Barbecue smoker

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Barbecue smoker in the classic shape of the barrel smoker
Original barbecue in the pit

A barbecue smoker is a wood- or coal-fired oven in which food is cooked or smoked in hot smoke . The smoker is the typical preparation device for a barbecue . In contrast to grilling , the food is not placed directly over the embers or fire.

The barbecue Smoker developed in the art, meat over several hours at low temperature in a heated with embers earth pit (engl. Pit ) to prepare. This method was mainly established by slaves and low-income families in the USA in the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to the gentle and sometimes spice-intensive type of preparation, meat could also be prepared that was otherwise regarded as inferior and was difficult to cook over an open fire due to its cut and structure. Pieces of meat with a high percentage of fat and connective tissue or an unfavorable ratio between bones and meat, i.e. pieces and cuts of pork and beef that are often considered to be soup or braised meat , but also lamb and poultry , and more rarely fish, are typical for dishes at barbecue .


United States

After the method of preparation in the earth pit became established, other techniques were soon tried out and practiced, especially in the southern states of the USA, such as preparing dishes under upturned steel bathtubs. Over time, a wide variety of wood or charcoal-fired devices for barbecue preparation developed, which were built almost without exception from free or inexpensive waste and residual materials. This idea is still reflected today in the construction of the Ugly Drum Smoker explained below .

The barbecue stalls of mostly Afro-American cooks were initially the only places where the public came into contact with the method of preparation of the barbecue. The first commercial BBQ restaurants did not open until the beginning / middle of the 20th century.

When the first so-called “BBQ cook-offs”, ie barbecue cooking competitions, took place in the USA in the second half of the 20th century, the need to keep the preparation equipment portable and to a certain manufacturing standard was recognized. The barbecue smoker was born.


With the organization of grill and barbecue competitions in countries outside the USA, the BBQ smoker became known in Europe , among others . Not least because of media reports on these competitions, the smoker has also established itself here since the beginning of the new millennium.


Barrel smoker

Schematic representation of the function of a barrel smoker

The most common and widespread form of the barbecue smoker is the classic design of the barrel smoker , sometimes also called an offset smoker . These smokers usually consist of round, thick-walled (in material thicknesses between 5 and 10 mm) steel tubes with a diameter of 40 to 60 cm, but other sizes and shapes are certainly possible, especially for self-made buildings. Classic barrel smokers have, in addition to the large horizontal cooking chamber (also called pit after the English word for 'pit', since the traditional method of cooking the meat in a pit), another small chamber that is a little deeper and to the side the cooking chamber is located. The fire is made in this chamber, which is why it is also called a side fire box . The cooking space can contain several grids or grill grates arranged horizontally on top of each other, on which the food to be cooked is placed. In most cases, the pit and side fire box are accessible via hinged lids (rarely: rotating or sliding lids) that open up an opening between 90 ° and 120 ° in the oven tube. Since the lid can be very heavy due to the thickness of the material, a counterweight is attached to the lid of the cooking chamber, especially with large offset smokers, to make it easier to open. The Side-Fire-Box is also accessible via a laterally recessed door, which allows you to add fuel without having to open the lid.

On the other side of the cooking chamber, depending on the design, there is a small chimney or a second vertically arranged cooking chamber, the so-called smoke tower, which has another opening for the chimney. The smoke produced in the fire chamber and conducted through the chambers escapes to the outside through the chimney. The version with a smoke tower on the side is also called a chuckwagon . Fat and other liquids escaping from the food to be cooked are usually drained through a drain in the bottom of the cooking chamber and collected in a small bucket, the so-called fat bucket, hanging under the drain.

Depending on the version of the barbecue smoker, there is a hotplate on the lid of the side fire box. This can be used to heat sauces, roasts, cooks or also to preheat the firewood. On some models there is also a hook on the side fire box which enables a small kettle or pot (a Dutch oven is often used here ) to be hung over the open fire chamber. The temperature in the cooking chamber is controlled on the one hand by the amount and type of fuel, and on the other by flaps that regulate the air supply to the combustion chamber and the flue gas discharge in the chimney. The sizes of the various models and designs of the barrel smoker differ considerably from one another. They range from the approximately one and a half meter long model for the home garden to the chuck wagon installed on a car trailer for catering use to a low-loader converted into a smoker .

Reverseflow smoker

Schematic representation of the function of a reverse flow smoker

A variant of the classic smoker is the reverse flow smoker. With this design, the hot smoke gases are first fed from the side fire box through a closed system on the bottom of the cooking chamber under an intermediate sheet , the so-called baffle plate , to the other side of the cooking chamber. Only here does the smoke enter the cooking space, where it spreads and is then discharged via a chimney on the side of the side fire box. With this design, there is a more even temperature distribution in the cooking space by deflecting the hot smoke gases and heating the baffle plate, and there is no hotspot in the cooking space on the side of the side fire box, as is the case with the classic design. The temperature control takes place as with the classic construction.

