Best Meat Smoker Reviews & Buying Guide: Propane, Pellet, Electric, Charcoal Smokers Compared for 2020
People fear smoking meat. They love eating a delicious piece of smoked meat, but they just don’t think that they can achieve the same results themselves. When you look at smokers reviews, you see people are overwhelmed by the types of wood that are available, the rubs used on the meat, and how to keep everything at a low and constant temperature. Smoking meat is easier than people think. For the best results, you need the best meat smoker.
I have compiled these comprehensive BBQ smoker reviews to provide you with enough information to make a conscientious decision on what’s the best smoker to buy.
I want you to purchase the best meat smoker on the market, the best smoker for the money, and not some low-quality mediocre brand.
- 1 Best Smokers at the Market
- 2 Best Smokers for the Money:
- 3 Best Propane Gas Smoker
- 4 Best Pellet Smoker
- 5 Best Electric Smoker
- 6 Best Charcoal BBQ Smoker
- 7 Tips on Choosing the Best Charcoal Smoker
- 8 Other Good Smokers Worth Considering
- 9 Types of Smokers: By Fuel Source
- 10 Types of Smokers: By Construction
- 11 Check-list for Choosing the Best Meat Smoker
- 12 Must-Have BBQ Accessories
- 13 Smokers FAQ
- 14 Making The Decision
Best Smokers at the Market
In this detailed review, I’m going to talk about a lot of different smokers. But if you’re short on time and want the gist of it, here is a snapshot of the top-rated meat smokers in each category.
The Cuisinart COS-244 is the best natural gas smoker because there are four shelves measuring 14 by 14 inches. This provides sufficient space for cooking.
The smoker’s vent is on the back of the unit so that you are not sacrificing any tabletop space. The temperature is easy to adjust and control. You determine how much gas the smoker receives so that you get the right amount of heat for what you are cooking.
This smoker has enough space for large meat cuts or whole birds. However, its overall size is compact so that you can fit it into small outdoor spaces.
- Our Rating
- Cooking surface: 784 sq. in.
Racks: 4 stainless steel racks
Built-in Thermometer: Yes
Grill works with 20lb propane tank.
Total Temperature and Smoke Control
Product Dimensions: 19.3" x 18.1" x 38.6" In.
Weight: 69.5 lb
- Our Rating
- Primary Cooking Space (sq. in): 573
Racks: Smoking/Warming Rack 6" x 24" in
Built-in Thermometer: Yes
Hopper Capacity: 18 lbs.
Control: New PID Gen 2 Digital Controller
Product Dimensions: 40.5 x 25 x 22 inches
Item Weight: 127 pounds
- Our Rating
- Cooking space: 730 sq. inches
Racks: 4 chrome-coated racks
Built-in Thermometer: Yes
Heating element: 800 Watt
Thermostat temperature control: 100 to 275 degrees F
Product Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 33.5 inches
Item Weight: 45.9 pounds
Best Smokers for the Money:
Best Propane Gas Smoker
- It has 5.45 square feet of space for cooking
- You can cook vegetables and meats simultaneously
- Clean up is easy
- Some smoke may escape through the door
This smoker has all of the features needed for experienced and beginner smoker users. There is plenty of space to cook a variety of foods evenly at the same time.
Tips on Choosing the Best Propane Smoker
To make sure that you are getting the best propane smoker for the money, the first consideration is the size.
Look at multiple propane smokers and compare those of the same size.
To ensure you pick the right size, you have to think about how often you will use it and how much you need to cook.
If you only do light cooking for a small family, a smaller one is ideal.
However, if you host cookouts regularly, the best vertical smoker will have a large surface space so that you can prepare multiple foods at one time.
You should also consider cleaning. If the surface is smooth, you can just wipe it down after use. If your smoker has racks, they should be easily removable. Make sure that you can also easily replace the propane tanks as necessary so that you do not run out of fuel.
Best Pellet Smoker
Is the best budget pellet smoker because it offers a temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The BTUs per hour are 25,000.
The hopper can hold a large number of pellets so that you do not have to refill frequently when you are smoking. The internal meat temperature probe makes it simple to ensure that you can cook to exact temperatures.
This smoker also has an ash cleanout system for easy maintenance. The grease management system prevents grease from prematurely extinguishing a fire.
- This smoker has an electric auto ignition
- The side table provides additional prep space
- Shutdown mode makes it easier to stop the smoker after cooking
- It can accommodate a whole chicken
- You have to monitor the temperature often
This pellet smoker has a large hopper and it is easy to use. The large smoking area and easy cleanup make it simple to use and maintain this smoker often.
