Benefits of having a smoker
- A smoker allows you to enjoy homemade smoked food when you need it. You can cook meats like ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, bacon, ham, pastrami; cheese; pies, pizza and all kinds of bread; vegetable dishes like tomato paste, mushrooms, eggplant, smoked potatoes, spinach, collard greens, chickpeas, beans and lentils.
- Smoking gives food a distinct taste that is rich and tasty. You also get to customize the taste as you like to use sauces, herbs and spices and let the smoke from certain forests penetrate the meat of the food.
- Most smokers can be used all year round, making grilling a year-round affair.
- Nothing says welcome like giving friends and family gifts with homemade smoked delicacies. It may make them forget that they had a grudge against you just last week.
What to expect from a $ 500 smoker?
If this is the first time you are buying a smoker, you may be worried about the low price. That’s understandable enough. We often believe that a higher price of cooking equipment indicates quality and better results. This is not necessarily true. Sometimes smokers cost less because they are smaller, not because they are inferior in quality or made from poor materials. The mechanism behind the smoker’s work is the same whether you’re looking at a $ 100 piece or an $ 8,000 charmer.
Thus, a $ 500 smoker can perform as well as a more expensive device. As you might expect, the more expensive smokers will have higher quality shells and be made of higher gauge metals. But this does not make the cheaper models insignificant. $ 500 does not have gold etchings and amazing chrome buttons and details, but it gets the job done.
Some $ 500 will be more robust, better insulated, more efficient and provide more smoke than others. It allows you to use your assessment wisely when choosing between models. But when it comes to how well it smokes your food, you can expect it to be acceptable that the results are higher than that, depending on the model.
Features to consider when choosing a smoker
Here we now look at the specific features that are important in a smoker and the characteristics that distinguish the best smokers from the non-large ones.
Which material is better?
Cheaper smokers are mostly made of stainless steel. However, stainless steel comes in a variety of qualities and it makes all the difference. Look for industry standard stainless steel as it is thicker and stronger. Stainless steel on a lower scale will be thinner and more likely to lose heat, which can affect the effect of the smoker.
The common energy sources for smokers are gas, charcoal and electricity.
Most gas-powered smokers use propane gas, but there are models that also use natural gas. Some manufacturers have designed their smokers for use with both propane and natural gas, which can be an advantage if you lean more towards using natural gas. One such example is Camp Chef Ryger.
Charcoal smokers are touted for having the strongest flavors. You will have to try this and come to a verdict. In our experience, the type of fuel does not really dictate how good the taste is. Remember that the type of wood you use plays a bigger role in the release of the kind of smoky flavor that can be detected in smoked food. Charcoal smokers are also the slowest of the three types.
Electric smokers are no-fuss queens. Their easy plug-and-go operating system makes it a welcome alternative for anyone looking for a stress-free way to cook.
Choose the power source that you think is best suited for your lifestyle. If you use the smoker out in the woods most of the time, it makes sense to go with a gas or charcoal smoker. If you plan to use the smoker in your backyard where you can easily connect to an electrical outlet, an electric smoker may be a good choice.
Do you really need a great temperature?
It helps if the temperature range is large. That way, you can easily swim your foods at high temperatures and set it up to the high degrees needed to caramelize and sizzle dishes. Similarly, you can bring it to a low level for a slow cooking.
Size and capacity
How big the smoker is determines how much food you can cook in it at one time. Larger smokers can accommodate as many as 12 whole chickens or 2 whole turkeys or up to 4 large vegetable stews. In smaller smokers, you may be able to smoke a whole turkey, which will mean you can do the same with 5 or 6 whole chickens. Larger smokers can easily hold four ribs with the ribs.
Look at your smoking needs when choosing the size of your smoker. If you need to smoke lots of food often, go for a larger smoker with a higher capacity. Most smokers come with adjustable racks, giving you room to move them around to create the space you need for larger pieces of meat or whole pieces like chicken and turkey. Some may even come with a hanging rack for sausages, and this frees up your shelves for other foods.
The majority of smokers for home use are lightweight and can be easily moved from place to place. However, be warned that a few are quite bulky and do not make up good portable smokers. Always check the weight before buying. You do not want to end up with a smoker that can only be created in one place because it is impossible to move it. Some smokers have wheels to facilitate the task of moving them, like the Masterbuilt 20077515.
The fuel box or fire box is where your chips, pellets or charcoal go. The best smokers are built in such a way that you can add wood or water to the water pan without opening the cooking chamber and thus letting the heat out. This is typically done in two-door designs, so check to see if you can find one. Some models like Masterbuilt 20071117 have a side wood mechanism that allows you to load chips without opening the smoking door.
The water pan runs between the heat source and the cooking chamber and is typically filled with water. It acts as a space, absorbs heat when it is too large (so it does not go all in the food and burns it) and keeps the heat at optimal temperature when the heat from the source is attenuated. It also keeps food moist. The better the water pan, the more efficient it is.
You need vents to control how much air comes in and out of the smoker at all times. The best smokers have at least three openings at the bottom and at least one vent at the top. The lower openings allow air to enter the smoker and blow the fire to keep the heat going. When a lot of heat accumulates, the upper vent opens out the hot air, which helps regulate the temperature inside the smoker.
Go for a smoker with a thermostat. Many come with a built-in thermostat that lets you know the temperature of the smoker during the cooking time. Some may also have a thermometer mounted on the door. The thermometer may not be accurate and it is advisable to use a third party thermometer just to make sure you get the temperature range right when cooking.
It is important to buy a device that is covered by a warranty. Many of these warranties do not go beyond 3 months, but short as they are, they can be a lifeline when something like the heating element does not work or the racks sink and become crooked. Still, you come across rare gemstones with a 10-year warranty, like the Weber 731001. If you intend to smoke your food for a decade, this is a steal.