Of all the charcoal smokers on this list, Weber Smokey Mountain is the clear winner. For one thing, it is so easy to use that even a beginner can work it. Also, the temperature management and smoking experience are great. As an added bonus, the smoker is also lightweight and affordable.
I have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the best pitmasters in the game and they all use charcoal smokers. So, over the years, I have figured out which features to look out for when choosing the best make and model.
In this post, I will identify the best charcoal smoker but I will also include several other choices to ensure that you find the right one for you!
Here are the best charcoal smokers on the market:
One of the reasons that I crowned the Weber Smokey Mountain smoker as the best charcoal smoker is due to how easy it is to use. Yes, there is a little bit of a learning curve but even beginners get the hang of how to use this charcoal smoker within the first use.
Managing the temperature on this charcoal grill smoker is as easy as closing and opening the vent!
Speaking of temperature control, I love smoking meat in this charcoal smoker due to its simple management features. As I mentioned, the temperature is adjusted by opening and closing the vents. However, with this simple action, you are able to set the temperature perfectly each and every time.
The thermometer on this charcoal smoker makes it easier to know whether you have a good handle on the temperature or not.
This grill is so lightweight that just one person should be able to transport it around without any issues. It isn’t just a matter of portability, though. You can easily store this charcoal grill smoker on a balcony or any other small space.
If you thought that the top charcoal smokers couldn’t be affordable, think again! You can enjoy one of the best smoking experiences in your life for a few hundred dollars with the Weber Smokey Mountain! This is great news if you are new to smoking and don’t want to commit to an investment just yet.
Now, due to the low cost, there is bound to be as found that the side door of the grill sticks quite a bit.
Best Vertical Smoker
Do you have a large family or are feeding a crowd? If so, you are going to love this charcoal smoker – with 1890 square inches of cooking space, you will be able to cook various food items all at once.
What’s more, the grill grate capacity of the smoker is quite impressive as well. Due to this, you can easily set larger cuts of meat on it.
Also, if you are inclined to smoke a large pork butt, pork shoulder, or even a full packer brisket, then this charcoal grill smoker will be able to accommodate you beautifully.
It isn’t just the cooking capacity that is impressive with this charcoal smoker. No, the large capacity of the offset feature is quite sizable as well. This way, if you want to have a longer smoke, you don’t have to worry about continuously topping up the smoker as you go along.
Now, the temperature control on this charcoal smoker is actually pretty good. The only issue is that the seal on the smoker isn’t. So, if you want this smoker to live up to its full potential and maintain steady temperatures on the temperature gauge, you need to add sealant at the seams.
As long as you do this and control airflow as needed, you will have no issue managing the temperature.
I really love the smoke flavor that you get with this charcoal smoker. Even though the food isn’t directly exposed to the coals, this smoker pumps enough smoke into the cooking chamber so that the food is properly infused with flavor.
Best Offset Smoker
If you are looking for a great smoke flavor, then this is the best offset smoker. The smoker box is tightly fixed to the main grill and this promotes better circulation of air and smoke throughout the smoking chamber. This means that you get excellent flavor with minimal effort.
The only thing to be mindful of in this charcoal smoker is that the metal construction is quite thin. Due to this, the temperature inside the cooking chamber is easily influenced by the climate and ambient temperature. As a result, it can be tricky to maintain the temp in a very hot or very cold climate.
Need to cook for a large crowd or simply prefer to cook all your food at once? Well, thanks to the cooking space inside this chamber, it is possible. Not only can you load in racks of ribs in there, but pork butts and briskets will also fit in nicely.
The only reason that I don’t like using charcoal smokers or charcoal grills is the mess caused by the charcoal briquettes as well as the wood chips. All that ash isn’t fun to deal with. Fortunately, it is a lot easier with this charcoal smoker. The easy access to the smoker box means that you can readily remove the ash.
Considering the performance of this charcoal smoker, I was really surprised to learn to how affordable it is. It is easily one of the cheapest offset smokers on this list. This makes it ideal for beginners or those on a budget.
Best Digital Charcoal Smoker
Most charcoal smokers are built a pretty old school and this is fine since most of them are easy to work. However, in the age of the digital charcoal smoker, it can be a bit annoying to have to constantly stick with old school methods.
Well, this charcoal smoker with its digital control panel, Wi-Fi features, and app takes charcoal smokers into the 21st century. In turn, this makes this charcoal grill smoker combo a dream to use!
The only thing difficult about this charcoal smoker is that it is quite tricky to assemble. Be prepared to spend several hours doing it and you will likely need help.
The other thing that I was really impressed with about this charcoal grill smoker combo was the temperature control. First off, the smoker is able to get to the desired temperature quickly and efficiently. After this, the cooking temperature is maintained at a steady rate throughout the cook!
