If you’re looking to wow your mates with some melt-in-the-mouth smoked meat, but don’t have the room for a full-on smokehouse in your back yard, a charcoal smoker is an ideal solution. Inexpensive, simple and efficient to run, smoking with charcoal creates a strong, but not overwhelming, smoky flavor that’s hard to beat.
Slow cooking meats at home is simple and easy when you know what type of fuel to use and which smoker to buy. With our guide of the best charcoal smokers on the market, you can easily become a grilling-master right at home.
Below, you can take a look at my comparison chart that lists each of these products. You’ll notice there are some similarities and differences between each model, which will make it easier for you to pinpoint which type and style will work the best for you and your smoking needs.
Smoking is very different from grilling because flame does not touch meat. Smoking slow cooks food until you get tender, moist and juicy meat that’s perfect for any special occasion. And with an efficient and versatile charcoal smoker, you can cook just about any food you want.
At the end of this review, be sure you will choose wisely and ultimately, you will enjoy whichever model you want. We are going to answer any questions you have had in mind for long. Most importantly, we have created choices and alternatives for you, as far as smoking with charcoal smoking is concerned.
Let’s get started (and smoking).
Best Charcoal Smokers: Reviewed, Rated & Compared 2020
|Pit Barrel Cooker Package||Versatile cooking barrel|
|Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (Editor’s Choice)||Countless positive reviews|
|Char-Griller E16620||Household name|
|Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D||Great materials|
|Broil King 911470||built-in thermometer|
|Char-Griller E1515||very accurate|
|Cuisinart COS-118||good cooking surface|
|Oklahoma Joe's Charcoal||Ash management system|
Pit Barrel Cooker Package
- Includes 8 stainless steel hooks to hook-n-hang your meal and a...
- Included coal basket is sized for the ideal amount of charcoal for the...
- Unique design makes the PBC simple to operate, producing consistently...
- Minimal assembly required to get cooking
- Package includes everything you will need to get started: 2 Hanging...
About as simple as it gets, the Pit Barrel is basically a smartly designed barrel for true old school cooking. It’s quite expensive for what is essentially an upturned oil barrel, yet I soon discovered that my initial thoughts were so, so wrong!
The Pit Barrel relies on a method of lighting charcoal called the Minon effect. Basically, you start the charcoal off by lighting the top, rather than the bottom. This means that the fire burns down, slowly igniting fresh fuel and maintaining a slow, steady temperature.
The Pit Barrel comes with a standard grill, hangers for fish and chicken plus clever hanger hooks to allow almost anything to be placed inside the smoker.
Setting It Up
One word, simple! Fill the barrel with charcoal and start your fire at the top of the pile, rather than below. The instruction manual is really useful for this and give good pointers on how to get a nice, even burn.
There’s no electrical plus, no propane and no pellet hoppers. This is about as simple as smoking gets and there’s something really nice about cooking out in the old-fashioned way.
It takes a little while to get a fire burning in the bottom of the barrel. I would say about 20 minutes for everything to settle down. This is pretty much par for the course with charcoal smokers and is similar to traditional BBQ grills.
The Pit Barrel is simple to use and realistically you can’t go wrong. The lack of settings mean that you have to follow the instructions to get everything working properly. One piece of advice I would give, is to find a friend who already owns a Pit Barrel. Your learning curve will be far shallower if you have someone to guide you.
I cooked chicken wings, thighs and ribs on the Pit Barrel, and boy was the flavour good! There’s nothing like charcoal smoke flavour and I doubt much can come close to a traditional barrel for smoking in.
Cleaning up is pretty simple, any fat created by your cooking simply falls into the charcoal fire. At the end of your smoke session, simply allow the coals to cool before tipping them out.
A quick hose down with some washing up liquid and you’re done!
On the plus side, you can’t get much more “low tech” than a barrel. On the negative side that same barrel is large and you’ll need to put it in a van or truck for transport.
The entire unit weighs about 70 pounds too, a little large for one person to carry it.
