Choosing a Smoker for Barbecuing: Everything You Need to Know

Many competent cooks, some of them with a restaurant, are still under the impression that making barbecue is easy and all you need is a good fire, some meat, and lots of time. While they’re not exactly wrong, if you’ve ever made a barbecue before, then you would know that it’s not that simple. You can’t just slap a thick cut of meat on a hot grill and call it a barbecue.

Veteran pit masters know that there are many techniques involved in the process, so we have many kinds of barbecuing equipment available on the market. Tools such as rotisseries and smokers are designed with different purposes in mind, but the end goal is still the same: to create delicious barbecue. A pit master can use various methods to ensure that their creations are perfectly grilled and have the right kind of look and flavor.

What is smoking?

A smoker is a specialized cooking equipment that allows users to tread new culinary ground and discover flavors they would have never achieved through conventional means. Conventional grills and ovens can’t achieve the richness you can only get from an old-fashioned smoker. Many beloved delicacies such as sausages, ham, and bacon are made with a smoker.

If you’re thinking of putting on an apron and try your hand at smoking, you need to have the right tools. One of the most important things to have is a willingness to learn the basics of smoking. A solid foundation is a must if you want to learn more advanced methods and techniques.

Not all smokers are made the same. They come in a wide range of designs, each one different and offering its own set of advantages and disadvantages. There are five basic types to choose from, depending on the smoking style and the desired outcome. If you need to procure new equipment for your restaurant, make sure to source it from a reputable vendor like eLakeside. Do understand there are different kinds of smoking, which is why there are different kinds of smokers.

Vertical smokers

As its name suggests, vertical smokers stand vertically. The smoking chamber is either cylindrical or cabinet-type in shape. Its design allows for cooking racks on multiple levels, ideal for smoking in bulk quantities. People use this smoker if they need a lot of smoked meat in a short period of time.

The smoking process is layered when it comes to a vertical smoker. The process starts at the bottom of the smoker, where a heat source (either fire, gas, or electricity) heats wood to create smoke. A drip tray directly above the heat catches water, meat juices, and the drippings, protecting the heat source below. Above the drip tray are layers of cooking racks that hold the raw materials. The pit master can adjust the racks to change the smoking process and cooking rate.

Offset smokers

If vertical smokers stand upright, offset smokers are positioned horizontally. Its classic steam engine design makes it one of the most popular and iconic smokers. Many pit masters also favor the offset smoker over other designs.

An offset smoker has two main components: the smoking chamber and the firebox. The smoking chamber, shaped like a barrel, composes most of the smoker. At one end of the smoker is a firebox, a small chamber for the fire and wood, providing the heat and smoke for the smoking process. While not as spacious as vertical smokers, offset smokers can comfortably fit large cuts of meat such as pork shoulders, ribs, and briskets.

Barrel smokers

One of the most basic smoker designs, a barrel smoker, comprises a single steel drum. Its simple design makes this smoker one of the most popular and easy to replicate. Many barrel smokers are handmade, which allows for a degree of customization not found in other designs.

The smoking mechanism is similar to a vertical smoker. Instead of racks, however, barrel smokers feature hooks at the top for suspending the raw materials. The open barrel design allows for a constant temperature throughout the chamber, ideal for long smoking times.

Smoker ovens

barbeque ribs

Due to its appearance, smoker ovens have more in common with indoor kitchen appliances than its cousins. While most smokers use wood and charcoal for smoking, smoker ovens use electricity instead. But don’t be fooled by its design. A smoker oven still has to be placed outdoors if you don’t want smoke filling your kitchen. These machines often feature sophisticated electronics such as computer controls and built-in thermometers.

The bottom line

A good smoker is a must-have piece of equipment if you want to open a restaurant specializing in barbecue. But a tool is only as effective as the person that wields it. Make sure to learn the basics of meat smoking before entering this arena. People take barbecue seriously, and the last thing you want is to be called a dilettante.

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