This machine is easy to use, economical and tasty.
In fact, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to the charcoal smoker.
However, this does not mean that you can just go ahead and buy any model as there are various factors that you need to consider before making a purchase.
This article outlines some of these factors so that you know what to look for when shopping for the best charcoal smoker.
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How To Choose A Charcoal Smoker
There are 3 key factors that you need to consider before buying a charcoal smoker: Charcoal, Temperature, and Features.
Low end smokers use tiny bags of briquettes, so it is important to ensure that you are getting enough charcoal for your needs. On average people need 2-3 times as much charcoal as they have cooking area in order to get perfect results. So if you have a large quantity of food to cook than you will need more than what is recommended here but at least 30 pounds of charcoal should be used for most families and cooks.
Smoke is the flavour of the meat and will develop only if you can maintain temperatures of 180-200 degrees F. On a charcoal smoker you have to control the temperature, so great temperature control is a necessity. Temperature control also affects and preserves your food, which means that good gauges are necessary and one that uses fan speed to help maintain the right temperature is preferable.
Although stainless steel is the most popular material, some people prefer electric smokers that are available in various sizes. These products can be used indoors and outdoors depending on your needs. However, it is important to note that electric smokers do not work very well for whole smoked meats as they dry out in a short period of time.
One of the most important things when selecting a charcoal smoker is ease of use. The controls for heating and regulating temperature are essential in accurate results, And without those controls, you usually get something with way too many dials or buttons, which can be confusing and less than useful.
Pros and Cons of a Charcoal Smoker
- Easy to Use:
They are designed with convenience in mind, so they often have a handle-less design that makes it easy to carry and store
The scent is clean and natural, unlike the smoke of a gas or electric smoker which can be overpowering
- Smoke Duration:
Because the fire is sustained by charcoal fuel, there's no need for constant attention from your side - simply light the coals when you're ready for some BBQ goodness
- Carbon Monoxide Regulation:
You can regulate how much oxygen gets into your smoker by adding vent dampers that either open or close depending on what levels of carbon monoxide the environment produces
- Cost Effectiveness:
Charcoal is practically free, while propane and natural gas can be expensive
- Limited Temperature Control:
They're designed to maintain a low temperature, so if you need higher heat output to smoke cheese or other dairy products with high fat content, then this isn't the smoker for you
- Difficult to Get All the Ash Out:
It's hard to really get all of the ash out of the smoker because it will inevitably find its way into your food unless you're really diligent in cleaning it out
- Easy to Get out of Control:
If you're using a charcoal pit, then you have to be really careful when pouring the coals onto them - you otherwise risk turning your pit into a bonfire
- You Have to Light Them:
When using a lump charcoal or briquette pit, you have to make sure that it is well heated before adding the coals. Otherwise, they'll stick to the surface and not burn at all
- No Electricity Required:
A charcoal smoker can be built cheaply and cheaply made, so they are inexpensive to maintain over time. However, it can be quite laborious cleaning the ashes out of charcoal briquettes
How To Operate A Charcoal Smoker
Once you have purchased your smoker and taken it home, it is important to learn how to use your device in order to achieve optimal results. Here are some steps you should follow in order to use your charcoal grill correctly.
- Step 1: Prepare the Meat and the Charcoal Briquettes
When using a charcoal grill, it is important that you prepare the meat first before lighting up any coals. This will help get rid of harmful bacteria from dirt and germs present on the meat prior to cooking. Simply grab a pair of long tongs and start by removing any excess fat from your meat.
- Step 2: Fill the Rack
If you are smoking your meat with a charcoal grill, it is important to fill the rack with briquettes. This will help control the temperature inside your grill and ensure that you can smoke meat at a slow and steady rate.
- Step 3: Add Water
After filling the rack, add water in order to create steam. Some charcoal smokers will come with a water pan or tank which can be filled using a hose or an attachment. This can be done when your smoker is ready for use thus increasing its efficiency. Water is important as it increases the temperature in your grill and helps in producing great tasting food offering health benefits.
