Ultimate Guide to the Best Smokers (Beginner and Pro Options)

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Want tender meat that is full of flavor and practically falls off the bone? As any pitmaster will tell you, the secret is all in the smoke.  A good smoker allows you to go “low and slow” so you get delicious results without a lot of effort.

The problem is that there are a lot of different types of smokers available, and they range from portable smokers for camping to massive machines with high-tech features.

This guide will go over the various types of smokers, help you figure out which type of smoker is right for you, and list the best smokers of each type for beginners and pros alike.

While it might seem overwhelming, don’t let this put you off from trying smoking.  A good smoker makes it really easy to smoke meat at home (or even smoke things like veggies, cheese, and entire pizzas or casseroles!).#

If you want to learn more about smoking, read this guide to how to smoke food.

Otherwise, keep reading to check out our picks for the best smokers.

Top Overall Smoker

18” Weber Smokey Mountain

Our top all-around choice. Flawless design, suitable for beginners and masters alike and made in the USA. This should be everyones first smoker.Check On Amazon

Treat Yourself

Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Perfect smoking everytime with multiple thermometers and remote control. This is a heavy duty piece of kit with a price tag to match. Check On Amazon

How to Choose a Smoker

Smokers can be as simple as a pit dug into the ground.  They can also be advanced pieces of machinery with automated pellet feeds, digital thermometers, glass viewing doors, and WiFi connectivity (yes, really!).

Choosing doesn’t have to be complicated though.  We’ll break it down into these steps to help you make a decision.

Step 1: Vertical or Horizontal Smoker?

vertical vs horizontal smoker

There are two main types of smokers: vertical and horizontal.  Each has its own pros/cons to consider.

Most beginners should choose a vertical smoker.  They are more affordable and even quality models can be purchased cheaply.  By contrast, a good horizontal smoker is a hefty investment and has a bigger learning curve.

However, if you don’t already have a grill (and want one), then consider a horizontal smoker. Most horizontal smokers can also be used as grills.

Read more about vertical vs. horizontal smokers.

Step 2: Heat Source

The choice of heat source for your smoker matters for a few reasons.

  1. Ease of Use: With some sources of heat (like electric and propane), you don’t have to do anything but turn on the smoker. With other heat sources, you’ll have to check and load fuel.
  2. Availability: Consider whether the fuel type is sold near you, or whether it will be a pain to obtain.
  3. Taste: Regardless of the type of smoker you use, you can still get a wood flavor in your food. This is done by adding a tray of wood inside the smoker (such as putting a tray of apple wood chips in an electric smoker).  However, you’ll get a fuller taste when you use wood chips or charcoal as your heat source.

Heat Source Options:

  • Pellets: Pellets burn slowly and hot, so they make it easy to control temperature of the smoker. They also don’t produce much ash, and are easier to clean up after.
  • Charcoal: It’s more difficult to control heat with charcoal, but some people really love the flavor it imparts. Bear in mind that charcoal is the priciest fuel. Charcoal smokers can often use wood chips or pellets too.
  • Electric: Electric smokers are as easy as pushing a button. You won’t get as much of a woody taste in your food though. Also, you’ll need to plug it in somewhere.
  • Propane: There’s no need to feed fuel into a propane smoker, which makes them nearly as convenient as electric smokers. But you also won’t get as much flavor in your food.  Propane is also a lot more affordable than wood pellets or chips.
  • Wood: Wood chips burn faster and at a lower temperature than pellets. Thus, it’s harder to get good smoke with them. However, some aficionados swear by the taste that using real wood imparts on the food.

Step 3: How Much Meat Can Be Smoked?

For this, you’ll need to look at the internal size of the smoker.  In general, offset (horizontal) smokers hold much more food.  However, they don’t have as much space for hanging food from hooks.

A good size smoker for beginners is around 400 to 500 square inches, like the Weber Smokey Mountain 18 inch smoker. (Amazon Link) If you entertain large groups of people, then you’ll want a larger smoker in the 800+ square inches size.

Bear in mind that larger smokers use more fuel.  So, resist the temptation to get a larger smoker than you actually need – you’ll waste a lot of money on fuel.

Step 4: Size and Portability

In addition to looking at how much food the smoker can hold, consider its overall size.  Where will you put it in your yard? And where will you store it during bad weather? Do you want to bring it on camping trips?

