Best Smokers Reviewed & Compared
You can make some pretty good meat on a regular charcoal grill, but you are going to need the best smoker if you want to make unforgettable ribs, turkey, pulled pork and other delicacies.
Investing in a good smoker to get these amazing flavors in your food is a must if you like to cook outdoors — a smoker will last for years and will make outdoor cooking a breeze.
There’s nothing like a melt-in-your-mouth, smoky brisket to earn you a place in the neighborhood’s cookout hall of fame.
That amazing flavor doesn’t come fast, though, and it gets everything from its texture to its taste through a long, slow smoke.
The seasoning is up to the cook, but even the best grill master is only as good as the smoker used to cook the meat.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Weber 721001
- Ease of use
- Masterbuilt 20070910
- Digital technology
- Char-Griller 16620
- Triple walled
- 1 10 Best Smokers
- 2 Evaluation Criteria
- 3 What Is the Best Smoker Type for You?
- 4 Electric Smokers
- 5 Pellet Meat Smokers
- 6 Charcoal Smokers
- 7 Propane Gas Smokers
- 8 Smoker Accessories
- 9 Smoker Buying Guide
- 10 Smoking Hints and Recipes
- 11 Smoking Tips and Tricks
- 12 Tasty Recipes
- 13 BBQ Smokers FAQs
- 14 Conclusion for Finding the Best Smoker
10 Best Smokers
1. Weber 721001
Power Source: Coal
No of cooking plates: 2
Size: 21” x 19” x 41”
Weight: 39.07 lb.
Cooking Area: 481 sq. inches
It uses a porcelain enameled exterior with a heat-resistant nylon handle for safety. An aluminum vent and fuel door protect against rust on these vulnerable points. Two cooking plates work in tandem with a porcelain coated water plate, which allows steam to tenderize meat as you smoke.
After two seasonings, it’s ready to crank out high quantities of top quality meats. These smokers are large enough to handle family reunions and even small business needs. The built-in thermometer makes it easy to maintain and monitor heat throughout the cooking process.
Our top rated and best smoker recommended also comes with a ten year limited warranty to protect buyers’ investments.
This bullet-shaped smoker is in vogue, and there are many similar, cheaper models available. The difference between this and the knock-offs, however, comes down to manufacturing quality. Between the materials and the limited warranty, it’s a very safe investment. Although the size may be a hindrance for buyers with limited outdoor space, it’s great for serious smoker fans who want a product that can handle anything, up to and including a turkey.
- Design allows maximum cooking space.
- Easy to use with great results.
- Enamel coating makes clean-up easier.
- May be too large for some homes or cooking spaces.
2. Masterbuilt 20070910
Power Source: Electric
No of cooking plates: 4
Size: 20.394” x 19.882” x 33.268”
Weight: 43.139 lbs.
Cooking Area: 730 square inches
This smoker’s claim to fame is its digital technology. Rather than adjusting the temperature manually by handling hot coals, you simply press a few buttons on the top display. A digital timer with an automatic shut-off keeps things safe and prevents meats from drying out. The exterior is powder-coated steel, and each cooking rack is chrome plated. Heavy insulation promotes energy efficient cooking.
Unlike previous models, the heating element is replaceable and reasonably simple to swap out if it breaks down. The smoker is designed for all skill levels, but it’s particularly great for beginners, since it removes the need to constantly monitor and adjust heat. Best of all, Masterbuilt is happy to work with customers, and they’re quick to offer solutions and replacement parts for faulty equipment.
There are a number of electric smokers on our list, but this one sits at the top, despite its technical malfunctions. Since the manufacturers have had an opportunity to use previous failings to improve the shortcomings in the newer model, this smoker has a higher value than many other electric smokers. The customer service support also increases its value.
- Holds heat extremely well.
- Suitable for beginners.
- Superior customer service from manufacturer.
- Lacks coal-cooked flavor.
- Number of electric elements makes breakdowns more frequent.
3. Char-Griller 16620
Power Source: Charcoal
No of cooking plates: 1
Size: 21.6” x 28.7” x 24.8”
Weight: 90 lbs.
Cooking Area: 314 sq. Inches
While the exterior is powder-coated steel, the interior is porcelain coated steel. This makes for a great mix of durability and easy cleaning. The dump ash pan at the very bottom makes cleaning even faster. This egg-shaped grill and smoker combo really strips away additional features for the sake of basic grilling and smoking needs. It can handle anything from 200 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and the design not only controls heat, but actually helps you use less fuel.
Unfortunately, although the smoker features stainless steel construction, it has some issues with rust. The bolts are often the first to show signs of oxidization, and the interior of the lid soon follows. After a year and a half, the bottom of the product may become too rusted to use. It works exceptionally well for the first year or so, but this isn’t the product for someone looking for a long-term investment.
To keep this smoker in working order, you’ll need to invest a lot of tender-loving care. Although rust is often a sign of poor maintenance, it seems to be a common issue with this model, which reflects on the smoker’s construction. For a mid-priced smoker, material standards should be a little higher.
- Folding side shelf is convenient.
- Warming rack adds versatility.
- Rusting bolts.
- Potential to develop serious rust issues after a year and a half.
4. Bradley Smokers
Power Source: Electric
No of cooking plates: 4
Size: 50 lbs.
Weight: 33.5” x 17.5” x 20.25”
Cooking Area: Unknown
The point of an electric smoker is to reduce the work in smoking. This smoker allows users to safely leave food cooking with only minimal checking. Since everything can be controlled from the outside, it’s much easier to maintain smoke and heat without using extra pucks.
The heating system is a little weak, but it’s possible to modify it. Still, there’s nothing like sinking
money into a smoker that you then have to pay more to alter with replacement parts. The other issue with the smoker is the size of the water reservoir. It complicates long cooks and may not meet every recipe’s needs.