Tips on Choosing the Best Pellet Smoker
Choosing the best pellet smoker for the money starts with looking at the construction. A heavier lid means that is can trap the smoke in better and that it will last longer.
The lid should not feel flimsy. You should also look at the welding and joints. These should be strong and smooth. When you are looking for the best affordable pellet smoker, you have to consider the temperature range.
For example, if you want to sear meats, it needs to get to at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider the cooking you do to find the best maximum temperature.
To maintain a constant temperature, a pellet grill needs a constant supply of pellets. Make sure that the controller on the grill can feed the pellets into the system at a constant and even pace.
You can also pick one that has a meat probe built into it. This allows you to easily assess the temperature of your meats while you cook for optimal safety.
Best Electric Smoker
This is the best smoker for beginners who want a savory piece of meat. Masterbuilt has a reputation for producing the best smoker grill on the market. This model is roomy and has four smoking racks.
Beginners will like the fact that the smoker is thermostatically controlled for a perfect temperature every time. Digital control panels, a digital timer, and an automatic shut off are some of the features that make this device intuitive to use.
With 100 percent insulation and an easy side loading wood tray, this device will have you smoking in no time.
Tips on Choosing the Best Electric Smoker
The best electric smokers from consumer reports lets you see what real customers have to say about their smoker.
The information that you derive from these reports can also simplify the process of finding the best electric smoker for the money.
Consider the fuel type you will use. Most electric smokers use a little wood to create smoke when you are operating them.
Ideally, you want one that uses as little wood as possible.
Make sure that the smoker has a thermostat instead of a Rheostat. The thermostat provides a more accurate reading of the temperature so that you can ensure cooking consistency.
Look at the racks to see how much space is between each bar. The more space, the more foil you need to use to prevent the meat fat from extinguishing your smoke when you are cooking.
Best Charcoal BBQ Smoker
I’m going to be talking about a lot of smokers in the subsequent meat smoker reviews. However, this is for me the hands-down best BBQ smoker.
The Smokey Mountain cooker 18 inch charcoal smoker produces some of the juiciest cuts of meat you will ever try. This smoker is the epitome of low and slow. It has two nickel plated 18 ½ inch wide cooking grates, giving you 481 in.² of cooking space.
- Compact Portable Design
- High-Quality Construction
- Ample Cooking Space
- Completely Insulated Interior
- Side Handles Should Be Added to Make It Easier to Move the Device from One Place to Another
The unit is made from porcelain enamel steel. Its unique features include a built in thermometer, individual vents, and the heat resistant nylon handle that makes smoking your meat to perfection a joy.
The smokers produced by Weber are the best meat smokers you can buy because of the company’s commitment to excellence. Couple this with the company’s excellent customer service, and you got a product that can’t be beat.
Tips on Choosing the Best Charcoal Smoker
Finding the best-rated charcoal smoker grill helps to ensure that you get enough surface area and the flavor that you are looking for.
This type of grill is ideal for times when you need high cooking temperatures. Compared to electric and gas grills, electric ones get hotter.
The best charcoal grill for beginners has plenty of space and at least one rack.
However, two racks can be better if you cook meat and vegetables at the same time. Make sure that you can remove the racks so that the grill is easier to keep clean. Look at the space where you put the charcoal. Can it accommodate the amount of charcoal you wish to use?
It is important to have enough space between the charcoal and the lowest rack when you are cooking to reduce the risk of burned spots on your food.
Other Good Smokers Worth Considering
The Char-Broil model is the most affordable smoker not because it’s the cheapest model out there, but instead because it’s the best cheap smoker that will leave you with savory tasting meat.
- Sturdy Steel Design
- Uses Electricity as a Fuel
- Not a Combination Grill and Smoker
With 504 in.² of space and insulated double wall construction, this is a durable model that can smoke some big chunks of meat.
Because it is constructed with steel, it is sturdy and promises to provide your family with delicious meats and vegetables for years to come.
The Smoke Hollow 4-in-1 LP gas charcoal smoker searing BBQ grill is my pick for the best meat smoker and grill combination. There are so many good things to say about this product, but I’ll limit my comments to a few.
First, it’s versatile. You can choose to grill, smoke, or prepare your meat however you want to. The beautiful ceramic style side burner will sear your steaks, seafood, or vegetables, trapping in delicious flavor.
Cook more than 20 hamburgers at a time using the three-burner gas grill. If you prefer charcoal flavor, the charcoal grill with adjustable charcoal pan allows you to cook your meat to perfection controlling the temperature every step of the way.
