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Backyard smoking is all about enjoying the summer or the warmer months with friends, family and guests. Outdoor activities are always better with food and the smell of great cooking going on, and what fills the air of any gathering with a more beautiful smell than a close-by charcoal smoker. It’s almost a no-brainer when the weather is good – but what’s the best charcoal smoker out there for you? This is a question that we fully intend to help you to answer, so read on.
Smokers come in many shapes and sizes, and often the trouble in choosing the right one is that it’s difficult to be able to see the wood chips for the trees. There are so many different options and features to navigate when you’re trying to find your own charcoal smoker, that the task of getting the right one can be made very difficult. We’ve tried to do the hard work for you here and to narrow down the number of smokers to a list of the ten best we could find. Hopefully, there’s a smoker for all budgets and requirements on the list.
We’ve also compiled a handy buying guide, which will talk you through some of the things that make up different charcoal smokers, and enable you to understand a bit more about what you’re reading about when you look at our reviews and the manufacturer specifications of each model. We’ll try to demystify terms like cooking area, temperature range, and give you some hints of what to look out for when you buy the best charcoal smoker for you.
More features: built-in lid thermometer; heavy-gauge steel charcoal grate
The Weber Smokey Mountain 22-inch smoker is one of the most impressive home smokers on the market and with a whopping 726 square inches of usable cooking space, this little beauty will give you enough rack capacity to feed a whole lot of people at any family function, garden gathering, or outdoor happening.
Its plated-steel cooking grates are more than large enough to cook a rack of ribs or even a whole brisket – if you and your guests are feeling particularly hungry. The Weber Smokey Mountain certainly looks the part too, it’s fashioned nicely with its easily cleaned and presentable porcelain enameled lid and sturdy rust resistant metal legs. The quality of this Weber smoker doesn’t disappoint and is all that you would expect from a Weber product. Let’s face it, this manufacturer has been around at the top of this market for a long time, and you can see exactly why that is when you examine this product.
The Smokey Mountain range has even got its own fan page that’s not affiliated to Weber – which says a lot for the quality of this product, if a smoker gains a following like that, then it’s a great sign for potential buyers everywhere.
This well put together smoker boasts excellent temperature control and has a good range which extends right up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
The middle section of this ‘bullet’ shaped smoker holds a bowl of water ensuring your smoked meats stay succulent and moist.
What this all means is that the Weber Smokey Mountain represents a package that is going to appeal to a massive slice of the market. You could do a lot worse than the Weber offering – maybe it’s time to take a big bite of this particular bullet.
What we liked:
Two cooking grates for large cuts to be cooked side-by-side
Extra-large water pan maintains heat for all day cooking
What could be better:
Weighing in at 68lbs and with no wheels or castors – it’s not a smoker to move around
More features: two adjustable dampers, two levels of fire pan for heat control
The Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker CC1830S is a grill with an offset smoker that will get you out in your yard or garden doing BBQ two ways. With an absolutely huge total of 800 square inches of usable cooking surfaces you’ll be more than able to do some serious and impressive cooking on this great smoker and grill combo.
However, what you really need to be aware of before you go straight out and buy the Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker is that only a certain percentage of this stated cooking area is represented by the side box and therefore suitable or available for charcoal grilling or smoking. It seems the Royal Gourmet serves its purpose as a budget grill option but falls a little short for the serious smokers out there.
What you’ve got here with this combo is perhaps something that tries a little too hard to do too much and falls short on all counts – which is a shame because it’s an otherwise great little unit and the way it’s put together isn’t bad at all, by any standards.
Some customers have had problems with the Royal Gourmet combo option too. There have been reports about the seals in the smoker section. User have expressed concerns that the seals make it hard to regulate the temperature. This is definitely an area where the manufacturer could improve how this smoker and grill is put together.
This smoker is one for the drawing board, and it may suit someone who doesn’t mind doing a bit of fettling and messing around to fine tune the seals. It could well be worth the effort and the rest of the package represents great value to anyone wanting that bit of versatility and the ability to perform two functions on one cooking appliance. This won’t smoke enough to feed a great many people, but it is a great little smoker overall.
