Almost all barbecue enthusiasts will tell you that the easiest way to get an authentic BBQ flavor at home is to use a gas smoker. Cooking with a gas smoker is one of the healthiest ways to produce juicy, tender and flavorful cuts of meat; nothing tastes as good as brisket, ribs or turkey that has been smoked in a gas smoker for a couple of hours.
Cooking with a gas smoker produces a luscious aroma, and the aroma leads to an anticipation that no other cooking method can match. People love gas smokers because they are foolproof; if you burn your meat in a smoker, then you’ve managed to do something really wrong. It’s because of this reason that both novices and experts choose gas smokers for their home cooking needs.
Gas smokers give you an authentic barbecue flavor, and you never taste the heating source when you cook meat with one; you use wood chips in the gas smoker’s water pan to give your meat a unique and complex flavor. It’s easy to change the flavor of your meat by changing the type of wood chips in the pan, and you always end up with a natural smoke flavoring.
Gas smokers are perfect for people who don’t want to tend to their smoker for the whole time that their meat is being cooked; you don’t have to fiddle with coals and embers to make sure that your smoker’s chamber is maintaining the correct temperature. They are almost as easy to use as electric smokers. When you have no heating variables, it becomes easier to cook up a perfect piece of meat.
Use a gas smoker and wood chips to take your favorite barbecue recipes to the next level. The best gas smoker gives you the best of both worlds; you get an authentic barbecue flavor from the wood, and you can easily maintain the smoker’s temperature for soft, juicy and tender meat.
10 Best Gas Smokers
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What Factors Should You Consider When Buying A Gas Smoker?
If you want to cook amazing cuts of meat, you have to get away from the grilling mindset. A specialized gas smoker is perfect for home chefs who crave full flavor and texture in their home cooking. Before you rush out and buy the first smoker that you see, make sure to take the following into consideration:
Capacity – It’s important to find a gas smoker that will give you an adequate amount of cooking space. If you only cook for yourself, you can probably get by with a small portable unit. If you plan on cooking for others, then you want to find a unit that’s big enough to hold all of your food. Generally speaking, if you can afford it, you’re better off buying a bigger unit than you think you’ll need; it’s better to have extra space instead of trying to cram everything into a small chamber.
Dependability – When you buy a new smoker, make sure that it comes from a dependable manufacturer. There are tons of smokers today, and it’s up to you to choose one that will produce quality smoked foods. If you look for a sturdy unit with good insulation, your unit should be able to maintain the proper temperature inside of the cooking chamber. Flimsy units will smoke your meat, but temperature variations will make it harder to cook your foods perfectly.
Price – Mid-ranged smokers are usually the best for most home chefs. When you buy a unit, you don’t want to buy the cheapest model that you can find; if you do this, the unit probably won’t produce the amount of smoke needed to cook your food. Fortunately, mid-ranged units start at around the 150 dollar mark, so you can get a quality product without breaking the bank.
Materials – The materials that your smoker is built out of can drastically change the quality of the unit. Look for heavier units that use thick steel and insulation. If the metal that your smoker is made out of is thin, it will warp and lose heat when cooking; this is especially important if you plan on using your smoker when it’s cold outside.
Easy Cleaning – When you smoke meat, juices, fat and seasonings tend to splatter everywhere inside of your unit. If you buy a unit that has a removable rack, drip pan and water pan, then cleaning it becomes much easier. Before you buy a unit, study it to make sure that you’ll be able to clean it quickly and effectively.
How To Get The Best Out Of A Gas Smoker
So you’ve made the big decision and decided to go with the convenience of a gas smoker, then what? You know it is going to give you great quality barbecue, and you’ll have your friends and neighbors clamoring to join you in the backyard when they get a whiff of that smoke. If you want this to go on for many years and happy cooks there are a few helpful tips you need to consider to prolong the life of your investment.
Get a grill cover – If you are intending to keep your smoker outdoors all year round, then get a cover to keep it dry during the winter. Many gas smokers are made of lightweight metal, so are likely to rust if left out in the rain for any extended period. This also does not help with the hygiene of the appliance or its ability to keep the smoke inside.
