Learn about the many benefits of gas smokers and why you should add one to your outdoor kitchen. Read on to learn about the gas smoker advantage.
Smoking gives meat, cheese, vegetables, and even desserts a unique flavor that can’t compare to other forms of cooking.
Traditionally, BBQ chefs use charcoal smokers to get that authentic, smokey flavor. However, more and more pitmasters are experimenting with gas smokers and are achieving nearly identical results.
If you want to experience that smokey BBQ flavor in the comfort of your own home, but don’t want the hassle of building and tending a charcoal fire, then a gas smoker is worth checking out.
The quick lighting and set it and forget it experience make it a game-changer for home cooks looking for some extra convenience. Couple that with a low learning curve and easier cleanup and a gas smoker may be the right choice for you.
In this article, we will cover the above advantages and many more benefits that gas smokers have to offer.
Whether you’re a pro at smoking food or just getting started, a gas smoker can be the perfect addition to your outdoor kitchen.
Let’s get to it.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
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What is a Gas Smoker?
Rather than using charcoal, a gas smoker runs on propane and is sometimes referred to as a vertical propane smoker.
Just like charcoal, gas smokers use wood to incorporate specific flavors into the food. The only major difference is that gas smokers use propane or natural gas to get the wood smoking rather than charcoal briquettes.
Most gas smokers are made with stainless steel or cast iron and are easy to use.
Regardless of your cooking style and outdoor kitchen setup, you’ll find the perfect gas smoker as they come in a wide variety of designs.
You’ll also find one with just the right features, whether you need multiple cooking racks, a wide temperature range, double doors, push-button ignition, or even WIFI-enabled digital thermometers. These unique features make smoking straightforward and simple.
How do Gas Smokers Work?
Typically, gas smokers are shaped like a cabinet. The racks are stacked vertically above a water pan, wood pan, and finally a burner.
The burner located at the very bottom of the smoker is connected to a propane tank or hooked up directly to your home’s natural gas. When lit, the burner heats up the wood pan that sits above it which causes the wood to start smoldering. The heat and smoke circulate throughout the cooking chamber slow cooking the food and infusing it with smokey flavor.
Finally, the water pan sits above the wood tray and helps maintain the temperature, and creates a humid environment. This helps keep the food moist and juicy while also helping the smoke flavor stick to the food better.
For a more in-depth guide, read my article How Does a Propane Smoker Work?
Initial & Long-Term Running Costs are Cheap
Overall, gas smokers cost a lot less than electric smokers. The cost of electrical units in an electric smoker makes upfront costs and repairs higher than a propane smoker.
Fuel cost for propane smokers is low as well. Propane is readily available, and a 20-pound tank costs between $14 and $20, giving you about 20 hours of cooking.
Keep in mind that the larger tank you buy, the cheaper the propane will be.
Gas Smokers are Great for Beginners
Something that keeps many beginners from jumping into smoking is the amount of attention a charcoal smoker needs. Few of us have the time to stand around the smoker all day long.
Charcoal grills can also be intimidating since there’s such a steep learning curve to control the temperature.
While gas smokers do require the temperature, the vents, and dampers to be adjusted occasionally, it doesn’t take nearly the amount of practice to master.
They Feature Immediate Push Button Ignition
Lighting charcoal can be a hassle, even with a good fire lighter. Thankfully, with gas smokers, you only need to push a button to ignite the fire.
As soon as it’s lit, the entire space heats up. There is no more waiting for all the briquettes to take off and no risking contaminating your food with the chemical taste of lighter fluid.
Gas Smokers Offer Set It & Forget It Smoking
Once you’ve got the burner at the right temperature and the vents and dampers dialed in for proper air circulation, there’s no need to maintain the heat of your gas smoker manually.
Instead, you can mingle with your pals, tinker around the house, or focus your energy on preparing the rest of your meal.
Cooking with a Gas Smoker is Very Easy
You don’t need to be a pro to get amazing results with a gas smoker. It’s as easy as adding water if needed, adding your food, placing the wood chips on the tray, and igniting the burner.
Especially at the beginning, you’ll need to check that the temperature is maintained, but very little attention is required compared to charcoal smokers.
Gas Smokers Get up to Heat Fast
Both charcoal and electric smokers take a while to heat up, but because of the immediate open flame on a gas smoker, you can get cooking much faster. The time advantage you get can let you sleep in a little longer.
Gas Smokers have a Wide Temperature Range
Generally, smokers cook at low temperatures between 100 degrees and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you won’t find many electric smokers that go above that range.
On the other hand, gas smokers reach temperatures as low as 100 degrees up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The wide temperature range of a gas smoker lets you smoke low and slow and even cold smoke. Or you can turn up the heat to barbecue and grill.
If you’re interested in a smoker that you can use for various techniques and recipes, a gas smoker is the way to go.
Gas Smokers Give You Better Smoked Flavor
Since wood isn’t fueling your gas smoker, you might wonder how well the smokey flavor turns out. Don’t despair. You can get almost the same quality smoke flavor from a gas smoker as a charcoal smoker without the steep learning curve.
It all depends on the wood chips you add to the wood chip tray. After choosing the chip flavor and placing them on the tray, many users claim the smokey flavor closely resembles that of charcoal smokers.
Another trick is to add a second firebox then place a few pieces of charcoal in the gas smoker. The charcoal adds an extra layer to the flavor profile.