This is a great hands-off smoker for those looking for great food with minimal work. Its flaws are small and easily remedied, and since it sits comfortably in the mid-price range, those little fixes are affordable.
- One Year Warranty.
- Safe for minimal handling.
- Low output from heater.
- Relatively small water pan.
5. Pit Barrel
Power Source: Coal
No of cooking plates: 1 plus Smoking Hooks
Size: 22.01” x 32.99” x 22.01”
Weight: 63.93 lbs.
Cooking Area: Unknown
If you’re looking for a high quality, hands-on smoker, this is probably the best value for your money. It won the Best Value Gold Medal Award from AmazingRibs.com, and has celebrity chef endorsements. The barrel is safe to use on wooden decks, especially if it’s set on a patio stone.
Due to the shape and size, heat control can be tricky. Another problem comes from exposure to the elements and accumulated moisture. The barrel does not handle winters well, and the interior may lose its paint and develop rust, even if kept in a shelter.
This mid-range smoker definitely relies a lot on hype to make a sale. That said, while it isn’t much to look at, it does seem to work extremely well during the first few seasons of use. Upkeep is the biggest concern. If you don’t have an extremely safe, dry place to store this big cooker, you’ll be throwing away a sizeable investment within the first year or two.
- Perfect for a large range of foods.
- Also functions as a grill.
- Risk of rusting and peeling paint.
- Difficult to manage heat.
6. Camp Chef PG24S
Power Source: Wood and Electric
No of cooking plates: 2
Size: 51” x 21” x 45”
Weight: 127 lbs.
Cooking Area: 570 sq. inches
This complete system allows you to not only smoke and grill, but also roast and traditionally barbeque. Cooking is simple, and one of the industry’s most advanced digital controls helps streamline the process from beginning to end.
A video aid helps with set up, and a patented ash cleanout system makes clean up just as fast.
Although the overall engineering of the product seems sound, some of the electrical components may have flaws. The primary issue can be the main controller. Customer service days and hours are limited, but the manufacturer is aware of the issue and responds accordingly should you have any problems. You don’t have to pressure them to get replacement parts, and the new parts seem to be of a higher quality than the failing pieces built into the original machines.
This product offers a lot of bang for your buck, and although ordering replacement parts is a bit of a hassle, it doesn’t impact value all that much. This smoker functions perfectly well as a grill, roaster, and barbeque, and it’s rare to find a multipurpose smoker that actually fulfills that claim. Its cooking space is huge, too, so if you have the time and patience to deal with customer service, this is still a sound investment.
- Digital control of genuine wood-fired smoker.
- Patented ash cleanout system helps with clean up.
- Tons of cooking space.
- Several electrical pieces, including the main controller and meat thermometer have a high chance of breaking.
7. Camp Chef
Power Source: Propane
No of cooking plates: 2
Size: 18” x 16” x 44”
Weight: 65 lbs.
Cooking Area: 420 sq. inches
Three adjustable damper valves give users maximum control over their smoke. A heat control dial gives you more precise control over the exact temperature than a simple thermometer, which leaves you guessing how much fuel to add or extinguish. When your meal is ready, the removable porcelain base tray makes cleanup a breeze.
Although this smoker is easy to set up and clean, it has a few flaws. The number of vents gives great control over your smoke, but several do not completely close, which leaves the smoker vulnerable to sharp winds during colder seasons. Some vents do not completely close, presumably for safety reasons, but they do not take weather into consideration. The smoker’s other major flaw is its built-in thermometer. This thermometer seems to fail more often than it actually works, and the temperatures it reports are unreliable.
As one of the cheaper options on our list, this product holds a lot of value, despite its vulnerability to drafts and malfunctioning hardware. Many cooks like to use their own thermometers regardless of whether or not one’s provided, and it’s not an expensive replacement. The draft challenge is more of an issue, especially for users living in harsh climates, and these users may benefit more from one of our other options.
- Number and placement of vents offers great control over cooking.
- Heat dial makes it easier to control temperature.
- Size and placement of vents lets in drafts that alter temperature.
- Built-in thermometer simply doesn’t work.
8. PK Grills Combo
Power Source: Charcoal
No of cooking plates: 1
Size: 35.5” x 35” x 16”
Weight: 45 lbs.
Cooking Area: 294 sq. inches
If you plan on taking your smoker with you on trips, this is a great choice. It comes apart easily for quick setup and teardown. The aluminum materials are far lighter than any steel competitors, too. Those same materials also make it tougher than many similar smokers. The manufacturers claim it smokes like one of the popular egg-shaped grills. However, since it doesn’t use porcelain, it’s much more durable.
Although it’s a fairly simple design, the PK grill/smoker gives you a surprising amount of control. This is thanks to the four-vent system. It’s easy to bring heat up quickly or ensure a long, slow smoke by adjusting the vents and fuel.
Since two of those marvelous vents are on the bottom, however, without any real catch trays or containment measures, you’ll be dealing with a lot of loose ash to clean up. Cleaning the inside is even more of a chore. The other issue, of course, is size. This product simply isn’t large enough to handle big cuts of meat, and it can’t compete with many other smokers when it comes to scale.
This isn’t a cheap smoker, and if you’re looking to entertain the entire neighborhood, this smoker just isn’t for you. No matter how great the design, portability, and materials are, a smoker that can’t hold your food can’t cook it. That said, if you want something to travel with, and you have modest ambitions, this could be your perfect smoker. Durability matters, and the fact that the entire smoker is impervious to rust is invaluable.
- Lightweight materials are extremely durable and portable.
- It does not rust.
- Number and placement of vents gives the cook a ton of control.
