We spent over 35 hours researching and testing 10 different brands of smokers and found that performance, ease of use, and design were most important. The Bradley Digital 4 Rack Smoker scored high marks in all categories and is our top pick. This popular smoker is heavy duty and able to handle plenty of backyard cookouts and gatherings. It can handle smoking jobs as long as 8 hours and just requires a push of a button. The smoker heats up to 320 degrees and handles smoking a lot of different types of meats. If you do a lot of entertaining, this is the perfect smoker for the job.
Smoker Buying Guide
What is a Smoker?
If you just can’t get all that excited about the above smokers, it’s worth noting that there are still tons of viable options at your disposal which can be had with very little searching. Simply keep the below factors in mind and finding the smoker for you will be a piece of fishcake.
How much food will you be smoking at any one time?
This should be the largest deciding factor in your next smoker purchase. If you only plan on smoking a salmon or four at a time, getting a larger model just doesn’t make sense. Not only will it take more time to get the exact same job done, it will cost more money as well. On the other hand, smoking bulk batches of food with a tiny smoker will have you sitting there all day as you constantly take food out and put more in. It’s best to get a smoker that’s big enough for what you plan on cooking, but not so big that you’ll spend all day waiting for it to heat up. However, when you’re in doubt, a smoker that is too big is better than one that is too small.
How fast do you like to smoke your meat?
If you’re more of a low-and-slow type of cook, you’ll want to take a close look at any given smoker’s specs and see how long it can run for without taking a break. It can be easy to assume that all smokers can take on this style of smoking, but this is not always the case. If you can’t find its maximum runtime on its package or online, take a look at reviews regarding others’ experiences with this cooking style.
Optional Smoker Features
There are a few features you can find across many different smokers which will change your experience for better or for worse, depending on the type of cook you are. Consider which of the below two features you’d like to have in a smoker and which you could do without. This will ensure you get everything you’re looking for in your next purchase.
- A Digital Display – A digital display can prove very convenient and can take on the load of several different cooking tools at once. However, such a display introduces a huge price markup into the mix. You should only consider such a display if you think you’ll use it.
- Barbequing Capabilities – One of the smokers we covered earlier exhibits this trait. Having a smoker which also acts as a barbeque can be a huge plus. This is especially true if you’ve been planning on buying a barbeque at some point, making such a feature convenient and However, such smokers will often be limited in size, making them less suitable for large-batch smoking.
Common Smoker Features
In contrast to the features listed above, there are a few that you always want to see in a smoker, no matter the type of cook you may happen to be. Keep an eye out for the below features while shopping for smokers.
- A Wide Temperature Range – Take a smoker’s maximum temperature, subtract that figure by its minimum temperature and you’ve found your range. In this context, a higher number is always better. Even if you only plan on ever using one temperature, a large range may come in handy at some point or another. Either way, it’s a great indication of a product’s overall level of quality and reflects a large degree of versatility.
- Removable Cooking Racks – Of course, if you plan on smoking turkeys or pork shoulders, getting a large smoker is an obvious requirement. However, it won’t do you much good if you don’t have enough space between any two racks to place the meat of your choosing. While you won’t need to worry about this with more high-end models, it helps to check to see if a smoker’s racks can be removed in a matter of seconds when you’re buying cheaper units. While every rack will be removable to some degree, you certainly don’t want to sit around all day disassembling your smoker. Make sure the racks are actually meant to be moved.
- A Large Wood Chip Tray – While every smoker comes with its own recommendations as to how much wood you should use at any one time, you may wish to experiment a little as you begin to fine-tune your tastes. It’s always nice when a smoker gives you the option of playing around with its operation a little.
The above three features are always great to see in any smoker. Otherwise, just what you look for in your next unit is up to you. Because you and only you know what type of cook you are, keeping the above considerations in mind is sure to help you figure out which smoker is most compatible with your style.