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Backyard smoking is extremely popular for a very good reason. It’s a very satisfying way to turn cheaper cuts of meat into very delicious food. And it’s also a fun activity. Outdoor cooking is always a great thing socially too, and there’s nothing quite like kicking back and enjoying a few beers with friends or family, while the beautiful aroma of smoking meat is whispering and wafting its sweet promises to you. In this article, we’re going to try to find the best commercial smoker for you.
We’ll be taking a close look at the best five available smokers in the commercial bracket, and we’ve picked a selection here with the aim of providing something for everyone. You’ll notice we’re considering things such as dimensions and weight of the smoker, cooking areas that each one provides, and things like fuel types and numbers of racks. We’ll look at what all those things mean when you’re buying and using your smoker – and try to help you decide which things are your own priority when you’re selecting a smoker.
Finding the best commercial smoker for you is hopefully going to become a far easier task once you’ve had a proper read through this article and our detailed product reviews. Towards the end, you’ll find a buying guide, designed to help you figure out what’s what and to get you smoking delicious food as quickly as possible, safe in the knowledge that you’ve made the best choice.
We’re going to try to make sure that you’ve picked the best commercial smoker on the market – for you and how you use it. So, without further delay, let’s dive in!
Extra features: Inverted Flame Firebox technology; wheeled rear legs; comes with full size steam pans
The first commercial-grade smoker on our list is the KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit. This unit really looks like a commercial grade cooking machine because it’s a not so traditional stainless steel all over. It looks like it came out of a fancy restaurant kitchen, rather than a backyard.
By all accounts, though, the stainless steel look should be putting no serious backyard smoker off this product. This is a big and heavy unit (weighing in at 92 pounds), and it oozes quality from top to bottom.
The KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit comes with a huge capacity of 60 pounds, and there are twelve wire cooking racks in this thing – enough to smoke one heck of a lot of food all at one time. You also get full-size hotel dimensioned trays in this unit. You won’t be short on space.
You’ll need to remember that this smoker is not a unit that you can leave unattended for long periods. You’ll need to regularly tend the firebox. You’ll also need a regular supply of the right sized wood to burn and keep kids away from this unit when it’s smoking – because it gets extremely hot indeed.
Extra features: reverse flow / double wall design; comes fully assembled and ready for use; removable stainless steel water pan
Next up in a very close second place on this list of the best commercial grade smokers is the Backwoods Chubby 3400 Outdoor Charcoal Smoker, and what a lovely unit this is.
You don’t get the same capacity as the top pick on our list with the Backwoods Chubby 3400 Outdoor Charcoal Smoker, and this only comes with four racks, although they are nickel plated and durable, and they’re fairly big too, at over 16-inches deep and more than 15-inches wide. This does have a reasonable amount of room for bigger cuts of meat and larger poultry.
This is well made and has a more traditional looking black finish and it is heavy, weighing in at very nearly 140 pounds. It won’t blow away, that’s for certain! The interior of this unit is wholly made from stainless steel, which will make it a lot easier to keep clean, and you won’t be seeing any rust develop in there either.
The slam locks on this unit are a very nice feature and the Backwoods Chubby 3400 Outdoor Charcoal Smoker comes equipped with very nice, sturdy hinges all around. This unit will stand up to repeated use and last a lifetime with minimal maintenance.
One of the disappointing things here, especially given how weighty it is, is that the manufacturer not only didn’t supply castors on this smoker, they also charge a heck of a lot to get hold of a set. The price for castors is more than 20% of the cost of the smoker, and that seems a bit out of whack to me.
Extra features: silicone temperature grommet for easy monitoring; porcelain-enameled lid, bowl, and center section; removable fuel door for easy access while cooking
In third position on our list of the best commercial smokers on the market is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22 Inch Smoker, and this is a different kettle of fish when compared to the top two smokers on this list. This is made by Weber, who is a very well thought of manufacturer, and very well established, so there should be no issues here with customer service if the need arises.
What you’re looking at here is more of a bullet smoker, and we’re really pushing the boundaries of commercial grade definitions when we call the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22 Inch Smoker a commercial unit. You only get two racks here and you’re limited not so much by the size of this unit – which is 22-inches and respectable in that sense – but more by the shape of the smoker. Yeah, you’ll be able to fit a couple of big hunks of meat in there but not to the same degree as with a rectangular unit. It’s basically limited for capacity.
The smoker is fully enameled, which will make it last well in the elements and also with regard to high temperatures and the grease, wear and tear of smoking activity. It’s a handy unit that is relatively portable at only 68-pounds of weight, but it won’t suit all, and it’s a good option mainly if you don’t want or need to smoke massive volumes of food all at once.
Extra features: digital panel and RF remote control; patented system for wood chip loading; chrome-coated racks
Next up is the Masterbuilt 20075315 Front Controller Smoker. This will appeal to a certain type of smoker, and to a certain type of yard. This smoker looks more like a well-fashioned kitchen appliance than a backyard smoker, but that won’t put a lot of people off this unit, because it does have some great, if not traditional features.
