Propane-fueled smokers are fairly inexpensive and they are so simple to use that they're banned from most barbeque competitions. Another reason they're banned has to do with the quality of the barbequed food they turn out. For example, propane smokers produce more steam than charcoal, and steam can keep chicken skin from becoming crisp. Another potential drawback is taste; in the home-cooking forums at Cook's Illustrated magazine's website, we read a few complaints that gas smokers can impart a faint propane flavor to food prepared in them. AmazingRibs.com's Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn likes the taste of meat smoked in a gas smoker, but he warns that it is "differentÉ The combustion gasses combine with the moisture and the wood smoke and produce a fragrance and flavor that is sometimes reminiscent of bacon."
Standard propane smokers look somewhat like cabinets on the outside. Inside are a gas-fueled burner, a metal box that can be filled with wood chips, a water pan that helps dissipate heat, three to four cooking racks and a door with a magnetic closure. The smoker's door closes tightly, so very little air enters the cooking chamber. Starved of oxygen, the wood chips smolder rather than burn, bathing food in smoke. Propane gas smokers are relatively inexpensive to operate because they consume relatively little fuel, but they can't be used on windy days, because the burner could blow out while gas continues to flow, creating a fire hazard.
One of Goldwyn's favorite gas smokers is the Brinkmann Vertical Gas Smoker (*Est. $150), which he says produces "very tasty meat." This propane smoker weighs about 27 pounds and is about 40 inches tall and 20 inches wide. It's sold at HomeDepot.com, where it gets good reviews from owners, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5. Many users say the Brinkmann Vertical Gas Smoker makes it easy to master the art of smoking and is extremely easy to clean, and 24 of the 25 people who rate it say they'd recommend it to a friend. While gas smokers won't please purists, the Brinkmann Vertical Gas Smoker is a good choice for cooks who want to turn out moist, smoky food with minimum effort.