Smoking – not just for cigarettes

If your new barbecue obsession is smoked meat, then you may want to invest in a smoker. Many models are fueled by electricity and use flavored wood chips to smoke your food to perfection. At anywhere between $50 and $6000 online, you can buy a smoker that will fit your cooking needs and your budget.

The world of smokers can be confusing – they don't all work the same way, and some will definitely work better than others. It helps to know what you've got to choose from.

  • Vertical water smokers are great for the beginning gastronome. These vertical smokers resemble trash cans and include two cooking racks along with a firepit and a water pan to regulate temperature and moisture. These portable grills, can easily be brought along for camping or road trips with your buddies, and they're great for barbecue chefs who enjoy being part of every step of the smoking process.
  • Electric smokers are for those cooks who like to throw in their food and forget about it until it's ready. These user-friendly smokers simply need plugging in to do their work, effectively removing all fire-tending duties from the smoking process. All you have to do is add pre-moistened, flavored chips and let the smoker do its job. These smokers allow for smoked meat, the easy way.
  • Off-set smokers are serious business – these are for chefs who make smoking meat their full-time hobby. The smoker consists of three parts: the firebox, the horizontal smoking chamber, and the chimney. Depending on the kind that you get, your smoker may also have a vertical smoking chamber. The smoker is called "off-set" because the flames and smoke don't go directly to the meat, but travel past a baffle and into the smoking chamber.

Remember, never use starter fluid to light your fire, because it will leave a bad taste on your food. As well, using small amounts of wood and then adding more will let you regulate the flavor of your food.

So what kind of wood should you use to smoke your food? That depends on your favorite flavors. Sometimes combining different woods will give you a flavor like no other, and smoking can be a lesson in experimentation. But if you're looking for basic smoking combinations, we've prepared a list of woods that you may want to try on your favorite meats and cheeses:

  • Hickory - gives a smoky, bacon flavor.
  • Mesquite - gives red meats a sweet zest.
  • Maple - mix with ham or bacon for a syrupy aroma.
  • Sun Dried Seaweed - lends a tang to shellfish.
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