When it comes to outdoor cooking, versatility is more desirable than ever. People want to be able to use the same grill to smoke authentic BBQ ribs and sear the perfect steak. A quality smoker-grill combo should do both exceptionally well.
Wanted: A Smoker Grill (or Maybe it’s a Grill Smoker?)
As smoking and grilling become more popular, increasingly there’s more crossover. The same person that enjoys smoking a pork butt for 10 hours on the weekend wants to be able to fire up steaks after work. In the past, that often meant owning multiple cookers: a traditional smoker to handle low-and-slow BBQ and a charcoal or gas grill for high-heat grilling. Not only does that get expensive, but it takes up valuable backyard real estate. More and more, however, people are looking for a single cooker, a smoker-grill combo that can handle both.
The idea of combination grill and smoker isn’t new. Many smokers have long claimed that they can grill. There are also plenty of grills that say they can be used for smoking. And, technically, it’s true. However, typically those cookers can do one thing well (either smoke or grill) and the other is an afterthought. Yes, a smoker can grill a hamburger, but it probably can’t achieve the high heat needed to sear a steak or cook pizza? And you can use wood chips to smoke ribs on a grill, but most grills aren’t built for maintaining the low-and-slow temperatures required for authentic BBQ. Nor are they designed to maximize the airflow needed for proper smoking.
Quality smoker-grills that can do both equally well are few and bar between. Here are 3 of the best on the market, able to smoke championship caliber BBQ and perform high-heat open flame grilling.
The Good One Open Range
The Good One Smokers tend to fly under the radar, which is to say surprisingly few people know about these unique cookers. That’s a shame, because just about everyone who owns a Good One loves it. While all of their models fall into the category of a smoker-grill combo, the Open Range is the most popular.
There’s a lot to love about the Open Range, but versatility is its biggest selling point. A reconfigured offset with the firebox on the front and a smoking chamber above and behind it, the Open Range excels at both smoking and grilling. In fact, it performs so well as a smoker that it’s the go-to cooker for 8-time American Royal Grand Champion Chris Marks> (somewhat less impressive: our competitive team uses a Good One as well). However, what differentiates the Open Range from many traditional smokers is that the firebox has a grill grate, allowing you to do high heat grilling right over the burning coals.
Thanks to beefy American Made construction and a full-length internal damper, smoking and grilling aren’t an either-or situation—you can do both at once on the Open Range. It retains heat so well that you can shut the damper mid-cook and grill steaks over the coals without losing valuable heat from the smoking chamber. Actually, the Open Range controls heat so well that when customers ask about using an automatic temperature controller on it, we tell them it’s not necessary.
Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
Versatility is a big reason for the surging popularity of kamado grills. Whether you want to smoke a brisket or sear a ribeye, a kamado can do it equally well. Traditionally, kamado grills have been ceramic, which retains heat incredibly well, providing consistent temperatures and an impressive max temperature. The Weber Summit Charcoal Grill, on the other hand, is steel, making it lighter and more durable.
Despite its steel body, the Summit Charcoal performs every bit as well as a ceramic kamado. The air insulated double-walled construction retains heat as well as a ceramic kamado, allowing it to hold a steady low temperature for smoking BBQ and easily reach 800°F for high-heat grilling. Better yet, it cools down quickly, giving you the ability to go from grilling to smoking in about 45 minutes. That’s unheard of on a ceramic kamado, which takes several hours to cool.
While the ability to smoke and grill is typical of any kamado, the Weber Summit Charcoal has some unique features, starting with a quick-start gas ignition that lights charcoal in about 6 minutes and gets you up to temp and cooking in about 15 minutes, a fraction of the time it takes with most kamado grills. It also features a hinged stainless steel diffuser plate, which makes it easy to add wood or charcoal mid-cook. As a testament to its dual role as smoker-grill combo, the Summit Charcoal’s fuel grate has 2 settings, allowing you to lower the coals for smoking or raise them closer to food when grilling.
Want to learn more about the Weber Summit Charcoal Grill? Read about our experience testing it out.
Fast Eddy’s PG500
Pellet Grills are known as do-it-all cookers that can smoke and grill. However, most pellet grills are primarily indirect cookers, with a solid diffuser plate sitting over the fire. That design allows pellet grills to excel at smoking, but it also keeps cooking temperatures down. In fact, many pellet grills max out at around 400-450°F. Although that’s certainly hot enough to cook a burger or steak, it isn’t hot enough for the high heat searing or open-flame cooking most people associate with “grilling.”
There are, however, several pellet grills that offer a direct grilling option, making them true smoker-grill combos. These include pellet grills from Memphis Wood Fire Grills, Louisiana Grills, FireCraft, and Fast Eddy’s. Of those, the Fast Eddy’s PG500 is specifically designed to let you quickly and easily switch between smoking and grilling.
Most pellet grills that offer a direct grilling option require you to adjust the diffuser plate to create an open area for the flames to pass through. However, the PG500 actually has 2 separate cooking areas for smoking and grilling. The right side is for indirect cooking, with the grill grate sitting over a solid diffuser plate. On the left side, though, the grill grate sits directly over an open flame, making it possible to do high heat grilling and searing. So, if you’re reverse searing a steak, you can simply smoke it on the right side then move it the right side to finish.
Before buying a pellet grill, check out 6 Tips for Buying the Best Pellet Grill.