What To Look For When Buying A Smoker (Buying Guide)

Buying A Smoker

Once you have decided what type of smoker you want to buy, the next step is deciding which one. This article will help guide you through the process with some helpful tips and advice on what to look for in a smoker. You can find smokers that are propane or electric powered, but I recommend going with an electric model because they are easier to maintain and control temperature more easily. The size of your smoker also matters as well- larger ones handle more food at once but smaller models may be better if space is limited. Consider how often you plan on using your new grill before making a final decision!

4 Fuel Types of Smoker Grill

Electric BBQ Smokers

Electric smokers are a good choice for those who don’t want long hours of smoke and heat to prepare their meats. Electric smoker cuts the work time in half as you only need to set up the electric smoker and forget about it. Many models come with an LCD panel that has settings such as “low” and “high.” A user simply needs to select which type of meat they’re smoking, how much of it, and then set the appropriate temperature through the control panel. Once everything is done, just let your electric smoker do its job and wait patiently until the meat is ready.

Electric smokers typically have a cooking area not too large so you can fit enough food for your family plus some extra if needed. If you think about it – an electric smoker is the best choice if you only need to smoke a couple of items. An electric smoker can be used as a grill too so it doubles as your outdoor cooker.

Charcoal BBQ Smokers

With so many types and models of charcoal smokers available, finding one that suits your needs might seem like a difficult task. The good thing about these grills is that you get great heat control which allows for slower smoking at lower temperatures compared to gas or electric smokers. Many people believe this method imparts better flavor into food because charcoal imparts its own flavor on whatever you are cooking. Your meat will have the taste of wood after being cooked over an open flame, which some find more pleasurable than flavored liquid smoke. It’s no secret that wood is the way to better BBQ flavors.

Charcoal grills are typically made out of cast iron or steel, making them very durable and rust-free for years of use. These grills have wooden handles, racks, and Teflon coatings which can make food stick if not well taken care of. A stainless steel variant would be a much safer choice but they do cost more so it’s up to you what type of grill you want.

Gas BBQ Smokers

If you’re after speed, then gas smokers are the way to go. Gas smokers typically reach cooking temperatures in just 10 minutes which makes it great for those who want their meals ready quickly. While a charcoal smoker might take up to 45 minutes to heat up and an electric smoker takes 30 minutes or less, a gas smoker is truly the fastest of them all. Just like with any other type of grill, there are many different types and models available; depending on your budget you can choose anything from small portable units to large heavy-duty rigs that can rival some cheap commercial smokers.

Gas smokers excel at providing even temperature control because they use steel or cast iron grates that provide stable surfaces for hanging meat without scorching it during cooking (like racks in charcoal or electric smokers). The downside is that they don’t impart any smoke flavor into your food. Nevertheless, gas smokers are very popular because of their speed and ability to provide an even cooking environment in a relatively small package.

Pellet BBQ Smokers

For most people, pellet smokers are the most versatile of them all. Pellet smokers use real wood pellets to impart the flavor and smoke into foods, so there is no need for liquid smoke if you want to enjoy BBQ without any cooking chemicals or additives (most people who like ‘real’ BBQ typically don’t like that type of stuff). A good number of professional chefs even rely on high-end pellet grills for their busy restaurant kitchens because they provide consistent heat control and a cooking environment.

Pellet smokers are available in sizes ranging from small portable units (the size of a large shoebox) up to huge rigs that produce enough meat for an entire restaurant worth of people. Prices vary on how much money you’re willing to spend for a smoker but most people can afford pellet smokers that cost anywhere from $300 up to $700.

BBQ Smoker Types

Vertical Smokers

Vertical smokers are the most popular type in use today. They are available in different sizes, ranging from small cabinet models to large catering rigs. Vertical smokers have a vertical chamber where food is loaded and fuel can be added. A dial or knob at the bottom regulates heat while another one near the top controls oxygen supply to the fire.

One of the biggest benefits of this smoker type is that it requires less attention during cooking because you only need to add wood/charcoal every few hours compared to other types that require monitoring during the cooking process. Vertical smokers are also energy efficient because they use gravity to their advantage by dropping lit coals into layers of food above them for indirect cooking methods which allow meats to cook evenly without burning exterior layer/coating which defeats the purpose of slow cooking.

Vertical smokers can range from a very simple setup, consisting of a single chamber and two heat controls (one for oxygen to fire and the other for regulating heat), up to large multipurpose units with several interchangeable chambers that enable you to do different types of BBQ simultaneously by switching between them as needed.

Vertical smokers are great because they provide many cooking options such as smoking, roasting, baking, grilling, and more. They also produce less smoke/odor than other smoker types so it’s perfect for those who don’t want their neighbors complaining about the constant smells coming out during off hours or those who live in apartments and townhouses where using charcoal/wood-based smokers is not allowed.