- Convenient Size
- 10,000 BTU Burners on the Gas Grills
- Casters Make Moving the Unit Easier
- Various Safety Features Included
- Allows for Complete Temperature Control
- Weighing more than 110 pounds, the unit is large and can be a challenge to move on softer surfaces
The side smoker firebox allows you to inject your meat with flavor using wood chunks or charcoal, creating that one-of-a-kind authentic barbecue flavor. If you like to entertain friends and neighbors, this is best type of smoker for you.
Types of Smokers: By Fuel Source
Types of Smokers: By Construction
Check-list for Choosing the Best Meat Smoker
As you’ve seen in this review, there are a lot of smokers and smoker styles available. So how do you decide which one is right for you? Here are a few factors to consider:
You can buy a smoker for 50 bucks, or you can get for more than 10 grand. It all depends on how much you want to smoke and how much you’re willing to invest.
If you are just testing the waters to see if smoking is right for you, then I recommend getting something that small, maybe a vertical water smoker. They’re not expensive, but they will give you a good enough feel for smoking to see if you want to invest more in the future. If you are looking for less expensive or cheap products, check out those best budget smokers.
A lot of the models I’ve talked about offer you the best of both worlds. The allow you to smoke and grill meat. If you are looking for a multi-usage or multipurpose smoker, make sure it’s well-designed. Some units offer the world, but when you really look on them, they don’t live up to the expectations in one department or the other.
While most smokers we reviewed are designed for use outdoors, indoor smokers allow you to get a fork tender brisket or sausage from the comfort of your kitchen. Some models allow you to work indoors with gas or outdoors with charcoal. Most are suitable for water smoking or dry smoking.
This feature is critical if you ever want to serve your meat on time. Don’t get a smoker that does not have a thermostat. Even if you must budget in for an add-on thermostat, do it. It is more than worth it.
Many of the best BBQ smokers come with a built-in thermometer. The downside is they are not always reliable. You may want to budget for a high-quality thermometer that you can put at grate level to give you a better reading. Since maintaining a constant temperature so important, take the time to learn how to calibrate your meat thermometer.
Look for a device that you can set as low as 160° for smoking but also gives you the option to crank it up, depending on the meat you are preparing.
Build & Construction Quality
The thick metal is going to absorb heat and distribute it evenly around the cooking chamber. The doors and dampers should close tightly to prevent leaks. If your heat and smoke escapes, it is going to be difficult to stabilize the temperature. Look at the seals, welds, and the thickness of the metal before you purchase a smoker.
Heat Distribution & Control
You may find that the temperature in your smoker varies depending on what area you are checking in. Look for a model that has thick metal. Thick metal absorbs heat and distributes it evenly throughout the chamber. Dampers play a vital role in heat distribution.
You want to choose a model that has dampeners that you can easily reach and control. Check the seals and make sure they are tight to prevent smoke and heat leakages.
Size & Capacity
A small BBQ smoker is going to give you enough food to feed a large family. A commercial or competition smoker will allow you to make enough food to cater a barbecue.
So ask yourself, how much do you want to smoke before you buy? If it’s just for you and your family, get something small. However, if you’re thinking about smoking meat for a lot of people, then you want to look at a commercial size model.
Tools, Accessories, and Other Features
Certain accessories are standard. These would include drip pans, water pans, and movable shelves. Look for models that include storage space, work surfaces, and tool hooks.
The greatest smoker you can buy is a heavy cooking tool that reach hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit. You want them to be child and pet safe.
What is the best electric smoker? A safe one. If you’re using an electric smoker, keep it safe from the elements. Don’t let it get wet.
Handles should be cool to the touch. The wheels should lock in place to prevent it from moving accidentally. Look for a device that has coiled stainless steel handles. They are durable, and they disperse heat easily, so they stay cool.
Ease of Cleaning
You want your smoker to be as convenient to use and clean as possible. Before you buy it, make sure that it’s easy to access all the parts, check on your meat, and clean the interior. Is it difficult to remove or replace the shelves? Can the wheels be used on any surface? Having a smoker that is convenient and easy to use will make smoking meat so much more fun.
Remember, cleaning the outside of your smoker is an option. Cleaning the inside is not. It can become a breeding ground for bacteria, and old grease can destroy the flavor of your food. Stainless steel is easy to clean, and chrome plated grates are harder to clean and will eventually rust.
Warranty and Support
When looking at the warranty, check to see if tech support, maintenance, and replacement parts are included. Look at online BBQ smokers reviews and research the company. Take the time to read the warranty or guarantee policy and make sure you understand it.
