Best Smoker Grill Combo — Buying Guide
Have we got some smokin’ hot news for you! Yes, summer is just about here and that means it’s time for living it up, the outdoors await. One of the greatest ways to enjoy the freedom of the long summer days is to fire up the barbeque and chill with a few ice cold beers, enjoying the company of friends and family.
Intro | Best Smoker Grill Combo
For the ultimate outdoor cooking experience, nothing beats a smoker grill combo. If you want to do much more than simply grill burgers, hot dogs and steaks for your guests and family, a combination grill and smoker is going to give the opportunity to do just that. You’ll be able to prepare brisket like a seasoned Texan and so much more.
This article is going to guide along the path to obtaining the best smoker grill combo. If you really want to treat yourself (and your loved ones) this summer, this is going to be the best investment you can make. There are so many options for the barbecue enthusiast and prices can go through the roof – especially if you’re looking at the best smoker grill combos. We’ve thought of your budget and have found an excellent selection of great smoker grill combos that won’t break the bank. So before you go out and spend thousands on a new grill, check out the review below. You’ll be amazed at what you can get without spending all that much.
What to look for in smoker Grill combo
Before heading into the review of the best smoker grill combos, I’d like to start with a brief overview of what to look for. We all want to spend our money wisely and that means looking at the quality that we’re buying. Convenience is another thing to look at. Do you want propane or electric assistance to simplify things, or is a charcoal and wood chip burner more your style? You can step things up a notch and go for a wood pellet smoker, this will give you perfect control over your smoker with just about no effort. When looking at all these factors, the price is going to come into play. If you’re looking for a smoker grill combo for under $250, you’ll need to be prepared to make some compromises. Your price will affect the materials, size, and functions of your smoker grill combo. So you need to set your priorities to match your budget.
Recommended Smoker Grill Combo | Cuisinart CPG-4000
In the lower price bracket, you’re probably going to be getting a carbon steel smoker grill combo. Those that are exceptionally cheap, won’t use very thick steel either. So you need to look at this carefully. We’re going to be including an entry level smoker grill combo in the review, the Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro. As a budget product, it will require more care than the more expensive options, but it’s a great product if money is tight, making it the best smoker grill combo for the budget-minded buyer. When reviewing this product, I’ll provide you with some tips on how to care for it.
It’s always best to spend more and go for a quality item made from high-quality materials. If spending thousands of dollars leaves you feeling faint, you might want to consider a smaller smoker grill combo that’s made from better materials. Cast aluminum and stainless steel are the best materials for any type of grill or barbecue. These are expensive materials so, naturally, you’ll have to fork out more cash for these models. If you want this type of quality but aren’t up to spending too much, the PK360 is an excellent option. While you will be making absolutely no compromise on quality, this cast aluminum smoker grill combo is limited by its size.
For something in between, you could strike a balance between a good level of quality and a reasonable size. Thicker carbon steel and/or powder coated, or enamel coated smoker grill combos strike a very good balance, with little compromise. Unless you live in a particularly humid climate, these models will hold up well to the elements and won’t rust too easily. Something as simple as a cover (usually available as an optional extra) will help a lot to ensure that these grill and smoker combos last longer. In this class, we’ll be reviewing two great options: the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado and the Char-Broil the Longhorn combo.
When it comes to functionality, we have different preferences. When I review the various options, I’ll point out what you’re getting. Some like gas burners that use a propane tank, this can simplify things. Side stands can be great and side burners to keep your food warm is another nice extra to have. What you’re prepared to spend will play a role in what extra features you’ll get.
The ultimate smoker grills will have it all – quality materials and a host of features. The best smokers make use of wood pellets that are fed through an electric auger. This means that your temperature can be automatically regulated. These will be among the more expensive options and will usually include a bunch of other useful features. We’re going to include the ZGrills Master 700D as a high-end option. It ticks all the boxes and includes all the features mentioned above. It is also of an exceptionally high quality standard. While it’s the most expensive option in this review, we’re still considering your budget. So it’s not a cheap product, but in the high-end of the market, it’s not nearly as expensive as one would think. Basically, if you’re looking for a smoker grill combo that can compete with the very best, this one is the best value for the money.
