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The Essential Equipment You Need to Start Smoking Meats at Home

Say goodbye (or at least see you later!) to your grill: Once you bring home our picks, you can look forward to smoking ribs, brisket, and more.
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While anyone can flip burgers on the grill, but it takes true dedication to master the art of smoking meat. For the home cook ready to take their barbecue skills to the next level, a combination of techniques and the right tools are essential. We spoke to the experts to find out just what you need to get smoking—not surprisingly, it all starts with a quality smoker.

While investing in a smoker obviously comes at a cost, doing so will be a real game-changer. Chef Michael Mina, founder of the MINA Group which includes International Smoke, a wood-fired restaurant concept collaboration with Ayesha Curry, says, "If you get can your hands on a smoker, it's a game changer." As for which type of smoker to invest in, you have some options, but there's one type preferred by the pros: A pellet smoker, says Phil "the Grill" Johnson, owner of Trapp Haus BBQ in downtown Phoenix and professional barbecue competition award winner, is your best bet. "You're going to lose sleep having to throw a log on every 45 minutes if you use a wood smoker," he explains.

Our experts agree that beyond the smoker itself, the additional essential equipment needed will be minimal and inexpensive. Shop their top picks, then start smoking everything from ribs and brisket to whole chickens and more.

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Traeger TFT18PLDO Scout Wood Smoker Grill
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Pellet Smoker

First and foremost, you'll need a smoker. Mina recommends a Traeger pellet smoker, an offset wood smoker, or an affordable electric smoker—all of which are available in the $200 to $300 range, he says. He adds that the type of wood to smoke or pellets to use should be hickory, oak, apple or even pecan wood.

Shop Now: Traeger TFT18PLDO Scout Wood Smoker Grill, $299, amazon.com.

Green Mountain Davy Crockett Wifi Portable Wood Pellet Electric Grill with Cover
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Portable Wood Pellet Electric Grill

Johnson is also a fan of the pellet smoker. His pick is has WiFi and even allows you to check the temperature from inside your home. "I bought my father one and now he's a pro! These grills allow you to set it and forget it," he says.

Shop Now: Green Mountain Davy Crockett Wifi Portable Wood Pellet Electric Grill with Cover, $349, amazon.com.

Rocky Mountain Goods BBQ Spray Bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Spray Bottle

Mina says you should have a dedicated spray bottle to use during cooking. He recommends an eight-ounce size and says, "You can fill it with apple juice, vinegar, or any liquid flavoring you like!"

Show Now: Rocky Mountain Goods Eight-Ounce BBQ Spray Bottle, $6.95, amazon.com.

Thermapen thermomter inserted into meat on a grill
Credit: Courtesy of Thermoworks

Thermometer

A thermometer is important whenever you are cooking meat. While some smokers have probe thermometers, you'll probably still want one so you can check temperature on and off the heat after the meat has rested. "I live by the Thermoworks Thermapen instant read," says Johnson. "You don't have to keep the smoker open and lose heat when you use it. I also use the probe to see if I get resistance, to see if the muscle has relaxed. You want it to be tender."

Shop Now: ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4, $99, thermoworks.com.

21-Inch Grill Spatula in Solid Stainless Steel with Riveted Smooth Wood Handle
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Grill Spatula

Johnson says a longer spatula is an absolutely must-have tool when smoking meat—if the meat is very tender, you don't want it to fall apart when you take it off the grill. These tools help you achieve that goal.

Shop Now: 21-Inch Grill Spatula in Solid Stainless Steel with Riveted Smooth Wood Handle, $19, amazon.com.

Daily Kisn 17-Inch Kitchen Tongs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Grill Tongs

Johnson offers the same advice when it comes to tongs: Always look for longer ones.

Shop Now: Daily Kisn 17-Inch Kitchen Tongs, $12.99, amazon.com.

Green Mountain Grill Gmg-6007 Rib Rack
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Racks

While a smoker or grill will come with grill racks, you may need to add more. "I like to cook on upper racks. There are regular grill grates, but I buy an extended shelf or rack to allow the smoke to go underneath," Johnson says. "If you have a hot spot, an upper rack will really help to cook evenly."

Shop Now: Green Mountain Grill Gmg-6007 Rib Rack, $29.45, amazon.com.

Weber 6495 Cast-Iron Brush
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Grill Brush

Johnson has strong opinions when it comes to the grill brush. "I like the Weber U-shaped tool that has brush bristles. The spacing is right for the grill grate. It goes in between the grates as well," he explains.

Shop Now: Weber 6495 Cast-Iron Brush, Black, $9.99, amazon.com.

Homemaxs BBQ Gloves 1472℉ Extreme Heat Resistant Grill Gloves
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Grill Gloves

Mina recommends skipping the potholder and option for a pair of heat-resistant oven gloves instead. These essentials, he says, make it easier to remove and handle hot meat. "This will help with handling the meat without worrying about damaging it, as it makes it easy to grab the meat from underneath and cradle it while you transfer it to a tray," he explains.

Shop Now: Homemaxs BBQ Gloves 1472℉ Extreme Heat Resistant Grill Gloves, $16.99, amazon.com.

Beecook Heavy Duty Thick Aluminum Foil Roll for Grilling
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Heavy Duty Foil

Smoking requires various cooking stages and wrapping bigger cuts of meat in heavy foil is an important step both during and after cooking it. To keep the juices in you'll need heavy duty foil. The experts point out that lighter foil won't stand up to the job.

Shop Now: Beecook Heavy Duty Thick Aluminum Foil Roll for Grilling, Roasting, and Cooking, 12 Inches x 200 Feet, $15.99, amazon.com.

MAIRICO Ultra Sharp Premium 11-inch Stainless Steel Carving Knife
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Carving Knife

Last but not least, Johnson recommends not slicing the meat until you're ready to serve it. After all the care and attention that went into cooking it, Mina suggests using a good carving knife to ensure you get that professional look when slicing through meat.

Shop Now: MAIRICO Ultra Sharp Premium 11-inch Stainless Steel Carving Knife $25.95, amazon.com.