The 9 Different Types of Smokers

The different types of food smokers

A smoker is a piece of cooking equipment that cooks food with the use of indirect heat and smoke.

The smoking meat process is done over low heat, unlike direct grilling.

During the smoking process, the warm smoke penetrates the food cooks it as well infuses it with flavor.

The flavor just really varies depending on the type of wood or pellets you use. 

Over the years many different smokers have emerged. All of them have their pros and cons whether it is their price, temperature, or size.

Let’s explore all the different types of smokers. 

Offset Smoker

The offset smoker is one of the most popular designs.

It usually has a cylindrical cooking chamber while charcoal and wood burn in the firebox attached.

To create the smoke the firebox is lit, the airflow here is tightly controlled. The smoke and heat is pushed through the pipes into the cooking chamber.

You can also use the offset smoker as a grill, just ensure it has a grill plate.

Most offset smokers have shelves that are good for multiple briskets, racks of ribs, or pork shoulders.

If you want maximum control on your temperatures make sure you look for an offset smoker that is made of thick-cut steel and it well sealed this can help the unit retain the heat. 

how to use an offset smoker my char griller in the backard
My Offset Smoker

Smoke Box

The smokebox is a very basic and traditional way of smoking. However, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t produce incredible results.

Its design followed the two box systems, a food box, and a firebox. Due to its size, it is easier to control to make a higher degree.

The smoke and heat from the firebox move into the food box, this is where the smoke can cook the food. Most fireboxes have a super simple electric heating element near a pan of flavored wood chips. 

Gravity Feed Smoekr

A gravity-fed smoker is similar to a pellet smoker.

So how does a gravity smoker work? Rather than a pellet, a gravity-fed smoker use charcoal it is regulated by an electric panel, which allow charcoal to fall into a firepot.

Upright Drum Smoker

The upright drum has become known as the ugly drum smoker (UDS). This smoker is pretty much exactly what it suggests.

It is essentially a steel drum that has been converted into a hot smoker.

The UDS needs a basket towards the bottom to hold the charcoal, cooking racks or grill, and a lid with vents.

You find all different sizes have been built from 30 gallons to 80 gallons however the most popular size is the 55-gallon drum.

The UDS is very similar to indirect smoking due to the distance (typically 24 inches or 61 cm). to the coals and the racks/ grill. The temperature of the smoker is controlled by the vents and the amount of air intake they allow.

Because these smokers are easy to DIY at home and they are efficient with fuel they are popular amongst the grilling community.

Homemade Drum Smoke

Propane Smoker

A propane smoker allows for an easily temperature-controlled environment.

In a propane smoker, the heat is generally below the iron or steel box that contains charcoal or wood chips. The box contains holes, the box starves the wood or charcoal of oxygen and this produces smoke instead of burning.

Although propane smoker isn’t used in competition, they are great for at-home cook because they don’t use much fuel.
Another plus is you can buy natural gas smoker which can be hooked up to your home gas connection.

Wondering what to cook on your propane smoker? One of my favorite recipes is my smoked brisket, it always comes out juicy and tender with a pink ring.

my smoke vault gas smoker on the patio

Vertical Water Smoker

The vertical water smoker is shaped like an upright bullet, easy to use, and consider top-notch by serious competition BBQ cooks.

The water smoker is about the size of a kettle grill but its unique design of thermodynamics means it can easily hold temperatures of 225 to 250 degrees, perfect for brisket or pork butt.

The most unique characteristic of this smoker is its water pan.

This keeps food moist even after 10+ hours of smoking. It is made up of three sections. The cooking chamber; begins just above the water bowl and extends into the top part; it has a wire grill and a dome-shaped lid to capture the smoke and heat.

The water chamber is the mid-section, it is a large cylindrical part that has a door so that you are able to add wood or charcoal as well as a water bowl that is positioned between the grill and fuel.

This bowl can also catch any drippings from the meat and prevent a flare-up. The bottom is the firebox, this is a strong metal bowl with a grate to the bottom, it has your fuel. 

our water smoker on the patio(1)

Electric Smokers

The introduction of electric smokers has made smoking food much more accessible and convenient.

The electric smoker does not require any direct flames but they use a simple convection system.

Similar to the smokebox, they have a firebox that produces smoke. Electric smoker usually has a temperature range of 180-250 degrees

Most-electric smoker comes with a digital panel which allows you to control the temperature on it or by WI-FI or remote control

This also allows you to set and forget which is great if you don’t have time to tend to a fire. 

dads masterbuilt electric smoker in the shed

Trench Smoker

A more uncommon smoker is the trench. This is a method in which a narrow trench is made and is set to point at prevailing winds.

The inner part of the trench is then covered to make it like a tunnel.

At the far end of the trench, there is a covered spot with a chimney, this is where the food is placed on racks.

Towards the lower end of the trench is a very smoky fire, the wind ensures this is sustained all day until the food is cooked and cured. 

Rotisserie Smoker

Combining a smoker and rotisserie is the best invention ever.

You get the best of both worlds.

That delcious smokey flavor and flavor of the meat being cooked on a stick. These units can get expensive so I show you how to build a rotisserie smoker.

Commercial Smokehouse

Made from stainless steel the commercial smokehouses have all independent systems for creating smoke and cooking.

They can be different systems for creating smoke from electric coils, small flames or even igniting sawdust.

The heat from the coils or flames is balanced out with sprays of water or steam to control the humidity, temperature, and smoke in the unit. These elaborate systems reduce the margin for error and variation in the finished product.

Pellet Smokers

The pellet smoker is fuelled by wood pellets that are made of dried-up sawdust.

The pellets are fed into a hopper with is controlled by a temperature regulator. A small motor pushes these pellets into an auger, this auger sits atop a heating box.

Within the auger is a hot rod that lights them, a small fan then keeps them smoldering. The heat senses within the cooking box send the current temperature, which the desired temperature is set, the pellet hopper will either increase or decrease the rate of the pellet.

This system is for the perfect set and forget cooking as well as being light on fuel consumption. S

The acceptance of this type of smoker is on the upsurge after numerous BBQ pitmasters began using them for competition barbecue.

My Favorite Recipes for a Pellet Smoker

Pellet Grill Steaks

Pizza on a Pellet Grill

Smoked Prime Rib

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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