Reviews | Best Smoker Grill Combo
As you can see, we’ve gone to great lengths to find something for everyone. From the beginner barbeque buyer up to the seasoned enthusiast, we’ve found something to meet everyone’s needs. Each is the best in their class when you consider value for money as a big part of your decision. Without being too expensive, every one of the smoker grill combos offer you a lot. It’s really a question of what you’re looking for and what you’re prepared to pay.
Char-Broil Longhorn Combo 15202029
Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Combo Charcoal and Gas Offset Smoker — Best Smoker Grill Combo for the price.
Two separate cooking chambers, one for smoking and one for gas grilling, plus an offset firebox and a side burner.
- 1,060 total square inch cooking surface
- 750 square inch primary cooking surface in main chamber over porcelain-coated cast iron grates.
- Number of grates: 6
- 310 square inch cooking surface in firebox chamber
- 3x 12,000 BTU Burners, (36,000 BTU’s total) in gas grilling chamber
- 12,000 BTU side burner accommodates charcoal chimney starter
- Combo Gas Grill/Charcoal Grill/Offset Smoker
- 3 gas burners, electronic ignition & gas side burner
- Solid construction & built to last. Weighs 204 lbs
- Smoke and Heat Control
- Lid-Mounted Temperature Gauges
- Cool Touch Handles
You won’t find a more comprehensive smoker grill combo than this one for its price. It’s versatile, extremely durable and large enough to cater for a crowd. Okay, it’s not the cheapest, but I’m sure you’ll agree that you won’t get better value for money. For a mid-priced smoker grill combo, the Char-Broil Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Combo is the best you can get.
It’s a 3-in-1 grill, barbecue, and smoker made from heavy-gauge carbon steel. This is an extremely durable smoker grill combo and can hold up to humid climates with very little maintenance involved. To give you an idea of its heavy-duty construction, this thing weighs 205-pounds. Although this makes it cumbersome to move, the weight tag is a really good thing. There’s a lot of strong steel and that means it’s going to last. One thing I don’t like are the wheels and this seems to be the only legitimate concern that owners have raised. While the steel wheels look great (they match the general design perfectly), they wobble around quite a bit and this is not the kind of thing you want to contend with when pushing such a heavy grill. If you have a reasonable degree of DIY savvy, it won’t be a big thing to modify the stand and fit better quality after-market wheels. If you don’t intend moving it too much, these wheels won’t be a problem at all.
VIDEO | Watch this Real Customer Review
So, really, the wheels aren’t such a big issue and shouldn’t detract one from all the wonders that you’re getting at a very reasonable price. The Longhorn has three separate sections, so you can do all types of grilling and smoking at the same time. There’s a powerful 3-burner 12,000 BTU gas griller with 3 separate temperature control knobs, so you can grill anything at the perfect temperature. It also has a charcoal burner with 12,000 BTU gas fire-starter, offset to one side. The gas burners have electronic ignition for added convenience.
The smoking chamber is the same size as the generous gas grill and has a smoke damper for perfect control. Both the gas grill and smoker have independent thermometers, so you can get the heat just right. All of these cooking chambers have excellent sturdy lids with handles that remain cool to the touch. As if all this wasn’t impressive enough, there’s even a side burner to keep stuff warm. It has a fantastic frame that provides ample storage under the grill and smoker, with an additional storage shelf and a position to hold your propane tank securely and safely.
Well made | Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Combo
The Char-Broil has a lot going for it and I’d expect to pay a lot more for this level of quality and functionality. The thick carbon steel construction is going to outlast any of the cheap smoker grill combos. If you rub it down with vegetable oil from time to time and make use of the optional cover, even better. It can easily last a lifetime with a bit of TLC, making it an absolute bargain.
Best Smoker Grill Combo for overall quality. Includes patio cover.
- Smart Smoke Technology— Set it and forget it, Automated electric feed system maintains temperature from 180ºF to 450ºF
- Huge Grilling Area & Hopper Capacity—--513 sq. in. Main rack & 187 sq. in. Warming Rack,
- 20LB Hopper Capacity,
- Upgraded cart with locking caster wheels
- Ultimate 8 in 1 Barbecue Wood Fire Pellet Grill—--Grill, smoke, bake, roast, sear, braise, barbeque or char-grill
- Great Smoke Favor not only grill easier——Fueled by premium 100% hardwood pellets to generate heat and smoke, infusing your food with a savory wood-fire taste that’ll make your taste buds sing
- Fully Satisfied or Money Back: 3 year warranty from manufacturer, 30 days money back guarantee if any quality issue
This is a high-end smoker grill combo without an exorbitant price tag. It’s a refreshing and surprising find for those who want quality and ease of use and are prepared to pay a little extra. I mean a little because it’s hardly expensive for what you’re getting.