You can also do this by making a small pile of charcoal on the wood tray above the ignitors then adding wood chunks wrapped in foil on top.
Even if you just stick with the wood chips, you’ll find the smokey flavor is still more authentic in a propane smoker than in an electric smoker.
Gas Smokers are Versatile
Thanks to its wide temperature range, gas smokers are highly versatile.
You can smoke nuts, cheese, or jerky at cooler temperatures just as well as an electric smoker. Then turn the knob up on high to roast mouthwatering meat.
If you have the space for it, you can invest in a large offset gas smoker so you can grill or sear on one side while you smoke on the other.
Best of all, no special skills are required to take advantage of all the features a gas smoker has to offer.
Gas Smokers are Good in all Weather
Unlike an electric smoker, a gas smoker can be used in all weather conditions. Unfortunately, the temperatures of all smokers will be affected by the weather.
For the most part, if it’s cool outside, you might need to compensate by turning the temperature up slightly.
The important thing is to buy a gas smoker with good insulation, so it won’t be drastically affected by temperature changes.
One advantage of a gas smoker is that, unlike an electric smoker, it’s safe to operate in rain and snow. However, they are not always insulated as well as electric smokers.
You can Use Gas Smokers in Areas with a Fire Ban
There’s nothing like BBQing in the summertime. It’s prime outdoor cooking weather. Unfortunately, it’s also when fire hazards are at their peak, and many areas will implement a fire ban.
That means if you have a charcoal burner, you’re probably not going to be able to use it.
Generally, though, even when charcoal smokers and grills are banned, propane and electric smokers are still safe to use.
Gas Smokers are Easy to Clean & Maintain
Propane smokers are extremely easy to clean when compared to charcoal smokers.
While there may be a little ash to wipe out, it will be nothing like the ash a charcoal smoker leaves behind.
The most you’ll have to do with a gas smoker is wipe out the fat and drippings that land in the pan and clean out the wood chip tray.
It’s also a good idea to wipe down the grates and the exterior after each use to discourage rust from forming.
Gas Smokers are Very Portable & Mobile
Unlike electric smokers, you can use a gas smoker virtually anywhere. There’s no need for electrical outlets.
Plus, most gas smokers weigh less than 70 pounds, so they’re not too difficult to transport.
Taking your gas smoker camping, tailgating, or anywhere else is easy and encouraged. It gives you the chance to show off your skills and share your delicious meals wherever you go.
Gas Smokers are more Reliable
Gas smokers are also a great option because they don’t rely on electricity. If you’ve ever had something cooking in the oven during a power outage, you know how frustrated and helpless you can feel.
But that’s never a problem with a gas smoker. Whether power goes out halfway through a cook or you need a backup option to cook dinner after an outage, your gas smoker will have your back.
Gas smokers also have fewer moving parts that can break down than electric smokers making them much more reliable.
Gas Smokers will Generally Last a Long Time
There’s very little that can go wrong with a gas smoker. Fewer parts and elements can break, meaning there’s less chance your weekend will be cut short because of a mechanical malfunction.
That also means that, in general, a gas smoker will last longer than an electric smoker. When parts do go out, they are inexpensive and easy to replace, meaning your gas smoker will last for many years to come.
Also, when shopping for a gas smoker, consider the manufacturer’s warranty. The better warranty it comes with, the more likely it will last a long time.
Gas Smoker FAQ
I’ve answered a few gas smoker frequently asked questions below. For a more in-depth gas smoker FAQ, you can head over to my article The Ultimate Gas Smoker FAQ.
Are Gas Smokers Good?
Gas smokers are a great option if you are looking for set-it and forget-it ease for making BBQ with good smokey flavor and don’t want to break the bank while doing it. They are a hassle-free alternative to charcoal smokers and are becoming more and more popular with backyard chefs because of this.
Are Gas Smokers Better than Electric?
Gas smokers are generally considered better than electric because they produce better smokey flavor when compared to electric smokers. They are also much more portable since they don’t require a wall outlet to operate. On average, they are a cheaper initial investment that should last a longer time since there are fewer parts to break.
Can you Get a Natural Gas Smoker?
Yes, you can get a natural gas smoker. While most gas smokers run on propane, several brands offer natural gas options. The Camp Chef brand is a good example. You may also be able to convert some brand’s propane smokers to natural gas but be sure to check the owner’s manual first.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Gas Smokers
Gas smokers are versatile, easy to use, and produce fantastic results without a steep learning curve, which makes them great for beginners.
They offer no-hassle startup, set it and forget it cooking, and easy cleanup making them a super convenient way to get your smoked barbecue fix any day of the week in the comfort of your own home.
Initial and long-term running costs are cheap, and the wide temperature range makes them ideal for cold smoking, warm smoking, barbecuing, roasting, and baking.
The smoked flavor you get is as close to authentic wood-smoked BBQ as you can get without using an actual charcoal smoker with many owners who will swear, they can’t taste the difference.
The easy mobility they offer lets you take your BBQ on the road wherever you go. Even with a fire ban in place in your area, these reliable smokers are usually still allowed.
With just a little maintenance, a good quality gas smoker will last for years to come which makes them a good investment.
If you’re looking for a smoker that has a wide temperature range, has a straightforward setup, and can be used whenever and wherever then a gas smoker is the way to go.
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