Upgrade the thermometer – The thermometers supplied with smokers and grills are notoriously inaccurate. It is best to replace the supplied thermometer with one specifically designed for grilling and smoking. A meat probe thermometer is also a good purchase to check on the internal temperature of any meat you are smoking to make sure it has reached a safe level.
Get a rib rack – When it comes to messy and stick meats like ribs, it’s often better to buy a dedicated rack for cooking. A cheap rib rack can save a lot of time and effort cleaning the expensive porcelain or chromed racks that come with your smoker. Once the rib rack can no longer be cleaned completely, its time to get a new one.
Keep the heat low – Although the manufacturers of smokers often say their appliances can reach extremely high temperatures, its nothing to boast about when you are looking for low ‘n’ slow cooking. Keeping the temperature down inside the smoker, will save on fuel, and add to the flavor that comes with a longer cook.
Use a bigger water tray – Often the hardest thing to get right during a smoke is the moisture level inside the smoker. The water trays are invariably not big enough for a complete smoke and need to be replenished, sometimes more than once. If you can fit a larger water container in your smoker do it. It will save you time and the agony or ending up with dried out barbecue.
Don’t forget to clean – After every cook always clean your appliance thoroughly. This will extend the life of your smoker, and make it easier to repeat those great barbecues. Clean out the water and grease pan, making sure the wood chip tray is empty of ashes. Wipe off the grill racks, and if your smoker has a viewing window, disinfect so that it does not retain the juices from a previous cook which may taint the next one.
Using Your Smoker For The First Time
That brand new smoker is sitting in the backyard or on the patio, and you just want to get cooking. Hold on for one moment, before you do anything, read the manufacturer’s instructions. That booklet wasn’t just put in with the packaging to make up weight. There are usually lots of great tips and hints that are short cuts to you becoming a smoke master.
Before you put any meat in the smoker, best to light it up, and season it to get rid of any of the oils and residues left over from the manufacturing process. I know this will take some time, and all you want to do is get a rack of ribs or a pork butt in that smoker and cooking, but it will be worth the wait, believe you me.
After you’ve seasoned your smoker, it’s time to fire it up in anger. Let’s start with the water tray, and its a good idea to line it with foil, as it will help with the cleaning later. See if you can find a disposable metal tray that would fit inside and make the container slightly bigger to hold more liquid, this will reduce the number of times you have to replenish during a smoke. Now fill it with water, or beer, or cider. Cider is perfect for pork by the way.
It’s now time to connect your propane tank to the smoker and open the valve. Even if you are using a piezoelectric starter have the door to the smoker open before you light it. Following the manufacturer’s instructions (see you did need to read the manual), turn on the burner. If it doesn’t start the first time, switch off the valve and let any gas that might be in the cook chamber escape before attempting again.
Once the burner is lit, and the flame is established, set the temperature to around 230F/110C which is perfect for a low, slow smoke. You might have to check the owners manual again if the control is calibrated as low, medium, and high to see which corresponds to the correct temperature.
Leave the smoker to get up to heat, which will take about 10-15 minutes, and don’t forget to use the dampers on the top and sides to regulate the heat. It’s then time to put the wood chips or chunks in the tray at the bottom of the smoker. You can tell when things are ready inside when the smoke begins to billow from the vent and dampers.
Now it’s time to arrange the meat inside the smoker and begin the long slow cooking process. This is going to take several hours, and you should regularly check to see if the wood or water needs to be replenished and that the flame is still alight.
Use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat to make sure it is properly smoked. Once it is to your satisfaction, remove the meat from the smoker to let it rest. Turn off the gas supply at the valve. Allow the smoker to cool down completely before attempting to clean it.
Sit down with your family and friends and enjoy your first smoked meat.
The Good And Bad Of A Vertical Gas Smoker?
