When it comes to a summer day, taking it easy and slow-cooking a tender rack of spare ribs is hard to beat. You’re not wrong for preparing slow-cooked BBQ favorites on a traditional grill, but true grillmasters know a meat smoker is the best way to get a deep, smoky flavor that can’t be done any other way.
With meat smokers becoming more available to grillers, more and more outdoor chefs are beginning to explore the cooking process and all of its benefits. To get you up to speed, we’re breaking down what a meat smoker is, why you should consider one for your outdoor kitchen, and presenting you with three of the best meat smokers Pittsburgh grillers can find at Don’s Appliances.
Get Inspired: Small Outdoor Kitchen Ideas on a Budget
At a Glance:
In short, a meat smoker is any barbecue that maintains low temperatures for a long duration and uses smoke to cook. How that smoke is created depends on the fuel source, but ultimately, grillers have a choice between using charcoal or briquettes wood chips, or wood pellets.
One of the biggest differences between a smoker and a conventional grill is the way these outdoor appliances cook food. If you have your heart set on searing burgers, chicken thighs, or even vegetables, a smoker is not the tool for the job. That’s because meat smokers work by using indirect heating in the same way an oven prepares meals. This cooking method makes meat smokers ideal for slow-cooking large cuts of protein such as whole chickens, ribs, pork chops, tri-tip, and other meats that cook well under low and controlled heat settings.
Nowadays, smoker grills come in a variety of fuel options, including:
- Gas Smokers — These are easy to control and produce a clean, smoky flavor.
- Charcoal Smoker — Charcoal smokers deliver iconic smoky flavor but can be tricky to use.
- Pellet Smokers — Pellet smokers are also easy to use, and manufacturers are now beginning to make flavored wood pellets that offer distinct smoky flavors.
- Electric Smokers — Electric-powered smokers are great for grillers who are looking to get into smoking.
How much do meat smokers cost?
Ultimately, the price of a meat smoker will vary depending on the fuel source and size. In general, these tend to be a more expensive type of grill, costing an average between $200 and $1,000+ than traditional grills.
Whether you’re the grill master of your patio or the pitmaster of your backyard oasis, there is an assortment of smoker grills to meet the needs of virtually any griller. Here’s a look into popular types of smoker grills on the market today.
Kamado Smokers for the Curated Griller
Characterized by their egg shape, kamado smokers are ceramic outdoor ovens fueled by charcoal. These grills can reach high temperatures, and due to their domed anatomy, they work similarly to convection ovens. Kamado smokers are considered trickier to use than traditional charcoal smokers and require users to be comfortable with dual-zone grilling if they plan to do barbecuing on a kamado grill.
Offset Smokers for the Laid-Back Grill Master
Also known as a horizontal smoker, an offset smoker has a separate compartment for smoking and another for the firebox. Offset smokers are made for smoking foods at low and slow temperatures. Additionally, the independent fuel box makes it easy to change wood chips during cooking without opening the main chamber and letting hot air out.
Kettle Smokers for Versatile Grilling
You might recognize a kettle smoker for its iconic saucer shape made popular by Weber back in the 1950s. In fact, kettle smokers are actually grills that can be fashioned to smoke meat with indirect heat or used as a conventional barbecue to sear burgers, hot dogs, kabobs, and more.
Vertical Smokers for Limited Grill Space
Upright smokers are truly versatile grill equipment available in virtually all fuel types. Vertical smokers are especially great for limited patios or backyards.
Smoking meat is not only flavorful — it also comes with a few major advantages over quick grilling. See for yourself.
- Smoking Can be Calorie Conscious
Smoking is an alternative cooking method that can dramatically cut down calories since less oil (or even any at all) is needed for the process. Instead, smokers use water drip pans to keep meat moist and tender.
- Smokers Provide Unbeatable Smoky Flavor
You just can’t achieve the smoky intensity you get when you barbecue on a smoker. The low and slow process means smoke has a longer time to penetrate meat fibers for a full-flavored taste.
- Smoking Makes Tough Meat Tender
Cooking meat low and slow also means tough fibers, collagen, and muscles have a chance to fully break down and tenderize. That also means even the toughest cuts of meat can be smoked to velvety results that can’t be obtained with high-heat BBQ methods.