- It’s smaller than many smokers, and can’t handle large items.
- Cleanup is a pain.
9. Smoke Hollow 4-in-1
Power Source: Charcoal and Gas
No of cooking plates: 1 (for smoking)
Size: 82” x 23” x 53.5”
Weight: 218 lbs.
Cooking Area: Unknown
This monstrosity of a grill and smoker combo will eat up most of your patio, but offers the chance to cook for half the town at the same time. Porcelain-coated cast iron makes up the majority of the charcoal side of this product, and an offset side firebox is what gives this brute its abilities as a smoker.
Despite its size, cleanup is fairly straightforward thanks to removable grease and ash pans.
Due to its size, upkeep is a big problem. Unless you have somewhere to store this massive contraption away from the elements, it will begin to rust within four years. It’s essentially two large grills welded together, so there are plenty of gaps to let in water. Even the one year limited warranty isn’t enough to
make this a secure investment.
This big combo is a big investment, but it does not appear that the long-term value of the product stands up to its initial cost. Even if users have a dry place to store it, moving this smoker back and forth would be an annoying burden.
- Its sheer size allows for all kinds of smoking.
- Simple cleanup thanks to ash and grease pans.
- It will rust sooner rather than later.
10. Char-Griller 2123
Power Source: Charcoal
No of cooking plates: 2
Size: 35” x 29” x 50”
Weight: 71.6 lbs.
Cooking Area: 635 sq. inches
This smoker is designed for easy use, with two shelves within easy reach for tools, spices, and cutlery. A lower rack provides additional storage, and the entire grill is easy to tilt and wheel inside the safety of a garage or shed. An ash pan pulls out from the side of the smoker, too, so you’ll spend little time keeping your equipment clean.
Since it’s a cast iron grill, this product takes some extra maintenance. With proper care and protection, however, the cast iron grill itself does well and lasts for a number of years. The downside is that the support structure doesn’t last as long as the grill itself, and the legs have a good chance of rusting out. The final, and most frustrating, part of this product is that the firebox costs extra, which should be expected from a cheaper model, but remains annoying.
This is one of the most affordable grills on our list, and it definitely invests its small budget in all the right areas. It works just fine as a smoker, provided you’re willing to pay for the additional firebox, and it has the range to cook just about whatever you want. Still, it requires a lot of attention. Buyers should be aware that they’ll trade money savings for time costs.
- Airtight hood locks in smoke and heat.
- Easy to clean thanks to the pull-out ash pan.
- Lots of adjustable features to give you control over your smoke.
- Firebox costs extra.
- Cast iron construction demands a lot of TLC.
- Support structure may rust out very quickly.
The diversity of the best smokers available makes fair judgment a challenge, and personal cooking preferences will go a long way in determining which type of smoker is best for you.
However, our evaluation hinged on five key criteria by which any smoker can be judged. They are as follows:
- Quality of Materials and Construction
- Heat and Smoke Control
- Ease of Use
- Core Performance
Quality of Materials and Construction
The smokers we examined had many different primary materials, and although powdered and enameled steel were the most popular, they were far from the only options.
While these different materials impact ease of maintenance, we didn’t judge the quality of any smoker’s construction based on the type of materials used. We’ll go deeper into maintenance issues below.
Quality materials and construction stand up to wear and tear. Products that failed within the first few seasons of use show poor investment priorities on the part of the manufacturer.
A common sign of low-quality materials and substandard construction is rusting screws, rivets, or other joiners.
These innocuous little pieces of hardware offer manufacturers a way to shave a few dollars off of construction costs without losing the ability to make claims about the smoker’s primary materials.
Rust spreads, however, and as small as those little screws are, they ultimately keep your smoker together. Rust in the smoker itself is a sign of poor quality or unusually high maintenance.
Again, we’ll go more into maintenance later, but it’s important to note that evidence of rusting inside the smoker itself is just as often a sign of poor maintenance as it is a sign of poor materials. Even the best smoker will succumb to rust issues if not properly cared for.
When you’re looking at any kind of reviews for a smoker, keep that balance in mind.
Several smokers will need replacement parts sooner rather than later. For this reason, we’ve added customer service and warranty use into this category’s consideration.
If manufacturers are aware of a problem, then it should be an easy fix, and the vast majority of smokers on our list are backed by customer support that has a handle on the situation.
What about warranties?
Warranties are like life insurance for smokers, and the length of coverage reflects how long a manufacturer expects a product to work without problems. Therefore, the longer the warranty, the better the BBQ smoker’s quality.
Heat and Smoke Control
This point is unique to smokers.
A grill doesn’t rely on the delicate control that a smoker utilizes, and grills don’t need to retain heat for the same periods of time.
In order to do its job well, a smoker absolutely must provide exemplary heat controls. Simple products may use a series of strategically placed vents, and digital options more often rely on automatic feeders and display screens.
Again, we didn’t look into which of these methods was superior, only whether or not they performed well.
Products with extra insulation, air tight hoods, and precise vent controls are more likely to manage heat and smoke well.
There are, of course, exceptions, and just because a smoker has a lot of control features, that doesn’t mean it always does a good job managing temperature and smoke. Digital tech can fail, and vents can suck in drafts.
Ease of Use
A digital smoker will always be easier to manage than a simple charcoal burner, but that preference comes down to customer desires, and we did not use this as part of our considerations.
Instead, we examined how easily the smokers could be set up, cleaned, moved, and used. While some are intrinsically more portable than others, we relied on the manufacturer’s claims.
Not all smokers are designed to be frequently moved, for instance, but if a manufacturer touted portability, the smoker in question came under scrutiny for its ease of movement and ability to travel.
Features like built-in thermometers, side shelves, and warming racks all make smokers easier to use as well.
