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The 10 Best Smokers  May 2019

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Your Guide To Buying a Smoker

By Nicole Blanckenberg

    There is no doubt, when it comes outdoor cooking, nothing beats that smoked meat taste. Smoking is hugely popular and with that popularity comes hundreds of brands all offering different things - which can seem overwhelming. To help you navigate fact from fiction and easily choose the best smoker for you, we have put together this detailed buying guide full of vital information, tips, and advice.

    Smokers are usually built from ceramic, steel, or porcelain and include wood or chrome coated racks. The main differences between them is what fuel they use and their shape (and burning mechanisms) that create that great smokey taste. Smokers can be dry or wet or a combination of the two and come in a variety of sizes to suit any family size. To make choosing between them easy, here are the main types of smokers for you to compare:

    Electric Smokers: Also known as smoker ovens, these are the most convenient of smokers that are simple to operate and take all the hassle out of smoking. This is a handy smoker for people looking for that good smoked taste, for half of the effort.

    Wood & Coal Smokers: These traditional smokers create the authentic smoked taste and are a popular choice for smoking enthusiasts. Some of the simple models offer excellent value and easy use, which makes them great for people wanting to get that real smoked flavor for less. As an added bonus, for most models is the ability to interchange and use both coal and wood.

    Gas/Propane Smokers: Gas smokers are easy to use, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are quick to heat up which makes them very efficient smokers. Suited for novices and experts alike, gas smokers are a great addition to your outdoor grill set-up.

    Wood Pellet Smokers: Wood pellet smokers are electric but burn wood pellets in their smoking process. These smokers offer all the convenience of electric smoker while providing a very authentic wood-smoked taste.

    Wet Smokers: Smokers designed for wet smoking normally have water trays or pans that act as a buffer between the racks and the fire box of your smoker. The liquid in the trays form a steam during cooking that mixes with the smoke which allows chefs to add extra flavor to their smoked foods. Helping to keep the temperatures steady, the liquid ensures that your meat never dries out.

    Dry Smokers: Dry smoking is quicker, with wood and charcoal smokers taking a much shorter time to heat up. Cooking is faster with these kind of smokers, and higher temperatures can be reached. Dry smokers tend to be a lot easier to clean and require a lot less maintenance and attention.

    Cold Smokers: These kinds of smokers are not designed to cook food, but rather add a smoky flavour to already prepared food or to items that don’t need cooking.

    Vertical Smokers: These are rectangular shaped with a swinging door and holds the heat source and cooking wracks in the main chamber. Most vertical smokers can use either gas, electric, charcoal or wood and are more often than not wet smokers - although it is possible to find models that can do both. Offering multiple adjustable racks these smokers can smoke a variety of food at once. Their shape make them easier to store and are popular choice for smaller yards and patios.

    Offset Smokers: The chambers on offset (also known as horizontal) smokers lay horizontally and their heat source normally sits adjacent to the chamber. These smokers are either charcoal or wood and the majority of them offer dry smoking only. They are traditional smokers providing authentic smoked food and leave the cooking and setting control entirely up to the chef.

    Upright Drum Smokers: Similar to a charcoal grill shape, drum smokers are cylindrical in shape with a lid, but are much deeper than their grill cousins. These smokers are either charcoal, wood, gas or electric and although most models dry smoke, you do get wet smoking units.

    Combination Smokers: These are wood and charcoal smokers designed to include smoking and grilling. About the size and shape of a gas grill, they normally have an offset smoking chamber as well as grill space. Their simple models offer dry smoking while some of the higher end options include dry and wet smoking equipment. If you are looking for a grill and smoker in one, then this would be the ideal choice for you.

    Based on all the consumers' reviews we've scanned, these are the top things they mentioned about their new stuff:

