As you head into spring and get ready for summer, you’re probably already planning ways to make the most of those long, balmy evenings. And that can only mean one thing – outdoor dining! But you’re not restricted to just eating outside. Outdoor cooking is a big part of summer, too. Read on to find out what equipment you need to cook outside and where to go for some al fresco cooking tips.

What equipment do I need to cook outside?

While it’s easy to drag your old barbecue out of the shed like usual, there are alternatives to a barbecue that will give you just as much – if not more – satisfaction this summer.

Imagine it – the admiring claps on the back as you serve up a perfectly cooked pork shoulder that falls apart at a touch and releases enticing smoky aromas. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And there’s only one piece of outdoor cooking equipment you need to turn this into reality – an outdoor smoker.

But aren’t outdoor smokers really big and just for professionals?

Not anymore! Thanks to the enthusiasm for smoked food that has swept the globe in recent years, it’s now easier than ever to hot smoke food in your own back garden.

ProQ vertical smokers and Bradley smokers are great examples of outdoor smoking equipment that don’t require lots of space or experience to use.

What’s the difference between ProQ and Bradley Smokers?

ProQ smokers offer the full American-style low ‘n’ slow BBQ experience. This is very different to the way we barbecue in the UK. Rather than having a few sausages sizzling on a small grill, think racks of ribs, beef briskets and even whole chickens slowly cooking above charcoal and woodchips over 8 hours.

Bradley smokers are the ultimate in intuitive and fuss-free smoking. All you need is a way to safely run a mains power supply outside – then plug it in and you’re good to go! They’re ideal for regular outdoor smoking without the need for constant monitoring. With a Bradley smoker, you’ll have more time to sit back, relax and enjoy the summer evenings with your friends and family.

They both sound great, so how do I choose which smoker to go for?

That depends on your personal cooking style. Choose a ProQ BBQ smoker if you love the process of cooking as much as the result. On the other hand, Bradley smokers might be more your style if you prefer cooking at the touch of a button.

First, let’s look closer at ProQ BBQ smokers. These smokers need a little attention to make sure the temperature stays constant and ensure the meat doesn’t dry out during cooking.

That’s not to say that you’ll spend the full 8 hours of cooking time glued to the smoker – far from it. Depending on what you’re cooking, you may only need to check on your ProQ smoker every 2 hours. And that leaves you with more time to enjoy a few beers in the sunshine!

If that sounds like your bag of charcoal, it’s time to pick the model that’s right for you. Here at Sous Chef you’ll find the complete ProQ ‘bullet’ smoker range:

ProQ Ranger Elite – the ideal entry-level smoker, or for keen outdoor cooks with limited space. With a total footprint of only 40cm and at under 1m tall, you can even fit this ProQ smoker on a terrace or balcony. So, now you can put the ‘not enough space’ concern to rest and finally host the summer cook out you’ve always wanted.

ProQ Frontier Elite – this is the best-selling model in the ProQ range. Though it’s big enough to cater for up to 15 hungry guests, the Frontier still takes up less space than a patio heater.

ProQ Excel 20 Elite – for the serious carnivore. To give you an idea of how much meat you can cook in the Elite, it fits 8 whole chickens at once. Go for the ProQ Elite if you have the whole rugby club coming over, or perhaps everyone from your local. One thing’s for sure, no one will go hungry!

ProQ smokers all feature stackers that you can add or remove depending on how many people you’re cooking for. With a ProQ BBQ smoker you’re not stuck in the garden, either. Take your new passion for outdoor cooking on the road and convert your ProQ into a portable kettle BBQ by using just the base and the lid.

Visit our Smoker BBQ page to view each of these smokers in more detail and a selection of ProQ accessories. Our article on Hot Smoking: Getting Started With American BBQ will give you a crash course in the equipment and ingredients needed to make even your first attempt a resounding success. Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, browse the 10 Top Tips from the Experts for American BBQ to perfect your home smoking art.

Bradley smokers offer a completely different outdoor cooking experience:

  • They run on electricity
  • They maintain a constant temperature without intervention
  • They provide up to 9 hours of smoke without the need to top up wood chips

You could say that Bradley smokers are the ‘plug-and-play’ gadgets of outdoor cooking equipment. At Sous Chef you can choose from three Bradley smoker models:

Original Bradley Smoker – the model that started it all. Use only one or two of the four removable racks for large joints of meat, or all cover all four with chicken wings, lamb chops and spare ribs. Fill up the smoke generator with Bradley’s specially developed wood ‘bisquettes’, turn it on, set the oven temperature and walk away!

Bradley Digital Smoker 4 Rack – the same size as the Original, but with a digital temperature/timer display that lets you control the oven and smoke generator separately. The oven automatically switches off when the time is up, but you could programme the smoke generator to stay on longer and give your food an extra helping of smoky flavour without overcooking it. Or do the opposite – if you prefer subtler smoky flavours, set the smoke timer so that it ends sooner than the oven.

Bradley Digital Smoker 6 Rack – the 4 rack’s big brother. This model tends to be favoured by chefs and restaurants for its large cooking capacity. But if you’ve got the space and a constant hunger for smoked meat, fish & vegetables, you’ll be in good hands with the 6 rack Bradley digital smoker.

View all the Bradley smokers in more detail over on our Bradley Smoker page. You’ll also find the full range of Bradley bisquettes and accessories.