8 Types of Smokers – (And Here’s Which One to Pick!)

A smoker is a cooking appliance used for low-temperature food preparation in a smoky and controlled environment. It is especially used in making Barbeque. Smokers come in all sizes ranging from small to large units. They are powered by coal, natural gas, wood, pellets, etc. However, modern smokers come with modern facilities, i.e., they are powered by electricity.

Owning a smoker opens an array of culinary experiences. It’s not just a cooking apparatus; it can become the life of your weekend parties. And nevertheless, your experience would be a whole lot more memorable.

When you are getting a smoker, the first thing that baffles you is which one to buy. As you know, smokers vary from each other in many ways. So, grab a cup of your favorite coffee, as here, we will list down eight types of smokers and which one would be ideal for you to get!

8 Unique Types of Meat Smokers

Many separate categories can be described but that will only make the blog complicated. I will tell you about some unique and diverse types of meat smokers in a generalized way:

  1. Offset Smokers

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They are originally homemade and were first built by making use of the empty metal drums. It is a fire-based smoker which is fueled by logs of wood. The offset smoker got a door or slid with hinges on the side for convenient opening and closing.

It comes in both vertical as well as in horizontal positions. As the word Offsetsuggests, the fuel box containing wood logs is attached to the side. It helps in the even distribution of the smoke. A separate exhaust or pipe is connected for the outlet of the smoke.

Working of Offset Smokers

To ensure that the heat from your smoker thoroughly touches the food, you’d have to light some wood chips in the firebox. The heat or smoke then passes through tiny holes into the cooking chamber, where they roll over the food like a blanket, leaving a succulent taste, and then vacate through the chimney.

Who Should Buy It?

The main benefit of this smoker is the capability to cook many large chunks of meat at once. So, if you are well-equipped with using a professional smoker, this might come in handy for you.

Even distribution of smoke.Exceptionally large and bulky.
Both in vertical and horizontal varieties.Expensive
Best smoking tool for big chunks of meat.
They are relatively inexpensive to run.
Perfect for grilling.
  1. Pellet Smokers
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This kind of smoker is the combination of an oven and a smoker. It’s a modernized version of the traditional smokers.

As the name suggests, the fuel of these smokers is usually pellets. And pellets are organically produced fuel (or biomass). In the case of wood pellets (used in smokers), they are condensed sawdust or leftovers of milling timber.

You put the pellets in a separate box like the one in the offset smoker. But in a pellet smoker, the box is usually described as the hopper. Pellets in the hopper will get heated by a metal rod that produces both the heat and smoke on combustion. It comes with a thermostat that maintains and monitors your food temperature. 

Working of Pellet Smokers

Wood pellets made from the waste products such as compressed sawdust are the main fuel source for pellet smokers. These wood chips usually require slow temperature for thorough burning, and eventually, they smoke your food to perfection. 

Who Should Buy It? 

It is great for ribs, briskets, etc., as they need gradual cooking. Rumors believe pellets might work as a better substitute for coal, but yes, these are yet to be accepted globally. 

Pellet smokers are something to think about if you want to make a better decision.

Alternative fuel smoker to charcoal.Pellet smokers are more expensive than their counterparts.
Good for slow cooking.Very few of these models allow searing.
They have a broad temperature range.
Pellet smoker has an outstanding smoke flavor.
Trouble-free and easy maintenance.
  1. Kamado Smokers
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When talking about smokers, kamado smokers are the most trendy and antique-looking. Their roots travel back to about three thousand years when people used mud ovens for baking or cooking.

Kamado smokers use charcoal as fuel, and the meat is set on grill grates. Vents are made on the top to control the temperature.

Working of Kamado Smokers

As kamado smokers have been operating for thousands of years, their working method is simple yet top-notch. In these smokers, charcoal fuel is set for ignition under the grill. Smoke/air passes through the grill and enters the kamado smoker. However, you’d have to control the temperature yourself by allowing as much air in or out as you desire. 

Who Should Buy It? 