So, it doesn’t matter if you are going with low and slow cooking or grilling, you can set it and leave it.
If you want to cook for a crowd or cook larger cuts of meat, then this is the charcoal smoker with 811 square inches of cooking space. I was easily able to cook burgers and hot dogs for half a dozen people. I also smoked a mid-sized brisket in it without any issue!
If you want a longer outdoor cooking session without needing to replace charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, then you are going to need a larger hopper. Well, this is exactly what this charcoal smoker can offer you. You can pack up to 8 hours’ worth of fuel in here.
Best Kamado Smoker
Now, you have probably heard that kamado style smokers produce some of the best grilling and smoking experiences. The problem with most kamado smokers, though, is that they are incredibly expensive.
The good news is that the Char Griller provides you with a similar smoking experience at a much lower cost. The great insulation along with the excellent smoke flavor makes this a must-have dupe.
The only issue is that it is not the most durable smoker. Due to this, you have to be careful with how you use it.
The other reason that this charcoal smoker is ideal to smoke meat is that the temperature management is simple and efficient. Simply adjust the dampers or the air vents at the top and the bottom to get the perfect temperature.
Cleaning out the ash from the lump charcoal is a breeze with this smoker. This is because there is a removable ash pan that allows you to dump and clean out the smoker without any issues.
The high quality cooking grates are also easy to wipe down too.
Best Reverse Smoker
Reverse charcoal smokers are actually pretty rare so it was great to finally come across one. And, as far as best charcoal smokers go, this definitely wins in this category.
See, with these kinds of charcoal smokers, there is a metal plate that cuts down how much heat the meat is exposed to. Due to this, it is perfect for low and slow smoking, especially when it comes to more delicate meats.
As an added bonus, you can also use this as a traditional charcoal grill or smoker.
The temperature management with this smoker is pretty impressive – once you get it to the desired temperature, you can guarantee that it will be maintained throughout the cook. This, makes for a more efficient smoking experience.
Now, the smoker isn’t as great at holding smoke as there are a few leaks. To get the smoker working optimally, you do need to seal up the cooking chamber.
With 1060 square inches of cooking space, you are absolutely spoiled with this smoker. You can cook enormous amounts of meat and food at once. It is also ideal for smoking meats like brisket.
I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality of this grill. Yes, there are some leaks but you would be hard pressed to find a more durable grill at this price range. This is a smoker that can easily withstand wear and tear over the years.
Best Budget Smoker
I really like the overall design of this vertical smoker. It is a compact smoker that is lightweight and easy to carry around. At the same time, I love the two-access door feature. This allows you to get to any part of the vertical smoker with ease.
The only thing that I don’t like about the design was that this smoker was really tricky to put together. There were so many parts to sift through and it took many hours to set up.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the smoking function of this vertical smoker. It maintained an even temperature throughout the cook and was able to infuse the food with a notable smoke flavor.
As an added bonus, if you dismantle the smoker, it actually can function as one or two barbecue grills. So, you get plenty of bang for your buck.
As far as vertical smokers go, this was certainly one of the easiest ones to use. The temperature was easy to manage and control. Also, once you set the temperature, it typically stayed there. This makes this vertical smoker a great option for first time users.
This is arguably the best vertical smoker that you can get for this price. The layout and the performance alone make it a suitable challenge for most established vertical smokers. So, this is a great investment.
This was my first time using a bullet smoker and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Bullet smokers function in the same way as their larger counterparts and the smoking experience was on point. The smoker was able to maintain a low and steady temperature throughout the cook. The food was also flavored to perfection.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the airflow system of this smoker but I was really happy with the performance. Once I got the hang of the smoker, I was able to adjust the air vents so that the temperature could be lowered or increased with ease.
The only hiccup here is that the lid is difficult to get into place. And, you have to be careful about getting it just right so that the smoke doesn’t escape.
I will admit that I had my doubts about setting up this smoker on those spindly legs. However, they turned out to be strong, durable, and more than capable of holding the weight of the smoker as well as the food that I was cooking. So, this is a smoker that will likely last you a while.
On the face of it, 510 square inches of cooking space may not feel like much. However, I like the way this smoker has been designed. There is enough space between the cooking grates to place larger cuts of meat. So, although, the surface area may not seem too great, you can easily cook a lot of food.
This is another smoker that is easy to learn how to master. Once you figure out how to work the top and bottom vents, controlling the temperature is a breeze. In general, this is an easy make and model to manage.
Now, this smoker is actually really good at retaining heat and allowing you to manage the temperature. The only issue is that it does leak smoke out of certain areas. This can compromise temperature control. If you seal it up with a gasket or tape, though, the problem does resolve itself.
