There isn’t just one type of BBQ smoker.
Here I’m briefly explaining 6 different types, and will make a specific product recommendation that will meet most people’s needs.
There are some pros and cons of each type, and I’ll highlight those with the recommendations below.
With gas smokers, you adjust the temperature the same way you would on a typical barbecue with a propane gas tank.
There’s a temperature gauge on the front to monitor the temperature, and when you open the door you’ll find a few racks which are great for smaller cuts of meat.
The gas burner is at the bottom of the BBQ and smoke is created by heating up a pot which is raised just above the burner. Inside the pot you can put pellets or wood chips. So the burner heats up the pot containing wood chips or pellets, which heats up the oven with smoke.
Above the pot is a water pan which helps regulate the temperature and catches all the drips from the food getting cooked.
What’s great about these is that they’re so easy to use. They’re sort of recommended for beginners and those who aren’t cooking very large cuts of meat. Size is limited with these smokers as they’re only typically 30 x 40 x 44 inches.
It’s a very easy set it and forget it cooking machine.
Masterbuilt 2 Door Propane Smoker
You won’t find an easier smoker that an electric smoker.
This is by far the easiest way to smoke your meats, and it’s one that I personally use. Simply plug it in, turn it on, and you’re good to go!
Some models will have just an on and off switch, while others will have a temperature control. The set up is very similar to the gas smoker explained above.
The typical size is very similar to gas smokers, which is approximately 700 square inches. They sort of look like mini fridges.
They will contain several racks which are removable, and you can also hang sausages in most units. Keep in mind that with the upright design, you’re limited in width space.
The heating concept is the same as a gas smoker. The electric heating element heats up a pot filled with wood chips which creates heat and smoke within the oven. A water container helps regulate the temperature and catches and drips from your food.
They are really the easiest form of BBQ smokers.
Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smoker
Bullet Charcoal Smokers
With charcoal smokers, your heat source is from charcoal. So no gas or electric heat sources here.
These smokers are built in a few layers. At the base of most charcoal smokers there’s a small door where you put your charcoal and wood. Charcoal is the heat source, and the wood gives you that smokey flavour.
On top of the charcoal is a water bowl which is meant to catch all the juices from your food. Directly above this is a grill. One of the main benefits with these smokers is that you can use them as traditional charcoal BBQs, where you can’t do this with gas or electric smokers.
The middle layers allow you to continue to stack your grills however you are limited as the width of these units is not extremely large.
The benefits of using these types of smokers is you’re cooking with charcoal and wood, which gives you the best flavour.
It’s not as touch and go when compared to gas and electric, as you do need to monitor the heat levels more, and keep track of your charcoal.
If you want a set it and forget it unit, consider the other options. But if you love tinkering and really want that charcoal flavour from a smoker, you should definitely consider these.
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker
Kamado Ceramic Grills
These ceramic grills, also referred to as kamado grills are great if you’re cooking for less than 10 people.
They’re used for barbecuing, smoking and as an oven. What sets them apart is that they’re very thick. This means with a small amount of charcoal these grills will stay very hot.
The downside is the size. If it’s just you and your family you should be OK, however if you’re throwing a party, this is not the ideal smoker.
Char Griller Kamado BBQ Grill
Pellet Grills and Smokers
As the name suggests, pellet grills use pellets (compressed hardwood sawdust) as their heat source.
To the left of the grill there is a section/container where you put the pellets, and these are fed into the main grill area.
The grill needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. There is a temperature setting which can be adjusted. This setting determines how many pellets are being sent to the grill. The pellets get hot and create the smoke.
What’s good about these smokers is you can raise the temperature high enough to where you can use them as a normal barbecue. So they’re very versatile.
You will also have a wider grill which can accommodate larger amounts of food.
You can also set it and forget it for many hours, however you will need to replace the pellets if they run out. Typically on low settings you can smoke for 15 to 20 hours without worrying about replacing any pellets.
Camp Chef Pellet Grill
Offset smokers probably require the most monitoring out of all these different types of smokers I’ve outlined here.
The name refers to the fact the the heat source is separate from the grilling area. It works on in-direct heat. You have your cooking chamber, and the heat source is offset to the side.
The heat box will have charcoal as the heat source, and wood chunks there to produce smoke and flavour. There are vents which allow you to increase or decrease the air flow into the heat chamber, and thus control the temperature.
There’s also a fire damper which will control how much heat will enter the grilling area.
One of the main benefits of these types of smokers is that there is much more grilling room, and you can also treat it as a normal barbecue and grill your food.
One downfall is that it is a manual process when compared to the other smokers. There will require some adjustments as you go, to keep an even heat distribution across the grill.
Oklahoma Joe’s Offset Smoker