1. Propane powered vertical smokers are not very expensive, many costing less than $250, but if you can afford more, you are more likely to get a bigger smoking capacity and a sturdier construction.
2. Unlike electric smokers, these appliances do not have to be linked to mains electricity so in theory, the are portable. They could use on a camping trip or at a tailgate party, but don’t forget you will also have to carry the large propane gas tank too.
3. If you are short of space, the vertical smoker is ideal for a small backyard or patio.
4. Using propane means the burn is clean and efficient, and you are unlikely to get any soot deposits on the food.
5. Maintaining an even smoking temperature is usually easier with a gas smoker than with one using wood or charcoal.
6. Lighting a modern gas smoker is usually nothing more than a push of a button.
1. Some favorite brands are made with thin-gauge metal, which means they can leak smoke and do not perform well in cold and windy conditions as they do not have adequate insulation. Online forums and reviews will give you an idea of what drawbacks to expect.
2. Watch out for cheaper models that are not wide enough to accommodate a rack of ribs inside. If that is the case, the meat will have to be trimmed or chopped in half to get it into the smoker.
3. If you are into long cooks, make sure you always start with a fresh propane tank and have a spare ready should you run out. The last thing you want is to run out of gas halfway through a long smoke.
Gas vs. Electric?
Looking at these gas smokers, you probably realize they are very simple devices. Small meat lockers that can be heated so the pork, beef, chicken or turkey inside can be slowly cooked to perfection. Most manufacturers offer both gas and electric versions of the same product.
This is the gas version of a similar smoker powered by electricity. A gas smoker has the advantage of heating up quicker than electric, as any professional chef will tell you. However, after that, there is no distinct advantage in maintaining the temperature over an extended period. Gas smokers are more portable as you don’t need a mains electricity supply.
What Wood Chips Go With my Meat?
ALDER: Has a mild, delicate flavor that goes well with fish such as salmon, and swordfish, and also can be used with lighter meats such as pork and poultry
APPLE: Another mild flavor but slightly sweet that is dense and fruity, which goes perfectly with pork, particularly ham, game, poultry, and beef.
CHERRY: Is slightly sweet with a mild fruity flavor, and works well with lighter meats such as pork, game, and poultry.
PEACH/PEAR: Again a somewhat sweet flavor, this time with a woodsy overtone that works well with those lighter meats of pork, game, and poultry.
HICKORY: Has a pungent, almost bacon-life flavor, that adds a great smokiness to meat. The more moderate flavor is better for meat that can take a stronger flavor such as beef, and can also be used with pork, wild game, poultry, and cheese.
MAPLE: A more moderately intense sweet, smoky flavor that goes well when you want a more intense smoke on the lighter meats such as poultry, and works well with ham and vegetables.
OAK: An assertive, sometimes acidic flavor, that mixes well with other woods. It works well with beef brisket and other meats where you want an intense smoked flavor.
Instructions for Use
Having made your choice, and decided a gas smoker is best for you, here is a simple guide on how to get up and running quickly so you can begin preparing delicious smoked meat for you and your family.
Most gas smokers, require some degree of home assembly, so follow the instructions and complete the construction of your gas smoker. Typical gas smokers look like a cabinet with a door on the front and a chimney on the top.
The burner is at the bottom of the cabinet, immediately below a tray for wood chips to flavor the meat. Above that is a water bath to keep the atmosphere in the smoker a little humid, so the meat does not dry out. And finally, at the top of the smoker, where it’s going to be the hottest, you place the meat.
Remember, smoking meat takes time, it is not like grilling. Smoking and barbecuing meat is a low heat and slowly over a long period of time.
Before you start smoking meat, it’s best got get some simple utensils, such as a pair of tongs to handle the meat, and a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat when cooking.
I know you want to get cooking straight away, but hold on a second. Before you use your gas smoker or any smoker for that matter, for the first time it has to be seasoned. That means putting in some wood chips and getting the smoker up to temperature for a short while.
