One of the most common questions that we’re asked at the Smoke House, besides how to get to the rest room, is for our recommendations on which smoker to purchase. We’re glad to help, though it’s important to answer your question with a question: “What are you planning to smoke?” If you are a resident of Colorado, this question may have an assortment of answers, just sayin’ . . .
While it’s true that you can make really good smoked meats using a charcoal or gas grill, some folks say that the ultimate results come from using a specialized smoker. Remember, it’s not always how good the equipment is, it has a lot to do with the person a doin’ the cookin’; a good cook can take a piece of crap equipment and make some of the best tasting food or smoked meats that you’ll put in your mouth; just ask Betsy my sister, she’s been doing it for years. With a little practice and the right smoker, you’ll get results better than some barbeque restaurants; but not better than the Smoke House! In the past, backyard grillers would have to spend hours hovering over a smoker, fiddling with the temperature and dampers, shoveling coals into the smoker, adding wood, and the best part is basting your ribs, brisket, hams, chicken, and salmon with some almost famous “World Class” Jim Oliver’s Smoke House BBQ & Basting Sauces.
While we don’t have firsthand experience using one, we’ve heard from the majority of our customers that the “Green Egg” is their favorite cooker; if you’ve got the money for one of these little indulgences, then you might just get you one. Better yet, if you have a friend with one of these rascals, you might ask them to let you test drive it and see how you like it before you buy it. Daddy always said, let’s learn how to do it before we spend a lot of money on something we don’t know anything about to start with. You think Jimi Hendrix went out and bought the most expensive guitar before he learned how to play it? Get you a BBQ cook book and follow the instructions till you know more than they do, then you’ll be ready to up your game on the equipment you’re using for cooking it.
You can find backyard smokers starting at under $100 on sale from time to time, though typically, they aren’t too well-built, and may need replacing after just a few uses; these are good for burgers & chicken, but not smoking meat per se. Professional smokers like we use here at Jim Oliver’s Smoke House can cost $10,000 and up, which are good for restaurants and rib show veterans, but most folks will want something a little less than that. You can find a good quality gas unit for around $200, and a charcoal unit for about $300. A good quality pellet smoker will set you back between $900-$1000; but we don’t recommend pellets, real cooks use real wood.
You’ll want to find a smoker that is made with high quality and durable thick steel, which works to absorb and distribute heat evenly through the entire cooking chamber, then radiates it back towards your meat. This keeps heat fluctuations in check. Better quality smokers have doors that close and seal tightly, preventing smoke and heat from escaping; which make it hard to manage the flavor & moisture of your meats.
Having a high quality thermometer will prevent issues down the road. Lower quality thermometers placed in the wrong section of a smoker can lead to temperature variance, which can cause inconsistent flavoring in your meat. Always have a meat thermometer to actually temp what you’re cooking, this is the true temp you need to always monitor.
Many smokers will come with cooking tools, hooks, and a high quality cover. Higher quality units will include deflector plates, extra racks, and other add-ons such as cooking surfaces and storage, heck, some of ‘em even have directions on how to us it, (that’s what most people use to start the first fire, we don’t recommend that) to make smoking more fun and convenient.
It’s important to choose a smoker that works best for your budget and your skill at cooking, so sometimes the most attractive unit will not be the best for your backyard. As with anything, if it looks too good to be true, chances are that you’re going to have low-quality results.
Be sure to see our YouTube channel for more information on http://TheSmokeHouse.com and if you are in the area be sure to stop by and see Smokin’ Man Mike to talk shop about smoking’ meats and to sample our large collection of sauces and smoking accessories.