Offset Smokers

Offset smokers are essentially horizontal barrel-shaped grills with a firebox attached to one end. This unique design enables the smoke/heat from the firebox to travel through the entire cooking chamber then spill into side-wall or into an external smoking chamber where it can be used for indirect cooking methods. The main chamber in offset smokers is typically large enough for whole turkeys so you can load up your smoker, start a fire and leave it unattended while meat slowly cooks without burning.

Offset smokers are versatile in that they have two types of fuel supplies: direct heat source when smokebox is utilized during the cooking process and lower heat source when smoking/indirect cooking chambers are utilized. This means you can cook anything from steaks, burgers, chicken etc., over high heat on top of the firebox, or switch to indirect cooking method with smoking chamber and slowly cook large cuts of meat over long periods of time.

Offset smokers are a great choice for people looking to do a lot of different types of BBQ in one smoker. They produce higher amounts of smoke/heat when compared to other types so if you’re living in an area where neighbors complain about constant smells coming out during off-hours then offset may not be the best choice for you. Also, since they utilize lower heat sources when smoking meats, therefore, it is much harder to bring them up to ‘sear’ temperatures without opening door (which defeats the purpose of using a lower heat source) which means if you like steaks cooked medium rare – medium this may not be the right smoker type for you.

Offset smokers are great for people who want to do it all: high heat indirect method, low-heat smoking, roasting and baking. They produce very little smoke/odor compared to other types of smokers so they are perfect for small neighborhoods or living in apartments. Also, since gas grills like Weber, Char-Broil, etc., can easily get up to high temps you can use them when searing steaks in a pan instead of using your offset thus saving money on fuel costs in addition to preserving your smoker’s flavor!

What Features To Look For When Buying A Smoker

Any good smoker will have the following features:

  1. Durable, thick metal construction with enclosed firebox to retain heat: The thicker the steel, the longer it will last. The closed design of the firebox prevents oxygen from allowing combustion inside your smoker’s main chamber, which can adversely affect taste.
  2. Adjustable airflow vents to control temperature: This is important because you want to be able to regulate how much air enters into your smoker at any given time, so as to keep the internal temperature constant. If you adjust these vents incorrectly, either too much or too little oxygen will reach your coals and cause fluctuations in temperature.
  3. Seals around doors and lids for tight fit: Smoke needs a way out of the chamber during cooking but needs to be contained inside the chamber during smoking. A good seal around doors and lids is critical to maintaining a proper cooking temperature.
  4. Water smoker tray for adding liquids: This feature will allow you to add juices, water or other flavorful liquids into your low and slow smoke in order to enhance the taste.
  5. Adjustable-height steel rod racks: For best results, it’s recommended that you use different heights when placing your food on the grill, so adjustable racks are great for convenience if you’re cooking multiple items at once.


Q: Is it okay to buy a smoker that’s less than $500?

A: If you just want to try smoking some food at home, then you’re welcome to use any smoker. However, if you’re considering taking up smoking on more of a permanent basis, then it’s recommended that you spend about $300 or more so you’ll have easier access to higher-quality features and components. For example, purchasing an off-the-rack vertical water smoker with only one adjustable rack is ok for trying out smoking your own meats before investing in something better. Once you decide that this is something that should become a long term hobby however, then looking into buying a quality offset firebox horizontal smoker will be necessary.

Q: Is it possible to smoke without electricity?

A: If you’re planning on smoking fish or other types of meats that are not very thick, then it’s entirely possible to do it without any sort of electrical equipment. All you’ll really need is a fire source (for example, instead of using charcoal briquettes, use hardwood logs), access to dry wood chips and some twine for trussing if needed. The downside however is that this can be very difficult to control the amount of heat your meat absorbs, so you might end up with an undercooked or overcooked piece by the time you go to serve it.

Q: Which foods should I consider smoking?

A: Almost anything! Some great ideas include sausages, ribs, fish, poultry, beef and even vegetables! However, meats with a high fat content will have a tendency to produce more smoke so you should be careful about cooking these first. Try starting off by smoking things like bacon or other common breakfast foods instead of sausages or steaks.

Keep in mind that those who are suffering from gluten intolerance may need to take extra precautions when it comes to purchasing processed meats as they’re usually made using wheat flour as a binder which can cause cross contamination if not completely free from the substance. In order to verify that your meat is truly gluten-free or just contains trace amounts, look at the ingredients label on the packaging and choose one without any traces of this substance listed amongst its contents.

Q: What are the disadvantages of smoking at home?

A: The biggest disadvantage is not being able to control the temperature as precisely as you would with both gas and electric smokers. Wood produces varying degrees of heat, so unless you’re using a propane smoker or one with an automated temperature gauge, it will be harder to tell what’s going on inside your smoker by simply looking at your thermometer. This can make maintaining proper cooking temperatures more difficult, but if you have patience it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle!


Buying a smoker doesn’t need to be stressful. As long as you know what to look for in each unit, the right choice will likely present itself to you. Remember that any smoker is better than no smoker at all! If your budget won’t allow you to purchase the best one out there right away, just get started by using your oven or even a frying pan until it’s time for new investment.

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