If as a non-vegetarian you love your meat, a charcoal smoker might just be the perfect option for you. Unlike a grill that actually cooks portions to a certain flavor, smokers are good enough for imparting a slow, sustained, and more permanent taste to the meat, courtesy of a slow cooking process.
However, selecting the perfect smoker is a task in itself. While you can select from a wide range of electric, gas-based, and pellet smokers, nothing beats the efficacy of charcoal smokers. Moreover, it is also true that almost 95 percent of the global populace prefers cooked meat that has specific aromas imparted within.
Now that smoked meat is garnering such insane levels of popularity worldwide, it is appropriate to enlist the best charcoal smokers that can help you achieve the same, sans breaking a sweat.
However, before you read any further, you must prepare yourself for the baggage that comes with charcoal smokers, including
However, using charcoal smokers isn’t only about scaling the challenges as the same comes with a host of benefits over a charcoal grill. These include:
So let us take a closer look at the 10 best charcoal smokers that can double down as the perfect outdoor asset for a person invested in outdoor grilling and smoking.
Best Charcoal Smoker: Our Top Pick
While there are quite a few competent charcoal smokers in the market, the Kamado-style Classic III readily steals the show, courtesy of the slo-roller cooking system, larger wheels, and its ability to double down as a ceramic charcoal grill. Besides, the ease of usage helps this charcoal smoker get some additional brownie points.
10 Best Charcoal Smokers Enlisted
1. Kamado Joe III
The Kamado-style smoker-cum-grill appropriately features at the top of the list, owing to the unmatched functionality. Unlike some of the other standalone charcoal smokers on the list, this device is good enough for grilling and smoking followed by baking and roasting. The classic III Kamado grill is best known for the ease of usage and the smallest possible learning curve.
As tested by two of our trained cooks, this appliance imparts the best flavors in the least possible time. While most offset smokers require extended cooking time, the Classic III is known for the quickest-possible smoke-infused taste, as and when imparted by natural charcoal.
Coming back to the review, like a charcoal grill, this appliance boasts exceptional levels of versatility whilst projecting excellent efficiency when food cooking is concerned.
We also realized that this portable smoker holds moisture better than most and even showcases excellent temperature control. As far as the underlying technologies and enhancements are concerned, the Slo-Roller smoker attribute vouches for consistent cooking and even temperatures.
Besides, despite being a small device, the Kamado Joe Classic III flaunts a full-size charcoal basket for housing the lumps followed by the inclusion of the Top vent for helping the smoker release heat and get better control over the cooks.
As far as the structural prominence is concerned the ceramic finish is worth investing in. Moreover, the internal compartment is further segregated into 3 tiers, which helps the appliance manage different responsibilities with ease.
As it is a cohesive smoker, you can expect to procure a cumulative cooking space of almost 510 square inches. Besides, the device exhibits excellent temperature control courtesy of the ceramic walls, which are good at retaining the heat. This attribute also adds to fuel efficiency. Other structural enhancements include the long-lasting fiberglass for preventing leaks whereas the firebox boasts exceptional insulating properties.
Not just that, the steel cart is made of galvanized metal and even houses larger wheels for moving the smoker from one point to the other. Besides, you also get access to an ash collector, which makes it easy to clean. Lastly, the Classic III also offers a grate gripper support for lifting out the cooking grates, if and when necessary.
Despite being a smaller appliance, the fully constructed Classic III still manages to weigh close to 252 pounds, which is still quite heavy for a smoker. Besides, you also get access to a lid-based temperature gauge, which is fairly accurate. Last but not least, this is one of the few charcoal smokers to feature side tables as rack warming inclusions.
2. Weber Smokey Mountain
The Weber Smokey Mountain is a bullet-style smoker that can be used for commercial events and even a personal cooking marathon. Besides, the 22-inch cooking diameter is the highest this charcoal smoker can go up to. Moreover, as far as heft is concerned, it only weighs 68 pounds to be exact.
