What Smokers Do The Pitmasters Use?

Imagine being at a barbecue competition, surrounded by the mouthwatering aroma of sizzling meat and the wafting clouds of smoke. As you watch the skilled pitmasters work their magic, you can’t help but wonder, what smokers do they use to achieve such incredible flavors? These masters of the grill have perfected their craft, and their choice of smoker plays a crucial role in their success. In this article, we will explore the world of pitmasters and uncover the secrets behind the smokers they rely on to create barbecue perfection. Get ready to take a behind-the-scenes look at the tools of the trade that make these pitmasters the true champions of smoke and fire.

Types of Smokers

There are several types of smokers available on the market, each with its own unique features and benefits. In this article, we will explore the different types of smokers, including offset smokers, pellet smokers, electric smokers, charcoal smokers, and gas smokers. Whether you are a seasoned pitmaster or someone new to the smoking game, understanding the differences between these smokers can help you make an informed decision and choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Offset Smokers

Offset smokers, also known as barrel smokers or stick burners, are the traditional choice for many pitmasters. They consist of a large barrel-shaped cooking chamber connected to a smaller firebox located offset from the cooking chamber. This design allows for indirect heat cooking, as the firebox generates smoke and heat that flow into the cooking chamber.

Design and Function

Offset smokers have a simple yet effective design. The firebox is responsible for creating the smoke and heat that cook the food, while the cooking chamber holds the food and allows it to slowly cook over a longer period. The smoke and heat enter the cooking chamber through a small opening located between the firebox and the cooking chamber. This indirect heat cooking creates a consistent and flavorful result.

Pros and Cons

Offset smokers offer several advantages. They provide a large cooking surface area, allowing you to smoke large quantities of food at once. Additionally, the offset design ensures even heat distribution and allows for more precise temperature control. Offset smokers also tend to produce a distinct smoky flavor that many pitmasters appreciate.

On the downside, offset smokers require some skill and experience to operate effectively. Achieving and maintaining the desired temperature can be a challenge, especially for beginners. Additionally, offset smokers tend to be larger and heavier, making them less portable compared to other types of smokers.

Popular Brands

When it comes to offset smokers, there are several popular brands to choose from. Some of the top names in the industry include Oklahoma Joe’s, Lang, and Yoder Smokers. These brands are known for their durable construction, excellent heat retention, and precise temperature control.

Pellet Smokers

pellet smokers, also known as pellet grills, have gained popularity in recent years. These smokers use wood pellets as fuel, which are automatically fed into a combustion chamber to generate both heat and smoke.

Design and Function

Pellet smokers feature a hopper located on the side or back of the unit, where the wood pellets are stored. The pellets are then transferred to a combustion chamber by an auger system. A fan blows air into the combustion chamber, creating a fire that produces both heat and smoke. The heat and smoke are then circulated throughout the cooking chamber, providing even cooking and imparting a rich smoky flavor to the food.

Pros and Cons

One of the main advantages of pellet smokers is their ease of use. They feature precise temperature control, usually in the form of digital thermostats, which allows for effortless temperature adjustments. Additionally, the automatic pellet feeding system eliminates the need to constantly tend to the fire, making pellet smokers relatively hands-off.

On the downside, pellet smokers may not produce as intense of a smoke flavor as other types of smokers. The reliance on wood pellets as fuel can also limit the variety of flavors you can achieve compared to using traditional wood chips or chunks. Pellet smokers also tend to be more expensive than other types of smokers.

Popular Brands

When it comes to pellet smokers, Traeger, Camp Chef, and Green Mountain Grills are some of the most popular brands on the market. These brands offer a wide range of models with various features and price points, ensuring there is something for every pitmaster.

What Smokers Do The Pitmasters Use?

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Electric Smokers

Electric smokers are known for their convenience and ease of use. As the name suggests, these smokers use electricity as their primary source of heat and smoke generation.

Design and Function

Electric smokers consist of a heating element, a wood chip tray or box, and a water pan. The heating element is responsible for generating heat, which is then used to produce smoke from the wood chips. The smoke is circulated throughout the cooking chamber, providing gentle and consistent heat for smoking the food.

Pros and Cons

Electric smokers offer several advantages. They are incredibly easy to use, as all you need to do is plug them in, set the desired temperature, and add wood chips. Electric smokers also provide precise temperature control, allowing you to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the smoking process. Additionally, electric smokers are often more compact and portable, making them suitable for those with limited space or who enjoy smoking on the go.

On the downside, electric smokers may not produce as intense of a smoke flavor as other types of smokers. Some pitmasters also argue that electric smokers lack the traditional “hands-on” experience of tending to a fire and adjusting airflow. Furthermore, electric smokers may not reach the same high temperatures as other types of smokers, limiting their versatility for certain types of cooking.

Popular Brands

Masterbuilt, Bradley Smoker, and Smoke Hollow are among the popular brands known for their electric smokers. These brands offer a variety of models with different features, including digital controls, remote monitoring, and ample cooking space.

Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers are beloved by many pitmasters for their ability to produce intense smoky flavors and achieve high temperatures. These smokers use charcoal as their primary fuel source.

Design and Function

Charcoal smokers typically consist of a charcoal pan, a water pan, and a cooking chamber. The charcoal is lit in the pan, and the wood chips or chunks are added to produce smoke. The water pan helps regulate the temperature and adds moisture to the cooking environment. The smoke and heat generated by the charcoal and wood chips circulate throughout the cooking chamber, infusing the food with smoky goodness.

