If you're looking to take your food to the next level, you're going to need to know what to look for when buying a smoker. Sure, you might feel like you're accomplishing something by standing over a grill and feeling the heat from the flames. But a good smoker gives your barbecue the time it needs to cook, and lets your meat absorb flavor without getting dried out. Once you have your new smoker, a whole new science awaits you, where you can master the subtleties of different types of wood, and learn how to impress guests at your cook-out like you didn't think was possible.
Make sure that the price of your smoker fits your barbecue needs. If you're just curious about the process, you can find smokers for around $100 that will cook smaller pieces of meat without much other than a place to trap the heat. On the other hand, if you want to make the smoker the star of many barbecues to come, they can cost more than $1,000, especially if they are big enough to cater a giant cook-out.
Pay attention to how the racks inside of the smoker are set up. Some basic smokers may be only set up with one large rack for one large brisket. Other smokers have a rack system where you can smoker smaller pieces of meat simultaneously. For example, when preparing for a large cook-out, you might be able to smoke brisket on the bottom with sausages and chicken lined up on the top. Also, test the removal of the racks, which may be needed for cleaning.
Decide the heating mechanism that your smoker will have. Gas and electric smokers are often popular because of easier temperature control. On the other hand, charcoal, pellet, or wood smokers allow cooks at the top of the game to be able to add a more traditional smoked flavor. Every smoker should include a thermometer, but if you're a novice, look for smokers with very detailed temperature controls to be able to follow smoking recipes closely.
Look for problems that might arise from each smoker you look at. For example, if you cook most of your barbecue when you are out at a camp site, you might need to sacrifice a little performance for a more portable model. No matter what, check for gaps in insulation, make sure the smoker closes as tightly as possible, and remember that a heavy smoker is usually a more durable smoker. If your weakness is cleaning, some models have few frills to keep the process simple. Other models have attachment, such a grill that accompanies the smoker.