The Weber Smokey Mountain offers 481 square inches of total cooking area. Moreover, the two cooking grates are available with each flaunting a nickel-plated chassis. As far as the cooking volume is concerned, you can fit in 32 pounds of meat in the existing space.
While the cooking was even, we didn’t quite like the narrow space dedicated to cooking ribs. Not just that, we also weren’t impressed with the flimsy door and had to add a gasket to prevent the smoke from leaking out.
However, a grill mat actually solves the problem in no time. Regardless of the minor glitches, the cooking is near perfect as the Weber Smokey Mountain allows you to indulge in slow cooks at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for close to 14 hours at a stretch.
You can also pair a rotisserie with the device, to reap the multifaceted benefits of roasting. Coming to the overall structure, this appliance from weber flaunts the porcelain-enameled chassis, which even lines the inner walls for better temperature control.
Not just that, the built-in thermometer offers accurate readings whereas the available vents ensure proper cooking. Moreover, as the device heft is manageable enough, the heat-resistant nylon handles come forth as a reliable asset.
The cooking grates are actually rust-resistant to be exact, which moves further to the balancing metallic legs. Coming to the cooking performances, the Weber Smokey Mountain smokes the best possible brisket. Lastly, the entire setup is readily supported by an extended warranty.
3. Weber Kettle Plus
The Weber Kettle Plus is one of the more compact charcoal smokers in the market to offer 363 sq. inches of cooking space. When it comes to the cooking performances, the plated steel grate shows up as a rust-resistant entity and helps you fit close to 13 burgers at once. Besides, the lid height of almost 7.5 inches allows the smoke to build and gradually rise, whilst cooking the meat evenly enough.
The cooking rack associated with the Weber Kettle is durable and easy to clean. Besides, temperature control associated with grill-cum-smoker is one of the best, courtesy of the adjustable air dampers.
As checked by professionals, the air dampers associated with this device offer excellent heat control. Opening the dampers speeds up the combustion and helps with fuel-efficiency whereas when closed, the dampers can easily burn out the excess coal and impart a stronger flavor to the cooks.
In addition to the damper flexibility, we were also impressed with the ability of the fuel grate to assist in direct and even indirect cooking. Not just that, the porcelain-enameled bowl ensures that a consistent temperature is maintained inside the smoker. Even the lid is coated with porcelain, which furthers heat retention and prevents cracking, peeling, and rusting.
Coming to the lid, it can be placed strategically to avoid dismantling the same. The structural innovation presented by Weber offers an angled hook for lid hanging. As far as other structural inclusions are concerned, this gadget weighs close to 33 pounds and even assumes a strategic cleaning layout. The one-touch cleaning system is worth mentioning and further complemented by the ash catcher.
Moreover, this outdoor appliance also boasts of other nifty enhancements, including the heat-resistant handles, shields for combating flare-ups, and durable and mobile wheels, allowing you to move the same from one point to the other. As far as the chassis support is concerned, the 22-inch model is best known for accommodating stainless steel, precisely for a more durable and rust-resistant operation.
However, as this is primarily known for grilling, you might have to add in more coal to enhance the smoking capabilities of the same. Then again, if you are an experienced smoker who is equally invested in grilling, smoking, and searing, this Weber 22-inch Kettle Plus is the perfect option to invest in.
4. Char-Griller Akorn
This Kamado smoker from Char-Griller is best known for the cooking performances, at a cost-effective price point. Coming to the structural layout, this charcoal smoker is still on the heavier side, courtesy of ceramic structuring and insulated steel gauge, used for construction. Therefore, there is no doubt regarding the durability of the same. Besides, the steel-layered outer surface is powder-coated whereas the inner lining is layered by the porcelain.
As far as the cooking surface is concerned, you get access to a primary space of 314 square inches. However, the warming racks at the side also offer 133 sq. inches of total space. Besides, we also liked the cast-iron layered cooking grates, which are easy to remove, clean, and work with at least 8 pounds of meat.
We purchased this smoker and even paired a smoking stone with the same to enhance the flavoring. However, we did experience smoke leakage at times and combated the same using high-quality gaskets.