Provided they work as expected, thermometers can make heat and smoke management vastly easier, and everyone needs a space for their spices and sauces.
Core performance examines how well a smoker smokes.
The smoker’s ability to retain heat and maintain an even temperature are both crucial for turning out good food. The quality of food from a smoker depends on how close the food is to heat source and how regular that heat source remains.
The lovely smoky taste, however, comes from wood, and very few smokers are actually wood-fueled, so there are other features that go into core performance.
Automatic feeders demanded some scrutiny.
If they’re linked to a digital heat control, they may feed too quickly or too slowly. Side burners require the same consideration.
The right amount of smoke creates a delicate flavor, but too much can leave your meal tasting like you rescued it from a forest fire.
Grills and smokers are all made of metal, which means they are all more or less prone to rust.
The only way to stop your investment from literally falling apart in front of your eyes is to keep up on basic maintenance. Still, some require a lot more attention than others, and some have obstacles that further complicate maintenance.
Consistent maintenance involves regular cleaning, regular oiling, and some protection from the elements.
Smokers typically require ‘seasoning’ before they’re ready to get cooking as well, and failing to season can lead to not only bad food, but damage to the smoker.
Some grills simply can’t be left outside.
Due to their materials, they will rust after exposure to precipitation, harsh temperatures, or even normal outdoor humidity. Regular oiling can prevent a lot of that, but that’s another maintenance step that counts against the smoker overall.
What’s more, if a BBQ smoker is not designed to be easily wheeled into a garage or shed, but it rusts easily, it loses both maintenance and ease of use consideration.
It uses smoke to cook your meat and often maintains a temperature between 225 and 275 degrees, which allows it to break down tough connective tissue. As the fat on your meat melts, it keeps your food nice and moist so that it becomes more tender.
It also gets a delicious smoky flavor that can’t really be mimicked with any other style of cooking.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of buying and using a smoker, but it’s actually quite easy.
By following this guide, you can find the model that is right for you. Then, you’ll find that it is basically as simple as using a grill but can produce a totally unique and wonderful flavor.
Smoking meat is a healthy way of preparing food, and it’s super easy.
First, however, you will need to find the smoker that has the best features for you and what you’re after when cooking up meat outdoors.
What Is the Best Smoker Type for You?
Maybe you’ve seen some of the barbecue cooking shows on TV and thought you’d like to cook with a smoker yourself.
Well, there are hundreds of smokers on the market these days, and it can be very confusing picking out the one that is just right for you.
To help you make an informed decision lets look at the main types of barbecue smokers.
If you are interested in investing in a smoker to make healthy, moist and delicious meals for your family or to host huge backyard barbecues and parties, you could be feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of options that are out there.
There are a few questions that you need to ask yourself to ensure that you invest in the right smoker.
For example, how much do you have to spend? Are you partial to gas or charcoal, or do you prefer the ease that goes along with electric appliances?
There are several types of smokers across many different price ranges, so there is a smoker out there that is right for you.
A smoker can cost as little as $50, and as much as $10,000, and they all do mainly the same thing, which is to cook meat to perfection giving it an aromatic smoky flavor that can’t be beat.
They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and are generally grouped by the type of fuel they use.
Hardwood Log Smokers
This is how it all began.
The traditional smokehouses of years gone by used hardwood to create the smoke, which cooked or cured the food. Not everyone has room for a custom-built smokehouse, so the hardwood log fueled smokers were some of the first backyard smokers.
The hardest job in the world is temperature control with wood, as it has a tendency to flare and can burn very hot indeed.
That is why for best results the wood is allowed to burn, and its the heat from the embers that is used to cook the meat.
Needless to say, when you need a steady low temperature over an extended period of time, hardwood smokers are not the easiest to control, and it really needs an experienced smoke master to get the best from these types of smokers.
While the charcoal smoker needs some tending, and work to control the temperature, an electric smoker is virtually ‘plug and play.’
Just plug the electric smoker into a convenient power outlet, and you are ready to go.
Electric smokers use elements inside the cabinet to heat wood chips to provide the smoke. A water bath makes sure the food inside does not dry out in the long smoking process.
In most cases its a matter of dialing or using a push button to set the required temperature of the smoker, popping the food inside and then get it going.
Generally, electric smokers cook faster than other methods, but they do not impart the same deep barbecue flavor you get with cooking with a flame in either a charcoal or propane fired smoker.
If you live in an apartment and have no outside space, and want to eat barbecue, then some electric smokers will work indoors.
Best Electric Smoker Reviews
Many people prefer electric smokers because they are easy to use and don’t require a lot of maintenance.
Although you do still have to add wood chips to produce smoke, you don’t have to worry about charcoal, gas or anything else. All you have to do is plug your electric smoker into an electric outlet, and you’re ready to go.
Electric smokers are perfect for beginners.
You can “set and forget” these smokers, which makes them simple to use if you aren’t into spending hours outdoors cooking.
As long as you have access to an electric outlet, you just might find an electric smoker to be the right choice for you.
They generally come with very simple manuals and instructions, and you can pick up your smoker and get started cooking very quickly, without worrying about messing with pellets, charcoal or gas.
Many people also like electric smokers because they don’t like the fumes or dangers of gas.
Whether you live in a private home and are concerned about the dangers of gas or if you live in a neighborhood or apartment complex that doesn’t allow it, an electric unit can be just the solution that you have been searching for.
Modern models are extremely safe, and they are also very affordable.
You don’t have to worry about shelling out a lot of cash when buying an electric smoker, nor do you have to stress over picking up a lot of complicated accessories.
With an electric smoker, you can get started with hosting a backyard barbecue or just cooking a delicious dinner for your family right away.