If you get a larger smoker, it’s helpful to get one with wheels and handles.  Otherwise you’ll have a hell of a time moving it around.  The good smokers are made of thick steel and are heavy! If the smoker doesn’t have wheels, you’ll probably need to buy or build a dolly for it.

Step 5: Ease of Use

putting woods chips into a smoker

Some people prefer a more hands-on approach to smoking meat.  They don’t mind occasionally checking the water pan, fuel, and internal temperature of the smoker.

Even if this sounds like you, keep in mind that smoking can last 20+ hours.  Do you really want to get up from sleeping to check your smoker?

Advanced features like digital thermometers, glass doors for easy viewing, and automated fuel loading make using a smoker much easier.

Step 6: Budget

A good smoker isn’t cheap, though there are plenty of affordable models available (good vertical smokers are cheaper than good horizontal smokers).

Whatever your budget, make sure the warranty is in line with the price.  You don’t want to pay $1,000+ for a smoker and only get a 6 month warranty.

Step 7: Quality

Unfortunately, you can’t tell how well a smoker is made until you try it.  By then, obviously it’s too late to return it. But you can get an idea of the smoker’s quality by the type of metal used.

Look for:

  • High-gauge steel: The smoker needs to have a thick steel so it can retain heat.  Avoid aluminum smokers! They will get banged up quickly and don’t heat evenly.
  • Welding: The welding is important so smoke and heat doesn’t leak out of the smoker.
  • Large hinges and latches on doors: This is a sign that the door is made well and smoke won’t leak out of it.
  • Dampers and air vents: These allow you to adjust the size of the fire and control the heat.  The best smokers will multiple vents for good air flow.

Types of Smokers

When talking about the types of smokers, we are usually referring to their heat source (the exception is offset smokers; they use various fuel types). This is confusing because some types of smokers can use multiple types of fuel.

For example, you can usually burn wood chips or pellets in a charcoal smoker (though this is often inefficient).  However, pellet smokers will only take pellets.

Overview:

Here’s an overview of the types of smokers.  We’ll get more in detail about them in the sections below.

  • Offset Smokers: These often can be used as grills too.  Just be prepared to invest in a good one.  It’s hard to find a cheap offset smoker that is well-made.
  • Charcoal Smokers: Choose this if you love charcoal flavor.
  • Pellet Smokers: Great for people who want convenience and lots of flavor. Look for automatic pellet loading if you don’t want to constantly check pellet level.
  • Electric Smokers: This is the best smoker for people who want to set-it-and-forget-it and high-tech features.
  • Propane Smokers: Choose this if you already use propane and want something convenient. If you don’t already use propane, it’s not worth getting a tank just for your smoker.

Offset Smokers

offset smoker

Offset smokers are a type of horizontal smoker.  They usually look like regular grills with a smokestack on top and smoke box attached to the side.

The great thing about offset smokers is that they can also be used as regular grills, even if you aren’t smoking anything.  So, if you are planning to buy a grill too, this will save you the expense and space of getting two patio appliances.

Another benefit of offset smokers is that they are convenient to use.  Everything can be loaded/unloaded at standing position.  You won’t have to crouch down to reload fuel or remove food.

However, offset smokers do take some skill to use.  The temperature is typically hotter on the side closer to the smoke box.  The uneven cooking temperature can mean inconsistent results.  Pitmasters will use this temperature to their advantage – but it will take time to learn.

Get an offset smoker if:

You don’t already have a grill and want one.  However, be prepared to pay for a good one.

The cheap offset smokers have leaky doors and produce terrible results.  If you aren’t ready to pay this much, get a vertical smoker instead.  Quality ones can be purchased for much less than a good offset smoker.

What to Look for in an Offset Smoker:

  • Strong, durable materials: Thin metal and bad welding will cause smoke to leak and uneven heat distribution.
  • Reverse flow: These have a sheet of metal on the bottom of the cooking chamber. This helps protect the food from direct heat and also directs the smoke under and back around the food so it gets evenly bathed in smoke.  You’ll know that it’s reserve-flow because the firebox and smokestack will be on the same end of the smoker.
  • Insulated handles: This will prevent you from burning your hands when opening the smoker.
  • Wheeled base: For moving the smoker indoors during bad weather.
  • Warranty: The more expensive the smoker is, the longer the warranty should be.

Best Offset Smokers

1. Camp Chef SmokePro Slide Smoker and Pellet Grill

It’s hard to say anything bad about the SmokePro by Camp Chef.  Even though it’s a compact, simple-looking machine, it is incredibly powerful.  It gets up to 500F in just 15-20 minutes and cooks meat perfectly.

