Gas smokers offer a convenient and efficient way to smoke a wide variety of foods, from ribs and pork shoulder to salmon and vegetables. In this blog, we’ll explore the ins and outs of gas smokers, including how they work, the pros and cons of using one, and tips for getting the most out of your gas smoker.
While gas smokers may not be the first choice for everyone, they can be excellent options for smoking meat. Gas smokers offer a unique flavor, clean heat, and convenience that is similar to electric smokers. One major advantage of gas smokers is the lack of need for fire management or messy charcoal. These smokers can be used all year round and can cook meat in any climate. While there are some drawbacks to using a gas smoker, as with any type of smoker, they do have their own set of pros and cons.
An Introduction to Gas Smokers: What You Need to Know
- Gas smokers are an easy, cheap, and clean way to smoke meat
- Gas smokers are good at producing a distinct flavor, clean heat, and convenience
- Gas smokers do not require fire management, no messy charcoal, and no large temperature swings
- Gas smokers can be used year-round and cook meat in all climates
- Gas smokers may require frequent propane tank changes and may have difficulty cooking at low temperatures
- Gas smokers may be poorly constructed and made from thin metal
- Gas smokers are great for hanging meat on hooks and do not require fire management
- Gas smokers give the meat a distinct taste
- Gas smokers are light and portable
- Gas smokers can be used in all weather conditions and may require extra propane in cold temperatures
- Wood chips, sawdust, or wood chunks can be used in gas smokers
- Gas smokers may be better for some people than electric smokers due to their ability to produce a smoky flavor and their portability, but electric smokers may be better for others due to their ease of use and consistent temperature control.
What is a Gas Smoker?
A gas smoker is a type of outdoor grill that uses propane as its main fuel source to produce heat. The heat is generated by a burner located at the bottom of the unit, and smoke is created by placing wood chips in a tray above the burner. Gas smokers are typically designed in a vertical cabinet style, with three or four racks, a water pan, and a door. They can be made of stainless steel or cast iron, and often have only one vent or chimney on the top of the unit to allow gases to escape.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Using a Gas Smoker
Gas smokers are a convenient and efficient option for smoking a variety of foods, using propane as the main fuel source. One of the major advantages of using a gas smoker is the lack of need for fire management, making them a good choice for days when you may not have the time or energy to tend to a fire.
Gas smokers also offer a unique flavor to the meat being smoked, although this may not be noticeable to all people. However, there are some drawbacks to consider, such as the need to monitor the propane tank and potentially changing it midway through a cook, as well as the limited cooking space in vertical smokers and the potential for heat leakage and increased propane usage in lower quality models.
|Vertical smokers are great for hanging ribs and other meat on hooks, allowing smoke to circulate around the meat evenly||The major drawback with gas smokers is having to monitor the propane tank and potentially changing it midway through a long cook|
|Gas smokers do not require fire management, making them convenient for days when you may not have the time or energy to manage a fire||Vertical smokers have a narrow cooking chamber which can be limiting for larger roasts such as full packer briskets|
|Gas smokers give the meat a distinct flavor, which may be noticeable to some people||Gas smokers may not be able to hold temperatures below 250°F, which may be a problem for those who prefer cooking at lower temperatures or for cold smoking|
|Gas smokers are portable and lightweight compared to other types of smokers||Some gas smokers on the market are poorly constructed and made from thin metal, leading to heat leakage and increased propane usage|
Winter Smoking: Can a Gas Smoker Stand Up to the Cold?
One of the advantages of using a gas smoker is that they can be used year-round and maintain a consistent temperature in any weather conditions. Unlike charcoal or wood smokers, which can be difficult to control in wind, snow, or rain, gas smokers are able to maintain a steady temperature. However, it’s worth noting that in extremely cold temperatures, gas smokers may take longer to heat up and may use more propane, so it’s a good idea to have an extra tank on hand.
Enhancing Flavor with Wood Chips on a Gas Smoker
Gas smokers take either wood chips, sawdust, or wood chunks that can be added to the tray above the burner to create smoke. It’s important to check the wood every hour and refill the tray as needed to maintain a steady flow of smoke throughout the cooking process. Some people prefer wood chunks over wood chips because they last longer, but both can be used to add flavor to the food being smoked. There are many different types of flavored smoking woods available, including apple, cherry, and hickory, which can be mixed and matched to create unique flavor profiles.
For more information on wood, read my Wood Guide.
Gas vs. Electric: Which is the Better Smoker?
When it comes to producing delicious smoked meat, both gas and electric smokers can be effective. However, many people believe that the flavor produced by gas smokers is superior to that of electric smokers. One of the main differences between the two types of smokers is the temperature range.
Electric smokers typically have a range between 100°F and 275°F, while gas smokers tend to run between 250°F and 500°F. This can be problematic for electric smokers, as they may struggle to reach temperatures above 250°F-275°F, making it difficult to achieve a crispy skin on chicken and turkey. To overcome this issue, some people recommend finishing chicken or turkey in a conventional oven.
On the other hand, gas smokers may run too hot, making it difficult to achieve lower temperatures needed for cold smoking or smoking at lower temperatures. To lower the temperature on a gas smoker, some experts recommend adding ice to the water pan or leaving the door open slightly.
The Flavor Profile: How Do Gas Smokers Compare to Other Smokers?
In terms of flavor, different smokers can produce different tastes based on the type of fuel they use. Gas smokers are often considered to be fairly neutral, as they are fueled by a clean heat source. Charcoal smokers, on the other hand, can give the meat a distinct charcoal flavor, while offset wood smokers tend to produce a more smoky taste. Some people claim that gas smokers give the meat a particular taste, while others may not be able to detect a difference.
Safety Considerations for Using a Gas Smoker
Gas smokers are no more dangerous than other types of smokers, but they do require certain precautions to be taken in order to use them safely.
Are Gas Smokers More Dangerous? Gas is a dangerous substance that can cause explosions and fires, so gas smokers should be treated with care. Always make sure the pipes, valves and hoses are connected correctly and aren’t damaged. The moment you smell a leak, stop using the smoker and contact the manufacturer. Never modify the smoker and always refer to a licensed technician.
How to Season a Gas Smoker
Before you use any smoker for the first time, you need to run the smoker without meat to get rid of any chemicals and manufacturer’s grease. Run the smoker above 350°F for about 45-minutes to an hour.
Reaching High Temperatures: What Can a Gas Smoker Achieve?
Gas smokers run hot and are difficult to hold temperatures below 250°F. This isn’t a problem if you’re happy smoking low-and-slow roasts, but cold smoking below 200°F might be difficult. The temperature of the smoker will drop when you add cold meat, so give the smoker time to stabilize. If you’re cooking in winter, the metal on the smoker will take longer to heat and will use more propane.
How to Choose the Right Gas Smoker for Your Needs
Masterbuilt Gas Smokers. If you’re after an affordable option, Masterbuilt are known for their electric smokers, but they also have a few decent gas smokers. The latest model is the MPS 340/G, which is capable of cooking a lot of meat. There’s also a smaller version, the MPS 330/G that’s cheaper and cooks less meat. The larger Masterbuilt gas smoker has a wide temperature range between 180 to 350°F. In my opinion, this is what sets the MPS gas smokers apart from the MES electrics. The MES electrics can only reach 250°F to 275°F, which makes it difficult to get a crispy turkey skin. The MPS 340 doesn’t have that problem. Check out all the Masterbuilt gas smokers on Amazon.
Camp Chef Smoke Vault
This gasser is a great little smoker. No wonder it’s so popular. Not only is it well constructed, it’s affordable. For more information on the Camp Chef, check it out here on Amazon.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.