Kamado smokers are a unique combination of features. Once ready for cooking, it evenly cooks the meat without letting it burn, thanks to its deflector plates. However, if you’re not familiar with manually controlling temperatures, then chances are less that this smoker would be your friend.  

Kamado smokers are better insulated.Highly expensive.
The product is portable.The ceramic material causes the smoker to be super heavy.
They are versatile and would help you with baking and grilling.
The air vents also make it doable to roast or smoke food.
Freestanding models provide ultra flexibility as they are movable anywhere.
  1. Propane Smokers
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A propane smoker is usually a small showcase/cabinet but rather in shape. Like the name, the main fuel for this smoker is propane. The word ‘propane‘ and ‘gas‘ are interchangeable. 

A propane cylinder, or LPG (liquified petroleum gas), is connected with propane smokers for fuel up. However, you can also use a direct gas faucet.

The gas pipe heads from underneath to the top and ignites fire below the grill.

Since there is no combustion or smoke involved, you might miss the smokery flavor of meat after cooking it on propane smokers. However, the option of woodchips is available; hence no impossibility!

Working of Propane Smokers

It’s quite effortless – all you gotta do is turn your smoker’s power on after connecting the propane tank and wait for it to achieve your preferred temperature. Once that happens, set the meat on the rack, and here you go! 

Besides meat, test some vegetables as well. The experience would be flawless!

Who Should Buy It? 

The main difference between propane and an electric smoker is the fuel source; otherwise, both smokers operate almost similarly. Yet, propane smokers should be your ideal pick if you’re looking for a smoker with the least prices and maintenance.

Temperature management is effortless.Gives no smokey flavor to meat.
Propane smokers don’t necessarily require power for working, hence a huge edge for you! Requires a propane tank.
Easily portable.
You can set a propane smoker anywhere outside; great for outdoor cooking.
Less complicated, and restoration is hassle-free if broken. 
  1. Electric Smokers
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Electric smokers are an excellent example of ‘set it & forget it.’ No worries of any kind or whatsoever. There is no requirement to fill up the charcoal or no ash to clean after you’re done.

You can add wood chips to add smoke flavor and make the meat juicier. The top-level models of an electric smoker even have Bluetooth compatibility. You can adjust the temperature on your phone screen.

The trick to making your electric smoker last long is to deal with it as an electric appliance. It would help if you used it outside, but you cannot store it in the open air because the rust and sun will eat it out. 

The prices of electric smokers vary with the model’s specifications and features, usually affordable.

Working of Electric Smokers

The working phenomenon of the electric smoker is almost the same as the propane smoker. Both run on an external source rather than charcoal. An internal element heats your electric smoker, and there is no smoke involved as there is no combustion.

It works by heating a cooking chamber in which air circulates, heating food via convection. A unit consists of a cooking chamber, an electric heating element, a grill rack, and a water pan.

Who Should Buy It? 

Electric smokers are easy to use. Bluetooth compatibility might come in handy. If you don’t like hustling and all, then this is the best for you. These smokers are your helper in cooking, requiring your efforts minimally as possible. 

Extremely comfortable to use.Needs electricity to operate.
Typically easier to clean.Gives no smokey savor to foods.
Once set the temperature, forget about it; the meat won’t burn, and you will get your desired flavors.
There are no combustible gasses or materials to be concerned about.
You can transform them into cold smokers with no trouble.
  1. Charcoal Smokers
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These are the most traditional types of smokers you’d find. Using this smoker, you would get that deep smokey flavor you craved while using other smokers. Charcoal smokers separate a bit from pellet or gas smokers in operating. They are also a bit labor-intensifying.

The fuel source is charcoal, which is placed or stored at the smoker’s base. It comes with a water pan that vaporizes the smoke and absorbs excessive heat. You’d most probably find these smokers in vertical shapes. 

Working of Charcoal Smokers

You project your food for slow cooking in charcoal smokers at constant temperature for hours. It is because heat then reaches the finest core of your meat cuts, bringing you an evenly cooked, juicier palate.

Who Should Buy It? 

Charcoal smokers offer flexible costs for their high-quality functionality and executively combined kitchen tools. But of course, some professionalism should be at hand when dealing with such a smoker, as charcoal smokers are more difficult ones to use than electric smokers. 

