Log smoker or pellet smoker: Which one should I buy?
Do I go with a log smoker or do I go with a pellet smoker? This is the big question for many people getting into the smoking game.
My first smoker was a Sunterra Tacoma. It was also my first Father’s Day gift. I was really surprised to see that my 10-month-old daughter had the budget to buy me this. Between you and me, I think my girlfriend bought it for me, not my daughter, I just haven’t been able to get her to confess yet.
Since that day, I have been living a passionate love story with my Tacoma. I learned to master the beast and I love it. My family loves it, my friends love it and all the lucky people who have tasted what I create in it also love it.
Naturally, when a customer comes to House of BBQ Experts to see Sunterra’s smokers, they like to ask about about my experience with Sunterra. Some fall in love with it and take the plunge and buy themselves a stick burner. However, many people change their minds and opt for a pellet smoker. But that’s okay too!
Log smoker or pellet smoker?
Since I do many events with House of BBQ Experts, I’ve also had the chance to work with a lot of pellet smokers. Although both BBQs produce similar results, the experience at the controls of these BBQs is completely different.
As these two types of BBQs are gaining in popularity, I thought to myself: why talk about the difference between the two types of smokers to a few customers, when I can talk to everyone about it.
So, is it a log smoker or pellet smoker? By the end of this piece I hope you’ll be able to make a better decision for you!
The log smoker is for the real MAN/WOMAN!
Let’s start with our first smoker: the “Off-Set”, “Stick Burner”, “Reverse Flow” or “Regular Flow” smokers.
This log house has many names, and as the name suggests, they burn wood. Generally, they are rather imposing beasts made out of steel or thick, heavy metal. The companies design them with very masculine looks. They’re big, robust and not made for small apartment balconies. Just to own a log smoker, you need space, a very solid deck or a place in the backyard that can support its weight. You also need space to store wood. Because a log smoker can only run on coal, but you will burn more coal than a full speed locomotive in 1890.
Then comes the learning phase. You have your smoker and you have to control it. How long do I need to preheat it before using it? When do I have to feed it more wood? What log size should I use so as not to raise the temperature too much or lose too much heat? How do I play with the air inlet and the air outlet? Even if it sounds laborious, learning is part of the charm.
Once you’ve mastered it, the fun begins
After learning, you will begin to want to share the fruits of your hard work. Your friends will see the beast in your yard, they will stand in a half circle around the smoker, beer in hand, take the time to sniff the smell of fire and meat, give two or three little kicks on the wheel and say: “Oh yeah. She’s a beauty!” Then they will sit on the terrace again and wait to eat while you have to stay close to the BBQ and adjust burning wood. You’ll probably even get your hands a little dirty! Your guests will look at you from afar and say to themselves, “that’s a real male.”
Personally, I don’t think there’s any greater grilling satisfaction than making a piece of meat on a log smoker. Frankly, there are three great moments in my life: the birth of my daughter, the birth of my boy and my first successful Wagyu brisket.
Disadvantages of log smokers
But with an “offset” smoker there are also less practical sides. I dare not call them “flaws” because the cooking process impacts the experience we live and the experience we seek.
First, finding dry hardwood, which is not cut with birch or other firewood, is not easy. Not to mention that the pieces of wood will probably be cut too big for your smoker and you will have to bring an axe and learn how to cut wood. It sounds fun, but it’s not always fun. Plus, you’ll probably have to dry your wood in a thousand and one creative ways.
Slow cooking at low temperatures is what smokers are all about. When one log has finished burning, another log must be used. To keep the temperature low, don’t put too much wood at once. In general, expect to have to deliver wood every 30 to 45 minutes. It can be “cute” when you smoke ribs for 5 hours or make chicken breasts for lunch. But when you want to make a 16-18 lbs brisket or a 20 lbs whole pig’s leg, it’s a project. You think you can go shopping at the convenience store that day?
Trust me, life will make sure that’s when the fire dies. Just to give you perspective, when I made my famous wagyu brisket, I prepared it on Friday evening from 10:30 PM to 11:30 PM. Saturday morning I woke at 4:30 in the morning. At 4:45 I started the smoker and at 5:45 I put in my piece of meat. When the brisket finished cooking it was around 6:45 PM. I’ll remind you to replenish the logs every 30 minutes.
I started my brisket when my daughter was crawling. She could walk by the time she tasted that first bite.
This is why many choose pellet smokers!
When using a pellet smoker, it’s very simple. You turn the knob to choose the BBQ temperature, let it preheat for a few minutes, put your meat on the BBQ and make sure your pellet tank is full.
Once in a while, you will look at your piece of meat, take the temperature, water the meat if necessary and, when it reaches the desired temperature, voilà! You smoked meat.
Wood pellets are very easy to find and they come in several varieties which allows you to choose the flavour you want to add to your meat or fish.
With a pellet smoker, you can receive people at home, spend time with them, swim in the pool. Ran out of beer? You can hit up the convenience store knowing that your smoker will continue to do its job like a good soldier.
The ease of use of the pellets and the fact that you don’t have to chop wood or handle logs that may have spiders lodged in them makes the pellet smoker a very popular BBQ with women. If you want to convert your lover into a pitmaster, it will be easier with this kind of BBQ.
The final result
If you compare meat cooked in a log smoker or pellet smoker, it’s nearly the same. The wood aroma is slightly stronger in a log smoker.
The general satisfaction of successfully cooking with a log smoker is also greater.
Except… using a log smoker quickly becomes a project. This may decrease the number of times you will use it.
The pellet smoker will quickly replace your own oven. You’ll cook everything, even your desserts.
Okay, which one do I need?
Only you know your needs. There is no right or wrong choice in this case. There is only one choice that will make you happier than another.
If in doubt, just do what I did: buy both!
PS: If you know my girlfriend, don’t tell her I bought another BBQ. She won’t be pleased!
Want to check out a wide variety of premium BBQs, tools and accessories? Head over the the House of BBQ Experts for all your BBQing needs!
Prefer to shop in French? Rendez-vous sur notre site web BBQ Quebec pour magasiner tout ce dont vous avez besoin!