How To Choose The Perfect Barbecue Smoker Or Pit

While choosing your barbecue smoker is a big decision, it really doesn’t need to be a stressful one.

Here’s the thing, your choice of barbecue smoker depends greatly on how you plan on using it.

Are you only cooking in your back yard from time to time for family and friends? If so, you’ll just want a BBQ Pitt that is easy to use and doesn’t take up a ton of room. There is no sense in purchasing a huge smoker if you’re just firing up a pork butt or a rack of pork ribs on the weekend.

Will you be using it for competitions? You’ll want to make sure your smoker has enough cooking space to fit all 4 categories– chicken, brisket, pork shoulder and ribs.

Are you thinking of opening a barbecue catering business? You’ll for sure want a Pitt that can handle the volume of food needed to feed a big crowd of hungry folks all lining up with a plate in their hands.

Below is an article I found that explains the basics of most types of barbecue cookers. This article will be a good place to start but as you and I move forward in the days to come I will be elaborating a little more on different types of smokers.

Oh yeah, which reminds me–if you use a particular brand of smoker and would like to write a product review for BBQ, please shoot me an email at [email protected]

So without any further ado, lets discover how to pick a barbecue smoker that best fits your needs…

As the author of a BBQ book, I get asked all the time… what’s the best BBQ smoker to buy? My answer usually leads them in the right direction and gives them a few places to start looking.

I usually tell people about one of the following BBQ smokers…

Big Green Egg – this is an insulated vertical smoker. They start around $600 to $700 for the large model.

Traeger Pellet Smokers – This is a nice BBQ smoker that burns wood pellets. The Lil’ TeX starts around $695. The digital controls and oversize hopper are a little extra though.

Char-Broil Silver Smoker – This is a more affordable, smaller offset type smoker but it is well constructed and produces some great Q. They are $159 down at Home Depot.

Stumps Smoker – this is also an insulated vertical smoker with a gravity fed charcoal system. They start around $1600.

Lang Smoker – This is a traditional offset type smoker. It is made of good thick metal but it is not insulated. This offset BBQ smoker is unique in that it has a metal plate that runs the full length of the smoker just below the meat grate. The smoke travels all the way to the other end of the smoker, over the meat, and out the smoke stack on the same side as the firebox. The Lang Model 60 starts at $2195.

Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack – This is a very nice pellet BBQ smoker with a vertical style. Used by many of the top BBQ competition teams. It is around $3295.

Southern Yankee – these are rotisserie BBQ smokers and they have many models to choose from. They range from small pull behind rotisseries to large concession trailers. They start at $3750 and go up from there.

And… their final decision usually has to do with the following factors…

Price – the amount of money you have to spend on a BBQ smoker has a lot to do with your decision. I think the most bang for your buck is the Traeger Lil’ Tex BBQ smoker – especially for the back yard BBQer. Although, many BBQ teams use these too. Whatever you do, don’t go down to WalMart or Home Depot and buy one of those small offset smokers for $300 or less. They are made out of very thin metal and the fireboxes do not ventilate well. You’ll have trouble producing good BBQ on those things.

Work needed – A traditional offset BBQ smoker requires a lot of work tending the fire. Some people prefer a traditional offset smoker over something that burns charcoal, pellets, or propane. But let me warn you… you’ll be chopping a lot of wood to feed that hungry beast. You’ll need to check your fire in most offset smokers every 15-30 minutes. The Southern Yankee are wood or charcoal burning too. That can get very tiresome on a long overnight smoke. The Big Green Egg and Stumps Smokers will run a very long time on just one bag of charcoal. Of course, the Traeger and Fast Eddy’s burn pellets that are fed automatically.

Insulated – The insulated BBQ smoker allows for long burns so you can get a little shut eye on those long overnight brisket smokes. The Big Green Egg and Stumps are insulated and burn charcoal.

Size – Look at how many square inches of cooking space you get for your money. Traeger Lil’ Tex’s are nice BBQ smokers, but you’ll need two or three of them if you intend to compete with them. Of course Traeger has many larger models to choose from including some commercial BBQ smokers.

Wood, pellets, or charcoal – What kind of smoke flavor do you like? Do you like charcoal or real wood? Or maybe a combination of both… usually, if you use charcoal for heat and throw some wood chunks on top for flavor, you’ll get a good result. Lump charcoal and Duraflame’s hardwood briquettes are other options that produce a cleaner and hotter burn. Of course, wood pellets are real wood and the results are similar to using real wood logs.

Type – You got your vertical smokers, vertical insulated smokers, traditional offset smokers (with the smoke stack opposite from the firebox), Lang offset smokers, pellet smokers, rotisserie smokers, gas smokers, and all kinds of combinations of all of these. What BBQ smoker is best suited to your needs or wants?

Once you decide on what BBQ smoker to get, you’ll need to learn how to use it right. A good place to start is to get a copy of “Competition BBQ Secrets” and learn how the pro’s do it on the competition BBQ circuit.