They don’t call them “smokers” for no reason.  Barbeque smokers are pieces of equipment that cook food using the heat from smoke rather than actual fire.  With advances in technology, there are different ways to produce that smoke.  Electric, gas, and charcoal are the three most common ways of doing so.  If you’re looking to buy a new barbeque smoker, here are a few things you should know about each of the different kinds.

1.  Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers produce steam by the heat that comes off of charcoal.  They’re a little more difficult to handle than electric and gas smokers, but they really give meat that smoky flavor.  Here are a few things you should know if you’re considering buying one:

    Barbeque Smokers

  • Make sure you have lighter fluid.  You’ll probably have a hard time getting your charcoal to light if you don’t have lighter fluid
  • You need to give the charcoal enough time to heat up.  Just because the charcoal is on fire, it doesn’t mean it’s ready to cook on.  You usually need to give it about twenty minutes to heat up
  • When you place your meat on your cooker, make sure none of it is touching.  The steam needs to be able to get between the meat so it can cook evenly
  • For charcoal smokers, the average amount of time needed to cook is generally between 45 minutes to an hour per pound
  • When you’re finished cooking, always make sure you open the cover of your smoker so the coals and ashes can cool down.  Make sure you’re careful when you’re cleaning up the ashes


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2.  Electric Smokers

Electric smokers are probably the most easily operated barbeque smokers, but there are disadvantages along with that.  There are, however, other advantages as well.  Here are just a few:

  • Electrical smokers are generally more expensive than other smokers; they require less experience to operate
  • Barbeque SmokersYou can control the temperature on electric smokers.  Instead of having to guess where to put your food on the cooker, you can simply leave it anywhere and adjust the temperature to where you need it. It also allows the cook to do other things while their food cooks because they don’t have to worry about their food being in the wrong spot and burning while they’re away
  • If you don’t want to sacrifice that wood flavor that comes from a wood grill, there is usually a compartment in electric grills that you can put wood into
  • Electric smokers come in all different sizes.  If you’re often cooking for a lot of people, a large one would be recommended, but if you only have a small deck or patio, you may want to consider a smaller one
  • Electric smokers, like most other smokers, will usually cook food at a very low temperature.  The ideal setting is usually around 160 degrees


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3.  Gas Smokers

If electric isn’t exactly what you’re looking for because of the temperature controls, a gas smoker may be what you want.  Here are some things to take into consideration if you’re considering gas:

  • You can use either propane or natural gas with a gas smoker.  Clean fuel will make your food taste better.  If you need something portable, however, choose the propane.  Propane can last almost twice as long as natural gas
  • Barbeque SmokersThey’re usually a bit smaller, so it’s easier to regulate your temperature and keep it consistent through the whole cooker.  For instance, you don’t want your food sitting in the middle to cook faster than the food around the edges
  • It’s easy to light.  Because of the gas source, gas smokers are usually really easy to light.  All you have to do is push an ignition button after you get your propane or natural gas source connected.  If it doesn’t work, check your gas source and make sure it’s connected properly
  • Gas smokers tend to cook at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they’re a bit quicker than electric smokers.  If you prefer slow cooking, however, then you may want to consider an electric smoker
  • Depending on the size of your meat, gas smokers will take roughly 3-4 hours to cook through meat


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4.  Things to Know About All Smokers

No matter what kind of barbeque smoker you decide to get, there are a few things that you should know about all of them:

  • Never put frozen meat on your cooker.  The growth of bacteria is much more prevalent because of the slow cooking process.  Smokers cook food at a very low temperature, and the time it would take to cook frozen meat may cause an excessive amount of bacteria to grow
  • The best way to cook meat on a smoker is to marinate it first.  The acids in marinades break down the connective tissues in meat, which makes it much tenderer.  It also adds a great flavor to your meat
  • Marinade for at least eight hours.  Don’t reuse marinade that has been used with meat, as there can be a lot of bacteria growth
  • Always check your meat with a meat thermometer when you think it’s done.  Its internal temperature should be around 145 degrees for beef, 160 degrees for pork, and then 165 degrees for poultry
  • You can use flavored woods.  Most people generally stick to apple, hickory, maple, mesquite, or oak flavored.  It adds a different kind of smoked flavor to your meat
  • The thickness of wood chips will determine how much flavor your wood will give your food, so if you want a more intense flavor, get thicker chips

No matter what kind of smoker you’re looking for, barbequing is usually something that will bring all of your friends and family together in good weather.  Sometimes it’s best just to use the oven or the stove, but you won’t get that same smoky flavor.  Whether it’s electric, gas, or charcoal, you’re going to get that smoky flavor that you just can’t get with an oven or a stove.  You’ve just got to have some patience.