Best Smoker Reviews – Buyer’s Guide for 2019
There have been numerous changes and innovations in the world of grilling over the last few decades. Nevertheless, charcoal still holds a special place in the hearts of many grill enthusiasts. Smoking with charcoal has a certain whiff of romance about it.
However, many people avoid smoking with charcoal as it does require more involvement. The need for convenience gave birth to electric smokers. They are easier to navigate, offer excellent precision, but they don’t infuse the food with the distinctive charcoal flavor.
The electric vs. charcoal smokers debate is ongoing, as you can probably infer from the above. The fact of the matter is, both have a lot going for them, and smoked meat, no matter the sort, is indisputably awesome. So, it’s up to you to settle the debate for yourself. But we are more than happy to help you with that. Let us see what are the best models each category has to offer.
Weber Smokey Mountain 18″
Nothing beats the first bite of low-and-slow cooked meat. The Weber has all it takes to deliver the magnificent, smoky charcoal flavor. It makes waiting all day for dinner worth the while.
Smoke Hollow SH19079518
A reliable electric smoker that is easy to use. Plug it in, turn it on, set the digital controls, and the smoker will take it on from there. The best part? You can choose the wood chip flavor of your liking.
Top Products and Winners from Each Category
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Smokers
Unlike pellet grills, electric and charcoal smokers are not expensive. They offer a similar smoke-infused flavor, at a budget-friendly price. Electric smokers are generally cheaper than charcoal models.
A decent smoker costs at least $100. The number of features, the material, and the ease of use determines the price. Of course, size is a crucial factor as well when it comes to the price.
The flavor you’ll get depends on the kind of fuel you use. While the taste doesn’t vary much depending on the quality of charcoal you use, it does vary depending on what type of wood chips you use.
Different wood chips work better with different kinds of food. For example, Alder is considered to be the best choice for smoking fish while apple wood is preferred with pork and chicken. Beef is best paired with stronger smoke flavors, such as Mesquite.
The crucial factor that separates smokers from standard grills. A smoker must provide excellent heat controls in order to be considered good.
Digital models rely on automated augers and displays screens, while an ordinary charcoal model might rely on aspects of structural design, such as strategically placed vents.
Ease of Use
Charcoal burners will always be more difficult to use than digital smokers. The end results differentiate as well. So you might not want to go with the more convenient model – it all depends on your preferences.
Features like warming racks and side shelves make navigation easier. However, a good thermometer and an adjustable air damper make all the difference.
Best Pellet Grill From Each Category
Smoke Hollow SH19079518
Pitmaster Rating: 4.2
The model itself is the best argument in favor of electric smokers. It looks like a small fridge but is big enough to smoke either 24 burgers, 36 sausages, 3 pork butts, 3 racks of ribs, 2 turkeys, or 9 chickens. Even though it comes at a meager price, it’s still robust and durable.
The fittings, hinges including, are well built. The Smoke Hollow 30″ has no problems retaining heat thanks to the fully insulated construction.
The digital control panel is the heart of the Smoke Hollow. It allows you to monitor the smoking process, temperature, and time, with absolute ease. Hardly any other digital model can compete with it in that regard.
Typically, digital models have to run for at least three hours before smoking, which is a serious drag, considering that smoking itself is a time-consuming process.
The fact that it takes only one hour to prep the Smoke Hollow is a considerable advantage. The removable drip pan and grates make the cleanup a breeze.
- Easy to Move and Transport
- Great Capacity
- Convenient to Store
- Two Cooking Grids
- Removable Water Bowl
- Removable Drip Pan
- Adjustable Air Damper
- Digital Temperature Control
- No Classic BBQ Smoke Rings
- DESIGN 70% 70%
- FUNCTIONALITY 83% 83%
- PRICE 88% 88%
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18″
Pitmaster Rating: 4.0
The model is the company’s original incarnation of its high-end, bullet-shaped smokers. It’s not uncommon to see this model at a BBQ competition. The fact that it often wins isn’t surprising either.
The Smokey Mountain can smoke at an impressively steady temperature for hours. Lowering or raising the heat is quite straightforward and easy – simply open or close the vents to adjust the temp.
The finish is beautiful and the construction is solid. Long-lasting chrome and porcelain coating seem to be Weber’s specialty. The sturdy and compact setup features an aluminum heat shield.
It also features a bi-metal thermometer, but if you would like something more precise, there’s a flexible grommet that allows you to insert a digital thermometer. It’s compatible with Weber’s famous iGrill technology. The charcoal door paired with the silicone grommet, make the Smokey Mountain very easy to use.
Just like any other Weber product, the chances of serious malfunctions occurring are very slim. The company is so sure of that that they offer a 10-year warranty. It’s genuinely one of the best charcoal grills out there, and one shouldn’t expect anything less from the renowned manufacturer.
- Convenient Handling
- Easy and Simple Maintenance
- High-quality and Durable Cooking Grates
- Easy Temperature Management
- Authentic Smokehouse Flavors
- Sizeable Cooking Space, Two Grids
- Lacks Side Handles
- DESIGN 70% 70%
- FUNCTIONALITY 83% 83%
- PRICE 88% 88%
Tips and Tricks
Most of the particles in smoke that affect the flavor are water and fat soluble. In other words, the flavor is best absorbed when the meat is raw. As the meat dries out, the smoke doesn’t absorb as well.
Low and Slow
Real BBQ takes time to cook and it is done over low, indirect heat. Traditionally, it’s done with wood smoke. That way, sinewy meat becomes so tender and moist that you barely need to chew.
However, if you can, take a chance to enhance the taste by imparting the sweet wood aromas even when cooking over direct fire. It takes just a couple of minutes to smoke shrimps, vegetables, and steaks.
Use a Water Pan
As the heat oscillates, it tightens and dries out the food. When smoking with coal for longer than an hour, make sure to use a water pan. It will increase the humidity and stabilize the heat.
Don’t overdo it, though. Too much water will result in a bitter taste. The food should be smoked for half its cooking time and no longer. Make sure the smoke flows gently, like a stream.
Mind the Smoke Color
There’s not much dilemma here – black smoke is harmful and white smoke is good. If there isn’t enough airflow, or if the meat is placed directly over the fire so that the juices burn, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise.
To prevent the situation mentioned above, you must keep the vent open. The coal should be one the opposite side of the vent. When the vents are open, they draw out smoke from wood chips and charcoal below.
That way, the smoke swirls over the meat before it vents out of the smoker. In case the temperature gets too hot, close the top vent almost entirely, but leave a small opening.
Charcoal smoking isn’t physically demanding, but it requires constant vigilance. Safety is paramount. Make sure to check the temperature regularly, add more charcoal when needed, and adjust the vents if necessary.
Every time you open the door, you lose smoke and heat – the two essential elements your dish depends on. You should only open the door when you need to tend to the food, the water pan, or the fire. It would be best to do all three simultaneously.
A first-time buyer might be overwhelmed by all of the options available on the market. The competition is fierce when it comes to both electric and charcoal smokers. Big or small; vertical or horizontal; stainless steel or porcelain-coated – those are all, more or less, superficial differences.
The true difference lies in the technology they employ, the way they utilize it, and the fuel they operate on. It’s will always be up to you to decide which option is better.
Take the time to consider what you want to get out of your smoker and what will you be using it for. With the options we have laid out, we are sure you will have no regrets no matter which one you choose. Electric or charcoal, tasty results are guaranteed!