5+ Types of Smokers to Make Delicious, Tender Meat

Unlock the Secrets to Succulent Meats: Discover The Right Smoker for the Ultimate Home BBQ Experience.

A black barbecue ready for grilling a slow cook pulled pork and ribs

Smoking meat is considered an art form, and it takes patience and a lot of practice to produce the perfect smoke. Using various types of wood chips adds a different flavor to the smoke. Experimenting with different wood will add new tastes and culinary experiences to your smoking. But what types of smokers can you choose to make delicious, tender meat?

There are 5 common types of smokers to make delicious tender meat. They are gas smokers, electric smokers, pellet smokers, charcoal smokers, and offset smokers. These are made from stainless steel or cast iron. The different flavors of the smoke are produced using different types of wood chips.

Choosing the type of smoker that best suits you is easier when you know more about the different smokers. Read on for more about the various types of smokers and some FAQs.

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The 5 Types Of Smokers To Make Delicious Tender Meats

Here is the list of the 5 types of smokers that will produce delicious and tender smoked meats.

Gas Smokers

Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker with Temperature & Smoke Control, Four Removable Shelves, 36", Black

Gas Smokers are usually made of stainless steel or cast iron and are fueled by propane gas. As long as there is a constant flame that is produced by the burner, the meat will cook. Some gas smokers may be converted to using natural gas with the assistance of an accessory for the conversion. Gas smokers are also known as vertical propane smokers, smoke vaults, or LP smokers.

All gas smokers have stainless steel grill racks. You can place the meat on the rack when smoking. Or, if you prefer to use a cast iron skillet, the grill rack will keep the skillet hot during the smoking process. Beneath the grill rack is the water pan. Water is necessary for a smoke as it helps keep the meat juicy and moist. This is ideal for smoking meat, as smoking can quickly dry the meat out.

The wood is placed in a smoke box or wood chip tray, giving your food the smoked flavor. The wood should be soaked in water for 30 minutes or more before adding it to the chip tray. The temperature inside the cooking chamber is regulated by opening and closing vents and dampers.

Gas smokers are durable, and with constant heat, you should have good results every time you use the smoker. They are the ideal smoker for smoking meat at home.

The Pros Of A Using A Gas Smoker

Below are the advantages of using a gas smoker:

  • It gives a consistent heat – the burner’s flame will be constant and the heat steady. The flame is controlled by turning the on or off switch.
  • It is portable – you can take the smoker on camping or road trips.
  • It gives a clean burn propane will burn cleaner than wood or charcoal, so there is less pollution and less ash from the fire.
  • It produces tender and juicy meat – the gas smoker cooks at a low temperature, and the long cooking times let the smoke enthuse the meat for a delicious flavor.
  • It cleans easily – you can do most of the cleaning with dishwasher gel and a cotton cloth.

The Cons Of Using A Gas Smoker

The disadvantages of using a gas smoker are:

  • The smoke flavor is not strong – you will still taste the smokey flavor, but it will not be as strong as meat cooked in a charcoal smoker.
  • A limited size – you might not fit cuts of meat like a whole rack of ribs or a big roast in the smoker.
  • Always check the propane – ensure there is enough before starting the smoke so you don’t run out during cooking.

Charcoal Smokers

Cuisinart COS-118, Vertical Charcoal Smoker, 18"

The charcoal smoker is fueled by burning charcoal in the smoker’s firebox. The meat is smoked for an extended period over a low temperature. The cooking duration is what gives the meat its distinctive BBQ flavor. Sometimes the charcoal smoker is called a water smoker or a smoker grill.

Standard charcoal is used to fuel this smoker, and you can add some wood chips for the flavor of your choice. The wood chips are soaked in water for about 30 minutes before use. The charcoal smoker also has a water pan for keeping the meat moist.

Backyard barbequing on a charcoal smoker

You can place the meat on the grill grates, and you can control the heat by opening and closing the vents, which are situated on the lid of the smoker.

A charcoal smoker is a good choice if you want to have manual control over your fire and airflow during the smoking process. 

The Pros Of Using A Charcoal Smoker

The advantages of the charcoal smoker are:

  • It gives excellent flavor – the charcoal that is used provides the meat with a delicious BBQ flavor, and the different wood chips that are used will change the taste of the meat.
  • It is easy to maintain – good quality charcoal smokers are designed for easy maintenance. However, at some stage, the grates of the smoker will begin to rust, which may need replacing.
  • The temperature is easy to control and manage; add more charcoal for a higher temperature and remove coal for a drop in temperature.

