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Best Smoker Grill? A Guide for Beginners...

Updated on March 16, 2014

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Country folk know how to cook meat fresh from the woods. Burb-dwellers can be pretty good after a raid on Walmart's.

We can all make something superb with a quality smoker grill.

These devices are a modern update on one of the oldest methods of cooking and preserving food. In settler days, way before refrigeration, smoking was one of best means of preserving meat for journeys or for keeping through the winter.

The food was either preserved with cold smoke or it was cooked and then preserved with hot smoke.

Whilst smoking isn't needed for preservation these days, the great flavors that smoking introduces to meat means that this practice will never die out.

And all it needs to cook with smoke at home, is one of the grills pictured above.

Charcoal, Propane and Electricity

Traditionally, the cooking is done with smoke from burning charcoal and many smoker grills still use this method.

The process is simple.

There are two compartments in the cooker. In the first compartment, charcoal burns, and produces the smoke. The smoke them passes to the second compartment where the meat lays on racks or hangs from hooks and is cooked.

With a propane-fired smoker grill, gas is burnt to heat a tray of wet wood chips. The chips get hot enough to smoke and the meat is cooked with this smoke.

Electric smoker grills use a similar approach except that electricity is used to heat the wood chips and produce the smoke.

Some manufacturers have got the 'pioneer' feel completely out of smoking food with models that look more like they belong in Manhattan rather than out on your patio! Masterbuilt have a model with remote control, viewing door and LED displays for timers and temperature control.

A propane smoker grill showing the lay out of burner, wood chips and meat. Photo: Dennis Brown.
A propane smoker grill showing the lay out of burner, wood chips and meat. Photo: Dennis Brown.

Low and Slow Cooking for Great Flavors

An ordinary barbecue grill cooks with the heat given off from burning charcoal or propane directly. This means that the meat cooks at a high temperature.

In a smoker grill. the cooking is slow and cooking temperatures are much lower.

The special taste of smoker grilled meat comes from both the smoke and the gentleness of the cooking which preserves more of the meat flavors.

What is a Quick Cook Recipe for a Smoker?

Think of about 3 hours cooking time if you are looking for something quick!

Planning ahead is the essence of enjoying smoked food.

What Can You Cook?

With propane and electric you can cook whatever you can cook in an oven. Just leave out the wood pellets if you do not want a smokey taste.

For most of us, though, the smoke is the whole point!

Smoked Favorites:

  • ribs where the meat falls off the bone,
  • whole turkeys
  • any cut of beef
  • fish, with salmon being a favorite for obvious reasons
  • roasted vegetables, from asparagus to parsnips.

Smoked turkey. Photo: Barbecue Junky
Smoked turkey. Photo: Barbecue Junky

Lousy Smokers Make Food Taste of Creosote

It is important to have a well designed cooker that allows air to move freely around the meat.

If air circulation is poor, creosote-like chemicals from the smoke are deposited on the meat giving it a bitter flavor.

Successfully grilled meat will show a pink ring below the surface when you cut it in two. This is where the smoke has infused its flavors.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Smokers


Charcoal

Advantages: The cooker itself can be cheaper to buy and simpler to move around. There are no gas bottles or electrical connections needed. Its much easier to take one of these on a camping or fishing trip.

Disadvantages: The charcoal can be tricky to light and needs more looking after than a gas or electric cooker. There is more mess to deal with ash and dirt that needs extra cleaning.

Temperature control takes a while to learn -- there are no microprocessor controlled knobs and dials on these cookers!

Propane:

Advantages. Quick and easy to light. Easy to adjust for the best smoke output.

Disadvantages-: Large pieces of meat can take a long time to smoke and you might find yourself changing more gas bottles than you like.

Gas bottles can be awkward, especially for older people.

Electric

Advantages: Clean and easy to use. You won't run out of gas.

Economical as little wood needs to be burned (you only really have the cost of the electricity).

The biggest single advantage is probably the element of control. You set the temperature and after that all you need worry about is the wood chips and water tray,

Disadvantages: For home use only. There are no electrical outlets in the woods.

