This gas smokers guide will start with the pros and cons of using gas as an energy source for a smoker and following on a description of how a gas smoker works together with our opinions of the gas smokers that I've been lucky enough (or not in some cases) to cook on.
I must say at the top that not a "gas" man, I much prefer charcoal or wood as my chosen fuel source and judging by the reduction in brands over the last few years it would appear that you do too.
Gas is excellent for hot and cold smoking because it works well for the production of smoke and (in the case of hot smoking) is also a good source of supplementary heat.
I've prepare this drawing below to help you visualise what's going on inside the gas smoker.
The gas burner in the bottom provides the heat through lava rocks to the upper food chamber. The purpose of the lava rocks is to provide a hot substrate on which you can smoulder your wood chips and create smoker.
This part of the smoker might differ from model to model indeed even in my homemade smoker I used an old frying pan rather than lava rocks.
Above is the food chamber. The number of food racks will be driven by the size and the height of the chamber and whilst having a larger volume for food it's always worth remembering that the bigger the food chamber, the more energy required to heat it.
Separating the heat and smoke from the food is the water bath which provides humidity to the proceedings. It also acts as a drip tray to stop fat dripping down onto the heat source and also to some extent for smoke dispersal.
Not all gas smokers take the shape of this bullet smoker and as you read on through the gas smokers guide there are a number of subtle differences but in essence the process remains the same.
Well for me this is the one...it works and it's versatile!
Between the outer and inner walls of this ‘all-in-one’ Char Broil smoker (that goes by the name of The Big Easy® Infrared Smoker, Roaster & Grill), is a fully enclosed, specially designed propane burner. The heated inner walls radiate natural infrared heat that penetrates the food evenly and seals the juices inside. The hot air that is generated escapes out of the top of the cooking chamber before the food has a chance to dry out - resulting in moist and tender meat.
If you aren’t technologically minded just rest assured that The Big Easy simply lives up to its name. You no longer need three different pieces of kit. When you want to smoke simply place wood chips or pellets in the stainless steel smoker box. The roasting basket is an easy alternative to the traditional rotisserie and if grilling then you can do so on the stainless steel grates - with no flare-ups due to the infrared cooking system. This highly efficient infrared cooking system operates from 9K- 18K BTUs depending on the setting.
The only shortcoming I noted was that the inner food basket is a little flimsy.
The whole thing is easy to clean with the insides being stainless. If I was choosing a gas smoker then this would be where I'd start. They are also heavily discounted on Amazon too.
Ideal for smaller family gatherings.
Formerly branded Great Outdoors this Smokey Mountain has a lot going for it. Primarily the fact that it not only spacious and easy to operate but the temperature control is pretty good.
Front opening is always a positive for this style of smoker because it makes set up and clean down that much easier.
Three cooking racks (with space for a fourth) make this Great Outdoors Smoker ideal for those racks of spare ribs, bacon and hams, duck, turkey for thanksgiving, prime rib for Christmas and even for smoking the perfect salmon - catering for up to large family gatherings and parties.
For the price you would be hard pressed to find a better smoker on the market. The gas smokers guide verdict on this one is that it's good for the beginner but price-wise the Landmann Smoky Mountain weighs in a little heavier than the Char-broil unit I reviewed earlier.
That said you do have options in terms of the size of unit. This link to Amazon will give you the prices for each size.
Here then I am looking at the M7P 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill with Pan and Basket Set from the Masterbuilt Smoker stable. Exceptionally versatile, this outdoor smoker and grill allows for cooking in seven different ways. ‘How do I love thee, let me count the ways’(with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning):
Hmm. Bit of a cheat separating propane and charcoal as these are fuel types (frustrating also because it means that I can't categorize it with all my other reviews!) but hey five different functionalities still make this Masterbuilt smoker extremely versatile.
The unit arrives with a modicum of assembly required, with ‘easy to follow assembly instructions’, you pretty quickly have before you something of beauty in the world of barbecues. Standing on its U-shaped legs (for improved stability) and a solid-steel 19-inch LP gas-cooker stand key features of this impressive smoker/grill/fryer include: a porcelain flame disk bowl, cast-iron burner (with a type-1 regulator and hose), temperature gauge and cool-touch handles.
A 10 ½ quart ‘aluminum pot’ with its sturdy flat base and loop side handles is designed to be extremely easy to clean. It is the ‘deep-frying basket’ with its convenient drain clip that gives you the ability to fry fish, french fries and the like (simply cook food in the pot then lift the basket to drain through the tiny drain holes).
A nice touch is the fact that the long-stemmed handle has a rubber-covered end that provides protection against the heat. A word of advice though from one customer who said: ‘Do not trust the thermometer that came with it. It is nowhere near precise’.
If I were you I would do as this otherwise satisfied customer suggests and purchase a ‘separate wireless thermometer that monitors the internal temperature of the smoker AND the temperature of what you are cooking’.
Ideal for camping, picnics, and cookouts with friends and family.
The last two smokers review in my gas smokers guide have been discontinued however I have kept them in because it's actually interesting to read negatives because you can start to better understand what's important to you.
A gas smokers guide that just extols the positives tells you little more than you can get from the brand website.
Now discontinued it was claimed to be the most versatile outdoor BBQ cooking system ever, it’s modular design enabled the All-In-One to be used as an LP gas water smoker, gas grill, charcoal water smoker, charcoal grill or 160,000 BTU gas cooker/fryer. It sounded too good to be true but unlike the Char Broil reviewed earlier, in this case it was.
Don't be fooled by the picture these units stood 45 inches tall.
The smoker body comes complete with two grills that together accepted up to 50 lbs of food and a heat indicator in the dome lid helped to take the guesswork out of the cooking process. Wooden handles on the side will stay cool and safe to touch.
The list of accessories that come included in the pack were:-
Could one of these Brinkmann barbecue gas smokers be all things to all men? Well it would appear that it was a jack of all trades and a master of none. The gas grill was a waste of time and a waste of propane too.
The usual complaint of gas smokers manifested...to keep the temperature low you had to have the gas burner set low and it very easily blew out.
That said it worked as a fryer but then why not just buy a fryer?
Bradley Propane Smoker
This smoker has also now been discontinued by the manufacturer and if you read through my gas smokers guide you'll see some key design flaws that make it easy to understand why it didn't sell so well.
The main advantage of this smoker was its size, small and compact, easy to move around. Ideal for couples and small groups. It was also inexpensive (read “cheap”) to buy so is also ideal for the beginner who doesn’t want to shell out a fortune initially.
As with all Bradley models however you have to buy their self-loading Flavor Bisquettes™ that are expensive so you need to factor this into your costs of buying one.
Oh and while you're at it, factor in the running costs of a small gas canister as well!
It was designed to be transported in a bag come hold-all that is doubles as the cover for the unit outside. The fact that the manufacturer included a spare one of these was a clear indication that it had a somewhat limited shelf life.
As a nod to its illustrious heritage most reports say that the Bradley Propane Smoker smoked salmon to perfection. On the downside the temperature did tend to fluctuate particularly at harsh Winter temperatures. It was a one season sleeping bag not a four season bag if you get my drift.
Our gas smokers guide verdict...the design was clearly low cost and this was reflected in the performance and expensive running costs. I'm not a fan of the Bradley electric smoker but this unit delivered better quality results for a fraction of the cost but that's still not saying much.
Finishing on a positive, clean-up was easy with all the removable racks fitting into a dishwasher but that didn't make up for the negatives.