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To use the smoker-grill, you’ll need to connect it to an electrical outlet and fill the hopper with pellets.  Set the temperature and the machine will automatically feed pellets into the fire box.

The temperature setting is actually very accurate.  There is only about a 5 degree F temperature fluctuation (compared to about 40-50F in other grills).  You can change the temperature with a click of a button.  The offset smoker comes with two temperature probes so you can even accurately cook two types of food at once.

A standout feature of the SmokePro is the “slide and grill technology.”  This basically means that there is a metal component that you can slide back/forth to food to direct flame or indirect smoking.

The offset smoker is also designed to be easy to clean.  There is an ash collection system; just pull a lever to dump ashes into the cleanout cup.  There’s no need to bother with vacuuming the inside of the grill.

The grill-smoker also has a huge amount of cooking space.  This is because it has a bottom rack and an adjustable upper rack.  The combined space of the racks gives you 811 square inches of cooking space.

The only bad thing one can really say about this smoker-grill is that it doesn’t come with a cover. Unless you want to roll it indoors after each use, make sure you get a cover to fit it.

Pros

  • Huge amount of cooking space
  • Slide Grill Technology – switch between smoking and direct flame cooking
  • Very accurate digital temperature control
  • 160F to 500F
  • Lever for emptying ashes
  • Easy to clean and use
  • Two temperature probes
  • Durable construction
  • 3 year warranty
  • Good value

Cons

  • Cover not included

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2. Z Grills Pellet Grill and Smoker with Digital Controls

This combo grill and smoker by Z Grills is made to be incredibly easy to use.  You’ll need to plug it in to an electrical outlet and fill the hopper with wood pellets.  The electric components ignites the pellets.

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Just set the temperature and the smoker-grill does all the work.  It will automatically feed the pellets to maintain the set temperature.  There’s a digital control board which shows you the temperature.  It can be set from 180F to 450F.

However (as is the case with many offset smokers), there is a good amount of temperature variation.  If you are precise about the temperature you want, this will be annoying.

The hopper can hold around 20lbs of wood pellets.  How frequently do you need to refill the wood pellets? It depends on the cooking temperature.   The company says that a 20lb bag of pellets will last for about 15 hours on the smoke setting.  However, users say you can expect 20lbs of pellets to last around 10 hours on 225 degrees.

Compared to other offset smokers, this one is very easy to clean.  It has a spigot so grease drains into a collection cup instead of going to the bottom of the grill.  It’s easy to access the fire pot so you can vacuum out the ashes.  You’ll need to do this after about every 4 bags of pellets.

As for the downsides of the Z Grills smoker, it could be made of more durable metal.  The grill chamber is only 0.8mm and 1mm thick steel.  The lid is made of aluminum.

Pros

  • Completely automatic
  • Digital control board
  • Easy to clean and use
  • 187 square inches smoking space, 513 sq. inch grilling area
  • Comes with a cover
  • Storage space and hooks for pellets and grill tools

Cons

  • Only gets to 450F
  • Temperature varies
  • Thin steel on chamber

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3. Traeger Texas Elite 34 Pellet Grill and Smoker

Traeger is one of the leading names in smoker-grills, and this is one of their most popular models.  It has electric controls which feed wood pellets into the fire box automatically.  You can use it for smoking, grilling, baking, roasting, braising, or BBQ.

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The digital controls make it easy to use the offset smoker.  The temperature settings aren’t as accurate as the Camp Chef smoker above, but the Traeger Texas Elite does stay close to the set temperature.

The temperature can be set from 160F to 450F in increments of 25F. There are two temperature probes for cooking multiple types of food at once.  However, many reviewers complain that the grill has a hard time reaching above 400F.

The main reason you’d want to choose the Traeger Texas Elite is that it is built to last.  However, note that the warranty on this is terrible.  Any returns have to be done in their original packaging (who saves smoker packaging?) and installs will have to be done yourself.

*If you want something smaller, Traeger also makes a version of this smoker-grill called the Lil Texas Elite 22 It has 418 sq. inches of cooking space versus 646 sq. in. with the Texas Elite.

