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BBQ Smokers

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Details to Know Before Buying a BBQ Smoker or BBQ Smoker Grill

Prepare your taste buds for a flavor explosion when you prepare your foods using a barbecue smoker. People have been enjoying smoked foods for centuries -- once as a primary way of preserving food, and now as a way to achieve intense flavor. If your new to BBQ smokers, this quick guide contains all the details you need to choose the smoker that's best for you.

What is a BBQ smoker?

Barbecue smokers are special appliances that cook foods using low temperatures typically ranging from 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit in a controlled, smoke-filled environment for a long span of time. While similar results can be used by cooking over a fire, barbecue smokers make it easier to maintain a controlled environment and stable temperatures.

What are the different types of smokers?

You can find more than a dozen different kinds of smokers out there. Some of the most popular types, narrowed down by fuel source include charcoal and wood, pellet, electric, and propane. We broke them down a little further to highlight the benefits of each type.

  • Charcoal and Wood: These BBQ smokers are arguably the most traditional variety and popular among the competitive circuit. They provide authentic flavor and allow you to try out different types of woods to change out flavor of the cooked meat. One the down side, wood and charcoal smoker grills require you to have regular check-ins for maintaining the flame and temperature. You'll likely find the cheapest and most expensive BBQ smokers on the market to be powered by charcoal and wood.
  • Electric: If you're looking for convenience, electric smokers are the type for you. Many modern electric smokers feature computerized controls that let you set the machine and basically forget it until the food is ready to eat. On the downside, many people find that electric smokers don't provide the same full flavor as charcoal and wood-powered models do.
  • Propane: Simplicity rules the day with these smokers. Like electric smokers, they offer convenience as the main draw. It's also easy to control the heat, and many users report better results in terms of flavor compared to electric smokers.
  • Pellet: These smokers are like hybrid models. They're powered by electricity, but they burn wood pellets, which provide both heat and smoke to give you the convenience of electric but flavor of charcoal and wood smokers.

What should I look for in a smoker grill?

Picking a BBQ smoker based on the power type is only the beginning. Here are a couple questions to ask before you buy:

  • Is it a stand alone barbecue smoker or a barbecue smoker grill? If you're big on grilling in the backyard and have limited space, you might consider a combination smoker/grill.
  • Is temperature control important? Make sure you try and get a high-quality model that has a reliable thermostat that you can place on the grates to monitor the temperature and ensure that it stays as even as possible.
  • What's the capacity? If you're only cooking for a couple people, a small, space saving bullet-shaped BBQ smoker might be fine. But if you entertain or cook for a larger crew, look for BBQ smokers and smoker grills with a large capacity or cooking area. Each model should give you an idea of what it can handle. As a rule, plan for around 1 pound of food per person.

Once you choose the right smoker, the fun really begins. No matter if you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, you'll soon find yourself serving up delicious smoked foods like an expert BBQ pitmaster.

Related: Learn how to buy a grill that meets your needs and your budget!