Crafted from highly durable steel with a top-quality black and bronze coating, this grill and smoker combo not only looks amazing, it’s going to stand the test of time. It has an incredible 700 square inches of grilling surface that’s split into two levels, so you can do high-temperature grilling on one level and cook your more delicate food or keep stuff warm on the raised grill surface that’s further from the heat. This is all covered by an elegant brass-colored lid with a superb, beautifully crafted handle. Directly below the smoker grill combo, is a closed storage area with brass doors and handles to match the good looks of the cooking area.
What sets this grill and smoker apart from the rest is the automatic hopper and auger at the side. The hopper holds up to 20-pounds of quality hardwood pellets that are supplied to the grill and smoker at an adjustable rate. This means that you can set the temperature anywhere from 180°F to 450° and the electronic controls will keep the temperature constant. So you have the convenience of an electric oven with the wonderful genuine wood smoke flavor of a barbecue or smoker. You can set it and forget it with up to 25,000 BTU/Hr. of heat. It even has an electronic igniter with a shutdown and heat recycle mode. No matter what you intend doing; high-temperature grilling, searing, broiling, smoking, or even baking, you’ll always get perfect results. You have a temperature control dial like a regular oven, so it’s really simple to use and perfectly accurate.
This is a robust 173-pound smoker grill combo. It stands on excellent caters that not only glide easily, but lock to provide a stable work surface. It really isn’t expensive for this type of quality and size. You also get a fantastic 3-year warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee from a trusted US manufacturer with many years of experience and customer satisfaction. There’s absolutely no maintenance required as it’s made from high-quality steel with an extremely durable coating that will keep it rust-free.
- Cooking Area: 513 square inch
- Second Cooking Rack: Standard, 187 square inch
- Cooking Temperature: 160°F to 450°F
- BTU’s /hr: 25,000
- Hopper Capacity:20 lbs
- Internal Temperature Sensor: Yes
- Pellet Purge System: Yes
- Electronic Auto Ignition: Yes
- Shutdown Recycle Mode: Yes
Best Smoker Grill Combo. Stunning quality. Will last you for years and years.
- Overview – The PK360 is the new mid-size PK Grill & Smoker. With 360 square inches of cooking space, plus included shelves and stand, the PK360 is setting a new standard for the high-end charcoal cooker by offering more value than other high-end charcoal cookers like Big Green Egg L and the Primo L300.
- Large Cooking Surface – At 360 square inches the PK360 is nearly 40% larger than the most popular Big Green Egg size, the 18-inch Large.
- Super Versatile – PK360 demonstrates exceptional performance in both hot and fast (grilling) or low and slow (barbecue) cooking situations. It’s unique capsule shape makes one-zone and two-zone cooking setups easy and fun.
- Competition Quality – PK Grills cast aluminum has proven to be the competitors choice in steak competitions across the U.S. The 2014, 2015 and 2016 SCA World Championship Steaks were all cooked on a PK Grill. And it so easy to use that a novice can make a great steak every time.
- Durable – PK360s cast aluminum construction is more durable than porcelain Kamados which can be fragile. PK Grills are often lifetime purchases handed down from one generation to the next.
- Every new PK has the potential to become an heirloom grill.
- Easy & Precise Temperature Management – The PK360s combination of thick cast aluminum and
- 4-way venting provides users a with a very heat efficient cook chamber with easy 2-zone set-up and more control than single-vent Kamados.
- Ergonomics – The PK360 includes two massive, removable shelves with a unique Leading Edge wire system for hanging accessories, offering maximum function for prep and cooking.
- Ash Management – The PK360 has incorporated a unique ash management solution which controls ash within the cook chamber and makes clean-up and disposal easy.
- Portable – As with all PKs, the PK360 detaches from its stand easily so you can take it with you.