- Smoking Produces Mouthwatering Meats
Slow smoking also gives natural fats in meat to slowly render. As a result, tougher meats turn out juicier and more tender than they would when cooked over high heat.
Not sure what kind of meat smoker you are? Here are three types of smokers to introduce you to the world of meat smoking.
Best Kamado Smoker: Coyote Asado Smoker
You can master the art of the tandoor oven with this Coyote smoker featuring 254 square inches of grill space ideal for small patios or balconies. The Asado smoker is made of high-quality ceramic in a classic dome design that helps circulate smoke for thorough flavor distribution deep into proteins. Plus, the Coyote Signature Smoking grate helps diffuse heat for better results that require less managing. This freestanding charcoal smoker can be positioned on a mobile cart (sold separately) and also includes two folding side tables to hold all your recipe ingredients nearby.
Best Built-In Smoker: Lynx® Sonoma Smart 30" Stainless Steel Built-In Or Countertop Smoker
Embrace the future of outdoor smoking. The Lynx Sonoma countertop smoker comes equipped with Wi-Fi compatibility and for an even simpler smoking process that you can monitor from the convenience of a smart device. Ignite this gas smoker to enjoy a whopping 1,000 square inches of grill space along two levels for maximum BBQ smoking flexibility. With the ability to smoke for up to eight hours, this built-in smoker grill is the ideal tool to slow cook spare ribs, brisket, and tri-tip to mouthwatering perfection.
Best Offset Smoker: Broil King® Charcoal Smoker
If you’re looking to smoke meat with low maintenance, this Broil King smoker might be just what you’re looking for. You get plenty of space to smoke even your largest portions of meat, from spare ribs to whole chickens, on 955 square feet of grill capacity. Load charcoal briquettes with ease inside the separate fuel chamber to keep your smoking session going as long as you need without letting hot air escape from the cooking chamber. Built to stand the elements, this charcoal smoker features galvanized steel construction, porcelain-coated grates, and aluminum dampers that lock in heat and last for years of smoking.
Smoking is an art separate from grilling, but once you learn how to master it, it’s a valuable skill to have in your grilling books. Picking the right smoker is essential for a smooth learning process, so keep the following in mind:
- How often do you plan to smoke meat? The more you do, the bigger a smoker you probably want.
- What’s your preferred fuel source? Charcoal and wood chips produce the smokiest flavor, but electric and pellet smokers are the easiest to learn how to manage.
- How much space do you have to smoke? Vertical smokers and kamado grills are your best option if you want to comfortably smoke meat in limited square footage.
Once you answer these questions, you can better decide which smoker is best for your setup and outdoor cooking style.
Here are a few more pointers you should know about smokers before you decide if adding one to your outdoor kitchen is the right choice.
What different types of meat can be smoked?
Typically, larger meat portions and tougher meat fibers are best for smoking. That includes beef brisket, spare ribs, pork butt and shoulders, and lamb.
How long does it take to smoke meat in a smoker?
Ultimately, the size of your protein will dictate how long it should be smoked for. In general, you can safely smoke larger portions of meat between six to eight hours. Tougher proteins like brisket can take longer.
Founded in 1971, Don’s Appliances is a family-owned, independent appliance retailer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. Don’s has since expanded to 10 locations selling, delivering, installing, and servicing all major appliance brands. Large enough to offer competitive pricing yet small enough to continue offering the “white glove” service we pride ourselves on, our focus is always on the customer experience — from the first step into a showroom to the purchase transaction to well after your new appliance has been installed.
When our customers are remodeling or building a new house, Don’s has all the expertise, product knowledge, inventory, brands, displays, and services to meet and exceed your needs. And in the event an appliance breaks, we are there, right on time and with the right product, delivery, installation, and service.
Shop Smokers at Don’s
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, and shop outdoor kitchen appliances at Don’s Appliance. Our friendly experts are always happy to help you master the meat smoker — whether you call us at 866-544-1711, email us, or use our online chat feature. Better yet, stop by any of our Don’s Appliances Pittsburgh, PA warehouse locations. Visit us today!