Welcome to the mysterious world of the ‘smoker-grill’. In this article, we touch on some of the science behind charcoal and gas ‘smoker-grills’ and guide you through the five best smoker-grill combos available on the market. Overall, it’s an excellent two-in-one-appliance to have at home, and with a little bit of practice, you’ll be hosting grilling parties that are the talk of the town.
What is a smoker grill?
In essence, a ‘smoker grill’ is either a grill that’s good at smoking or smoker that’s good at grilling. It’s all about controlling the heat and taking things at a nice slow pace; take time to savor a lazy Sunday afternoon. The combination of a smoker and a grill is brilliant. Slow cooking more significant meat cuts or whole chickens leaves them juicy and oh so tender if done correctly. There is some science to this, and your smoking skills might take many attempts. It’s worth persevering and experimenting; with the right combination of slow-cooking and divine flavors from various woods, you’ll find your own signature to be proud of.
The smokier, the better
Adding moisture to the smoke allows the meat to absorb intense, delicious smoky flavors. There are a couple of ways of doing this; add a pan of water into the smoker grill; this forces humidity into the hot cooking air allowing for smoke absorption. Or, if you prefer, at a later stage of cooking, you can also lightly mist the meat with water, but don’t go too mad, it’s easy to wash away the existing smoky taste. Remember, though, your guests will want to eat subtle-smoked meat and not acrid-tasting smoked meats. Yup, it’s a delicate balance!
Adding large chunks of wood away from direct heat encourages smoldering and, therefore, plentiful smoke. Try and understand your food and the smoke that the wood provides before adding it and creating an inedible feast.
Fruit woods tend to be milder in flavor, cherry, pear, apple, and peach can subtly add sweetness to fish, poultry, and pork. Maple, pecan, oak, and hickory stand firmly in the middle for beef and game. A particularly strong flavored wood is mesquite, use this as sparingly as you would fiery chilis. Smoking wood can also add deep coloring to your meat cuts.
How to choose the Best Smoker/Grill Combo
There are several factors that you need to consider as you choose your smoker grill combo.
If you are not planning on taking your smoker grill to parties or on a camping trip, you shouldn’t need to consider the weight of the grill.
How much space do you have in your back garden or yard? There are all sorts of shapes and sizes to choose from; make sure it suits your space.
How many people do you regularly cook for? Just the two of you or are you partial to large groups of family and friends? We find that it’s handy having shelves to store sauces, condiments, and crockery. There are some cleverly designed smokers out there that can still give you a relatively compact space using a stacking system, which allows you to cook several items on top of each other, thus saving space.
Porcelain-coated interiors and grills are without question the easiest to clean. Also, look for models that have a grease drip tray and an ash cleanout system.
The thicker the grill ‘walls’, the better it retains heat, so get the best quality you can. Also, consider the material of the cooking grates. To avoid rusting, stainless steel, aluminum, or enamel-coated grates are the best.
Purchasing a smoker grill that has a built-in temperature gauge will help you manage the grills heat output. As you get more experienced, you may want to add extra gauges as the temperatures do vary – the closer to the cooking source, the hotter it is.
Most reputable smoker grill manufacturers offer a range of warranties; this reflects the quality of the product.
What is the difference between a gas and a charcoal smoker-grill?
The discovery of smoking food was probably during the ancient times of the caveman, and an accidental piece of meat left hanging over a smoldering fire.
You’ll find the most substantial smoke from a charcoal grill. You will need to learn the technicalities of controlling temperatures by carefully regulating the oxygen that gets to the fire with vents, dampers, and baffles. Gas is generally substantially more comfortable for the novice, but both charcoal and gas can deliver outstanding results.
Benefits of the Best Smoker/Grill Combo?
The smoker grill combo is a versatile unit and boasts multiple purposes; not only can you grill and smoke food, but you can also bake, roast, braise, sear, and broil. You can almost cook any dish in this smart combo. And, it’s cost-effective, you pay for one appliance instead of two.
