how does a BBQ smoker work

Everyone enjoys a smoked, juicy, and tender steak that has been prepared with adequate precision. For this reason, smokers have become a staple in many households. And with new smokers getting introduced in the market, it is quite easy to find the perfect smoker for preparing a tasty steak.

If you plan to use a BBQ smoker for cooking juicy, perfectly smoked barbecued meats, you should know how it works. In this guide, we will answer the question “how does a BBQ smoker work?” and take you through the different types of smokers.

Let’s get right into it, shall we?

Smoking vs Barbecuing: What’s the Difference?

juicy and moist barbecued meat Let’s take a look at the difference between the barbecuing and smoking process. While those two terms might sound similar, they are quite different.

Just as the name hints, smoking is the process of cooking meat inside a chamber using heat and smoke. It relies on the heat and smoke produced by a smoking appliance to cook meat as a general rule. On the other hand, barbecuing uses indirect heat or direct heat from an open flame or hot coals to cook meat.

Barbecuing is done over a short period of time at moderate to higher temperatures, while smoking involves cooking meat slowly on low heat—low and slow. In short, smoking is a slow cooking method. The main aim of cooking meat slowly at lower temperatures is to add some flavour to a piece of meat and make it tastier.

You can also add some flavour to the meat by using wood chips or chunks if you like. Choose your wood chunks or chips well because it will also give your smoked meat a much different flavour.

What Is a BBQ Smoker?

appliance used for grilling and smoking meats A BBQ smoker is an appliance that smokes meat at relatively low temperatures. It creates a smoky environment, making it easier for you to give your steaks a smoky flavour.

Most barbecue smokers come with various compartments that let you cook meat easily. Not to mention, there are various types of barbecue smokers that you can use to cook meat—charcoal smokers, drum smokers, gas smokers, water smokers, and kamado smokers. Such smokers are categorised based on the fuel source and how they function. Charcoal smokers are the most popular due to the cheap fuel source.

Different Types of Smokers and How They Work

Since there are various barbecue smokers in the market, we will show you how each barbecue smoker work. The heat source of one smoker might differ from the heat source of another appliance.

Offset Smoker

Also known as an offset, this barbecue smoker comes with two different chambers that allow you to cook at high temperatures and low heat. It has a cooking chamber with a smokestack and a firebox that features a liftable door and a vent. Just as the name hints, this barbecue smoker has a fireplace that has been ‘offset’ from the main chamber. In offset smokers, the fire chamber is positioned next to the cooking chamber. It is on the side of the grill.

Once the fire chamber has been lit, smoke and heat travel to the other chamber, making it easier for you to cook the meat at your desired temperature. Some offset smokers also come with a grill plate that can be placed over the fireplace for barbecuing meat simultaneously, therefore having a 2-in-1 function.

Propane Smoker

A propane smoker uses liquefied petroleum gas as a source of heat. It comes with various chambers that help you smoke your steak.

So how does this type of smoker work? Most propane barbecue smokers have a box shape. Such smokers have a burner at the bottommost part and a chimney for air ventilation at the top compartment, making it easier for you to cook meat. Since propane gas burns with a clean flame that doesn’t produce any smoke, most propane smokers come with smoking chips. You will need the chips to produce smoke around the meat.

This smoker also features a nifty temperature dial that makes it easier for you to adjust the temperature inside the chambers. Not to mention, it saves you time. Unlike a charcoal smoker, you can easily ignite a propane smoker within 2-3 minutes and get started with the cooking process almost immediately.

Pellet Smoker

A pellet smoker is a smoker that can also be used as an oven. Think of it as all-in-one cooking equipment with a grill, an oven, and a smoker. Interesting, right?

A pellet smoker produces smoke through the combustion of sawdust or wood pellets.  It features a storage hopper, which stores the wood pellets used during the combustion process. Such pellets are fed into the cooking compartment with an electric auger motor. Once the pellets are in the compartment, they are ignited, and smoke is produced.

Some pellet smokers also come with a temperature control mechanism that lets you control the cooking compartment’s temperature. The good thing about pellet smokers is that pellets can burn down completely, making it easier for you to clean them after smoking meats.

While this heavy-duty smoker uses sawdust, you have to connect it to a socket to ignite it. Not to mention, the auger is powered by electricity which could limit you depending on the placement of your smoker or the layout of your garden.

Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are some of the most versatile smokers in the market. What’s more, they are effortless to clean.

To use an electric smoker, you only need to set the right temperature for cooking steak and then wait for the steak to be cooked.

An electric smoker comes with a heating element, which produces heat and flames. Since electrically-powered heating components do not produce smoke, electric smokers come with a chamber for suspending wood chips. Such wood chips are heated to produce smoke and give your steak that smoky flavour. In most electric smokers, the heating component is found in the bottommost part, followed by the wood chip chamber, then a water pan.

A water pan produces vapour that improves the smoky flavour of your steak/meat as you are smoking it. In addition to this, the water pan reduces the intensity of the heat that is produced. It creates an optimum environment for smoking meat at relatively lower temperatures.

Kamado Grill

A Kamado grill is an egg-shaped BBQ smoker that helps you cook meat. Most know it as a big green egg-shaped smoker. Not to mention, it has been here from way back; it dates back to 3000 years ago.

A Kamado grill is made of clay and ceramic walls. Such walls can easily retain heat for a long period of time. Furthermore, it comes with various chambers that speed up the cooking process. For instance, the bottommost part of a kamado grill has a combustion chamber. The upper part has a grill grate that holds your food as it is being cooked. It also comes with various vents that help you regulate the temperature in the internal cooking compartment.

To use this equipment, you have to put wood chips in the combustion chamber, then ignite the chips. Such chips will produce smoke and add the desired smoky flavour to your meat.

Box Smoker

As the name hints, this is a smoker that has a box shape. It features a large compartment that makes it easier for you to smoke meat. In a box smoker, the heat source is located on the appliance’s bottom, while the chamber for cooking is located at its top. Since the source is directly below the cooking compartment, a box smoker is energy efficient.

For a box smoker to work efficiently, it has to be insulated on every side. If it’s not insulated, it might lose a lot of heat energy in undesirable conditions. Thus, it should be well-insulated to stay efficient even if exposed to rain or a cold breeze.

The Perfect Barbecue

Barbecue smokers are available in different sizes and designs. Not to mention, they require different fuel sources. While all smokers are designed to help you smoke meat, some are more efficient and effective than other types.

Some smokers come with a compartment that allows you to add wood chips and pellets, making it easier for you to achieve a smoky effect that adds additional flavour to your steak. Thus, when choosing a BBQ smoker, knowing the answer to ‘how does a BBQ smoker work?’ will help make sure you’re making the best decision for yourself.

It is also important to consider the important features as well as the pros and cons. This way, you can determine which one suits your cooking needs and your preferences when it comes to meat smoking.

For instance, charcoal smokers are quite good at infusing a smoky and tasty flavour. On the other hand, propane smokers are quite cost-effective. Since propane gas is quite affordable, you can use a propane smoker if you want to save some money.

What types of smokers or grills suit your needs? Let us know in the comments.

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