Not just that, despite being a smoker, Kamado grilling is also possible as you can always control the temperature, within the 200 to 700 degree Fahrenheit range. Moreover, the heat control is even better owing to the porcelain-enameled walls and the inclusion of air dampers, both at the top and bottom.
Therefore, if you are strategic enough with the cooking, you can also consider saving a lot of fuel. Moreover, the top damper is adjustable and works in tandem with the built-in temperature gauge.
Other relevant specs include the ash pan for better cleaning followed by the foldable shelves at the side for hanging utensils. The warming rack is not a cheap thrill and works better than expected. Besides, this is one of the best appliances in the market when 8-inch wheels at the front are considered, for adding to the mobility quotient.
Overall, if you are invested in a cost-efficient charcoal smoker that even doubles down as a pizza cooking appliance, the Char-Griller Akorn is a pretty good option, provided you are fine with the inaccurate temperature gauge.
5. Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker
The Dyna-Glo smoker is one of the best vertical units in the retail space. The best thing about this charcoal smoker is each of the four cooking gates or racks can be accessed, sans much effort. Besides, it is easier to cook large volumes of meat courtesy of the 784 square inches of ready to use cooking space.
While we were skeptical about this massive charcoal smoker, we ended up purchasing one for the entire team. However, our first impression couldn’t have been better, courtesy of the accessible top door. Unlike the horizontal devices, offset smokers, and other multi-purpose devices, the charcoal smoker from DynaGlo is probably one of the few options that do not need grate removal for getting to the food.
Not just that, we were also impressed with the truckloads of temperature controlling options associated with the same. Firstly, this offset smoker comprises side dampers, allowing you to control the cooking intensity. However, the learning curve is on the steeper side and you require a lot of experience to understand the functioning.
The best thing about vertical smokers like the one from Dyna-Glo is the evenness of cooking and flavoring. Besides, the double-door layout ensures minimal to zero heat loss. However, we did experience some sort of leakage but minor insulation and gasket placement were enough to combat the same.
However, it is the porcelain-enameled charcoal box that steals the show, owing to space and alignment on display. While this feature readily improves the burn efficiency, we would have been happier with a sturdier built quality. Not just that, this appliance from DynaGlo also comes equipped with an easy to clean ash pan, made of stainless steel.
Overall, if you are interested in a vertical offset smoker that offers a massive cooking space followed by impactful cooking grates, an accurate temperature gauge, and efficient cleaning options, this charcoal smoker is the best option to put your trust and money in.
6. Char-Broil Vertical Offset Smoker
The Char-Broil smoker is a small yet potent charcoal smoker to feature on the list. While the cooking space of 365 square inches is good enough for a family of 6, it is the dual cooking rack setup that ensures even cooks and flavored succulence. Regardless of the smaller chassis, this is still one of the more impactful appliances, considering its compatibility with additional racks, trays, and door seals.
While we liked the cooking performances of this charcoal smoker, smoke and heat leakages were constant and were only countered when some of the experts paired high-end smoker gaskets with the same.
Coming to the feature sets, there are three chrome-plated cooking grates to work with, followed by the availability of multiple dampers for better temperature control and cooking. This feature allows you to maximize or minimize the air inflow to control the burn rate and charcoal usage.
Moreover, when the dampers are closed, the smoke stays trapped for long, thereby imparting an additional flavor. Besides, the porcelain coated walls further add to the heat retention and temperature control.
As far as cleaning performances are concerned, the pull-out ash catching drawer is one of the best features associated with this Char-broil American gourmet smoker. Much like the Cuisinart charcoal smoker, this appliance is capable of maintaining excellent internal temperature, despite stacking in additional charcoal.
Not just that, this char-broil charcoal smoker also boasts loading doors located at the front, which offer better accessibility and ease of usage, as compared to the top loaders.
Coming to the type of charcoal, this smoker is capable of accommodating both chips and chunks, depending on the user preferences. However, we wouldn’t go as far as adding smoking logs to the same. Despite the smaller size, this charcoal smoker is good enough for beginners, courtesy of the manageable price point.
