- Smoked meats are tender, flavorful, and sure to please the crowd.
- Smoking takes more time than just about any other cooking method but is always worth the wait, and the process is relatively hands-off, allowing you to enjoy the day with only occasional checks.
- The Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker is our top pick because it doesn't take up too much space, yet offers a large 1,890 square-inches of cooking surface.
In Texas, barbecues — and smoking, in particular — are a matter of state pride. But you don't have to be from Texas to take up the task.
After all, once you have eaten perfectly smoked ribs, brisket, or pork, you may never want to eat meat prepared any other way. Smoking produces flavorful and tender meat thanks to the extended exposure the meat gets from flavor-imbuing smoke and the low cooking temperatures.
And smoking is far from being a bastion reserved for diehard barbecue devotees. Anyone can smoke up a great meal as long as they have a fine smoker, a recipe or two to follow, and several hours of free time. Because while smoked meats are delectable, they're certainly not time efficient.
While you could (and probably should) spend hours finding the best marinades and rubs for your smoked meats, it need not take as long to find the right smoker for your household. We compiled a list of top BBQ smokers across several categories, based on how hands-on you want the process to be, where you'll use your smoker, your budget, and the number of mouths you have to feed.
Here are the best BBQ smokers:
- Best overall: Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
- Best pellet smoker: Traeger Renegade Pro Wood Pellet Grill
- Best electric smoker: Masterbuilt 30 Inch Digital Electric Meat Smoker
- Best propane smoker: Cuisinart Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker
- Best on a budget: Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill with Smoker
Updated on 7/6/2020 to edit the prices, titles, links, and remove reviews and ratings from third-party sites, because we've found them to be unreliable in the past. We're currently testing and researching barbecue, gas, and electric smokers, and will update based on findings and new picks soon.
The best overall
The Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker is one serious piece of meat-smoking hardware, with six cooking grates that can each handle up to 25 pounds of food.
The proper name of this smoker is the Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker. That's a mouthful, to be sure. But you know what else is a mouthful? Up to 150 pounds of food slowly smoking away inside the behemoth main chamber of this pro-grade smoker.
It comes with six steel shelves, each capable of supporting up to 25 pounds of food, creating a total cooking area of 1,890 square inches. For reference, that classic 22-inch Weber charcoal grill your dad used has a 363 square- inch cooktop.
Sheer volume aside, there's a lot to love about this Dyna-Glo Smoker. In fact, the real beauty here is in the details. The ash management system allows you to remove and clear out ash without disrupting the charcoal or wood burning in the offset box, allowing for hours of uninterrupted cooking. Plus, the pair of adjustable dampers — one on the side and one atop the chimney — allow for custom smoke control. There are also helpful sausage hooks and rib racks.
Also, be sure to take a look at the thermometer on the front. It has an ideal smoke zone indicator so you can raise or lower the heat to maintain the ideal slow-cooking temperature, no guesswork required. And for all that, this smoker carries a pretty good price, too.
Pros: Huge cooking area, efficient ash management system, easy smoke control, decent price point
Cons: Some smoke loss through door gaps
The best pellet smoker
The Traeger Renegade Pro Wood Pellet Grill uses a digital controller to automatically maintain the temperature you set.
There is a common misconception that cooking with a pellet grill is complicated. It's not, unless you consider pouring a few pounds of pellets into a chamber, turning a dial, and flipping a switch to be complicated, that is.
The Traeger Renegade Pro Wood Pellet Grill uses digital controls to set temperature and hold it there within plus-or-minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, which is critical for proper meat smoking.
This grill also functions well as a traditional barbecue. With the heat cranked up, the Traeger Renegade Pro Wood Pellet Grill makes a perfect conventional grill for baking or roasting. Just note that with all that versatility comes a price: this is the most expensive option on our list, and that's not including the optional add-ons.
When slow cooking at lower temps, the grill will only go through about a pound of pellets per hour; at higher temperatures, you'll burn through three or more. While a pellet grill like this does, of course, necessitate the purchase of wood pellets, with that added expense comes the bonus of flavor options. Traeger offers all sorts of wood pellets, from hickory to maple to mesquite.
