Smokers and Grills 101

July 15, 2014

It’s grilling season and we’ve got the ultimate guide to the various types of grills and smokers that are sure to keep you cooking all summer long.

kingsford charcoal wood and smoker


  • Brazier grillOne of the earliest and least expensive types of mass manufactured grills, the brazier is a simple metal charcoal pan topped by a cooking grate and contains neither a lid or vents.
  • Kettle grill – Invented in 1952 by George Stephen Sr. as an enhanced version of the brazier, the round kettle grill includes a domed lid and vents for better heat control and better protection in poor weather conditions.
  • Square grill–Priced between the brazier and the kettle, the square grill has a lid but little, if any, heat control in the form of adjustable vents.
  • Barrel grill–One of the most common DIY styles of cooker, the barrel grill is little more than a steel drum split in half to create a charcoal chamber and a lid.  Legs are then added to the bottom portion while a chimney is often added to the top to help with airflow and heat control.
  • Santa Maria grill – Rectangular in design, the Santa Maria style grill utilizes an adjustable grill grate in order to control the amount of direct heat being applied to the meat.
  • Hibachi – A small, inexpensive grill with no lid that is often used by those who either have limited space or want a grill to use while at the beach, while tailgating or while traveling.
  • Portable grills – An enhanced version of the hibachi, portable grills feature adjustable vents and lids and often have legs that fold up to make them easier to transport.
  • Ceramic smoker – Around for thousands of years in Japan, egg shaped ceramic grills (aka kamados) have become increasingly popular in the US because of their ability to retain heat and moisture.
  • Bullet style smoker – Named for their bullet shape, these upright smokers contain a charcoal receptacle on the bottom and two or more levels of racks that are separated from the heat source by a water pan.
  • Vertical smoker/cabinet smoker – The vertical, box shaped cabinet style smoker contains shelves that allow meat to be stacked vertically.  The heat source (electric, gas or charcoal/wood) is located at the bottom of the cabinet and is separated by a water pan or metal plate, both designed to defuse the heat.
  • Offset smoker – The offset smoker contains either a vertical or horizontal cooking chamber as well as a separate chamber in which fuel is placed in order to create an indirect flow of heat and smoke.
  • Ugly drum smoker (UDS) –The UDS is a DIY version of the bullet style smoker, utilizing a modified steel drum, fire ring, vertical racks and lid to slow smoke meats.
  • Gas grill/gasser – Fueled by natural gas or propane, gas grills are most often rectangular in design, come in a number of sizes with any host of features including side burners, rotisseries, warming trays and more.
  • Infrared grill –Also fueled by natural gas or propane, infrared grills cook food without the flame actually coming in contact with it and instead utilize the radiant heat coming off of heated ceramic tiles.
  • Pellet cooker – A vertical or horizontal smoker that is fueled by compressed hardwood pellets.
  • Electric grill – A grill or smoker that is heated by an electric element.
  • Firepit grill (aka brick pit) – A temporary grill built with bricks or cinderblocks and topped with a grill grate.
  • Campfire/Asado style grill – An open pit created directly on the ground and either topped with a cooking grate or used to cook food directly over the flames using skewers, various cast iron vessels, a rotisserie or various other means.
  • Tandoor oven – The tandoor is fueled by charcoal or wood that is heated at the bottom of the oven and food is then placed on long skewers that are then inserted through a hole in the oven’s top.
  • Makeshift grill – A DIY grill created using any number of elements, from flower pots to shopping carts.


By Clint Cantwell, Editor




Related Topics: Asado | Backtobasics | Barrel | Brazier | Brick Pit | Bullet | Campfire | Ceramic Smoker | Clint Cantwell | Electric Grill | Equipment | Firepit | Gas | Grills | Hibachi | How To Pick A Grill | How To Pick A Smoker | Infrared | Kettle | Makeshift | Offset | Pellet Cooker | Portable | Santa Maria | Smokers | Square | Tandoor | Tools | Types Of Smokers And Grills | Ugly Drum Smoker | Vertical Smoker | What's Hot

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