In this article we will go through all the info you need to know before buying the best first smoker for you.
It’s a mixture of the first chapter of our eBook with honest reviews written by us to help you find out what is the best smoker you should buy!
Well, the first thing a smoker need is a… Brisket!
No, I am kidding… the first thing a smoker needs is a smoker to smoke with!
Right now, in the market, there are few different kinds of smokers and every one of them has advantages and disadvantages.
What may be good for one may not fit for the another, everyone has different use with the smoker, some are cooking for themselves and the wife one time in a month and some are heavy smokers who turn up the smoke 5 days a week and some people are doing massive food services and catering and need to feed hundreds of people.
Therefore, it’s very important that before you buy something you ask yourself all these questions to make the best smoker for YOU!
The first smoker we will talk about is the electric smoker!
I call it the lazy smoker. It’s not bad to be lazy. for some people, it’s the best solution. The electric smoker works very simply, with no charcoal lighting. Not fighting to keep the fire warm, nothing! Just turn it on, put a little amount of wood (around 2 ounces to 4 ounces ) and do whatever you want!
Go to sleep, go to work, go to watch a movie with your wife, go to a veggie friend (if you have any) and explain to them what they are missing… go to… ok, you get the point. You do not have to do NOTHING.
The heat in gas, pellet, and charcoal cookers comes from combustion which, when mixed with wood, produces gases that impart a distinct flavor. The heat in an electric comes from a glowing metal rod.
Smoke is created by putting wood above the heating element and letting it smolder. But electrics don’t usually produce the needed combustion gases, so the flavor is different and there is no smoke ring, the pink layer of meat on the outside that says “Southern barbecue”.
I respect the electric smoker, I am not saying it’s bad and of course it’s better to have electric smoker than not to have any. If you live in an apartment and have no backyard or a place, so the electric smoker is a very good solution. But if you have an alternative, I recommend going for it!
Oh and I almost forgot, electric smokers are not allowed in BBQ competitions, so if we’re planning to go for the gold, think again!
Gas smokers are similar to the electric ones with the ease to operate them.
Kind of a “set-it-forget-it” smoker.
The smoke flavor comes from wood chips, chunks or pellets.
Taste-wise the gas smoker is a bit better than the electric one but not close to charcoal In my opinion.
One thing important to remember is you need to buy a gas tank to make it work, and when I say gas tank it’s not only about the money and other expense, that means that the gas can run out and finish in a middle of the smoking process, for long smokes it’s a big thing to remember to have a spare gas tank to not get stuck.
Another Two Disadvantages For This Smoker:
- 250 to 275°F is the lowest temperature available at most of these smokers, and for some people, it may be a problem as they want to do their smoking sessions at a lower temperature.
- The built-in thermometers are pretty inaccurate, so just install another one yourself.
Well, let’s be honest, these gas smokers are pretty cheap therefore you cannot ask them to do too much and be amazing…
They have their advantages as I mention before, they are for people who looking for easy use and don’t want to spend time “fighting” with the smoker, it’s totally fine and might be a good solution for beginners smoker!
The pellet smokers are something refreshing in the smoking world.
They are pretty similar to the electric and gas with the “set-it-forget-it” but taste-wise and how it works it’s totally different.
With the pellet smokers, your smoke source is wood pellets.
Wood pellets are made by compressing wet sawdust and extruding it in long pencil-thick rods. They are broken into small bits about 1/2″ long.
When you plug in grill in and set the heat on a digital controller, the pellets start getting pushed through and turned into heat and smoke.
The pellets are getting warm and produce the smoke and give the Smokey taste to the food.
Opposite from the other smokers, with pellet smokers, when the temperature is high it provides less smoke. And at their top settings, they do not produce much smoke at all. That’s why it’s very hard to over smoke with a pellet smoker. That’s why these grills are perfect for indirect cooking.
Because of that, some people complain about the issue of searing with the pellet grills and that’s why now they are special models with searing mode! Also, another option is to use a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering-hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal.
Let’s See The Advantages of Pellet Smokers:
- Set it and forget it smoking.
- Simple temperature control.
- Super fuel-efficient.
- Less effort cleaning up! Not a big mess like the charcoal ones.
And the disadvantages:
- Costs more.
- You need to spend more to get a decent pellet smoker.
- You can’t cook as warm as charcoal ( the searing will never be the same, unless you have a smoker with the sizzlezone feature).
- Electricity plug needed, that means you are limited with where you set it up… can’t take it to camp unless you have a generator.
