How to Choose the Best Smoker For Your Outdoor Cooking Needs

As spring turns to summer and the weather warms up, you can be sure that Americans are going to get outdoors and cook. That’s especially true on the Fourth of July, when 87 percent of people planning outdoor cooking events for the holiday.

According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 75 percent of U.S. households own a smoker or grill. The HBPA also reports that 60 percent of grillers cook outdoors all year-round. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 79.1 million Americans reported grilling in 2016.

With grilling and smoking being such popular summer activities, it’s important to know what you’re doing. Whether you’re using vault smokers, BBQ pits or grills, knowing how to cook your meat perfectly can ensure that your next family cookout is a success.

When it comes to smokers, there are many types and each has their own benefits. Different types of smokers include:

  • Offset Smokers: These are two-part smokers with a barrel-shaped cooking chamber. A firebox is attached to one end and has an access door and an adjustable vent. For cooking, heat and smoke from the firebox enters the cooking chamber and smoke travels out the back of the chamber.

    The effectiveness of the offset smoker can be hit or miss. Inexpensive smokers might save money, but they may not do what they’re designed for. Firing up an offset smoker will tell you whether or not it works. If smoke leaks through the doors and the firebox/chamber connection, it might be wise to look for other options.
  • Vertical Water Smokers: These are inexpensive and broken into three parts: the smoking chamber on top, a water pan in the middle and the heat source on the bottom. To cook, light a fire or plug it in depending on the heat source, fill the water pan and put the meat in.

    Vertical smokers are inexpensive, small and efficient which makes them popular. Depending on the model, these smokers have limited temperature control and a lack of space, depending on what you’re cooking. When it comes to cooking, heat is also lost every time the lid of the smoker is lifted.
  • Box Smokers: These are also known as vault smokers or cabinet smokers. The design is quite simple; there’s a heat source on the bottom and a cooking chamber at the top.

    The key to good vault smokers
    is insulation. Inexpensive models may be thinner and have poor insulation, leaving them vulnerable to losing heat during the cooking process. Quality vault smokers may cost more, but they will be well worth it in the long run if you’re serious about barbeque. You’ll be able to cook large amounts of meat in a well-insulated smoker.
  • Drum Smokers: These smokers are popular and many people who smoke meats choose to make custom smokers as DIY project. A basic one is made of a steel drum with a firebox at the bottom and a cooking rack on the top with the whole thing covered by a lid. The heat source for these is charcoal.

If you’re in the market for a smoker, there are many varieties and many things to look for when buying one. this guide from gives a detailed rundown of what you should be looking for.

If you’re brand new to smoking meat, Heart, Hook, Home offers 10 tips for smoking the perfect meat.

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