The Cons Of Using A Charcoal Smoker

Below are the disadvantages of using a charcoal smoker:

  • Needs attention to maintain temperature – this smoker does require closely watching when to feed the fire and when to decrease the temperature.
  • It takes longer to start the smoking process – the charcoal is lit, and then it needs to ash over before adding it to the smoker.
  • More difficult to clean – there is a lot of ash and particulate from the charcoal, which requires extensive cleaning.

Electric Smokers

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric, 30" Smoker, Black

Electric smokers use electric rods as a source of heat. Of all the smokers, the electric smoker is the cleanest to operate and comes in many designs. These smokers also have many different features; the most modern ones are digitally controlled. Most electric smokers are made from stainless steel or cast iron.

An electric smoker has space for cooking at the top, and the heating rods are on the bottom. A wood chip tray surrounds the heating elements. Wood chips, pellets, or chunks can be added to the tray to slowly burn and give off smoke that infuses the meat with its flavor. The water pan sits above the wood chip tray. Most electric smokers have stainless steel grill racks.

electric smoker loaded with variety of meat

The electric smoker is controlled by the flow of air. Heavy-duty dampers at the bottom of the device are opened when more air is needed inside the smoker to feed the flame and increase the temperature.

Vents and dampers on top of the electric smoker are opened to allow the heat to escape and decrease temperature. When the front door of the smoker is opened, the heat will also escape.

The Pros Of Using An Electric Smoker

The pros of choosing an electric smoker are:

  • It is easy to light – plug it in and flip the switch.
  • It easily keeps a constant temperature – this smoker is designed to reach and maintain the desired temperature and produce enough smoke.
  • It is easy to maintain and clean – you can wipe down the exterior and interior with a biodegradable cleaning gel.
  • It is ideal for small families – they usually have a small capacity.

The Cons Of Using An Electric Smoker

The disadvantages of choosing an electric smoker are:

  • Limited cooking capacity – electric smokers are usually small and cannot fit large cuts of meat like a full rack of ribs or a pork butt.
  • Being an electrical appliance, it could fail – heating elements and rods will deteriorate over time.
  • There is less smoking flavor – an electric smoker will not have a strong smoke flavor compared to a charcoal or wood-fed smoker.

Pellet Smokers

Z GRILLS ZPG-550B 2022 Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker 8 in 1 BBQ Grill Auto Temperature Control, Cooking Area, 550 sq in Black

A pellet smoker uses electricity to heat a rod to ignite the wood pellets. The heat from the wood pellets is what cooks the meat. It has a cooking chamber that circulates the air, and the pellets sit at the bottom of this chamber. The meat is placed on a grill near the top of the cooking chamber. 

Winneconne,  WI - 26 April 2020:  A Traeger wood pellet smoker grill

When more heat is required, pellets are added to the pellet hopper above the cooking chamber. The pellets are pushed by an auger that runs on electricity down a chute into the chamber. 

The temperature is controlled by airflow. Heavy-duty fans, which also run on electricity, sit at the bottom of the smoker. The fans suck air into the chamber to increase the heat. The top lid of the cooking chamber is opened to allow the heat to flow out.

The Pros Of Using A Pellet Smoker

Below are the advantages of using a pellet smoker are:

  • It is easy to use, has automatic ignition, and is environmentally friendly.
  • It is very efficient – which is ideal knowing that the smoker will effectively smoke the meat.
  • Using pellets is convenient – the pellets come ready to use.

The Cons Of Using A Pellet Smoker

The disadvantages of choosing a pellet smoker are:

  • It requires some maintenance – the burn pot must be vacuumed regularly, and it is recommended that a professional service the smoker once a year.
  • Most pellet smokers are noisy – when in use, the motor and built-in ventilator make a noise.
  • It is expensive – a pellet smoker can be more costly compared to other smokers.

Offset Smokers

Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Black,Standard

An offset smoker has a horizontal cooking chamber and a firebox on the side. It is fueled by charcoal or wood fire. The temperature is controlled by adjusting the oxygen flow into the firebox and out of the stack using vents. The vents are opened to increase the temperature by giving the fire more air. To lower the temperature, the vents are closed, giving less air to the fire.

