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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Smokers Reviewed: Electric, Pellet, Charcoal All Compared

Choose a high-quality machine to help handle your meat smoking requirements.

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It's no longer necessary to visit the smoked meat section of your local grocery store. Smoking your own chicken, pork, brisket, turkey, or any other meat product from home is as simple as investing in one of the best smokers. There are a variety of smokers to choose from, ranging in size, functionality, cost, and smoking performance.

No matter your smoked meat preferences, this guide can help you to decide on the perfect smoker for your home. There are many considerations for buying a good quality smoker, like type, cooking space, and temperature range. We’ve covered all these things and more here, as well as reviews, ratings, and comparisons of the best smokers of the year.

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Model

Temperature Range

Key Feature

Check Price

Memphis Grills Elite Wood Fire Pellet Smoker Grill...

Memphis Grills Elite MEMB1B

180 to 700°F

Control & Monitor via WiFi

Smokin-It Model #1 Electric Smoker

Smokin-It Model #1

100 to 250°F

Hassle-Free Electric Operation

Camp Chef SmokePro LUX Pellet Grill

Camp Chef SmokePro

160 to 500°F

Automatic Pellet Dispenser

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal...

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D

100 to 350°F

Offset Design for Custom Cooking Options

Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal...

Weber Smokey Mountain 721001

100 to 350°F

Produces Fall-Off-the-Bone Meat

Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D 43' Wide Body LP Gas Smoker...

Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D

100 to 350°F

Easy-to-Use Propane Operation

Backwoods Chubby 3400 22.5 x 20 x 31.5 Inch...

Backwoods Chubby 3400

180 to 300°F

Converts to Grill/BBQ

18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

200 - 320°F

Easy Method of Charcoal Cooking

KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit

KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit

Maintains 250°F

Uses Real Wood for Enhanced Flavor

Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal...

Weber Smokey 711001

100 to 350°F

Compact & Portable

How Smokers Work

The Spruce Eats says that a barbecue smoker is "an outdoor cooking appliance that can maintain low cooking temperatures for extended periods while producing smoke and holding it around the meat for absorption." Cooking meat on a low and slow heat setting is the best way to enhance its flavor and retain juiciness. So how does it all work?

The answer to this depends on the type of smoker you’ve invested in (we’ll cover these types later on). The general smoking process requires some sort of fuel - like wood pellets, charcoal, propane, or electricity - to heat up a chamber and fill it with smoke. Meat is placed inside the chamber, cooked to perfection while enhancing the flavor with layers of smokiness.


Buying A Good Quality Smoker

Smoking/Grilling Needs

The first step in the buying process is to determine your smoking and grilling needs. There's a lot that goes into this first step, like considering your household size, the frequency of smoker use, and convenience factors. If you've never owned a meat smoker before, you'll want to find the best smoker for beginners. For optimal ease of use, avoid wood smokers, and invest in an electric smoker instead.

When deciding on your needs, smoker versatility plays a considerable role. Some of the best smokers serve as 6-in-1 machines with the ability to grill, smoke, braise, bbq, and more. Others function solely as a meat smoking device. Having these extra functions is an added perk, but it's not necessary for everyone - especially for you're just looking for an easy-to-use smoker.

Type Of Smoker

The type of smoker depends on how it is fueled. There are several methods for heating a smoker chamber, including charcoal, gas, electricity, and wood. It’s impossible to say which fuel type is best since each one comes with a set of pros and cons. For example, a charcoal smoker creates an amazing smoky flavor, but it requires more maintenance than an electric or gas model.

Durability & Reliability

Some of the most durable home and garden products are constructed from stainless steel, and meat smokers are no exception. Stainless steel is very durable and easy to clean, which makes it the perfect material for the construction of a smoking chamber. It is not, however, ideal for the external components of a smoker, especially if you plan on storing it outdoors.

For outdoor use and storage, you'll want to find a product that is coated in a rust-resistant enamel to avoid corrosion. Aluminum is another popular smoker material since it is lightweight and completely resistant to rust. The only downside of aluminum construction is that it can be pricey, but paying a bit extra for extreme durability is worth it to many buyers.