More features: 4-point venting system, 2-zone chamber, in-built Tel-Tru thermometer, two heat-resistant shelves
Immediately identifiable and quite striking in its modern appearance, the sleek PK Grills PK360 smoker is made up of two heavy aluminum castings – which is not something you see everywhere in the smoker marketplace. This build type makes the PK360 a more long-lasting unit than some of the other enamel engineered smokers. It’s a nice innovation and what this use of aluminum gives is an undoubted ability to be not prone to rusting – like the countless steel smoker units available to buy.
The PK Grills PK360 is another ‘hot and fast’ grill with the option to use the unit as a ‘low and slow’ combo too. It’s certainly true that the PK360 has a lot going for it, and its undeniable appeal is not only based on its design credentials.
Sitting at the more expensive end of the home grill and smoker market price scale, the PK360 is well-made and it is certainly built to last. The four-point venting system makes for a super-efficient cook chamber and it’s obvious that great effort has gone into the design of this smoker. Its Tel-Tru thermometer claims to be super accurate – which as any smoker knows, is one of the keys to turning out great food. Convenience and every day usability are provided by a nice system and setup which means it’s super easy to remove the ashes.
Furthermore, the PK Grills PK360 makes for a stylish travelling and camping companion. This is an extra dimension to this smoker which will make it a stand out winner with a lot of the people out there who own an RV or like to get out in the wilds and go camping. It’ll also appeal to hunters and other outdoorsy types. You can use the PK Grills smoker at home or on the move, because it’s easy to detach the capsule from its stand, and it’s fully transportable.
What we liked:
A stylish camping companion
Built to last
What could be better:
Grill and smoker accessories are slightly overpriced
The next smoker on our list of the ten best smokers out there may just be a contender for the undisputed heavyweight stalwart of grill, BBQ and smoker combinations. This fighting fit unit is the Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera Smoker and Grill and it’s formidable to behold. At the weigh-in, it breaks the scales, coming in at a whopping 198 pounds. But don’t let the weight and the build of this monumental smoker put you off for one second.
The separate firebox chamber on the Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera Smoker and Grill is connected to the main chamber via a very small hole. This clever bit of engineering and design allows you to cook and smoke your meat to tender perfection. It’s clear that some thought has gone into the building of this unit. The quality and feel are right up there, and it’s come to be what we expect from the Oklahoma Joe’s outfit more often than not.
This smoker isn’t going to appeal to absolutely every potential buyer out there. Not every backyard smoker or weekend outdoor entertainer will want to commit to something weighing in like the Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera Smoker and Grill. This unit is one for leaving be, and budging it will require you to put some effort into logistics. As a great smoker with good capacity, though – if well smoked meats, fish and other foods are all you care about – then the Oklahoma Joe’s effort might just tempt you to get involved.
More features: innovative airflow control system, lid-mounted thermometer
Weighing in at just 27 pounds and light as a feather by smoker standards, this lovely little lightweight entry into the market delivers two porcelain cooking grates and also comes with porcelain coated water bowls meaning it’s going to be there for the long haul and you’ll be using this unit to prepare great food for years.
Despite being very portable and light in weight, the Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker is deceiving in some ways. It’s surprisingly sturdy, and the whole thing is very easy to set up. In the day to day hurly burly of garden smoking, this effort from Char-Broil is extremely easy to use and fully equipped. As it is with a very handy and convenient removable ash pan, this great little smoker is also delightfully easy to keep clean.
The Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker has been thoughtfully designed with an innovative air flow control system. It might not seem like much, but this important and very well thought out innovative design feature makes cooking temperature easy to regulate while you’re using this machine – and it’s impossible to emphasize too much just how vital accurate and easy temperature control is when trying to smoke various foods.
The Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker is another smoker which offers versatility to the outdoorsy types who are looking to get into smoking or seeking to upgrade on their existing unit. That’s because the Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker is so light, and so portable, you could take this practically anywhere with you on a trip. For RV enthusiasts, we think this unit might prove to be a winner. The shape and nature of the Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker makes it extremely easy to stow and move around a campsite. The Char-Broil unit will suit a lot of people, and there’s plenty of reasons to have it on your own smoker shortlist.
More features: in-built thermometer; one smoking rack, six hooks; five vents
The Sougem Charcoal Smoker Grill is a smoker that will appeal to enough amateur smokers to make it well deserving of inclusion on this list of the ten best smokers we could find in this bracket.