Now that we’ve covered all there is to be known about this category,
let’s get in to our choices for the top 5 best grills for under $500.
1. Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
The Akorn Kamado Kooker has 314 square inches of cast iron primary cooking space and an additional 133 square-inch warming rack. Its triple-walled 22 gauge steel insulated design means that the smoker grill uses less charcoal and offers less airflow, which means deliciously smoked and juicy meat every time.
The exterior of the grill is powder-coated steel, while the interior is porcelain-coated steel, which allows for easy cleaning and maintenance. The cart-style smoker grill has three sturdy tubular legs with lockable wheels. The grill is available in two colors, a vibrant red or stylish black. It also boasts a handy ash-pan making it easy to dispose of ashes.
Either side of the grill is a convenient fold-down shelf to store water for misting, extra marinade to keep your meat tender, condiments, and crockery. Under each shelf is a collection of hooks for your essential cooking utensils. At the base of the grill is another shelf for storage.
There are precise numbers on the upper and lower dampers, so it’s easy to record the settings when you have mastered their perfection. The cooking temperatures range between 200-700 degrees Fahrenheit, a perfect range for smoking, roasting, and searing delicious meats. The top and bottom dampers maintain airflow and heat control, and there is a carefully positioned temperature gauge set in the hood.
The Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker delivers excellent results time and time again. Adjustable dampers, an easy-dump ash pan, and a porcelain-coated steel interior for easy cleaning make it easy to use and maintain.
2. Kamado Joe Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill
The intelligent powerhouse design of the Kamado Joe Classic II makes this smoker grill a pleasure to use. The mighty 18-inch stainless steel split grill gives you complete and flexible cooking options. This multi-level, half-moon design allows you to cook foods in different styles and temperatures simultaneously.
The cart-style grill has four sturdy legs and locking wheels. The grill is constructed with powder-coated cast aluminum. With two patents pending, this smoker grill is truly taking the grilling world by storm. The dual-adjustment top vent is rain and mold-resistant, which allows you to smoke and slow-cook at 225 Fahrenheit and sear the best steaks at 750 Fahrenheit. The vent controls and maintains consistent air settings for precise airflow management.
The Patented Air Lift Hinge reduces the heavy dome’s weight by a staggering 96% and allows you to lift it with just one finger. The fiberglass mesh gasket ensures a snug seal and prevents any escaping smoke and heat from the grill. A stainless steel latch makes sure the hood is tamper-proof and allows you to lock-in flavors into your meats.
Kamado Joe has an extraordinary collection of extras that can further your smoker grill experience and add additional grill levels, skillets, or cast iron grills for premium results.
The Advanced Multi-Panel Firebox increases grill efficiency and eliminates any breakages with its unique six-piece design.
The Kamado Joe Classic II is bursting with patents-pending, which allow for exceptional cooking results every time. The extraordinary collection of extras give even the most experienced griller a perfectly formed smoker grill. The adjustable double upper and lower dampers give unrivaled control; the easy-dump ash pan makes it effortless to clean.
3. Weber SmokeFire EX4 Wood Fired Pellet Grill
This dual-purpose wood-fired pellet grill smokes from 200 Fahrenheit, sears at 600 Fahrenheit and roasts, bakes, and braises at every temperature in between. The grill boasts a huge 672 square-inches of dual grilling space over stainless steel grates. Expect perfectly juicy steaks and divinely melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked BBQ ribs.
The Weber SmokeFire EX4’s porcelain-enamel finish helps protect the smoker grill from the outside elements and prevents rusting and corrosion. The sturdy cart-style grill is on four legs and has lockable wheels to prevent it from moving during cooking.
A digital thermometer is controlled manually or with the Weber Connect grilling assistant built into the Weber SmokeFire EX4 for remote use; you can receive notifications on when to flip steaks or serve smoky dishes. There are regular updates available for the software of the grilling assistant.
