Best Propane Smokers

Updated May 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

25 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
197 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Why trust BestReviews?
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best propane smokers

Last Updated May 2019

Out of all the cooking techniques in the world, it’s hard to find one more satisfying and delicious than smoking. Typically done “low and slow” over long periods of time, smoking gently cooks food while imparting rich and unique flavor profiles that simply can’t be replicated by other methods. It might require time and effort, but when smoking’s done right, it’s mouth-wateringly worth it. While there are several different types of smokers on the market, for our money, you can’t beat a propane smoker.

Propane smokers use gas burners to smoke chunks of wood or charcoal, which then cook and flavor meat, vegetables, cheese, and even salt over the course of several hours. The ideal choice for aspiring pitmasters who want consistency without the hassle of traditional wood and charcoal smokers, propane smokers offer the perfect balance of convenience and taste, and one is a great fit if you’re cooking for a crowd.

Our shopping guide can help you find the right propane smoker for your next culinary adventure. If you’re ready to buy, take a look at our top-rated models, too.

The water pan sits over a smoker’s heat source and distributes indirect, stable heat throughout the oven. It also adds moisture and taste to your food, helping the smoky flavor stick to the meat. For added punch, fill the pan with cider or beer.

Key considerations

A typical propane smoker features a propane burner inside a steel oven with cooking grates, a drip pan, a water pan, and smoking chip tray. Here’s are the basic elements to keep in mind when shopping.

Key considerations

A typical propane smoker features a propane burner inside a steel oven with cooking grates, a drip pan, a water pan, and smoking chip tray. Here’s are the basic elements to keep in mind when shopping.

Materials

Propane smokers are constantly exposed to heat, smoke, and weather, which makes the materials used in their construction a vital consideration. Steel is an extremely durable metal, and it’s a sign of quality in oven boxes, cooking grates, water trays, and wood chip trays. A powder-coated exterior is a plus in terms of standing up to abuse, as is a multi-layered oven for superior insulation.

Door design

Consistent heat is extremely important when cooking with any kind of smoker, and with single-door models, heat and smoke will escape any time you need to add wood chips or water or check up on your next meal. That makes a two-door model, or a model with separate drawers for wood and water, extremely practical because it provides better temperature control. In addition, an adjustable latch is key to a proper door seal.

Full-featured, full-powered

Boasting 3.4 cubic feet of cooking space, four adjustable cooking grates, and 13,500 BTUs, this 38-inch propane smoker can easily feed large groups of eight or more. This unit will take your outdoor cooking to a whole new level, and it boasts cool features like a tempered glass viewing window and sausage hanger.

Capacity

How many people do you typically cook for? If it’s a family of three, you likely don’t need a propane smoker with six cubic feet of interior space, but you might if you’re feeding large groups or hosting events. A smoker that size is large enough to handle a full bird along with supplemental racks for veggies and other meats, so shop accordingly. Keep in mind that smaller units generally come with smaller water pans and wood chip boxes, and the 18-inch, 30-inch, and 40-inch measurements you see in product listings refer to the width of the oven.

BTUs

British thermal units are a measure of energy, and when it comes to smokers and grills, they measure the heat output of a burner. Put simply, the more BTUs a smoker has, the more heat its burner is able to produce. More BTUs are generally better, but a high number isn’t always necessary. If you’re more interested in cold smoking, for instance, there’s no need to overspend for heating power you won’t use. For quality propane smokers, expect to find BTU ratings between 10,000 and 20,000, keeping in mind that smaller boxes don’t require as much energy to heat.

EXPERT TIP

Select propane smokers can be converted to natural gas, however, it’s not as simple as plugging in a new tank. You’ll need an adapter, a few tools, and about 15 minutes of work to make the conversion.


Staff  | BestReviews

Propane smoker features

With the basic considerations out of the way, let’s cover some additional features that allow you to adjust your recipes quickly and easily.

Temperature controls

With accurate temperature readings, you can tweak the heat level inside your smoker to guarantee perfect results. Units with vents, damper valves, and adjustable gas supplies help you fine-tune temperatures to perfection. Considering how crucial temperature management is to smoking, you’d be surprised by how many propane smokers don’t include one from the factory. Worse yet, some do include thermometers that fail to display accurate readings. Always seek out propane smokers with integrated thermometers, and peruse user reviews to gauge their reliability. It never hurts to have an external thermometer on hand, however.

One-touch ignition

Fumbling with lighters and matches is outdated and unnecessary, particularly when one-touch ignition exists. For added convenience, look for propane smokers with push-button or rotary ignition.