Smoker grill in home backyard, family patio, outdoor bbq party on open air, green garden background

The heat of the fire is also affected by the wind and outside temperature, which must be controlled to maintain an even temperature for the smoke.

The Pros Of Using An Offset Smoker

Below are the pros of using an offset smoker:

  • Easy to refuel – stoking the fire or adding wood chips can be done without having to open the chamber of the smoker.
  • Most smokers can be used as a grill – you grill meat by placing a grill grate over the firebox.
  • The smoke chamber is large – you can smoke large cuts of meat.
  • There are accessories and customizations – there are many accessories and customization options to choose from.

The Cons Of Using An Offset Smoker

The disadvantages of using an offset smoker are:

  • The cost is high – the entry-level prices for an offset smoker are higher than other types of smokers.
  • Beware of inferior quality – be careful when buying a much cheaper offset smoker than the usual price; instead, pay more for better quality.
  • Takes long to get ready for the smoke – the preheat can take long before the temperature is ready to smoke the meat. Once the temperature is reached, it will need constant supervision.
  • It requires patience and practice – achieving the perfect temperature and producing the perfectly smoked meat requires a lot of patience and practice until you have mastered the art of smoking with an offset smoker.

Tips For Using Your Smoker

Always clean your smoker after each use to ensure a clean burn. Empty the charred food waste or ash and clean the grates and pans. Remember to plan your cooking time, as smoking the meat requires patience and cooking at the ideal temperature. You can check the temperature of the meat with a remote probe thermometer. This will ensure that your meat is juicy and tender and cooked perfectly.

To add different flavors to the smoke, use various types of hardwood. Use any wood for beef; fish tastes great with alder or oak, and try roasting vegetables with hickory or pecan. Chicken can also be smoked with all wood types but avoid oak and maple.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s A Good Smoker?

There are several smokers to choose from, but before you decide which one is best for you, below are some factors to consider when selecting a good smoker.

Consider The Cost Of The Smoker

As with most things, you will pay more for quality, but it will be worth it in the long run. Mid-range priced smokers are best for home chefs who want to try their hand at smoking delicious and tender meats.

The Size Of The Smoker

Make sure that the size of the smoker will be able to accommodate the different meats you will be smoking, like a large rack of lamb or a pork butt.

Will The Smoker Clean Easily

Ensure you can reach all the parts that need to be cleaned on the smoker. Smoke, meat juices, seasoning, and fats will splatter and fall and, if not appropriately cleaned, will breed bacteria.

The Temperature Control And Range

You should be able to control and maintain the temperature level in the smoker to ensure the meat will cook and smoke well. Some models of smokers may have an in-built thermostat which is ideal. Buy a good quality thermometer to use for your smoking processes. Also, ensure the smoker’s temperature can reach 320°F, sufficient for all your smoking requirements.

Check The Smoker’s Insulation, Seals, And Metal

High-quality smokers will have thick metal walls for proper insulation and be effectively sealed.

The Smoker’s Materials And Durability

You can inspect the workmanship of the smoker. Are there any sharp edges, is the welding of quality, and do the latches and hinges work correctly. Check whether the legs and wheels are sturdy and if the paintwork is water and rust-proof.

Dampers And Easy Access To The Firebox

If you are looking at a charcoal or pellet smoker, ensure there is a damper on the chimney and another in the firebox and that they are easy to use. Also, ensure you have easy access to the firebox for refueling.

Warranty And Support

Find out if the smoker has a warranty and what support is available. You can also check the manual to see if it is user-friendly and ask where to buy spare parts whenever needed.

Which Smoker Is Best For Beginners?

Electric smokers are the easiest and cleanest to use, giving constant heat. It is easy to ignite; plug it in and switch the smoker on. You add some wood chips to the chip tray to slowly burn, adding flavor to the smoke. 

You can cold-smoke cheese and bacon with an electric smoker and also dry meats, sausages, and fish. So, an electric smoker is versatile and will give the beginner lots of practice by attempting different smokes for various types of food.

Final Thoughts

There are 5 types of smokers that will produce delicious, juicy, and tender meat. You can opt for an electrical smoker that is easy to use but has a small capacity or a gas smoker fueled by propane, which maintains its temperature, and gives a clean burn. A charcoal and pellet smoker will produce meats with a good smoke flavor. The offset smoker will need lots of patience and supervision to acquire the perfect smoke.

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