Performance, Smoking/Grilling Consistency & Capacity 

Choosing a smoker that ranks high in performance is a no-brainer, but not just for enhanced meat texture and flavor. Smoker performance has a lot to do with ensuring that the device can achieve safe minimum cooking temperatures with every type of meat it handles. It’s all about being able to consistently smoke delicious meat products that are safe to consume.

Cooking capacity is another major factor that you might underestimate - until you use the smoker for the first time and realize that there isn’t nearly enough space to work with. A smoker’s capacity depends on two things: the size of the smoking chamber and the amount of shelf/grate space. Large smokers can provide as much as 1,000 square inches of cooking space, while a more portable machine might only offer 400 square inches.

Temperature Adjustment

The best smokers to buy aren't designed for high heat (unless you've chosen the best smoker grill combo). The smoking process involves keeping the chamber at a low temperature and slowly cooking whatever is inside, which helps to create that smokey flavor we all love so much. That said, it is still suggested that you find a smoker that offers a wide temperature range.

The ideal smoking temperature fluctuates between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s handy to have a device that goes well above this range for searing and braising. But a wide temperature range means nothing if you can’t properly control it. For optimal temperature control, look for a smoker with easy-to-use buttons, dials, or vents and clearly displayed temperatures.

Cooking Space, Storage & Footprint

We've already discussed cooking space; the main thing to remember is that if you plan on cooking large quantities of meat at a time, larger cooking space is necessary. But with an ample cooking space comes a larger smoker footprint and dimensions.

Before going all out and purchasing a smoker that offers 1,000+ square inches of space, make sure that you have the storage space to accommodate it. You can find the dimensions of a smoker on the manufacturer’s product page to figure out the exact size of the food smoker once it’s been assembled.

Mobility/Portability

This isn't an essential consideration for every smoker buyer, especially for those who intend to keep the machine in a set location within the home. But what if you want to enjoy smoked meats on a weekend camping trip or while on vacay at the beach? In this case, mobility and portability are two major factors to consider. Even the best large smokers come with portability features like wheels and handles for easy mobility.

Ease of Use/Cleaning

The best smoker grill will be not only easy to use but also easy to clean. Using a smoker grill doesn’t need to feel like rocket science - the instructions for assembly and use should be clearcut, and there should be no confusion when it comes to controlling temperature.

For cleaning purposes, look for a smoker that comes with removable pans, trays, and grates. This will make the cleaning process - which needs to be done after each use - fast and straightforward. Stainless steel is one of the best materials for cleaning, but even with stainless steel, it is essential to clean your smoker after each use.

Extra Features & Accessories

The best smokers on the market come with loads of extra features and accessories. Some extra features to look for are built-in temperature gauges, rolling wheels for transport, quality paint coating for added durability, and additional ventilation for temperature and smoke control.

Not every manufacturer offers additional accessories, but some of them go above and beyond by providing a cover, smoker gloves, chamber hooks/hangers, a grid mat, and even the best meat thermometer for smoker grills. Other add-ins include wood chips for pellet smokers or charcoal for charcoal-fueled smokers.

Warranty Coverage & Budget

Even if money is no concern, value for the cost is something to think about. The best smokers range dramatically in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Before browsing the smoker grill market, determine the amount you're willing to spend. No matter how much this is, look into warranty coverage. Warranties range from 1 year to 10 years, and each policy is different in the parts, pieces, and defects it covers.


10 Best Smokers Reviewed

1. Memphis Grills Elite MEMB1B

Best Smoker (Top of the Range)

Dimensions

28” H x 39” W x 29” D

Weight

235 lbs

Temperature Range

180 to 700°F

Cooking Surface Area

Up to 1,274 sq. in.

Key Feature

Control & Monitor via WiFi

Warranty

7 years

Memphis Grills Elite MEMB1B is our Top of the Range pick for the best smoker. This smoker grill comes with a high price tag, but there's a reason for that - actually, there are lots of reasons. It is built from heavy-gauge 304 stainless steel, comes with a built-in wood pellet hopper, and offers up to 62 hours of cook time before needing a pellet refill. This long cook time is all thanks to the fact that the Memphis MEMB1B can hold 24 pounds of pellets at a time.

