Best BBQ Smoker Boxes

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
210 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best barbecue smoker boxes

Last Updated September 2020

Grilling is a great way to cook meat and other foods, but grilled chicken, steak, and other barbecue favorites can lack that smoky “char” taste you get from smoking. You could shell out a considerable amount of money to buy a new grill with a built-in smoker, or you could even buy a dedicated smoker. An easier solution is to pick up a barbecue smoker box.

A barbecue smoker box is a simple metal add-on that you can fill with wood chips or pellets and place in or on your grill to impart a smoky flavor. The best smoker boxes last for years, clean up easily, and fit your grill.

In this buying guide, we highlight the considerations to keep in mind as you shop for the perfect barbecue smoker box. We also outline what you can expect to pay for a smoker box and provide information about the barbecue smoker boxes that we recommend.

Barbecue smoker boxes can be used with wood pellets and wood chips.

Key considerations

Stainless steel vs. cast iron

A barbecue smoker box is subjected to a fair amount of heat, so it needs to be durable. You’ll need to choose between a stainless steel or cast iron box.

Stainless steel: The majority of barbecue smoker boxes are made of stainless steel. The steel may be brushed for better heat distribution, or it may be stamped to ward off warping. Regardless of the type of stainless steel you choose, you can feel good knowing that the box will resist rust, corrosion, and staining. The thicker the steel, the better it will hold up (not warp) when exposed to heat. Thicker steel conducts and retains heat better, too, which can provide a more consistent smoke.

Cast iron: While less common and generally more expensive than stainless steel, there are some cast iron barbecue smoker boxes on the market. Cast iron is more durable than steel, and when properly cared for, it will last a lifetime. Cast iron heats slowly and retains heat better than steel, which can lead to a longer smoke time with fewer wasted chips or pellets. Cast iron can also be used on a wider variety of grills.

Gas vs. charcoal

If you cook with propane, you can use just about any barbecue smoker box. This is not the case if you cook with charcoal, though. Because a charcoal grill can burn much hotter than a gas grill, some smoker boxes, particularly those made of thin steel, can warp. Reinforced steel usually fares well with charcoal, but to be safe, go with a cast iron smoker box if charcoal is your go-to grilling fuel.

If you’ve got your eye on a particular smoker box and want to know what type of grill you can use it with, check with the manufacturer or seller. All smoker boxes are rated for certain types of fuel, and this information should be readily available to you.

Size

While none of them are overly large, barbecue smoker boxes vary in size. If you have a larger grill, this probably won’t be an issue, but if you have a compact grill, you will need to find a smoker box with compact dimensions.

Measure your grill carefully to verify that a box will fit. This is particularly important if you plan to place the box under the grate. If this is your goal, be sure to measure the distance between the burner shields and the bottom of the grates and compare that with the height of the box.

One benefit of a smaller smoker box is that it will take up less grill space. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you’ll appreciate this. On the downside, a smaller smoker box holds fewer chips or pellets, which may result in you having to refill it in the middle of grilling.

Ease of cleaning

Always clean your smoker box after using it. This is usually as simple as dumping out the ashes and wiping the interior with a cloth. Some smoker boxes have a nonstick coating that protects it from rust and makes it easier to clean. Any charred bits that stick to the inner surface of the box can be removed with grease-cutting soap and warm water.

In terms of the exterior, some smoker boxes char easier than others. Try to remove as much of this as you can with soap and water, so it won’t build up over time.

EXPERT TIP

To remove cooked-on stains from a barbecue smoker box, try soaking the box in warm, soapy water first. Of course, you should allow the box to cool completely before attempting to clean it.


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Features

Shape

The majority of barbecue smoker boxes are rectangular, but some take other shapes. The most common alternative shape is the V shape. This box is (usually) placed under the grates and between the burner shields. A V-shaped smoker box provides a great way to free up space while allowing the flames to evenly heat the chips or pellets from two sides.

Chip/pellet pan

Some smoker box pans have holes in the bottom. While holes or vents are important on the sides or top of the box to let smoke out, holes in the bottom can let ash escape and cause the wood chips or pellets to catch fire, which can greatly lessen your smoking time.

