Barbecue has always been a culinary art that commands reverence and admiration. The slow-cooked, tender meat, infused with smoky flavor, is a true testament to the skill and expertise of an experienced chef. However, advancements in technology and design have made it possible for anyone to create amazing barbecue right in their own backyard.
From varying shapes, sizes, prices, and fuel types, there is a smoker available to suit almost every level of expertise. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned grill master looking to up your game, there is a smoker out there for you. To help guide you in the right direction, we sought advice from two renowned chefs and pitmasters, Cory Bahr from Parish restaurant in Monroe, LA, and Jake Wood from Lawrence BBQ in Durham, NC.
Through their expertise and extensive research, we’ve compiled a list of the best smokers in several categories, each capable of creating incredible barbecue at home. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and explore the world of smoking.
Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
-Compact design saves space
-Easy to set up for smoking
-Large water bowl maintains internal temperature
-Difficult to monitor water level during use
Novice-Friendly Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Smoker:
Weber’s Smokey Mountain 18-inch smoker is a testament to the fact that the best doesn’t always necessitate having bells and whistles. Whether you’re an experienced backyard smoker who knows how to regulate airflow from the get-go or a newcomer to smoking looking for a basic model to whip up delicious barbecue, this user-friendly smoker is the perfect fit. There are no intimidating dials or fancy controls to figure out, and it operates much like a typical charcoal grill, which means beginners will conquer the learning curve in no time.
Apart from its simplicity, the smoker boasts yet another “sneaky trick” that ultimately impressed our tester: a water pan that collects drippings, keeps the interior moist for juicy outcomes, and maintains temperature consistency throughout your smoking sessions.
The vertical smoker is heated by charcoal and has two 18-inch cooking grates, making it ideal for family meals or hosting an outdoor get-together. A thermometer on top allows you to monitor the interior temperature, and a silicone plug on the side provides easy access for standard remote meat thermometers to pass through the meat for ideal cooking every time. During a six-hour rib-smoking session, our tester discovered that it heated up quite quickly, maintaining a consistent internal temperature range for the entirety of the process.
Our in-home tester discovered that it was difficult to monitor the water level in the pan during cooking, but a full bowl was sufficient for at least ten hours of smoking. This smoker can also be transformed into a standard grill for added versatility. Weber offers the smoker in both a smaller 14-inch size and a larger 22-inch option.
Texas Original Pits Luling Loaded Offset Smoker
Our Favorite Features:
The use of ¼-inch steel enhances the efficiency of fuel burning while ensuring durability and optimal temperature control.
With an offset firebox feature, you can enjoy a diverse range of cooking options that provide direct heat for even greater culinary diversity.
Expertly welded by hand, this smoker delivers exceptional quality and can withstand even the toughest weather conditions.
From impressive features to exceptional performance and a virtually indestructible design, this Premium class smoker truly stands out. Its superiority strikes fear into the hearts of all other smokers.
Best Overall: Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker is an excellent choice for those seeking a multifunctional and versatile outdoor cooking option. With a vast temperature range and the capacity to store up to 20 pounds of wood pellets, this smoker can provide up to 20 hours of cooking time per batch. It boasts an impressive array of cooking capabilities, including barbecuing, grilling, baking, roasting, and braising, making it perfect for those with limited space who desire an all-in-one model. The Z Grills also features a spacious cooking area that can prepare five servings of food and a convenient built-in storage shelf for tools and equipment.
Although the Z Grills offers many positive features, it’s worth noting that its grease management system could be improved. However, at a reasonable price, it’s a great overall choice for backyard cooking. The smoker’s high-quality construction and durable wheels make it easy to move around, and with its reliable technology, you won’t need to keep an eye on it constantly. Pellets provide a depth of flavor that gas or electric models can’t match, ensuring that your dishes will be mouth-watering every time. The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker has a cooking area of 538 square-inches and weighs 84 pounds.