Pros

  • Built to last
  • Digital controls and temperature reading
  • 646 sq. inches of cooking space
  • Mostly accurate temperature
  • Optional folding shelf
  • Easy to clean and use
  • Efficient – pellets last a long time

Cons

  • No way to drain pellets
  • Only one rack
  • Cover and shelf cost extra
  • Terrible warranty and support

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4. Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill

This is far from the best smoker grill on the market.  However, it does have one standout feature that other smokers don’t: It’s portable.

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The grill-smoker is only 68lbs (which is actually lightweight compared to the 120+ lbs of other smokers).  It also has legs which can easily collapse so it will fit into most cars for camping or tailgating trips.  It even runs on 12V or 120AC so you can plug it into various power sources.

But, as you’d expect with such a lightweight grill, there are some issues.  The thinner metal means that the smoker doesn’t hold its temperature well.  Tip: If you put a water pan under the grate, it will help stabilize the temperature.

As for WiFi connectivity, you are able to monitor and control the smoker from about 15 feet away.  Just don’t go too far away – the temperature variation means you’ll still have to keep an eye on your food.

The grill is also a bit small.  You’ll barely be able to fit a brisket or turkey into it.  The hopper holds 9lbs, so expect to refill the hopper more frequently than you would with larger smoker grills.  Note that the grill legs are short.  If you are tall, you’ll have to hunch over a bit to use it.

Despite the flaws, the offset smoker is well-built and does the job. It’s also surprisingly affordable.  The closest competitor is the Traeger Tailgater and, while larger, doesn’t perform much better and costs considerably more.

Pros

  • Truly portable
  • WiFi connectivity – control it from your phone
  • 150F to 550F temperature setting
  • Easy to clean
  • Very affordable
  • Multiple power options

Cons

  • Very short legs
  • Small size (219 sq. inch grilling area)
  • Temperature varies
  • A bit of a learning curve to use

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Charcoal Smokers

charcoal smokers

Charcoal smokers are a favorite of pitmasters.  The combination of charcoal and wood can create amazing flavors in the food.  However, charcoal is difficult to use.

It has to be constantly fed and maintained using the Minion Method.  You won’t find charcoal smokers with many advanced features.

The good thing about charcoal smokers though is that you can usually use pellets or wood chips in them instead of (or in addition to) charcoal.  This makes them the most flexible type of smoker in terms of fuel.

Get a charcoal smoker if:

You really like the taste of charcoal in your food.  Also great if you are on a budget and want the flexibility of being able to use multiple types of fuel.

What to Look for in Charcoal Smokers

  • Good insulation: This will make it easier to control the temperature of the smoker.
  • Dampers: With charcoal smokers, you absolutely need dampers on the firebox and smokestack to regulate airflow and temperature.
  • Digital Thermometer: Because it’s harder to control temperature with charcoal, it’s useful to have a digital thermometer. The extra cost is well worth it!
  • Easy Loading: Charcoal has to be loaded frequently, so it should be convenient to do.

Best Charcoal Smokers

1. Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker

When it comes to smokers, the Weber Smokey Mountain is almost always listed as the best.  We couldn’t agree more and think that this should be everyone’s first smoker.   It is easy enough for beginners to use yet is even used by masters in competitions (and wins!).

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It comes in three sizes: 14, 18, and 22 inches.  The 18-inch size is good for more people.  The 22 inch is probably too big for beginners and you’ll end up wasting a lot of charcoal (and thus money).  The 18” can fit around 4 pork butts easily.  If you only entertain small groups, then the 14” will be more efficient and save you money on charcoal in the long run.

Though seemingly simple, the design of the Smokey Mountain smoker is damn near flawless.  There are all the necessary vents for good airflow and producing smoke.  The large water pan helps regulate temperature so temps remain consistent while cooking, even for long times.  The water pan also catches grease so the smoker is easier to clean.

As for the materials, Weber uses durable materials which are well-constructed (built in the USA!). There won’t be any issues with break downs!

You will need to use charcoal to keep the temperature high (it won’t work well with pellets).  However, it is pretty easy to convert into a grill, which means you get a portable grill and smoker in one.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Durable construction
  • Integrated thermometer
  • Maintains temperature
  • Surprisingly easy to clean
  • Well worth the cost

Cons

  • A bit of a learning curve
  • Minor air leaks
  • Annoying to add more water in the middle of a smoke

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2. Dyna-Glow Vertical Charcoal Smoker

This charcoal smoker doesn’t come close to being as good as the Weber Smokey Mountain.  However, it is much more affordable for a first smoker and still does a good job.

