Capacities of these units vary, with smaller smokers accommodating 50 to 60 pounds of meat and larger models holding up to 1,000 pounds.
Smokers are available in various configurations, including countertop, cabinet-style and room size units used indoors and larger outdoor pits. Operators considering an outdoor smoker need to check local codes and requirements, as some jurisdictions have outlawed these units.
Smokers are available in electric, gas and wood-fired versions.
All smokers will utilize a product to produce smoke, such as wood logs, chips or chunk formats; pellets; or, in rarer cases, charcoal. Full log use is less common, as this fuel type requires more labor during the cooking process.
Among the three types, electric smokers are used most often. Many of these models are portable and provide cold smoking capabilities for added flexibility. Electric smokers generally utilize wood chips or pellets to impart the smoke. Pellets are made from compressed sawdust and, unlike gas, are a renewable resource.
Gas smokers utilize gas to produce heat, and wood logs are added to create smoke.
Operators can also choose from a number of specialty smoker units. Small, countertop cold smoking units can be used to prepare fish, meat and cheese. The benefits of cold smoking are cost savings in preparing from-scratch items and from not needing additional ventilation, since this process does not use heat or produce grease-laden vapors like hot smoking. Similar to hot smoking, operators can use different wood types when cold smoking to impart specific flavors into the food.
For those seeking more versatility, combi oven models with smoking features also are available, in addition to cook-and-hold smokers.
When to Replace Smokers
Although the popularity of smoked foods varies by region, its appeal has become more universal.
Smokers can last as long as 50 years, but the average service life of these units is about a decade. Here are a few signs that it is time to replace a smoker.
Foodservice operators utilize smokers to impart flavors in food that would be difficult to create in any other way.
Proper smoker maintenance and cleaning is a necessity for safe use and fire prevention.
One common mistake in specifying smokers is underestimating or overestimating how much capacity will be needed.
With newer smoker models and specialty units, there have been advancements that enhance energy efficiency.