A Manufactured Meat Smoker

For Sausage Making

You can buy a meat smoker or you can build one. I have done both. Right now, I'm using a manufactured smoker because my wife objected to "that ugly home-made thing" that I had sitting on our back patio.

Manufactured smokers cover a wide price range. The largest and most expensive are for commercial use, can be the size of a small room, and cost many of thousands of dollars.

The smallest and cheapest meat smokers only have enough room to smoke a couple of sausage links, and don't usually have a good way to regulate temperatures in the smoke box.

A sausage smoker that works best for home sausage making ranges in cost from around $75 to $350. The more expensive of these are usually made of stainless steel and have large capacities and very precise controls.

There are a number of the less expensive models on the market that do a good job. They are usually made of sheet metal or aluminum, have adequate temperature controls, and can turn out great sausage (as well as doing a good job for "slow-cooked" smoked BBQ).

BBQ Style Smokers

  • There are lots of covered BBQ grills on the market that are also sold as smokers, and most do a good job of turning out smoked BBQ. They really aren't intended for sausage making though. These grill smokers generally hold the meat too close to the heat source for easy temperature regulation. Some have a separate fire box and work better, but they are still primarily designed for BBQ (ribs, brisket etc). You can make one work for sausage, but you will spend a lot of time tending the process.

Kettle Style Smokers

  • The first meat smoker I purchased for sausage making was a kettle style, and it did a good job. It was heated by an electric element (my preferred heat source) and had a good sized smoke box. The only big drawbacks were that it could only be accessed from the top and had just one rack (which limited capacity). There are kettle smokers that are heated with propane burners or charcoal, but I prefer the electric models. Propane can be easily regulated, but it gives off a lot of water vapor as it burns. Charcoal gives good dry heat but, again, it is tough to regulate the amount of heat in the smoker.

Cabinet Style Smokers

  • In my mind, cabinet meat smokers are the most versatile and easiest to use of all the manufactured types. That is the kind that I have now, and I am pleased with it.

    My cabinet sausage smoker has its electric heating element mounted in the bottom of the smoke chamber, has a side opening door, has a separate door for replenishing wood chips, and has 3 racks for sausage. My cabinet smoker lets me easily keep the temperature right where I want it, and the box is large enough that I can smoke up to 25 lbs. of sausage at one time. I did find that the thermometer mounted in the box wasn't very accurate, but that was solved by using my digital probe thermometer. If I were to change anything about it (other than the thermometer) I would like a better vent in the top of the smoker to let out water vapor as the sausage starts to dry.

If you do decide to buy a smoker, here are the things to look for:

  • An easily regulated temperature control.
  • A large enough capacity (at least 10 lbs.).
  • An electric heating element, though other sources (propane, charcoal) work. Your choice will be more limited if you smoke in an area that has no electricity
  • An insulated box if you plan to smoke when the temperature outside is much lower than 40 degrees.
  • A reasonable price. The smoker I have now was just a bit over $100 (on eBay).

No matter what size or style meat smoker you buy, you will expand your sausage making ability by a large margin once you start to use it.

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