When it comes to cooking appliances, we have so many different options to choose from that we can sometimes forget some of the options on the market. Of course, you have your oven and your stovetop, and those should be sufficient for most average meals, but why settle for the ordinary when cooking?
If you want to spice up your culinary life, then one of the best things you can do is embrace a new form of cooking. For example, you can buy an ice cream maker and start making homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt, or you can pick up a sous-vide and start making the juiciest steaks ever.
Today, we’re going to be focusing on a method of cooking that many people neglect: smoking. Smoked meats are excellent, as anyone who has enjoyed some warm smoked salmon can attest to. We won’t be covering the actual process of smoking itself, however; we’ll instead be taking a look at the smokers themselves.
Before we go any further, let’s make sure that all of our readers are on the same page by going over the smokers themselves. A meat smoker is a cooking appliance (or even a small building) that is used to smoke meat, and that’s about as far as the definition extends, as you can use anything as a smoker.
All that is required is that the smoker is closed off, it has room to light a fire, and there is sufficient space between the fire and the place where to food is held for the smoke to reach it. There are two different categories in which smokers differ: temperature and the manner in which they run, and we’ll look at both.
Meat smokers which are designed for cold smoking will typically be larger or better-insulated than the other options because the cold smoking method relies on only the smoke. Heat from the flame should not be making it to your food when you cold smoke, so the smoker is designed, so that doesn't happen.
As we go further up in temperature, you'll find that warm smokers are halfway between the designs of cold smokers and hot smokers. While your meat will be relatively close to the source of heat, there may still be an insulating panel or something separating it from the flame to ensure that it stays warm but not hot.
Hot smokers are the ones with the highest temperature, and they are designed to essentially cook your food as it smokes, though it won’t reach the same temperature as a smoke roaster. Since the smoking process is gradual, hot smokers can’t get too hot because your food would end up burnt before it was smoked.
Finally, this option is less of a smoker and more of a grill or roaster, but it is still designed to smoke your food to a minimal extent. These appliances usually have room near the flame for a pan of wood chips which will add flavor to your food as you grill or roast it, combining the best of both cooking methods.
When it comes to smokers, charcoal-powered options tend to be the ones that are preferred by those who have smoking experience. Most people will tell you that the flavor of a charcoal smoker can’t be matched by other options. We have to admit that we agree with the flavor part of the argument, though there are downsides.
Unlike other smoker options, charcoal smokers require charcoal, so you’ll always need to have a bag handy, and it isn’t exactly the easiest thing to transport with you. You’ll likely need a car to bring the charcoal back to your house, and there’s also the matter of cleaning out the smoker, which can get unpleasant.
Propane smokers give up a little bit of flavor in exchange for convenience when you compare them to charcoal models, though they still have problems when it comes to the fuel. As you would expect, you’ll need to refill and carry propane tanks with you to use one of these smokers, again necessitating a car.
Of course, propane smokers are a better choice than charcoal because you don’t have to spend time cleaning out charcoal ashes all the time. You may not expect that much of a difference, but cleaning out a propane smoker is a much simpler task than going through a charcoal model.
Pellet smokers are newer than the other two options, and some will argue that they offer the best of both worlds when compared to the previous two options. Pellet smokers tend to provide a better flavor than many other options because the pellets are made of wood, giving you a natural smokey taste.
While it will be able to match charcoal when it comes to flavor, you’ll find that a pellet smoker is actually more convenient than one of them since all you have to do is drop the pellets in. The only problem with these smokers is that they tend to be a little more expensive than the other options.
Finally, we have the electric smoker, which is often derided as providing the worst flavor out of the bunch, but the difference isn't that noticeable unless you've been smoking meat for 20 years. In exchange for a moderately inferior taste, you get the most convenient type of smoker available.
All you have to do is plug this smoker into an outlet and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about leaving the house to get charcoal or propane so that it can work, and you can’t exactly run out of electricity halfway through the smoking process (unless the power goes out).
The best choice of smoker is up to you, in the end. Only you know what will work best for you, as we don’t know your preferences. We hope that this guide has been able to give you an idea of what to expect when buying a smoker. Feel free to leave us a comment down below.