Aside from durable construction and a high pellet capacity, the coolest feature of the MEMB1B is that it can be controlled using WiFi. To use this feature, you'll have to download the Android or iOS Memphis Grills app

“The Memphis Mobile App allows you to monitor and adjust your grill and food temps when you’re away from your grill. Easily check your food from home, work, or your car,” 

A real-wood fire fuels the MEMB1B by using natural wood pellets rather than propane or charcoal. The real wood creates an unparalleled flavor through its impressive cooking power and temperature range of 180 to 700°F. The main critique of the MEMB1B doesn't have to do with the smoker grill itself, but is aimed at the mobile app and that it doesn't work with older routers.

Pros

  • WiFi connectivity
  • Large cooking space
  • Real wood fire
  • True convection cooking
  • Durable stainless steel construction

Cons

  • Memphis Grills app needs improvement
  • High cost

2. Smokin-It Model #1

Best Electric Smoker

Dimensions

15" W x 19" D x 20-3/8" H

Weight

58.8 lbs

Temperature Range

100 to 250°F

Cooking Surface Area

468 sq. in.

Key Feature

Hassle-Free Electric Operation

Warranty

3 years

Using wood pellets is an excellent method for creating natural smokiness, but not everyone is up for refilling a smoker hopper with wood pellets. If convenience is what you're after, the alternative to a wood or charcoal smoker is to invest in the best electric smoker. According to numerous electric smoker reviews, there is no electric smoker that compares to the Smokin-It Model #1.

A reviewer on the official Smokin-It product page describes how capable this smoker is at maintaining heat:

"I smoked meat for years. One thing I didn't like was the struggle of keeping the unit tight. Also the inability to keep it heat in. I purchased the #1 for the comfort to smoke for me and the wife, or family. This unit is great. It holds the heat, and seals tight." 

The unit's insulated fiberglass is responsible for its tight seal and amazing heat retention. The #1 model comes with a 12-foot power cord that, once plugged in, starts up the 400-watt heating element. Electric smokers aren't designed for high heat, which some smoked-meat lovers prefer while others wish the Smokin-It smoker were capable of high-heat functions like grilling and searing.

But this device is all about smoking, and the ideal temperature for smoked meats is somewhere around 250°F. Smokin-It is all about low and slow settings for creating smoked meat delicacies, which is why the maximum temperature remains at 250. If you’re looking for a grill/smoker combo, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Pros

  • Certified for commercial use
  • 18-gauge stainless steel
  • Highly portable (handles & wheels)
  • Integrated 12-ft power cord

Cons

  • Not designed for high heat
  • Small cooking space

3. Camp Chef SmokePro

Best Pellet Smoker Grill Combo

Dimensions

61" W X 24" D X 41” H

Weight

180 lbs

Temperature Range

160 to 500°F

Cooking Surface Area

874 sq. in.

Key Feature

Automatic Pellet Dispenser

Warranty

3 years

We’ve already reviewed a high-quality pellet smoker, the Memphis Grills model, but this product isn’t within the budget of all meat-smoking enthusiasts. The best pellet smoker grill for the money is the Camp Chef SmokePro. It uses the same pellet-smoking technology as the Memphis Grills wood smoker, but it’s a fraction of the cost. The SmokePro Camp Chef smoker is the perfect pellet grill for serious meat-smokers. 

Camp Chef says that

"the SmokePro LUX Pellet Grill & Smoker has a whopping total of 875 square inches of cooking space for you to work with, giving you the room to cook anything—and any quantity—you need."

This is the perfect amount of cooking space for a home wood pellet smoker. You won’t have to worry about continuously adding wood pellets; the automatic pellet auger feeds the proper amount of wood into the smoker, doing all the work for you. Once the smoking session is done, cleanup is made easy with Camp Chef’s signature ash cleanout system.

