With the variety of types, sizes, and models on the market today, it can be challenging to choose the best smoker for your needs.
To make the best buying choice, you need to consider the size of your space, the ingredients you will be smoking, the number of people you are catering for, and of course your budget.
You should choose a smoker that allows you to barbecue as well as grill from the comforts of one appliance, and you should also brush up on your knowledge of smokers.
Lastly, you need to decide whether you want an electric, charcoal, gas or pellet powered smoker. If you’ve considered all the above but still don’t know which is the best smoker for your culinary needs, continue reading this buying guide for more information.
In it, we’ll reiterate what a smoker is and why you should own one. We’ll also highlight some of the key considerations you need to make when choosing your smoker. Lastly, we’ll highlight some of the best smokers on the market today.
So, let’s get started with the basics:
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Best Electric Smoker
Best Pellet Smoker
Best Propane Smoker
Best Charcoal Smoker
Best Smoker Grill
What Is A Smoker And Why Do You Need One?
While many confuse smokers, barbecues, and grills, they are all very different. A smoker is a cooking appliance that uses smoke to cook food for a very long time at a very low heat. It is traditionally used to cook meat and fish but can also cook cheese.
All smoker types have the same objective of cooking ingredients at a steady temperature of anywhere between 68 and 176 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on whether you are cold or hot smoking.
The smoking process is very long and requires a lot of effort, so you may be thinking “why bother?”. Well, there are numerous reasons everyone should own their own smoker, some of which include:
The Unique Flavors
The smoking process allows people to add a variety flavors to their food. While the smoke itself leaves its own distinct flavor, different types of wood can be used to add additional taste to the ingredients being cooked.
This coupled with the right dry spice rub leaves you with impeccable food with unique flavors not found anywhere else.
The Ability To Feed A Lot Of Mouths
Typically, smokers are big enough to cook a lot of ingredients. If you’re having a party or just have a large household, smoking may be the most efficient way to feed a lot of mouths.
While the process takes a lot of time, once it’s all setup, it is just a waiting game. You can sit back and forget about it while still being able to feed your family and friends tasty food. Plus, smoking preserves food considerably longer than other forms of cooking.
The Food Last Longer
Often, before the smoking process begins, ingredients are cured with salt or salted brine, which preserves the food for longer. The best smokers allow you to produce foods that can be kept unrefrigerated for weeks.
The Health And Food Safety Benefits
Aside from killing bacteria in the ingredients, smokers slow the bacteria growth process once the food is cooked. Multiple smoke compounds act as antioxidants, thus leaving you with bacteria-free food.
Smoked foods have numerous health benefits. When smoking meat, in particular, a certain amount of fat drips out during the cooking process. Also, you don’t need to use oil or other forms of fat to cook your ingredients.
Things To Bear In Mind When Choosing The Best Smoker
If you’ve decided that you would benefit from having a smoker, there are certain things you need to bear in mind. Here are some considerations you should make when choosing the best smoker for your needs:
Look For An Expert Level Smoker
While you may be new to smoking territory, you’ll most likely find that once you’ve started you can’t stop. Cheap smokers don’t last very long and often offer poor results. Choose an expert level smoker that will stand the test of time. The best smokers have:
Good Temperature Control
The best smokers allow you to easily control the temperature. While electric smokers tend to offer the best temperature control, many do not like the taste they offer. Gas cookers offer the same temperature gauging results, but with better flavor.
Pellet smokers are also thermostat controlled and deliver perfect tasting food thanks to the wood pellets they use.
While charcoal smokers are great for producing amazing, authentic flavors, it is essential you choose one made of heavy gauge steel or that is insulated for best temperature results.
Good Insulation And Seals
Cheap smokers leak smoke and heat which makes it hard to achieve the right temperature and maintain it. The best smokers have good insulation, seals, welds, and are made with thick metal, meaning you’ll get the best quality results every time.
Good Metal And Workmanship
The best smokers on the market are made with heavy steel. These distribute heat more evenly and are great during the colder months. Make sure the metal is thick, the welds are of high quality, the legs and wheels are sturdy, and that the paint is waterproof and rustproof.
Consider Where Your Smoker Will Be Located
Investing in a smoker before establishing where it is going to be located is a huge mistake, especially if you don’t have that much space to begin with. While some smokers are smaller than others, they all take up a considerable amount of space.
Before choosing the best smoker for your needs, measure your preferred smoker location to establish whether you have to settle for a small smoker or whether you can get a larger one. Bear in mind that vertical smokers generally take up less floor space.
You should also be mindful of your chosen location’s surroundings. Even the best smokers can damage a home’s exterior over time, so be weary.
How Often Will You Be Using Your Smoker?
If you plan on using your smoker once a year, you may find a large one, positioned in the middle of your garden, could become a nuisance.