- Porcelain enameled lid, bowl, and center section retain heat and...
- Two cooking grates provide ample room for smoking two large items at...
- Silicone temperature grommet monitors the internal temperature of your...
- Control the temperature of your smoker by easily adjusting the dampers
- Fuel door comes off to make adding charcoal or wood easier while...
The Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker simmers meats using charcoal which lets you keep the authentic smokehouse flavour that you have been longing for. The cooker has a simple principle; hot and efficient charcoal sits at the bottom part of the smoker while smoke slowly and efficiently tenderizes and cooks meat or poultry. The smoker lid and bowl is made of premium-grade US steel coated with porcelain inside out to maintain temperature.
A more modern style smoker from Weber comes in the Smokey Mountain model. It’s a nice-looking unit and the lack of open flames makes it a bit safer.
This smoker comes with its own thermometer, tripod stands and vented port to the bottom. It boasts a total of 726 square inches of cooking space and also has quite pleasant gloss black finish. Weber is known for their simplicity. We have reviewed a number of weber grills, and this one as well as the Weber e310 are solid.
Setting It Up
I tested the 14-inch model, which for small family gatherings would seem to be more than enough. I’ve a feeling that the 18 and 20 inch models would be too big for most uses.
The Weber is really easy to get set up. It takes about 10 minutes to get a fire going and probably another 10 again for things to get ready for cooking. It takes a little practice to adjust the bottom vent to get the temperature you want. My advice would be to try out the smoker without food first, you can adjust the vent periodically to get a feel how open it needs to be to hit certain temperatures quickly.
For chicken, you’ll probably only need to fill the fire ring about 1/3 full. For ribs, you’ll probably want to double that amount.
As with any charcoal grill, patience and trial runs will help you get better!
I cooked chicken and ribs on the Weber and it worked really well. The temperature gauge on the top is a welcome addition over the Pit Barrel, sometimes it pays to have one or two modern pieces of kit available!
One of the great things about the Weber, is that you can fill it with enough charcoal to keep it ticking along all night. Some charcoal grills just don’t have that level of capacity.
As I said before, the vented bottom port takes a little while to get to grips with. Once you master it you’ll be king of the grill though!
The version I tested was the smallest 14-inch model. At this size, you’ll be able to carry the smoker around with no bother. The tripod feet are very sturdy which will make this grill perfect for camping out.
I’m not completely sold on the small plastic handle on top of the Webber; however, hundreds of positive reviews serve as testament to long term quality – who am I to argue with them?
Char-Griller 16620 Kamado
- 314 square inches of primary cooking space, warming rack 133 square...
- Assembled Dimensions: 45" L x 31" W x 47" H | Weight: 97.0 lb
- Insulated design means more heat uses less charcoal and less airflow...
- Cooking surface is cast iron, Body is constructed of 22 gauge steel,...
- Cart is constructed of tubular steel w/rubber wheels, locking caster...
Rounding out our top 3 is the best pellet smoker that Camp Chef offers, this Kamado style grill, when you factor in quality, price, size, and overall value. This is an excellent choice. If the Traeger, our 2nd top pick, is a bit too small and you’re looking for something with a few more features, that’s still within the same price range, you’ve found what will likely be ideal for you.
Arguably the best value overall, it’s a great middle-point between both of the best pellet grills we’ve featured thus far. It’s not overkill, but it’s got plenty of room and some very useful features.
First of all, this unit includes a temperature probe that plugs into the front and allows you to accurately determine the temperature of whatever you’re cooking. This ensures the center of your meats are getting enough heat and are safe, and that everything is working optimally in general. In addition to that, you’ve got an excellent temperature control with a thermometer that’s accurate to about 10 degrees, so between that and the probe you’ll know exactly where you need to be and exactly where you’re at.
The hopper holds 18 pounds, and the cooking area is 429 square inches. It’s less than some units offer, more than others, and generally a pretty happy medium if you aren’t really sure how big or small to go. You can fit a couple chickens or turkeys on here, a handful of racks of ribs, a brisket or two, and more.
