The factors determining which smoker is right for your outdoor kitchen have a lot to do with how much food you need to cook, what kind of flavor you’re looking for, and how much intervening you plan on doing in the smoking process. And since it's getting a bit cooler, we'll mention that no, weather has nothing to do with it! True food-smoker enthusiasts will smoke ribs with snow on the ground!
For flavor, a charcoal smoker is right up there with the best. The problem with charcoal, is that you have less control over the level and consistency of heat and will need to give it the occasional checking. A good charcoal smoker that’s correctly sealed should see you through to the end of a cook on a packet of decent coals. A good example of this would be the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker. Other high quality charcoal smoking options are ceramic smokers such as the Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg. These are good, hardy smokers with excellent heat retention and about as “set and forget” as charcoal smokers go for the outdoor kitchen.
Electricity and Gas
Electric and gas smokers are ideal if you don’t want the dirt and hassle of a charcoal fire in your cozy outdoor kitchen. They do still use wood chips as a flavor enhancer, but don’t produce as much smoke as a charcoal smoker. Consequently, they don’t give the meat quite as much flavor. Electric and gas smokers are easy to use, convenient and perfect for setting and forgetting, meaning if you’re doing an overnight smoke, you should be able to sleep easy knowing that when you wake up, brunch will smoked to perfection.
Pellet smokers also run off electricity. What makes them different to ordinary electric smokers is that the fire is auto fed wood pellets from a box attached to its side. The wood pellets resemble rabbit feed, but are made from compressed sawdust. The wood pellets come in a variety of special flavors and blends so that you can customize the smoky tang of your meat. Pellet smokers allow you to set the temperature that it will maintain within a reasonable range, meaning once again that your ribs will practically cook themselves. One of the greatest advantages of a pellet smoker in your Orange County outdoor kitchen is that they offer wide heat range, meaning you can cook “low and slow”, use it as a standard grill, and even use it for baking. Although the moving parts make it less durable than a charcoal smoker, and the need for electricity makes it less mobile than gas smokers, a pellet smoker offers the perfect balance between authentic flavor, convenience, and easy use.
Whether you’ve owned a smoker for a while and are looking to take your BBQ game to the next level, or want to skip the entry level stuff and dive into the deep waters, the barrel/offset smoker is the perfect smoker for aspiring pitmasters. The Jambo Backyard Model from Jambo Pits is a great example. This is the kind of bad boy you see being used in competition smoking. They’re big, rugged, and make for some world class barbecuing. Although smaller sized drum-shaped smokers are available, this one takes up some serious room and will feed a veritable army of hungry Texans. You can load up the Jambo with charcoal or wood and while it may take a keen eye to maintain the correct levels, you can rest assured of the finest flavor a backyard smoker can offer.
Happy smoking (in the fall, winter, spring, & summer)!