Invest in a smoker because you want better temperature control and a tighter smoke-retaining chamber than your grill offers. And because a steampunk-style contraption looks exceptionally cool among your toys.
Bullet, or water, smokers stack food above a water-filled drip pan that moderates the heat and adds humidity. The good ones, like Napoleon’s Apollo or Weber’s Smokey Mountain cookers, make it easy to add fuel any time; cheap ones don’t.
Pellet smokers slowly feed compressed hardwood sawdust into a burn pot. Look for ones with a digital controller, which adds pellets as needed to hold the temperature you set. Pellet smokers are great at smoking, but aren’t ideal for high-heat grilling.
Kamados have excellent venting to control heat, and ceramic walls to retain it, so a single load of charcoal can keep a kamado going all day long. Owners can be fanatical about their kamados, whether it’s the well-known Big Green Egg or a Primo Oval, Black Olive, or Saffire.
Electric smokers are compact and user-friendly. The best-known brand, Bradley, uses an electric element and compressed hardwood pucks to create smoke. But purists feel this smoke just doesn’t taste like that generated by flame combustion.
Offset barrel smokers separate the fire box and the large cooking chamber, providing excellent heat control, but they are space and fuel hogs. Cheap offsets made of thin sheet metal leak smoke and won’t last. Look for 1/4″ (6 mm) steel plate; it will outlive you.