Different Types of Smokers on the Market
When looking at a smoker, you’ll want to look at the three main types and pick the one that most suits your use. The most popular types on the market today are the vertical smoker, offset smoker and the cabinet smoker.
Each type has its own pros and cons, plus you’ll need to check just how easy your smoker can hold its temperature. Temperature regulation is probably one of the toughest things a smoker will have to do, even the best units fluctuate about +/- 10 degrees during use.
Whatever smoker you use, it’s going to become a hobby that you’ll learn from every time you cook! Every smoker has its own way of doing things, and no two are ever the same!
The Vertical Smoker
These smokers tend to be the cheapest and most popular models. They’re easy to setup, easy to use and give a great taste. They’re not entirely without their problems though. Typically these are going to be entry level units that you can learn from.
To work, a vertical smoker needs a charcoal or wood pellet bowl in the bottom. This is where your fuel burns to give the smoker its cooking power. Above the fuel bowl comes a water tray which allows your food to be kept moist during cooking, as the rising heat drives moisture throughout of the entire smoker. Lastly, the most important part of the unit – your food! The reason your food is cooked right at the top of the unit is simple; the heat will rise, taking water vapor with it, giving you that smoky and juicy flavor everyone loves!
One of the critical things to working a vertical smoker is to avoid opening the top lid once you start cooking. Most vertical smokers place the temperature gauge right at the top; this gives you an indication of when you can start cooking. Once that temperature hits the required amount, every time you open that lid, that temperature will fluctuate wildly and give you very poor results!
The Offset Firebox
These are a design classic, and for those of you who remember, you’ll probably reminisce about seeing these at work as a child. They work by splitting the heat creation part of the smoker and the water/cooking section. Often you will see these attached to grills. We reviewed the best offset smokers in another article, be sure to check it out.
This is a clever design because opening the firebox won’t have nearly as much of an effect on cooking temperature as with a vertical smoker. A notable feature of the offset smoker is that you can keep the firebox ticking over while using a vent to send just enough heat into the cooking barrel to keep everything consistent.
Offset smokers are popular amongst professional smokers and enthusiasts who take their cooking seriously! With the clever offset design, you can smoke for hours at a time with ease, opening a range of options such as briskets and whole bird roasts. I would argue that an offset smoker is easier to use too – it’s certainly easier to keep a consistent temperature with one.
An offset firebox tends to be more expensive than vertical models, mostly on a par with the cabinet varieties. That’s one of the reasons why they tend to attract the enthusiast/professional crowd.
There’s some overlap between the design of a standard vertical smoker, and that of a cabinet unit. They both have a fire at the bottom, with water tray and finally your cooking space at the top.
However, they tend to have far more room than vertical smokers, allowing you to smoke multiple items at the same time.
The cabinet smoker should also have far more vents fitted than a vertical smoker. These vents work in a similar way to the offset box design, except they tend to let excess heat out of the box, rather than heat into the cooking area.
There are pros and cons to the cabinet design. They’re certainly easier to use than vertical smokers; however, they take a little getting used to before you get the best cook out of them. The cabinet smoker also tends to offer far more space than a vertical, making them more versatile and able to smoke longer at a consistent temperature.
Cabinet smokers are about the same price as offset smokers, yet some manufacturers are starting to bring out quality mid-range versions too. If you have your heart set on an offset or cabinet model, it’s worth doing your research before buying.