- Great for tailgating, camping, fishing/hunting cabins, etc. Try that with a heavy Kamado.
- Marine Grade Stainless Steel – Both the hinged cooking surface and the lower charcoal grate are made from the highest quality stainless steel available – Marine Grade.
- Beautifully Designed – The PK360 raises the design bar for the charcoal grill industry. The core: the cast aluminum grill capsule identifies this grill immediately as a PK. The addition of great design features, like the beautifully simple pedestal stand, the unique and user-friendly cylindrical air intake controls, elegant but tough as nails black Durabilium shelves and thoughtful details like the accessory bar, lock/release hinges and rear stabilizer hooks will make it a high end object of desire.
You won’t find a more durable smoker grill combo anywhere. At least not at this price. Although it costs quite a bit and you can find much larger models from other brands that could last a lifetime. The PK Grills PK360 exceeds what most would consider high-quality. This smoker grill combo won’t just last a lifetime, it will probably go on for generations to come. Down to the smallest detail, nothing has been left to chance. Every component has been expertly crafted from the most durable materials one can get.
VIDEO | See this Beautiful Grill Up Close
The PK360 is a reasonably small smoker grill combo with a 360 sq.in cooking surface. While this pales in comparison to large grills with twice the surface area, it’s just about the largest of its kind. Most dome or egg-shaped grills have a cooking surface of around 300 sq.in or less. So in its class, the PK360 is the best.
It’s not just the best when it comes to size, this is also a truly indestructible smoker grill combo. The body and stand are made of exceptionally thick cast aluminum. This has many advantages, one of which is that it can never rust. Even if the aesthetically pleasing and very durable coating is scratched (which won’t happen easily), the PK360 will continue to remain rust-free for an indeterminate length of time. It is more than likely that your grandchildren will be using the very s same grill that you buy today. The thick cast aluminum offers more than outstanding durability, it also provides perfect heat insulation – keeping most of the heat inside and remaining much cooler than others on the outside. It also reduces the weight considerably, so it’s very portable and can be taken anywhere you go. The PK360 weighs only 95-pounds, which is close to half the weight of its closest rivals.
VIDEO | See the PK Grills PK360 in Action
It has a removable stand made from the same indestructible coated cast aluminum as the rest of the grill. It also has removable side shelves made from a remarkable material known as Durabilium – the name kind of says it all. Because the stand and shelves are very easy to remove, the PK360 is a breeze to pack up and take with you on vacation or for a day out. With the stand and shelves removed, it probably weighs less than 50 LBS, so it’s quite easy for an adult to carry using the large handles on either side.
The durability doesn’t end with the obvious, even the grilling grate and fire grate is made of marine-grade stainless steel. It will withstand the highest temperatures for years without any signs of degradation. This is a regular charcoal burner which may be a little old-fashioned, but there’s nothing to go wrong – yet another reason why it’s going to last forever. Even though you don’t have the control of gas burners, the unique air intake ports and adjustable dual exhaust vents, give you superb temperature control and you have a stainless steel thermometer on the lid. This means that you can slowly smoke your meat and veg or sear steaks and burgers to perfection. The lid has cast aluminum hinges that allow you to tilt it up or you can completely remove it. It also has a perfectly engineered ash management system which makes it super easy to clean.
PK grills aim for perfection and are not quick to make changes to their products. After all, if you’ve developed the best smoker grill combo of its kind, why mess with a winning recipe. In fact, the PK 360 is the first upgrade they’ve made in over 40-years. So you can be sure that any changes that they’ve made to America’s favorite grill have to count. Every aspect of its engineering has been carefully thought out. If it’s not made better, then there’s no need to change it.
I’m always in awe of engineering that’s made to last. This is rare in our modern age, which makes the PK360 a very unique product. You’re paying quite a lot for small to medium smoker grill, but it’s a once in a lifetime purchase. With everything that the PK360 has to offer, I’m not surprised to see that it has received the highest acclaim in the media and an unprecedented 4.9 stars from Amazon customer reviews. This is a breathtakingly amazing smoker grill combo and, despite its size, this is my personal favorite. There are no fancy mod-cons, but its indestructible quality and simple, yet effective, engineering solutions really appeal to me.
