Authentic barbecue is typically cooked in a smoker or homemade pit, not on a grill, so any barbecue restaurant worth its weight in molasses needs a commercial smoker. Purchasing the right one for your restaurant is imperative, because the smoker you choose will directly impact daily operations in the kitchen as well as the flavor and texture of the food smoked. And that’s important because while only 2 percent of total U.S. restaurants are barbecue-focused, it’s the 15th most popular type of menu with patrons, according to CHD Expert.

This buying guide offers an informative look at the types of smokers currently available as well as other factors to consider before making a final purchase.

Smoker location

The first thing to consider when shopping for a commercial smoker is its eventual location. Fire safety laws surrounding smokers in restaurants and public spaces vary not only from state to state but also from city to city. Some smokers are intended for stationary use only, while others are equipped to be pulled on a trailer and moved at will.

Outdoor

Most traditional smokers are intended for outdoor use and designed with vents or chimneys for ventilation purposes. Commercial outdoor smokers vary drastically in size, configuration and portability.

Any restaurateur considering the purchase of an outdoor smoker should do their due diligence to make sure such setups are allowed in their area. Many cities that allow restaurants to maintain outdoor smokers still have some regulations regarding how far the smoker is from the building, what type of ventilation system the smoker has, how the fuel is stored and how the unit is maintained.

The benefits to outdoor smokers are numerous. Since they can be found in portable configurations, they’re ideal for restaurants that like to attract new customers through local food events or outdoor fairs. Outdoor models Read More Here