When you need to take your backyard BBQing to the next level, it’s time to invest in a meat smoker. There’s hardly a better way to get delicious, juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat than a slow-cooking smoker that infuses an iconic smoked flavor into your meat. Even a cheap cut of chuck beef can end up becoming a delicious, tender roast that will impress your guests — and you can keep the price of your meal your best-kept secret!
This guide will discuss the six types of smokers, how to use them, where to use them, how long it takes to smoke meat, and the health benefits of smoked meats. Also, you’ll discover how hardtop shelters are a must for protecting your meat smoker from the elements.
What Is a Meat Smoker?
A meat smoker is a device that cooks meat slowly through a tried-and-true method of cooking meat under low heat and smoke. This art has been passed down from generation to generation and was once one of the only ways to preserve meat without a refrigerator. Not only was smoked meat vital for survival, but its delicious flavor has also kept it in BBQ cookbooks long after refrigerators became mainstream. There’s no denying the quality and texture of smoked meat that can only be produced by a meat smoker.
Depending on your abilities and needs, there are several types of smokers to enhance your BBQ game. Some modern models use different types of fuel that don’t involve smoke for a more user-friendly experience. However, experienced meat smokers agree that the most authentic taste comes from meat smokers that use actual wood and smoke in the cooking process.
Types of Meat Smokers
There are six basic types of meat smokers that have different strengths, sizes, and purposes. Each one has benefits in terms of price, ease of use, and flavor outcome.
- Kettle Grills: This is the most common type of live-fire meat smoker. Though it’s not specifically designed for slow cooking, you can create indirect heat by putting charcoal and wood chips on one side of the grill. This keeps the temperature low enough to slowly cook your meat to perfection.
- Stick Burners: This is a sophisticated meat smoker that uses only wood as a fuel source. It requires a lot of attention, is expensive, and is typically custom-made. Though these are expert-level meat smokers, the results are incredible. Most expert smokers graduate to using a stick burner exclusively.
- Charcoal Smokers: This category of meat smokers includes bullet smokers, kamado ovens, and drum smokers. They need less attention than stick burners due to the way charcoal burns slowly and steadily. Wood can be added for more flavor but charcoal produces most of the smoke.
- Pellet Smokers: This convenient smoker is controlled by a thermostat. When you plug it in, the pellet smoker automatically feeds pellets of compressed sawdust to create smoke and heat to create a smoked flavor. Though it’s easy to use, it doesn’t have a live-fire that can make them taste less authentic than coal or wood.
- Gas Smokers: This is another easy-to-use meat smoker that keeps meat cooking at a low temperature — but with gas heat and no actual smoke. However, users can add wood for more flavor.
- Electric Smokers: This plug-and-cook smoker is easy to use, but it doesn’t give that full smoked flavor like live-fire cooking methods. However, users can approach an authentic taste by using wood chips and water to infuse a smoked flavor.
Whether you need a portable ceramic oven for a camping trip or a deluxe wood-burning smoker for an epic outdoor BBQ party, the vast selection of meat smokers makes it easy to find the right fit for your skill level and needs.
How to Use a Meat Smoker
Each meat smoker has its unique operation instructions and safety considerations. For instance, gas and electric smokers simply need to be connected to their power source, set to a temperature, then be given some support with wood chips to give a traditional smoked flavor. Meanwhile, charcoal or wood-burning smokers will require more prep and attention when it comes to igniting and maintaining a steady flame.
No matter the type of smoker you select, you’ll always need safety gear and grilling tools. It’s also crucial to stick to the instruction manual’s safety instructions. Never leave a smoker unattended. Before you begin your meat smoking venture, get the protective aprons, eyewear, mittens, and grilling tongs and other utensils you’ll need to make the cooking process safe and easy.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Meat?
On average, it takes about six to eight hours to smoke meat, but some big items like whole hogs or large briskets can take up to 22 hours. However, the time required can fluctuate between one hour to 24 hours depending on the size and cut of the meat. For the most accurate assessment of how much time you’ll need, use this meat smoking calculator. Select “slow and low” and some advanced cooking specifications and you’ll get a designated resting time and recommended smoking time per pound of meat.