Tech Specs (PK Grills PK360):
- Fuel Type: Charcoal
- Capsule Material: Cast Aluminum
- Cooking Grid Material: Marine Grade Stainless Steel
- Fuel Grate Material: 304 Stainless Steel
- Kit Hardware: Marine Grade Stainless Steel
- Shelf Material: High heat Durabilium with Leading Edge Tool Organization System
- Cooking Surface Area: 360 sq. in.
- Capsule Volume: 5374 Cubic Inches
- Working Height: 34.2″
- Overall Dimensions (Closed Lid): H – 42.9″ W – 54.2″ D – 23.6″
- Shelf Surface Area: 618 sq. in.
- Other Details
- # of Vents: 4 (2 Radial, 2 Cylinders)
- Thermometer: Tel-Tru
- Use Without Stand: Yes
- Warranty: 10 Years Capsule
- Package Weight: Box 1 69.4 lbs Box 2 37.6 lbs
Visit the PK Grills site to learn more about this beautiful Smoker Grill Combo.
Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro
Best Smoker Grill Combo.
- Traditional charcoal grill with side firebox for Texas style barbecue
- Grill barrel and side firebox provide heavy-gauge powder-coated steel construction; nonstick cast-iron cooking grates for even heating
- Removable charcoal drawers allow users to add charcoal and dump ashes easily; double bottom for long-term durability
- Additional features include temperature gauge, storage rack and 2 wheels for easy transport. Heavy Duty Steel Construction
- 580 square inches of cooking surface ; 250 square inch side fire box for either charcoal cooking or smoking ; Total cooking area of the Char-Griller grill and smoker is 830 square inches
- Grill measures : 62″ X 29″ X 50″
- Weight: 146 lbs.
- Assembly required
- Cast iron cooking grates for even heating
- 830 sq/in total cooking area
- 580 sq/in primary cooking area
- 250 sq/in side fire box
- Adjustable Fire Grate: Hot, Med, and Warm temperature control
- Easily add coals without removing the entire grate
- Easy dump ash pan
- Heat gauge
- Heavy steel construction
- Powder coat finish for long lasting color
Young families moving into their first home are faced with a multitude of challenges. Money is tight, and you need to furnish your home as well as fit it out with all the necessary appliances. It’s easy to ignore sensibility and buy the cheapest stuff you can find in order to get everything you need as quickly as possible. It’s important, at this time, to keep an even head. You have a long wish list and don’t want to spend years saving before you’re able to buy what you need. At the same time, if you rush out and buy cheap junk, you’ll be replacing all this stuff every year. This means you’ll never have the time to save up enough money to replace your initial startup equipment with better, more durable items.
If you’re going to be realistic, you’ll accept that you won’t be buying the best smoker grill immediately. So set your sights on something that’s affordable but is going to last a reasonable length of time. In this respect, the Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro is the perfect solution. It’s a large smoker grill combo made from good quality materials and, with the right care, could last you ten years or more – giving you plenty of time to upgrade as time passes.
The advertising brochures say that this smoker grill is made of heavy-gauge carbon steel. I think they’re over-selling their product a bit. It is made of good quality carbon steel, far better than really cheap barbecues, but it’s not the same grade as the more expensive smoker grills. The powder coating is not the best either and will burn off quite easily. If you put all this into context, the Smokin Pro is still excellent value for money. The quality is reasonable and it’s exceptionally cheap for a product of this size and functionality.
If you take a little care in how you treat and maintain it, the Smokin Pro is going to give you many years of service. Even though it has a double layer bottom, I’d recommend laying down a sheet of heavy aluminum foil below the coals, before making the fire. This will help keep the heat in, it can be a little drafty, and protect the steel from excessive heat. You should also rub it down with vegetable oil after each use, this will help keep the rust at bay. Using a cover when not in use will also reduce deterioration. Follow these few simple tips, and I’m sure that it will last quite a while and work well.
So if you accept that this is not a high-end smoker grill and are prepared to put some effort into maintaining it, you’ll be getting a lot for your money. It has heavy cast iron grilling grates that are non-stick and quite durable. Though I’d recommend oiling the grates as well, this will prevent them from rusting. You have an amazing 580 sq.in grill surface with an additional firebox at the side for smoking with a 250 sq.in cooking surface. This gives you a total of 830 square inches, which is amazing for a smoker grill this cheap. The hood is good but does not seal perfectly.
