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Stovetop Smokers

Published November 2012

How we tested

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.

The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.