Overall, if you want to purchase a cost-effective vertical smoker, this is the perfect option to invest in, provided you are on-board with a smaller chassis.
7. Pit Barrel Cooker
The pit barrel smoker is among the best charcoal smokers, especially for those who have a penchant for drum-like entities. As per the existing structure, the smoker is easy to assemble and is available for purchase as a complete smoking kit.
As far as the structure is concerned, the pit barrel cooker resembles a 30-gallon drum smoker, which is a perfect inclusion for an apartment balcony. However, using the same requires a bit of experience and we wouldn’t tag it as the best charcoal smoker for the beginner.
As tested by professionals, the internal and outer porcelain coating adds to the heat retention capabilities of this charcoal smoker. Moreover, these enhancements also amplify the durability and longevity of the same. Not just that, the existing vents associated with the pit barrel cooker are easy to manage and you need not worry about the temperature inside the device.
Despite being a good bet for experienced campers, this product is relatively easy to use. Moreover, the 18-inch cooking grate on offer further adds to the cooking experience. Besides, if you are interested in the cooking space, you get access to 255sq. inches of the same.
The pit barrel cooker, as mentioned, also accommodates several nifty enhancements, including the meat hanging hooks and rods. However, we were most impressed with the horseshoe lid, which is sturdy and heat-resistant. Besides, there is a metallic stand to rely on, followed by a charcoal basket, and seasoning rubs that come along with the package.
Moreover, this is one of the few devices on the list to feature an ash pan followed by a bottle opener, and other specs, at a pretty affordable price. Therefore, if you are looking for a smokehouse-style drum smoker, this is the perfect product to consider.
8. Oklahoma Joe Highland
Oklahoma Joe Highland charcoal smoker is one of the best offset smokers on the list, best known for the reverse flow capabilities. Undoubtedly, this charcoal smoker imparts the best possible flavors to the meat, whilst riding on the perks of extensive primary cooking space.
For starters, the traditional offset smoking attribute steals the show followed by the availability of almost 900 square inches of ready to use cooking space. However, 281 square inches are actually dedicated to the offset firebox. What works in favor of the Oklahoma Joe charcoal smoker is the inclusion of baffle plates and the large basket for adding charcoal.
While the Oklahoma Joe Highland smoker comes with several nifty physical enhancements, we were most impressed with the firebox door, featuring the Swing-open technology.
However, this smoker also comes equipped with dedicated front and bottom shelves, which can be utilized for storing the utensils. Other relevant specs include the fairly accurate temperature gauge and the heat-resistant touch handles.
Besides, there is also a dedicated plate warming area added to the smoker followed by sizable wheels for being able to move the same from one point to the other.
9. Masterbuilt Bullet Smoker
While this might not be the most innovative charcoal smoker on the list, it still makes the cut courtesy of the value for money it offers. Firstly, this vertical charcoal smoker makes sure that the cooking space is never a problem for smaller families. However, at 395.4 square inches, it is better not to use the same for commercial cooking.
Starting off, you do need to make certain adjustments to the existing charcoal tray as Masterbuilt doesn’t actually take cleaning into consideration. Therefore, it is necessary to install an ash catcher beforehand. Moreover, if you fail to pair in an ash tray, it becomes harder to keep the fire alive for long.
A handy workaround is to pair a cooking grate along with the charcoal plan so as to accentuate the airflow. However, we tested the same by drilling a hole in the charcoal pan to make it work as an air damper.
As far as other specs are concerned, this smoker comes equipped with the front access support for pairing wood chips. While you can also use briquettes for the same, it is the porcelain-coated cooking rack that steals the show, rendering the cooking chamber virtually rust-resistant.
When it comes to the indicative features, you get access to the integrated thermometer, which is fairly accurate considering the smaller size of the smoker. Other relevant specs include the existing water bowl, study balancing legs, and a durable yet light-weighted chassis at close to 16 pounds.
10. Green Mountain Grills
The last one on the list is a portable and efficient pellet grill smoker that even doubles down as a professional charcoal smoker.
