Smoking a perfect rib or brisket is one of the best ways to flex your cooking prowess and impress friends and family. With grilling season (aka summer) coming up, you’d need the perfect backyard smoker to sharpen your skills and serve up a smoke-tastic feast. 🔥🤤
While your meat prep technique is certainly important, that’s only half the battle. Having the right tools and equipment can help you make scrumptious ribs, brisket, chicken, fish, or even veggies better than your favorite neighborhood BBQ joint.
It’s easy to get lost in the endless options of meat smokers, especially since they come in different types, sizes, and with different features.
But don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for.
I spent hours researching and comparing the top smokers on the market today to bring you this ultimate best smokers buying guide.
Turn good smoking into GREAT smoking with one of these amazing, versatile machines.
Don’t let this little guy fool you, the Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smoker is major meat smoking powerhouse. Both home enthusiasts and top smoke masters can enjoy the rich, full flavor that this machine is capable of producing.
Features & Specifications
With four chrome-coated racks, the 30-inch model smoker has a whopping 721 square inches of cooking space—more than enough for several racks of ribs, butts, whole chickens, or even a turkey.
The blue LED front panel makes it easy to turn the temperature up to 275F, perfect for a low and slow smoke. Plus, there’s also an innovative side wood chip loading system that lets you add more fuel without opening up the door and losing precious heat.
Super Easy For A Smoking Rookie
The Masterbuilt 20078715 Smoker feels especially designed for the newbie smoker who want all the flavor with none of the hassle. You can literally set it and forget it, even overnight, and wake up to delicious, perfectly-smoked meats.
What I Don’t Like About The Masterbuilt Smoker
The only major downside is that because this smoker is electric, its parts are more prone to frying or short-circuiting. I noticed that some reviewers noted that their Masterbuilt Smoker didn’t last very long.
My Final Thoughts
Still, they seem to be in a very small minority, and I’m confident enough about this smoker to give it a full five stars.
- Large smoking capacity
- Side wood chip loading system
- Convenient digital control panel
- Easy even for beginner smokers
- Prone to burning out
- Some defective machines
If you want to do it classic and old-school like the pros, then a charcoal smoker is for you. You can’t go wrong with the Weber Smokey Mountain, a popular name in the meat smoking community. And for good reason—these bad boys are the kings of meat smoking, even winning a few competitions here and there.
Features & Specifications
The Smokey Mountain Cooker comes in 3 sizes: 14-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch. The smallest-sized model has 286 sq. in of cooking space that can easily smoke enough meat to feed one or two families. The porcelain enamelled 3-section chamber comes with an integrated water pan that leaves meats moist, tender, and super juicy.
What’s NOT To Like?
What’s not to like about the WSM?
This vertical smoker is a fan favorite that boasts a pretty great track records in both at-home and competition cooking. I also love that the smoker can be used for grilling as well, just remove the water pan. Plus, Weber offers an impressive 10-year warranty on all of their products.
What I Don’t Like About The Weber Smokey Mountain
It’s difficult to find negative reviews, but not everyone has had a great experience with the WSM. Some reviewers have complained about the flimsy aluminum door that doesn’t seal all the way, which lets heat and smoke escape.
However, that can easily be fixed by sealing it yourself. Another downside is that it may not be beginner-friendly, but the learning curve is a small price to pay for good meat.
Buy the Weber Smokey Mountain 14-inch Cooker.
- 10-year warranty
- Three different sizes
- Competition-level smoked meats
- Can also be used as a grill
- Not 100% leak proof
- Steep learning curve for beginners
Want that authentic wood-fired taste without having to tend to your smoker every half hour? The Traeger Lil Tex Elite 22 Pellet Grill is sure to be a godsend. This super-versatile smoker can go hot and fast or low and slow—just the way you want it.
Features & Specifications
Get six cooking functions in one with this all-around smoker. You get 481 sq. in. of space to grill, smoke, bake, braise, roast, and BBQ your way to smoke master status.
In meat terms, that’s up to 16 burgers, 5 full racks of ribs, 4 whole chickens, or 1 large turkey.
Perfect For The Busy Smokers Enthusiast
The integrated digital controller lets you turn the heat up to 450F. Pellet grills get a bad rap in the meat smoking community because it does a lot of the work for you. That surely is the case with Traeger’s Lil Tex line, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Even the wood pellet feeder pulls in wood chips as needed, so that you can spend less time in front of the grill and more time with your friends and family.