Pros and Cons

Charcoal smokers offer several advantages. They are capable of reaching high temperatures, making them versatile for various cooking techniques, including grilling and searing. Charcoal smokers also produce a robust smoke flavor that many pitmasters prefer. Additionally, charcoal smokers are often more affordable compared to other types of smokers.

On the downside, charcoal smokers require more attention and maintenance during the smoking process. Achieving and maintaining the desired temperature can be challenging, as charcoal tends to burn at a faster rate and may require frequent refueling. The ash and residue left behind also require regular cleaning.

Popular Brands

Weber, Dyna-Glo, and Char-Broil are some of the popular brands known for their charcoal smokers. These brands offer a range of options, from compact portable models to larger, more advanced smokers.

What Smokers Do The Pitmasters Use?

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Gas Smokers

Gas smokers, also known as propane smokers, rely on propane gas as their fuel source. They offer convenience and ease of use, making them a popular choice among beginners and those who prefer a hassle-free smoking experience.

Design and Function

Gas smokers typically consist of a burner unit, a wood chip box, and a cooking chamber. The propane burner generates heat, which is used to both cook the food and produce smoke from the wood chips. The smoke is then circulated within the cooking chamber, ensuring even heat distribution and smoky flavor infusion.

Pros and Cons

Gas smokers offer several advantages. They are incredibly convenient to use, as all you need to do is turn on the propane supply, ignite the burner, and adjust the temperature. Gas smokers also provide precise temperature control, allowing for consistent cooking. Additionally, gas smokers tend to be more efficient and cost-effective compared to other types of smokers.

On the downside, gas smokers may not produce the same intense smoke flavor as other types of smokers. Some pitmasters also argue that gas smokers lack the authenticity and traditional experience of using charcoal or wood. Additionally, gas smokers may require additional accessories, such as a smoker box, to achieve a richer smoky flavor.

Popular Brands

Masterbuilt, Camp Chef, and Smoke Hollow are among the popular brands known for their gas smokers. These brands offer a range of models with different features, including multiple burners, built-in thermometers, and spacious cooking areas.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Smoker

When selecting a smoker, it is essential to consider several factors to ensure it meets your specific needs and preferences. The following factors are crucial to keep in mind:

Cooking Capacity

Consider the amount of food you plan to smoke regularly. Smokers come in various sizes, from compact models suitable for a small family to large units capable of handling large quantities of food.

Temperature Control

Ensure the smoker provides precise temperature control. The ability to set and maintain the desired temperature is crucial for achieving consistent and flavorful results.

Ease of Use

Consider how user-friendly the smoker is. Look for features such as digital controls, easy-to-read displays, and intuitive interfaces. Additionally, think about how easy it is to load and unload the smoker, as well as clean and maintain it.


Think about the different types of cooking you plan to do. Some smokers offer additional features, such as grilling or searing capabilities, which can expand your cooking options.


Set a budget and consider the price range of the smokers you are considering. Keep in mind that more expensive models often come with additional features and higher-quality construction.

What Smokers Do The Pitmasters Use?

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What Pitmasters Look for in a Smoker

Experienced pitmasters have specific criteria they look for when selecting a smoker. These criteria include:

Build Quality

Pitmasters value a smoker that is built to last. Look for smokers made from durable materials, such as heavy-gauge steel or ceramic. Additionally, check for solid construction and attention to detail.

Temperature Stability

Consistent temperature control is essential for achieving optimal results. Pitmasters prioritize smokers that can maintain the desired temperature throughout the smoking process, even in varying weather conditions.

Smoke Control

Controlling the smoke intensity is crucial for achieving the desired flavor profile. Smokers with adjustable vents or dampers allow pitmasters to fine-tune the smoke output.

Cooking Space

Ample cooking space is essential, especially when smoking for a crowd or during large gatherings. Pitmasters prefer smokers with multiple racks or a spacious cooking chamber to accommodate larger quantities of food.


Pitmasters value smokers that can withstand the test of time and frequent use. Look for smokers with robust construction, sturdy handles, and high-quality components.

Maintenance and Cleaning Tips

Proper maintenance and regular cleaning are essential for keeping your smoker in optimal condition. Here are some tips to ensure your smoker stays in top shape:

Grill Grates

Clean the grill grates after each use to remove any food residue or grease. Use a grill brush or scraper to remove any stuck-on debris.

Drip Trays and Grease Management

Empty and clean the drip trays regularly to prevent grease buildup. Use a disposable foil liner for easier cleanup. Consider lining the bottom of the smoker with aluminum foil or a disposable drip pan for added convenience.

Firebox and Ash Removal

Regularly clean out the firebox and remove any accumulated ash. Accumulated ash can affect airflow and temperature control. Use a metal ash shovel or vacuum to remove the ash.

Exterior Cleaning

Clean the exterior of the smoker using mild soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge or cloth. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft towel. Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they may damage the smoker’s finish.

What Smokers Do The Pitmasters Use?


In conclusion, there is a wide variety of smokers available, each with its own set of features and advantages. Whether you prefer the traditional charm of an offset smoker or the convenience of an electric or gas smoker, selecting the right smoker for your needs is crucial. Consider factors such as cooking capacity, temperature control, ease of use, versatility, and price when making your decision. Additionally, paying attention to factors that pitmasters value, such as build quality, temperature stability, smoke control, cooking space, and durability, can help ensure you choose a smoker that will serve you well for years to come. Remember to follow proper maintenance and cleaning practices to keep your smoker in top shape and ready for delicious smoking adventures. Happy smoking!

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