There are many type of smokers today than their was 15 years ago. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fueled by charcoal / lump, LP and electric. The smokers I have chose to show here are the basic versions of each type. Their are many more type and style from homemade to trailer mount. One of the most versatile and easiest smokers on the market is the Brinkmann Smoke' N Grill Charcoal Smoker. Also know as the (ECB) El Cheapo Brinkmann. No need to laugh at this Lil Sweetheart, you will be surprised the Que she can kick out.
The ECB comes with no air flow or exhaust controls. Even though it comes like this from the factory they are the go to smokers for people just getting their feet wet.
There are some modifications that make the ECB one helluva good beginner smoker.You can use charcoal or lump as your heat source and wood chips or chunks for flavoring. Our advise is, if you have bought and ECB or looking to buy one. Be sure to get yourself a good pit thermometer. The factory ones can be more than 30-50° off high or low. Also be sure to pick up a good meat thermometer. We will cover wireless thermometers in the BBQ Accessories page. There we will cover some of the must have items in your pitmaster cook box.
Propane / LP Smokers
There are many vertical style LP smokers (Gasser's) on the market. Some of the more popular manufactures are Brinkmann, Masterbuilt, Landmann, Outdoor Leisure. They are all similar in looks and style.
One of the advantages a gasser has over a charcoal / lump smoker is heat recovery. They can reheat quickly if you are in and out of the smoker adding wood chips, mopping or spritzing meats. But like the ECB they can struggle in windy conditions. So be sure before you fire up the pit, you find an area that the wind is not blowing across the smoker or build a wind break, it will pull the neat right out of the bottom of your pit.
One of the nice thing about a gasser is you can install an after market needle and seat and really dial down your smoker temps for something like smoking sausage links or chubs. You will find information about the needle and seat on the accessories page of the site.
Electric smokers (Watt Burners) are almost a set it and forget it type of smoker. They have some really good up side to them (ie) basic models you just plug in and they self regulate the temps, others program and have easy & even temperature control, even cooking, and recover fairly well if you happen to be in and out for mopping and spritzing. On the down side of having a watt burner is if your heating element ever go out while your smoking. Your Done! No fixing it unless you have an extra laying around.
One thing about the electric smokers you will find is that the heating element is going to be a 1000 Watt on the less expensive models compared to a 1500 Watt on some of the top of the line brands. They are good but really struggle in colder climates up North if you plan on smoking during the winter months. We have seen some folks take blankets or even water heat insulation wraps to help there pits maintain temps. It is safer to do this with and electric than with a LP or Charcoal.
Electric smokers normally come with a small pan you fill with your favorite wood chips. Many folks have opted out from the small pan and have used old small cast iron skillet, that way they can use more chips and not have to fill it as often. If you do decide a Watt Burner is the way to go for you, just remember not to soak the wood chips. This only delays what you are wanting, Smoke! Also you do not want to ever use an extension cord with your electric smoker. If you do you are asking for trouble, to small of a guage or to long of a cord will heat up and have a change to catch on fire. So please use the wall plug on your back patio.
Horizontal / Offset Smokers
Are you one that likes to tend the fire? You will get just that if you go with a offset style smoker. In my opinion you get some of the best Que from an offset smoker than you do from any of the other basic style smokers. There as many manufactures of offset smokers as there are vertical.
One of the great things about the offset smoker is that you can smoke allot of food at one time. Plus when you have one of the larger pits in your back yard it screams Pitmaster to your neighbors when they see you outside firing up the pit.
Offset smokers can be fuel hogs, in my experience (With my Oklahoma Joe Longhorn) it has taken around 20 pounds of lump to smoke a few 9 - 10 pound pork shoulders to 205°. Using wood of your choice you can use larger chunks and even small logs to achieve the best flavor you are looking for.
If you decide to go the route of the offset, be sure to look up modifications for your type and model. These pits can have as much as 50 - 70° swing from the firebox side to the exhaust.
Now you have taken the first few steps to becoming the envy of your neighborhood. No matter what you decide to buy, you are always welcome at our Smoked-Meat Forum. Per Alexa Rankings It is the highest ranking website & forum in the USA. Feel free to stop by and join in the fun. We love to talk cooking and much more. Hope to see you there.