My Final Thoughts
You may need to purchase an insulation blanket/cover to get consistent, stable temperature control during colder weather. It’s also a bit more expensive than some of the other options on this list, but hey, that’s the price of convenience.
To buy, check out the product on Amazon: Traeger Lil Tex Elite 22 Pellet Grill.
- True “set it and forget it” smoker
- Durable steel construction with powder coat finish
- 6-in-1 cooking capabilities
- Bundle comes with cover and pellets or shelf
- Requires electricity to work
- Doesn’t perform well at high heats, can’t sear meats
Another entry in the pellet grill smoker combo is the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX PG24 Pellet Grill. This is a great alternative for the Traeger Lil Tex Pellet Grill, if you need similar functions but with a much larger cooking space—enough to feed everyone and their grandma!
Features & Benefits
The Camp Chef Smoker comes with a programmable digital smart controller with temps ranging from 160F to 500F. This lets you take advantage of all six of its functions, including grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, braising, and BBQing. Plus, the smoker comes with a one-pull Ash Cleanout system that makes it practically self-cleaning.
The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX is great with high heats as well as low and slow smoking. This smoker is proof that you can get a smokey, delicious flavor and versatility all in one cooker without having to sacrifice either.
I’ve also found that this particular smoker has incredible fuel efficiency, so you don’t have to keep buying new pellets even with multiple uses.
What I Don’t Like About This Camp Chef Smoker
Like other outdoor smokers and pellet grills, this one might require an insulation blanket to keep it running smoothly in windy or snowy conditions. I’m not a big fan of the limited 1-year warranty which is way below industry standard and pales in comparison to Traegery’s 3-year warranty.
To buy, check it out here: Camp Chef Deluxe Pellet Grill and Smoker PG24DLX.
- Multi-purpose grill and smoker
- Large cooking capacity of 570 sq. in. & hopper capacity of 18lbs
- Self-cleaning ash pull-out system
- Efficient pellet use
- Very short warranty
- Needs insulation blanket for cold weather
Revolutionize the way you cook with the Orion Convection Cooker & Smoker. This smoker takes a totally unique approach to the age-old practice of meat smoking by combining it with a modern convection design. The result? Incredibly juicy, flavorful meats in half the time.
Features & Benefits
The Orion Cooker is a bit smaller than the other smokers I reviewed, but it can still hold multiple rib racks or even a 20lb turkey. With every purchase, you get stainless steel rib hangers, cooking grates, and a poultry stand. The convection cooking allows you to get that low and slow smokiness in just a few hours.
I recommend the Orion Cooker convection smoker to any smoke master who wants a delicious, smoked meal but doesn’t have the time or patience to smoke something for half a day.
Plus, I can’t say no to the gorgeous (not to mention durable and corrosion-resistant) 100% stainless steel construction on this one.
I do have to mention that this particular smoker is a charcoal binger. While smoking, it uses a lot of fuel to keep the heat going. Also, because it uses a combination of indirect heat, smoke, and steam, expect a lighter and cleaner smoke flavor.
To buy, check out the Orion Cooker on Amazon.
- Super fast convection cooking
- 100% stainless steel body and accessories
- 5-year warranty
- Affordable price for quality
- Smokiness may be too light for some
- Eats up a lot of charcoal
A good smoker doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and the Cuisinart Charcoal Smoker is proof of that. Get mouthwatering, tender meats at a fraction of the price of the other smokers on this list.
Features & Benefits
If I told you that you could get 510 sq. in. of cooking space under $200, would you believe me? The Cuisinart Charcoal Smoker comes with two 18-inch stainless steel racks that can smoke everything from ribs to veggies to even cheese.
Designed with the budget newbie smoker in mind, this Cuisinart smoker combines affordability and portability in one package.
Best Smoker On A Budget
You can’t find a better smoker in this price range. If you can’t spare the additional couple hundred bucks for a Weber Smokey Mountain, this smoker is a low-cost alternative. While it’s big enough to handle several racks of ribs on its two cooking grates, it’s small and light enough to carry around the yard or on road trips.
Things I Don’t Like About The Cuisinart Smoker
The Cuisinart isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s inevitable that such a low price tag comes with some trade-offs. Some reviewers found that the water pans were inadequate and kept needing to be refilled. Others say that it comes out with a smaller smoking space than advertised and didn’t have enough room for their meats.
