Hollywood actor Manish Dayal once said, “good barbecue is more complicated than you think.” He’s not wrong. Barbecues are such a massive deal, that our methods of making them have evolved. They’re a reflection of inherited secret recipes and a whole lot of dedication.
If you’re reading this article in search of a smoker hell-bent on crafting the perfect BBQ, you’re on the right track. For this write-up, we’ll explore the many things you should factor in when shopping for great smokers.
The most important thing to consider is temperature control
As much as we’d like to pay homage to our heritage by fiercely burning George Washington’s cherry tree and physically digging a pit to create organic fire, being able to deliver a timely meal to our family and friends is more crucial today. This is precisely why the control temperature of a smoker should be considered with much premium. The only problem here is that not too many smokers have a thermostat—a standard equipment feature that’s found in most inside ovens. This is also exactly the reason why electric smokers are on the rise. They’re easy to use, stay authentic to the meat-heating, and provide safer outdoor measures. Pellet smokers are good alternatives, as well. The better ones have dependable thermostats. Pick your fighter well.
Is the price right?
When will money not be an object? While the expedition to great, juicy BBQs shouldn’t be overlooked, you don’t want to splurge on anything that isn’t worth your hard-earned buck. All-in-one grill/smoker combos can cost up to ten grand while basic charcoal cookers can cost you a hundred dollars or less. As with everything, you get what you pay for. Pellet smokers are roughly in the $500 range and decent gas units are a little over a hundred. Electric smokers are budget-friendlier as can fall under half a thousand to just $200. When it comes to spending for a smoker, the bottom line is knowing what technique works for you and buying materials you’re sure will complement your BBQ style.
Speaking of materials, consider durability and workmanship, too.
There are a few questions you can’t afford not to ask in this context. Is the smoker you’re eyeing packed with sturdy legs and wheels? Are the welds okay? How large are the latches and hinges? Is the paint rust proof—or waterproof at least? Are the functional parts designed to last? Are the screws durable? Is plastic kept to a minimum? Stainless steel BBQ smokers may look aesthetic in the movies, but they’re not always the wisest choice. It’s easy to dismiss what smokers are made of when they’re affordable and have a good number of freebies; but knowing what materials are built to last can make a meaningful difference, not just in your decision-making, but ultimately in how long your unit lasts.
Seals and thick metal = perfect insulation
It’s basic science: thick steel distributes heat accordingly around the chamber and then emanates it back. It absorbs high temperatures and moderates fluctuations. Furthermore, the best smokers are generally heavy squarely because of thick steel. Consider their dampers and doors, as well, and make sure they close tightly. You can’t count on cheap units to perfectly insulate heat because they leak and the smoke and heat exit much earlier. That said, stabilizing temperatures are challenging to go about with tacky underpriced and tacky smokers. While the low-cost ones aren’t entirely bad, the results they produce are dicey. This is why insulation is king here.
Think of storage
As you know, BBQs are a lot of work so you can’t not think of work surfaces. Look for cookers that have pre-installed tables. These are important for when you need your cutting boards, sauces, mitts, and other tools. The vaster a cooker’s work surface is, the better it is for you. Ones that come with cabinets for tongs and bins for wood are also nice.
Don’t discount accessories
Is the cooker you’re going for loaded with tools? If so, do they come with tool hooks for easier keeping? Are their respective covers for the storage of these accessories? Many cookers will have free accessories with them, but they’re usually designed to be kept elsewhere. This is fine, but when you have cookers that can keep everything BBQ-related in one space, this makes it so much more ergonomic. Whether plates, baskets, covers, and lids or extra racks, add-ons are great freebies that help round off the bang for your buck.
How long is the warranty?
Similar to other kitchen appliances, check its warranty. What support does your dealer offer? How responsive is their back-office department should you have concerns with your smoker at the last minute? How many contact numbers do they provide? Do they at least have a receptive email address? Do they offer physical handouts? What about digital manuals? How soon can they deliver parts, granted that some of them don’t function as planned? Determining these facts are important.
Flexibility is always a plus
Who doesn’t like a versatile machine? There are tons of units today that allow for grilling and smoking. If you’re looking for a device that can offer both, there are lots of them in the market. Still, keep your eye on quality ones. Consider charcoal units for multipurpose smokers. Not every two-in-one smoker does both elements equally. Some of the cheaper ones will claim to provide smoking and grilling capacities, but you can bet one ability won’t be as great as the other.
Brand reputation is something
We can’t dismiss the power of branding, but we also can’t say every unpopular unit is bad straight away. You’d surprised a few newer models from startup manufacturers function just as competitively as the ones that have long been established. Like everything you buy on Amazon, reading the reviews and looking up what people are saying about them won’t hurt, too. When a smoker seems promising to you, regardless of its brand, read what previous buyers have said about it first.
After everything’s been said and done, and every detail of attention has been discussed, debated, and delivered, it’ll all boil down to talent and technique. Barbecuing is where preference meets expertise. Good luck!