Once you invest in one of these easy-to-use units, you’ll want to cook out all the time. Then you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.
If you’re looking for a great way to prepare moist turkey, flavorful pork, perfectly-prepared briskets and smoky, tender vegetables, you are sure to love the ease and convenience of an electric smoker.
Pellet Meat Smokers
The pellet smoker combines the flavor of charcoal, with the convenience of an electric smoker.
The small pellets are made of hardwood sawdust, and when burned in the smoker impart a delicious smoky taste to any food being cooked.
Like an electric smoker, the user can dial up the temperature required for the smoke, and let the smoker do the rest.
Modern high-end machines provide a regular supply of pellets to be burned, and all the operator needs to do is make sure the smoker does not run out of pellets during the smoke.
The flavor you get from a pellet smoker is not as rich and deep as from a charcoal smoker. However, it does have all the convenience of the electric type.
Best Pellet Smoker Reviews
Pellet smokers aren’t the cheapest options, but there are affordable models out there.
When you use a pellet smoker, you have to use wood pellets, which can be bought in bulk to cut costs.
These pellets look much like the food that you would feed to a pet rabbit, and they are generally made from sawdust.
Newer pellet smokers have more features and can typically be set at a certain temperature and left alone while your food is being cooked.
They are eco-friendly, and the taste that they produce is smooth and tasty, although not as strong as the smoky flavor that charcoal smokers can produce.
You can also switch up the flavor by buying different types of pellets.
Although many people refer to pellet smokers as grills, they aren’t the best for cooking steaks, burgers or hot dogs.
Because they use indirect heat, they’re typically best for smoking turkey, pork and other meats. For this type of cooking, however, they are some of the best options.
Nowadays, for domestic use, the hardwood smoker has been replaced by ones using readily available charcoal.
If its flavor you are looking for, charcoal smoking can’t be beat. It gives the most authentic smoked barbecue flavor of any of the new smokers available.
However, it does come at a price. Using charcoal can be dirty, and you have to deal with the ash left over from the cooking process.
The hardwood charcoal will impart a flavor to the meat you are cooking, along with any additional wood chips added. This can give a rich, deep taste to any meat prepared in a charcoal smoker.
The modern ceramic Kamado-style smokers, for example, are highly efficient in the burning of the charcoal, and temperature control is a simple matter of managing the airflow into the smoker.
After just a few cooks most people have mastered the temperature control for ‘low and slow’ smoking, and the smoker can be left for hours, such as overnight, without tending.
Best Charcoal Smoker Reviews
Many people prefer the taste that a charcoal grill provides.
Luckily, if you know how to use a charcoal grill, you’ll find using a charcoal smoker to be a breeze. Some models are easier to use than others, but they all utilize charcoal to heat up the wood chips and produce smoke.
In fact, charcoal smokers produce larger smoke rings and larger quantities of smoke than the other smoker options do, which can provide more of a smoky flavor than electric and gas options.
There are actually several different types of charcoal smokers for you to choose from.
There are barrel and drum smokers, offset-side charcoal smokers and cabinet-style charcoal smokers, for example.
Although each type has its own set of advantages, many people find the cabinet-style smoker to be far superior to the other options; these are well-insulated and are very easy to use because they open up much like a refrigerator.
Offset-side charcoal smokers can also be a good choice, but you shouldn’t opt for a cheaper model. If you are on a tight budget and crave the taste of charcoal, a barrel or drum smoker is probably going to be your best smoker grill choice.
They are very affordable, are super easy to use and can produce the charcoal-and-smoke combination flavor that you are seeking.
Propane Gas Smokers
If you are looking for portability, convenience and a smoker that is relatively clean to operate, then a propane gas smoker is your best bet.
The flavor you get from a gas smoker is probably better than from an electric and not quite as good as from charcoal, so it is a good compromise solution.
Although a propane gas smoker does not have the fill and forgets the convenience of an electric smoker, it has many of the advantages.
Once the burner is lit, and the food is in the smoker, one eye on the inbuilt thermometer, and a hand on the gas regulator to get the temperature just right is all that is needed.
As smoking times are very long, it’s probably handy to have an extra gas bottle or canister available just in case.
The different types of smokers all have their pros and cons.
If you are looking for an authentic barbecue taste, and a good smoky flavor, then using charcoal is a must. The drawback is that the charcoal can be dirty to handle, and cleaning up the ash afterward can also be messy.
A charcoal smoker needs to be learned, and it will take a little while to understand how your smoker operates so you can get the temperature control perfect.
The electric smoker takes away all the mess and hassle, and the worry from getting the temperature just right. However, a simple electric smoker will not be able to impart the subtle flavors you expect in high-quality barbecue.
Propane gas smokers are the middle ground option, giving your food a better taste than from an electric smoker, with some of the convenience, and without the hassle of ash and learning temperature control.
Best Gas Smoker Reviews
If you prefer the convenience of gas and don’t feel like messing around with charcoal, you might opt for a gas smoker.
Gas smokers use gas to heat the wood chips that you add to the appliance in order to produce smoke.
The downside is that you do have to buy gas for the device, which can get costly.
You can’t really beat the convenience of one of these types of smokers, however, and you will be able to use it even when you don’t have access to an electric outlet.
You can even bring these camping and to outdoor events without a concern for electric outlets or bringing along a lot of charcoal or pellets.
As some of the cheapest smokers on the market, gas smokers are highly recommended for those who are on a tight budget.
The flavor is very similar to what you will achieve from other types of smokers, and many find the taste to be far superior to the taste of food that is cooked in an electric smoker.
If you want a combination of affordability and functionality, a gas smoker might be your best choice.
It won’t produce the same level of smoke or the same charcoal flavor that you can find with a charcoal smoker, but many people find that amount of smoke that these units produce to be more than sufficient.