Health Benefits of Smoked Meat
Though doctors recommend that all meat be consumed in moderation, smoked meats are proven to be healthier than grilled meats.
Since the animal fat isn’t in contact with high heat, some carcinogenic risks associated with high heat grilled meats are avoided. Namely, grilling meat creates two compounds, HCA (heterocyclic amines) and PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which are associated with cancer.
Smoked meats don’t develop these compounds due to their low-temperature cooking method.
A Grill Gazebo for Your Smoker
With a grill gazebo, you can keep your smoker safe from the elements so that you can thrill your family and guests for years with delicious smoked treats. A grill gazebo features a galvanized steel roof that will keep the rain and harmful UV rays away from you, your smoker, and your food.
Where to Put a Meat Smoker and Grill Gazebo?
Grill gazebos are typically small, around six by eight feet in size. They can be placed on a deck or patio when they are a safe distance from the home. Since an active fire or heat is happening inside the smoker, it should be at least 10 feet away from any building. Placing it close can increase the risks of fire or damaging your home’s siding. The grill gazebo should also be placed this same distance away on an uncovered patio or somewhere in your yard.
Cooking Under a Shelter
When you cook for your family and guests, sometimes you can get exposed to rain or the blazing sun. But when your meat smoker is under a hardtop grill gazebo, you can simply place your grill under the galvanized steel roof and enjoy the shade. The side tables of a grill gazebo are thoughtful additions where you can place cooking tools and food that is ready to serve. If you have some extra side table space, it can also function as a simple bar to enjoy the meat smoking session with friends.
Grill gazebos will keep your meat smoker safe when it’s also not in use. There’s no need to keep it in a garage when you can simply cover your smoker and let the gazebo shield it from the wind, sun, and rain. This protects your meat smother from premature rusting and fading from intense UV rays and moisture. Not only is it functional, but it enhances the beauty of your outdoor living space. By serving multiple purposes of protection, entertaining, and curb appeal, your grill gazebo is a valuable investment along with your meat smoker.
Get the Party Started: Invite Family and Friends for a Feast
Are you the one who wants to hog all the smoked meat for yourself, or are you looking to get the party started? When you have a smoker, you have the perfect excuse to have family, friends, and neighbors over for a cookout or a pig roast.
However, the meal isn’t complete without a place for everyone to sit down and eat. Camp chairs, camping tables, pop-up canopies, and canopy tents will protect your guests from the elements when you invite them over for a pig roast or a cookout.
Outdoor Tables and Chairs
Camping tables and chairs aren’t just for the campground, but they can be vital additions to your outdoor BBQ party. Since they are easy to open and store for quick setup and take down, they are especially convenient for a busy host. Camping tables and chairs are made to last in rugged conditions, with many chair styles and options to meet every budget. Camping tables are also easy to unfold and set up while not taking up permanent space — perfect for large gatherings that don’t happen too often.
Pop Up Canopies
When you need to beat the heat or stake out a passing storm, pop-up canopies keep the party going. Designed to be set up in just minutes, you can provide instant shelter from the rain or hot sun so that your guests don’t have to eat in uncomfortable conditions. These are light enough to be taken anywhere and can be simply set up and taken down by one or two people.
Canopy tents are invaluable for keeping guests or belongings in the shade and away from harsh, damaging sunlight. They can keep guests safe from harmful UV rays at your backyard pig roast, giving guests hours of shade with just minutes of set up time.
Upsizing the Smoker? Get a Carport
When it comes to a meat smoker, you may want to go big or go home. After you've mastered the Art of Smoking, you may want to upsize to a commercial-size barbeque smoker. While these large models can give you the room to smoke multiple meats at once, they also take up a considerable amount of space.
Whether you plan to take a commercial smoker on the road or keep it parked in your backyard, a steel carport is an excellent storage solution. A carport has a roof but no walls, so the roof will protect the smoker (and the chef) from the elements and provide plenty of natural ventilation. Plus, you'll have some wiggle room to work without getting sunburn.