You have visited plenty of stops on the Texas BBQ trail and know what good barbecue is. You’ve experimented on the grill in the backyard, but need to buy the proper equipment to take the next step of becoming a serious backyard smoker and pit master.
Here are a few simple tips and options to help you make the right choice of backyard smoker.
Determine how many people you want to cook for at one time, how often you will be cooking and how much you want to spend.
Slow smoking meats in the backyard is a considerable time commitment so consider the cost of a smoker as an investment that will help cook higher quality BBQ.
A good backyard smoker is well-built with plenty of airflow, good draw and maintains steady & even temperatures at the grate. It also needs to be large enough to cook on while minimizing radiant heat from burning the meats.
Insulated smokers will tremendously help produce steady temperatures and heat over long periods of time, which is crucial for making good BBQ. Selecting a functional smoker to cook backyard BBQ to meet your criteria can be overwhelming due to the hundreds of choices out there.
There are many different pit designs to choose from: bullet, off-set, aka log burner/stick burner (which is an indirect type design with the firebox off set to one side), gravity fed charcoal, Kamado ceramic cookers and pellet cookers.
Electric and gas oven smokers have been purposely omitted by the author.
Below is a short list of some backyard smokers that vary in design, size, results, and price. Again it gets down to the level of commitment you are prepared to pursue.
These date back to 1923 and are widely used by backyard cookers. The build is not very durable, but for the money, who cares, it cooks really well. Good airflow and will maintain temps reasonably well. This pit is very versatile, as a smoker and a grill. It burns best with charcoal for heat and wood chunks for smoke flavor. Keep the fires small and it will treat you good!. Average price: $65
These are a low cost entry and are a fantastic smoker favored by many. Buy the kit, and then buy your 55 gallon food grade drum from an alternate source. These cook really well, hot and fast. Briskets cook at 300+ F in 5-6 hours or less, producing great flavors. Is a great pit for the money. Average price: $300
Widely used by backyard cooks and professional competition pit masters, good build quality, cooks very well, excellent economical smoker. Average price: $300 (18.5″) & $400 (22.5″)
A better built & more expensive smoker for entry-level for backyard use, light gauge construction, maintaining even temps for long periods could be challenging. Average price: $500
Good entry-level pellet smoker, Widely used by backyard cooks this is a popular member of the Traeger family of smokers. Average price: $630
Widely used by backyard cooks and professional competition pit masters, good build quality, cooks very well, excellent smoker. Extremely insulated that will maintain temps over a long period without much effort. Like any pit these will overheat if the fire is too large and can be difficult to bring the temp down due to the excellent insulation. Not a lot of airflow. Average price: $660 (15″) & $850 (18.25″)
These are excellent smokers with excellent build quality, used by many professional competition cook teams.. They come ready to cook on and cook really well. Hot and fast. Briskets cook at 300+ F in 5-6 hours or less, producing great flavors. A great pit for the money. Average price: $1080
Smaller models are widely used by backyard cooks and the larger models used by competition pitmasters. Average price: $1295+
Widely used by backyard cooks, good build quality, cooks very well, excellent smoker. Just load the hopper with wood pellets, set the thermostat and it will maintain the same temperature for as long as you need with a very clean fire. Average price: $1600
Widely used by backyard cooks, and competition cooks. Okay on the build quality, Cooks very well, excellent smoker. Will produce good backyard BBQ. Average price: $2000
Widely used by backyard cooks and competition pit masters, this versatile vertical charcoal smoker comes in a variety of sizes and is made with heavy-duty, durable materials.. Average price: $2200
Excellent build quality, Widely used by backyard cooks, and competition cooks. cooks very well, holds heat and temperatures steady due to the insulated firebox and design. Average price: $2450
Editors note: Do you have a favorite smoker or any advice to share? Please leave a comment below to share with our readers. Thanks