Pellet smoker

Structure and functionality of a pellet grill or pellet smoker

A special type of barrel smoker is the pellet smoker, which is fired with wood pellets specially made for this purpose . Instead of the side-fire box, it has a storage container for the pellets and an electric ignition. Depending on the desired temperature, the pellets are conveyed to the fire in the appropriate quantity and time intervals and burned there. Since the temperature and the combustion of the pellets are electronically monitored and controlled by automatic fans , once the cooking space and food temperature have been selected, further monitoring of the cooking process is not necessary. The pellets for firing are offered in different types of wood, so that the taste can also be influenced by the type of wood.

Ugly Drum Smoker

Schematic representation of an ugly drum smoker

Another version of the barbecue smoker is the so-called Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS), sometimes also called the Upright Drum Smoker or just the Drum Smoker . This version is almost entirely self-made. The starting point is a burned-out or sand-blasted steel barrel with a clamping ring lid with a volume of 200 or 220 liters. An inexpensive smoker is created by installing a coal basket, adjustable ventilation openings and one or more grill grates. Optionally, there are further options for the design such as the installation of a sand or water bowl as a heat store and to compensate for temperature fluctuations or the installation of one or more thermometers to control the cooking space temperature. The outside of the barrel is often treated with temperature-resistant paint to prevent premature corrosion .

The fire is fired by means of charcoal or charcoal briquettes with the addition of pieces of wood or chips to generate smoke. However, not all of the fuel is ignited at once, but a load of fully glowed coals is placed on the filled coal basket. The remaining coals then slowly glow through for hours so that they burn evenly (Minion method). By controlling the air supply at the adjustable air inlets at floor level of the barrel, often three ball valves arranged evenly around the barrel , the temperature inside can be regulated relatively precisely and stably.

The origin of this form of the barbecue smoker can also be found in the USA, as with the classic form. The name Ugly Drum Smoker , translated as "ugly barrel smoker", refers to the often idiosyncratic appearance of the barrels due to the self-construction or also due to the condition of the smoker after several years of use (flaking of the paint, bumps, etc.). The UDS is much easier to use than the classic barrel smoker. If enough fuel has been filled into the charcoal basket and the temperature has been regulated once, the UDS runs stably for many hours, sometimes overnight, without the need for further intervention.

Water smoker

A typical water smoker

The water smoker , also known as the bullet smoker due to its shape, works in the same way as the ugly drum smoker. It usually consists of a bowl-shaped lower part with feet, charcoal grate and adjustable ventilation openings, one or more ring-shaped elevations (so-called stackers ) with water bowl and grill grates and a hemispherical lid with adjustable ventilation openings and handle. Depending on the model, the stackers can also be equipped with a side flap for refilling fuel or water. The usual diameters of such water smokers are between 40 cm and 57 cm. These smokers are offered by well-known grill manufacturers. The lighting of a water smoker is analogous to the lighting of the Ugly Drum Smoker, also with the advantage of the long and temperature-stable running time without further intervention. One advantage of this design is the flexibility in terms of the usable grill surface. By adding one or more stackers (including grillage), the grill surface can be quickly and effectively adapted to requirements.

further explanation

In addition to the most common variants mentioned above, there are also many types of barbecue smoker. Above all, the smokers used commercially in BBQ restaurants, which essentially represent a low-temperature oven with additional smoke generation, should be mentioned here. These smokers are often installed in the kitchens of restaurants and optically blend in with other kitchen equipment thanks to surfaces that are easy to clean, for example made of stainless steel . In private household use there are still gas-powered smokers, masonry smokers (so-called brick smokers ) and various, often artistic, variations of the barrel smoker.

Typical dishes from the barbecue smoker

Pork ribs from the smoker

Classical dishes that are cooked in a barbecue Smoker are, especially spare ribs (pork ribs) Pulled Pork (after cooking zerzupftes or chopped pork meat from the neck or shoulder) and beef brisket (core of the brisket ).

Preparation method

Wood embers in the side fire box of a barrel smoker

Food such as meat, poultry and fish are cooked in a barbecue smoker using the hot air or smoking method. The typical cooking space temperature for a barbecue is between 90 and 130 degrees Celsius. In the barrel smoker, a fire is first kindled in the opened side fire box and fuel is added until a sufficient bed of embers is created by burning it off. Now the lid is closed and the ventilation flaps on the side fire box and chimney are set so that the desired temperature in the cooking space is reached and maintained. For further firing, a small log of wood is added every 30 minutes. The wood should be dry and always burn clean, excessive smoke development must be prevented, otherwise soot will settle on the food and spoil the taste. For faster ignition of the added wood, individual logs can be preheated on the hob of the Side-Fire-Box. Alternatively, you can also fire with charcoal. Frequent reloading is not necessary, especially when using charcoal briquettes.