Camp Chef uses patented Smart Smoke technology that ensures the maximum amount of smoke and the best flavor. It comes with a stainless steel temperature probe, and although this isn’t the best smoker thermometer on the market, it gets the job done and delivers accurate temperature readings. Monitoring is made even easier through the compatible app. The company provides steps on how to set up Camp Chef connect on their blog (or just click the link).

Pros

  • Large hopper capacity for pellets
  • Patented Smart Smoke technology
  • Included meat temperature probe
  • Hassle-free ash cleanout system
  • Included warming rack

Cons

  • Sear box sold separately
  • Requires regular pellet purchases

4. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D

Best Offset Smoker

Dimensions

20.2” D × 34.52” W × 47.03” H

Weight

57 lbs

Temperature Range

100 to 350°F

Cooking Surface Area

784 sq. in.

Key Feature

Offset Design for Custom Cooking Options

Warranty

1 year

Investing in the best offset smoker (also known as the best reverse flow smoker) is the ideal solution if you plan on smoking lots of meats at once. A high-quality offset model like the Dyna Glo smoker comes with two chambers, one large chamber that is dedicated to food and another smaller one that is meant for creating and managing smoke.

The Dyna Glo DGO1176BDC-D is not just the best offset smoker, but it's also the best smoker for the money. Don't let the low cost fool you, though. Even with an affordable price, this smoker comes with plenty of extra features, lots of cooking space, and heavy-duty construction. The main chamber can hold up to 100 pounds of food at a time with a workspace of 784 square inches.

One of the best features of this offset smoker is the easy-to-read temperature gauge. The gauge ranges from 100 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and it indicates the ideal smoking temperature with the "Smoke Zone" label. Dyna Glo says that this "stainless temperature gauge with 'Smoke Zone' indicates the ideal temperature for infusing smoke flavor," ranging from 200 to 275 degrees.

The only downside of opting for the offset design is that this type of smoker has to work much harder to distribute heat and smoke evenly. So far, there have only been a few complaints of uneven heat distribution from Dyna Glo customers, but the problem is usually solved once the user gets the hang of proper offset smoking techniques.

Pros

  • Smoke Zone temperature indicator
  • Smokes up to 100 lbs at a time
  • Minimized heat loss with dual doors
  • Durable powder coat finish

Cons

  • Short warranty coverage
  • Possible uneven heat distribution

5. Weber Smokey Mountain 721001

Best Charcoal Smoker

Dimensions

21” W x 19” D x 41” H

Weight

39.1 lbs

Temperature Range

100 to 350°F

Cooking Surface Area

481 sq. in.

Key Feature

Produces Fall-Off-the-Bone Meat

Warranty

10 years (main smoker bowl)

Looking for a charcoal grill smoker? Our recommendation is the Weber Smokey Mountain 721001. This product has been called the best charcoal grill smoker time and time again, mainly for its simple design. The 721001 Weber smoker is all about simplicity, which makes it an excellent choice for beginners who are learning the ropes of meat smoking techniques.

“Taking it low-and-slow has never tasted so good,” says Weber. “The big cooking area easily executes a large roast that'll feed the family for days.” 

The cooking surface area isn’t as large as a few of the best smokers we’ve covered so far. It features an 18-inch diameter rack that can hold enough meat to feed between 4 and 6 people, perfect for a meat-eating family. The most-loved feature of this Weber smoker is its easy operation. It works like any traditional charcoal grill; charcoal is loaded into the bottom half of the smoker, and meat is placed on a grate above the burning coals.

Controlling heat is done through a damper ventilation system. Opening the vents entirely adds heat, and closing them cuts off oxygen to distinguish the coals. This heat control system can take some time to get used to, but you'll quickly get the hang of it.

Pros

  • Rust-resistant construction
  • Built-in lid thermometer
  • Portable
  • Fuel door to avoid lid removal
  • Long warranty period

Cons

  • Heat control with dampers
  • No high-tech features

6. Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D

Best Propane Smoker

Dimensions

20.4” D × 31.3” W × 56.5” H

Weight

90 lbs

Temperature Range

100 to 350°F

Cooking Surface Area

1,235 sq. in.

