Stovetop Smokers

Published November 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.

We cooked salmon fillets and whole chickens on four models, evaluating the smokers on the quality of the foods’ smoky flavor and how easy they were to use and clean.

Overview:

Stovetop smokers, which smoke meat and other foods indoors, are metal vessels fitted with a wire rack set over a drip tray and covered with a lid. To see how they compare with outdoor smokers, we cooked salmon fillets and whole chickens on four models (priced from roughly $40 to $100), evaluating the smokers on the quality of the foods’ smoky flavor and how easy they were to use and clean.

Smoke flavor and cook times were more or less equal across the board; the difference mainly boiled down to ease of use. On the plus side, indoor smokers use special fine wood chips (sold separately) that don’t require soaking. Size, though a manageable obstacle, is where they came up short. All four smokers (designed to rest over a single burner) fit just four fish fillets, and only those with domed (versus flat) lids could house a whole bird. For the others, we crimped aluminum foil over the chickens per the manufacturers’ instructions, which worked fine.

Cleanup was a challenge with some smokers. All were somewhat discolored after the first… read more

Stovetop smokers, which smoke meat and other foods indoors, are metal vessels fitted with a wire rack set over a drip tray and covered with a lid. To see how they compare with outdoor smokers, we cooked salmon fillets and whole chickens on four models (priced from roughly $40 to $100), evaluating the smokers on the quality of the foods’ smoky flavor and how easy they were to use and clean.

Smoke flavor and cook times were more or less equal across the board; the difference mainly boiled down to ease of use. On the plus side, indoor smokers use special fine wood chips (sold separately) that don’t require soaking. Size, though a manageable obstacle, is where they came up short. All four smokers (designed to rest over a single burner) fit just four fish fillets, and only those with domed (versus flat) lids could house a whole bird. For the others, we crimped aluminum foil over the chickens per the manufacturers’ instructions, which worked fine.

Cleanup was a challenge with some smokers. All were somewhat discolored after the first use (think of the inside of a grill), but one model needed much more scrubbing than others to remove baked-on soot. And although smokers with nonstick surfaces were easier to clean, they also scratched easily, and the nonstick surface wasn’t necessary anyway: We were able to make traditional surfaces just as nonstick using vegetable oil spray. We preferred racks that had parallel—rather than gridlike—wires because grids trapped food. Lining the drip tray with foil, as one manufacturer instructed, made cleanup easier with all of the smokers. Ultimately, we preferred smokers with flat lids like that of our winner, whose promise of clean smoke flavor, moist meat, and easy cleanup and storage made it our champion.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Winner

    Camerons Stovetop Smoker

    This smoker performed admirably in cooking tests, producing moist, smoky salmon and chicken. The snug, flat metal lid slides on and seals in the smoke for smaller foods; whole chicken has to be covered with foil. The handles stayed cool on the stovetop and easily folded onto the sides of the smoker to fit in the oven or for storage. The rack and large drip tray were easy to clean.

    • Design ★★
    • Cooking ★★★

    $54.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Max Burton Stovetop Smoker

    Similar in shape and size to our winning model, this smoker produced food with a slightly less pronounced smoke flavor, probably because the instructions call for adding 1/4 cup of liquid to the chips, causing food to steam a little before the chips started smoking. This product was easy to use, clean, and store.

    • Design ★★
    • Cooking ★★

    $39.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Not Recommended

    Nordic Ware Indoor and Outdoor Smoker

    Offering lots of bells and whistles, this smoker, which resembles a mini kettle grill, has an adjustable vent, a handy thermometer, and a nonstick “rack” (a metal plate with perforations). It cooked salmon perfectly, but chicken was another story. We kept the smoking temperature between 190 and 210 degrees, as instructed, but fat that dripped from the chicken vaporized inside the drip pan, creating a sooty flavor. By the end of testing, the smoker’s nonstick coating sported several scratches.

    • Design ★★
    • Cooking

    $79.99

  • Not Recommended

    Demeyere Stovetop Smoking Set

    In addition to being the most expensive model, this stovetop smoker was the hardest to clean. The wire rack trapped the salmon flesh, causing it to stick. The manufacturer’s instructions call for heating the chips until they begin to smoke before adding food; this yielded a very strong smoke flavor that was overpowering when we were cooking salmon but acceptable with chicken.

    • Design
    • Cooking

    $99.95

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