Why buy a BBQ smoker?
If you like tender, smoky BBQ, there’s no substitute for a high-quality BBQ smoker. They are easier to use than conventional grills since their well-insulated designs trap the smoky heat for optimal temperature management. That means less fussing with your grill so that you can sit back and relax as your smoker does its job. Many can even smoke your meat overnight while you sleep so you wake up to warm, perfectly smoked meat.
What should you look for in a BBQ smoker?
- Fuel Type: Nowadays, you can choose from electric, charcoal, gas, or pellet BBQ smokers for your BBQ needs. Electric and pellet smokers are often the easiest to use, but many still prefer the classic appeal of an old-fashioned charcoal BBQ smoker. While charcoal smokers may present newbies with a learning curve, your hard work rarely goes to waste. Gas BBQ smokers are also an enticing option due to their ease of use and excellent temperature control.
- Smoker Design: The two main BBQ smokers are offset and vertical. Offset smokers feature a heat source off to the side of the smoking chamber and are a beloved design by BBQ purists since they give you more control over your BBQ and often require closer attention than other smoker designs. Vertical BBQ smokers feature a space-saving design and excellent temperature management, with their heat source located below the cooking chamber. You can also find several unconventional smokers on the market that don’t fall under either of the two primary categories.
- Capacity: Will you be smoking BBQ for yourself or attempting to feed a small army? Either way, be sure to invest in a BBQ smoker that is geared toward your lifestyle. Keep in mind that investing in a smoker that’s larger than you usually need can come in handy for special events where you’ll be cooking for crowds.
What materials should a BBQ smoker be made from?
Since smokers generally operate at lower temperatures than grills, the material isn’t quite as important. This is why some people choose to make DIY smokers out of old refrigerators and file cabinets. That being said, opting for a smoker made of thick steel is a good idea since it’ll be less likely to rust through if left out in inclement weather quickly. Be sure that the material is treated to prevent corrosion as much as possible and see how others have fared in terms of their smoker’s longevity.
Realcook Charcoal BBQ Smoker Grill
This budget-friendly charcoal smoker sports a sturdy design that's great for beginners.
Pros: If you’re looking for the perfect entry-level charcoal BBQ smoker, the Realcook Charcoal BBQ Smoker Grill offers the best performance for the lowest price. This smoker offers an impressive 636 square inches of cooking space and two sturdy grill racks, featuring a multifunctional design that can also be used as a grill and fire pit. Despite its budget price point, this smoker’s painted steel body is surprisingly thick, and its sturdy legs offer plenty of stability. While charcoal smokers always require a learning curve for newbies, this model’s above-average temperature management and nifty access doors make it an excellent choice for someone’s first BBQ smoker.
Cons: While this smoker is a great alternative to Weber’s iconic Smokey Mountain smoker in terms of performance, its durability might leave something to be desired compared to Weber’s premium offering. Also, this smoker’s built-in thermometer isn’t very trustworthy, so invest in quality digital probe thermometers if you want the best BBQ possible.
Bottom Line: In terms of this BBQ smoker’s capacity, ease of disassembly, and quality for the price, it’s easy to see why it’s such a highly-rated product. While experienced pit masters may still want to opt for Weber’s premium smoker due to its superior durability, this BBQ is equipped for at least a few years of heavy use. It’s great for aspiring pit masters who are still earning their stripes.
Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker
This spacious smoker has four removable shelves and is easy to clean.
Pros: If you love outdoor cooking and smoking meats, this smoker’s spacious interior, versatile cooking options, and user-friendly features make it a wise investment. It has ample interior space (5.45 square feet total) and four removable stainless steel shelves. The stainless-steel shelves, along with the porcelain enamel steel tray, are all dishwasher-safe, ensuring convenient cleanup after each use. With its built-in thermometer, adjustable gas supply, and rear vent, you can monitor and control the temperature and smoke levels to achieve the desired cooking results. The smoker’s seal-tight twist-lock door and handle guarantee a tightly sealed cooking environment, while the 40-inch propane hose and regulator make it easy to set up and use.
Cons: You may find this smoker to be difficult to assemble. It can also be prone to leaks, and the walls are thin, making it difficult to retain heat. This also means that your temperature control isn’t as precise as you might like, especially given the lack of insulation and seal around the door. It lacks wheels as well, so it may be trickier to move around.
Bottom Line: Overall, this vertical propane smoker is a good entry-level model that gets the job done. While it has some drawbacks, it has plenty of space and a great price point for those new to smoking or looking for a more affordable option.
Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker + Cover Bundle
This electric BBQ smoker is easy to use and comes with a weather-resistant cover to protect it from the elements.
Pros: Featuring a large cooking capacity and a quick-heating design that maintains its temperature without large fluctuations, the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker is easy to use for beginners and decorated pit masters alike. This smoker comes with an integrated chip tray and features easy-to-remove compartments for water and drippings, making cleanup a breeze. It also has a weather-resistant protective cover to help its durable cold-rolled steel design last.
Cons: Although this smoker has an impressive capacity, its chip tray is somewhat limited. As such, some reviewers noted having to refill it with wood chips more times than they expected. It’s also worth noting that this smoker’s digital controls can be pretty hard to read in direct sunlight, so setting it up in the shade might be a good idea.
Bottom Line: This is a smoker you can use with minimal experience smoking meat and still achieve fantastic BBQ nearly every time. It’s an easy-to-use electric model that requires little effort.
Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
This pellet smoker stands out for its simple digital temperature control and large capacity.
Pros: While the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker isn’t the most affordable BBQ smoker on the market, its durable design and steady temperature management are well worth the price. Its digital temperature control is simple to master, so it’s unlikely that you’ll ever ruin your BBQ due to sporadic heat fluctuations. This smoker’s versatile temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees is sufficient for smoking, braising, or roasting when the situation warrants it. To sweeten the value, this product also comes with a waterproof cover, which further sets it apart from premium smokers on the market.
Cons: This smoker’s hopper isn’t exactly adept at pulling pellets without causing a small gap to form. While this will increase your workload a little when using this smoker, it’s one of the simplest models to master for expertly prepared BBQ.
Bottom Line: While this smoker isn’t for everyone, it’s a great option for those seeking something easy to use and built to last. Its capacity is better suited for feeding an entire family than most other smokers featured in this guide.
Dyna-Glo Signature Series Charcoal Smoker & Grill
This high-capacity charcoal smoker is designed to feed many hungry people with minimal hassle.
Pros: The Dyna-Glo Signature Series Charcoal Smoker & Grill is an excellent choice for serious events that require you to feed an army. This smoker is surprisingly affordable, given its large capacity and heavy-gauge steel build. It features 1382 square inches of cooking space and a multitiered design that helps you fit as much meat as possible on its racks. Compared to other charcoal smokers, it’s also fairly adept at maintaining your target temperature for long periods. Factor in its quality finish, and you can see why this product is highly recommended.
Cons: This smoker isn’t the most expertly sealed. It can be prone to blemishes from minor use. Also, it’s prone to rust, so you will want to cover it up when it’s not in use.
Bottom Line: Charcoal smokers of this size and quality are rare at this product’s price point, so those who can improve its sealing will be happy. That being said, its capacity will realistically exceed the needs of many BBQ enthusiasts.
Firing up the BBQ smoker on a warm day is a rite of passage that very few can resist once they get a craving for their favorite BBQ. Whether you need one that has extra shelving to feed your large family or a compact option to take on your next camping trip, there is a perfect BBQ smoker for your unique lifestyle.