It has a strong stand with a storage shelf and additional wooden shelves in front of and to one side of the grill and smoker. These shelves give you a lot of practical space for utensils and other stuff but they’re not going to handle too much weight, so take care when using them. There are a lot of functional design features that make this a nice smoker grill to use. It has an easy to use dump ash pan and an opening at the bottom so you can add charcoal or wood without lifting the grate. A vent at the back gives a good deal of temperature control and it has a temperature gauge, though this really only indicates three heat levels – low, medium or high. The wheels are fairly sturdy and the unit weighs 108 LBS. By this weight, we can tell that it’s made of reasonably thick steel, but it’s nothing like the high-end smoker grills that can weigh over 200-pounds.
For an entry-level smoker grill at the lower end of the price range, the Char-Griller Smokin Pro is excellent value for money. It doesn’t give you perfect heat control and nor does it seal perfectly. But for the beginner, it’s a fantastic place to start. You certainly won’t get anything close to this at the same price and this makes it the best budget smoker grill on the market.
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado
16620 (Black) Best Smoker Grill Combo. (various colors)
- Maintains temperatures from 200°- 700° F.
- 153 sq. in. cooking area.
- 14 inch diameter cast iron grates
- Size : 25″ tall, 21″ wide.
- Kamado style grills promote even heating to enhance flavor
- Easy dump ash pan for fast and simple cleanup
- Top and bottom air dampers for easy and precise temperature control
- More durable, affordable, and lighter weight than ceramic grills – great for tailgating, camping or going to the park
- Holds heat like the more expensive ceramic grills – grill more with less charcoal
- Features dual air-flow dampers, hinged locking lid, heat gauge, and triple wall steel with insulation to deliver a superior grilling experience
- Convenient handles for portability and grilling on the go – perfect for camping, tailgating, RV, and more
- Triple-walled insulation retains heat.
- Durable steel construction built to last.
- Adjustable top and bottom dampers.
- Easy dump ash pan.
- Stainless heat gauge.
If you’re impressed with the general concept of the astonishing PK Grills PK360 but cannot bring yourself to spend that much on a portable smoker grill, then the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado is the obvious second choice. It’s a fraction of the price of the PK360 and is a similar product. Though it’s obviously not as indestructible. How can it be? It’s a lot cheaper.
While the Akorn Kamado cannot boast cast aluminum and stainless steel, it has a triple wall steel construction and a quality powder-coated finish. So it’s durable enough to last quite a while and offer good service for years. The cast iron grate is also of a high quality standard. It stands on a solid base with really great 8” rubber-clad wheels. It weighs 97 LBS which is only 2-pounds heavier than the aluminum PK360. Since aluminum has a much higher strength to weight ratio, this gives us a clear indication that the Akorn Kamado isn’t nearly in the same league.
However, for its price, this is a fantastic item. It has an adjustable vent at the bottom with four heat settings and a clever vent system at the top. You will have no problem getting the perfect temperature for grilling, broiling or smoking and everything in between. It has quite sturdy shelves on either side with hooks for hanging stuff. With a 314sq.in cooking surface and an additional 133 sq.in warming rack, the Akorn Kamado provides a lot of grill space for a small to medium smoker grill.
This is a very well-designed smoker grill and is quite durable. While I would prefer to pay extra for the PK360, not everyone wants to spend that kind of cash. For its affordability and fantastic design, the Akorn deserves quite a lot of merit and should not be overlooked. It is great value for money.
Everything you need to know about grilling meat
You get different types of smoker grills. Most will be charcoal burners, which will burn charcoal or wood to produce the smoke. Gas smoker grills will use wood chips that have been soaked (for at least an hour – preferably longer) or wood pellets. While gas smoker grills make things a little easier because it’s simpler to control the heat, the basic principles remain the same. It’s important to read your instruction manual to understand your smoker grill before you start using it. They all have their own ways of controlling the heat and this important to know.