In addition to meat, a variety of dishes can be prepared in a barbecue smoker that are usually not prepared over the fire. Due to the possible high temperatures (300 degrees Celsius in the cooking space are quite possible), the cooking chamber can also be used as an oven , for example to bake pizza on a stone.

When prepared in the smoky exhaust air of the fire, all dishes get the smoky-spicy taste known for barbecues. The smoky taste can be minimized by using grill briquettes as fuel. On the other hand, by using certain types of wood, the smoke taste can also be varied and matched to the respective type of meat. For example, fruit woods give the food a sweetish note, while the often used beech or oak wood gives off a strong, spicy flavor component to the food. The use of coniferous wood should be avoided if possible, as the resin it contains leads to increased smoke development during combustion and bitter-tasting residues can settle on the food.


  • Lolis Eric Elie, Frank Stewart: Smokestack Lightning - Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country. Ten Speed ​​Press, Berkeley 2005, ISBN 1-58008-660-8 .
  • Maria Haumaier, Melanie Haizmann, Katrin Wittmann and others: Teubner grilling and smoking. Teubner, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-8338-3847-7 .
  • Rudolf Jaeger, Karsten "Ted" Aschenbrandt: The Great Smoker Book. Heel Verlag, Königswinter 2010, ISBN 978-3-86852-287-7 .
  • Cheryl Jamison, Bill Jamison: The Smoker's Bible. Heel Verlag, Königswinter 2012, ISBN 978-3-86852-544-1 .
  • Paul Kirk: Championship Barbecue. The Harvard Common Press, Boston 2004, ISBN 978-1-55832-242-4 .
  • Leslie Kelly: Barbecue, Memphis and Tennessee. In: The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Vol. 7: Foodways. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2007, ISBN 978-0-8078-3146-5 .
  • Jamie Purviance: Weber's Smoken - Simple and uncomplicated with grill and smoker grill. Gräfe and Unzer, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-8338-6005-8 .
  • Kathleen Purvis: Barbecue, Carolinas. In: The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture Vol. 7: Foodways. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2007, ISBN 978-0-8078-3146-5 .
  • Adam Stanley, Robert Marianski: Meat smoking and smokehouse design. 2nd Edition. Bookmagic, Seminole 2009, ISBN 978-0-9824267-0-8 .

Web links

Commons : Barbecue Smoker  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  3. ^ The History of Barbecue in the South. Laura Dove: BBQ - A Southern Cultural Icon , accessed December 17, 2012.
  4. Leslie Kelly: Barbecue, Memphis and Tennessee. In: The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Vol. 7: Foodways. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2007, pp. 112-115.
  5. Lolis Eric Elie, Frank Stewart: Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country. Ten Speed ​​Press, 2005, p. 10.
  6. Kathleen Purvis: Barbecue, Carolinas. In: The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture Vol. 7: Foodways. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2007, pp. 110-112.
  7. Michael Finger: Memphis: The World Championship of BBQ or a Pretender? In: Memphis Flyer. May 12, 2007, accessed December 17, 2012.
  8. Who invented it? Rolf Zubler - the barbecue pioneer. In: BBQMAG. Everything to do with grill and barbeque. BEMA barbecue event & media agency, archived from the original on February 2, 2014 ; Retrieved January 26, 2014 .
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  11. Buying Guide, Reviews, and Ratings of Pellet Smokers and Grills, accessed December 17, 2012.
  12. ^ Paul Kirk: Championship Barbecue. The Harvard Common Press, 2004, p. 48.
  13. Build Your Own UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker), accessed December 17, 2012.
  14. Jaeger, Aschenbrandt: The Big Smoker Book. Heel Verlag, 2010, pp. 26-27.
  15. Large Capacity, Trailer, And Mobile Smokers for Competitors, Caterers, and Restaurants, accessed December 17, 2012.
  16. ^ Stanley, Adam and Robert Marianski: Meat smoking and smokehouse design. 2nd ed., Bookmagic, LLC., 2009, p. 213 ff.
  17. Cheryl and Bill Jamison: The Smoker's Bible. Heel Verlag, 2012, pp. 22-27.
  18. ^ Paul Kirk: Championship Barbecue. The Harvard Common Press, 2004, pp. 58-60.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on December 18, 2012 .