate.
- Electric smokers tend to be safer since they don’t contain a bed of burning embers.
- Electric smokers don’t generate as much smoke as other varieties. Unfortunately, this means you may not get the level of char or flavour you’re looking for.
- They tend to have a smaller temperature range, with the maximum temperature usually only reaching 400° F.
Gas-powered smokers use either natural gas or propane as fuel sources. The smoke comes from burning wood chips or pellets.
- Like its electric counterpart, a gas smoker is easy to use since you’ll likely only need to turn a knob to fire it up.
- If you’re looking for more heat, gas-powered smokers tend to get hotter faster and easier.
- Although they can produce an authentically smoky flavour, professionals generally say no smoker lives up to a classic wood-burning or charcoal smoker grill.
- In the case of propane grills, you will need to spend extra on fuel tanks and ensure you have an adequate amount for long smoke sessions.
Charcoal grills are a traditionalist’s first (and possibly only) pick. Using wood to build a smoky fire, these grills will give you the ultimate flavour profile.
- Charcoal smokers create the richest smoky flavours and produce that distinctive smoke ring.
- They often feature simpler designs, making them more affordable than the previously mentioned styles.
- Getting the fire started can be complicated for beginners. It also takes more time to reach the desired temperature.
- Charcoal grills also require constant monitoring to maintain the right level of smoke and an even temperature throughout the whole cooking process.
Hopefully, these pros and cons help you get an idea of what each type of smoker has to offer and what matters most to you. If flavour comes first, then the choice should be easy. But if you’re someone that’s not particularly picky and values convenience, then these factors should also influence your decision.
What Type Of Smoker Should A Beginner Get?
The easiest type of smoker to operate is an electric smoker. As was mentioned above, these are more of a “set it” and “forget it” model, making them ideal for those who either don’t care to learn the ins and outs of traditional smoking or don’t want to bother with a whole-day chore.
That said, as an enthusiastic new smoker, you may want to dip your toes in a more authentic experience. If that’s the case, a traditional-style charcoal smoker may be a better option if you think this is a hobby you really want to explore.
What Is A Kamado Smoker?
A modern kamado is a ceramic egg-shaped smoker. This style of smoker traces its origins back to Asia and is becoming more popular among beginner smokers thanks to its simple design and ease of maintenance.
If you’re new to barbecuing but want to try your hand at a traditional charcoal grill, we recommend starting with a small kamado grill. These little powerhouses offer unbeatable heat retention while cooking some of the most delectable bites you’ll serve all summer.
How Much Does A Smoker Cost?
The cost of a backyard BBQ smoker depends on a few different factors. For instance, the type of smoker, how large it is and what features are built in will all influence the price. Generally, small charcoal smokers are the cheapest, while large gas smokers with all the bells and whistles will likely cost a pretty penny.
That said, you can generally expect to spend around $500 – $2500 for a decent home smoker BBQ.
How Long Do Smokers Last?
Many smokers feature thick, high-quality metal enclosures that are built to last. Some are even made from repurposed oil drums and other scrap materials and work perfectly well. That said, if you’re buying new, chances are you’ll have a well-insulated cooking apparatus you can count on for decades. Most smokers nowadays last anywhere from 30 to 35 years and include 10-year warranties or more for that added peace of mind.
Can You BBQ With A Smoker?
Of course! Smoking is a style of barbecuing. Using a dedicated smoker grill is sometimes even considered more authentic than using your run-of-the-mill propane BBQ. Wood-burning outdoor ovens are the original BBQs, meaning you can do whatever you do on a classic BBQ grill on your new smoker. You may just need to perfect your technique a little.
Can you use a BBQ as a smoker?
Looking to make the most out of one appliance? Then you may also be wondering if a standard BBQ can be used to smoke food. Generally, you can use a BBQ as a smoker. This may be helpful if you want one simple grill to do it all. The process will take some trial-and-error, though.
How Do You Smoke Meat On A BBQ?
First, you may need to purchase a smoker box that sits over your grill. This is to ensure the smoke and heat are retained in case your BBQ does not have an adequate lid for smoking.
The setup inside will look like this: food on one side, woodchips on the other. Make sure to vent on the side your food is cooking to create a convection current for even heating.
Although this method will work for most people, we recommend purchasing a dedicated smoker if it’s something you plan on doing frequently.
What Is The Best Smoker Brand In Canada?
A standout brand of traditional kamado grills is the Big Green Egg. This brand has been making reliable charcoal smokers modelled after traditional Japanese ceramic cookware. At Ultimate Home Comfort, we’re happy to help enhance your cooking experience with this reputable brand.
If you’re looking for a more beginner-friendly smoker BBQ, then take a look at our Ambiance line. With our white glove assembly services, you’ll be ready for a backyard cookout in no time!
Conclusion: Selecting The Best Smoker
So, what smoker is the best one for a beginner? As we’ve mentioned, each smoker has its own advantages and disadvantages. Electric smokers may be the most user-friendly, but you risk sacrificing flavour profiles for convenience. Gas smokers and BBQs also offer convenience and can get hotter than electric models, making them ideal for the occasional meat smoker. Finally, a charcoal smoker may be the hardest to master, but if you’re dedicated to the craft, several budget-friendly options are available.
If you’re still undecided, feel free to reach out to the Ultimate Home Comfort team in Halifax & Dartmouth. We’ll be happy to set you up with the perfect smoker grill for your outdoor cooking needs.
View our guide as a slideshow below: