Selecting a Smoker – Our Top Picks

selecting a smoker right

THE TIME HAS COME TO CREATE YOUR OWN HOME-COOKED, TASTY, SMOKED MEAL, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE A SMOKER. NO PROBLEM, WE HAVE YOU COVERED.

Let’s review what you should look for when selecting your next meat smoker, and allow us to show you three of our favorite non-commercial smokers.

Smoking your meat is all about taking your grilling and flavors to all new heights. In traditional grilling, the flame and high heat removes some of the natural flavor of your meat and can quickly dry it out. Alternatively, smoking your meat will keep more of its natural flavors while permeating it with distinct smoky notes. 

These days, smoking is all the rage. Renowned chefs are experimenting more and more with smoking everything from meats, cheeses, vegetables, liquids, and more.

So let’s look at what to consider when selecting your next meat smoker.

What You need to know about smokers

Smokers can be powered by charcoal or electricity. Personally, I’m traditional and recommend a charcoal or wood powered smoker – after all, who wants to worry about electricity when cooking outdoors?

While non-electric smokers are the pure aficionado’s choice, they don’t allow the “set it and forget it” approach. So if you’re not too confident in your outdoor cooking skills, you may opt to go with an electric smoker, at least to start out with (however, I will not be recommending any electric smokers in this thread).

Our top three meat smokers for home use

Big Green Egg Smoker

We chose this for its effective smoking features and affordable price tag. This smoker can produce wonderfully flavored meat with ease. 

This great design is simple yet effective. It comes with a quality set cast iron wheels and great handle grips that allow for easy moving. There are other smokers we like that don’t come with the quality wheels that this unit has; and for that reason the Green Egg smoker separates itself from all other smokers in its price range.

Weber Smoky Mountain Water Smoker

This is a classic smoker, taken to the next level. The design is complex and proven, yet it’s among the simplest of all the smokers to operate.

This model includes a water tray – its secret to smoking a large amount of meat with great results.

You can obtain expect award-winning BBQ competition results, at a price tag that you’ll love. Since Weber smokers are the oldest, most established smokers on the market, you’ll find plenty of add-ons and accessories to make this smoker your own. You can expect to pay between $200 and $350 for this model, which comes in three different sizes.

Nordic Ware Kettle Style Smoker

Smokers are sometimes more about usability; after all, what good is your smoker if you can’t pack it up with you for a camping trip or picnic? We selected this smoker as one of our top three non-commercial smokers because of its features that make it an effective smoker, but also because of its size. With several accessories available you can upgrade this smoker to include the most common bells and whistles found with other more complete smoking systems. We can sum up this smoker with three words: effective, affordable and portable.   

How to select a smoker

Before selecting your smoker you should consider how much meat you plan on smoking in a given sitting and how often will be smoking with it.

 Flexibility

Back in the day, smokers were designed to smoke meat; and nothing else. Today, many smokers on the market allow space for grilling and smoking (even though you won’t be able to do both simultaneously). Dedicating space inside the smoker for smoking and grilling means less space for smoking.

Want to look the part of a true Meet Geek: opt for a smoker designed for smoking only ;).

How big should you go?

The top selling smokers are designed for non-commercial use; they are small, and will smoke enough meat for 4-6 people.

If you have a big family, or plan on entertaining guests on a regular bases, you may opt for a larger smoker that will cook about 50 pounds of meat at once.

Larger smokers come with a bit of a learning curve as it is more difficult to maintain proper temperature, which is key to a proper smoke. 

Additional thoughts to consider as it relates to size

It may seem obvious, but I felt it was worth mentioning: bigger units are great, but boy can they be tough to move around all the time. In some cases, I prefer to use two small Weber style smokers instead of one large charcoal smoker just because I don’t want to lug around the big guy.

In the end, if you select a non-electric meat smoker, the final product will likely taste the same: from the $1,000 smoker to the $100 smoker, there shouldn't be much difference in flavor.  Therefore, it may be more important to consider how manageable your smoker is.

As a novice smoker, you will want to have your smoker placed in an area where it is easy to keep an eye on it. Until you get a system down, you may be constantly adjusting the heat source by adding coal, or tweaking the dampers and vents.

Keep in mind, it’s not uncommon to move your smoker to a different location on your property than where it resides when you're not using it. Also, consider the fact that you may want to take your smoker with you on the next family picnic or camping trip.

Final thought

The FAST EDDY SMOKER by CookShack

I had to include this as one of my favorite smokers that didn't make my Top 3 list. This is a smoker that comes in various models sized to handle a home-smoked meal up to treating meat for a restaurant.

fast eddy smoker meat

The FastEaddy is a pellet powered grill. Pellet grills are the latest trend. They are becoming so popular because of their ability to smoke and sear with ease. They function by burning small hardwood chips/pellets.

Fully equipped with a reserve hopper and electronic device that automatically adds pellets as the thermostat dictates to keep temperature.

There is no need to build a fire with in the traditional ways as there is an ignitor system that will start up your wood burning grill for you. From smoking at  220 degrees or searing at 450 degrees+ you will find that it can be done with such easy, it’s almost not right….

So in the end, I can’t decide if the FastEddy is the ultimate geeky grill, or if takes so much of the traditional pastimes of grilling that it should be shunned by smoking snobs.  For that reason, and its high price tag, this unit didn’t make our Top 3 smokers list.

So, how much is the FastEaddy you ask? Well, the residential model starts at $1,650 and you can expect to pay about $120 in shipping. That’s about 80% more expensive then the Top 3 smokers that made our list.  

I hope this thread has been helpful in selecting your first, or next wood smoker. Feel free to leave a comment on your favorite smoker and why you like it!

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