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The upsides are that it is easy to clean and use.  The ash pan can be removed even while the smoker is in use.  There are vents and air inlets so you can adjust the temperature (though this does require some practice).

The downsides are that it’s hard to get it to maintain a low temperature. It isn’t insulated and has some leakage issues around the door, so you won’t be able to get it to its ideal temperature in cold winter months.

There are also some issues with the smoker maintaining a steady temperature.  This has to do with the fact that there is no water pan.  I’d recommend putting a pan of water next to the charcoal, or use the lowest rack for a water pan.

Even with this rack used for the water pan, you’ll still be able to smoke a lot of food. Each rack holds 25lbs of food.

The wood pan is pretty small.  You’ll only be able to use chips and not chunks. If you do want chunks and a richer taste, you’ll need to put the chunks directly on the charcoal.

Despite the flaws, the smoker still does a good job and is fun to use – especially when you consider its low price.

Pros

  • Affordable cost
  • 784 sq. inches of cooking space (two larger sizes available)
  • 4 adjustable racks
  • Integrated thermometer
  • Removable ash pan and easy cleanup

Cons

  • Cover sold separately
  • Built-in thermometer not very accurate
  • Hard to maintain low temperature
  • No wheels
  • Some air leaks around door
  • Small wood tray
  • No water pan

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3. Realcook Vertical Charcoal Smoker

At first glance, this looks a lot like the Weber Smokey Mountain because of its bullet design. However, it has some features which make it very different.

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First off, there are three layers to this product.  The bottom layer is for the coals and water pan.  You can remove the upper layers while you light the charcoal.

The upper two layers are for your food.  You don’t even have to use both layers – the smoker can be used with just one layer.  That makes it possible to cook less food at once, meaning you use less fuel.

The bottom layer has a door so you can add more charcoal or water easily during the smoking process.  The next layer also has a door so you can check the food without having to lift up the entire upper layer.

Another good thing about the Realcook smoker is that it’s so portable. It weighs less than 20lbs and can easily be taken apart to bring on camping or tailgating trips.

Part of the reason it is so lightweight is because it’s made from a thinner steel.  It still holds up well, but expect some dents if you aren’t careful.  The door and lid also leak smoke a bit, so it isn’t as efficient as a heavier, tougher model.

I also wouldn’t rely too much on the built-in thermometer.  There’s going to be a temperature difference between the lower and upper racks, so you’ll need to check the temperature yourself with an external thermometer.

Pros

  • Smart design makes it easy to check food and add more charcoal
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Two racks plus crossbar and 4 hangers in lid
  • Easy to load food and light coals
  • 453 sq. inches of cooking space
  • Easy to take apart and clean
  • Very affordable
  • Includes water pan

Cons

  • Made from low-gauge steel
  • Cover not included
  • Built-in thermometer not reliable

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Pellet Smokers

pellets for smoker

Charcoal smokers can usually take pellets too.  However, when talking about “pellet smokers,” we are referring to smokers that will only take pellets.

Pellet smokers tend to be more costly than other types of smokers.  The reason for this is that they often have augers.  The auger takes pellets from the fuel bin (called the hopper) and feeds it into the fuel box.

Some pellet smokers have automated controls.  Pellets will automatically be added according to a digital thermometer reading.   In high-end models, computers regulate the auger speed so you can get very specific smoking temperatures.

This makes pellet smokers the easiest to use while still getting a great quality of smoke (which isn’t the case with electric smokers).

Of course, all of these high-end features comes at a price.  Also, because there are many moving parts, pellet smokers are more prone to breaking.  You definitely want to choose a pellet smoker with a good warranty.

Get a pellet smoker if:

You want the full flavor that comes with burning pellets, but want the convenience that comes with a long-burning fuel.  Get a pellet smoker with automatic loading if you don’t want to have to check pellet levels throughout the smoking process.

What to Look for in Pellet Smokers

  • Good Warranty: All those moving parts are prone to breaking, so you want a good warranty as a backup.
  • Do you want to grill too? Pellet smokers generally don’t work as well as grills. If you want to grill on one, you’ll need one which is larger and can reach higher heats.
  • Portability: The extra parts on pellet smokers can make them heavier and harder to move.
  • Features vs. Price: Features like automatic pellet loading make using the smoker very easy. The easier your smoker is to use, the more likely you are to use it. So decide how much convenience is worth to you.