    1. Capacity: Capacity is a big talking point among smoker owners, and most comment and review positively if their smokers are big enough to accommodate their smoking needs. The amount of racks (and how adjustable they are) and the size of the smoker are all factors influencing capacity and variability. Choosing a smoker suited for your cooking needs will ensure much greater product satisfaction.
    2. Operation: Smokers that are easy to use, simple to assemble, and come with good manuals and instructions are reviewed much higher by commenters. Features that provide more functionality and ease of use as mentioned by reviewers are cook-and-leave functions, which allow them to set their smoker and leave it unattended, and built in thermometers that ensure the smoker is always at the optimum heat.
    3. Value for money: Owners are satisfied with their smokers if they feel they were good value for money, and are unsatisfied if they are not. Electric smokers fair well with efficiency reviews as people feel they are cheaper to run. Consumers who feel they got what they paid for with their smokers also note good customer support as a contributing value.
    4. Quality: Smokers are an investment, and smoker owners review smokers with warranties and good quality builds (especially access doors) much higher than no-name models that don’t offer the same. Choosing a top rated brand with good online customer reviews and a warranty will ensure you are buying a smoker that will stand the test of time.
    • Where will you be storing your smoker? Before deciding on the capacity and material, consider where you will be putting your smoker when you are not using it. For homes with limited space, smaller vertical smokers are most ideal. Stainless steel or porcelain smokers are better suited to stand up well against the elements if stored outside. For inside or protected storage, there is no concern with choosing a smoker made from lighter metals like aluminium.
    • When choosing the capacity of your new smoker, think about how much food you plan on smoking and for how many people. Smokers range widely in size. Smaller 26 inch smokers are ideal for the smaller family. If you are planning to invite all your neighbors around for a block party, though, you will probably need something bigger than 48 inches.
    • Smokers that come with wheels will make moving your smoker much easier!
    • If you are going to be using your smoker outdoors during the winter, the insulation of your prospective smoker is worth reviewing. Larger smokers will have more insulation which helps keep ideal temperatures despite the cold. If you will be using your unit in hotter weather, insulation won’t be a factor and you can forgo the heavy models and choose something more lightweight.
    • How easy to clean do you need it to be? Dry smokers in general are easier to clean than wet smokers, and choosing a model that allows you to easily reach in and clean will save a lot of frustration.
    • Temperature control is an important part of smoking to ensure food is cooked at the right temperatures, and each kind of smoker will do it differently. Electric smokers include thermostats to control temperatures and gas models can come with a thermostat add-on which is a good accessory investment. Most wood and charcoal smokers require manual controlling of temperature. Beginners may be more comfortable with gas and electric smokers that offer settings that make it possible to easily adjust temperatures.
    • When choosing smokers, it is always better to choose quality over cheaper, no-name brands. Quality insulation, seals, welds, and the thickness of the metal will not only make sure you smoker is durable, but also prevent heat and flavor leaks which will ruin your smoked goods.
    • Check the temperature range of your prospective smoker before making your final decision. To smoke a turkey, you will need heats of 325 F. For searing meat, 500 F. The wider the temperature range, the more variety your smoker will have.
    • What are the offered add-ons? Counterweights to help lift the lids of your heavier smokers, charcoal holding baskets, solar panels, or battery packs? Compare different brands to make sure you are getting the most add-ons (and functionality) for your money.
    • Digital thermometers are crucial in ensuring the temperature of smoking food is just right and cooked to perfection. Many smokers don’t include these in their builds and it is an accessory definitely worth considering. Other accessories you may need while smoking up your next meal are: oven gloves, tongs, and containers for brining.
    • Combination smokers and drum barbecues allow you to grill and smoke all in one appliance. They are great for simultaneous grilling and smoking, alternating between the two depending on your mood, or saving space by having one unit that does the work of two.
    • For the smokiest taste, charcoal and wood smokers are top choices. The heat on these smokers is controlled by dampers which cut or supply oxygen depending on what you need. When choosing this type of smoker, buy a good quality brand that ensures its dampers are easy to use and reach, and seal well.
    • Gas smokers are fast cookers and offer combustion heat and temperature control in one convenient unit that cuts cooking time dramatically, making them a good choice for busy cookers.
    • If you are a beginner or learner, or just want the convenience of not having to put in as much work, electric smokers are a smart choice.
    • Some electric models that include device computers with an array of functions will allow you to switch on and leave your smoker as it cooks and monitors the food for you.
    • Added features and functions for electric smokers aimed at convenience include settable cooking programs, thermostats, remote controls. and built-in thermometers.

    Masterbuilt: Masterbuilt is a family business enjoying 3 generations of success in manufacturing indoor and outdoor cooking products, including quality smokers, meat processing, and automotive accessories.

    Weber: Weber is a renowned name in outdoor grilling and have been on the forefront of the american barbecue industry since 1952 when the Weber brother set out to build the a better grill to protect their steaks. Today, over 85 million homes have a Weber appliance.

    Dyna-Glo: Dyna-Glo is a brand of the GHP Group, Inc specializing in indoor and outdoor heating products such as fireplaces, grills, heaters, and smokers. Dyna-glo is a popular choice among Americans and is known for it’s quality.

    Bradley: Bradly has a niche product list and specialise only in smokers. Having been in the industry for 12 years, supplying hotels and restaurants with quality smokers they now offer the same quality to consumers with their home models.


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