Updated July 2023
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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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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 
Bottom line
Best of the Best
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker
Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker
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Comprehensive Choice
Bottom Line

An exceptional smoker from a company with a reputation for quality. The best money can buy.


A top-notch smoker. Free expert-assembly option. Two silicon grommets monitor the internal temperature. Easy to adjust the temperature with dampers, or add more charcoal or wood while cooking.


Doesn't have some of the bells and whistles that other high-end smokers have.

Best Bang for the Buck
Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker, Roaster, and Grill
The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker, Roaster, and Grill
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Most Versatile
Bottom Line

A good choice for smoked-food connoisseurs who like the idea of a versatile smoker and don't mind a few design quirks.


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.

Dyna-Glo Signature Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker and Grill
Signature Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker and Grill
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Powerful Smoker
Bottom Line

Ample 1,382 square inches of cooking area, user-friendly design, and heavy-duty construction.


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.

Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
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Durable & Rugged
Bottom Line

A borderline indestructible smoker, great for those who want their smokers to last a long time


Comes with a spacious 447-square-inch cooking surface made of cast iron. The body's made of 22-gauge steel, meaning this thing isn’t breaking anytime soon.


Some reviewers have noted that the bolts attaching the hood to the frame have started to melt after heavy usage.

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker
Digital Electric Smoker
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Digital Controls
Bottom Line

A compact, windowless smoker that is surprisingly roomy and features digital temperature control.


This smoker is easy to assemble and operate. It holds heat well, has adjustable feet, and a display that is easy to read. Inside, the unit has 4 chrome-coated smoking racks and a very efficient grease trap.


The pan for wood chips isn't large, so you will need to add while cooking, but the process is simple.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best smokers

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.

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When buying meat, ask the butcher what wood chips and temperature he or she recommends. A professional is a good resource if you’re branching out into new cuts of meat.

Types of smokers

Smokers come in all shapes and sizes, but they can be broken down into several broad categories.

Horizontal offset smokers

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.

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Born and raised in Paris, the land of unapologetic butter, Francois has spent the last 20 years shaping the American culinary world behind the scenes. He was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma, built the Food Network online store, managed product assortments for Rachael Ray's site, started two meal delivery businesses and runs a successful baking blog. When he's not baking a cake or eating his way through Europe, Francois enjoys sharing cooking skills with cooks of all levels. Rules he lives by: "Use real butter" and "Nothing beats a sharp knife."
Kitchen Expert

Pellet grills

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.

Box smokers

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.

Kamado grills

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.

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Expert Tip
Your smoking skills should help you decide between models that use pre-measured wood chip pucks/bricks versus models that let you customize your own wood chip mix.

Drum smokers

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.

Vertical water smokers

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.

What to look for when buying a smoker


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.

Temperature range

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.

Damper control

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.

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Expert Tip
Fat and drippings add to the flavor of the meat. Let fat drip onto the grill and into the drip pan for the best results.

Temperature control

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.

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For your safety
Your smoker should be kept at least 10 feet (3 meters) from your house. Cook away from garages or overhangs, as a flare-up could start a fire.


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.

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Expert Tip
Make sure to ‘cure’ electric smokers by seasoning all grates and surfaces with cooking oil and leaving it on for two hours. This will remove odors and residues.

Other factors to consider

  • Mobility: Look for a smoker with wheels, so you can easily move it around the yard.

  • Adjustable shelves: These make it easier to adjust for different sizes and cuts of meat.

  • Cleanup: 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.


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You don’t want flames when smoking. If your smoker flames up, either move the racks up so the meat doesn’t touch the fire or damper down until the flames decrease.

How much should you pay for a smoker?


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.

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Expert Tip
If you’re cooking with wood chips, be aware that different kinds of wood produce different flavors. Apple, cherry, pecan, alder, and oak chips affect the taste and complement different meats.


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.

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For your safety
Never use a smoker inside a house or in an enclosed space. The smoke emits carbon dioxide, which poses a serious health risk.


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.

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Turn up the heat when you’re done to cook off what’s left in the smoker. Be sure to clean racks after each use.


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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