If you cannot decide what to buy between a smoker and a grill, why not buy one that has both? Thanks to modern technology, manufacturers now give us smoker grills, more popularly known as offset smokers (Note: If you want to know more about offset smokers beyond the scope of this article, just enter “offset smokers” in Google search instead of “smoker grill.”). But what is the difference between smoker grill vs regular grill?
In this article, we will help you differentiate the smoker grill vs regular grill, plus help you decide if you should buy a smoker grill or a regular grill instead.
Smoker Grill: The Ultimate Hybrid Cooker
Smoker grills were created by the oilfield farmers working in Oklahoma and Texas. In the 1980s, prices of oil went down to $10 a barrel, making buyers hoard a lot of them. The oilfield workers found themselves bored out of their minds because of the downturn.
Wayne Whitworth, one of the founders of oil contract-dependent places in Texas, used the empty barrels as barbecue pits to keep his workers busy. In time, these barrels became the early models of offset smokers or smoker grills we know today.
The mechanism of both smoker grill vs regular grill is very much far apart. The smoker grill, in fact, resembles more of a smoker than a grill, probably 60-70% at least.
The smoker grill has three parts: on the right side, you can find a chamber, also called firebox, where the wood chips would be kept and smoked. The firebox is connected to the main barrel where you will cook the food over the grates. From the wood chip basin, the smoke would travel all the way to the barrel, then exits to the smokestack or chimney at the left.
Simply speaking, the smoker grill uses indirect heat to cook the food, while using metal grates commonly found in a regular grill.
How does it affect the quality of the food? The meats cooked in offset smokers have a crispy outside and a smokey flavor.
Most offset smokers today employ reverse flow technology, a mechanism wherein the smoke from the firebox goes towards the barrel and the chimney, then travels back to the barrel and firebox again. The goal of reverse flow technology is to keep internal temperatures stable even at moments wherein the lid is open. Unfortunately, not every offset smoker has this technology.
- You can tend or rekindle the fire in the firebox without disturbing the internal temperatures or opening the barrel lid.
- The firebox can be transformed into a grill if you prefer grilled meat over smoked food. Pretty nifty!
- The barrel is large enough to accommodate large quantities of meat like whole chicken and turkey, plus thick meats.
- The cheapest high-quality smoker grill you can find can cost you around $1,000. Even with that price, you have to find a good quality model; there are a lot of poor ones out there.
- It is tedious to prepare. Preheating the smoker grill alone can keep you up to an hour, and you have to check the temperatures frequently.
- It is bulky, heavy, and large. It can eat up a lot of space in your backyard, and it’s difficult to carry around.
- The performance of the smoker grill can be affected by the weather.
- Since it is a grill hybrid, you have to rotate your meat during cooking every so often.
- Not good for people who do not know how to kindle a campfire (YES, this one’s a must!).
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? Smoker grill is for people who want to have the benefits of smoking and grilling meats in one equipment. You can transform the firebox into a grill AND smoke something in the barrel at the same time.
Regular Grill: An All-time Outdoor Favorite
If you grew up in an American household, then you most likely have a grill at your backyard. You most likely grew old having grilled meats during lunch or special occasions, with burgers and steak cooked by your dad.
A regular grill is a standard fixture in the American home. It has four types, grouped according to the heat source.
1. Gas Grill
This type is the most common grill found at home. You can use either propane or natural gas as the heat source. It is best suited for families who want to have grilled meat but do not have the time to wait until the preheating process ends. It is also for those who do not want to deal with cleaning up the charcoal or wood after cooking.
Despite the convenience it gives, gas grilled meats usually have less to no smokey taste which is distinct among the grilled or smoked food. Only smoke from charcoal or wood can deliver such flavor.
You can buy gas grills for as low as $100.
2. Charcoal Grill
This type of grill uses charcoal briquettes as a way to fire it up. Depending on the type of wood used to make the coals, you are sure to receive grilled meat that has the distinct flavor of the natural wood you burned.