The overall dimensions are 51x21x45 and it weighs about 130 pounds. This unit has some great features that help with cleaning and maintenance, as well. This is an excellent place to start if you’re a beginner, this pellet grill will definitely hold your hand through the process, but don’t get the wrong idea – it’s far from being an “entry level” unit.
Generally, we’d advise you against anything “entry level” since you’re going to have a worse experience and it could turn you off of the art of smoking your foods in the first place. Something in the $500-$1000 range seems like a huge investment upfront, and frankly it is, but when you consider that you’ll have it to enjoy incredible meals for years that’ll blow the socks off all your buddies, and prove to your family that you really can cook after all, it’s a small price to pay.
The triple walled design traps in the heat (as well as the lockable lid), making the Akorn perfect for smoking, baking, roasting, and even cooking pizzas. Has a built-in temperature gauge, easy ash-removal container, and foldable side tables for extra convenience. The exterior is coated with a baked on powder enamel to fight rust and stand up to the elements.
Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker
- 4 cooking grates
- 784 square Inch of total cooking area
- Charcoal & ash management system includes charcoal chamber, charcoal...
- Protect your smoker with a custom-fit Dyna-Glo premium cover - Model...
- Stainless temperature gauge with smoke zone indicates the ideal...
A handsome looking beast, the Dyna Glo wouldn’t look out of place in a hipster’s street food van! 36 Inches gives this grill a massive capacity and fit and finish look good. This model by Dyna-glo, made our top offset smoker reviews, and we also reviewed Dyna-glo grills in another article. Be sure to check those out. To note, that’s how much we like this smoker.
As you might expect from a 36-inch smoker, the Dyna Glo has a large 784 square inches of cooking space, ask removal pan and integral temperature gauge.
The look of the Dyna Glo is deceptive. You’d think the weight was more like 90 pounds rather than the 50 it actually is. This means setting up and placing the grill where you want is easy, partly thanks to a pair of decent carry handles at the top.
The charcoal burner is really easy to use and actually has its own door at the bottom. This is a great idea as it helps to keep heat in whilst cooking.
The feet at the bottom are pretty sturdy, although it’s missing wheels which detract from the portability aspect. Then again, it looks so good as it is – perhaps wheels would spoil it!
The separate charcoal burner door makes things really easy. I was able to get a fire going in about 5 minutes, a solid 5 quicker than my other tested smokers! The removable ash pan also helps with clean ups.
As far as cooking, the temperature controls are easy to use and in my mind slightly subtler than the others tested. I was able to maintain a temperature much easier, even though this was the first time I’d set eyes on the smoker.
Of course, this could be because I spent all week grilling and just re-discovered my knack for it. Whatever the reason, the Dyna Glo made things easy.
The quality of the design and build are amazing. I’ve read some interesting comments from people who are still using the same stainless steel racks after 4 or 5 years – I can understand why. Everything has a tactile quality on the Dyna Glo, from the temperature gauge to the ash trays.
It weighs 50 pounds which is a positive; unfortunately, that’s as far as portability goes I’m afraid. The lack of wheels and a pair of grab handles that work okay, yet are quite thin mean you won’t enjoy taking this grill anywhere with you.
There’s also the issue that this grill will look sweet on your patio. To take it anywhere else and risk it getting scratched would be a crime!
Best Kamado Grill
- DESIGNED FOR DURABILITY AND PERFORMANCE - the Keg features an...
- COOK MORE, USE LESS CHARCOAL - with its insulated steel design, cast...
- QUICK & EASY CLEAN UP - a removable steel ash catcher makes it quick...
- PACKED WITH EXTRAS - unlike many kamado grills the Keg 5000 comes out...
- BUILT TO LAST - with a 10-year warranty on the grill body and a 2-year...
