Format/Layout

Vertical

Smoker Vertical

When it comes to vertical smokers, there are both bullet and rectangular-shaped variations. If you have a patio or backyard with less space, consider a vertical smoker, as they simply create more room for other grills or outdoor furnishings. Vertical smokers also come in industrial sizes and differ in the flow of smoke and heat.

When you fire up your smoker, whether bullet or rectangular, the wood or charcoal fuel is stored at the bottom of the smoker. The bullet shaped smokers send heat upward through a middle bowl that holds liquid. Whether it’s water, beer, or other flavor inducing liquids, the moisture stabilizes temperature and adds flavor so you don’t end up with a dry dish. Food is cooked on a rack at the top and covered by a dome-shaped lid to hold heat and smoke. Rectangular shaped smokers are just as popular and have the same functionality with or without a water pan. Vertical smokers can also have a firebox at the bottom for fuel. Using different types of wood, such as hickory, mesquite and oak, can switch up the flavor just the same.

Bullet or rectangular shaped vertical smokers generally require less attention to temperature control than offset smokers, which come in handy if you plan on throwing the football in the backyard or prepping other dishes.

Cylinder SmokerCylinder or Offset Smoker

Offset smokers are often recognizable by the large cylinder shaped chamber where your food is smoked alongside an attached firebox. The firebox is filled with wood or charcoal and sends smoke to the main chamber. These smokers typically have vents on both the firebox and main chamber and require a bit more attention to temperature control. Contrasting the vertical smoker, the smoke and heat flows from the firebox to a pipe on the opposite side as it cooks and flavors your food in the main chamber. These smokers are just as popular as vertical smokers and can also be used to grill.

Perfect for your backyard, you are just as likely to see offset smokers when heading to the cook-off.

Cabinet Smokers

Cabinet smokers also come in a rectangular shape and are typically larger with multiple racks which provide more cooking room. The smoke and heat flow is the same as a vertical smoker and is ideal for cooking large amounts of food at one time. Cabinet smokers are popular due to the number of racks that can be positioned for different temperatures and cook times at different levels.

Kamado

The Kamado design is popular due to its ability to be used as a grill or a smoker. The Kamado style uses ceramics, lava rock, cement, and other refractory material to absorb and radiate heat with venting that allows for high-searing to slow-smoking temperatures. When using a Kamado as a smoker, you want to aim for a lower temperature when heating as the ceramic walls tend to retain heat and will take longer to cool down if you overshoot. Charcoal is placed at the bottom of the bowl and functions similarly to the vertical bullet smoker with the upward flow of heat and smoke with a domed cap. Sometimes smaller than traditional smokers, Kamados have the capacity for two-zone cooking, with both direct and convection heat, making the design perfect for smoking or grilling.


Usage

Home Use

Aside from type of method, take into consideration home use when choosing the perfect smoker. Of course, you don’t need to be confined to one smoker, but your outdoor space provides a place for entertainment and a larger smoker is suitable for larger outdoor spaces. Most smokers will fit any outdoor space; however, you also want to look at larger sizes if you plan on feeding multiple mouths in a short amount of time. As with grills, there are a variety of features, and details that reflect your style, complement your home, and set the vibe.

Outdoor Kitchen

Competition

For the pit master and the cook-off there are industrial size smokers. Whether competitive or restaurant capacity, these have enough space for paradise-sized portions.

Outdoor Kitchen

A smoker or grill is the centerpiece of an outdoor kitchen. After you’ve decided the type of smoker you prefer, consider style, size, and how much food you plan to cook when entertaining guests. 

Safety

As with grills, make sure to use long-handled utensils to avoid burns. Don’t rush to clean! Always clean your smoker after use and when it has cooled down. Make sure your food is properly cooked before serving by using a meat thermometer or an “instant read” digital thermometer inserted horizontally into the side of meat, poultry, and seafood to check doneness. Overcooking meat, poultry or fish is not recommended. 

Recommended Internal Temperatures:

  • Poultry: 165 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Ground beef: 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pork (chops, ground, tenderloin): 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Large cut pork roasts: 150 degrees Fahrenheit