When I started BBQing and smoking my own meat, my first goal was to go out and buy the great big offset stick burner type BBQ that I had seen so many times online and TV. Then the reality set in.
So when one of my friends asked me last night about how to buy a smoker, I gave him the rundown of the 3 things I consider important for buying your first smoker.
Event though the rubs we sell are crafted to work just as well in an oven or on a grill as they are on a smoker, there is another element that the smoke brings to the table that can’t be created any other way.
So while you’re able to buy smoker boxes for gas grills, I’ll be honest, it doesn’t really cut it. It doesn’t produce nearly enough smoke to make it worth while. Pretty much anything that uses charcoal for fuel can be used as a smoker, and there are a number of configurations to achieve the best results. What will be a big decided factor though is space.
What’s Your Space Like?
A lot will be dictated by where you live, and the space you have available.
Not all of us have the space for the big offset. If you’re in an apartment, you have limited balcony space (if at all). Similarly, lots of inner city homes, like where I live, have small backyards and courtyards, and neighbours who may not necessarily appreciate the smoke.
In the case like this, a barrel style smoker, or a Weber, is your best bet. I use an upright barrel style smoker as it is compact, easy to move and clean, and I can place it in the middle of my courtyard and not have it take up space.
It’s not just the smoker you have to account for – where are you going to store everything else that goes with it? Charcoal, wood, implements – it all takes space.
Holding Heat – Why Finish Is Important
Another important aspect is to look at the finish of the smoker as it will determine how it holds heat. Some of the cheaper models are powder coated, which there is nothing wrong with necessarily, but you’ll find that the heat can be a little temperamental.
Models like the ProQ have a thicker porcelain finish on it which maintains the heat really well.
Make sure all the parts fit together well. Some of the lower end models will stack the different parts, others will lock together. Whichever you look at, you want something that’s not going to allow the heat to escape from anywhere it shouldn’t be escaping from (the vents).
The Importance of a Good Thermometer
You live and die by the temperature of your smoker, so a good thermometer is key. Most will come with a thermometer as part of the unit, but it won’t hurt you at all to invest in a good third party model. There are plenty available, and the key is to get one to measure the temperature of the BBQ itself, not the meat (but you also need one of them…)
There’s already a lot written about buying a smoker, but these three points should give you a good idea of some of the basic things to look at when buying your first smoker. But hey, i you’ve got the space and the budget, go crazy and buy the offset…. 😉