Gas smokers are incredible when it comes to portability and affordability. Whether you’re a meat smoking expert or someone new to the game who’s looking for the best gas smoker, this article is for you.
What features should you look for in a gas smoker? How do they compare with other types of smokers? I will answer these questions for you. This guide will take you through the steps to help you confidently choose the best gas smoker for you.
A guide to gas smokers
When shopping for a gas smoker, you will notice that most of them cost under $200. When it comes to these varieties, as long as you’re careful with your selection, you won’t sacrifice quality for the price.
However, to choose the best gas smoker for you, there are a few things you need to know:
- The basics of a gas smoker
- Who should buy a gas smoker?
- How this smoker stacks up against the other types
- Basics of operation
- Features that you should look for, and why you need them.
- Things to consider before you purchase
- Budget considerations
- Other tools you may need for a gas smoker
I will fill you in on all of these points as best as I can. Although, ultimately, it’s up to you to choose. My job is to give you a few things to keep in mind while weighing your options.
What is a gas smoker?
A gas smoker is a cooking appliance that uses propane as a heating source. These styles of smokers are also known as vertical propane smokers. They can incorporate wood chips for that subtle touch of flavor, which you can accomplish a lot easier than you can with a charcoal smoker.
Gas smokers produce cleaner heat and are relatively easy to operate. Although, you still need to have a basic understanding of how to cook the meat right.
The gas smoker comes in different styles and features. Some open at the top, while others are more of a cabinet, school-locker style. I prefer the cabinet style myself.
Who is a gas smoker for?
If you’re one of the meat smoking enthusiasts who don’t enjoy as tricky of a process as charcoal smokers, then a gas smoker is ideal for you. This style allows you to enjoy the process at a basic level, but without the hassle of having to provide a significant oversight.
These vertical propane smokers provide convenience. You’re able to set it and forget it, for the most part. While they’re not as convenient as an electric smoker, they aren’t as difficult and demanding as your classic offset charcoal smoker.
Although there is a price for this convenience: The taste. While the meat will still be tender and delicious, it won’t taste as great as the meat smoked using charcoal or wood fueled smokers.
To know whether this smoker is for you, I will list the advantages and disadvantages of gas smokers.
- Easy to start and stop
- Maintaining temperature is easy
- Great for beginners
- Propane gets expensive
- The flavor, although good, isn’t as delicious as what charcoal or wood would produce.
- Gas tanks are combustible and pose a risk if you are not careful.
- They have limited space, so a full rack of ribs may be hard to smoke unless you purchase a larger model.
In my opinion, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Although, if you’re one of those cooks who believe charcoal is the only way and best way to smoke food, then a gas smoker may not be the right fit for you.
Why choose a gas smoker?
I think the feature that tips the scale towards a gas smoker above all others is the portability factor. Since this smoker is not run on electricity, you can smoke your meat anywhere. (Except for indoors, of course)
The propane smokers aren’t as heavy as charcoal ones, so they’re easier to lift and maneuver. For those of you who:
- Travel by motorhome/truck around the country or take frequent road trips
- Love camping
- Compete in meat smoking competitions
This smoker is ideal for you. It’s relatively lightweight and compact so you can go smoke meat in the mountains or while you take a break from the road.
Also, if you dislike:
- Continually checking the firebox and feeding the fuel.
- Scrubbing the soot off of a classic horizontal smoker
- Fighting to maintain the temperature
- Struggling to start the fire
- You will appreciate a gas smoker instead of a charcoal smoker.
Besides, if you want a more hands-on approach to meat smoking, the gas smoker is a great choice. With an electric, they’re lovely for setting it and walking away to go about your day. However, that may not be your preference.
The gas style is a happy medium between a charcoal smoker and an electric smoker.
Basics of use
Fill the water pan
First things first, you will want to fill the water pan. You can do this with several liquids to produce different flavors, including:
For easier cleanup, line your water pan with foil first.
Start the burner
Next, you will want to hook your propane tank to your smoker and open the valve. While the door is open, check the manual for your smoker on how to light the burner. Different brands have different ways to do this.
If, for some reason, you cannot get the fire to light on the first try, shut your propane off. Once the gas clears, you can try lighting it again.
Preheat your smoker
Once you get the flame going, you will want to set your temperature. Ideally, you will want to keep it in the range of 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the food you want to cook.