On the other hand, if you host regular parties, have a big family, and generally love smoked food, choose a model that is big, sturdy, with a good warranty so that you can use it whenever you please.
What Results Do You Want To Achieve?
The type of smoker you choose will have to depend also on what ingredients you are planning on smoking. With cheese, you’ll need a smoker that you can keep at much lower temperatures.
On the other hand, meat and fish smoking should normally be done at a higher heat.
The type of ingredients you smoke should have a huge impact on your final purchase decision. The best smokers will allow you to cook at your chosen heat for prolonged periods of time.
Always do your research as to how long your ingredients need to be cooked for, and read reviews of the various smokers on the market today to find out which ones offer the best results for specific dishes.
Our Recommendations For The Best Smokers Of 2017
If you’ve considered all the above but are still struggling to find the best smoker for your needs, worry not.
Below, we’ve created a list of recommendations based on the types of smokers on the market, their quality, and what customers truly think about them.
Best Electric Smoker
In Our Opinion The Best Electric Smoker:
The Masterbuilt 20070115 Electric Smoker
Designed to simplify the smoking experience, this Masterbuilt model is by far the most impressive electric smoker on the market today.
It comes packed with features, most notably its portable smart device. Now, you no longer have to walk over to your smoker every time you want to check the cooking temperature and time left on the clock, you can do so from anywhere in your home.
Aside from checking the cooking time and temperature, this Bluetooth Smart technology also allows you to turn your smoker on and off as well as operate the light without even having to leave your sofa.
Plus, if you want to keep a closer eye on your food, you can just pop over to your smoker and check its Blue LED control panel which will give you all the information you need.
The Masterbuilt 20070115 comes with a built-in meat probe thermometer that allows you to check the inner temperature of the meat from both the appliance panel and your smart device.
This built-in thermometer is perfect for achieving the perfect cooking results every time you use your smoker.
The 20070115 comes with a side mounted chip loading system, meaning you can add wood chips without opening the smoker door.
This combined with its air damper and removable water pan allows for better smoke control and will ensure that there is not dip or rise in temperature during the cooking process.
This Masterbuilt model offers a whopping 975 square inches of cooking space with four chrome-coated cooking racks. It has a 1,200-watt heating element which offers stable and even smoking of up to 525 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for cooking a huge variety of ingredients.
Lastly, the 20070115 comes with a rear-mounted handle and wheels so you can choose where you want to use it and store it when you no longer need it.
The manufacturer has also managed to make the cleaning process that little more straight forward with a front access grease tray.
It can be purchased as a simple smoker or with an additional grill set from Amazon at prices starting from approximately $324, and you can choose between the 30-inch version, and 40-inch model depending on the size of your space.
Best Pellet Smoker
In Our Opinion The Best Pellet Smoker:
Traeger Pellet Grills TFB30LUB Natural Organic
While the Traeger TFB30LUB Natural Organic 19.5k BTU Pellet Grill is a no thrills product, it does exactly what it is meant to: smoke. Best of all, it does it to perfection, which is exactly why we have voted it our favorite pellet smoker.
One of its most attractive features is that aside from being able to smoke, it can also bake, braise, grill, or barbecue. This multi-use appliance is an all-around perfect outdoor cooking tool.
As its name suggests the TF30LUB produces 19,500 British Thermal Units (BTUs) which is enough to cook a variety of meats in large amounts. It has 300 square inches of smoking surface.
With this model, you’ll be able to maintain low and high heats of anywhere between 180 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit inside the smoker thanks to its digital thermostat controls which can be found on the front.
In addition to its automatic auger and quick and easy auto start commands, the Traeger TFB30LUP Natural Organic 19.5k Pellet Grill comes with a hopper that can hold anywhere up to 10 pounds of wood pellets.
Although this is less than other of the brand’s models, it should be enough for most residential cooking and smoking jobs. Plus, you wouldn’t want to carry more than ten pounds on your outdoor adventures, right?
One of the TFB30LUB’s most attractive features is how portable it is. The bottom of this model features two wheels that can be rolled across virtually any surface. But best of all, all its legs are foldable, meaning you can take on the road with you during your weekends away.
It is extremely stylish and comes with the usual trademark Traeger branding. Not only this, it weighs a mere 70 pounds, making it among the lighter pellet smokers on the market today.
While it is slightly more expensive at just over $420, the TFB30LUB has received excellent ratings, and if that’s not enough Traeger has put its money where its mouth is by offering customers a fantastic 3-year limited warranty.
Best Propane Smoker
In Our Opinion The Best Propane Smoker:
Masterbuilt 20050614 Propane Smoker
Ther Masterbuilt 20050614 is a must have if you are smoking foods for large parties or a big household. This has to be one of, if not the best propane smoker on the market today, not to mention one of the larger ones as well.