Best Pellet Smokers (Vertical)

*Note that these pellet smokers are vertical. If you want a pellet smoker which can also be used as a grill, then look at our picks for best offset smoker. All of those smoker-grills also use pellets.

1. Louisiana Grills 7 Series Vertical Pellet Smoker

This is a hardcore pellet smoker for serious connoisseurs who want to do very long smokes at low temperatures.

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For starters, the smoker is massive.  It has over 2,000 sq. inches of cooking space spread over 6 racks.  The hopper holds up to 60lbs of pellets, so you can smoke for up to 35 hours without having to worry about loading more pellets.

When you are smoking this much food at once, you’ll be glad for the glass viewing window.  The smoker is well-built, so it is still efficient despite the glass window.

The low temperature setting is 150F and it gets up to 450F.  Unlike a lot of other pellet smokers, this one actually holds the temperature – almost perfectly.  Even in cold or windy weather, you still get a consistent temperature.

Note that the top racks will be colder than the bottom racks (by around 20-30F).  It might take some time before you learn to use this temperature variation to your advantage, such as when smoking different types of food at once. There are two built-in meat probes for checking internal temperature of food as it smokes.

The smoker is very easy to use and clean. The only issue is that you can’t exactly “set it and forget it” because the water pan dries out quickly.  Set an alarm so you remember to add more water to the pan every 3-4 hours.

Even though the smoker is on wheels, it’s a bit bulky to move around.  It is attractive-looking and comes with a cover, so you won’t mind keeping it on your patio.

Pros

  • Holds temperature well, even in windy and cold weather
  • Massive amount of cooking space
  • Hopper holds 60lbs of pellets
  • Built like a tank
  • Easy to clean and use
  • Comes with cover

Cons

  • Need to refill water pan frequently
  • Heavy, bulky, and difficult to move

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2. Masterbuilt MWS 330S Pellet Smoker (MB20251719)

This pellet smoker by Masterbuilt has a huge amount of cooking space (723 sq. inches).  You could smoke 12 whole chickens in it at once.  Yet the smoker doesn’t take up much storage space.  Its footprint is only about 18×19 inches, plus a bit more space for the hopper.

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Because of its vertical design, the pellet smoker is very efficient.  It will use about 1lb of pellets per hour, which is about half as much as you’d use with an offset pellet smoker.

Use the digital controls to set the temperature and cook time.  The pellets are fed automatically into the fire box.  Cleaning is easy, you can even empty ashes without having to open the door. Pellets can be added via an external door, also without opening the smoker door.

Note that this is only meant as a smoker, so the maximum temperature is 350F.   As expected with a cheap pellet smoker, there are some issues with maintaining temperature – especially in winter.

You might want to get an external thermometer to check the temperature until you get the hang of it.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Automatic 180F to 350F temperature settings
  • Efficient – doesn’t use much pellets
  • 723 sq. inches of of cooking space
  • Portable
  • Load pellets and clean ashes without opening smoker door

Cons

  • Issues with maintaining set temperature
  • Some problems when using in cold temperatures
  • Hard to assemble

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Electric Smokers

electric smoker

While some traditionalists like to denigrate electric smokers, a good electric smoker can still impart a wonderful wood smoke into the food.

To make smoke in an electric smoker, you place a pan of wood chips or chunks above the heating plate.  Electricity heats the wood, making a nice smoke.

Most come with built-in thermometers and digital screens. Just set the temperature and the smoker does all the work.

Remember that even electric smokers need to be used outdoors (because smoke still comes out of them). Make sure you’ve got an extension cord suitable for outdoor use. 

Get an electric smoker if:

You really don’t want to bother checking your food, especially on long smokes (remember that some foods need to smoke for 22+ hours!).

What to Look for in an Electric Smoker

  • Two thermometers: Many good electric smokers will monitor both the internal temperature of the thermometer and your food. This saves you the trouble of having to open the smoker to check the temperature of meat.
  • Insulation: Just because you don’t need to add fuel to an electric smoker, it doesn’t mean that insulation isn’t important. You want thick metal walls and good joints so heat is retained.
  • Do you want a glass viewing window? It’s nice to watch your food as it smokes, but glass windows also mean heat escapes.
  • Portability: With electric smokers, portability is even more important because you can’t leave them outdoors when it rains. Choose a model which is on wheels or can be easily carried outside when you want to use it.
  • External wood chip loading: Some models, like the Masterbuilt 20075315 reviewed below, have exterior doors where you can dump wood chips. This means you don’t have to open the smoker door to add more chips.
  • Remote Controls: For extra convenience, you can get a remote control with display that lets you adjust the temperature from a distance.