Firstly, it is the primary cooking region that comes to our attention at 219 square inches. While the cooking surface isn’t as big as expected, you can still use the same for smaller family gatherings. Besides, this is one of the better smoker-cum-grills in the market with the elusive smart control features, via wireless connectivity.
We tested the charcoal pellet smoker across diverse temperatures to make sure that the food is evenly cooked. However, the gadget exceeded our expectations by allowing us to reach close to 550-degree Fahrenheit. Moreover, we were also able to control certain cooking features via dedicated applications.
As reviewed, this smoker is also capable of working in the power mode, with three settings to rely on. However, you get access to a digital controller for regulating the temperature whilst making room for the probe mode.
You also get access to a grease tray for better cleaning the smoker. Moreover, it is the open flame technology that makes quite an impression followed by the inclusion of the peaked lid concept that works as an air damper.
Other reliable specs include the dedicated food timer followed by the server mode and the power control for better operating the device even in absence of pellets. Coming to the structure, the polished chassis is quite durable and works in cohesion with the foldable legs that add to the portability quotient of the same.
Buying Guide for Charcoal Smokers - Look For These 6 Key Factors
In case you are still finding it hard to identify the best charcoal smoker, here are the six aspects that you can evaluate your preferences against for making an informed decision when it comes to buying a charcoal smoker:
Also read: How to use a charcoal smoker.
The cost of the charcoal smoker should also be considered first. Once you keep the budget aside, it becomes easier to surf through the options that you can afford. However, ascertaining the cost isn’t as straightforward and depends on the type of device you are seeking. Besides, if you are a beginner, it is good to start with something more affordable.
It is important to select the charcoal smoker based on the cooking area. For instance, if you are planning to purchase one for a family of four, something in the ballpark of 250 to 350 square inches is preferred. However, larger devices or rather Kamado smokers or grills are better choices if you are planning to smoke meat for a minimum of 8 people. In most cases, the size of the charcoal smoker determines the price range.
This is probably the most underrated yet essential aspect when smoker purchases are concerned. In case you want to fix a smoker onto the patio, something with restricted mobility is still fine. However, if you want to carry the smoker on trips, it is necessary to purchase one with cool touch or heat resistant handles. Moreover, if you want something that can be moved around outdoors, depending on the positional preferences, opt for one with larger wheels.
The build quality of the smoker is also important as it determines the longevity and the time period after which you need to purchase a new one. While the sturdier options include chassis etched out of heavy gauge steel, certain light-weighted options also flaunt porcelain layering. However, you also need to check for the inner coating for better heat control.
5. Type of Smoker
You can either opt for a standalone smoker with select capabilities, or a combo that supports grilling, smoking, or even searing, based on the mentioned capabilities. However, it all depends on how you want to enjoy the meat and how much cash you are willing to shell out for the new device, either a traditional device or the much-anticipated grill smoker.
While most people tend to overlook this aspect, it is common for smokers to encounter issues and therefore you need to check for the warranty before purchasing. Although the one year mark is still quite reasonable, you might want to look for something as close as two years.
Q1. What is the best charcoal smoker?
A1. As per the reviews and expert analysis, the Kamado Joe III is easily the best charcoal smoker on the list. While some might strip it off a few points when portability is concerned, the dual cooking option makes it a good enough selection, especially for the given price point.
Q2. What is the best smoker-electric, gas, or charcoal?
A2. While every smoker has its own set of capabilities, we personally like charcoal smokers considering the offset capabilities and the option to impart better flavors. Therefore, if smoked meat is one of your food choices, charcoal smokers are recommended.
Q3. What are the best types of smokers?
A3. In case you are to select only a few options based on the pros and cons, ability to control the temperature, and the smoky flavor that lasts for a long time, it is necessary to opt for a vertical smoker with reverse flow or air damping capabilities.
Personally, we are in love with charcoal smokers. While some members of our team prefer the combos that can grill, sear, and obviously smoke the piece of meat, you can always take a pick based on the preferences, compatibility with charcoal or wood, and also the budget.