Buy the Cuisinart COS-118.
- Very affordable
- Good, smokey flavor
- Some complaints about build quality
- Small water pans
- Smaller-than-advertised cooking space
This mid-priced Z Grills smoker comes packed with a ton of features. Boasting more cooking modes than any other smoker, you’ll get a true all-in-one outdoor cooking tool that will certainly be hit with your friends and family.
Features & Benefits
Grill, smoke, bake, roast, sear, braise, BBQ, and char grill away—the Z Grills smoker will be your backyard best friend. With 700 sq. in. cooking space, fan-forced convection cooking, automatic pellet feed control, and a temperature range from 180F to 475F, and a digital control board, even absolute rookies can cook up a delicious meal in this smoker!
Things I Like About The Z-Grills Smoker
I love the multiple functions on this stainless steel bad-ass. It looks and cooks like a beast, but it’s surprisingly very easy to use. And there’s virtually no risk in trying one out—Z Grills is so sure you’ll love their pellet grill that they offer a 3-year warranty AND a 30-day 100% satisfaction guarantee refund period.
Things I Didn’t Like So Much
A caveat, however: some early models may have a defective control board. You can still ask the company to replace the part or the whole smoker. Others also say that the temperature sometimes fluctuates, making it difficult to keep a stable smoke level. This could be a manufacturing defect, so I docked some points for inconsistency.
- 8 cooking modes
- Designed for beginner meat smokers
- Affordable alternative to other pellet grills
- Inconsistent build quality
- Some have defective control boards
- Temperature fluctuations
Masterbuilt gets another mention in this list thanks to their Patio 2 Portable Electric Smoker. Cheap, small, and lightweight, this smoker makes for the perfect travel companion.
A Small But Powerful Smoker
Don’t underestimate the MB20073716. It may be small, but it can still cook up a feast fit for a family. With two racks, it has enough smoking capacity for 4 chickens, 2 ribs or pork butts, or 1 turkey. The legs of the smoker are foldable which makes this Masterbuilt smoker much easier to stow away or take on camping trips.
I’m a sucker for this small guy because I can smoke at home or on the go. It’s just the right size for personal use or for a small group. The price tag also makes it a very tempting offer for anyone who wants to try their hand at meat smoking for the first time but doesn’t know where to start.
Things I Didn’t Like About The Masterbuilt Patio 2 Smoker
Even with the low cost and simplicity of the the design, there are some areas in which the Patio 2 falls short. The size is one of the things I love about it, but it’s not a great option for larger BBQ dinner parties.
This makes me consider using this just as a travel or back-up smoker and not as my main one. There are also no numbers on the temperature control dial, so it’s difficult to gauge what setting you’re at.
- Easy foldable legs
- Sleek, modern finish
- Compact design
- Smokes meats to perfection
- No numbers on temperature dial
- Too small for large families
If you really want to up your meat smoking game, let me introduce you to the KBQ C-60. Designed and manufactured by a navy vet, the KBQ is no joke. Totally unique and loved by the meat smoking community, get ready for some next-level outdoor cooking.
A Truly Brilliant Smoker.
If there’s one word to describe the KBQ, it’s “brilliant”. This smoker doesn’t use charcoal, gas, electricity, or pellets—it uses real wood logs for that authentic smokehouse flavor. The patented Inverted Flame technology creates a clean smoke and even temperature throughout.
Innovative Smoking Features
I’m always looking out for something new and innovative, and Karubecue really hit the nail on the head with this one. Because the flame burns upwards, there are no flare-ups, hot spots, or bitter oversmoked flavors.
You can also choose what smoke level you want from clean to heavy. Plus, you can’t get any more authentic than actual wood-fired smoked meats.
Things I Didn’t Like AbouT the KBQ Smoker
Alas, there are a couple drawbacks. One, this smoker is definitely on the expensive side. I’d say it’s worth it, but I understand that not everybody can squeeze this smoker’s 4-digit price tag into their budget.
It’s also a lot more involved and needs frequent tending, so it’s definitely not an entry-level smoker. The power source—small wood—can be difficult to find, and you’ll need to build up a wood supply before smoking.
Buy the KBQ Smoker Pit C-60.