Before you can get started, you will need to stock up on a few accessories.
You will obviously need things like mitts, seasonings and other essentials that you would use while cooking on a regular grill, but you will also want to invest in a thermometer.
Using a good thermometer will help you keep your smoker at the right temperature and will allow you to check your food to ensure that it’s done.
You will also need charcoal or pellets, lighter fluid and other essentials, depending on the type of smoker that you opt for.
If you have an electric model, you won’t have to worry about any of these things.
Although the accessories that come with a smoker shouldn’t be the sole selling point, they can help make your unit a lot more handy.
For example, some smokers even have grills attached to them, and some have racks that make it easy for you to hang up your grilling tools.
Many come with covers that can help you preserve them longer and that can help them withstand the elements. Comparing the accessories and features of each unit can help you come to the right decision.
These are a few accessories that you might want to look for so that you can get the most out of your smoker:
Lugging a heavy smoker around isn’t easy, so you might want to look for a unit that has wheels.
Make sure that the wheels are large enough that you can easily move your smoker across your patio or deck, and ensure that they are well-made and attached properly so that you won’t have issues with them later.
Being able to properly cover your smoker will help you keep it clean and will prevent it from getting damaged from rain and other elements.
If your smoker of choice doesn’t come with a cover, however, you can purchase something to keep it properly sheltered.
Some smokers actually come in the form of grill-smoker combos. If you don’t have a grill and would like one unit that does it all, you might want to look for one of these options.
However, you should know that you will have to spend a bit more money for one of these units, and you should also ensure that you are still getting a high-quality smoker; otherwise, you might be better off simply investing in separate units.
Having side racks and small, attached tables can make it easier for you to stash your grilling tools while your food is cooking or to place food, condiments, seasonings and more where they are close at hand.
Some units offer these accessories while others do not, but it might be something for you to look for.
Movable Interior Shelves
You will probably be preparing all different types of meats and other foods in your smoker, and you might need to adjust your shelves every now and then to make sure that everything fits.
Basically, you will probably want to look for a smoker that gives you this option.
Some smokers are easier to clean than others. For example, those with stainless steel interiors are often easier to wipe down.
Just keep this in mind when looking for your smoker.
It can save you a lot of clean-up work later on and can help ensure that you are able to keep your unit clean and sanitary.
Smoker Buying Guide
If you have never used or purchased a smoker before, you might be overwhelmed by all of the options that are out there.
By looking at certain criteria, however, you can choose the right model for your needs.
Shopping online is a great way to compare features, prices and more so that you can get an idea of which smoker is right for you.
Also, remembering to look at these things will help you pick out the right unit for your household.
First of all, you have to determine how much you have to spend on your new purchase.
If you are on a tight budget, you might want to look at a charcoal or gas smoker. These are generally the cheapest, and you can still get a nice model with great features for a low price.
If you have a little more to spend, you might choose to invest in a pellet smoker.
Among each different type of unit, there are also some pretty wide price ranges. In most cases, you probably won’t want to go with the absolute cheapest models.
However, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a model within your price range due to all of the many options that are out there.
Smokers come in many different sizes, and choosing the right one will help prevent you from dealing with any hassles later on.
If you are single or will only be cooking for a smaller family, a smaller smoker might be a good option.
f you have a large family or will be cooking for a crowd, however, you will obviously need a much larger model.
You really have to assess the different types of smokers to ensure that you choose the right one for you.
Electric, gas, charcoal and pellet smokers all have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. Looking at these things will help you choose the one that is best for your own needs.
Some prefer the charcoal taste of a charcoal grill, while others prefer the convenience and ease of use that goes along with a gas model.
Many prefer electric because of how simple they are to set up and use or are only able to have electric smokers due to where they live.
Regardless, assessing each different type will help you make the right decision.
Construction and Durability
A well-made smoker that is properly cared for can last a long time for you and can provide your family with delicious meals for many years to come.
Therefore, you will want to look at the materials that your potential smoker was made with and the quality of its construction to choose a model that will stand the test of time.
Although you might think that the best-made models are the most expensive, this isn’t always the case.
It is entirely possible to find an affordable smoker that will last your family for a long time to come, but you will definitely want to take a look at the quality of its construction.
For a lot of your smoking needs, you will probably want to cook at lower temperatures and for extended periods of time.
If your potential smoker allows you to set the temperature, however, you will probably want to opt for a model that allows you to reach temperatures of 500 degrees or so.
These higher temperatures can be used for caramelizing foods and more.
Finding a model that allows you to set the temperature can make it easier for you to achieve the right level of heat. It can also make it a breeze to set your smoker and food up and forget them until your meal is done.
Smoking Hints and Recipes
Intelligence is something we are born with. BBQ’ing is a skill that must be learned.
Edward de Bono
If you’ve never used a smoker before, you might be a bit nervous about putting your new outdoor cooker to work.
Luckily, smoking delicious meats is easier than you probably think.
Once you have all the necessary accessories, and you know how to use your smoker properly and have mastered some basic recipes, you shouldn’t have any problem preparing delicious meals and taking advantage of all of the cooking (and tasting!) benefits that your smoker has to offer.
Smoking Tips and Tricks
Check out this video for some handy tips & tricks on how to get the most out of your new smoker, once you buy it.
Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when getting started with your smoker.
These tips and tricks will help you turn out delicious meat and vegetables that are sure to please your family or guests:
Don’t try to rush things
The whole point of a smoker is to cook things “low and slow,” so don’t try to rush your BBQ’ing process.
Don’t be tempted to jack up the temperature to get your food done more quickly. Just allow yourself plenty of time to get dinner on the table.