Charcoal burners will use vents (usually at the top and bottom) to control the heat. You need to get used to this and figure out the best combination of vent settings to control your temperature. Gas burners allow you to control the heat by turning a dial which regulates the flame. These obviously require the least amount of knowledge. You can go the whole hog and get an automated smoker grill that will feed the wood pellets and monitor the flame electronically. This means you can set your desired temperature and leave it like the oven in your kitchen. In the end, what you need to concern yourself with is the type of wood you’re using, your temperature control and the preparation of your meat. These three important factors apply to any type of smoker grill.
Selecting your wood
You can use regular charcoal as long as it has not been treated with an accelerant that helps it burn. Any chemicals will destroy your food, so you don’t want to use lighter fluid or any treated wood. I always prefer using wood to charcoal, you can choose the wood that you want and this will give you a distinct flavor.
No one can say which wood is the best for smoking, I have a particular fondness for hickory but also have an affinity for cherry, oak, and apple. You can experiment with various types of wood with different cuts of meat to find your own preference.
While there are no real rules for what wood you should use. There are some types that definitely should not be used. Mesquite and wood with a lot of sap, like pine, are an absolute no-no. These will give a bitter odor and ruin your meat. If you’re using wood chips or pellets, manufacturers have selected the best wood for you and you’ll usually get some information about this on the packaging. This makes things a lot easier for the beginner.
Choose your cuts of meat
The number one rule for any form food preparation is to choose quality ingredients. A good butcher should be able to advise you on the best cuts for smoking. You can actually smoke anything and it doesn’t have to be meat. There are a lot of vegetables that are great when smoked. Fish and poultry smoke well too, but need more care.
If you’re starting out, stick to the cuts that are to known to smoke well. These will usually be meats with more fat as they don’t dry out easily. Most large pork cuts are great and those with the bone in are better. A lot of beef cuts are also great. Start out with the traditional stuff, like brisket and ribs. They are known to be the best cuts for smoking and once you’ve perfected these, you can move on to more complicated ingredients.
VIDEO | PK Grill & Smoker (PK360) — How to Cook with 2-Zone Heating
Preparing Your Meat
To brine or not to brine, that is the question. Soaking your meat in brine does help to soften it and add moisture, but this can leave the meat too salty. A vinegar based marinade also softens the meat and helps to keep it juicy. Though vinegar, without anything to counterbalance the acid, will leave a sour taste.
Truth is, you don’t really need brine or marinade, especially if you’re doing ribs which have enough fat and bone to keep them moist. If you’re starting out with ribs or brisket, a dry rub is the best. Remember that smoking is a low-temperature, slow process, so your meat doesn’t dry out as it would when grilling it.
Your dry rub is the all-important thing. There are an endless array of spices that you can use and this depends very much on your taste and experience. If you’re not a spice connoisseur, stick the basics and follow trusted recipes. For a good basic rub for ribs (and most red meat) take a half cup of sea salt, half a cup of brown sugar, one tablespoon of lemon pepper, one tablespoon of black pepper, a quarter cup of coarsely ground coriander, and about two teaspoons of chili flakes for a 3-pound piece of meat. Rub this over the meat before smoking. The salt and spices will give you a sumptuous savory flavor while the sugar caramelizes to give you a crispy brown crust.
Time to get smoking
It’s all about a slow and steady temperature. You want your smoker to be hot but not too hot. Then it’s all about patience, time is the thing to getting succulent smoked meat. If you’re using charcoal, you’re going to want to have some burning all the time outside of your smoker. You’ll need to add coals as you go and these should be hot.
Get your smoker hotter than the recommended temperature before you place the meat on the grate. Initially, your temperature is going to drop because of the meat you’re adding. So you’ll want to start at about 250°F and then let it settle to about 220°F. You’re going to want to maintain your temperature as close to 220° throughout the process. So, unless you have an automated smoker, you’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature, adding coal and adjusting your vents as you go.
Now for the patient wait. Once you’ve put your meat on the grate and closed the lid, leave it that way. It’s tempting to take a peak and some people believe the meat should be turned or basted. This is not the case, if you’re going to be basting your meat, do it near the end of the process, when the meat is basically cooked through. A three-pound rack of ribs is going to take about 4-hours and during this time, all you’ll be doing is keeping an eye on the temperature – nothing else.
Once the meat is cooked through and pulls away from the bone, you can baste it over a medium to high heat. This will give you a nice char-grilled flavor and make it all the more juicy.