bbq-smoker
Backyards

Wood vs. Charcoal Smokers

Sweet, juicy meat – who doesn’t think of it when they imagine how they’re going to spend their summers? Barbecue is a classic food in the summer months, along with picnic fare, ice cream trucks, and whatever your (over-priced) favorite poison is in a movie theater. However, if you’ve grilled before, you know that the quality of your meat is only equal to the quality of your equipment and materials, as with most things in life.

What kinds of materials and ingredients are we talking about? Well obviously, we are including the meat itself; if you get a good cut of meat, it can make worlds of difference in terms of what you are eating.

This doesn’t just mean getting a sirloin versus a T-bone steak, although that will dictate quite a bit in terms of the kind of meal you’re having; we also mean that you should consider freshness, if it has been frozen or not, the source of the meat (Kobe beef, for example, has a great reputation), and more.

Then you want to consider if you’re using a rub or some other way of flavoring the meat or just adding a barbecue sauce at some point in the process.

The Tools Make the Meat

ribs-on-smoker

Other equipment that is viable for your use includes the right kinds of utensils for turning the meat – just using a spatula alone can be frustrating, for example – as well as how you are storing the meat once it has finished cooking, as preserving heat while not letting the meat be cooked further is important to avoid undercooking or overcooking the meal. Yet when you get down to it, there is one piece of equipment that is the most important in your barbecuing, and that is the grill/cooker/smoker itself. Yes, there are many varieties, but in the end the basic idea is singular: a large machine where you put the meat and in which heat is generated, stored, and used to cook the meat over time.

While most people use grills – and they are, after all, the cheapest option – grills also do the least to actually prepare the meat. The heat is difficult to control and maintain, and it takes quite some time to get it “started,” much less to let it cook over the long term. Indeed, the fire that you ignite in a grill goes out rather quickly, and burns intensely in that time, cooking the meat quickly but in such a way that it does not produce that delectable smoky taste that we come to expect from high-quality, home-cooked barbecue. That’s where the smoker comes in.

Thank You for Smoking

A smoker isn’t just a person who smokes cigarettes; it can also be a device used to slowly cook meat using a rather low setting of heat over a long period of time. This extended period of heat does several things to the meat, including cooking the fat in such a way that it moisturizes the meat, maintaining flavor and texture. The long period of time in which a smoker cooks meat also cooks the meat in such a way that the connective tissues that run throughout the meat are broken down by the low heat, transforming them into water and sugar, which in turn further moisturize and maintain a palatable texture.

The question you have to ask yourself is, if this sounds like the kind of meat-cooking experience you want for yourself, would you prefer a charcoal smoker or a wood smoker? While there are reasons for both wood smokers and charcoal smokers, ultimately, if you value that charcoal taste, the ability to easily find and transport your fuel, and a more consistent heat source, then charcoal smokers have to be your preference. Just as with a grill, they cook slower, more consistently, and provide a realistic taste.

As the point of cooking in a smoker is the length of time and low heat applied in that time, charcoal smokers are the best means of creating that “smoke ring” in the meat, cooking mightily and deliciously on the outside while maintaining a reddish/pinkish inside that is so vital for taste and texture. Indeed, if these are your priorities, then a charcoal smoker makes the most sense for you; try it out for yourself and you’ll be a lifelong convert!