The Broil King Keg 5000 is another high-quality charcoal smoker for a very decent price. It has 255 square inches of cooking space. It has a unique kamado-style design (which is a traditional Japanese wood or charcoal stove)
We found the build of The Broil King EXTREMELY strong and sturdy. It has two layers of baked enamel steel, with a layer of extremely high-temperature oven grade insulation in between them.
The Broil King keg was able to hit very high temperatures and maintain them while staying cool on the outside. Surprisingly, due to the efficiency of this unit you need a minimal amount of charcoal to fire the grill. The small amount of fuel required is what makes this one of the best charcoal smokers you can buy right now.
Best Cheap Charcoal Smoker
- 250 square inches of cooking space, cast iron cooking grates, side...
- Ideal for small decks or patios
- Features Stay Cool wood handle, side shelf, double steel bottom and...
- Wheels make this grill easy to move
- Assembly required
This is a grill and smoker that is ideal for small apartments, small decks and patios and smoking or grilling only a small amount of food. The Char-Griller 1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill is easy to fire up and to maintain.
This grill is a good size for 2-5 people and it will quickly handle 8 burgers. So far I’ve grilled salmon, chicken breast, burgers and hot dogs on it and they’ve all cooked evenly and browned very well. Because of its smaller size, charcoal usage is reduced but it still gets plenty hot enough to do an effective job. Make sure you follow the seasoning process outlined in the instructions. It makes a big difference as far as breaking in the cooking grates as well as protecting the outside from rusting. I took off one star because the 4 legs wobble at the joints where they bolt together. Not a huge problem, but a couple of brackets to secure them would be very helpful for stability.
Best All-Around Smoker
- Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press
- Slide the lid into the Tuck-Away lid holder on the side of the grill...
- Cooking grate is compatible with GBS inserts and is hinged for easily...
- Tool hooks for hanging grilling tools, such as a spatula and tongs
- Built-in lid thermometer displays your grill’s internal temperature....
It’s a Weber kettle so there isn’t much more that I can say that hasn’t already been said about these fantastic grills. This Master Touch really has some great features for a very wide range of grilling requirements. This is a large grill too. I have found that even with various searing devices, the grate temp just doesn’t reach the temps I like for searing a good steak and that is due to the depth of this grill. I will continue to shop for something a bit smaller and more shallow just for searing steaks. For everything else that requires low-n-slow cooking, this thing is just awesome. I do also recommend buying a good quality digital cooking thermometer as opposed to using the metal “dial” type thermometer that comes with this or Any grill. Dial type thermometers can be off as much as 50 degrees ! Some are better than others but none are as accurate as a digital.
Best bbq smoker
- Two 18" stainless steel racks provide 510 square inches of cooking...
- Porcelain enamel water bowl. Dimensions- 22 L x 24 W x 43 H inches
- Top and bottom vents provide a dual air vent system
- Latching base
- Vertically hinged door.MC Cubic Feet: 5.54
This unit is very large, much larger than most of the other ones I’ve seen. The 18 inch refers to the diameter of the can (distance across) not the height.
It comes with two levels of grills for smoking.
The assembly instructions are poor. Three of the grill holders had to be installed but this was not indicated. It comes with a huge variety of unmarked screws, of which you only use half. By unmarked I mean that the instructions say to use Screw A and nut B but when you go to the screws and nuts none of them are marked. Don’t get me wrong, you can figure it out on your own, the instructions are just crummy.
The finished unit is very strong and modestly heavy.
There are some instructions for use in the back of the installation instruction manual, things like “put some water in the bottom” and “don’t put too much charcoal in it”. You will probably find online videos to be useful as well.
Overall I think its a solid unit that will provide you with years of reliable service, but if you are the kind of person who needs detailed and accurate instructions you might not like it so much on the first day.
Best Combo Smoker
- 1,060 total square inch cooking surface
- 750 square inch primary cooking surface in main chamber over...