Key Feature

Easy-to-Use Propane Operation

Warranty

3 years

The best gas smoker is easy to use, affordable, and capable of reaching and maintaining higher heats than other types of smokers. All this and more is true of the Dyna Glo DGW1904BDP-D, the best propane smoker on our list of smoker reviews. Similar to the first Dyna Glo smoker we reviewed, this one was built with durability in mind.

Unlike the last one, though, this model does not feature an offset design. Instead, there is one large chamber that offers a 1,235-inch cooking surface area. Here’s what Dyna Glo has to say about the product’s massive cooking chamber: “This cooking space is heated by 2 burners that provide 20,000 BTUs of cooking power. Pre-installed upper and lower door seals help to minimize heat and smoke loss.”

To monitor heat, use the stainless temperature gauge. It comes with the signature Dyna Glo Smoke Zone indicator that comes with all Dyna Glo smokers. This feature helps users stay on track by staying within the ideal smoking temperature range. Gas smokers tend to get hotter faster, so Dyna Glo suggests that you keep tabs on this temperature gauge to prevent your food from overheating.

We have only one critique for the Dyna Glo propane smoker. In most settings, this smoker works flawlessly at reaching and maintaining heat, but it struggles a bit in cold weather environments. You might experience this if you plan on using this outdoors in the wintertime, but there are a few things you can do to prevent heat loss. The best thing to do is to invest in a high-quality smoker insulation blanket for smoking meat in the wintertime.

Pros

  • Smoker cover included
  • Powerful dual burners
  • Powder-coated exterior finish
  • Tons of cooking space
  • Professional smokehouse flavor

Cons

  • Struggles to maintain heat in cold weather

7. Backwoods Chubby 3400

Best Smoker for Backyard

Dimensions

20” W x 22.5” D x 31.5” H

Weight

130 lbs

Temperature Range

180 to 300°F

Cooking Surface Area

1,023 sq. in.

Key Feature

Converts to Grill/BBQ

Warranty

1 year

Most smokers are designed for outdoor use, but not all of them are ideal for storing outdoors. This is a key consideration if you’re looking for the best backyard smoker if you want to prevent rust and keep your smoker working like new for years to come. The best home smoker for the backyard is the Backwoods Chubby 3400. It has a tough exterior with durable powder coating, making it suitable for outdoor use AND storage.

The Chubby 3400 is small enough to take along on outdoor adventures, like weekend camping trips or beachy vacations. It has compact dimensions and weighs only 130 pounds, making it one of the most portable products on this list. Don't underestimate the small size, though; Chubby 3400 can be used as a grill, BBQ, or smoker, cooking meat to perfection each time with the reverse flow technology.

The Backwoods company says that

"this smaller but heavy-duty Backwoods charcoal smoker has 4 racks 16 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches and comes with one extra slider for more flexible arrangement of your meat. It has enough space to cook a brisket, leg and thigh combos, a rack of ribs and a pork butt all at the same time." 

Some buyers don’t like the fact that this product was made overseas, but try not to let this bug you too much. Regardless of the manufacturing location, this is the ideal solution for backyard smoking.

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Durable for outdoor storage
  • Doubles as grill/BBQ
  • Impressive cooking space
  • Arrives fully assembled

Cons

  • Product made overseas
  • Short warranty

8. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

Best Drum Smoker

Dimensions

21” W x 21” D x 31.1” H

Weight

57 lbs

Temperature Range

200 - 320°F

Cooking Surface Area

240 sq. in.

Key Feature

Easy Method of Charcoal Cooking

Warranty

1 Year

The Pit Barrel Cooker Co. is a veteran-owned business that manufactures one of the best-rated smokers on the market: the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker. It features the traditional drum design that requires minimal assembly so that you can start smoking meats ASAP. The best drum cooker is 18.5 inches in diameter and comes with a large circular grate for large pieces of meat, as well as 8 stainless steel hooks and 2 hanging rods. The Pit Barrel Cooker is equipped with a coal basket that is sized perfectly for the ideal amount of charcoal. The barrel design is more natural to figure out than any other smoker type.