Read the manual
Your smoker should come with a manual, and you should definitely take a peek at it to ensure that you understand how to use all of its features.
Choose the right wood chips
You can choose between oak, maple, hickory and more, and each type of wood produces a different smell and a totally different flavor.
Different people have different preferences, so you might want to choose a few types to see what your household prefers.
Prepare your charcoal
If you opt for a charcoal smoker, you should make sure that you use new charcoal each time that you smoke something.
Also, give the charcoal between 30 and 45 minutes to get hot before adding your food to the smoker.
Your food should be cooked from smoke and indirect heat, not a flame.
If you notice that your smoker is flaming up, you can spray the flames down with your water hose or adjust your racks so that the flames aren’t touching your food.
Don’t dry it out
Meat that is prepared in a smoker should turn out unbelievably moist and delicious.
If you leave your meat in after it has finished cooking, however, it can dry out; therefore, you should remove the meat as soon as it is done for optimal flavor.
Allow your meat to rest
Although you will probably be tempted to start eating your meat as soon as it is fully cooked, many meats need a short resting period to ensure that they are moist and juicy.
For example, briskets and other larger cuts of meat should rest for about five minutes; otherwise, the deliciously moist juices can come out when you cut it.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
The joy of a smoker is that you can do a lot of different things with it.
These versatile units can be used for all types of meat, vegetables and more. Experiment with different chips, different meats, different flavors and different temperatures and cooking times
This is a great way to come up with tasty recipes that are all your own.
As you experiment with your smoker, you are sure to come up with a few delicious recipes of your own.
These tips can help you get started when first preparing your favorite meals in a smoker.
Plus, you can check out the many cookbooks and cooking websites out there that offer tried-and-true smoker recipes that your family is sure to enjoy.
If you’re bored with roasted turkey and want to do something different for the holidays or any time of year, a smoker is the perfect choice.
It’s very easy to dry out a turkey when baking it or preparing it with other traditional methods, but a smoker will ensure that it’s so tender that all of the tasty turkey meat is falling off of the bone.
Some seasonings will help produce a better flavor, but the overall smoke taste is sure to be enough to make your turkey unforgettable.
The perfect way to prepare pulled pork is in a smoker. This is because the smoker will break down even the toughest cuts of pork and make them so moist that they practically melt in your mouth.
You can add salt, pepper and other seasonings to your pork, and you can add on a tasty barbecue sauce after they’re done. Otherwise, you can just shred the flavorful, moist meat and eat it as-is.
If you are looking for a way to produce ribs that are so tender that they fall of the bone, your smoker is the ticket.
Plus, it can give it that tasty smokehouse taste that you can find at your favorite restaurants.
You can add a nice rub and eat them plain, or you can smoke them with light seasonings and add thick barbecue sauce afterwards; the choice is up to you.
Many people use their smokers solely for preparing meats, but they are great for preparing vegetables as well.
Whether you’re prepping them as a side dish for your grilled meats or want to make them the main event, smokers are great for giving them a delicious smoky flavor.
Smoked potatoes, peppers and onions are delicious as a side dish or a topping to your favorite grilled foods, but you can experiment with other delicious veggies as well.
Adding a bit of seasoning can help bring out the flavor of your produce, but you shouldn’t have to add much.
The low, slow process and the delicious smoky taste is sure to be the main flavor profile of your newly grilled vegetables.
BBQ Smokers FAQs
Q: Do electric smokers have weaker flavors?
Technically speaking, digital smokers don’t have an open flame.
This means you won’t get the same smoke ring that you would get from a charcoal smoker. However, looks aside, the fuel doesn’t heavily affect taste.
You won’t have the coal flavor that so many people enjoy with their barbecue, but smoking relies (or should rely) on the flavor of the wood and seasonings far more than the fuel’s influence.
If you taste the coal more than the wood when you use a coal-fueled smoker, you’re doing something wrong.
So long as you have good wood, a solid grasp of spices, and plenty of patience, you can get wonderful flavors from an electric smoker.
You could realistically get a more genuine wood-flavor, actually.
It may take some experimentation to master your own recipes, but your family and friends are unlikely to complain if you invite them over to a few extra meals.
Q: How do construction materials influence the final taste?
Let’s be honest. This question is really about cast iron.
The science is still out on whether aged cast iron genuinely makes better food, but the jury leans on the side of ‘no.’
Regardless, a new cast iron BBQ smoker doesn’t have an advantage over smokers of any other materials you may buy.
A cast iron smoker and a stainless steel smoker both benefit from seasoning. Cast iron has high maintenance demands, but if you love it, then you’re probably willing to make the sacrifice.
Keep in mind, preventing a skillet from rusting is much easier than keeping a big smoker from rusting.
So, if you have plans of passing on your smoker to your great, great grandchildren as a magical flavor machine, keep in mind that your offspring are expected to have much longer lives than any smoker or grill on today’s market.
Q: Do all smokers rust?
Anything metal has a high risk of rusting.
Regular maintenance, such as oiling, however, can dramatically lower these risks. Finding a smoker that’s been properly and thoroughly treated also cuts down on the risk.
It’s untreated materials like screws and gaps in the construction that lead to premature rusting.
Thoroughly cleaning your grill after each and every use also cuts down on rust.
A number of the smokers we reviewed appeared to have significant rust issues, but these rust spots almost always seemed to originate at places where moisture gathers during cooking. This often indicates poor maintenance on the part of the user.
Not all smokers rust, but their longevity relies more on the user’s maintenance habits than the smoker itself.
A smoker kept in a sheltered area will not rust as quickly as one left on an exposed patio, and a smoker with a good cover will always outlast one left bare to the elements.
Still, smokers, like cars, are made of metal, and they almost inevitably begin to rust sooner or later. The sooner or later depends on you.
