How Do Smokers Work? - Meat Processing Equipment 104
How Do Smokers Work?
Vertical smokers have a heat source, usually gas or electric, at the bottom of the smoker, and the pellets or wood chips sit on top of the heat source, causing them to smolder and smoke. There will be one or more dampers on the bottom of the smoker and one at the top to allow smoke to come up from the bottom and out of the top, drawing the smoke up and over your product. The one disadvantage to these units is that they are not suitable for grilling; they really can only be used as a smoker.
If you like Charcoal and wood smoking, then a Ceramic, Barrel, or offset Smoker like the ABS Pit Boss might be the best way for you to go. These work great for smoking large amounts of meat at a time or large cuts of meat. The Pit Boss has a rotisserie inside it that keeps the meat moving to make sure everything gets the same amount of smoke and prevents you from having to worry about any cold spots in your smoker. These smokers can range anywhere from basic to very advanced, with electronics monitoring the amount of airflow and rotisserie. These types of smokers provide the most classic smoke flavor as they use wood chunks and/or charcoal as both the smoke and heat source. In my opinion, the only disadvantage to these types of smokers is the cleanup and setup required.
A pellet combo smoker is a good choice for someone who will do some smoking but always wants to be able to easily grill on the same piece of equipment. These use wood pellets and can smoke at temperatures as low as 150° or grill up to 500° or more. They have a hopper with pellets on one side and an auger that feeds those pellets down into a heat source and then burns the pellets to act as the heat and smoke source. A chimney will be set off to the opposite side of the hopper to draw the smoke out of the grill area. The advantage of these smokers is the ease of use, just hit a button, and they are ready to go. The disadvantage would be that you are not going to pick up as much smoke as you would with a wood smoker, and you generally won’t be able to start below 150°.
How Important is a Meat Smoker?
Smokers are an essential part of the homemade sausage and meat snack-making process. For commercial processing, a good smokehouse is where I would recommend you spend more money as you can make it back faster than on almost any other piece of equipment. For home processors, a quality smoker will give you a much better-finished product and make your entire process more enjoyable.
Alternatives to a Meat Smoker
People without a way to smoke can absolutely still make Summer Sausage, Snack Sticks, or really any other type of meat snack. You can cook all of these items in an oven, and you can add smoke flavor by using Hickory Smoke Powder. Of course, a smoker is preferable as it will give you a more authentic taste.
Should You Buy a Meat Smoker
Absolutely you should get a smoker. If you don’t think you will smoke enough to spend the money on a dedicated smoker, you can get a pellet combo grill to replace your propane smoker! Meat that comes off of a pellet grill/smoker has a much different flavor than meat cooked on a propane grill.
Make sure that you are using the correct fuel source for your vertical smoker. Some, like the PK-100, need to use sawdust only, and pellets can create issues.