- Award-winning, innovative smoker
- Adjustable smoke level Consistent, even temperature
- Authentic wood-fired smokiness
- Expensive and not beginner-friendly
- Hard to find fuel source
Editor’s Choice: The Best Smoker of 2019
Choosing the best smoker from these amazing options was a lot harder than you think. Each one of them has something special and unique that they bring to the table. While I will reveal my ‘best smoker’ winner in just a bit, I believe that the best smoker for YOU is the one that fits your lifestyle, budget, and needs.
I especially liked the Weber Smokey Mountain for its incredible, competition-ready performance. The Traeger Lil Tex also wowed me with its 6-in-1 “set it and forget it” functionality, as did the Camp Chef SmokePro Grill And Smoker and Z Grills’ version.
Two incredibly innovative smokers, The Orion Cooker and the KBQ, both made it onto the list because they tried to stand out from other brands and models by doing something different. I also wanted to give a shout-out to the best value smokers on the market such as the Cuisinart and Masterbuilt Patio 2, both affordable and portable smokers for smoking on the go.
All of these meat smokers put up a great fight, but one really came out on top. The Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smoker impressed me on pretty much every front. You can’t beat the convenience and performance of this electric smoker. It has the perfect temperature range for a good ol’ fashioned low and slow smoke.
With three sizes, everyone—from the single man looking for a hearty BBQ dinner or a family guy who needs to feed his wife, kids, in-laws, and friends—can enjoy a tender, juicy smoked meal.
Buyer’s Guide: What To Look For When Buying A Smoker
Not all smokers were made equal. There are tons of things you need to consider before dropping potentially hundreds of dollars on the right brand and model. Each of the smokers, pit barrel cookers, and pellet grills I cover in this guide have their own pros and cons, but ultimately, it’s up to YOU to decide which is the best smoker for you.
Here are the things you need to keep in mind when choosing a smoker.
One of the first things you’ll need to think about is where you’re going to put the smoker. All of the smokers on this list are recommended for outdoor use only, but there are also indoor and stove-top smokers that you can choose from.
There are way more options for outdoor smokers, so it’s easier to find one that fits your budget and your needs. You’re also more likely to get that rich, authentic smokehouse flavor that you’re looking for.
However, if you have limited space, you might opt instead for a smaller indoor meat smoker. You might be sacrificing a little on the smoke level, but you can still smoke some delicious meats and veggies!
Choosing what power source or fuel type is probably one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in buying a new smoker. The most common types are electric, gas, charcoal, and pellet grillers.
Super convenient and easy to use, electric smokers are a wonderful introduction to the world of smoking. Most electric smokers are “set it and forget it” types that require very minimal involvement. You can easily get a consistent temperature and amazing results with little effort.
However, some veteran smokers think that part of the joy is tending to your smoker and learning the various techniques. To each his own!
Also known as propane, gas-powered smokers are another easy to manage option with good control over the temperature. Propane is a very cheap fuel source, but there’s always the risk of running out of fuel mid-way through the smoking process. Plus, propane smokers don’t give you that rich sought-after smoke ring, and cheaper models don’t keep a stable temperature very well.
Most smoke masters swear by the low and slow technique that charcoal smokers are best known for. You’ll get a lot of that authentic smokey taste and coveted smoke ring. However, you’ll need to be much more involved in the process to get it right. It might not be the most beginner-friendly, but the flavor-packed results are more than worth the attention and effort.
Are you more of a multi-purpose kind of cooker? Then a pellet grill might be the best smoker / grill for you. Pellet grills allow you smoke, bake, grill, and more with just a push of the button. A true “set it and forget it” that doesn’t skimp on flavor, pellet grills are ideal for beginners who want juicy, tender meats without the risk of messing it up.
Because the smoker does everything pretty much automatically (including feeding the wood pellets at the right intervals), they often cost more, and they may not get to the same level of quality as a classic charcoal smoker.
Smokers come in all configurations and sizes, so you should make sure that the one you get fits your needs. If you’re planning to smoke large amounts of meats, like for parties or get-togethers, then you’d need a smoker with a larger capacity. If you’re just cooking for a small family, then a smaller smoker should suffice. Some brands offer their flagship smokers in a variety of sizes so you can still get the great features in the size you want.
The general rule of thumb is that while bigger smokers can handle more meats, it’s also less likely to keep a stable and consistent temperature throughout. Smaller smokers use less fuel and have easier temperature control, but you’ll have to sacrifice shelf space.
