7 Types of Smokers

The first decision a person has to make when they want to buy a smoker is what kind of smoker do you buy?  There are many different types of smokers.

Each type has its own pros and cons, but also its own style that will fit into the needs of some people more than others.

In this article, we have compiled a list of 7 common types of smokers from our experience as barbecue enthusiasts.

1. Propane Smokers (Gas Smokers)

Propane smokers or gas smokers are an excellent option for people who want a quick and easy way to enjoy some smoked food. One of the great things about propane smokers is that they require no kind of calibration or ‘tuning’, and there is very little clean-up you need to do after using them.

They require less maintenance than traditional charcoal or wood smokers, but at the same time they give off more heat. This makes them great for cooking chicken or vegetables, but not so great for slow-cooking meats like brisket.

One of the downsides of using a propane smoker is that it can be difficult to control temperature while barbecuing because most models have only one burner.

This lack of control can be difficult when smoking because it is often necessary to have a low temperature for long periods in order to properly smoke your food, something that propane smokers are not well-equipped to do.

Pros
  • Cheaper and easier to set up
  • Quickest to heat up
  • Provide a very consistent heat for even cooking
Cons
  • They can’t burn as hot as other types of smokers, making it more difficult to achieve the same levels of caramelization.

2. Offset Smokers

Offset smokers or side smokers have a firebox on the left side, which is used for cooking with wood or charcoal, and a cooking chamber on the right side for smoking with wood chips.

The reason to design the smoker this way is to provide better temperature control on one side of the grill, thus creating different cooking zones.

The great thing about these types of smokers is that they usually perform very well at low temperatures (100°F to 275°F) which makes them good for smoking meats like brisket, pork shoulder, and ribs.

Pros
  • Large and bulky
  • More expensive than other smokers
  • They can handle a lot of meat at one time with ease due to their size.
Cons
  • They need plenty of attention during the cooking process.

3. Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers are the old-fashioned way of smoking and are the most common type that you will see. They work by burning charcoal to generate heat and use a grate to hold food in the smoker and below the heat source.

Charcoal smokers are great for people who want to do some cooking outside, but still have the feel of a typical barbecue. As you heat up the charcoal, they will create beautiful grill marks similar to gas or electric smokers.

They will create a smokey flavor on your food from the smoke created from the burning wood.

Charcoal smokers are not only great for barbecue enthusiasts but also good for those who just want to do some cooking on the side of their house without hassle and mess while still providing a delicious meal.

They’re perfect for tailgate parties and camping trips with friends and family because they’re easy and cheap to use and maintain.

One thing to remember about charcoal smokers is that they need an ash catcher otherwise all your hard work will be in vain. They are easy to maintain, but the ashes that get trapped underneath them can smother your fire and not give you nearly as much flavor or heat.

A charcoal smoker will also need some kind of device to supply air so that it doesn’t suffocate and stall out while smoking.

Pros
  • They are affordable.
  • They create beautiful grill marks similar to gas or electric smokers.
  • They create a smokey flavor.
Cons
  • You need to get your coals hot and manage it properly while keeping an eye on what’s going on inside the grill.
  • They are difficult to control the temperature.
  • They generate a lot of ash which can get in your food.

4. Pellet Smokers

Pellet smokers are a popular style of smoker grills on the market today. The reason for their popularity is because they can quickly and easily produce an amazing smoky flavor that other types of smokers just cannot match.

They are very easy to use and have a relatively simple design, which makes them attractive to beginners or even experienced grilling veterans who want an easier way of smoking meats like brisket and pork shoulder.

Pellet smokers consist of a small firebox where wood pellets are burned and then travel through a metal tube into the chamber that holds your meat or food item to be smoked.

They blend in wood smoke flavor with a cooking system that is easy to use and leaves little maintenance required, making them perfect for almost any occasion.

Pros
  • They are a great choice for those who want to have the flavor of wood smoke without having to do all of that hard work.
  • There is not much ash produced when using pellets instead of charcoal.
Cons
  • Wood pellets aren’t as easy of find as charcoal or gas so plan ahead with this purchase.

5. Electric Smokers

In the world of smokers, there is a whole spectrum from gas grills to wood pellets. Electric smokers are an option for those who don’t want to deal with the hassle of using firewood or natural gas.

Electric smokers use electricity as their heat source and cook by convection and radiant heat. The benefit of electric smokers is they don’t typically demand a lot of attention, meaning they can be left alone for long periods of time while still cooking quality food.

It’s important to note that electric smokers have a fixed temperature range and can be a bad choice for people wanting to smoke at low temperatures. Also, the electronics in these types of smokers are sensitive so you want to make sure they are not left outdoors in the rain.

Electric smokers allow for low-and-slow cooking, high heat searing or baking, smoking with indirect heat as well as many other types of cooking techniques.

They tend to be easier to use than other types of smokers and grills because you just have to plug them in.

They are perfect for beginners who want an easy way of smoking meats like salmon, ribs, or chicken legs.

Pros
  • They are great for first-time users because they require no additional fuel sources like gas, pellets or charcoal.
  • They require little maintenance and can be set up quickly.
Cons
  • The moist atmosphere inside an electric smoker makes it much harder to get a crisp crust on chicken skin or ribs.

6. Kamado Iron Smokers (Kamado Grills)

Another type of grill is the Kamodo grills, which are similar to an igloo-shaped barbecue pit with a chamber inside made out of ceramic or brick.

Kamado smokers are great smokers because they will allow for low-and-slow cooking, high heat searing or baking, smoking with indirect heat as well as many other types of cooking techniques.

These ovens are great for smoking meat because they can maintain low temperatures around 225°F to 250°F which is the optimal temperature range for slow-cooking meats like brisket and pork shoulder.

Pros
  • They provide less airflow which means your meat will stay moist and juicy.
  • They can grill, bake, and even be a pizza oven.
Cons
  • They are expensive.
  • Adding more fuel can be a bit tricky.

7. Dual Fuel Smokers

A dual fuel smoker allows you to cook with either charcoal or gas. This means that one can cook in gas, which might be important for some recipes, and in pellets, which are more environmentally friendly.  Some people will also like cooking with wood (or other pellets) because it provides a homey feel to the cooking experience.

A dual fuel smoker will give you flexibility in terms of what kind of food you want to cook on it. If you’re using wood pellets to cook something low and slow for hours, propane might be your best bet to sear that steak or do some quick grilling on hot coals.

If you want to smoke some ribs for hours and hours, the wood pellets might be your best bet.

The only downside is that the cooking area is limited and it can be harder to regulate the temperature. If you want a grill that has a bigger cooking area, then you should go with a gas grill because it has more space for grilling compared to a dual fuel smoker.

If you live in a rural area and don’t have access to natural gas, then a charcoal smoker might be your best option.

One of the reasons people prefer using charcoal instead of gas is because it leaves no smell from the food debris. This makes cleanup easier after cooking as all you have to do is wait for the ashes to cool down and remove them from the bottom ash pan.

For wood smokers, it’s usually best to use a small number of smoking chips so that the food doesn’t have too much smoke flavor and instead has an authentic barbecue taste.

Pros
  • You can cook with either gas or charcoal.
Cons
  • Cooking area is limited.
  • It can be harder to regulate the temperature.

Conclusion

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and find the smoker that’s right for you.

If one of these seven types seems like it would be a good fit, then go ahead and buy it. That smoker will teach your hands to do the work while your brain learns how to cook food at home. You can even learn by reading our blog posts for tips on smoking meat.

We hope this list has helped you narrow down which type of smoker is best suited for your needs so get cooking today!

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