- Step 4: Start Smoking
When your charcoal grill is ready for use, it is advisable to preheat it for approximately 20 minutes. This will help cook the meat gradually and prevent the loss of juices which usually happens when you put the meat directly on hot coals. After preheating, add small amounts of your preferred wood chips in order to add a smoky flavor to your food. However, avoid using too much wood as it might give food an unpleasant taste. Also ensure that you do not over smoke food as it can be harmful to health. The temperature inside your grill should be high enough so that meat is cooked on all sides but low enough so that the fat drips away and does not stick to the meat. In other words, the correct temperature should be between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Step 5: Maintain the Temperature
In order to maintain the right temperature, you need to clean your grill regularly. Once your food is cooked, it is advisable to let the grill cool down for a few minutes before cleaning it. This is because hot charcoal briquettes are usually not good for your health as they will scald you if they are touched with bare hands. You can use long handled tools such as tongs in order to clean the grill and avoid burning yourself. To determine whether or not your food is ready for consumption, you should check if it has been cooked on all sides and ensure that you remove any excess fat from its surface.
- Step 6: Check if the Meat is Done
While most people think that the taste of food comes from the ingredients used, this is not always the case. The meat on your food will also determine whether or not it is tasty and satisfying. Different meats require different cooking times and temperatures in order to achieve optimum taste and tenderness. For example, you should cook steaks at a temperature between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit while chicken breasts can be cooked using lower temperatures which go from 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. As a rule of thumb, chicken breasts should be cooked for about 20 minutes per pound of weight while steaks should be cooked for about 10 minutes per pound of weight. Once your meat is cooked to the right temperature, you should use an instant-read thermometer in order to check if it is done. If your meat has not been cooked properly, it can be dangerous for you as it might cause food poisoning.
- Step 7: Clean the Grill
Once your food has been cooked, you should clean the grill thoroughly. This will allow you to avoid unnecessary wastage of charcoal and keeps your grill safe from rusting and other forms of damage. It is important that you remove excess fat from your meat so that it does not sizzle when you try remove its outer part later on. As a rule of thumb, it is important that you never leave your charcoal grill unattended or allow children to use it. This is because it might cause accidents that might occur due to mishandling and the possibility of fire when the meat is cooked.
What makes a good charcoal smoker?
You need to make sure that your smoker is large enough to cook food of various sizes. You also want to make sure that you learn how to light the unit properly and that you do not use too much smoke because it can take away from the food.
How to clean a charcoal smoker?
To clean and maintain your charcoal smoker, you need to dampen an old cloth with water and add some type of cooking oil such as vegetable oil or olive oil. Next, grab a good brush and scrub it across the surface of the charcoal pit until all soot is removed.
Can you put wood chips directly on charcoal?
It can be a little complicated to get wood chips on charcoal. You will have to remove the lid of the smoker and place a grate that is made out of grill across the top. Then you have to stack your charcoal and place the wood chips on top of it. After everything is in place, you will then turn on your smoker and light the wood chips until they begin to smoke.
Can you mix charcoal and wood?
You do not have to use wood chips or wood in order to make charcoal. You can also make charcoal through the use of any type of dry material that can burn in a fire. Then you will mix this with coal and the amount of heat that it produces will be determined by how dry the material is used. This method is referred to as 'homemade charcoal'.
By using a charcoal smoker, you will be able to enjoy various barbecue dishes without having to worry about the cost of electric power. These smokers are very versatile in their use and can be used for just about anything from smoking meat to cooking vegetables.
It is best that you make the right choice when purchasing one so that it meets your needs. After knowing all the pros and cons of charcoal smokers, you will be able to make an educated decision on which one you should buy.
You can also check out our recommendations on the best charcoal smokers on our homepage or also see a list of top rated models in 2019 if you would like to see which models are selling well.