Pros: Precision temperature control, efficient pellet use, easy to clean and maintain
Cons: Very expensive, requires additional items
The best electric smoker
For the best possible control of your smoking temperature and timing, go electric. Specifically, go with the Masterbuilt 30 Inch Digital Electric Meat Smoker.
If you'd like your smoked foods to come with a side of convenience, then an electric smoker is best for you, and the Masterbuilt 30-inch Digital Electric Meat Smoker is your go-to.
This smoker digitally monitors timing and temperature and can be operated by remote control. Rest easy on a patio lounger or even sit inside watching the game while still having total control over your smoking meats.
And thanks to a side-loading wood chip system, you can add more wood without interrupting the smoking process or throwing off the temperature in the cooking chamber, which can accommodate up to 12 whole chickens, four racks of ribs, or 24 burgers at once.
While this smoker is a pretty bulky affair, weighing in at nearly 65 pounds, a set of wheels on the rear and a large handle make moving it around on level surfaces surprisingly easy. This is handy, as you'll need to be near an electrical outlet to operate it.
Pros: Can be controlled remotely, side-loading wood chip system, easy to move on flat ground
Cons: Does not produce as much smoke as other options
The best propane smoker
The Cuisinart Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker's pair of doors make it easy to access your foods or the wood chip tray, and they lock shut to seal in smoke and heat while you cook.
A propane smoker allows for the ideal balance between temperature precision and real smoke flavor. Unlike a charcoal grill, you can regulate the intensity of the propane, and unlike an electric smoker, the wood chips you add to make smoke burns much more efficiently.
The Cuisinart Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker has four smoking racks that create a combined 784 square-inches of cooking space. That's pretty solid for a smoker that only occupies a little more than a single square foot of space. If you want to smoke large volumes of meat but only have a smaller patio or balcony on which to do it, this unit is a great choice.
A pair of locking doors make it easy to access the main chamber to check on your food or the wood chip tray when it's time to clear out ash or add more wood. And an included water tray helps ensure your foods won't dry out even during long smoking sessions.
The Cuisinart Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker comes with a 40-inch hose so you can position your propane tank to either side of or behind the smoker, and a regulator is included, so you can easily control the volume of gas flowing to the burner.
Pros: Compact footprint, heats up quickly, dual door design
Cons: Gusty winds sometimes extinguish the burner
The best on a budget
The Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill with Smoker is a classic charcoal BBQ grill and a smoker in one, and for a very low cost.
You might only consider the Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill with Smoker because it costs less than $100, but it's actually a perfectly capable cooking apparatus.
This is a classic style of barbecue smoker with a firebox offset to one side and a large primary cooking area in a barrel shape. That design allows for the regular addition of wood chips, good smoke regulation thanks to a pair of dampers, and placement of a water tray under the meat cooking in the main compartment.
The Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill with Smoker offers 741 square inches of total grill space when you count the square footage of the cooking surface found in the firebox. This chamber can be used as a small grill when you are just making a couple of burgers, or for when you need extra-high temperatures.
But of course, the smoker is at its best when the firebox is filled with smoldering charcoal and woodchips, and steady smoke and low heat permeate the main grilling space. A thermometer set into the barrel makes it easy to watch the temperature, and a removable charcoal drawer makes cleaning the firebox simple.
Pros: Small price tag, great BBQ/smoker combo, handy side table
Cons: Durability issues
Check out our other grilling guides
The best gas grills
The gas grill is the centerpiece of your backyard during summertime barbeques, so you should invest in a great one. These are the best gas grills to ensure only the most successful cookouts.
The best charcoal grills
Charcoal grills sear meat and veggies to perfection and fill food with that perfect smokey flavor. If you're looking to imbue your food with the deliciousness that only a charcoal grill can provide, check out our top picks for the best charcoal grills.
The best charcoal for grilling
Perhaps nothing signals that summer has started quite like getting the charcoal grill going. There are several different kinds of charcoal including briquettes, lump charcoal, flavored briquettes, and more. The type of charcoal that's best for you varies by grilling style and personal preferences. We break down which charcoal is best for different scenarios.
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