It’s best to get the heat in the smoker up to 400F (204C), and then turn it down to 225F (107C) for some hours. This will allow any contaminants from the construction process to be burned off, and allow a layer of smoke to glaze the inside of the smoker.
With that done its time to prepare the meat for your first smoke. One popular cut is pork shoulder, which is sometimes referred to as a Boston Butt. The de-boned shoulder should be trimmed of excess fat, but still, have some fat to add flavor and moistness to the meat.
Then it should be given a liberal rub with a mixture of salt, herbs, and spices. These rubs can be bought ready-made at the supermarket, there are also lots of recipes online, or if you prefer you can create your own. The meat should then be wrapped in plastic film, and stored in the refrigerator at least overnight, or better still, for 24 hours.
When you are almost ready to start cooking, remove the meat from the fridge, and leave it to stand for about 30 minutes, so it gets to room temperature. At the same time soak the wood chips you are using in water. They will need about 30 minutes too until they are ready to go into the smoker.
The water dampens the chips, which helps stop them burning, and allows them to smolder releasing the natural wood flavor. It is always best to use wood that is specially packaged for smokers. Using any old wood from around the home can be dangerous as they contain chemicals which may be toxic.
Now its time to get the smoker ready to cook. Check the connection between the gas bottle and the supply pipe to make sure it is clear, and that the burner is clear and not blocked with any debris. Remove the water bath from the smoker, and line it with aluminum foil.
Then fill it with water and replace it. The water will increase the humidity inside the smoker and keep the meat moist and tender during cooking. The fill the smoke box with the soaked wood chips.
Now its time to partially open the air vents on the sides of your gas smoker, and on the chimney at the top of the cabinet. With the burner off, and the door open, turn on the propane tank.
Hold down the igniter button for a couple of seconds and then turn on the burner, which should then light. If it doesn’t light, turn the supply off, and check the instruction manual before attempting to light the smoker again.
Turn the burner to high, and close the door. The temperature inside the smoker will rise, and once the wood chips start giving off smoke, its time to add the food. Open the door, and put the meat on the bottom rack, fat side down. The cooking process will take some time. A rule of thumb is at least one hour per pound (0.5kg). By using the air vents on the sides and in the chimney, the temperature should be kept between 225F-250F (105C-120C).
Now its time to sit back and wait for the gas smoker to work its magic. Once in a while check the temperature, and try not to open the door, as this will allow the precious smoke and heat to escape.
After about two hours flip the meat over to give an even cook. If you notice the wood chips are no longer smoking, then they have probably burned up, so open the door, and refill the smoke box. It’s also an opportunity to spritz the meat with a mixture of water and vinegar or apple juice. It adds a little more moisture and can improve the flavor of your cooking.
Adding extra water to the water bath at the same time saves on opening and closing the door too many times.
About two hours before the end of your cooking time, remove the meat from smoker and put it in a pan. Spritz with that mixture of water and vinegar, and then cover with aluminum foil. Pop the whole thing back in the smoker for the final two hours of cooking.
Once the cooking time is over, remove the meat from the smoker, and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes. Having rested, its time to carve that delicious meat. You will know the smoking has come out right if there is a pink ring around the edge of the meat.
That’s where the smoke as penetrated the meat adding the sumptuous flavor you’ve been looking for. All that’s left to do now is to eat and enjoy your own barbecue smoked meat from your own gas smoker.
How To Use a Gas Smoker Video Demo
Here is a video with some handy tips you should know before you purchase a new gas smoker which compliment these gas smoker reviews.
How long does it take to smoke meat in a gas smoker?
It all depends on the weight of the piece of meat you are intending to cook. A rule of thumb is between an hour and an hour and a half per pound (0.5kg). Most people find that this works right for larger cuts such as pork shoulder or beef brisket.
How do I regulate the heat in a gas smoker?
There are three ways of regulating the heat in a gas smoker. On is using the air vents on the side and the top to regulate the airflow through the smoker. Another is to regulate the amount of gas to the burners and therefore the amount of thermal energy provided to heat the gas smoker.