With proper use and maintenance, a good quality smoker should last you several years if not a lifetime! Always take note of the materials, design, build quality, and construction of the smoker. You want something that is solidly-built, rust-resistant, leak-proof, and well-insulated. While a durable smoker will cost you more initially, it’s definitely more economical in the long run to invest in a high-quality smoker because you don’t have to worry about it falling apart.
If you’re planning to use your smoker on the road or on camping trips, then portability would be a very big factor. Here, you’ll have to take into consideration size, weight, design, and how easy it is to set up your smoker.
Some smokers come with handles and wheels for easy storage and portability. Even if you plan to use your smoker mainly at home, it can still be helpful to have these features so that you can move them around the yard or place them in storage when you need to.
A smoker is only as good as the flavors it produces, everything else is just bells and whistles. If you’re going to spend time and money smoking your meats, you’ll want a smoker that you can rely on to deliver consistent, quality flavors.
Besides getting a reputable smoker, one way to get a high-performing machine is to look for one with a wider range of temperatures and smoke options. You can choose between a low and slow smoke or a super-high temp for flash smoking, depending on your smoke style.
This is the part that’s entirely subjective and up to your personal tastes. Additional features may not be absolutely necessary to making the perfect smoked brisket, but the convenience could be worth the extra cost. Some common product features include:
- Smokers with windows or a clear front panel
- Built-in thermometer
- Versatility: the ability to cold smoke, grill, bake, or do other things with your smoker
Get the most bang for your buck. Think of value as not just cost, but how cost-effective a smoker is. This means factoring in the size, features, build quality, durability, design, and performance into the price. An expensive smoker isn’t always worth its price tag, but cheap smokers often sacrifice quality for cost. Set a budget, but be open to spending a little more to get a smoker that is truly worth it.
How Is Smoking Different From Grilling?
Grilling uses high temperatures for short periods of time and direct heat to thoroughly cook your meats and veggies. Smoking, on the other hand, uses much lower temperatures for longer periods of time. The combination of indirect heat, moisture, and smoke can take half a day or even more for bigger chunks of meat.
How Does Smoking Work?
There are two components to a good smoke: flavor (which is provided by the wood chips you use) and a heat source (or what kind of fuel, such as charcoal, electric, or pellets). The smoke heats up the meat to cook it, and the wood imparts a nice, unique flavor.
Should I Use Low Or High Temperatures When Smoking Meat?
It really depends on your style and technique, but most smoke masters agree that the best way is to go low and slow. That means using a temperature between 225F and 275F for several hours (sometimes up to 18 hours or more) to get a tender, moist, and flavorful meat. However, you can also experiment with “flash smoking”, or doing high temperatures for a shorter period of time.
How Do I Choose What Power Source To Use?
Choosing between charcoal, electric, gas, and pellet smokers really boils down to you as a chef. Your preference, level of skill, and how much versatility and control you need all factor into this decision. If you want authentic, old-fashioned smoking, go for a charcoal grill. If you just want to pop it in and forget about it, choose either an electric or pellet smoker.
What Is The Best Smoker For A Beginner?
Our top pick, the Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smoker is definitely a no-brainer here. Its simple controls are deceptive—you can definitely get pro-level smoked meats even if you don’t watch the smoker. The side wood chip system takes the guesswork out of refuelling without compromising the heat level.
What Is The Best Smoker For A Smoke Master Who Wants Something Different?
The KBQ C-60 is admittedly a luxury option, but I’m confident that it can provide veteran smoke masters with a new challenge. It will need a lot of your time and attention, but if you can handle that, it’s definitely the best smoker to test out your skills.
What Kind Of Wood Chips Should I Use?
Your choice of wood chips will help determine what kind of smoke profile you will get. It really depends on your preference, but some types of wood chips go better with specific types of meats. Heavier flavors like Mesquite, Hickory, or Walnut are best paired with pork, beef, and cheese. Flavor your poultry with Alder, Apple, Maple, or Oak for a smooth, smoky taste.
How Long Will My Smoker Last?
The three things that will decide the lifespan of your smoker are: how much you use it, how well you maintain it, and the quality of the smoker. Electric smokers tend to conk out sooner just because electrical components can fry or short circuit. However, don’t let that turn you off electric meat smokers for good. As long as they’re built with durable materials and have a good reputation, your smoker will likely last you for several years.
That is, until you want to upgrade to a new one!