We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for BBQ smokers in the UK. This includes reviews of all four smoking methods, charcoal, pellet, gas, and electric smokers.
What makes a good BBQ smoker?
Before we dive into the different types of smokers, let’s try and understand what makes a good BBQ smoker. Traditionally if you wanted to smoke meat, the best method was to dig a hole in the ground and use wood as your heat source. This is still one of the most popular methods for smoking meat and does produce exceptional results, but it does have its drawbacks.
The first issue with a dug-out BBQ is that you need an open fire that presents a danger to anyone near the vicinity and means you need dry kindling to get it started. This requires a lot of work and doesn’t work well with cold weather or bad weather.
This kind of BBQ smoker also produces a tonne of smoke, which is highly unhealthy and difficult to control.
The other way to smoke meat is by using wood as your heat source, where the term “smoker” comes in. A traditional charcoal BBQ uses charcoal for the heat source, but what about electric/gas BBQ smokers? Well, there are a few key points that make all the difference between gas and electric smokers so let’s take a look at these next:
- Fuel source. The key to any BBQ smoker is that it cooks your food correctly, but not all fuel sources are created equally. Traditional charcoal smokers use wood chips as their fuel source, but this can be very expensive. Pellet smokers fire up pellets of wood and ash, which are much cheaper than wood chips. Gas and electric smokers use propane or electricity to get the food smoking, but tanks for these fuel sources are incredibly bulky and need to be brought indoors when cooking. This can cause issues with ventilation, especially when using gas BBQs.
- Cooking room temperature. If your grill cooks your food too hot or cold, your meat will cook unevenly, but not all BBQs have even cooking temperatures. Gas and electric smokers are generally consistent in their cooking temperature, but charcoal BBQs can take time to cook evenly.
- Wood chips are the original heat source for smokers, but this is a costly fuel source. Propane and electricity are the most popular heat sources, with electric smokers using electricity to power the heating element inside the smoker. Gas smokers require propane tanks which can be brought indoors for use. This can cause ventilation issues when using gas BBQs.
- Accessories. A good BBQ smoker will have the right accessories to cook your meat properly. Charcoal smokers do not have many accessories, but gas and electric smokers typically have many aluminum trays to cook their food on.
- Durability. The longer a BBQ smoker lasts, the more value for money it has. Gas smokers require a constant supply of propane tanks for their heat source, so if you can get a smoker that doesn’t use these, you’ll save a lot of money in the long run.
Types of BBQ smokers
Without further ado, let’s look at the different types of smokers you can get. We’ve reviewed each kind in detail below.
The most popular BBQ smoker of all time is the charcoal grill, and for a good reason. These smokers are used for smoking ribs and chicken in the USA, and with a bit of practice, you can make some of the best tasting food in your back garden. The only downside to charcoal smokers is that it takes a lot of work to get them going, not just your standard lighting a fire with kindling either! Some complicated airflow systems need to be in place to get them going evenly.
Pellet smokers produce less pollution than charcoal or electric smokers, but they are not as clean as you would think. The pellets are made from compressed sawdust, so there’s still a lot of smoke production, which can cause issues with neighbors if smoked meat is your thing!
Gas smokers are the most famous smokers in the UK and are used chiefly to smoke meat. These smokers use a propane tank as their fuel source, which is easy to get and brings some potent fumes. Gas BBQs aren’t as consistent as other types of smokers, so you need to be careful when using one!
Finally, electric BBQs utilize battery power to produce heat for your food. Electric smokers are the newest type of smoker and produce decent results, but they’re not very portable, affecting ventilation if you want to take them outside.
Pick a smoker and get smoking! Try not to worry too much about price or the type of fuel used, just pick one with the right accessories, and you’re sure to be able to smoke meat for years to come.