Let’s talk about everything you need to know about upgrading your equipment more specifically purchasing a new smoker.
Here’s some things to think about before pulling the trigger:
What is the smoker going to be used for?
Are you buying your first smoker, or is it time to upgrade to a larger cooker? You first need to identify what the primary use of the smoker is going to be.
Ask yourself: Do I want something for the backyard? How often will I be using the smoker? Do I plan of entering competitions in the future? Will I need a smoker that can handle cooking for a large group?
These are all important questions to think about before making a purchase.
There’s no use in spending a ton of money on too much smoker if you’re never going to need it, but on the other hand, if there’s a chance that you may use it for catering, competitions, or even large events, then it is money well spent.
From my experience it’s better to start out with a less expensive model.
First off, start cooking at home for friends and family, and if you get hooked like the rest of us, then make the decision to drop off the big bucks on something bigger and better.
What size smoker do I need?
My answer to this is to figure out who you will be cooking for, whether it’s a family, occasional neighborhood bbq, or small competition… and then buy one size larger.
You’re going to kick yourself for not doing this; I know because I’ve been there done that. Now I’m not saying that you need to run out and spend 10 grand on a pit that will hold several hogs, but if there’s chance that you may want to cook one someday, then by all means buy a pit that will hold it.
How much do I want to spend?
This is the toughest question to answer. Smokers range anywhere from under $100 to several thousand.
I said it before that you don’t have to have expensive equipment to turn out quality bbq, but by purchasing a larger, professional style smoker you can concentrate on the meat instead of fighting the equipment.
That’s the main advantage to these expensive cookers. They simplify the smoking process.
You get better heat control and longer burn times, which allows you to concentrate on flavor profiles and most importantly, doesn’t work you to death over long cooks.
Where will I store it?
This is another question that comes up. If you have room on your property that’s great, but like a lot of us, it isn’t always the case.
Depending on the size of the cooker you may be able to place it on casters and transfer it from trailer to a garage or storage building.
I personally leave most of my smokers mounted on a covered trailer. It makes transportation easy. I don’t have to worry with unloading them all the time, and they’re protected from the elements. Plus, I’m lucky enough to have a place to store the trailer. (I keep the UDS and the cheap smokers in my back yard for beaters).
One option, that some of my friends use, is a parking facility.
There’s one in our town that is gated, covered, and has a security system. This option is great for people that don’t have the space at home. Of course it cost money to rent but at a little over $100 month it’s a viable option.
Whatever choice you make, consider where the smoker will sit when it’s not being used. There’s nothing worse than spending money on a cooker and it getting destroyed by the weather.
Where to start looking?
Like myself most of you, if you haven’t already, will start researching smokers on the internet.
BBQ forums are a great place to gain knowledge on the different types of smokers on the market.
You can also visit company’s web pages to get an idea on prices. For first-hand knowledge I try to talk to people that cook on different models. Going out to local contest and visiting with the cooks is a great way to learn about smokers.
Even if you don’t know the person, just ask them if they’d tell you a little about their cooker. Most everyone will take the time to talk with you. (just make sure it’s not during judging or turn-in of course).
You can even contact the dealer to ask for references of past clients. Don’t hesitate to make a few phone calls and speak with people that have bought them.
There’s no one cooker that is superior to the others; it all depends on what you want it to do.
I cook on a few different types: one is a hog cooker that runs off charcoal and wood, one smaller water-pan cooker and the other has a propane option.
They all turn out fine bbq but the propane assist allows me to cook large loads without the worry of staying up all night. But this isn’t something that I can utilize at a contest… so you’ve got to think about what your looking for and identify which type of smoker fits your needs and start your research there.
I also have a few UDS smokers for the backyard (I highly recommend a UDS because they are cheap, practically indestructible and once you learn how to use them – highly efficient You can find out more about UDS Smokers here)
Now don’t say I didn’t warn you, but when you do get obsessed with this addiction that we call bbq, I guarantee that you will eventually want to buy a new pit… It happens to all of us.
Going at it with a little knowledge and planning will make the process a lot less painful. The hard part is explaining to the significant other why you need another smoker. I will have to leave that completely up to you…