Underneath all of the modern tech you’ll find in today’s best smoker grills, there’s a device that humans have been building for literally thousands of years. That gives you an idea of just how effective and enduring smoking is, and why so many pitmasters are so devoted to this generations-old art. It also tells you that, ultimately, the ideas behind smoking food aren’t too hard to understand! So, how does a smoker work and how can you get started using one? We’ll give you the five-minute primer ahead.
Smoking is cooking food at a low temperature using indirect heat, specifically wood smoke. It’s most common with meat and seafood, but you can also smoke cheese, veggies and all kinds of other foods. The fuel can be any solid fuel made from wood products, with wood pellets and charcoal being today’s most popular options.
To smoke your food, a smoker needs three basic parts: an air intake, a fuel burner and a cooking chamber. Smoking begins with starting a low temperature wood fire in the fuel burner. The air intake brings air into the grill to feed the fire oxygen, sometimes through damper vents like a charcoal grill and sometimes with the aid of a blower fan. The result is the foundation of all good BBQ: smoke!
The airflow pushes the smoke and heated air into the cooking chamber where it meets the food. The heat breaks down the fat and connective tissues in food, and the resulting liquefied goodness permeates throughout the food and gives it the world-class flavor that smoked BBQ is famous for!
Time and temperature are the keys to creating great BBQ. First, the low and slow nature of smoking means patience is a virtue for pitmasters. Cooking times can range from under an hour for fish to 12 hours or more for a brisket. For longer cooks, it’s important to regularly check your food’s internal temperature, preferably using a meat probe so you don’t have to open the grill.
Speaking of temperature, it’s the other big factor for successful smoking. Keeping a consistent smoker temperature will make your cook times more predictable and ensure that your food cooks evenly. On charcoal smokers, you’ll need to learn to control the temperature by opening and closing the grill’s damper vents.
Electronically controlled pellet smokers, on the other hand, allow any pitmaster to simply set their preferred temperature. The smoker will maintain the temperature automatically. If it’s equipped with WiFi software like Grilla Grills Alpha Connect, the pitmaster can even check and control it remotely!
Explore WiFi Pellet Grills and Smokers
Smokers are popular around the world, and people use a huge variety of smoker designs to cook their food. However, these are the most common types the average American pitmaster will see at cookouts, tailgates and BBQ competitions:
Standard charcoal grills can also function as smokers, although it takes a tad more know-how and setup than using a dedicated smoker. Other types of smokers, such as electric smokers, don’t use wood as their primary fuel source, which puts them in a different category from a true wood-burning smoker.
By far the best way to learn how a smoker works is to use one yourself! These are the basic steps to get started:
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When you’re ready to bring a taste of the jungle to your patio, be sure to check out our whole lineup of pellet smoker grills! Every model is designed to provide a competition-quality smoker at a reasonable price, for novice pitmasters and experts alike.
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