If you do not mind giving up some control of the smoking process, water smokers are the meat smokers for those on a tight budget. For well under a hundred bucks you can smoke as much meat as you can stand, which is a lot for some folks. And they take up very little room on your patio or deck. You can easily have a bbq pit and a smoker in one fairly small area.
Water smokers use a pan filled with water during the smoking process. The idea is to bring moisture to the meat so it will not become too dry over the long hours of smoking. There is some debate, however, how well this actually works. We won't get into that particular argument here, but just be aware that you may not get the "moisturizing" results you might expect.
When smoking meat, ideally you want to be able to: 1) control the heat and 2) be able to move the meat around for best smoke and heat distribution. But some of the drawbacks of these particular smokers are that the lower end units usually do not come with a way to adjust the heat. Nor do they have enough space on the cooking surface to move the meat around.
The model of smokers most people are familiar with are the vertical smokers. These are a little like a large medicine capsule standing on one end. Vertical water smokers are the least expensive smokers. They usually do not have many temperature controls, if any.
The typical water smoker is typically either electrical or charcoal burning.
The electric smokers give you perfectly even heat for the whole length of the smoking process. The only drawback is that with an electric smoker, it is more difficult to get and keep as much smoke as with a charcoal or wood smoker. This can be good for some meats that do not require as much smoke, but do require long cooking times. Barbeque beef brisket is a good example of this. Brisket can easily soak up too much smoke and ruin its taste. but it does require long cooking times.
To sum it all up, these smokers perfectly good for outdoor cooks who do not smoke huge batches of meat at a time or are concerned about getting precise amounts of smoke into the meat. And don't forget the main benefit to most when considering a water smoker ... the low cost.
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