Become a "Smoke Master" with your own wood smoker
A wood smoker buying guide
There are lots of ways to enjoy meat, but nothing tops the taste and aroma that comes from cooking in wood smokers. Whether you are a fan of mouthwatering ribs or hearty pork shoulders, you can use these awesome grills to produce beef, chicken, pork and other meats that are so tender, they fall off the bone. Read on to learn more about finding the best wood smoker for your home.
>> How much food do you want to smoke at one time?
The first step in determining the best wood smoker for your situation is to think about how much food you intend to cook. Smokers are available in a variety of sizes, from small, basic models that are ideal for families of two to four to huge, commercial units that are best used for cooking competitions, restaurants and large gatherings.
A bullet smoker is one of the most popular wood smoker designs for private use because of its small size. These vertical smokers can take up as little as five square feet of space, making them ideal additions to small patios or balconies. When not in use, these lightweight wood smoker models can be easily moved for cleaning or storage.
If it's your intention to make food for larger crowds, such as those at parties, reunions, tailgating or grand openings, consider larger wood smoker sizes. Large-capacity barbeque smokers can range in size from trailer-mounted wood smoker models that can be hauled from one place to another to smokers that resemble the size and shape of a refrigerator.
Smokers can take on several shapes. Deciding which style constitutes the best wood smoker for your particular situation will depend on size and personal preference. Vertical smokers, for example, typically take up the least amount of floor space. On the other hand, horizontal smokers might be more familiar to you because they closely resemble the look of standard BBQ grills.
>> Choosing between an offset and vertical smoker
When it comes to wood smoker types, there are two main variants: vertical and offset. Choosing the best wood smoker will depend on your experience level and how much time and effort you want to dedicate to the cooking process.
A vertical smoker is a unit that places the heat source under the food. As the unit warms, heat and smoke rise, cooking your meal and infusing it with flavor. Buy a smoker of this type if this is your first foray into the world of classic smoking. These wood smoker designs are simple to operate, allowing for consistent heating and easy access to food.
If you are a cook who has lots of skill with grills and outdoor cooking, offset smokers will present a fun, challenging experience. An offset smoker situates the heat source to the side of the food in a separate chamber. As the fuel burns, the smoke and some of the heat will make its way to the area that holds the meat. This means that there is no chance of charring or creating hot spots. This also means that you must stay close to the smoker to ensure that there is enough fuel to maintain consistent heat and smoke.
There are a variety of fuel sources that can be used with smokers. Gas smokers, for example, use propane to heat and create smoke. Most wood smoker models give you the option of cooking with either wood or charcoal. While any kind of wood can be used to cook with, there are some standouts. Apple, maple and oak, for example, are good, flavorful woods that can be used for everything from beef to fish.
Ease of cleaning is another consideration to keep in mind when choosing a wood smoker. The easiest smokers to clean are those with fully removable parts. Barrel smokers and bullet smokers with removable lids and grates, for example, allow you to quickly power wash or scrub away grease and build-up so that the taste and quality of your meals remain optimal.
>> What type of thermometer does your smoker use?
As with any kind of cooker, from grills to ovens, temperature is an extremely important aspect. If you cook meat at too low a temperature, you're left with raw food; cook it with too much heat, and you run the risk of drying out the meat or burning it.
When searching for the best wood smoker, pay attention to whether your favorite smokers come complete with thermometers. In order to ensure that your meat cooks at the temperature and speed you desire, you must have an accurate digital thermometer to check the food itself. A top rated wood smoker might come equipped with two or more thermometers to ensure you get a careful reading, but these only provide the internal temperature in the smoker, not the meat.
Offset smokers, for instance, send heat and smoke in from only one side of the smoker, so there is a good chance that the temperature on the side closest to the heat source will be higher than the opposite. In this case, two separate thermometers on each side will ensure an accurate temperature reading. Some grills might boast many handy wood smoker features such as adjustable racks and timers rather than a thermometer. In such cases, all you need to do is purchase a thermometer or two of your own.
>> Consider multipurpose smokers
As you prepare to buy a wood smoker, think about whether you want a unit that is dedicated to only smoking meat or whether you would find more use in a combination appliance.
A smoker-and-grill combo provides all of the wood smoker features you would expect but also allows you to cook as you would on a BBQ grill. This means that you can char roasts or steaks using the grill area to seal in juices and then switch over to the smoker setting to further cook and soften the meat. If you are in a rush and just want to quickly prepare some burgers or hot dogs, use the grill portion alone.
Smoker-and-oven combinations are best known for their ability to create succulent, smoked meats as well as delicious pizzas and juicy poultry. This kind of smoker is the best wood smoker for you if you prefer to do as much cooking as possible outdoors.
Be sure to read up on individual wood smokers as much as you feel is necessary in order to determine which is the best wood smoker for you. With the right wood smoker design and wood smoker size in your home, you'll be able to cook up delicious meals for friends and family to enjoy.