Specific models may not have a set degree, but rather a general setting such as low, medium, and high. The owner’s manual will tell you the correlation between these general settings and the temperature range.
Preheat your smoker for at least 10 to 15 minutes for your temperature to become constant. Adjust the vents as needed to assist the device.
While you are preheating your smoker, you can add wood chips to the tray above the burner. You will know when your smoker is ready when you see smoke flowing from the chimney or the dampers.
Smoke your food
Now it’s time to get your food into the smoker. You can choose to set your food on the shelves or hang them from the hooks inside the device.
With a gas smoker, you will want to check periodically to see if you need to refill the wood and liquid. Also, keep an eye on your flame. If the fire goes out, it can cause a dangerous gas build-up.
Once your food is finished, turn the flame off and disconnect the propane tank. When your smoker cools down, you can clean it up and get it ready for the next use.
Features to look for and why
Many smokers are made of thin metals, which makes it hard to maintain the temperature inside. Make sure you look for a smoker with a thicker, more durable metal to smoke your food to perfection.
Also, check the seals to ensure that they’re of a higher quality as well. If smoke escapes, it will take longer to cook and may cause your food to cook unevenly.
You’ll pay a little extra for this feature, but you will want two doors. I like the double door feature because it allows you to keep the door shut to the cooking chamber while you add wood and water.
With the one-door models, sometimes you will have to open the door to the cooking chamber. You will then have to build your temperature and the preferred amount of smoke all over again.
Instead of fighting to light your propane smoker with a lighter, search for one that has a one-touch ignition. Most models come with it now, but you might prefer one with a rotary ignition, or a push-button ignition.
A smoker with a powder-coated exterior is an excellent option for those who live in areas where the weather changes frequently. The powder coating will help insulate your smoker so you can smoke those delicious briskets no matter the weather.
Invest in a smoker with a multi-layer oven. The multi-layer feature will provide insulation in addition to the powder coating, providing the optimal environment for your delicious food to sit and smoke.
Find a model that has temperature controls. You want vents, adjustable dampers, or adjustable propane supply. That way, you can make small adjustments when needed.
Also, most of the propane smokers only have decorative temperature gauges or ones that are not accurate. You need to invest in a high-quality thermometer, so you know whether you need to adjust your heat.
While most of these types of smokers run $200 and under, you may want to invest a bit more to gain these incredible features.
On the other hand, try to shop in person for your smoker instead of buying one online. This way, you know exactly what your money is going towards. You don’t want to pay $450 for a smoker made of thin metal, with no double door or powder coating.
It’s always a good idea to first figure out how much you can spend on a smoker, and then shop according to your budget. Keep in mind that the price doesn’t define the product. While it’s worth investing more for features, you shouldn’t be paying more than $300 – $400 for a decent, personal gas smoker.
If you’re looking for one that is at least six cubic feet, that will cost more than one that is three cubic feet. However, you will be able to cook more food with it, including a whole rack of ribs.
Keep all of this information in mind when considering your budget for the purchase of a gas smoker.
Since a propane smoker is a different fuel source, you’re going to need a tank and propane. When you are smoking for more extended amounts of time, your propane is bound to run out. If you have an additional tank, you can switch the tanks and continue smoking your food.
Accessories for your smoker
In addition to your smoker, you will need several other accessories as well:
- High-quality wireless thermometer
- Two propane tanks
- Heat-resistant utensils
- Wood chips
These are several of the necessities to smoke some amazing tasting food successfully. Not to mention, they will make the process easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you season a gas smoker?
You will want to spray cooking such as vegetable oil around your racks and the entire inside of your smoker. Then, you will need to heat it for about 45 minutes without meat or vegetables to allow the oils to eat onto the surfaces.
After seasoning, your smoker is ready to go.
Which is better, gas or electric smokers?
It depends on your personal preference. Electric smokers don’t have as high of heat as a gas smoker does. Although, you can set and forget an electric smoker, and you can use it inside.
Gas smokers are better in all sorts of weather than electric, and they don’t depend on electricity to run. You are the only one who can decide which smoker is the best one for you.
What’s best for you?
You will need to know your preferences, and precisely what you are looking for when it comes to features and convenience. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little flavor and put it a little effort into your cooking, then a gas smoker may be the perfect fit for you.