Most people who consider themselves “purists,” or those who smoke or grill to have the distinct smokey flavor, often use the charcoal grill, even though it is relatively pricier than the gas grill.
It is also more tedious to prepare. Aside from buying the charcoal of your choice (which can range from cheap to very expensive if you prefer a particular type of wood), you need to burn and tend it until it reaches the right temperature. This can already cost you about 45 minutes of your time on top of the grilling time itself. Aside from the cooking process, you also need to make time for the proper cleanup, since charcoal can leave massive amounts of soot under the hood.
You can also buy charcoal grills for as low as $100. But if you are a purist, and you prefer a model made of superior quality, you might have to shell out around $150 to as much as $2,000.
3. Electric Grill
Compared to the other heat source, electric grills use heated grill plates instead of fire or smoke to cook the food, making it relatively safer to use than the other types. Because it carries little smoke, you can use this even indoors. No need to worry about breaking some fire and smoke regulations in your neighborhood! Plus, you get to eat grilled meat any time and any day you want.
The bad news with electric grills is that the distinct smoky flavor of the grilled meat is next to none. You can only get the seared metal look commonly found in food cooked using this method.
You can buy a decent electric grill for $100 to $500 each.
4. Portable Grill
Portable grills can be used with either gas or charcoal depending on the model you buy. Compared to others, you can easily transport this guy from point A to point B. That means grilled meats whether you are camping, hiking, enjoying a picnic at the beach, or the countryside, or even in a spare parking lot.
The only problem is the size itself in proportion to the number of guests you want to accommodate. If you have 30 guests and a portable grill, you can only cook probably 5-6 burgers at a time. This is just good for family settings.
You can buy a portable grill for your next outdoor trip for only $20 to $200 each.
5. Flat Top Grill
A flat top grill is something you can find in burger joints and fast-food chains. Because it does not emit that much smoke during cooking, it is safe to use in commercial settings, not to mention that it is large enough to accommodate massive amounts of meat orders in one cooking session.
Because this type uses a flat top instead of metal grates, you can cook semi-solid food items like eggs, pancakes, and burgers without using that much oil. It also has a tray that catches the excess fat that drips from the meat, to be used again for the next cookout.
And because the flat top efficiently traps heat from the gas, the temperature is well-distributed throughout the whole surface. The only downside of the flat top grill is the fact that it does not give out that classic smokey flavor usually found in grilled food.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? Regular grills come in different shapes and types. Depending on the model, you can also buy one that you can use indoors. If you want a versatile grill that screams convenience, get the regular grill.
The Differences Between Smoker Grill vs Regular Grill
Now that we have discussed both grills separately, it is now time to compare their features from one another.
Note: To keep it consistent, we will use the same criteria we used in this article.
Depending on whether you use it as a smoker or grill, the smoker grill temperatures can go from 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. To get your desired smokey flavor, you must keep these temperatures consistent all throughout the cooking process.
The good news in using a smoker grill is that you can easily control the internal temps. If it is too high than you intended it to be, open the vents just a bit (offset smokers MUST have one) and wait a few minutes until the temp settles down. If it is too low, continue to add more charcoal, tend it, and wait a few more minutes until the temp rises up.
Regular grills, on the other hand, may need up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to keep it going. This can be difficult and tedious. It would take at least 45 minutes to make this happen. Not to mention that it would require you to tend the fire all the time since you have to keep the temperatures consistent－something you may not likely encounter with a smoker grill.
Should I buy smoker grill vs regular grill? You have to wait at least 45 minutes to preheat both grills. However, if you prefer the less-hassle route, go for the smoker grill. You do not need to tend to the fire too much (especially if you are a skilled campfire maker) since the equipment relies on smoke to cook the food in the barrel, anyway.