Best Electric Smokers

1. Masterbuilt 20073515 Electric Digital Smoker

This is one of the most popular smokers by Masterbuilt and has thousands of positive reviews.  This model set out to solve a lot of problems you find in cheap electric smokers.

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There are two thermometers for monitoring the temperature inside the smoker and inside the meat.  The readouts have been checked against other thermometers and are accurate.

You can set the temperature using a digital thermostat.  If you pay extra for the remote control, then you’ll be able to monitor the smoker and adjust temperature from up to 300 feet away.

Note, however, that a lot of people complain about the remote being crap.  It’s probably not worth it for this feature, especially since you’ll have to be adding wood chips very frequently anyway.  The unit blows through chips quickly!

Since the unit does go through chips so fast, it’s good to get the model with the glass viewing window.  You’ll be able to see when smoking is dying down.  Loading chips is easy thanks to the exterior loading door.  No need to open the smoker door to add more chips!

There’s a drip pan in the front to make it easier to clean up grease.  It’s still a chore to clean out (especially if you get the glass window option), but it’s easier with this model.

Pros

  • Two thermometers: accurately monitor temperature and meat temperature
  • Digital settings of 100-275F
  • Option for window or no window
  • Front-access drip pan
  • Sealed well
  • Lots of space; 721 square inches in 30” model and 4 racks
  • External wood chip loading
  • Good value

Cons

  • No wheels for portability
  • Only 800 watts
  • Cover sold separately
  • Need to add more wood chips every 20-30 minutes
  • Glass window is hard to clean

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2. Pit Boss Electric Smoker

Pit Boss’s electric smoker isn’t as popular as their charcoal smoker, but it still has a lot of fans. The smoker is built really well out of thick metal and double-walled insulation.  There are nice big hinges on the door, so I wouldn’t worry about this beast breaking on you.

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Weighing in at 58lbs, you’ll be glad that the smoker has wheels.  This saves you the hassle of getting a dolly for your smoker.

The digital temperature setting ranges from 100 to 400F.  This means you can, in theory, grill pizza in your smoker as well as smoking food.  I doubt that would be an efficient use of your smoker (especially considering it uses upwards of 1650 watts), but it’s nice to have it as an option.

The reason that this smoker didn’t get the #1 spot is because of complaints about temperature consistency.  It tends to get hot, which means your meat can dry out or get overdone.  You’ll need to get the temperature high in order to get a good smoke going too, so that can also lead to dried out meat.

Pros

  • Two thermometers; accurately monitor temperature and meat temperature
  • Wheels for portability
  • 100-400F digital temperature setting
  • 593 square inches of cooking space
  • Double-walled insulation
  • Doesn’t leak
  • Glass viewing window
  • External wood chip loading

Cons

  • Temperature varies
  • Requires high temperature to make good smoke
  • Uses a lot of electricity

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3. Cuisinart 30” Electric Smoker

Cuisinart isn’t exactly a name you’d associate with outdoor cooking, but they have recently started making smokers.  Their smokers are very popular, mostly because of their affordable price.

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The electric smoker (they also make charcoal and pellet smokers) is solidly built and has a lot of cooking space (548 square inches).  As you’d expect with an electric smoker, it’s very easy to use.

The main issue with this smoker is that its thermometer is a bit off.  Lots of reviewers complain that wood chips didn’t even start making smoke until set at 275F.  Considering that this smoker goes up to 1500 watts, you are going to use a lot of electricity just to get a good smoke going.

When checked with a separate thermometer, the internal thermometer was off.  There is no thermometer for checking the meat.

Still, if you aren’t ready to invest in a pricier smoker, this is a good entry-level smoker that will get the job done.  Just buy your own thermometers to use.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • 548 square inches of cooking space
  • Easy to use and clean

Cons

  • Only one thermometer
  • Temperature reading not reliable
  • Not very efficient

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Propane Smokers

propane smokers

Like electric smokers, propane smokers are very easy to use. You only need to turn a nob or push a button to adjust the temperature. They are clean-burning and easy to maintain.

You can add wood chips into a pan to add flavor, though the flavor won’t be as intense as with pellet or charcoal smokers.

Propane smokers aren’t as popular as other types, mostly because they require propane.  Those propane tanks are heavy, which makes these smokers less portable.  You also have to worry about running out of propane before your food is cooked.