The Sougem Charcoal Smoker Grill is a true bullet style smoker with a tiny 14-inch diameter. Although that is going to severely limit what cuts, items and types of food you’re going to be able to fit in the unit and ultimately smoke – it does provide some very real benefits to the backyard amateur smoker who is a little shorter on space available. This thing wouldn’t be out of place on your porch, if that’s the only outdoor area you’ve got. Small but beautiful to behold, the Sougem Charcoal Smoker Grill is very nicely made from good quality materials, and it will stow away easily in a corner or a garage when it’s not in use.
What that smaller diameter will give users of the Sougem Charcoal Smoker Grill is an ability to smoke away without using as much fuel as it would take to get a larger smoker up to temperature – and maintain it.
You also get a built-in thermometer here, which is by all accounts of not of good enough quality to be very accurate – invest in an aftermarket thermometer, because that’s going to help in getting some perfectly smoked food out of this unit for your guests, family and friends.
All in all, the Sougem Charcoal Smoker Grill is a great option and what you get for a very low price is consistency, accuracy, and compact efficiency. This will get snapped up by many buyers.
More features: unique capsule shape; 2-zone cooking and 4 vents; aluminum capsule
The PK Original Outdoor Charcoal Portable Grill & Smoker Combination is made from rust-proof cast aluminum. The main benefit of aluminum, when used in smokers, is that the alloy greatly assists heat to spread evenly throughout the capsule and converts the cooking chamber into something that operates a whole lot more efficiently. There’s a big argument among smoker enthusiasts that aluminum is the future because it has these properties of heat distribution, however some of the traditionalists will be hard to drag away from the more established steel charcoal grills.
The PK Original Outdoor Charcoal Portable Grill & Smoker Combination is a fairly well put together effort and although it has some problems, it does come with a very air-tight seal, which makes it reasonably easy for any user to control temperatures – after a little bit of a learning curve, which is not unusual when getting used to a new smoker.
The grill and smoker combo also comes with an impressive patented four-vent air system. Those who want to feed the masses will struggle with this little smoker, because it comes only with 310 square inches of usable cooking space – it’s not got a lot of room for big cuts of meat either – but is big enough as a family grill and smoker.
Other notable thing about this smoker is a ten-year warranty against corrosion, burnout or breakage – which will attract many buyers who are keen to protect their investment. Customer service is said to be great, this unit is easy to assemble, but there have been problems reported with some flimsier parts. You’ll need to buy your own thermometer – but hey! This isn’t the most expensive smoker on the market by any means.
What we liked:
Ten-year warranty for peace of mind covered against rust, burnout or breakage
Great customer service
The capsule detaches easily from its stand making it great for taking on camping trips
Quick and easy assemble
What could be better:
The cooking grill is a little flimsy
Grill replacements are a tad expensive to buy
Vents on the bottom can let hot charcoals to fall out causing a hazard
More features: smoke stack features an adjustable flue for additional flavor and temperature control; built-in, stainless steel thermometer
The Dyna-Glo vertical offset smoker has an absolute abundance of usable cooking space at 1,890 square inches. That’s one serious cook fest capability for your backyard if you choose to accept the challenge – and if you have enough hungry friends or guests.
The smoker has got plenty of very useful features which will be a big enough draw for some of the more serious smokers out there. This unit comes reasonably well prepared for battle with an armory which includes six height adjustable cooking grates – this is a great option for those who want to turn out volume of smoked foods and you can see where this beast gets such an impressive cook area rating from.
You also get a charcoal chamber with this package, which will allow you to keep reserve briquettes tightly stacked. This feature will do nothing to take away from the efficiency of this unit and will be great for burn continuity. On top of what’s already a fairly nice bunch of options, with the Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D you also get a stainless-steel temperature gauge. This is a nice inclusion and will save the buyer a few bucks from not having to buy an aftermarket sensor.
Another nice touch here, which suggests some thought went into this design is the “Smoke Zone” indicator. It’s always nice to see features inspired by real smoking experience and this is one that you could suspect was the work of a designer who actually gets out in their own backyard and entertains.
What we liked:
Holds a lot of meat on its adjustable and removable racks
Holds heat for a long time
Very easy to assemble
Suits the novice right up to the seasoned smoker
What could be better:
The damper on the firebox intake doesn’t have a handle so you need a glove to make adjustments to the airflow
More features: 22-gauge-steel body; double-wall insulated design; folding side shelf
The Char-Griller E16620 Akorn might just be the perfect introduction smoker if you’re looking for something relatively easy to get going on and learn the dark arts of smoking, and it doesn’t break the bank at a mid-range price.
