Backyard barbecue is a popular tradition and an essential part of the food culture in the U.S. for many years. Still, in recent times, we have seen an uprising in popularity never seen before.
According to a survey by HPBA (Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association), 75% of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker, proving just how popular smokers are in this country. However, with various sizes, price tags, and tons of features available with different smokers, it’s pretty easy to get blindsided and confused by them. Eventually, we forget to consider the basic stuff.
To choose the best BBQ smoker according to your need, we have compiled a list of 7 key features for our buying guide that is, in our opinion, making a BBQ smoker great. Let’s get to the detailed smoker buying guide.
What To Consider When Buying a BBQ Smoker | 7 Key Features of Smoker Buying Guide
These are the 7 factors you must consider to get the best out of your BBQ smoker.
1.Type and Fuel
Different types of smokers available in the market use different fuels, and fuels used by smokers determine what type of smoker it is and significantly impact how the food cooked will taste.
Electricity and propane gas is the most common and most accessible fuel used in different smokers. They usually feature a control switch to control the fuel input and therefore control the temperature. On the other hand, wood, pellets, and charcoal is a more traditional approach that needs manual fuel input.
If you are new to barbecue or want convenience more than anything, electric and propane smokers are the best choice for you. For the people who use cigarettes for a long time and enjoy the authentic smoky flavor, charcoal and wood smokers are perfect.
2. Build, Material and Durability
Buying a BBQ smoker involves a considerable amount of investment, and we don’t plan to buy one very often; it’s essential to purchase one with quality materials and robust construction.
Start by eliminating anything that has thin metal and cheap metal wheels. Instead, thick steel with steel coating and cast iron should be your ideal material of choice.
As many of us intend to leave our smoke outdoor, it’s important to make sure the body alongside screws and joints are rust-proof. Unfortunately, we often tend to forget the overall construction, especially the stands. If the stands are not durable enough, they won’t withstand all the dragging with heavyweight around your patio.
3. Size and Capacity
The size and capacity of the smoker are some of the crucial aspects of a BBQ smoker. Again, there is nothing technical going on here; consider how many people you want to serve, what type of food you want to cook, and how much space you have to store and use your smoker.
Smaller smokers should be enough for little family or friends gathering, but if you plan to have a party for larger groups like your workplace or neighborhood, getting a bigger one will make your job easier.
You can also benefit from a bigger smoker if you want to cook big sea fish, whole chicken or turkey, or a side of beef and pork ribs.
The portability and convenience of a smoker often go hand in hand. Put, the larger the size, the more challenging and inconvenient it gets to carry around. Being said that, larger is not always better. Especially if you go out for smoking or don’t have a permanent outdoor space, you should consider portability with utmost importance.
You should check things like sturdy wheels and carrying handles for effortless mobility around your patio or garage. If it doesn’t have wheels, at least make sure it can be disassembled easily and quickly.
5. Heat control, Distribution, and Monitoring
Inside a smoker, the heat/ temperature is the most critical part as it cooks the food. To get properly cooked food, you should always know what’s going on under the smoker’s lid. If you don’t know the temperature inside and fail to ensure even heat distribution, you may end up serving undercooked or burnt food.
A thermometer is the most important feature in heat control and monitoring as it lets you know the temperature inside and plans your cooking time. If a smoker doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, you can also buy one later separately.
Though most of the time, foods are prepared at a lower temperature in a smoker, you may need a higher temperature for many cooking applications. Try to get a smoker that allows the user to set the heat and features a wide range of temperatures.
It’s a great idea to determine first how much you want to spend on a BBQ smoker. Otherwise, it’s easy to get carried away by the features you may not need and end up buying on over your budget.
You should look for the balance between the price and the features available and then get the one that provides the best value for your money.
If you have a smaller budget or don’t smoke that frequently, you should get a gas or charcoal grill smoker. If you can spend more, you may consider buying a pellet or electric one.
However, the price of the smoker itself and the cost of the fuel both are very different. So take into account what you can afford and then choose accordingly.
7. Cleaning and Maintenance
When you are cooking with a BBQ smoker, it’s pretty normal to drop juices, seasonings, or fat from the food inside. However, over time it can result in food build-up inside the smoker and reduce the optimal performance. If you don’t clean that up, it can potentially cause food poisoning and affect the taste of the food.
In that case, choosing a smoker that is easy to clean and maintain can increase the life span of your smoker and make cooking with the smoker a delightful experience. Look for a smoker with easy disassembly, drip pan, and stainless steel build so that it’s easier to get inside and scrub and clean it properly.
Frequently Asked Question’s
Q1: What is a BBQ Smoker? What do They Do?
Answer: A BBQ smoke or sometimes called just smoker, is a cooking appliance that cooks food for a more extended period at a low temperature. It has a large chamber inside to keep the food, and then the heat generated from burning wood, charcoal, gas, or electricity simmers the food.
Q2: Do electric smokers reduce the overall taste and flavors?
Answer: Unlike other smokers, digital/ electric smokers don’t provide an open flame. As there is no open flame, foods cooked in electric smokers don’t have the smoky flavors of charcoal.
On the brighter side, electric smokers are more convenient, and with proper seasoning and quality wood, you can get excellent flavor with electric smokers.
Q3: Which smoker is the easiest to use?
Answer: Among all the smokers available, electric smokers are the easiest to use, followed by propane smokers. They are easy to use because most of the models of these smokers have automatic temperature maintenance.
On the other hand, wood or charcoal smokers need some work and constant monitoring as you have to maintain the amount of fuel to control the temperature on them.
Q4: What can I cook with a smoker?
Answer: You can cook just about anything you can eat. Most people use it for all kinds of meats, fishes or other protein-based foods; you can also put up fruits or vegetables.
Q5: How often do I need to clean a smoker?
Answer: Answer to this question depends on how often and extend your use is. Usually, a smoker is a very low-maintenance appliance. Just wipe out the grease, ashes, and food particles from the smoker after every use, and it’s good to go. Additionally, you can do an extensive cleaning once or twice every year.
When getting a BBQ smoker, you’ll see loads of advice, tips, and reviews out there on the internet these days. Unfortunately, it’s challenging and confusing to choose the right product according to your need for corporate marketing techniques and promotional reviews.
To take away any confusion you may have and make up your mind, we combed through the features of all the popular BBQ smokers in the market, used our personal experience with smokers, and came up with a full-proof buying guide.
We hope our smoker buying guide with an in-depth discussion on different features of a smoker helps you choose the right BBQ smoke for yourself.