Get a propane smoker if:

Propane smokers aren’t as popular, so you won’t have as many options.  For this reason, I’d only recommend getting a propane smoker if you already use appliances which run on propane. It’s probably not worth it to get a propane tank just for your smoker.

What to look for in Propane Smokers

  • BTUs: Pay attention to the BTUs, especially if you will also be using the smoker as a grill.
  • Stable Base: With propane, it’s even more important that the smoker isn’t rocking back and forth.
  • Size: With propane, you’ll need to have lots of space around the smoker so nothing is accidentally set on fire. So, pay attention to the smoker’s footprint size and not just the internal cooking size.

Best Propane Smokers

1. Pit Boss Vertical Propane Smoker

The Pit Boss propane smoker is built like a tank and does a great job of holding heat.  It’s one of the more efficient gas smokers you’ll find, and it even heats up and starts producing smoke very quickly.

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There are two burners on the smoker. The first burner gets to 3,500 BTUs and is for the wood chips.  The second burner is 10,000 BTUs and maintains the chamber temperature.

Of course, there is some fluctuation in the chamber temperature.  However, it’s not that much.  Even on windy or cold days, the temperature will still stay within about 25F of the setting.  The built-in thermometer is reliable.  You can set the temperature from 100 to 350F, which means you can do cold smokes for foods like cheese and veggies.

The only real downside of the Pit Boss propane smoker is the wood chip tray.  It is really small and fairly inefficient. You’ll have to load more chips into it about every 1-2 hours.  One user recommended a fix for this: get a smoke tube instead. The tube can be put in the bottom of the smoker and will burn for 5 hours.

Pros

  • Glass viewing door
  • Dual burners
  • 676 sq. inches of cooking space
  • Heavy duty construction
  • Quickly gets to temperature
  • Temperature setting of 100 to 350F
  • Maintains temperature well
  • Built-in thermometer is reliable
  • Great value

Cons

  • Small wood chip tray
  • No wheels

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2. Masterbuilt Vertical Propane Smoker

People who have this propane smoker either love it or hate it.  As for the people who hate it, I personally think that they might have unrealistic expectations.  All smokers will leak a bit – this one being no exception.  Also, it does take a bit of time to master smoking on this smoker.  If you aren’t willing to put in the effort, you won’t like your purchase.

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With a few simple modifications, you’ll love this propane smoker.  The first modification is that you need to use lava rocks under the wood chips in the smoker. Otherwise, the wood chips won’t make enough smoke.

The second modification is that you’ll want to use a big water pan (get a disposable aluminum pan to use as one).  The water will add moisture to the smoker so your meat is juicier, and also help keep the temperature consistent.  Some people said they put gaskets around the door to help minimize heat loss too.

A third optional modification is to install wheels or a dolly under the smoker.  It is big and heavy, and you’ll want those wheels to make it easier to move around.

*Do not get the 40 inch version! It doesn’t have two doors, so you get massive temperature drops each time you add more wood.

Pros

  • 3 sizes available
  • Two access doors
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Adjustable temperature from 150 to 400F
  • Doesn’t leak much
  • Good value

Cons

  • No wheels
  • A bit of a learning curve
  • Temperature fluctuates a bit
  • Hard to assemble

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 Do you have a smoker?  How do you like it?  Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Your definition of a reverse flow smoker is wrong. A reverse flow horizontal smoker is easy to spot. The smokestack and fire box are on the same end of the smoker. The smoke flows from the firebox, under a pan beneath the grates which directs the smoke away from the firebox towards the end of the smoker. It then rises, and reverses direction back towards the smokestack, bathing the food in smoke, while the metal pan deflector also provides heat from being close to the firebox.
    Plain split wood, pecan, oak, hickory etc. provide both heat and smoke.
    Does anyone know what those pellets are really made of?

    It is time consuming process involving attention to the fire every 30 minutes or so, but so worth it. Plan well, fill the smoker and make a day of it! Feed a bunch of people, and freeze a lot so you can have smoked beans, Mac and Cheese and pulled pork while watching the snow fall in January.

    • You are right. While my definition wasn’t exactly wrong, it certainly wasn’t clear enough. 😀 I’ve updated it. I agree that *for most people* it is worth it to check the fire every 30 minutes or so. But there are always going to be people who want automatic features — and this is okay in my book. To each their own!

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