There are a few popular smokers out there. If you are looking to purchase one, here is a run-down on a few. The most common smokers are heated by charcoal/wood, electric or gas.
Vertical Water Smoker:
($40+) This is usually the beginner smoker, mainly because it is inexpensive to make, produces tasty smoked meat, and is fairly portable. It usually involves a basket for the charcoal on the bottom and water bowl directly above. Many of these also come in electric and gas.
Pros: cheap, lightweight, some double as a grill
Cons: thin metal construction (short life span), smoke can easily escape, hard to maintain constant temperature
Offset Smoker (Barrel Smoker):
($62+) A firebox is located to the side of the horizontal chamber and fills the barrel with smoke. You can also cook the meat in the horizontal chamber directly above the heat.
Pros: you can pick up a decent one for a good price (although remember you get what you pay for), looks cool
Cons: be careful of the cheap ones, hard to maintain a constant temperature
“Pellets” are small, compressed wood used as fuel. Although these smokers look similar to an offset smoker, they take on a different technique of cooking. The pellets are pushed into a burn pot with an auger that when ignited, creates enough heat to spread across a deflector plate, which then heats the smoker.
Pros: some say that it creates better tasting results, uses less fuel than other grills and smokers, uses wood, you can set it and forget it
Cons: lots of complex parts, needs electricity to run the auger, may cost a bit of money to get a nice one
Pros: you have the ability to produce more smoked meat, usually these are well-built
Cons: cost, you have to be willing to move a trailer around
Stove Top Smokers (Kettle):
($60+) These small, indoor smokers are nice for those who don’t want the commitment that’s involved with outdoor smoking. They use the same principle as other smokers but on a smaller scale.
Pros: inexpensive, compact
Cons: they don’t produce the same smokey taste that some of the larger, outdoor ones do