Smoking on a Gas Grill

Video smoking on a gas grill

So you’ve decided to embark on the journey of smoking meat, but the plethora of options is making your head spin. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Whether you’re a beginner or buying a gift for someone who is, choosing the right type of smoker is crucial. In this article, we’ll explore different options and help you find the perfect one for your needs. Let’s dive in!

The Best Smokers for Beginners

Some beginners want to dive into the traditional techniques of barbecuing, while others prefer a more hands-off approach to focus on trying new recipes. There’s no right or wrong way, so we’ve hand-picked a selection of the best smokers for beginners across different fuel types. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

1. The Best Smoker for Beginners – Weber Smokey Mountain

Weber Smokey Mountain

The Weber Smokey Mountain is an excellent choice for beginners. It’s a charcoal smoker with exceptional value and flavor. Although operating a charcoal smoker requires a bit more effort, the authentic smoky food it produces makes it all worth it. The Weber Smokey Mountain offers excellent build quality and comes in three sizes (14″, 18″, and 22″) to suit your needs. The 18-inch model is recommended for its stable temperature control. With a bullet design, it has a small footprint, making it ideal for limited spaces. The Weber brand is well-regarded, and the 10-year warranty provides peace of mind. While it may require a bit more skill to master temperature control, the Smokey Mountain makes the learning process easy and enjoyable.

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What we like:

  • Water smoker design makes temperature control easy for beginners.
  • Used by both backyard amateurs and competition barbecue teams.
  • Offers opportunities for third-party enhancements.

What we don’t like:

  • The door can sometimes leak smoke, but it can be easily fixed with aftermarket upgrades.

2. Runner up – Z GRILLS 700D4E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

Z Grills 700D4E

Pellet smokers, also known as pellet grills, are known for their “set it and forget it” style of cooking. While Traeger is a popular brand in this category, the Z GRILLS 700D4E provides excellent value without the hefty price tag. This wood pellet grill and smoker offers a generous cooking space of 700 square inches split between a primary and an elevated warming/smoking rack. It also features a PID controller for precise temperature control. The Z GRILLS 700D4E is versatile and comes with a fully enclosed storage cabinet, making it a great option for beginners who want convenience without breaking the bank.

What we like:

  • Best value for money in terms of size, construction quality, and usability.
  • Outstanding temperature stability after improvements in the 2019 update.
  • Easy pellet hopper clean-out.

What we don’t like:

  • Lid handle placement could be improved for easier closing.

3. Masterbuilt Gravity Series Digital Charcoal Grill & Smoker

Masterbuilt Gravity Series

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series is an innovative grill that combines the flavor of charcoal with the convenience of a pellet grill. With its digital control panel, you can set any temperature between 225 – 700°F. The design allows for high searing temperatures and low smoking temperatures. You simply add lump or briquette charcoal and control the burn rate with a fan. The hopper can store enough charcoal for 12-15 hours of continuous cooking. The Masterbuilt Gravity Series offers different models to choose from, including the 560, 800, and 1050 XL. This grill is ideal for beginners who want the option to smoke and grill without compromising on flavor.

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What we like:

  • Ease of use with the flavor of charcoal grilling and smoking.
  • Versatility in temperature range and ability to add wood chunks for extra smoke flavor.
  • Easy clean-up with a removable tray for charcoal ash.

What we don’t like:

  • Some charcoal may fall through the tray at the bottom of the hopper, but it can be easily fixed.
  • The warranty period is relatively short compared to other brands.

4. Masterbuilt MPS ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker

Masterbuilt MPS ThermoTemp XL

Propane smokers are fantastic for beginners due to their low cost and easy operation. The Masterbuilt MPS ThermoTemp XL stands out with its thermostatic temperature control, ensuring more accurate and stable temperatures compared to other propane smokers. It offers four chrome-coated racks, providing ample cooking space of 792 square inches on the 30″ model and 961 square inches on the 40″ model. The MPS ThermoTemp XL is an excellent choice for beginners who prioritize temperature accuracy and consistency.

What we like:

  • More accurate temperatures with the thermostatic temperature control system.
  • Convenient access to chip and water trays separately.
  • Generous cooking space.

What we don’t like:

  • The warranty period is relatively short compared to other brands.
  • The grease drain can be difficult to clean due to the design.
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5. Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

The Masterbuilt digital electric smoker is a budget-friendly option for beginners who want to get started with smoking meat. It offers simple temperature control with its built-in digital thermometer. All you need to do is plug it into an electrical outlet, and you’re ready to cook. The 30-inch model provides a generous 730 square inches of cooking space, making it suitable for a variety of smoking situations. While electric smokers may lack a smoke ring and require more parts that can break down, they provide convenience and easy temperature control.

What we like:

  • Generous cooking space similar to larger charcoal smokers.
  • Simple temperature controls for easy use.
  • Optional accessories to enhance your smoking experience.

What we don’t like:

  • The 30-inch model may be too narrow for full racks of ribs.
  • The built-in thermometer may not be accurate, so using a quality third-party thermometer is recommended.

How to Choose Your First Smoker

Choosing the right smoker can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are three steps to help you make the decision.

Step 1: Determine Your Budget

Consider your budget when choosing your first smoker. While cheap options may seem tempting, they often come with poor heat retention and temperature control. If possible, stretch your budget to invest in a better quality smoker. If you’re on a tight budget, you can still get a Weber Kettle, which doubles as a smoker and grill.

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Step 2: Decide What Type of Smoker to Buy

There are different types of smokers, including charcoal, gas/propane, pellet, and electric smokers. Each has its own pros and cons. Charcoal smokers offer a traditional and interactive experience, while gas/propane smokers are easier to manage. Pellet smokers provide convenience with their thermostatic control, and electric smokers offer simplicity and precise temperature control. Choose the type that suits your preferences and needs.

Step 3: Dedicated Smoker or Combo Grill?

Decide whether you want a dedicated smoker or a grill that can also smoke. While combo grills provide versatility, dedicated smokers offer better temperature control and insulation. For beginners, it’s recommended to start with a dedicated smoker to learn the basics and achieve better results. However, if you prefer a versatile option, there are grills available that can double as smokers.

Barbecue Basics

If you’re new to smoking meat, it’s essential to understand the basics of barbecue. Smoking involves low and slow cooking at temperatures between 225 and 275°F, while grilling requires higher temperatures and shorter cooking times. The choice of fuel, such as charcoal or wood pellets, adds flavor to the meat. With proper temperature control and the right techniques, you can create delicious barbecue dishes.

Essential Barbecue Accessories

In addition to the smoker itself, there are a few essential accessories you’ll need for your smoking sessions. A good dual probe wireless thermometer helps you monitor the temperature of your smoker and the meat. You’ll also need fuel, such as charcoal or wood pellets, along with wood chunks or chips for smoke flavor. BBQ gloves are recommended for handling hot surfaces, and quality knives are useful for slicing and trimming meat. Consider these accessories to enhance your smoking experience.

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Tips for Your First Smoke

As a beginner, it’s important to have fun, experiment, and learn from your mistakes. Start with a small cut of cheap pork butt for your first smoke, as it’s forgiving and perfect for learning the nuances of your smoker. Try different rubs and sauces to explore flavor variations. Remember that barbecue is all about enjoying the process and sharing delicious food with loved ones.

Wrapping It Up

Choosing your first smoker should be an exciting and fulfilling experience. Don’t be daunted by the options. Remember, it’s about having fun and making delicious food. Share this guide with others who may find it helpful, and let us know in the comments if you have any questions or additional recommendations for beginners. Happy smoking!

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