- 310 square inch cooking surface in firebox chamber
- 3x 12,000 BTU Burners, (36,000 BTU's total) in gas grilling chamber
- 12,000 BTU side burner accommodates charcoal chimney starter
So I’ll start off by saying this is an awesome grill, and all of the reviews noting the positive are 100% true. Bought it a month ago and have cooked on it 10 times already (including 2 times smoking a pork shoulder) But you’re reading reviews to find the negatives not to hear 500 people gush over the same features. With that in mind I’ll share what I DIDNT like and explain why it’s only getting a 4/5.
The side burner is a flimsy piece of crap… period. Feels like a soda can and it’s attatched to the grill by 6 screws. Mine was bent and was irritating me, so I just took it off.
The wheels are useless. Keep in mind that this thing weights over 200lbs, so navigating it from place to place is already a task. The wheels are these enormous steel circles held onto the gril legs only by 1 push pin. So they’re extremely wobbly. If you need to move it I recommend just team lifting it.
The gauges on the grill are WAY off. My first attempt at smoking a pork shoulder failed due to the fact I thought I was keeping my temp at 200-250 (gauge reading) but in reality was 300-350 (oven thermometer reading). Simple fix though, get an oven thermometer for .99 at Wal-Mart and place it in the chamber when you cook.
This is just a small nitpick. No hooks or studs anywhere on the grill for hanging your grilling utensils. Thought it was weird because even Wal-Mart grills typically have these. Oh well.
Many people taste that genuine barbecue flavour and want to recreate it at home. However to achieve this flavour I believe you need a charcoal smoker. In this article we will explore the best charcoal smokers, and why they are the best.
For me, as a BBQ lover, the charcoal smoker is the favorite type of smoker. It offers all that I love about smoking and that gives me lots of fun.
It requires skills and experience to conduct the whole smoking process from the beginning to the end in perfect conditions.
Today’s models, however, are so perfected that most beginners shouldn’t have any problems operating them. For example, maintaining a fixed temperature, which is one of the most important tasks when smoking.
What is Charcoal Smoker?
Charcoal smokers are common and thus available in many homes today. This type of smoker is especially beneficial for all smokers looking for an authentic smoked flavor. Although they are considered conventional and are simple in make, different models come with a wide range of benefits.
The design of a popular charcoal smoker is not much complicated. Its basic parts include the firebox, water chamber and cook chamber. Each one of these parts serves different but vital functions to give you the great final results
Additionally, charcoal smoker comprises of a steel drum and at the bottom, there is a bowel that holds charcoal. The top part has a cooking rack on which meat is placed for smoking.
Experts have thought it wise to include a water bowl and at least one vent for producing steam. The best models such as vertical charcoal smoker and Weber charcoal smoker come with two vents.
Variation among these models is what makes some models better than others. To get the best cheap charcoal smoker, you need to compare different models available on the market. If you have a wide range of models to choose from, your chances of getting the best are also high.
Why Should You Buy a Charcoal Smoker?
If you enjoy the top-notch flavours of smoked meat, then you should be looking at a charcoal smoker. The charcoal smoker will give you most authentic smoked flavor to your food. But this comes at a with a little more work. You’ll have to start, watch, and dispose of your charcoal, just like you would with a charcoal grill.
With a charcoal smoker, you can add two levels different wood flavoring by burning flavored charcoal and wood chips together. This lets you mix and match woods to create delicious deep flavors as well get that converted smoke ring. The charcoal smoker is the choice of the gourmet smoking enthusiast.
Factors to Consider
Different brands of charcoal smokers have different levels of popularity. Brands such as Weber charcoal smoker are widely recognized for excellent performance. There are emergent brands as well, whose products have not been consumed widely.
For the leading brands in terms of reputation, quality of their products is often guaranteed. We have reviewed some brands here so that you have full details of which exact model you should go for.
Moreover, you still have to read through the reviews, compare among different models and chose your best.
Aspects such as certification and product warranty are assurances that what you are purchasing is of high quality. Reviews and ratings also manifest quality.