The final method of regulating the heat inside the gas smoker is the water bath. Wide fluctuations in temperature inside the gas smoker can tighten and dry out the food you cooking. A pan of water inside the smoker stabilizes the heat and adds some humidity.
How much wood should I add to the smoker?
Putting too much wood into a gas smoker can overpower the meat, and leave it with a bitter taste. It is best to start with a little more than a handful of wood chips, and then add when needed during the smoking process. In most cases the smoking process takes place in the first half of the cooking.
Better to have a steady stream of smoke coming off your wood chips, than billowing smoke like from a steam engine.
How big should my smoke ring be?
The bigger the smoke ring the more smoky flavor you impart to the food you are preparing. However too much smokiness can be overpowering. You need to get it just right, and it is always better to less than too much smokiness in your cooking.
The pink smoke ring should be noticeable. It shows that the raw meat has been penetrated by the smoke, and the cooking has been done without a lot of oxygen which has been replaced by the gases from the smoking wood chips.
As the surface cooks, it becomes harder for the smoke to penetrate the food, and create the ring, and give the meat the smoky flavor. A smoke has been very successful if you can achieve a visible 1/4inch (60mm) smoke ring.
What color smoke should I see from my gas smoker?
It’s a bit like choosing a new Pope, black smoke is bad, and white smoke is good. The ideal smoke for a successful result is whispy white smoke that comes from the wood chips in a constant stream.
If the smoke turns black, it means the heat is probably too high, and you are burning either the meat itself or fat coming off the meat. To stop the burning, its best to heat the food so it is cooked indirectly, which is generally how you would use as gas smoker.
How often should I check the food in a gas smoker?
There is an old saying in the barbecue and smoking fraternity, ‘if you’re lookin’, it’s not cookin’.’ So its best not to keep opening the door of your gas smoker to check on how the food is getting along.
Every time the door opens, you like out a lot of the precious smoke, and the internal temperature of the smoker cabinet falls. For a long cook, of say six to eight hours, its best to check the temperature of the smoker every thirty minutes or so, and turn the food after the first two hours.
Every hour or so best to check how the wood chips are getting along and if then need to be replenished along with the water in the water bath. Two hours before the end of the cook is usually the time to wrap the meat in aluminum foil to give the final cook. Remember to act quickly and try and do all the jobs you have to do at the same time.
How do you know if your meat is not burned?
When smoking, the outside of the meat should have a dark mahogany colored crust, which is known as the ‘bark’. The bark comes from the mixture of spices and the fats cooking in the smoke, and caramelizing to give a crisp crust to the meat. The bark should look dark brown, and not black, before the final stage of wrapping the meat in tinfoil.
When do I know the meat I am smoking is done?
One of the essential tools for ensuring your meat is properly cooked is a probe thermometer. They are not very expensive, and are available at most cookware or barbecue stockists. The probe thermometer allows you to check the internal temperature of the meat, and then decide if it is ready to remove from the barbecue.
For most red meats such as beef, veal, and lamb the safe internal temperature is 145F (65C), and for pork the temperature should be 160F (70C). Ground meats uses for burgers and such should be cooked to the higher temperature of 160F (70C).
The more delicate foods such as fish, seafood, and chicken should be smoked at a lower grill temperature of around 200-220F (95-110C). All poultry should have an internal temperature of at least 165F (75C) before it is adequately cooked. Once the safe internal temperature has been reached you can stop smoking.
After the food has been cooked, and rested, it should be refrigerated no later than two hours after smoking. It is best to cut the large pieces into something more manageable, and pop them into plastic bags for the fridge or freezer.
When buying a gas smoker, you need to find a unit that stays within your price range, but you can’t get one that’s too cheap. If you do, you’ll end up with a unit that doesn’t smoke your meat like it should. Always pay attention to how big your unit is; buying a small unit might prevent you from being able to create the barbecue feast that you want.
Make sure to read some reviews to help you choose a dependable brand for your gas smoker. When you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to cook juicy, tender and complex flavored meats right in your backyard.