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Smokers: Which is Best for you and Beginner's Tips

Updated on June 19, 2017

What to think about when purchasing?

The first thing you should think about when purchasing either a new or your first smoker is how much time you will have when tending to the smoker, and what type of Patio Pitmaster you'd like to make yourself into. Depending on whether you go with an electric, propane or charcoal smoker you are going to have different results from each one. Below is a breakdown of some of the differences and what you want to keep in mind. Each option will take different levels of attention and time during the cooking process to ensure the best product at the end. They vary from very low maintenance to regular maintenance being required during the cooking process. You will find that smoking is an art in itself that takes time to perfect regardless of the type of unit you end up purchasing for yourself but as you grow your experience level, there is little that compares to a quality piece of meat off your own smoker.

The Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are easy to use and are great at maintain a consistent temperature while needing little attention during the cooking process. The consistency of electric smokers make them great for beginners or for people who want to regularly cook with a smoker but don't have the time for the hassle of a charcoal version which tend to take more maintenance during the cooking process. a lot of models also come with automatic puck or chip feeders to keep the process moving even when you aren't monitoring the cook. I have the most experience cooking with this type of smoker and find it very reliable but you will want to ensure you have a sheltered area in cold and/or windy weather as these can some times effect the speed it takes to get up to temp in the grill. Electric smokers are very easy to maintain and clean and provide a great smoke flavour. Some reliable brands I have used in the past are Masterbuilt and Bradley which tend to work very well.

Charcoal Smokers

Cooking with a charcoal smoker is often the most preferred method from smoking aficionados. The experience is very hands-on and the end result if done properly never disappoints. Although charcoal smokers require more expertise to use than electric and propane versions, the flavour that a charcoal smoker produces is hard to beat. Just remember with a charcoal smoker it does take some time to get the fire and coals burning and can take a little longer to get to the temperature you are looking for. it does take more work during the process as well in maintaining the optimum temperature and keeping the coals burning but can be well worth your trouble if you have the time. There is not much that will compare to the experience of smoking with a charcoal smoker if you have the time as the flavour you can get on your meat is excellent and really gives you the "hands-on" feel while cooking. Some of the favourite brands in this category that will give you the best results would be the Primo and Weber smokers (both pictured below)

Propane Smokers

Propane BBQ smokers run off a propane tank much like a gas grill does. This keeps the heat steady and consistent meaning less maintenance throughout the cooking process similar to that of an electric smoker. This makes propane smokers a great choice for those of you who are newer to the process of smoking. My personal preference is using the electric over the propane due to minimal difference in flavour without the additional cost of the gas, but these are a great option if you are smoking while camping or somewhere that doesn't have electricity. Really you can't go wrong with one of the three choices noted above when it comes to smoking as each will provide a unique experience and flavour and will not disappoint any dinner guests.

What's your favourite way to smoke?

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    • Proko profile image

      Prince Perkins 10 months ago from Penticton, BC, Canada

      Fullerman5000 totally agree.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 10 months ago from Louisiana, USA

      If I could I would eat smoked meals everyday. But unfortunately we can't always get what we want. I find that the best and most delicious smoking technique is charcoal grill with a smoke box. However, this is a long process and the food and fire need constant attention. For a more convenient process I would suggest an electric smoker. I bought my dad one for fathers day a few years ago and we were able to cook many meals with it. I have never messed with a propane one because I honestly am not a big fan of gas grills or smokers. But again, I am sure there is a convenient factor to them.