At the end of the day, if it looks cheap and if the parts look like they’re going to fall apart in a few weeks, don’t buy it. Be picky about what you purchase. Your palate will thank you later.
Must-Have BBQ Accessories
A pit master is only as good as his or her tools. The following are a handful of must-have tools for any successful barbecue.
- Long Handled Spatula
You want your spatula to have an offset handle, so you can sneak that spatula under your food easily. The best materials are silicone and metal. The longer the handle, the better in order to keep your hands away from the heat. Spatulas are going to work best if you’re dealing with fish or other delicate foods.
- Chimney Starter for Charcoal
This is the easiest way to light charcoal or a piece of hardwood. You can use lighter fluid or a crumpled-up newspaper to start the fire. Let it burn until it’s white-hot before adding it to your smoker.
- Meat Thermometer
You want your food to be delicious, but you want it be healthy. In this regard, a meat thermometer is your best friend. Jab that thermometer into the thickest part of the food to make sure that it is done but not overcooked. Having a good wireless meat thermometer is a must! It’s much more comfortable to monitor the temperature of the meat while watching TV than staying near the smoker at your backyard.
- Grill Brush
Keeping the grill rack clean is your first line of defense. After every smoke, take the time to clean off the grates with a grill brush. Clean it vigorously so that they are smooth and free from food. Brass bristles work better than steel bristles because steel can damage the enamel finish of your grates.
- Long Handled Tongs
Use stainless steel tongs to grip your meat. They offer you power and sturdiness, and they allow you to move the meat around without using a knife or fork, which pierces the meat and causes some of the flavor and juices to be lost.
- Grilling Gloves
Most experts agree that the best gloves for grilling are swayed or split leather welding gloves. These offer superior protection against contact with hot meat or accidental contact with the smoker.
- Meat Injector
If you haven’t enough time to season a turkey or other meals, you can use best meat injectors to save your time and make perfect thanksgiving turkey.
- Bear Paws
You can pull pork and transfer large cuts of meat with the best of them using heat resistant bear paws.
- Burger Press
Juicy Lucy anyone? A stuffed burger press allows you to create mouthwatering stuffed burgers with ease.
- Meat Knife
What effect does wind have on my smoker?
The weather will have a large impact on how even the top notch smoker heats. Wind can draw heat from your smoker and create problems with the airflow. It’s possible to successfully smoke meat during the winter, but you may have problems smoking meat during the summer because of the wind.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the path of airflow through the smoker in the same direction as the wind. This way, you can better control the airflow vents and dampers.
How can I accurately determine the temperature inside my smoker?
The heat in your smoker will never be uniform. It might be 20° on one side and 250° on the other. The best way to get an accurate reading is to put your thermometer near the meat you are smoking. Your built-in thermometer is only going to give you a general idea of the temperature in the smoker.
Does the Size of the Smoker Affect the Flavor of the Meat?
When looking for a smoker, size does matter. The smaller the rig, the harder it is going to be for you to smoke meat if you lose actual wood. You could get a decent taste if you want to use flavorings, like liquid smoke. But most people who take the time to read a guide like this want the real thing. You could smoke dainty foods, like a chicken breast, a fish fillet, or a pork loin.
That’s going to depend on how much time and effort you’re going to want to put into babysitting your smoker. A charcoal or wood powered smoker is going to require you to constantly be checking the temperature and stoking the fire. An electric or gas smoker can hold its temperature without being watched.
Is there a difference in the various types of smoking woods?
They are all going to give you a smoky taste. Oak will leave you with a clean, uncomplicated taste. Apple and other fruit woods are going to give you a sweeter taste and are good for chicken or pork. Hickory will give you that taste you find in barbecue sauces, especially in North Carolina. Other woods such as maple, cedar, and pecan all have a distinct taste.
Making The Decision
Throughout this guide, I have presented you with various models of smokers, as well as a few tips in their use.
Smoking meat gives it a flavor and a texture that cannot be found in any other cooking style.
The best pit master is only as good as the tools they use. I want you to get the best smoker for your money. That’s why I have only reviewed high-quality models that will leave you with a good end product you will enjoy.
It’s better for you to buy a best cheap smoker available on the market than to waste your money on an expensive smoker and end up with a poor outcome.
Now, the choice is up to you. There are a lot of brick-and-mortar stores where you can purchase a cheap smoker, but you won’t find the same deals that you find purchasing the best smoker online on places like Amazon.com.
Take your time, do your research, and then make the purchase. When you, your family, and your friends are enjoying the delicious smoked meat you produced, you are going to be so happy that you did.