 "There's a reason the Pit Barrel Cooker receives consistently rave reviews," says the PBC company. “It simply cooks some of the best food you’ve ever tasted, with no hassle.”

Because the barrel design is so simple, some people feel that it lacks special features. In a way, this is true - you won't have WiFi connectivity or high-tech temperature controls with the Pit Barrel Cooker. But this simplicity is exactly what more traditional meat-smoking enthusiasts love. If you want a smoker that doesn't come with tons of bells and whistles, this is our top pick.

Pros

  • #1 selling drum cooker
  • Tons of included accessories
  • Minimal assembly

Cons

  • Small cooking space
  • Short warranty coverage

9. KBQ C-60 BBQ

Best Wood Smoker

Dimensions

25.59” D x 19.29” W x 41.73” H

Weight

92 lbs

Temperature Range

Maintains 250°F

Cooking Surface Area

960 sq. in.

Key Feature

Uses Real Wood for Enhanced Flavor

Warranty

2 years

The best wood smokers use real wood for cooking meat and producing a smoky flavor profile. There's no need for hardwood pellets, gas, charcoal, or electricity. Using real wood is not the ideal choice if this is your first meat-smoking endeavor since it's a bit more challenging than the other smoker types. But if you consider yourself to be somewhat knowledgeable on the smoking process, there's nothing that compares to a real-wood smoker like the KBQ C-60.

This product allows you to barbecue brilliantly by producing flavors, colors, and bark that is only possible with real wood. Although the fire created by real wood is a bit more challenging to control, KBQ has it all figured out through the Inverted Flame technology.

"Inverted Flame intrinsically produces thin blue smoke. Smoke Selector tailors flavor and color. AutoDraft regulates temperature,"

 says KBQ.

The Inverted Flame draws smoke from below, pulls it through a hotbed of coals, and floods the smoking chamber with oxygen. KBQ calls this process the "fire triangle," and it's something that would take years to master on your own. But with the help of the C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit, you can be completing the fire triangle like a pro in no time. For tips on how to use this smoker, visit the KBQ BBQ-EDU blog on the company website. 

Pros

  • Backed by several US patents
  • Inverted Flame technology
  • No gas, charcoal, pellets, or electricity
  • Astonishing smoke quality

Cons

  • Not ideal for beginners

10. Weber Smokey 711001

Best Small Smoker

Dimensions

31.4” H x 14.75” W x 14.75” D

Weight

23 lbs

Temperature Range

100 to 350°F

Cooking Surface Area

286 sq. in.

Key Feature

Compact & Portable

Warranty

10 years (main smoker bowl)

Investing in the best small smoker on the market is ideal for those who plan on bringing their smoker on camping trips, vacations to the lake house, or as the main hit at family gatherings. Meat smoker reviews talk a lot about the importance of portability, and it's obvious that some smokers are much more portable than others. The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 711001 ranks the highest when it comes to portability and easy storage.

This Weber smoker is just like the 721001 we covered earlier, only it’s slightly smaller. Instead of an 18.5-inch diameter grill grate, the 711001 has a diameter of just 14 inches. If you’re looking for the maximum amount of cooking space possible, this is not the smoker for you. But if you’re on the hunt for a smoker that is small enough to bring on the road, this is the one.

Weber has a lot to say about its #1 smoker for portability. 

“a great choice for BBQ on the go and taking it low-and-slow wherever you end up. Large enough to grill an entire roast yet compact to fit in the trunk of your car.”

The 711001 features precision heat control through damper ventilation vents located at the bottom of the smoker. This ventilation and heat control is far from high-tech, but there’s no denying that it’s efficient and easy to use.

Pros

  • Removable fuel door
  • Small yet powerful smoker
  • Porcelain enamel for durability
  • Perfect for BBQ on the go

Cons

  • Too small for some
  • No high-tech features

Types of Smokers

After reading about the best smokers, it's evident that these smokers vary in how they function and how they are fueled. Each smoker type comes with a set of pros and cons, which means each individual has unique preferences for the best type of smoker.