Smoker grills have a rather sophisticated design. It is actually quite a marvel to behold. And the mechanism behind it? Even more so. The advantage of being able to use both sides of the barrel as a grill and smoker is also practical for families who would like to have the best of both worlds at their fingertips.
Regular grills have a more straightforward, functional design, making it easier to transport from one place to another. Even though it cannot provide a smoking method unlike the smoker grill, the advantage of having a design that has high portability is something consumers cannot ignore. After all, who would not want grilled meats, any time, anywhere?
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? If you like to have both a grill and a smoker in one fantastic equipment, go ahead and invest your money on a smoker grill. But if you prefer a simpler, more portable one, take the regular grill.
The firebox in smoker grill can tend and keep a fire burning. The smoke from this chamber transfers to the barrel where the food stays, cooking it using indirect heat instead of the actual fire, then spews out to the chimney. The resulting meat can have a massive wave of flavors that is influenced by the type of wood you use in the firebox, not to mention that the smokey taste is definitely distinct in the meat.
And again, because it is a hybrid, you can also grill meat using the smoker grill by placing a metal grate on top of the firebox. Same grilling rules apply.
Regular grills use direct heat in cooking the food on top of the grate or flat top. Because of the high temperatures and the close contact of the heat, the food is cooked relatively fast than if you use a smoker grill.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? Smoker grill needs a lot of time to get to the smokey, grilled flavor you desire. If you want convenience over quality, buy a regular grill instead.
Ease of Use
Despite the apparent advantages of smoker grill, it can be tedious to use. Whether you use smoker grill vs regular grill, you might have to rotate and baste the meat just the same. That means you have to attend to the smoker grill every hour or two to make sure that the meat remains at the quality and moisture you want it to be. First-timers may also find the smoker grill overwhelming because of its massive size and its seemingly complicated look.
Thanks to their popularity, regular grills is something that you can easily manipulate without a manual. No wonder it is a favorite among American families.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? You might need some time to get used to the smoker grill if you plan to invest in one. If you do not like the learning process required to use the former, switch to the regular grill instead. But if you love the challenge and the uniqueness of the equipment, don’t be afraid to try the smoker grill.
Smoker grills have models that can go as low as $200 to as much as $5,000 depending on the brand. If you are still starting out in the grilling/smoking scene, you might have to try the cheaper models first. Once you find out the ins and outs of smoker grills, feel free to invest in a pricier version.
Regular grills, depending on the type, are something you can buy at $20 to a few thousand. The cheapest type is the portable grill (see above).
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? This would depend on your budget range and the preference of the majority of the family members. Remember not to exceed your decided range to avoid financial consequences.
Comparing Two Grill Models
To help you have an objective comparison between smoker grill vs regular grill, we chose two units from each type. We will compare them based on the different criteria mentioned above.
|Artist Hand 47” Portable Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker||Chef's Grill Liquid-Propane Gas Grill|
|Ease of Use|
Artist Hand is probably one of the most underrated furniture and equipment manufacturing brands out there. Their offset smoker is the first and only backyard grill they sell through Amazon. It has a firebox which is where you tend and stoke the fire, situated a bit lower than that of the main barrel. The firebox also has vents you can discreetly open and close to control the internal temperatures. It also has built-in metal grates in case you prefer grilling instead of smoking.
The outside coating of the lids and body is made up of heavy-duty cast iron and anti-rust steel frame that can endure the elements even as you store it outside.
The main barrel has a built-in thermometer that can read up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. This is helpful during the preheating phase since you do not need to open the lid frequently just to check the temps inside. And in case you want to open the lid, you would surely feel safe doing so thanks to the handles made of wood.
Artist Hand also installed wooden shelves or tables to place your food as you grill and smoke. And if that is not enough, there is also a mesh shelf below the main barrel where you can set aside other food items or sauces before using them.
As for the cooking space, the main barrel can carry items that can occupy at most 585 square inches. This would include the 78 square inches-worth of smoking rack, 240 square inches devoted to the warming rack, and 268 square inches of shelves.
