Buying a Smoker is a Big Decision. Use these tips to make your buying experience easier!
When Jen and I were first married, my parents purchased a Weber Genesis propane grill in stainless steel for us as a wedding gift. It was an AWESOME gift that we were extremely excited to put to use. Both of us had grown up in families that cooked on the grill. And at my house, we COOKED on the grill..... All. The. Time. Thus, right after we were married, the Weber Genesis was a perfect fit for our busy lives.
I have a buddy whose Dad purchased a smoker in my area before many people had them in their backyards. I LOVED his stuff! He was always the popular guy at the party who had brought the pulled pork, or the brisket. This led my brother and I to purchase a MasterBuilt propane fired smoker for our Dad as a father's day gift. This is where I fell in love with BBQ. I knew I had to have one!
Over time, I've owned a gas grill, charcoal kettle, cabinet smoker, and now a kamado. Eric has owned the these as well along with a bullet style smoker. Below are 5 tips that we have learned over the years to help you pick the right smoker for you.
1. Decide on a budget
Lets just get this one out of the way. In order to best enjoy your smoker purchase, you need to pick and stick to a budget that is best for you and your family. You can make AWESOME BBQ on an inexpensive smoker. When I bought my Masterbuilt, I spent around $175.00 about 5 years ago. Some of my best recipes were made on that smoker. My Kamado Joe Classic cost just over $1000.00. Make sure that you do not over extend yourself and spend too much. You want to be able to afford that brisket, turkey, or prime rib you've been dreaming about...
2. Take stock of what you have
When I purchased my Masterbuilt, I had the Weber Genesis. The gas grill served as the high heat unit for classic grilling of burgers, steaks, chops and seafood. It also has been very convenient to fire up during the week when time can be limited after work and school. The cabinet smoker was reserved for ribs, shoulders, and other large cuts. Be sure to take whatever you have in mind when making a purchase. Your kettle grill is invaluable for higher heat cooks. If you're shopping for a one size fits all cookstyles option, a pellet grill or a kamado may be in your best interest. Even a classic kettle can make awesome smoked bbq. My setup of my Weber Genesis and Kamado Joe Classic is below.
3. Pick your size
When asking the question, "how large of unit do I need", a common answer that may come to mind is, "The bigger, the better!". Nothing could be further from the truth...
Instead, ask yourself, "who will I be cooking for?". If you have a family of 4, a small to medium sized pellet grill may be your best option. My father-in-law has a small Traeger that feeds his family of 4 plus myself quite easily. If you desire to get into competition cooking, something larger may be necessary. Many manufacturers offer similar products in varying sizes for scaled price points.
4. Decide on Fuel
This is where the decision starts to get really fun! Picking your fuel for your smoker can be the most difficult part of the buying process. But it doesn't have to be.
If your priority is to "set it and forget it" when smoking awesome BBQ, then a pellet smoker such as a Traeger, Pitboss, or Yoder is right for you. The electronic controls regulate temperature for you and make things super simple.
If charcoal is near and dear to your heart, than a kettle such as a Weber or a kamado like Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe is the way to go. These cookers require a bit more interaction to regulate heat than a pellet smoker does, but they are still very self sufficient. Simply regulating your vents in various wind conditions is all that it takes.
Finally, if you consider yourself a BBQ "purist", than a sick burner or offset cooker is what you need. There are tons of manufacturers that make these style pits. These cookers involve placing whole logs on a fire to keep the heat and smoke flavor rolling. They can be fun, but they take quite a bit of attention to keep them running.
The most important part of purchasing a smoker is to enjoy it. Smokers bring people together. Memories are made with family and friends around an awesome meal. Make sure to choose a smoker that you WANT to use (within reason) and you will not be sorry.
Happy Grilling, Smoking and More!