This will make it a great option for someone looking to get into smoking, but unsure if they’re going to go the distance and stick with the whole process of learning all about the activity.
The Char-Griller E16620 Akorn comes with an extremely handy and very easy to master temperature control. That’s going to be half the battle for those newer to the trial and error of early smoking efforts – if you can master the whole temperature thing, you’re going to be almost half way to making very delicious tasting food in your own backyard.
One of the best features on the versatile little Akorn is that it’s compact and nicely made. It also comes with a very fuel-efficient vent system. This is also going to greatly aid the early stage amateur backyard smoker and to a certain extent, it will make the unit pretty forgiving and allow for a little exploration, adjustment and hopefully ultimately smoking perfection.
With a temperature range of 200–700 degrees Fahrenheit, this versatile grill and smoker is one of the best out there. The Char-Griller E16620 Akorn design makes it extremely easy for the end user to remove ashes. This is accomplished by simply sliding out the whole removable lower section.
The Char-Griller E16620 Akorn also comes with a 20-inch diameter cast iron cooking grate. Although this isn’t large enough to smoke anything too big, it makes the unit compact and does allow for a decent enough area to smoke on.
What we liked:
Very affordable smoker
Good for beginners and forgiving to use
What could be better:
The unit is super heavy
The weight of some of the pieces make it hard for a practical one-person assembly
More features: 2 porcelain-coated smoking racks; front-access door; built-in lid thermometer
The last smoker on our list of the ten best smokers out there is the Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker. This unit isn’t going to win many awards, but it does have a place in the market and deserves to be included on this list. The Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker is a good little smoker, and is a great option for those out there wanting to get into smoking meat, vegetables and fish – without having to go out and invest large sums of hard-earned cash buying a huge unit. You certainly can’t beat the Masterbuilt effort for price – although as with most things around this price point, don’t expect to get a whole world of features and options.
The Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker is extremely easy to get to temperature and at the end of the day, this smoker is small and light enough in weight for you to be able to conveniently store it when it’s not in use.
Although the cooking section on the Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker is not big enough to be able to fit a brisket or slab of ribs in, it is a perfect size for chicken and much poultry, smaller cuts of pork and other meats, and for things like sausages.
It’s difficult for the end user to get to the firebox during a cook so a long burn at higher temperatures would be tricky for even the most experienced of backyard smoking enthusiasts to carry off. This smoker isn’t going to suit every potential buyer out there, it’s a relatively crude effort with a lot of shortcomings on the whole. However, it will attract some buyers – so it shouldn’t be instantly dismissed and is well worth checking out.
What we liked:
Great price for an entry-level smoker
Compact and portable
What could be better:
Difficult to maintain temperatures over 220 degrees for long periods
The thermometer is not accurate
Things to Consider
Looking around for a charcoal smoker can be a bit of an ordeal sometimes. There’s a lot to learn in terms of technical matters, and it can help to read up on the facts and do your research. This article section is all about making it easier for you to do. Whether you’re looking for the best vertical charcoal smoker, best charcoal grill with smoker, or the best offset charcoal smoker – and even if you don’t know what those are yet – soon you will!
Pros and cons of charcoal smokers
It’s widely known that in terms of generating smoke which infuses the maximum amount of flavor into a food – charcoal can’t be beaten. What’s more, charcoal just generates more smoke than gas ever will. For food that is brimming with deeply smoked in deliciousness, charcoal is the go-to fuel.
The downside of using charcoal to smoke your food is that you’ll have cleaning up to do. You’ll generate a lot of ash if you use the smoker often. Gas is an easy option when it comes to cleaning up after fuel – because there is no cleaning up. However, you’ll sacrifice flavor with gas smoke.
And hey! Ash is a great fertilizer, so just use it on the garden!
Features to consider while choosing a charcoal smoker
This is very much going to depend on your needs and expectations. If you tend to have massive parties, then a unit with a big, flat cooking area and very little need for regular in-burn attendance is a great thing to have. Adjusting and tweaking is great fun, and a perfect occupation for a keen smoker at quieter times, but will eat up your socializing time at an event or party.
Charcoal smoker type
Some charcoal smokers are vertical cabinets, and have multiple grates to build up the cooking area. These can be amazing for people shorter on space outdoors.