So, if you’ve already used smokers (any type), this one will greatly add to your cooking mastery! 

Painless to get fuel.Hard to use, requires experience.
A broad range of prices.Difficult to clean.
Top-notch working.
These smokers come in diverse sizes.
It is pretty agreed that charcoal smokers deliver the best tasting food.
  1. Drum Smokers
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To battle the elevated prices of other smokers like kamado, drum smokers are a DIY project. They are also known as ugly drum smokers. 

To build a drum smoker by yourself, you need a kit worth around 200$ and a drum.

The Kit controls temperature by handling airflow through the vents. Load up the charcoal or wood chunk in the drum base and place your meat on the grill. Set up the desired temperature on the dial and wait for its finishing.

Working of Drum Smokers

A drum smoker works by burning charcoal at the bottom of the drum and produces heat and smoke, which warms up the air. The hot air ascends to the food and cooks it before escaping through the vent. 

Who Should Buy It? 

Drum smokers are very inexpensive yet portable. It is the combination of radiant and direct heat cooking without any water pan.

If you like doing DIY projects, this is the one for you. You will love both, setting up the drum smoker and cooking on it.

It is a DIY-like smoker.Setting it up yourself may be a bit of a hassle.
It’s highly portable.Temperature accuracy isn’t satisfactory.
Inexpensive to build.
No need for internal washing.
Durable stainless steel.
  1. Kettle Grills
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It is not exactly a smoker but an easy grill to cook. The source of fuel is charcoal or wood chunks. Although it might be difficult to cook at high temperatures due to temperature instability, it can well do a steak at a low temperature. There is no thermostat or other feature; the kettle grill is all about the experience. 

Working of Kettle Grills

The air outlets or dampers underneath a kettle grill allow the fuel charcoal to drop into an ash catcher under the kettle grill. The vents permit oxygen to feed the fire, heating the grill. Opening the air vents at the top of the grill lets heat flee.

Who Should Buy It? 

It is extremely cheap and super portable. If you live in a flat or apartment and are looking for a smoker that you could easily set in your balcony, kettle grills will do the job for you!

Most affordable to purchase.The Temperature may fluctuate and become hard to control.
You can use this smoker for all kinds of food.Less easy to maintain.
More comfortable to transport.
Starters for fast ignition.
Provides great control.

Here’s What to Examine When Buying an Ideal Smoker! 

There are many factors that you must take into account before you buy yourself a new smoker. Those are as follows:

  • Budget

The amount of money you can afford to spend is going to dictate which one you will be getting. Smoker prices range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. The price mostly influences the size, material employed, and features. Do not go for an offset smoker if your budget is low, as you will be getting absolutely trash.

  • Cooking Capacity

How much you can cook?” is also noteworthy before you make your final decision. Kettle grills may not be able to feed a large group of people. On the other hand, offset smokers are known for their large cooking capacity.

  • Experience Level

If you are new to this whole smoker and BBQ thing, go for the ones which are convenient and easy to use. Electric and gas smokers are comparatively easy to use than charcoal smokers. If you want to buy a smoker, irrespective of your personal experience, go for it as every master was once a beginner.

  • Portability

Camping trips are incomplete without enjoying BBQ. Smokers which are bigger in size might be harder to move in the wilderness. An offset smoker would need a trailer to accompany you on a trip. Kamado grills and propane smokers are a better option in terms of portability.

  • Fuel type

Four common fuel sources are charcoal, propane, wooden pellets, and electricity. Fuel type affects the taste and how easy it is to use. Pellet smokers are good at maintaining a low temperature for longer times. On the other hand, electric smokers are convenient to operate.

So, Which Smoker Caught Your Attention…?

These were the diverse 8 types of smokers that we described above. If any one of them is standing out to you for no reason, that is surely the one for you. Do not dwell too much on getting double-minded; you will learn and overcome the flaws once you use it yourself. 

We would, however, learn to read your comments about which smoker landed your list of preferences and got you hooked to read about it!