What is a Meat Smoker?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
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  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Meat smokers are devices that are utilized to cook raw meat while permeating the meat with a flavor produced from the smoke generated as part of the process. In times past, a meat smoker was often structured as a small building where fires would generate heat and smoke to cure meat hanging from hooks placed strategically throughout the space. During the 20th century, smaller meat smokers were created and sold to many homeowners who wanted to cook and smoke meat for social events around the home. Today, it is possible to purchase a small electric smoker or a gas smoker along with the traditional wood fueled meat smoker.

It is important to draw a distinction between a barbecue grill and a meat smoker. While BBQ grills may use charcoal, gas, or electricity to grill the meat, these types of grills do not produce a great deal of smoke. A true meat smoker will not only generate heat to cook the meat, but also generate smoke that envelopes the meat and allows the flavor of burning wood to soak into the meat during the cooking process. Fortunately, there are attachments that can be added to a standard barbecue grill that will allow the device to be used as a meat smoker. The attachments can be removed easily after smoking the meat and stored for use at a later date.


Both the electric meat smoker and the gas meat smoker utilize a medium other than wood to ignite the fire and produce the heat needed to cook the meat. However, they often also include a shelf where aromatic wood can be placed to help create enough smoke to flavor the meat. These handy outdoor meat smoker options resemble a covered grill in many ways, tend to be easy to clean, and can be stored with relative ease.

The actual process of smoking the meat is simple. The meat is placed on a rack in the smoker, while the wood is put into position as well. Once the flames are lit and the meat smoker is producing an adequate amount of heat and smoke, the unit is closed. This allows the heat to begin cooking the meat and the smoke to begin seasoning the exterior of the meat. As the cooking process continues, the seasoning deposited on the outside of the meat begins to absorb into the meat. This creates a smoky flavor throughout the cuts of meat that provides the distinctive taste.

Tips and plans on how to make a homemade meat smoker are found in many do-it-yourself resources. They sometimes call for adapting a grill or making use of metal drums to create a body for a wood burning meat smoker. However, there are a number of commercially manufactured smokers on the market today that can be purchased for a modest sum, making it just as cost effective to buy a meat smoker as it is to build one from scratch.


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Post 3

@Logicfest -- I actually prefer the electric meat smokers because they take even less work than gas ones. Simply dial in your temperature and let it go to work. With a gas one, you generally have to adjust your heat until you hit a certain temperature and leave it there.

That is fine, but you also have to check your gas level regularly because there is nothing worse than running out of gas while in the middle of cooking something and finding that out hours later. Yuck.

Post 2

@Soulfox -- I don't know. I like gas and electric meat smokers. You can regulate the heat very well with both of those -- certainly better than you can with either wood or charcoal meat smokers. It takes hours to smoke meat correctly and I've got better things to do than check wood or charcoal constantly to make sure it is still lit and generating enough heat.

If the choice is between gas and electric smokers, I would go with a gas one. Those seem to be more reliable than electric ones as they are far simpler. You can still control your temperature well with them, too.

Oh, and as for that "real smoke" flavor you get that in a

gas or electric smoker by using real wood chips. They taste just fine and you can actually get a bit of variety in what you use to smoke because a bag of wood chips is cheaper than a rick of wood so go ahead and pick up some hickory, mesquite, apple or whatever else you want to use for smoking.
Post 1

If you are going to buy a meat smoker, do the right thing and get one that uses real wood. If you go to barbecue competitions and whatnot, will you find a bunch of people who just love the gas or electric meat smoker?

No, you will not. The pros know to use real wood meat smokers because they are authentic and impart a better flavor into the meat. If you don't want to go with a real wood smoker, at least go with charcoal. You can get close to the authentic taste of a wood smoker with one of those.

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