Types of Smokers
Smokers come in all unique shapes and sizes and a variety of heating sources can be used with each. Some BBQ enthusiasts even invent their own style of smoker, but the 3 main types of smokers that are commonly used and sold in Canada are vertical smokers, offset smokers, and cabinet smokers. The one thing that all smokers have in common is the ability to keep the meat, vegetables, or cheese you are smoking away from the flame while getting the smoke to surround and penetrate your dish. The hardest thing about using a smoker is getting the right temperature and learning how to regulate that temperature. Each type of smoker has its own nuances when it comes to adjusting the vents in order to achieve the right temperature.
Vertical or Cylinder Smoker - This is perhaps the most common type of smoker due to its small size, cheap price, and ease of operation. Vertical smokers typically have 2 bowls on the inside. The bowl at the bottom of the smoker is where you place the charcoal and smoker wood and the bowl in the middle usually stores water or other liquid to help keep your dish moisturized throughout the long smoking process. The trap door in the front of the smoker can be opened to feed in new charcoal and wood to keep your smoker up to temperature. Because the heat will rise straight up from the bottom bowl to the top, your dish will be stored right at the top where the lid meets the base of the vertical smoker. We recommend that you try to avoid opening the lid once you start smoking to keep the heat and smoke inside.
Offset Firebox Smoker - The offset smoker is a great design if you are looking to purchase a charcoal grill and a smoker in one. The main chamber can be used as a normal grill and you can also smoke meat by using the small offset firebox chamber. To smoke using the offset method, you simply load your charcoal and wood into the small firebox and place your meat in the main grilling chamber. The heat and smoke will billow through the main chamber and there are 2 adjustable vents located on the firebox and out the top of the main chamber. You can adjust the vents to regulate the temperature. Typically, you want to fully open both vents at the beginning to get the temperature up inside the smoker. Then, once you are satisfied with the temperature, you can close the vents 1/4 of the way to keep your heat consistent.
Cabinet Smoker - At first glance it may seem like a cabinet smoker is the same as a vertical smoker, but there are some distinct characteristics that make these actually two different types of smokers. Cabinet smokers are larger and typically have multiple racks that can be repositioned or removed depending on what you are smoking. Cabinet smokers are more versatile and allow for smoking a variety of dishes all at once and can accommodate for anything large or small. Cabinet smokers do work the same as vertical smokers in terms of the heat and smoke source being at the bottom. Cabinet smokers have more vents than vertical smokers which allow you to control the heat better. Cabinet smokers are more expensive than vertical models, but they are well worth the added cost if you like to BBQ more than once every six months.