Bestselling Smoker Grills in the US

Below are the some of the most popular grills

Charcoal Smokers

The most traditional kind of smoker and one that is easy to move around and use wherever you want.

Cutaway showing inside a smoker grill from Weber.
Cutaway showing inside a smoker grill from Weber.

Weber 'Smokey Mountain'

Weber is one of the best known and reliable producers of barbecue and smoker grills.

The Smokey Mountain cooker is a porcelain-enameled, charcoal smoker grill that can accommodate a whole turkey and an entire ham at the same time on its pair of nickel-plated, 18-inch wide, grates. Pretty impressive!

The build quality is good and there is a ten year warranty.

The big plus with this smoker is just how easy it is to maintain the right temperature.

Keeping food neither too hot nor too cool over a long period can be difficult with inferior products.

It is hard to beat the absolutely authentic flavor of charcoal cooking.

Vertical propane smoker grill from Masterbuilt.
Vertical propane smoker grill from Masterbuilt.

Best Propane Smokers?

Masterbuilt Propane Smoker

This is an inexpensive propane smoker with a solid construction that will give anyone a great introduction to backyard food smoking.

There are 2 versions. One is thirty inches tall, and the other is forty inches.

The thirty inch model is pretty big with four chrome racks and an interior of over 700 square inches.

A push-button ignition is one of the great advantages of propane.

The wood chip tray and water pan are coated steel, which, in truth, will rust eventually, as the factory finished porcelain gets chipped and scratched.

For the price though, it is a bargain.

Smoke Hollow
Smoke Hollow

Smoke Hollow 44-Inch

For a big grill that will last for many years, even in a tough climate, the Smoke Hollow 44-inch is hard to beat.

It has two burners which is useful for cold days, although, for the most part you get the temperature that you want with just the one in action.

The size is a great advantage for holiday and family get togethers.

This smoker will feed a crowd.

Electric Smoker
Electric Smoker

Electric Smokers

Masterbuilt Economy Electric

Masterbuilt offer a number of very popular, very economically priced grills.

This one is electric, which means no heavy gas bottles to carry, no anxiety about explosions and instant, push-button, starting.

The only size available is the thirty-inch.

My first choice for people who people who smoke food from time to time, hate lighting charcoal, and who do not want a big outlay.

Bradley quality.
Bradley quality.

Bradley Digital

Bradley have been making fine electric smokers for a long while.

The latest models have digital temperature control and an automatic feed for wood pellets, so that the entire cooking process can be set in motion and left to finish on its own.

The four rack smoker pictured is designed for heavy, regular use with powder epoxy steel and stainless-steel interior.

This is a cooker that will last a lifetime.

Traeger Smoker Grill

Other Outdoor Cookers

It's worth looking at cookers that will cook in different ways if you think that you might only smoke food occasionally. Or want a quicker way of cooking while still getting a smokey flavor.

Orion Cooker and Smoker
Orion Cooker and Smoker

Other Outdoor Cookers

Orion Charcoal Turkey Cooker/Smoker

This cooks with smoke and steam. It is inexpensive, it can accommodate a whole turkey and the cooking times are very fast.

You can find these online for around a hundred dollars.

Brinkmann, All-In-One Outdoor Cooker.
Brinkmann, All-In-One Outdoor Cooker.

An all-in-one Smoker, Grill and Fryer


The Brinkmann 810-5000-0 has components that can be rearranged to either fry, grill or smoke.

It can use either propane or charcoal as fuel.

Pretty versatile!

Costs around $140.00


Using a Barbecook Charcoal Smoker

Comments

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    • charis007 profile image

      charis007 

      7 years ago

      Good selection of products, nice hub.

      Brinkmann gas grills and smokers

    • profile image

      Robert Ferguson 

      8 years ago

      Just like any type of grilling, there's always a time for certain types of grills in certain types of situations. Smoker grills are great for Boston Butts!

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      8 years ago

      Sounds good to me hank!

    • cajunhank profile image

      cajunhank 

      8 years ago from in my own mind

      smoking w/charcoal has to be the way to go. i'll do charcoal over gas any day

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