There are a few things better than enjoying the wonderful, mouthwatering aroma of meat being slowly smoked to perfection or the tantalizing flavor of tender meat that has been smoked, drawing out the juices.
Smoked meats have been enjoyed by many for thousands of years and even now among all the modern cooking conveniences, we still enjoy the hearty, flavor of smoked meats. In order to enjoy these aromas and flavors at their best, it takes a great smoker to perfect such a culinary art form. Not every smoker is the same, so it is important to understand the smoker to get the right one to meet your needs and those of your tastebuds.
There are two basic types of a combo smoker/grill. One is the upright grill smoker and the other is a grill with a side fire box for smoking. Smoking involved indirect heat, while grilling involves direct heating. The upright grill smokers takes advantage of the fact that smoke is lighter than air and thus “floats” until it is dispersed into the surrounding air.
An offsite firebox produces the smoke and then channels it into the grilling area where the smoke and heat acts upon the meat. Realistically, both approaches are equally effective at producing excellent smoked products.
The primary difference is that an offset firebox offers the opportunity to be out of the way during normal grilling and in some situations can be used while other parts of the grill are active, depending on the grill model. What a combo grill/smoker does offer is the versatility at preparing different foods or food types instead of relying on separate models for each type.
Offset the Difference
As previously mentioned there is no efficiency difference in cooking between the upright and the offset smoker style. However, there is a difference in the heat characteristics, if only a slight difference. An offset smoker allows for smoke production and fire control to be effected without having to disturb the meat and thereby causing a heat and smoke loss.
In an upright style smoker/grill any loss of smoke or heat will immediately effect the cooking of the meat on the racks above. With an offset smoke any effect is limited by the fact that the meat is already interacting with the smoke and heat of in the cooking chamber and thus will suffer only a limited effect of a smoke or heat loss, as long as it is only temporary. This makes the offset firebox style smoker more ideal in terms of containing heat.
It’s the Size that Matters
Besides choosing offset or upright, there is a size consideration that has to be taken into account. Upright smoker/grills have grown larger over time but they are still limited in the amount of meat than can be cooked or preserved via smoking or grilling.
For those individuals who enjoy smoking meat often or semi frequently, the larger size afforded by an offset firebox, smoker/grill combo is the way to go. Larger meats such as turkeys, multiple chickens, pork shoulders and more can usually be done at the same time with an offset firebox, smoker/grill combo than can be accomplished with the upright versions.
One Grilling Station to Rule Them All
When considering purchasing a grill/smoker combo, there are some units that function as a grilling station. In a real sense a grilling station offers the ability to grill and smoke food at the same time. Often this entails part of the grill using propane as a fuel source. Some of the better grilling/smoker combinations use a dual fuel approach with part of the grill using gas, part charcoal with an attached offset smoker. These grills can grill and smoke food at the same time.
The advantage here is not only versatility and saving time but excess heat from the propane side can enhance the heat characteristics in the charcoal side thus adding to the effectiveness of the heat from the offset smoker. This can be an important consideration for the backyard grilling chef who loves to grill and smoke meat frequently.
Getting the best smoker/grill combo to meet your needs is not difficult. Determine the fuel type, the size needed and then look at the individual characteristics of the grill to determine if it suits your individual needs. Interestingly, a person can never really have too much grill but they can have to less of a grill. Look at the construction of the grill, make sure it is solid and will last for years.
Consider how often it will be used and what it will be used for. Small apartment, small homes and bistros might be better suited for an upright grill smoker as they tend to be smaller and consume less space.
For the standard home or for homes with a large families and ample space, a grilling station with an offset firebox might be better suited. No matter what fuel choice, or size needed, there is a grill/smoker combo that will fit your needs and will provide years of great tasting grilled and smoke food.