The task of picking out my first BBQ smoker was a bit daunting. The easy part was deciding on a wood smoker. Not only do BBQ smokers come in a variety of shapes and sizes you can also get different cooking techniques such as gas, wood, electric, and charcoal. Charcoal and wood BBQ smokers are the most authentic. Gas BBQ smokers burn propane or natural gas and therefore are not very mobile as they require a propane tank or natural gas hook-up. Electric BBQ smokers have a heating element similar to an electric oven and perfect for those who want to set it and forget it. While an electric smoker will get the job done the flavor is inferior to that of a wood or charcoal smoker.
Once you decide on your ideal cooking style you should consider on what size BBQ suits your needs. If you are a home cook looking to make a few racks of ribs or a brisket bigger might not be better. Choose a smoker that allows air to circulate on all sides but not so large that you need to continually add wood. If you’re cooking for your family then a 300-500 sq in smoker will get the job done. If you have larger needs you may want to look into a 700 sq in BBQ smoker. While you don’t need to buy the most expensive smoker on the market make sure you purchase one with thick steel. The steel allows heat to distribute evenly around the cooking chamber. If you buy a poorly made smoker it could allow heat to escape making it hard to stabilize temperatures.
If you’re creative you can even build your own BBQ smoker. And while charcoal and wood BBQ smokers are the most authentic you can still smoke meats on a charcoal or gas grill. Read about how to use your grill as a BBQ smoker.