Going into business? Commercial meat smokers vary widely in price, size, and style. This page was written in response to my latest reader request for information regarding these high-capacity smokers.
Propane, natural gas, electric, and pellet-burning models are available, with electric being the most common for indoor kitchen smoking. All indoor models require either direct venting or a good quality range hood to exhaust the smoke.
Commercial meat smoker capacities range from one hundred pounds to fifteen hundred pounds and above. Models with digital electronic controllers can maintain precise smoking parameters, monitoring the interior temperature of the meat while controlling the smoking compartment temperature. Some will drop the temperature to a "keep mode" setting when the meat is done, maintaining the smoked meat at serving temperature.
Which tastes best …meat smoked in a wood fired smoker, an electric smoker, or a gas smoker?
I believe that with the proper technique and temperature, any can taste great. The texture will vary more than the taste. A wood-fired or electric smoker (without a water pan) can slightly dry the meat. Gas creates water vapor when it burns, which will leave the meat a little moister.
A good blend of spices and an appealing presentation will make more of an impression on the consumer than how it was smoked.
Some commercial meat smokers are built with convection fans that move the air inside the smoker. Other models have rotating racks, which move the meat through the heat. Both styles minimize hot spots, so that every piece of meat is identically cooked…an extremely important feature that ensures consistency of the product. Non-convection commercial meat smokers having fixed racks may have hot spots, producing overdone and underdone meat from the same batch.
Many feature insulated double wall construction. The insulation keeps them relatively cool to the touch, plus it increases the efficiency, reducing the per-pound cost of production. In the long haul, the higher cost of a well-insulated smoker should put extra money in your pocket.
Most commercial meat smokers are tightly sealed, and minimally ventilated. This means that a small amount of wood smoke will go a long way in flavoring the meat.
In addition, less ventilation means less evaporation-shrinkage of the meat, leaving you with more saleable product.
When buying a commercial smoker, my opinion is that you should buy the most efficient, user friendly, and easily cleaned model that you can afford. In addition, consider seasonal demand fluctuations in sizing your smoker. The suppliers of commercial smokers will help you determine the size and model that will fill your needs.