One of our favorite features of the Masterbuilt 20050614 propane smoker is that it is able to smoke a whopping 100 pounds of food in one sitting thanks to its four chrome-coated smoking racks and 44-inch build.
It has two, not one, 8,250 BTU stainless steel burners that are more than enough to cook all the foods you need. Not only this, it comes with two doors, one of which has a viewing window which means you never have to let out any smoke or heat when checking on your food.
The Masterbuilt 20050614 is among the easiest smokers to use. It has simple push-button ignition and gas controls, as well as a temperature gauge which will allow you regulate the temperature inside your smoker at all times.
Lastly, it has a type 1 regulator and hose, as well as an awesome porcelain-coated wood chip tray and water pan to which you can add your favorite spices, herbs, and desired wood chips for optimal flavor.
Masterbuilt has really outdone itself with the 20050614 propane smoker. It is simple, yet feature packed, and trust us it is definitely one of the most sturdy we have seen to this day.
It is among the more heavy models on the market, but is perfect for cooking at home. Aside from its propane tank, the vertical design means it takes up less floor space and it comes in a pretty swanky black finish which means it will look good with virtually any garden.
At just over $300, you would probably agree with us that it is very reasonably priced, and if you don’t trust us, nearly 1000 customers were very satisfied with the product.
Best Charcoal Smoker
In Our Opinion The Best Charcoal Smoker:
Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
Gone are the days where charcoal smokers are a hassle to use thanks to the Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-inch Charcoal Smoker. This model offers the authentic smokehouse flavors without the elbow grease.
Packed with features, it’s pretty hard to pinpoint what we love most about this model. The Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker offers chefs 726 square inches of cooking over two heavy duty, nickel plated 22 and half-inch-wide cooking grates.
It comes with four individual rust resistant aluminum vents and a durable, easy to read, built-in thermometer that allows you to keep a close eye on the internal temperature of your smoker without having to constantly open the door.
One of the Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker’s most impressive features has to be its finish. This model comes with a lid and bowl made of premium grade US steel coated with porcelain enamel inside and out.
It also features a rust-resistant aluminum fuel door and glass-reinforced nylon handles, meaning you can rest assured knowing that Weber has put all the finishing touches on this smoker to make it not only easy to clean but also durable.
Its deep water pan has the same finish and adds steam throughout the smoking process. This ensures that your ingredients, most notably meat, stay moist and tender all the way through until the end.
You may wonder if it’s worth nearly $400, but trust us, you won’t find this kind of durability from any other charcoal smoker on the market. Also, if you’re looking for the same product at a lower price, you can always go for the 14 or 18-inch models which are significantly cheaper.
Plus, the fact that Weber was able to include a premium cover for the smoker as well as an impressive 10-year limited warranty means you won’t likely have to swap it for a newer model anytime soon.
Best Smoker Grill
In Our Opinion The Best Combo Smoker/Grill:
Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill And Smoker
If you want a versatile smoker that also acts as a grill, look no further. The Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe will likely answers all your prayers.
With it you can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue anything you want, all in one place, with the added benefit of wood fire flavors. This is achieved thanks to the fact that it uses the most advanced digital temperature controls.
The PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ offers a huge temperature range of anywhere between 160 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and comes with a meat probe so that you can check the internal temperature of your appliance.
In addition to its simple and smart digital controls, this Camp Chef appliance comes with an automatic auger that feeds pellets into the smoker in order to maintain a steady temperature throughout the cooking process.
Now, you no longer have to stand three steps away from your smoker at all times. You can just sit back, relax and watch the magic happen.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to feed your family, neighbors, and friends as the PG24 has a huge 570 square inches of cooking space with a removable upper warming rack.
You’ll also be happy to hear that once you’re done, no need to spend hours scooping or hoovering out ashes. The model has a patented ash cleanout. All you need to do is pull a lever and there you have it, all the ash is gone.
While its price tag is nearly $750, the Camp Chef PG24 Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe is among the most versatile out there today. You can cook virtually any meal on it.
You’ve probably noticed by now that choosing a smoker is not an easy task. There are so many types, sizes, and models to choose between that the final decision can be overwhelming.
If you are looking for a high-quality, durable model that offers all the authentic smoked wood flavors, we would suggest you opt for Weber charcoal smoker.
That said, if your budget is closer to $300, the Masterbuilt propane smoker is an impressive model, and with that many positive customer reviews, we’re clearly not the only ones thinking it.
The Traeger model is a great, no-thrills appliance that will stick with you through thick and thin. With it, you and your family can enjoy great tasting food no matter where you are.
But, if money isn’t an option and you want a one size fits all outdoor cooking appliance, the Camp Chef model should be your first choice. It’s versatile, durable, and extremely easy to clean.
Lastly, if you want a smoker that you can just click into place and leave to do the job for you, an electric model like the Masterbuilt one mentioned above even has a remote control that allows you to check up on the cooking process from the comfort of your sofa.