Finally, to ease the problem of transportation, Artist Hand installed two wheels at the legs. In case you want to transport it to the next neighborhood, just lift it up towards the wheels, then pull away.
This is the first and only grill offered by Chef’s Grill in Amazon. Still, that did not stop them from producing one of the best and highly-rated gas grill out of the thousands you can find in the marketplace.
Their liquid-propane gas grill model is made up purely of stainless steel. This is helpful especially for those who do not want to scrub and wipe vigorously just to remove the grease. Even the burners, warming rack, and the metal grates inside are of stainless steel.
Aside from the metal grates, it also offers a flavorizer bars that can further enhance the appearance and the taste of your grilling meat. Made from stainless steel, of course. Feel free to experiment on the sets they provide.
For this model, you get a 552-inches worth of primary cooking area and 142 square inches of warming rack, divided into two separate wing tables at the side. You can detract the tables if you don’t prefer using them during cooking.
The lid has a built-in thermometer that can read temps up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, it offers ten years worth of warranty for clients who would like to buy this model.
This gas grill can set you back about $499.99.
What to Ask When Choosing Between Smoker Grill vs Regular Grill
Now, you are probably scouring some magazines, appliance store, or online marketplace for possible options on your next grill purchase. Before you jump on the model you like, take the time to answer these questions first.
1. What is the price range I can work on?
By defining the range your family and wallet can afford, you can considerably narrow down your options. For example, you can choose to look only for models that cost around $200 to $800 only. With the wide variety of brands and models in the market today, you are sure to find one that fits into your budget.
All in all, you just have to remember the price point ranges we previously mentioned here. This could affect your choice between the smoker grill vs regular grill.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? Again, this would much depend on how much you are willing to spend on a backyard grill. But apart from the price point, make sure that the model offers a good value for your money.
2. What type of food do you want to cook?
You can use both smoker grill and regular grill in cooking various types of food items. Whether it’s vegetables, fish, seafood, white meat, or red meat, you can surely get your desired barbecued flavor.
The only defining factor when it comes to this question is the amount and the size of the food item you want to grill. You cannot grill a whole pig or turkey on a regular grill without cutting them into smaller portions. It will not be cooked evenly no matter how diligent you are in rotating it and keeping the internal temperatures stable.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? Smoker grill is for those who have to smoke AND grill food items in large quantities and feed at least 15 people. Regular grills can only accommodate small portions of meat and vegetables at one time, less so if it’s a portable one.
3. Do I want something I can carry around?
The clear choice when it comes to this question is the regular grill. Smoker grills can weigh about a hundred pounds, if not more, so you definitely cannot lug it around during your camping trips. There are currently no portable smoker grills offered in the market today.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? If you want something portable, your only option is to buy a regular grill.
4. Where would I put it?
Because of its bulky size and weight, you can only place the smoker grill outdoors. Since it would be subjected to outside elements, you have to buy a smoker grill that is only made from superior materials. Most models in the market today are made of heavy-gauge, stainless steel (about 1/4 inches in thickness) so that it is easy to clean. The lids should also be tightly sealed well in case it rains or snows outside.
Space is not a problem when it comes to storing regular grills. That is depending on the model. Some brands can be disassembled and stored in a kitchen cupboard or basement to be used again for the next summer.
Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill? Smoker grills are bulky, so you might have to free up some space if you plan to keep one indoors (You can’t use it while inside, however). Regular grills rarely have this problem.
Final Verdict: Should I buy a smoker grill vs regular grill?
If you ask me, the best choice would be the smoker grill. Not only because of its versatility－it can become a smoker AND a grill at the same time! It is also because it rarely has a learning curve. If you want to take grilling and smoking seriously, investing in a good quality offset smoker can help you get started and further hone your skills.
But that’s just me. Again, every family is different. The only people who can decide which is the best one among the two is you and your other family members. After all, everyone will use and eat the products that come from it.