- Need to make sure you have a back pellet stock ( because if you run out of pellets in the middle of the cooking you cannot go to the supermarket and buy your favorite pellets… not like charcoal or gas tank).
*SPECIAL TIP* – Each brand has its special pellets that have different tastes. Every mix of pellets has different tastes and strengths that will affect your food. There is, for example, the apple (very gentle) and Texas (the strongest).
What I recommend is to mix the different tastes! Like rubs! Just do a lot of testing and play with that till you get to your favorite taste. Don’t be afraid to try new mixes.
Finally, we get to talk about my favorite smokers! Charcoal Smokers!
Taste-wise is by far the most significant and amazing taste you will produce from your food!
And we get to dirty our hands and play with fire! What could we ask more?
Yes, this is indeed more complicated and more challenging, but who cares?
Differently than the smokers we’ve been talking about before, with these smokers you have to control the heat temperature yourself and I can tell you that, it takes practice!
It may be pretty difficult to do it when you just start and some smokers are easier to work with than others and it may confuse you to know when the meat is ready but hey… I believe this is all that smoking all about, not to put your brisket when you wake up and come back after a few hours when it’s ready! This is boring! When you have to keep an eye on the fire and see how the meat reacts, you get to learn the most and to me, this is challenging but a lot of fun.
To get a better idea of how the charcoal smokers work, I want to add a link from “Wikihow” that explains the basics of the basics simple.
I could try to explain myself but they just have it very clear and with pictures, If I could draw and paint myself maybe I would bother but this is not one of my skills sadly
How To Choose My First Smoker?
Now we know some of the jargon and we also know the different kinds of smokers, the next step is to buy a smoker, but how can we know what smoker to buy? Which one is the best? The most expensive? Maybe the one we saw on the TV? How can I know what to buy?!
In my opinion, the first smoker is the most important because with this smoker you start your smoking journey. the first smoker starts a long studying process and a lot of people buy expensive and complicated smokers for their first smokers and it makes them fail at their first time and get bad feedback. This may cause a sense of frustration and we want to avoid it.
Well, there is a lot of questions you need to ask yourself before buying your first smoker. Like everything in life, it depends on the person. What may be good for one may not fit the another. It’s very individual.
I gather to here all the things I think important to consider before taking opening the wallet!
The First Parameter We Should Consider Is The Price.
What is our budget? How much we willing to spend?
Prices range from $100 for cheap charcoal cookers up to $10,000 for all-in-one smoker/grill combos… You can get a decent gas unit for under $200, a good charcoal unit for about $300, and nice pellet smokers start at about $600.
The Second Thing Is The Capacity.
- How many people are you feeding a day?
- How many people are you feeding when you host?
- How many times do you host in a month?
If it’s only you and your spouse smoking a fine brisket one time in a month then there is no need to buy a crazy smoker. A small one may be fine.
But if you happen to host frequently you must think to buy a bigger smoker.
The Third One Is The Combustion Material.
That’s what we talked about before.
There are 4 kinds:
You should ask yourself what fits you the most, the set-it-forget-it and the first options that I have just mentioned, or the old school charcoal method.
Thick metal, insulation, and seals. Thick steel absorbs heat and distributes it evenly around the cooking chamber and then radiates it back. It moderates fluctuations. The best smokers are heavy from thick steel. Better smokers have doors and dampers that close tightly. Cheap units leak. Your heat and smoke escape. And that makes it hard to stabilize temperatures and manage the amount of smoke flavor. Leaky smokers can still produce great food, but the results are just a bit less predictable.
So, study the insulation, seals, welds, and thickness of the metal before you buy.
Safety. It must be child and pet safe.
Versatility – check if your smoker has a grill option. If you do not own a grill and you plan your smoker to do both then you may think once, there is a lot of smokers that can not be a decent grill.
Warranty – a lot of people do not pay attention to this but it’s very important! Check who is the “parents” of your smoker! Do you have one year or a lifetime warranty? If something gets broke, they have parts? Is there customer support? Is there a phone number or an email?
Don’t buy your first smoker because it looks nice, you are not buying a picture!
You are buying something that going to serve you for a lot of time and serve you good!
DO NOT buy too fast.. check reviews and ask people!
A good place to ask and get honest reviews and opinions is our facebook group. “The Art of Smoke and Grill – A growing BBQ community”.
You can also see the reviews we wrote for every kind of smoker and what we recommend to be the best first smoker for you.
I hope you find this helpful and this will help you decide how to buy your first smoker!
After you’ve bought your first smoker, you can explore in our site and find special and different recipes for your specific smoker!
Thanks for reading!