Therefore, consider purchasing a charcoal smoker that is highly rated and positively reviewed.
You want to ensure that the charcoal smoker has thick metal, insulation and high-quality seals. Thick steel ensures heat and smoke is distributed evenly. Have high-quality seal ensures you don’t any leaks. If you have leaking heat or smoke it’s extremely hard to maintain a correct temperature.
The grills should sit solidly on the supports. so there is no danger of them falling when loaded with a lot of heavy meat.
Price matters a lot because it obviously affects your budget. Although it is lightly said that cheap is often expensive, sometimes cost-effective is not always cheap.
Depending on your financial ability, it is wise to spend on something that is affordable. This, however, depends on whether the smoker you are buying meets your expectations or not.
In this regard, before buying a product, consider some of the essential features and compare the price. At least, there will be a variation. Then consider your own financial position. We don’t advise buying a smoker that is too cheap because there may be unrecognized deficits.
Ease of Use
Versatility refers to the possibilities of an equipment to serve multiple functions. A versatile smoker is better than a single-purpose smoker because it can grill as well as smoke. As you try to consider the best smoker on the market, it is better to prioritize a versatile one.
Even if your primary intention is to use your smoker for smoking, there comes a time when you might need to grill. To be on the safer side, we recommend buying multi-purpose equipment.
There may be other features you are looking for which are not included in a versatile charcoal smoker. In this case, you might prioritize your basic requirements.
A large charcoal smoker should have wheels to make it possible to move it around.
A good thermometer is almost a necessity. Most smoker usually come with a cheap thermometer, which is usually inaccurate. Invest in a really good thermometer and start excelling with your charcoal smoker.
Convenience has to do with many things including user-friendliness, speed of work and automatic functioning. The “set it and forget it” feature found in some advanced charcoal smokers such as is an important aspect of convenience. When your smoker relieves you in one way or another, then it is convenient.
Flexibility and mobility is another aspect of convenience. A flexible and mobile charcoal smoker is easy to move from one place to another. Although most, if not all charcoal smokers are designed for outdoor use, you might want to shift its position in the outdoors.
Maintenance through cleaning also determines whether the smoker is convenient or not. A smoker that is difficult to clean causes inconveniences to the user.
Lastly, general usability counts a lot among the aspects of convenience. The position and nature of the loading system determines whether your cooking or grilling will be a hassle or not. A smoker that is easy to use is worth your expenditure.
Need Help Picking A Charcoal Smoker?
If your on the hunt for a new smoker or grill you might have noticed that there are a lot of smoker and BBQ sites out there. Each will trying to to give you most accurate information. However, I have personally used all the charcoal smokers I have recommended below.
I want to give you all the most informative and in-depth reviews from first- hand experience to ensure you are cooking and eating like a king
In a nutshell, charcoal smoker is among the basic kitchen appliances that you need for smoking and grilling. Fortunately, most types of charcoal smokers perform both functions effectively. One greatest advantage of charcoal smoker is that you are always certain of achieving the best flavor and taste of food.
Different models have been described to give you a wide variety from which you can choose your best model. Your choice entirely depends on your needs, convenience and other considerations such as the price. Different charcoal smokers can be used by different users in different contexts.
The working of charcoal smokers uses a simple process involving burning of charcoal to release heat used for grilling or smoking.
Different smokers vary in efficiency and convenience, right from starting the grill and temperature maintenance. This is why it requires utmost consideration of multiple factors while choosing one that fits you.
For this reason, we are here to help you out. Trust that you will get the best model by simply reading through and considering our reviews. Ultimately, you will be able to make an informed choice for which you will always be proud.
The best charcoal smokers are versatile, highly adjustable, and allow you to smoke different types of meats, poultry, fish, and veggies, to perfection. As I mentioned earlier, a charcoal style smoker can be difficult for a beginner to use, simply because learning how to adjust the damper system in order to maintain the correct temperature can be tricky. But over time, making the proper adjustments will feel like second nature.