What to Look for When Buying a BBQ Smoker

What is Barbecue Smoking?

The art of smoking is low heat and slow cooking. As the TV infomercial says, “set it and forget it!” Well, not quite that easy, but it is close. This low, slow method of works for any type of meat you wish to cook. This type of cooking means your food is never going to overcook or dry out. Get the smoker going, put the food on the racks, close the doors and let it cook! All you have to do is ad a little extra wood every couple of hours and that’s it! The hard work is the preparation of the meat before you smoke.

 Which Barbecue Smoker Do You Buy?

Barbecue smokers usually comprise of a cooking chamber, a firebox, racks, vents to regulate the temperature and a thermometer. The firebox is where the wood is burned which creates the smoke and heat. It is possible to buy combination smoker and barbecue grill, sometimes called chargrill smokers. These can be used as both a barbecue grill and a barbecue smoker. There are many types and sizes. Some are on trailers, which can be pulled anywhere you need. Prices can range from $400 to thousands, depending on size and accessories. Shop around. Talk to the manufactorers and let them know what you are using it for. They may be able to steer you in the right direction.

 Which Type of Wood Do You Use?

Apple: Produces a sweet, fruity taste. Good mild wood which works well on poultry and ham.
Alder: Preferred for most any fish especially salmon.
Cherry: Similar to apple… sweet and usually very fruity depending on the age of the wood. Tends to be mild making it a good choice for poultry, fish, and ham.
Hickory: Probably the most well known woods and while lots of folk may disagree, it tends to be a bit to pungent for my own taste therefore great care must be taken so that it is not overused. Most feel it is excellent on ribs and most red meats. Can also be used very sparingly on cuts of poultry
Maple: Gives a light and sweet taste, which best compliments poultry and ham.
Mesquite: Great care must be taken or it can become overpowering. Best not used for larger cuts, which require longer smoking.
Oak: Good choice for larger cuts, which requires longer smoking times. Produces a strong smoke flavor but usually not overpowering. Good wood for Brisket.
Pecan: Gives somewhat of a fruity flavor and burns cooler than most other barbecue woods. It is similar to Hickory and is best used on large cuts like brisket and pork roast but can also be used to compliment chops, fish and poultry.

 Brines and Rubs

What is brine? Brine is usually a strong saltwater solution, but it can include other ingredients such as wine, herbs, spices, sugars or honey. You make up your brine solution and soak the meat overnight in the fridge. Brineing your meat before you smoke will add the flavor of the brine and keep the meat moist. When you’re ready to smoke your food, remove it from the brine, rinse it thoroughly in cold water, and pat it dry.

The other option is a barbecue rub. A barbecue rub is a mix of herbs and spices that are rubbed into the meat. Don’t go lightly with this. Rub it in hard and rub in a lot. Smoking significantly lessons the strength of the flavor.

 Things To Look For

· Doors cut low to make them easy to open and trap heat inside.
· Racks slide all the way out for easy access to food. Racks also are removable for easy cleaning.
· Grill is painted with high temp BBQ paint for long life.
· Flat steel at least is 1/4″ thick, anything less isn’t worth the money!
· Full-length, angle framed shelves. Gives strength and flexible storage.

If buying a smoker on a trailer:

· Large wood/gear storage bay. The trailer should have plenty of room for coolers, storage and hardware.
· Average length should be 10′-15′.
· Quality all steel trailer, wired to be street legal.
· Heavy Duty axle.


· Some smokers have a full length bottom tray to force the heat and smoke to travel the length of the smoker before contacting your meat. This unique feature gives indirect heat, which does not dry out your meat. This also causes drippings to evaporate back into the smoker, adding extra moisture!
· Extra large food warmer/steamer/oven built above firebox. This gives additional cooking space and the ability to warm food.