Although you can make a fine smoker out of your Weber grill, you’re probably wondering if it's time to buy a smoker.
This is a question every #MeatGeek faces throughout their pursuit of exceptional tasting smoked meats.
There are pros and cons to the idea, but can we say, if you’re wondering about it, then the answer is probably yes. You’re ready to buy a smoker if you love smoked meats, vegetables, and cheeses, and you find yourself cooking them, or wanting to, often.
A smoker is really just another kitchen appliance, similar to an oven or a stove, likewise, a smoker is an invaluable tool for any chef. It allows you to easily and steadily maintain a low temperature and captures the smoke in the best way to maximize flavor.
As we’ve discussed before, you can make a great smoker out of your charcoal grill. The charcoal makes it easy to produce smoke and maintain a low temperature. The design of these grills, assuming it has a lid, can capture and hold the smoke, but a grill needs constant hand-holding.
Benefits of purchasing a smoker
One common problem with a charcoal grill is space. When you set up your grill as a smoker, the meat rests on half of the grill, away from direct heat, therefore, half of your grate space must remain empty. There are limits to what you can smoke, if you want more than one rack of ribs or if you have a large roast you won’t be able to use your grill.
Another problem with grill smokers is temperature control. Maintaining a low and steady temperature takes a lot of time. You need to check your grill every 30 minutes to make sure the fire is still burning between the ideal temperature of 225 - 250 degrees. Smoking foods is about maintaining a precise temperature for a duration – babysitting a grill can get old pretty quick.
Finally, while a grill works fine, all meat geeks agree a smoker produces better meat. The flavor is stronger because a smoker can capture, hold and circulate the smoke more efficiently. The smoke ring is evidence of that, meat cooked in a grill has a much lighter and thinner ring than meat out of a smoker.
Summary: Why Buy a Smoker?
Gas Grills Don't Cut The Mustard
If you only have a gas grill, then you definitely need a smoker. The mechanics of gas grills do not make for a good smoker. They are designed to pump heat through the chambers, reaching high temperatures; not what you want when smoking. In addition, the air flow rate is high which makes capturing the smoke difficult. Without making adjustments and ongoing monitoring, smoking on a gas grill will dry out your meat.
Less Work and More Flavor with a True Smoker
If you are smoking once a month or would like to but turning your grill into a smoker is too much hassle, then you are ready to get a smoker. If you want your meat to go from good to great, then you are ready to get a smoker.
When it comes to picking out the right smoker, shop around. There are three main types of smokers, in each of these main categories there are endless designs to choose from. With all these choices you can find the exact smoker that fits you, your cooking style and backyard just right. Below are a few smokers we would recommend as you can go wrong for the price.
Affordable #MeatGeek Approved Smokers
Top picks in smokers based on price, design and temperature stability.
What To Consider When Purchasing a Smoker
Since smokers range from $100 to thousands of dollars, it can be intimidating to know what you should spend. If you're looking at a charcoal style smoker you can find a well designed model around $300. If you are considering a pellet smoker expect to spend around $1,000. Lastly, the latest trend are the ceramic egg smokers which start at $900 you can expect to pay about $1,100 for a good one which includes basic accessories needed for smoking.
After all, the main reason we don't like a standard charcoal grill for smoking is because of all the constant work needed to maintain proper temperature. Some smokers come equipped with a thermostat which makes life easy. However, finding a wood or charcoal smoker with a thermostat is few and far between; nonetheless, there are third party devices which can be installed to control temperature. There are also endless wireless thermometers on the market, many which speak directly to your smart-phone.
When purchasing any grill, smoker, oven, etc. design is key. Things such as layout, seals, quality of materials, welds and thickness, all affect temperature stability and how well a smoker preforms.