Pellet Smoker

The best pellet smoker uses high-quality hardwood pellets to help produce flavorful, juicy meat products. Pellet smoker reviews say that these are easy to use thanks to their simple design and temperature controls. The main downside is that they require a user to regularly feed wood chips into the pellet compartment (hopper), and high-quality pellets don't come cheap. But if great flavor and easy operation are what you're looking for, you can't go wrong with a pellet smoker.

Gas Smoker – Propane/Natural Gas

A gas smoker uses propane or natural gas as fuel. The gas heats the wood chips to produce smoke, creating an intensely smokey flavor that meat-eaters love. Gas smokers are very affordable, easy to use, and perfect for those who want to set the temperature and forget about the meat until it’s done cooking.

The downside of using gas is that you’ll have to replace the propane bottle when it runs out if you’re not using a natural gas connection. Construction of a natural gas or propane smoker requires more parts and pieces, which means there is a higher chance of malfunctions and defects.

Electric Smoker

Electric smokers provide extreme convenience; they are easy to set up, easy to use, and just require a power source for operation. If you want a completely hassle-free cooking experience that is suitable for beginners, an electric smoker is the way to go. As far as the downsides go, electrically-powered smokers are unable to reach high temperatures, so you won't be able to sear your food after the smoking process.

Smoker/Grill Combo

A smoker grill combo is exactly as it sounds; it combines both smoking and grilling functions, offering much more versatility. This type is ideal for those who want an all-in-one system and don't want to go through the hassle of purchasing two separate units. The drawback is that a combination of smoker and grill is more costly than a unit that is solely for smoking.

Vertical Smoker

The best vertical smoker cooks food in a vertical cabinet that contains multiple shelves that are accessed from the top of the unit. This type uses a minimal amount of space, making it the ideal choice for a portable meat-smoking solution. No matter if you choose the best vertical pellet smoker or a vertical water smoker, the unit won't take up too much space. Some people don't love the idea of a top-load design since it's more difficult to handle.

Charcoal Smoker

A charcoal smoker runs on charcoal with several style options, like barrel, offset, and cabinet. Charcoal smokers produce great results since they are capable of reaching and maintaining high temperatures, plus they produce the best flavors out of all the smoker types. Unfortunately, charcoal can be messy to clean up, and cooking with charcoal takes longer to master.

Offset Smoker/Reverse Flow

An offset smoker (or reverse flow smoker) features two chambers - one main chamber for food and one offset chamber for creating smoke and heat. According to the guide to BBQ smokers from SpruceEats, "heat and smoke created in the firebox enter the cooking chamber through a small hole between the two spaces." Some users complain of offset chambers being unable to distribute heat evenly, but this is only the case with poorly designed models. 

Drum or Barrel

A drum or barrel smoker is very simple to use, and it's the most traditional method for smoking foods. It consists of a steel drum that contains a firebox in the bottom and a cooking rack on top. Charcoal is placed in the firebox, so it's great if a smoky flavor is your #1 priority. The disadvantage is that controlling temperature can be challenging, making it difficult to cook large slabs of meat like brisket or pork roast.


How to Use A Smoker

The steps for using your brand new smoker depend on the type of fuel it uses, its layout, and its specific temperature control settings. But no matter the smoker model you’ve purchased, the first step in using a smoker is to season it. This involves rubbing the inner chamber and all its parts down with oil - you can also spray it with PAM cooking spray.

Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for seasoning. Oklahoma Joe’s says that to season a new smoker after applying oil, "allow the smoker to reach at least 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 hours. This'll ensure any leftover production chemicals and solvents burn off." Once the seasoning is done, follow the manufacturer's instructions for use to create your first batch of deliciously smoked meat. 


