Why Choose A Gas/Propane Smoker?
There are a number of reasons why you’d want to choose a gas smoker over the electric and charcoal alternatives.
For one thing, these models are a lot cheaper to buy. Depending on costs in your area, they’re also likely to be much cheaper to operate. Whether you choose natural gas or propane, one or the other is almost certainly going to be cheaper than electricity or the cost. When you add up the time, energy, and money you’d spend to go old-school with charcoal, the savings are also considerable.
These setups can also be used anywhere, since all you need is a gas tank to hook up. You don’t need to worry about having an outlet nearby. You can even set up a smoker at a campsite!
Gas smokers, whether they run on propane or natural gas, are more reliable and easier to use than electric or charcoal setups. They’re relatively simple devices with few components that could give you grief, even over the long term. You’ll also appreciate the fact that they heat up much more quickly and give more consistent temperature than charcoal or electric options.
How Do Gas Smokers Work?
These setups usually follow a standard design. Burners are located at the bottom of a large cabinet, connected to a natural gas/propane tank somewhere on the outside of the smoker. When you light your smoker, the burners heat up a pan loaded with wood chips and water. These create the smoke (or steam, really) that’s used to cook and season meat. Above the pan, and occupying the rest of the cabinet are shelves and racks for your meat products. You can either rack them on shelves or hang them from the ceiling of the cabinet. Sausages are usually hung, for example.
Most models follow this basic vertical design. Of course, each varies slightly in layout and overall volume. Yours may have one door or two, be wider or taller, and so forth.
What To Look For In Your New Propane/Gas Smoker
The most important thing to take care of up front is making sure your new propane/gas smoker will have space inside for everything you want to smoke at any given time. You can always rearrange internal storage or modify components like the gauge, but you can’t make more space in a cabinet. That’s why it’s important to be realistic about how much space you need. It can be tempting to try and save money by going compact, but the savings probably won’t be worth it once you consider how much extra time you’ll be spending smoking in this configuration and setting up each batch.
Any good propane/gas smoker will offer the flexibility to change the internal storage configurations to suit a range of meat products and volumes. Your should come with a range of shelves, hooks, and racks that you can choose between to suit each batch of meat.
Heavy-duty craftsmanship that can stand years of service is an absolute essential from any smoker. These pieces of equipment see high temperatures for long stretches of time, and that’s hard on even the best smokers. Look for rugged metal construction and high-quality components that can stand years of use. You don’t want to sell yourself short by saving a few bucks on a lightly-built model that’ll need to be replaced in a year or two.
A smoker isn’t like a blender or other appliances in that it has essentially no moving parts. You’ll have some basic adjustments for temperature and movable storage, but that’s about it. Reliability doesn’t mean quite the same thing as it does in those contexts for that reason. In the case of a propane/gas smoker, reliability means a design that gives you predictable, repeatable results every time, so that you don’t have to do any guesswork or approximations. Look for something rugged that won’t get leakier over time. Don’t go cheap on gauges, since you depend on them to keep consistent temperatures. You want to invest in something that’ll perform the way you expect
Lastly, look for a smoker that’ll be pleasant to use and easy to work with. For example, we think cleanability is very important. These things get pretty caked with smoke and grease each time you use them, and you need to clean all that out in order to have a food-safe process. Look for models with removable parts that can be easily scrubbed down or sent through the dishwasher for convenience. 2-door designs are convenient, since you can use the small one to check your wood and water pans without losing all the heat and steam in the upper chamber. Overall, just make sure the setup seems intuitive and practical for you to use.