A top-notch smoker. Unlike most smokers, this package includes a protective cover. Includes free expert assembly option. 2 silicon grommets monitor internal temp. Easy to adjust temp with dampers. Easy to add more charcoal or wood while cooking.
Doesn't have some of the bells and whistles that other high-end smokers have.
We love how this top-selling smoker can also be used to grill and roast some of your favorite foods. Powered by propane and proprietary TRU-Infrared heat for even results that maintain natural juices. Simple to assemble and use.
Some of the components come with quality concerns, such as the smoke and drip trays that don't fit very well.
Has a patented flame disk bowl that's designed to keep grease off the burner. Cooks with propane and delivers nice results. Spacious interior can fit two whole turkeys at once. Has 4 smoking racks and push-button ignition.
Some quality issues noted, including crooked door hinges and broken temperature gauges. Some components feel flimsy.
Heavy steel smoker. Includes sausage hooks and 5 smoking racks. Precise temperature gauge. Convenient pull-out side tray. Huge amount of cooking space. Charcoal grate and ash pan are removable for easy fuel access and emptying.
An especially heavy smoker.
Low and slow is the way to get the best tasting barbecue, but which smoker does the best job? If you're a professional, a horizontal offset smoker is most likely what you want. However, if you're a homeowner, there is a plethora of options available to you, each with its own set of pros and cons.
Whether you choose a pellet smoker, a Kamodo grill, or any other type of smoker, it's a matter of preference. Although charcoal-fueled models offer the richest, most robust flavor, you want control when smoking. An adequately sized unit with adjustable shelves, a wide temperature range, and the ability to control the heat are the necessities. A model that's easy to clean will end up being more desirable to use.
If you're ready to buy, you can pick from our short list of favorites. However, if you need more information, reading through the rest of this guide will teach you all you need to know about making a wise purchase.
Smokers come in all shapes and sizes, but they can be broken down into several broad categories.
This type of smoker has a main cooking chamber with a firebox. The smoke travels from the firebox through the main chamber and out a smokestack. These horizontal smokers can cook a large amount of meat at one time. Professional-grade smokers are often this style.
These smokers use pellets in a hopper, or external fire bin, that feeds the pellets into an internal firepot.
Temperature is controlled by how quickly pellets are fed into the firepot. This can be done either manually or, with more expensive models, digitally.
Pellet grills work as either a smoker or a grill. Most are excellent smokers, but few are good at both smoking and grilling.
As the name implies, these smokers are shaped like a box, and they front-load through a door. Box smokers can smoke an impressive amount of meat in one go. Cheaper box smokers often don’t produce good results because they lack the insulation necessary to hold heat.
Recognizable by their egg-shape design, these smokers double as grills. They require some modifications to work effectively as smokers, such as adding deflector plates, but they successfully pull double-duty. The high price makes them most practical for those who grill and smoke frequently.
The most basic style of smoker, drum smokers are easy to use. They are portable and lightweight but struggle to cook large cuts or quantities of meat.
These smokers have a heat source, usually charcoal, at the bottom. When lit, the heat source warms a water pan, which regulates the heat of the smoker while keeping the meat moist. These small smokers don’t take up much space but also don’t cook a lot of meat at once. Most come with more than one rack, but you have to remove the top rack to reach the rack underneath.
The material used to make a smoker can make a big difference in the results.
Smokers made with thick steel will absorb and distribute heat better, as well as limit temperature fluctuations.
It’s also important to know the temperature range of a smoker. In general, smoking is done over low heat for a long period of time. But if you want to cook turkey or sear a steak, you’re going to need a smoker that can reach temperatures of 375°F and above.
For wood and charcoal smokers, dampers are used to control the temperature by limiting oxygen supply to the heat source. Dampers should be easy to access and close to both the chimney and firebox.
Controlling the temperature of the smoker is key to getting the right amount of flavor and tenderness.
For beginners, an electric or gas smoker is the easiest to control. With these smokers, you can set the temperature and walk away while the meat cooks.
Serious cooks, including those who want to enter BBQ contests, should cook with either charcoal or wood, which are harder to regulate.
It will be harder to get a predictable flavor with a less insulated smoker. Leaky seals let out smoke and heat.
Deflector plates, hooks, water pans, and counterweights are all tools that make using a smoker easier. Look at what accessories come with the smoker.
A smoker’s cooking surface area determines how much meat you can smoke at once. If you plan to smoke for a crowd, an offset or box smoker is the best choice.
Vertical smokers and Kamado grills have additional racks to increase the cooking area, but they can be hard to access.
The size that’s best for you also depends on what type of meat you want to cook. A turkey or a long rack of ribs require a larger smoker, for example.
Look for a smoker with wheels, so you can easily move it around the yard.
These make it easier to adjust for different sizes and cuts of meat.
Grease collects fast, and a smoker’s parts cannot be tossed in the dishwasher. Consider whether or not you’re ready to maintain a large smoker, which requires more maintenance. Stainless steel grates are the easiest to clean. Chrome-plated grates wear out over time and may rust.
For $100 or less, you’ll find small smokers of various designs.
In this price range, smaller models perform better, since they aren’t trying to do the work of large smokers with lower-quality construction.
Insulation and temperature control aren’t as good in this price range.
Between $100 and $200 are smokers that are ideal for those who want to smoke meat periodically. Again, you’ll find smokers of various designs, but the key is to look for one with good seals and temperature control.
In the $300 to $400 range, the smokers get larger and the metal gets thicker, which means the insulation improves. If you’re looking to cook for a crowd, start looking at this price point.
At $400 and above, you’ve entered the price range for serious chefs who smoke meat on a regular basis.
Smokers of all designs can be found in this price range.
These high-end smokers have better insulation, thicker metal, and tighter seals to keep heat and smoke trapped tight.
Q. I want to start smoking, but I’m not ready to make a big financial commitment. What kind of smoker should I start with?
A. A simple drum smoker is a good place to start. They are small, easy to use, and affordably priced. Another option is a basic horizontal water smoker with digital controls. They are easy to use, don’t take up a lot of space, and you don’t have to sit around feeding in charcoal or wood chips while the smoker works.
Q. What’s the best way to start charcoal for my smoker?
A. Be careful not to use charcoal with additives in your smoker. These additives can leave a strange taste in your food. You’ll have the same problem if you use lighter fluid. The best way to start a smoker is to use a charcoal chimney and something flammable like newspaper. Chimneys also allow you to light more charcoal at once.
Q. Do I need to clean my smoker?
A. Yes and no. A good smoker needs a layer of seasoning that can only be achieved with an initial coating and use. You don’t want to remove this protective layer. But you will get splatters of fat on your smoker. Running the empty smoker at a high temperature will burn off the residue you don’t want while maintaining the seasoning. You can clean out any noticeable deposits but don’t scrub with a brush. Do remove any racks and the drip pan or water pan and clean after each use.
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