One of the things that I like about this smoker is that you can use it as a smoker as well as a grill. Simply break it down into two or more sections and you can have one or two grills! Considering this price point, it is actually a great deal.
I also like the door access design which makes it easier to get to the top layer and bottom layer grates. The only issue is that it is difficult to reach the charcoal area and this can make it difficult to top up the lump charcoal during the cook.
The smoke flavor with this smoker is really great. It produces just the right amount of smoke and the smoker is built in such a way that the smoke is dispersed throughout the cooking chamber, allowing all the food to be perfectly flavored.
Even if you don’t have too much experience with vertical smokers, you will be able to get the handle on this smoker fairly quickly. As you just have to figure out how the vents work, you will learn how to manage the temperature changes in no time at all.
Here is how to decide which make and model from the best charcoal smokers is right for you:
The term charcoal smoker is actually a pretty broad one. There are so many different types of charcoal smokers to choose from.
This includes the vertical charcoal smoker, the offset charcoal smoker, the pit barrel cooker, bullet smokers, kamado smokers, and so much more.
If I were you, I would stick to the more traditional designs – the vertical smokers, the offset smokers, the kamado grills, or the bullet smokers. These tend to provide the best smoking experience.
The ugly drum smoker tends to work better as a grill than it does as a smoker.
A vertical smoker is good for anyone who wants a small footprint but still wants to be able to cook a large quantity of food at the same time. As these smokers are designed in an efficient manner, the smoke moves throughout the compartment well, adding flavor.
The only issue with these designs is that it is tricky to cook a single large cut of meat. Also, sometimes, adding coal or refilling the water pan can be tricky, depending on the design.
A lot of people think of these smokers as a traditional smokers. And many people swear that this is the best way to get an authentic flavor.
What I do like about these smokers is that it is great for brisket as you can lay out a single cut on one level. It is also easier to refill the charcoal without opening the cooking chamber. These grills can be pretty large and heavy, though.
These are all about keeping the heat trapped inside the cooking chamber. Due to this, you get a far more efficient smoking experience. These also work extremely well as grills too.
These smokers can be pretty pricey so you should be careful. Also, despite their small size and cooking area, they can be incredibly heavy.
These are essentially miniature vertical smokers. As the name suggests, they are bullet shaped. They are lightweight and easy to carry around.
These models are fairly new on the market so they aren’t great for durability or longevity.
These two things often go hand in hand. See, if you are new to smoking, it doesn’t really make much sense to spend a lot of money on a premium smoker. What if you give up on the idea?
Due to this, I would suggest a more budget friendly model if you are just starting out.
On the other hand, if you want to really commit to smoking, it does make sense for you to invest in a better model. Not only do these offer a better smoking performance, but they also come with bells and whistles that you can appreciate.
Best of all, these grills are likely to last longer.
I do want to say that everyone has a different idea of what easy temperature control is. If you have some experience with smoking, then working the vents of a vertical smoker is going to be a breeze. On the other hand, if you are just starting out, this can be trickier for you to figure out. In this case, you may want to look for a smoker that has a digital display.
To choose the right sized smoker, think about your requirements. For instance, are you planning on feeding a lot of people on a frequent basis? Do you want to cook large cuts of meat at once? Do you have the appropriate space or storage area for a large unit?
If the answer to all these questions is yes then you can consider a larger cooking area as it will serve you well.
However, if you don’t plan on using your smoker that often, live in an apartment building or want a more portable unit, it makes sense to go with a smaller smoker.
The only downside is that you will have to cook in batches if you ever need to feed a crowd.
Now, most people only think about hopper capacity when it comes to wood pellets. However, it can be just as important for charcoal smokers as well. After all, it is best if you don’t have to keep adding coal throughout a cook. This is especially true if you are cooking a large cut like a pork butt or a brisket.
So, if you do plan on smoking larger cuts of meat for longer, I would look for a larger capacity. The capacity should be able to hold enough fuel for a 12 hour cook.
The thickness of the smoker is directly related to heat insulation. If the walls are thick enough, then the heat and the smoke remain trapped inside the cooking chamber.
So, not only does your meat cook more efficiently but it will also have a better smoke flavor. Good insulation also helps to cook the meat at a more regular rate.
There is also the fact that thick walls help to combat the impact of the surrounding temperature. If the walls are thin, then the ambient temperature can impact the temperature inside the chamber. So, on a cold day, your smoker will have trouble getting as high as it will need to go. On a hot day, the chamber will be too warm.
Choosing the Weber Smokey Mountain of all the other charcoal smokers was a pretty easy decision. With its temperature control and simplicity, it provides a great smoking experience for all. I also really like that it is both affordable and portable as well!