Bullet smokers, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, can be even better for compact garden and yard areas and they’re a great way to enter the smoking fray.
Offset barrel smokers tend to have nice flat, large cooking areas and are akin to a traditional BBQ, with an offset burning compartment. A good example is the Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera.
Kamado smokers, like the Char-Griller E16620 Akorn, are tiny, versatile and quick. They can be used as ovens as well as smokers, they reach temperature rapidly and hold smoke and heat in well – which is great for producing a lot of flavor. They’re a good option if you’re looking for the best small charcoal smoker.
Total cooking area and hopper capacity
The total cooking area of a charcoal smoker dictates how much food you are going to be able to smoke within the unit at any one time. Smaller charcoal smokers tend to have less capacity, so be careful to make sure and buy a smoker that fits your own particular needs. The more you can cook, the better in most cases – however, running a bigger cooking area will always mean burning more fuel to get to, and maintain a good smoking temperature. That’s where the hopper comes in. A larger one will enable you to set up a bigger smoker for longer, unattended burns.
The important thing to remember here is that if you don’t need to cook massive amounts of food, you’ll be wasting fuel to run a massive smoker. Sometimes less is more.
The greater the temperature range, the more you’ll be able to do with your smoker. If you’re drawn to the idea of ‘low and slow’ smoking – then make sure you buy a smoker with a low enough temperature capacity to get the job done.
The better the build, the better the heat retention and the longer the fabric of your charcoal smoker will last. As with many things, buying cheaper will mean inferior metals and materials, so bear that in mind when you choose your new smoker.
Dimensions and weight
Dimensions are going to matter more to you the less space you have available to site and store a charcoal smoker. If you’ve got acres of space, then size isn’t going to matter very much at all to you. If you’re limited in what yard space you have available, be careful not to buy anything too big – and remember your smoker will need some clearance on all sides, and access for safe use.
Temperature controls and ease of use
The better the temperature control, and the more accurate it is, the better results you’re going to have with your backyard smoking and the happier your guests are going to be. Especially if you’re just starting out learning the art of smoking food, try to get something which affords you a decent level of control, and an accurate method of monitoring the temperature of your new charcoal smoker.
Warranties are always great to have, and the longer you can get a warranty for, the better. They provide great peace of mind, especially when the purchase price of an item is relatively high. When you’re looking at the warranty on a charcoal smoker, pay close attention to things like ash baskets – are they covered? These items can be relatively expensive to replace. Other items to check warranty cover on are the actual build materials – cracks and such can occur. If your unit has a digital control panel, make sure it’s covered by the warranty because electronics are expensive to fix.
How much do charcoal smokers typically cost?
The costs of charcoal smokers very much depend on the size, weight, features – and of course the manufacturer. The great news is that there is a charcoal smoker out there for everyone who wants to try this great hobby and cooking method. You can find decent options on our list of the ten best from the very lowest price points, right up to a decent amount of cash. If you’re just starting out, it’s sometimes a good idea to buy a cheaper unit – which you can always use as a back-up or for extra capacity if you ever upgrade. Some cheaper units are great for learning the secrets of smoking.
Tips on maintaining your charcoal smoker
Keep your smoker out of bad weather whenever you can. If it’s too heavy or troublesome to move, make sure to buy an aftermarket waterproof cover to keep it dry and protect it from corrosion.
Cleaning should be regular and carried out to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Always check the unit for damage after use, and store for longer periods of dormancy.
You can use wood chips to flavor to food, and it’s even possible to mix some wood pellets with the burning charcoal to adjust flavor – but charcoal smokers work best fueled by charcoal.
So, the results are in, and the best charcoal smoker we could find is the brilliant Weber Smokey Mountain. This smoker comes from a tried, tested and well-respected manufacturer, and it ticks a lot of boxes that smokers wanting reliability, value and great cooking ability look out for.
On our list of the ten best charcoal smokers, we examined a wide range of units and the impressive 30-inch Royal Gourmet BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker just missed out on top spot by a hair. This great smoker will attract a lot of seasoned backyard smoking enthusiasts. It’s got the features and the capacity to please on a lot of fronts.
In third place, but by no means a loser in the style stakes, was the excellent and very beautiful PK Grills PK360 charcoal smoker. This unit will be a winner with the people out there who demand a bit of aesthetic appeal at their outdoor gathering or party. Sleek lines and designs combined with a decent array of features will suit a lot of potential buyers.