The DC-powered engine takes pellets from the hopper to the grill with ease and prevents auger jams. The pellets are made from 100% hickory, mesquite, maple or cherry.
The Weber flavorizer grills ensure that the heat within the grill is distributed evenly across the cooking area for perfect cooking.
The assembly instructions come in 3D form and are interactive and easy to follow. Just download the free BILT application for Apple or Android.
A smart, intuitive grill with an array of interactive tools that make cooking with the Weber SmokeFire EX4 a pleasurable experience. The wood-fired pellet grill is fully loaded with gadgets that ensure the cooking and preparation processes are seamless. Expect perfectly cooked, grilled, smoked, and baked goods every time.
4. Weber Original Kettle Premium 22″ Charcoal Grill
The original Kettle grill is iconic, recognized across the world and loved by all. The charcoal grill is authentic and boasts 22-inch porcelain-enameled copper grates. The hood has a built-in thermometer for easy cooking. This is a true garden or backyard favourite. This particular grill is available in three colours – black, copper and green.
The Weber Original Kettle Premium allows you to control the grill’s internal temperature by adjusting the rust-resistant aluminum dampers.
The thick porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat effectively and won’t rust or peel. There is a handy lid hook that allows you to hang the lid while you grill. The cooking grate is cleverly hinged if you need to add more coals while grilling. The heat shield helps prevent your lid handle from getting too hot.
The cart-style grill has three legs, two of which have sturdy all-weather wheels so that the grill can be easily moved and stored when not in use. A push-pin leg attachment provides a safe and secure fit to the bowl. Glass-reinforced nylon handles are positioned either side of the grill and have handy tool hooks.
The enclosed ash-catcher at the base of the grill prevents ash from blowing around and can be easily detached for easy cleaning and ash removal.
The one-touch cleaning system means that maintenance of the grill is very easy and straightforward. A 3D interactive assembly guide is available through the BILT app for Apple and Android appliances.
The Weber Original Kettle Premium 22″ Charcoal Grill is a simple all-time favorite, it doesn’t possess bells and whistles, but it consistently gives great smoker grill results.
5. Weber Genesis ll E-310 Propane Grill
The Genesis ll E-310 is a high-performance grilling system that boasts an array of high-tech goodies, including stainless steel flavorizer bars, a grease management system, infinity ignition, and high-performance burners that produce 39,000 BTU per hour.
Cast-iron cooking grates are porcelain-enameled and provide superior heat retention across the 669 square inches of cooking space, including the tuck-away warming rack. The liquid propane tank is side-mounted onto the grill, and there is a built-in fuel gauge that will show you how much fuel remains in the tank.
On both sides of the grill are two handy tables that offer great storage space for all of the usual amenities such as marinades, sauces, and crockery; underneath the grill is space for larger items.
The sturdy, well-fitting hood is great for lightly smoking food. The temperature knobs allow for easy control so that you can cook various meats, seafood, fish, and vegetables with effortless efficiency.
The iGrill app and feature can be used with the Weber Genesis ll E-310; it’s a great app that can help you control the temperature of up to four meats cooking simultaneously. A generous 10-year warranty and 100% Weber guarantee come with the smoker grill as part of their commitment to quality. You can assemble the grill using the 3D interactive instructions that are available with the BILT app.
A sturdy liquid propane grill that offers light smoking opportunities with its heavy lid that keeps in heat and smoke.
The Kamado Joe Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill is a clear winner, this powerhouse smoker grill is packed full of advantages and is built with sturdy construction. The technology is second-to-none, and overall the grill is a pleasure to use. It’s a weighty piece of kit, and its clever user-aids such as the patented airlift hinge make a difference when you are busy cooking. We tested a variety of smoker grills, and the Kamado Joe indeed boasts strength, ease of use, consistency, and versatility that makes it a must-have for every garden or yard party. It’s a great all-rounder, and it is easy to keep clean and fire up every day if you so wished. The temperature range allows you to slow-cook larger pieces of meat, sear the perfect steak, or even bake delicious desserts.