WEBER SMOKEFIRE EPX 6 STEALTH EDITION
Grill Size: 987 square inches
Type: Wood Pellets
+ Enormous cooking capacity
+ Superior build quality and materials
+ Spacious wood pellet hopper
+ Quick heating time (for a wood pellet system)
+ Outstanding cooking performance
+ Striking appearance
– Extremely heavy
– Setup can be difficult in certain areas, even with two people
– Incredibly expensive
– Weber Connect app is not the top of the line
As our complete Weber SmokeFire EPX 6 Stealth Edition review reveals, this is the ultimate smoker currently available if cost is not an issue. Its impressive size allows for preparing meals for a multitude of people simultaneously.
However, it is undoubtedly a hefty investment. Nevertheless, as we discovered firsthand, the grill justifies its cost with its superior craftsmanship, abundance of style, and a wood pellet system that quickly heats up while providing exceptional grilling, roasting, and smoking performance.
Despite the Weber SmokeFire EPX 6 Stealth Edition’s strengths, it has its flaws. The setup can be challenging at times due to its enormous size and weight, and while the Weber Connect app is great, it is not the best in class.
In any case, less expensive and smaller smokers are available on the market, so unless you require the capacity provided by the SmokeFire EPX 6 and can afford the high price tag, it may be worth considering alternate models from Weber and other brands.
At the T3 Awards 2022, the Weber SmokeFire EPX 6 Stealth Edition took home the Best Smoker award, and it is easy to see why according to judges.
Traeger Pro 575 Wood Pellet Grill
Although the grill can reach temperatures of 500 degrees, I suggest using a pellet smoker, like the Traeger Pro 575, for smoking instead of direct heat grilling. This high-end grill boasts various features, including a spacious 18-pound hopper that eliminates the need for frequent pellet refills. Additionally, it offers temperature control to ensure even cooking, which can be managed via the Traeger app on your smartphone. The porcelain-coated grill grates are easy to maintain, and the built-in probe thermometer allows you to know when your food is ready. The current price is $900 at the time of writing.
When choosing a smoker, there are several factors to take into consideration.
Consider which type of fuel you want to use. Charcoal produces a distinct smoky flavor, but can be difficult to light and maintain a constant temperature. Wood pellets are easy to adjust and give a mild smoky flavor, but are susceptible to wear and tear. Propane produces distinct barbecue-flavored meat, while electric smokers are easy to use and produce a simple smoky flavor.
Make sure that the smoker can reach the temperatures required to properly cook the foods you want to make.
Thick, well-insulated materials that can hold a constant temperature for hours are ideal for producing a classic smoky flavor. Smokers are usually made of ceramic or steel.
Adjustable vents are standard in most smokers, but electric smokers may come with a digital controller to simplify the process.
Tools such as wireless meat thermometers, heat-resistant gloves, stainless steel tongs, basting brushes, bear claws, steel grill brushes, and smoker jackets can make the process of smoking meats easier and more hassle-free.
After every use, make sure to conduct maintenance on the smoker. Remove and wash the racks, water and drip pans, and smoker box, and use a grill brush to remove excess residue from the smoker.
Meat Smoking Tips:
Prepare your meats ahead of time, flavor your smoker with wood chips, go low and slow, and avoid adding too much wood to the smoker. Also, don’t worry if the exterior of the meat looks dark or charred, and make sure to periodically check the smoker to ensure consistency and safety.
What are the different types of smokers available?
There are four main categories of smokers: electric, gas, charcoal/wood, and pellet.
Which smoker is the best to buy?
The ideal smoker to purchase depends on your level of experience and your desire for an authentic smoky flavor. An electric smoker is the easiest to use and is perfect for beginners, while charcoal or wood smokers provide the perfect BBQ flavor for the experienced.
What should I look for when buying a smoker?
The factors to consider when choosing a smoker include the build quality, the seal on the door or lid, and insulation. You should also consider the size of the cooking surface, especially if you have a large family or entertain often. Additionally, it is beneficial to choose a company that provides support and a good warranty.
What is the cost of a smoker?
Most of the featured smokers in this article are under $500. The recommended minimum price for a smoker is around $300, while the top-rated ones are priced between $500 and $600. For high-end smokers like the Kamado Joes, the price range starts from $1,100 and goes upto $3,000 for home use. The KBQ Karubecue smoker is considered the ultimate smoker, and it costs around $1,500. Beginners should start with a smoker around $400, and if they find it useful, they can upgrade to a smoker priced between $800-$1000.