Q: How work-intensive is smoking?
The amount of work depends a lot on the smoker you choose. Babysitting a traditional smoker isn’t unlike babysitting children.
There’s a reward at the end, but you’ll face hours of boredom punctuated by sudden bouts of panic as you see or suspect that something has gone wrong.
You must feed your charge, clean it, and prevent it from getting too hot or too cold. The payout at the end is a return for a serious time investment.
While you should never leave a smoker entirely unattended, digital smokers are well known for their comparative ease of use.
Instead of setting up a lawn chair next to your smoker and getting comfortable with a beer, you can actually go about your daily life.
Digital smokers are not as temperamental as traditional smokers, and they’re much safer since they don’t technically use an open flame.
Not everyone likes these smokers, and a lot of great cooks take pride in their traditional BBQ smoker handling skills. It really is a skill, too.
Keeping the perfect temperature and smoke consistency requires lots of checking and a thorough understanding of how your chosen fuel, wood, smoker, and food behave.
If you want to master the skill of operating a smoker, your best choice is a traditional charcoal or gas smoker.
On the other hand, if you’re only interested in the food itself, and you don’t feel like investing that much time into your meal, a digital smoker would be perfect.
Q: What is the difference between the various types of fuel sources for BBQ smokers?
Wood and charcoal smokers are more customary and usually offer a more genuine taste to your food.
Some charcoal smokers can be the most inexpensive smokers on the market; however, they can also be the most expensive also.
Electric smokers are known to be the handiest; however, they lack the genuine BBQ taste.
Electric smokers that are computer controlled permit you to set up the smoker and allow it operate until the food is complete.
Pellet smokers are fueled by electric but use wood pellets to burn in order to offer heat and smoke.
These units can be as handy as an electric smoker with the additional benefit of offering a genuine BBQ flavor.
Propane smokers are known to be able to heat quickly and easier than electric smokers. However, propane smokers are still easy to use.
Q: What is the perfect size BBQ smoker for gatherings?
The smaller sized smokers can yield plenty food for a big family for as many as twenty people.
The larger sized smokers can create more than enough food to provide for a party all day.
It is crucial to bear in mind how much food you want to make before you purchase a smoker.
If you are only planning to use the smoker for family cookouts on the weekend, then a small smoker should be more than sufficient for your needs. Most smokers will state how much food you can cook with it.
Q: What kinds of BBQ smokers offer versatility?
There are a variety of units currently on the market that can smoke as well as grill.
Charcoal smokers are the most common of this type of smoker.
While many of the inexpensive smokers state that they are capable of this feature, be mindful that it takes a great construct to be able to smoke and grill sufficiently.
However, most of the inexpensive models will only provide one feature or the other, not both.
Q: What are some key features that I should look for before purchasing a BBQ smoker?
You should always bear in mind that temperature control is a crucial component to look for before purchasing a BBQ smoker.
Temperature control allows you to provide food that is not over-cooked or under-cooked. However, the issue with many smokers is that they do not include thermostats.
Electric smokers offer thermostats and are a perfect choice when it comes to smoking fish and a few other foods. However, electric smokers do not provide the authentic BBQ flavor for smoked meats.
Gas smokers are also a great choice when it comes to temperature control.
However, these also do not provide the authentic BBQ taste that many people may look for. But they are still a great choice especially if you are on a budget.
Some charcoal and wood burner smokers offer a thermostatically operated blower that regulates the oxygen supply to fire boxes.
Another important key feature that you should always consider is the insulation and seals of the smoker. Smokers that are relatively inexpensive usually leak, which allows smoke and heat to escape.
As a result, this makes it difficult for your smoker to keep temperatures stabilized and control the amount of smoke taste.
You should always look for durability in a smoker as well. A smoker that is constructed using heavy steel is able to keep and disperse heat better than thin steel.
Q: Is an electric smoker better than a gas smoker?
Propane smokers provide an improved smoky flavor when associated to electric smokers.
Propane smokers are comparable to the benefits that a gas grill provides more convenience than pellet or charcoal smokers.
Q: How do you use an offset smoker?
First, you should add a deflector, convection plate, or a duct. The issue with offset smokers is that the cooking chamber is hotter near the firebox.
As the heat travels to the other side, it disperses quickly. If the cooking chamber is thick and tight, the heat will not disperse as much. However, many offsets are fairly skinny and permeable.
Secondly, lengthen the chimney downwards.
Offset smokers have a chimney mounted on top, so the smoke and heat move from the firebox through the chimney and out.
However, if you lower the consumption of the exhaust you can transfer the heat through the grates at a lower point and level the heat in the cooking compartment.
Thirdly, you can add a water pan to the firebox. In doing this, the moisture and combustion gases combine to enhance the taste of your food.
Another thing you can do is to plug the leaks. There are many sealants and gaskets currently on the market that can help you with this task.
Lastly, you can also find a good cover for your offset smoker. If you find the right cover, you can keep your smoker safe from rain, snow, birds, wasps, and other pests.
Conclusion for Finding the Best Smoker
A BBQ smoker uses low temperatures and lots of smoke to develop one-of-a-kind flavors.
Traditionally, smokers were all charcoal fueled, and you can find ancient smoking techniques in some of the oldest BBQ recipes in the world.
Thanks to this wide range of demands, there are smokers available in every size, shape, and material you can imagine.
Smokers can use just about any fuel, including electricity, and many don’t look like grills at all.
Finding the right BBQ smoker is probably harder than finding any other kind of grill, because the individual smoker itself has so much to do with how time-consuming and costly your smoking process will be.
Professionals often use the same smokers backyard enthusiasts use. There are plenty of quality smokers available for a broad range of prices, and the best options aren’t always the most expensive.