The battle will only be won with ash, soot, and creosote when you have a smoker that’s good. The smoker doesn’t have to be the Rolls Royce, but good enough so food isn’t late to the table without second-guessing if it’s under-cooked or over-cooked.
Warm-Up: Guide, Trends in the Current Smoker BBQ Industry
Looking at the really well designed smokers on the market, there isn’t anything easier to use than pellet smokers because they’re controlled thermostatically the same as the stove in your kitchen is. After selecting the temperature you want for cooking, it becomes maintained by a controller that feeds a fire pot wood pellets when necessary.
Whether you knew it or not, these have been a cook’s option for three decades (more or less), and 98% of the households in the US (still) don’t have one, mostly due to inexpensive alternatives costing less than the entry level smokers.
The Chinese zodiac may have to reserve the pellet smoker for 2016 (sorry monkeys), because one survey recently found 7% of those planning on getting an unused backyard cooker in 2016 are considering a pellet cooker.
Those who bought one are fanatical about them and are guiltless for going 2-$300 more than what their neighbor paid for his grill. Few, however, still don’t think of pellet smokers as foreign, overpriced hardware like many do. That opinion has started to take a different shape as the country is slowly being infiltrated by the industry of pellet smokers, from one lawn to the next.
Included in the list below are two innovative and excellent pellet brands by MAK and Green Mountain Grills. Each company offers cutting-edge features- the ability to be monitored and controlled with a tablet or smart phone, and meat probes built into them.
Returning this year is the well-made and roomy Smoke Vault from Camp Chef’s gas smoker lineup. There’s a prominent snobby attitude toward gas smokers, but really, few of the barbecue-focused, high rated eateries aren’t using a well-sized gas smoker, and the ones with small footprints aren’t that expensive at all, no problem setting up and to forget about either.
Two Smokers Getting More Attention
No other category is growing faster than kamados and pellet smokers.
I previously made mention to how sawdust (hardwood derived) is the burning fuel in pellet smokers, and compressing them produces pellets. Almost all have a temperature digital control that can be set the same way the stove in your kitchen can.
Usually, Kamados are insulated well and egg-shaped, made traditionally with ceramic material, but manufacturers are more commonly using steel to make them. They’re machines characterized by versatility, and shine in colder climates especially.
Primo Ovals should be your go-to kamado because of their unique shape.
The versatility of round shapes is less than that of oval-shaped Primos, which allows the chef to run a direct hot zone and an indirect warm zone to use at the same time (not achievable with a Big Green Egg or similar round kamados).
If using logs for smoking as a source for both flavor and heat, well, you’ll be working with the trickiest of all fuels. But you don’t even have to be a mediocre intermediate to smoke with a Karubecue C-60 Pit and pass off as a Texan Pit Master with newfound wisdom. The fire has to be fed every thirty minutes, but you don’t have to do more than that.
The readers with sharp eyes may see that the list doesn’t include any electric smokers. I’m well aware that electric owners are die-hard devotees, that there’s nothing hard about using electrics, and the meat smoked in one is real tasteful, but I’ve found its flavor pales in comparison to what you get from a device where heat comes about by gas, wood, or charcoal combusting.
These top picks were put together with an aim to include a diversity of prices and design to ultimately find the cream of the crop. Almost none of the selections are manufactured overseas, although that wasn’t a judging point in deciding on the final list.
10.) Char-Broil’s Vertical Smoker (gas version)
It might be built cheaply, and if it’s not taken care of, expect it to start breaking down in half a decade, but at that point you should have built up your savings to afford something with a lasting build. It goes for this much on Amazon.com.
It isn’t wide, so slabs of ribs will have to be cut in ½, but the food it holds is a lot. After you get a feel for it, you won’t have to nurse it and the temperature is held steadily enough. There’s one caveat- the temp indicator must be replaced (why they call it a thermometer is beyond me) with a reliable digital measurer.
See Also: Char Broil’s Electric Vertical Smoker
9.) Special Marshal Horizon RD 20″ Smoker
What’s cool looking? Offset smokers. But in reality, stores like Academy, Wal Mart, Home Depot or other big box joints carry low-priced models that are borderline garbage, and there’s almost no way for the temperature to be managed and you’re eventually left with a rusted backyard display piece after one year of barbecuing. Those who are fixing for that professional feel and wanting to burn charcoal as well as logs, then be comfortable spending this much for a smarter investment.
See Also: A Weber Kettle vs Offset Smokers
The RD Special Marshal is put together to last and smoke well. Made with steel ¼ inches thick, after heating it up the hardware doesn’t lose heat and the temp held where it should. However, without practice you won’t get a feel for controlling the vents so the heat’s controlled, and it’d be smart to pull up a seat to keep an eye on (beer and a lounge chair will come in handy here!).
Don’t buy one if it doesn’t have the convection plate. This piece is one strategy of Horizon to prevent uneven heat (as it better distributes it). The cooking chamber also has a lot of “leg room”. You can load charcoal in it ready to grill 36 hamburgers in one go to even satisfy a youth baseball team quadruple the number of kids in 1993’s Sandlot.