Vertical Smokers vs. Horizontal Smokers – What’s The Difference?

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One of the most classical ways to cook is by smoking your dish. It is incredibly delicious to eat something that is slowly cooked for hours. Some of the most commonly smoked items include salmon, ribs, trout chicken and sometimes vegetables.

There is no limitation to the variety of food that you can smoke, and if you are thinking of buying a new smoker, you will find either a horizontal smoker or a vertical smoker. So, what is the difference between horizontal smokers and vertical smokers? One of the key differences is the fact that vertical smokers have an upright orientation while horizontal smokers are flat.

The heat source is at the foot in a vertical smoker, while the heat source in the horizontal smoker is at the side. However, these differences might not seem to be much; however, they do impact how the food is smoked. So, keep on reading to discover how both of them are similar and different and what suits you the best.

Vertical Smoker

The vertical smoker is upright and has various levels that ascend vertically, allowing you to smoke on different levels. The heat source is at the bottom of the smoker, and fuel is added from the bottom to the smoker. Vertical smokers go best for beginners as they are pretty easy to use and have various models.

You also have the option to get a wood or charcoal variety; however, it is not recommended for beginners as they are a little difficult to control. Vertical smokers do not take up a lot of space and can fit in your backyard or balcony pretty easily. They are also cheaper than horizontal smokers and use comparatively much less fuel.

Vertical smokers also allow you to sear or grill your food on high heat, which adds a unique texture to your food. A high-quality smoker will easily retain the heat and last for a long time. Due to these smokers’ small size, they are easily portable and can be taken on adventures and trips.

Some drawbacks of a vertical smoker would be they do not have a lot of space to cook meat in large quantities. Moreover, large pieces ir other primal cuts cannot fit in a vertical smoker due to limited space. You have to keep a check on the temperature gauge and digital thermometer to make sure that your food is not overcooked.

A vertical smoker needs constant monitoring, so you need to open the lid frequently, which results in heat loss. It is also not the ideal smoker to use in rainy or cool temperatures as there are heat losses. So, in order to have a long-lasting, effective smoker, you will have to purchase a slightly expensive but high-quality smoker.

Horizontal Smoker

Horizontal smokers are comparatively longer than vertical smokers and similar to a traditional barbeque. Unlike vertical smokers, they do not have more than two to three levels. A horizontal smoker allows you to use and maintain heat efficiently and evenly.

Like the vertical ones, horizontal smokers also need a fuel source to run on. It can be gas charcoal or wood, depending on the kind of smoker you are using. The heat source of these smokers is located at the sides rather than the bottom.

Horizontal smokers have a traditional barbeque look to them as they look to be a big steel drum with a chamber on one side used for fuel. The kind of horizontal smokers that look like this are called offset smokers. They are made up of two parts, mainly a firebox and a cooking chamber.

The firebox is that part of the smoker which works as the heat source. Various fuels can be used, including gas charcoal or wood, this is the most important section, and without this, a smoker is incomplete. The other part of the smoker is the cooking chamber, where the food that needs to be smoked is put in, including meat, veggies or fish.

The cooking chamber includes a smokestack for smoke to escape from and a lifting or sliding door that allows you to access the food you are smoking. The cooking chamber and the firebox are connected, allowing the smoke and heat to flow through the food without directly applying heat. This is the reason for the smoked food’s amazing texture and rich flavor.

The firebox and the cooking chamber mechanism make it much more efficient to smoke and cook food as minimal heat is lost. The cooking chamber of the horizontal smoker is much bigger than the vertical smoker meaning more space to cook the food. Furthermore, lean cuts of larger meat can easily be cooked, which is not possible in the vertical smoker.

Horizontal smokers allow you to have a juicy product with a smoked flavor due to the fact they cook the meat inside slowly. Furthermore, wood or charcoal used as fuel in the horizontal smoker gives it a unique flavor. However, there are some drawbacks of the horizontal smoker as well.

One of the major drawbacks is that it uses comparatively more fuel than vertical smokers. They are comparatively difficult to operate as adjusting heat levels throughout the cooking can get a little difficult. They are harder to move from one place to another due to their larger size than the vertical smokers.

So, What’s The Difference Between Vertical Smokers and Horizontal Smokers?

  1. One of the key differences is the fact that vertical smokers have an upright orientation while horizontal smokers are flat.
  2. In a vertical smoker, heat sources are at the foot while the heat source in the vertical smoker is at the side.
  3. Vertical smokers also provide you with the option to sear or grill your food on high heat, which adds a unique texture to your food; however, it is not available in horizontal smokers.
  4. Vertical smokers have various cooking levels in order to adjust the heat; however, these levels are not available in the horizontal smokers; rather, a firebox and a cooking chamber are used.