What kind of smoker should I get???

Boy, we hear this question pretty frequently when we are at competitions or doing demos/classes for folks and the problem is…there’s no one right answer!  My smart-alek immediate response typically is; ‘One that you’re gonna’ use!’, which besides being vague is pretty accurate!  Again, this is a question that I would suggest doing some research about before pulling the trigger.  Our choice are Traeger grills which are pellet smokers.  We made this choice for several reasons, some of which are the fact that they WERE made in USA, out in the great Pacific Northwest. (Sadly, I’m told that in order to meet an increased demand for national distribution, they have sent production off shore on their residential products, but then again…who hasn’t these days?)  Other reasons for choosing the pellet smokers were the fact that temperature control is a bit easier.  I know LOTS of folks who will go on and on about the fact that if they set their temperature selector to 225, it doesn’t stay at 225…but it IS a live fire that we’re talking about and just because it’s got a thermostat doesn’t mean that you can set it and forget it…that’s not what smoking BBQ is all about!  In our experience, once you learn a few tricks they are pretty easy to keep an even temp in.  In fact our COM-200, which is the big trailer that can cook 4 hogs at a time if you place them right, once it’s up to temp it has more even heat than the fancy schmancy commercial oven in our home!  Another reason for the Traeger’s is that the way their fire pots work creates a natural convection in the oven, again….more even heat.  Finally, a big consideration for us is that we can get the same smoke EVERY time…4 scoops Hickory/2 scoops Apple – 3 scoops hickory/2 scoops Mesquite/1 scoop oak…etc.  Pellets are all ‘food grade’ and contain 100% wood….no fillers or glue or any of that other crap that non-pellet people will tell you is in there!  BUT, this is what’s right for US…what’s righ for YOU might be something entirely different.

Think first about what you’d like to do with you smoker?  How often are you going to use it?  What are you planning on cooking on it?  How much room have you got?  Do you have a strong back?  (Some of them are pretty darned heavy!)  Can you get a reliable supply of split wood or do you prefer charcoal?  If you’re looking to ‘cold smoke’ fish, cheese, jerky and stuff like that…you’ll need an entirely different kind of smoker!  There are some GREAT manufacturers out there and all of them will be happy to tell you how good their products would look in your yard, you just need to pick something that won’t intimidate you and that you’ll use!  After all the only way to get REALLY good at BBQ is to cook BBQ!  It’ll make you friends and put smiles on your family’s faces…not to mention it’s fun!  Like fishing, it can be learned pretty quickly, but takes a lifetime to master!

I would suggest doing some online homework, attending a BBQ competition and asking folks about their smokers, if you’ve got a local BBQ shop…stop by and have lunch, then ask them!  Use as many resources as you can so that you wind up with the right smoker for the kind of cooking that you’d like to do!  You can always call us at 717-254-1937 and we’ll be happy to help…Lunchtime and Dinner are a bit busy, but morning and mid-afternoon are good times to call!  Meanwhile, here are a few resources for different types of smokers for you to peruse:

Wood Fired: www.peoriacustomcookers.com ; www.bbqpits.com (my favorite, and Dave KNOWS smokers!) ; www.sybbq.com

Pellet Smokers: www.traegergrills.com (disappointing move to offshore production aside…good smokers!) ; pelletgrilloutlet.com (incredibly knowledgable about all things pellet)

Charcoal Smokers: www.biggreenegg.com ; www.kamadoguys.com 

Hope you find these helpful!  Stay warm and keep on smokin’! – jak