The first thing you notice is what they’re calling the viewing window here, but in reality makes up most of the main door and gives a really good view of what’s going on inside. This is a smoker that isn’t made to be tampered with too much during the smoking process and they’ve made the Masterbuilt 20075315 Front Controller Smoker with a facility for loading the wood chips without needing to open up the door, which is a great idea and will make it far more efficient and achieve more even temperatures and smoking.
This smoker also has digital controls, which suggest that it’ll be far easier to make small adjustments to the temperature than it would be with a lot of the analog units. This is a great unit for people that find it difficult to accurately read dials.
All in all, this is a nice unit. It’s well insulated, weighs 73-pounds and it’ll do a job. It has a decent capacity. Bear in mind that the main heat source is an electric element, so it needs power.
Extra features: latched door with glass window; LED display
Last, but certainly not least in some ways, is the Char-Broil 30″ Deluxe Black Digital Electric Smoker, and this is the budget pick on our list of the five best commercial grade smokers out there. This certainly looks the part of a more traditional smoker and a lot of people will be considering this unit.
I’m going to start by saying something about the Char-Broil 30″ Deluxe Black Digital Electric Smoker, which does need to be said, but certainly shouldn’t be viewed as a condemnation of this commercial grade smoker at all. There are issues with the temperature control on this unit, and that’s been well documented in reviews. The manufacturer has been very responsive and supportive over the issue, and it’s not the most major problem that a smoker could have. It is something to be aware of.
The thing to consider with this unit, with regard to the temperature issues, and all of its other features, is that it is ridiculously cheap to buy. This thing costs less than the castor set cost for one of the other smokers on this list, so it’s a case of being realistic about what you’re getting – and this is a great buy for someone on a tight budget who wants to get smoking.
You get an electric smoker here, with four racks and a nice removable food thermometer. This smoker is what it is. Good value.
What we liked:
Very budget friendly
Handy viewing window
What could be better:
Heat control issues
Not massive capacity
Things to Consider
There are a lot of things to consider when you take the big step of buying or upgrading to a commercial quality smoker. The choices can be a bit daunting but we’re going to take a look at some of the most important aspects here.
You’ll have a better idea of what you want to look for if you’re stepping up from using a domestic grade smoker to a commercial grade model. Using a lower grade unit will no doubt have taught you a lot about how to get good results and more importantly, about what your own expectations and preferences are.
So, let’s take a look at some of the features you’re going to be faced with now when you make your choices.
Reasons to get a quality commercial smoker
When it comes to smoking, and when it comes to laying on a great spread at family gatherings and parties, upping your game by going for a commercial grade unit will reap fine rewards. Commercial grade machines will generally give you more capacity for volume and you’ll be able to smoke more meats and foods in one session. You can expect more control in terms of temperature too.
Commercial quality is basically going to be a massive step upwards in terms of what sort of results you’re going to be able to get while you’re smoking in the back yard. These machines are generally far better with regard to build quality than domestic level smokers, they’ll have more capacity inside in terms of cubic inches or feet to smoke food, and you tend to get a much more controllable unit, with better heat retention and more access than some of the cheaper units.
If you’ve already done a bit of smoking, then going to commercial grade will take your smoking game up several levels. There can be a bit more work to do in terms of tending to your fire (if you don’t go for a gas or electric unit), but what you’ll usually get in return for your efforts will be a far more professional result when it comes to the ultimate test of any smoker, and of any smoking technician – the eating.
If you’re new to smoking, then going commercial from the start isn’t a bad idea either. The learning curve may end up being sharper than with an easy-to-use lower grade unit, but the tradeoff will be that once you’ve gotten the hang of all the information and ability that you’ll need to get smoking properly, the commercial unit will give you way more scope to apply that knowledge and skill to better ends.
In short, you tend to get what you pay for, and just like buying tools, for instance, commercial quality will see you able to do more for longer, and get professional results – if you put the effort in. Commercial quality tools or smokers will more often than not cost more money to buy, but they’re an investment that will last longer, take repairs more easily, and remove the ceiling when it comes to being able to achieve great things once you’ve mastered the basics.
Features to consider when choosing a commercial smoker
You’ll need to figure out what you want to do with reference to fuels and flavors. The type of fuel that your stove burns is going to have a massive impact on the type of flavor that comes out once you’ve done with your smoking. Wood fires are generally and widely considered to produce an extra dimension of flavor because you can get additional tones from the actual firebox, and most diehard smoking enthusiasts will only ever consider running on wood when trying to achieve authentic and deep flavors every time they fire up the box.
