We talk a lot in our eblasts about grill issues and finding the right grill, but let’s talk about finding the right smoker this month. That sometimes seems like a bigger challenge than finding the right grill.
Gas grills are the seven day a week workhorse for burgers, sausages, hot dogs, steak and chicken that we want to grill and serve up in a hurry. But we know that some grillers would like to dabble in smoking, and get the authentic smoke flavor that comes with the right fire and fuel.
If you want to get your toes wet in the world of smoked flavor, we suggest starting with a smoker box, as it is the most low-cost way into smoked foods. This way you can use your existing gas grill and test the waters. A good smoker box used with wood pellets (better than wood chips) generally delivers up to 4 hours of smoke before needing a refill. The disadvantage to this method is that gas grills are geared for high heat cooking, so getting into a “smoke zone” of 225 degrees can be difficult.
The best thing about smoked food is that it is slow-cooked food. A smoker cooks at a temperature that allows fats to render properly and the low internal temperature of your food absorbs the smoke flavor. Smoke flavor almost exclusively sticks to the outside of the item you are slow roasting. Your patience will be rewarded when you cut into the meat and examine the “smoke ring” showing the progression of flavor from the outside in.
After smoker boxes, cabinet-style smokers are next in the lineup progression. They are compact but have a good amount of space inside to smoke pretty much anything. Cabinet smokers come in either gas or charcoal and are a great way to start working on fire mastery and smoke flavor. The are not as insulated as the more expensive smokers, which may make holding consistent temperatures difficult during cold and/or windy weather.
If you are looking for a bigger challenge but prepared to jump in; charcoal grills and offset smokers deliver amazing results but require expert level fire mastery. These units will produce flavor second to none. Get into one of these units because you love charcoal grilling, need to cook for a larger group and do not mind tending a fire firsthand all day long. The separator for these grills in terms of price is often related to the thickness of their material. A 150 lb. ceramic Kamado grill will hold the heat much longer than a 50 lb. steel grill. Getting to know a grill like this inside and out will take some time but a good version will help you master your craft.
And finally, pellet grills are a big investment financially, but they’re the easiest way to smoke food. The smoke flavor is arguably just a tick below the charcoal version but still incredible since you are burning real wood (just in a pellet form). The real advantage here is that a good quality pellet smoker can shorten the learning curve on how to maintain temperatures. The temperature setting is all automated via an auger and fan. Most have an “app for that” so think skill level 1 compared to a charcoal grill’s skill level 5.
As always there are still some small differences and reasons you choose one over the other. If this information is confusing to you, Fireplace & Bar-B-Q Center stands ready, willing, and able to help you find the right smoker. Our non-commissioned sales team is ready to help you find the right grill to match you needs. We are open and ready to help you on the showroom floor or via our website.