Lid

The majority of smoker boxes will have a hinged lid with holes or vents. The more holes or vents in the lid, the more smoke you will produce. The lid should be secure enough that it won’t easily open or fall off, yet it should be easy to open so you can add pellets or chips while the grill is on.

Extras

While not standard, some smoker boxes come with extras that can help you to start smoking right out of the box. These can include the following:

Sample wood chips or pellets: High-end barbecue smoker boxes sometimes include samples of different types of pellets or wood chips for you to try.

Recipe collections: While the internet abounds with smoking recipes, it’s sometimes helpful to get a recipe right away so you can immediately start your smoking journey.

Brush: A brush is sometimes included to help with cleanup.

A smoker pouch is a tin foil packet filled with wood chips and poked full of holes. It can be a cheap and effective way to add smoke to your grill, but a smoker pouch is less durable and effective than a quality barbecue smoker box.

Barbecue smoker box prices

Inexpensive: Some barbecue smoker boxes cost less than $10. These boxes tend to be small and are usually made of thin stainless steel. This type of box is best for light use on a gas grill.

Mid-range: Between $15 and $20, you will find larger boxes made of better-quality steel. Often, these pricier boxes can be used with a wider range of fuels.

Expensive: For $20 and up, you will find quality smoker boxes made of thick steel or cast iron. Some of these boxes come with a lifetime warranty, and many include extras such as a recipe book, sample chips or pellets, and cleansing aids.

EXPERT TIP

Most V-shaped smoker boxes sit directly under the meat you are cooking, which can lead to a more pronounced smoke flavor.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Soak wood chips in water. While wood pellets do not need to be soaked, plan to soak wood chips in water for at least an hour before adding them to the smoker box. This will help them smolder and provide smoke for a longer period of time.
  • Keep grilling gloves and tongs on hand. Any barbecue smoker box that you use is going to become extremely hot. Keep grilling gloves or tongs on hand in case you need to move or refill the box mid-smoke.
  • Experiment with different types of wood chips and pellets. Mesquite and hickory are excellent choices for beef and other red meats, while fruitwoods such as apple and cherry are often used to smoke lighter meats, such as fish or chicken.
  • Know what to expect if you use an under-grate smoker box. Because it sits closer to the flames, wood pellets or chips will burn faster, requiring you to fill the box more often to keep the smoke flowing.
  • If you travel, think twice about cast iron. Cast iron smoker boxes are heavy, making them more difficult to carry around. They also take much longer to cool down than stainless steel, which can mean a lengthy wait after cooking before you can clean it or pack it up.
  • Allow the grill to heat up for 10 to 15 minutes before adding the smoker box. This will allow the wood to start smoking quickly. When the box starts producing smoke, lower the temperature and add your meat and other foods to the grill.
When using a barbecue smoker box on your grill, place it as close to the heat or flames as safety allows.

FAQ

Q. How many chips or pellets should I put in the smoker box?
A.
This can vary for a number of reasons, including the size of your smoker box, how long you’re planning to smoke, and even how the box is positioned on your grill.

A decent rule of thumb is to fill the smoker box about half full with chips or pellets. Arrange them in a flat layer in the box so they receive even heat. With a half-full box, you won’t be wasting chips or pellets, and you will have the option of adding more later.

You should also consult any documentation that came with the smoker box for manufacturer recommendations.


Q. Can I use a smoker box in my kitchen oven?
A.
No. A barbecue smoker box is designed to be used on or in your outdoor grill. The indirect heat of an indoor oven would probably not be enough to generate much smoke from a smoker box. Even if you were to place the box close enough to the flame or heating element, the resulting smoke would quickly drive you out of your house.


Q. Can I use a smoker box to smoke cheese?
A.
Generally not, although some claim to have a design that can be used for this purpose. Because cheese has a low melting point, you will need to use a cold-smoking method to smoke it. The Kaduf Pellet Smoker offers a slow smoldering tray system that produces “cold” smoke over several hours, which is the perfect environment for cold-smoking cheeses and other foods.

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