The size of your smoker is going to be a factor for a lot of you. As is having a suitable place to site the smoker. Some of these units get extremely hot, and they’ll need to be placed in a safe area, away from children, and on a non-combustible and level surface. Don’t buy a wood-fired smoker and set it on your back deck, for instance – because that’s just not going to end in a very good way at all. Size wise, you’ll need to take into account the volumes of food that you’re regularly going to need to produce. Make sure it’s oversize, rather than being too small for your needs.
If it’s a thing that you may want to throw this thing on the truck occasionally and head for the hills. If you do a lot of gatherings in remote areas then portability and weight are going to be a factor for you. You’re going to want to consider access to electricity if the thing runs on that, so you may need a generator. If it’s wood-fired, then you’ll also have to think about spark suppression if you intend to pack it up and take it into the country or the woods. You won’t want any sparks flying around on a dry and breezy day.
Type of fuel
As we’ve already touched on, the hardcore traditional smoking community really only consider one fuel when they’re looking to get deep and tasty flavor into meats and other foods with their smoking. For you, you need to think carefully about what you want from your unit and weigh up the benefits of each fuel option.
100% authenticity is probably only going to come from stick burning. Using logs gives you multiple extra dimensions of flavor and a really nice smoke.
But that comes at a cost, and you tend to have to put in some yards to achieve good results this way. For a start, you’ll need a regular and reliable supply of some decent burning wood, and in the right sort of dimensions so as to be suitable for the smoker that you choose.
There is more maintenance and cleaning when you opt for wood, so it’s a case of looking at all that. You’ll also need to tend a wood fire more regularly and keep it burning. If you’re the type of animal that wants to host the party, be the greatest cook ever, but also be the life and soul of the gathering, then wood is going to take up more of your time. For some, the act of smoking is the fun at a party, so you have to figure out which smoker you are. If you want great food and not to be doing hardly any tending during a gathering or party, then maybe look for the best propane wood smoker for commercial use – because that will have a far more set-and-forget nature.
This is basically as simple as it sounds. This is the flat space available to you in square inches where you can place food within the smoking area. There are two main things to consider when it comes to the cooking area and what you require from your smoker. The first thing is the overall volume of meat you want to be cooking in each session. The second thing is going to be the actual sizes of the cuts, or even the birds, that you want to smoke. There’s no use having lots of cooking area available via a narrow stack and lots and lots of racks and hooks – if you mostly want to smoke big old hunks of brisket. The best commercial bbq smoker may be the best way to go for you if you cook massive birds or cuts. Another option that will give you a single but larger cooking area than racks would be to look at some of the best commercial smoker grills on the market.
Number of racks
This is a similar consideration as with the cooking area. It’s about how the volume of your smoker is divided. You’ll need more racks to cook a lot of smaller items and cuts, and fewer racks to cook more volume in sizes of cuts. It’s a great idea and always an advantage to have more racks available than you usually need. It’s easier to remove a rack than it is to find one.
Dimensions and weight
This is applicable to a couple of things that you need to be thinking about when you’re buying your smoker. Where are you going to place it? And are you going to be wanting to move it?
Generally, more weight suggests a better build and maybe even more cooking area. That’s great to have, but not if it makes the thing an immovable object and you either want to take it on trips or excursions, or you want to use the area where you cook as a dual purpose area.
If you’re never going to move the smoker, then go for a sturdy build and massive cooking area every time. Weigh up the weight.
A good warranty is often a sign of quality and manufacturer confidence in their product. Never a bad thing. As with anything, always look at and compare warranties on different products.
How to clean and care for your smoker
Weather can be your enemy with smokers, because the bigger units tend to be left outside in all weathers and conditions. Buying one with a cover included is great, but if that’s not possible, then get an optional extra cover. This will save a lot of heartache in terms of cleaning and the overall longevity of the smoker. Well worth doing.
Apart from that, then commercial smokers should be cleaned and maintained like other smokers and grills. It’s also always a great idea to check out the manufacturer guidelines, to see if they recommend anything specific for their smoker.
Some smokers will require assembly. Some smokers will require more assembly than others too. This really depends on what you buy. You will see smokers that are fully assembled when you’re looking in the commercial bracket. If this aspect of things is important to you, check the manufacturer information on it carefully.
Depending on fuel types, and which smoker you opt to go for, there’ll be different requirements in this department. Some smokers can be left for a few hours and maintain a good temperature. Others require far more frequent attention. Our top pick on this list, for example, is a good old fashioned stick burner and you’ll need to tend that every fifteen to thirty minutes.
The best commercial pellet smoker might have auto-feed that maintains great temperature for long periods, and the best commercial electronic smoker may have controls to facilitate long periods untended.
Most aficionados will tell you that it’s not a great practice to leave any smoker for hours unattended because things can go wrong and ruin food.
So, that’s it. We’ve had a great look at five knockout commercial smokers here, and we’ve looked at some of the features you’ll need to consider when buying one. But which smoker came out on top?
That happened to be the KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit, and this was a great smoker, that ticked every single box. It had something for everyone, from the die-hard smokers to newcomers on the scene. A truly beautiful smoker.