This year, people seem to have gotten more into cooking and baking than ever before. Naturally, an interest in grilling and roasting has followed.
You’ve likely found yourself with more time on your hands lately, and want to invest in making your own barbecue. If you love to cook and grill, buying a smoker is the logical next step.
The world of roasters and smokers is an intimidating one. With so many different makes and models, the choices can seem overwhelming! How do you figure out which smoker is right for you?
A drum smoker is a great introduction to the world of smoked meat. Also known as barrel smokers, they’re smaller and more portable than many other smokers. It’s easy to find a drum smoker within your budget.
These recommendations are largely for home cooks and barbecue fanatics. If you’re looking for a commercial or restaurant-grade smoker, drum smokers may not be the most efficient choice. However, they’re a great small appliance to keep around.
Why You Should Go With a Drum Smoker
Drum smokers are easy to use, and let you become familiar with the process of roasting and smoking without having to make a huge investment. Though if you’re looking to invest, there are plenty of top-of-the-line models to choose from!
Once you can use a drum smoker, you’ll be ready to expand your barbecue knowledge with other equipment. Since drum smokers are relatively low-tech, you can focus on building great flavor in your barbecue!
The basic design of a drum smoker is a charcoal pit inside a barrel, with a rack to place your meat on and a lid. That’s it! The smoke is trapped inside the barrel, raising the inner temperature until everything is cooked through.
Of course, drum smokers can be made more high-tech. Some models incorporate temperature and airflow management. While these are helpful tools, you may decide you want a simpler, more streamlined model.
The Pros and Cons
Though drum smokers are a great investment, they have some drawbacks.
Due to their vertical design, drum smokers are compact and easy to store when you’re not using them. They’re versatile as well: you can use many models as a grill! Their insulation provides excellent temperature control as well.
However, due to their relatively compact design, you won’t be able to cook large amounts of meat at once. Most drum smokers are between 18 and 22 inches in diameter (barring some behemoths, like this 55 gallon smoker), which can’t accommodate some larger cuts of meat. However, the small space is great for a single-family or smaller-scale roasts.
If you’re not planning to smoke huge tomahawks or a suckling pig, then your drum smoker will be great for the job.
What To Look For in a Drum Smoker
First off, assess your skill level before choosing a drum smoker. If you’re a total beginner to roasting and smoking, choose a model that’s easy to use. Though the fancy expert smokers may look great, they require a higher level of base knowledge.
Also, decide how much you want your smoker to multitask. Some drum smokers can fry, roast, and even bake your food – like the beginner-friendly EasyGo Big Bad Barrel Smoker. However, many smokers are unitaskers that do their one job perfectly.
Also, ensure that your smoker has smooth airflow. This determines the efficacy of your smoker’s temperature control. Without good ventilation, your smoker may overheat while cooking.
Staying Under Budget
If you have $800 to $1,000 to spare, feel free to pick up that 55-Gallon smoker or a similar large model. However, you can get a solid smoker for less than $200 as well.
When sticking to a budget, you may worry that you’ll have to sacrifice quality for price point. However, this isn’t always the case. Many household name brands like Cuisinart and Weber make affordable smokers that work amazingly.
Just know that less expensive smokers may require more maintenance and upkeep. Cheaper materials are more prone to rust and tarnishing, but those are problems easily fixed and prevented. You just may need to baby your budget smoker a little more.
That said, to a degree, you do get what you pay for when it comes to smokers. This isn’t to degrade affordable smokers, but to emphasize that luxury smokers are truly worth the cost. If you want to have your barbecue horizons completely expanded, plan to invest.
The best budget drum smoker is definitely the Weber 14″ Smokey Mountain. It packs a lot of power in a little space and offers the reliability of a brand name. These pieces are durable and reliable, but won’t take up too much room in your backyard.
More Smoker Recommendations
These models are tried-and-true in the barbecue community, and run the gamut in the price range. Whether you’re a beginner meat smoker or a seasoned professional, there’s something for you here.
We’ve already mentioned the Weber Smoky Mountain and EasyGo Big Bad Barrel. These are great models for a beginner, but here are some intermediate options as well.
- Cuisinart Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker
- Pit Barrel Classic Charcoal Cooker
- Dyna-Glo Signature Series Vertical Smoker
These three models won’t break the bank but will help expand your burgeoning barbecue habit. Whether you’re planning to become a serious smoker or just a hobbyist, the models mentioned in this article will point you in the right direction.
Go Forth and Smoke Your Meats
Buying a drum smoker may give you a bit of sticker shock, but it’ll be worth it the first time you taste home-smoked pork or chicken. When your meat is charred on the outside while still falling off the bone, you’ll thank us for guiding you. Whether you want to barbecue North Carolina or Texas-style, the right smoker will make it easy to dive right in.
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