Are you interested in making your own pulled pork, a smoked turkey, or even preserve fresh cuts of bacon? Smoked food is a delicious way to meet these goals.
Smoking has also long been known a way to preserve meats such as hams, turkey or bacon. Smoked food has a longer shelf life and, of course, a way to enjoy the food with a distinct flavor, especially when you’re cooking with your favorite wood chips, such as apple wood. Smoking always adds flavor to a meal. When you cook for a long time, at a slow temperature, you are also helping to tenderize the meat. This is why people love to use smokers; it turns even the blandest meat into a flavorful meal.
Smokers are popular because they uniquely give this taste. The smoker is considered to be the only grill that can give the true taste of barbecue. Barbecue has become increasingly popular throughout the world due to its uniquely juicy, flavorful taste.
Barbecue is an art as well as science, and there are people all over the continental US, where the smoker was born, who swear by this method of cooking. When you’re smoking barbecue meat like pulled pork or chicken, it can take between anything from 2 to 20 hours to get the desired effect. The longer time you smoke your food, the more tender and flavorful it becomes. But you will need the perfect equipment, and the right recipe, to get this done.
Choosing a Smoker: 8 Great Suggestions in 2019-2020
Before we get into smoking tips, let’s look at some of the top models on the market. Choosing a smoker should depend on what size you need and what you plan on cooking. I encourage you to read other reviews of these smokers as well on this site.
- This smoker works as a barbecue, grill firewood stove, and stewed stove oven, which can really help you with your creative barbecue endeavors. A temperature gauge puts you in control of the details, and when it reaches your desired temperature, it will stop heating. You’ll still need to manage wood chips, but you can keep an eye on the controls to see how you’re actually doing when it comes to heat supply. This unit is quite portable and you can easily take it on road trips and camping.
- This is a great electric grill with digital controls – perfect for beginners or old-timers. The digital controls help you keep it accurate as you smoke on 4 different racks, which have a lot of space for even more than one meal course. Smoke a small roast or a chicken in this fine machine – but keep an eye on the temperature.
- This Char Broil smoker lives up to its brand reputation – it smokes juicy and lets you cook accurately with LED controls. The insulation keeps the heat inside, so you can easily lift it via its handles. You’ll get about 5 hours of smoke before you need to refill the chips, and in the meantime, you’ll enjoy nearly effortless smoking with four racks of space that makes it easy to cook more than one thing at a time. The deluxe model also comes with a remote, but it’s kind of tricky to figure out, so it’s recommended you stick with the controls on the main digital screen. Inside the unit, you’ll find a surprisingly accurate meat thermometer.
- This great little smoker does a lot in a small package! Front-loading with temperature controls, this electric smoker can help satisfy your cravings for all kinds of smoked foods – salmon, steak, barbecue and even veggies. This unit comes with a cool little recipe book and instructions to get the most accurate smoke, which you really need to read before you decide to cook anything. There’s enough space to smoke 25-50 pounds of meat on four racks, including whole turkeys or chickens. Clean up is easy with a dedicated, stick-free drip pan to collect any byproducts, and when not in use, you can easily wipe the unit clean with a wet rag dipped in water mixed with vinegar. Use a brush on the actually shelves to rid it of build up (NOT the dishwasher). This unit comes with a bonus bag of wood chips to get you started.
- Smoke Hollow has a great electric smoker that will make a veritable tool in your barbecue arsenal. The door latches to provide maximum insulation, and has a hole to help the smoke exit properly with a fan. The water pan is made of porcelain, so it won’t overheat and the smoker box can be filled with wood chips that will last several hours. This smoker is designed incredibly intuitively, and you can easily operate it if you have experience on a regular kitchen stove. That’s one of the things I love most about it; beginners “get” it early on, and are able to learn how to smoke with it with its first use. Just make sure you consult the manual so you can get the most use out of it. You can use this smoker at up to 300 degrees, so if you are looking for something hotter, you’ll want to choose a different model. Also important to note: you can fit several small chickens or other large pieces of meat easily on the 4 shelves provided.
- This digital electric smokers has something old and something new: you can use it just like any electric smoker, but you can also control it via Bluetooth (your own device) or the remote that comes with it. This additional feature allows you to use your smoker in a way that IoT (Internet of Things) fans can truly celebrate. Turn your smoker on and off, monitor the food you’re smoking as it progresses, and even monitor temperatures, cooking times, and turn the food light on and off, all from your smart device. You can even check the meat temperature from this handy app. In addition to the “smart” features, this smoker works well for people with barbecue experience. Smoke up to 80 pounds of food at a time in this smoker – that’s another thing you’ll love about it. The wood chip supply has a hatch that allows you to add wood chips without having a draft or losing smoke. The unit itself weight about 53 pounds, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to take it on a road trip or tailgating adventure.
- Masterbuilt specializes in smokers that give control and accuracy when it comes to cooking, and this unit doesn’t disappoint, either. You get 730 sq. inches of cooking space on 4 chrome-coated racks (clean with a brush) – leaving you enough space to cook about 25 pounds of meat – if you’re a beginner, ribs or a chicken are always recommended. This unit also comes with a remote control, but some customers have had problems with malfunctions. If you want to monitor your foods as they smoke, you will want to check on it in person from time to time.
- This is the electric smoker you want if you’re looking for a smaller model. Take it with you for tailgating or other outdoor events – it’s a great portable solution that doesn’t take a lot of space. The total weight is just over 20 pounds, and this model comes with a cover to store outdoors, as well. Smoke up to about 15 pounds of food in this model – a small turkey or chicken will do well. The instructions with this smoker help with food, but put-together will still take about an hour overall. Although not explicitly suggested, it’s worthwhile to use a couple of charcoal pieces at the bottom of the smoker box to help it heat up more quickly – the coils will take much longer if you’re just using chips to heat it. Otherwise, this bullet smoker is a great deal and you’ll get a lot of use out of it. It’s small enough to store on a patio but can still cook large amounts of food for a hungry family.
Wood Chip Tips
Once you’ve chosen a smoker that will meet your needs, it’s time to learn a bit more about the art of smoking. Some smokers will come with a small bag of wood chips to test out – but these flavors may not work with all of the things you’re cooking. For example, if you’re literally smoking your first foods and are not sure which chips to use, you should know that most hickory chips are mild and can work with meat, fish and poultry. However, the distance taste of apple wood pairs well with chicken and pork such as bacon or ham – it tends to have a sweeter taste. When it comes to beef, mesquite has a stronger smoke flavor. Finally, if you’re smoking fish, you will probably want to go with Alder wood chips as a favorite choice.
Most manufacturers of smokers will carry their own wood chips for convenience, but you don’t always have to stick with them if you have a different preference. However, if your appliance requires wood pellets, you need to use pellets and not wood chips.
Do You Need Charcoal?
Almost every smoker does better with a layer of charcoal at the bottom of the smoker box. Charcoal heats more quickly and helps distribute heat efficiently. If your directions leave charcoal out, then you may need to wait up to an hour for it to heat up properly. Or, you can take matters into your own hands and go ahead and add charcoal to the bottom of your smoker box. While this may make for thicker smoker, it will also help your food cook more quickly.
Summing it Up:
A smoker is a great way to cook barbecue, but your preferences have more to do with the make and the model than the cooking process. All smokers cook about the same – they use charcoal, a water bowl and wood to smoke perfectly for long amounts of time. If you’re not sure what to cook on your first smoker, there are a lot of great cookbooks on Amazon or you can try some recipes from Masterbuilt, a smoker manufacturer or these great recipes from the blog Morning Chores.
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