Tips When Using Smokers

The first tip on how to use a smoker is to remember that low and slow wins the race. Smoking meat is not meant to be a speedy process, and the best results come about when you maintain a temp between 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. To monitor temperatures, invest in a smoker thermometer that can remain in the meat for the duration of the smoke session. Here are more helpful tips for smoker use:

  1. 1
    Invest in high-quality hardwood chips that are recommended by the manufacturer (for pellet smokers).
  2. 2
    Add a water pan to prevent the meat from drying out. White smoke indicates that the meat is on the right track; black smoke means that it is on the way to burning or charring.
  3. 3
    White smoke indicates that the meat is on the right track; black smoke means that it is on the way to burning or charring.
  4. 4
    Get creative when trying out the best smoker recipes - the cooking (and eating) process is meant to be FUN!

Cleaning and Maintenance of Smokers

According to Char-Broil, cleaning a smoker is essential since “keeping it clean, with just a few easy steps, will ensure it remains in top working condition.” The main thing to keep in mind is that cleaning should be done after each use. This involves wiping down the entire smoking chamber with a soft cloth and thoroughly scrubbing the grates with a wire brush and water. Here are a few more smoker cleaning tips:

  1. 1
    Wear gloves to scrape out any grease and debris that has built up in the chamber.
  2. 2
    To prevent rust, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil around the bottom.
  3. 3
    Choose a model that has removable trays, pans, and grates for easy maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is smoked meat healthy?
According to Livestrong, there’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy smoked meat: “The type and number of carcinogens in your smoked meat depend on exactly how it was smoked. For example, the use of certain woods, like poplar and hickory, can produce less carcinogens than beech wood.” As long as you use the right type of wood, there is very little health risk associated with smoked meat.
What's the easiest meat to smoke? What is the hardest meat to smoke?
With a high-quality BBQ smoker, it’s possible to cook essentially any type of meat, but the best things to smoke in a smoker for beginners include beef (such as chuck roast), turkey breast, lamb shoulder, or salmon. According to meat-smoking gurus, the most difficult meats to smoke include brisket, smoked prime rib, and pork shoulder.
Do you flip meat when smoking?
Unlike grilling, it’s not necessary to flip meat throughout the smoking process. Bon Appetit magazine says that “you’re cooking with an indirect heat, not cooking directly above a fire, so you don't need to flip them...Just keep the lid down, and manage your coals and your temp."
What to expect from the different budget ranges of smokers?
It's normal to wonder how the best cheap smoker compares to a model that costs thousands of dollars. It's not all about cost when deciding on a smoker, but the price does play a role in the features and functions of each model. When you buy a cheap smoker, you're unlikely to get all the cool features that come along with a more expensive model. Low-cost smokers are not as capable when it comes to temperature control, which is an essential step for producing great-tasting smoked meat.
What’s the difference between a smoker and a grill?
A grill cooks meat through direct heat contact at high temperatures, while a smoker is all about cooking with indirect heat at low temperatures. Smoking takes time, typically 2 to 4 hours, while grilling a piece of meat can be done in a matter of minutes.
Where is the best place to buy these smokers and accessories?
It’s possible to purchase anything on Amazon these days, and smokers and smoker accessories are no exception. Shopping on Amazon is not only a great way to check out reviews from past customers, but also the best way to find the best deals on the exact product you’re looking for.
What is cold smoking?
According to the guide to cold smoking from Smoked BBQ Source, using a cold smoker involves “a process that, when used in conjunction with curing, preserves and adds a distinctive smokey flavor to the meat. Some food products can be cold smoked and may not need to be cured like meat does. Cold smoked products can last for months without being refrigerated."
What are the top smoker brands?
Some of the top smoker brands have been included in this list of smoker reviews, like Weber and Dyna-Glo. Other reputable smoker manufacturers include Traeger, Oklahoma Joe, Masterbilt, and Pit Boss. No matter if you buy a Traeger smoker or Masterbilt smoker, be sure to keep all the essential buying considerations in mind, like cooking space, temperature range, and smoking consistency.

Conclusion

Once all is said and done with this list of the best smoker reviews, no product compares to the MEMB1B. It comes with a high price tag, but it also comes with tons of cool features, like WiFi connectivity, a 700-degree maximum temperature, and over 1,000 square inches of cooking space. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly product, consider the electrically-powered Smokin-It Model #1.

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