Dedicated racks

A smoker’s main cooking racks are literally the heavy lifters of the whole operation. These are where you’ll put whole turkeys, racks of ribs, beef shoulders, and the like on barbeque day, but select models feature dedicated racks and hangers for smaller items. If you’re interested in smoking sausage, jerky, vegetables, and other small or oddly shaped items, seek out propane smokers with purpose-built areas for these foods.

For beef, pork, veal, ham, and fish, cook until the internal temperature has reached 145°F (62.8°C). Heat poultry to 165°F (73.9°C).

Propane smoker prices

Propane smokers come in a variety of sizes and with a plethora of add-ons that affect the price.

Inexpensive: You can find entry-level propane smokers for as little as $100, but don’t expect to find a barbeque solution capable of feeding large groups. You’ll typically find small units in this price range equipping one or two smoking racks, a 5,000 BTU burner (more or less), and relatively thin walls and legs. Small smokers like this are extremely portable, though, and that makes them perfect for cookouts.

Mid-range: The smokers in the $150 to $200 range are notable for larger cooking areas, more powerful burners, and additional convenience features like one-touch ignition, damping valves, and two-door layouts.

Expensive: If you pay $250 or more for your propane smoker, you’ll enjoy cavernous oven boxes capable of feeding large groups. You’ll find first-rate construction materials, sophisticated temperature controls, dual-door designs, and seriously powerful burners.

CAUTION

Smokers use all kinds of wood – hickory, maple, and oak being the most common – with some sold in prepackaged bags with added flavoring. Not all wood is suitable, though. Never use treated lumber or plywood because they can harbor harmful chemicals.

Tips

  • Keep the door closed. This is the golden rule of smoking. While it’s very tempting to peek at your food during cooking, doing so allows heat and flavor to escape. If you’re the curious type, seek out a smoker with a tempered glass window for easy monitoring.
  • Add more flavor. More flavor is always better. Along with marinating and dry-rubbing your food, soak the wood chips in spiced water, a vinegar mixture, or cider for more of a bite.
  • Let the smoked food sit for a few minutes before serving. When the meat is done, resist the urge to cut and serve it immediately. As it cooks, moisture moves outward toward the surface of the meat. Cutting the meat before it rests results in that moisture spilling out, which can leave your food dry and bland.

Compact and capable

This intuitive yet versatile 36-inch smoker won’t break the bank, but it’s an ideal choice for any barbeque chef. It equips a separate door for wood and water trays to preserve heat, and despite its compact design, it’s large enough to smoke whole birds or large cuts of meat with ease.

Other products we considered

Once you cook your first meal with a proper smoker, you’ll never turn back. That’s why it’s easy to understand why there are so many propane smokers on the market today, and we’d like to highlight a couple that just missed our list. The first is the Outdoor Leisure Smoke Hollow Propane Smoker, complete with a large cooking oven, push-button ignition, handy temperature gauge, and a clever two-door layout. It’s a solid all-around unit. On the high-value side of things, we were impressed by the Masterbuilt Patio-2-Portable Propane Smoker because small can be mighty, and it proves you can enjoy the taste of a home-smoked meal anywhere.

Like your meal, your smoker needs to be prepped. Preheat the oven for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking. Not only does this create a suitable, even cooking environment but it also disinfects the interior.

FAQ

Q. Why should I choose a propane smoker over wood, charcoal, or electric models?
A.
Charcoal and wood smokers provide excellent flavor, but they’re harder to use and have a steeper learning curve. Electric smokers are easy to use by contrast, but they don’t generate the same taste. Propane smokers split the difference by offering intuitive cooking, consistent heat, and outstanding results.

Q. How long do propane tanks last?
A.
Propane mileage varies by manufacturer, ambient temperatures, and cooking temperatures, but here are some key figures to remember. A standard-size propane tank contains about 4.8 pounds of fuel, with the tank itself weighing around 17 pounds. To estimate your usage, weigh the tank before cooking, weigh it after cooking, and divide the weight difference by the number of cooking hours. With some basic math, you’ll know approximately how many pounds of propane you use per hour in those conditions.

Q. What’s the difference between cold and hot smoking?
A.
As its name implies, cold smoking involves much lower temperatures than hot smoking, and generally lies between 90°F and 120°F (32.2°C to 48.8°C). Cold smoking is more about flavoring than cooking and is commonly used for fish, jerky, cheese, salt, and cured meats. Hot smoking, on the other hand, lies between 165°F and 300°F (73.8°C to 148.8°C) and results in the liquidization of fat. 

The team that worked on this review
  • Andrew
    Andrew
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Karen
    Karen
    Writer
  • Linsay
    Linsay
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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