Barbecuing has become a synonym to American cooking. Everyone is doing it, but does everyone understand how complicated it could be? I know what you are thinking. My friends too think that I am just obsessed. That barbeque and smoking is nothing but keeping the meat on the grill (Read about: Best Propane Smoker) and waiting for it to cook.
But you and I both know that that’s not all. Barbeque requires time and effort. And passion. You share that passion with me. I know because that’s why you are reading this!
Now, because you share my passion, you also know that a smoker is a very important tool for smoking the meat. Here I have listed the Best Charcoal Smokers which I think are a requirement for a finger-licking barbeque. I have tried and tested them all, some at friend’s house, some at office parties while a couple of my own. But the list is trustworthy, be sure of that.
Wondering how to use a charcoal smoker?
The Best Charcoal Smokers Available
Gas grills are very convenient for quick smoking, but there’s just something about charcoal. And I have the perfect ones here for you.
This is one huge smoker.
If you have a huge backyard, or a huge family or want to open a restaurant of your own, this is the one for you. It is neither light nor portable. But that is what it’s made for. You are not supposed to transport it. And you are definitely not supposed to use it in a limited outdoor space.
This is a double door, a vertical smoker that is huge. It has an offset firebox which is considered for ideal for slow cooking. The food is kept away from the direct heat and it cooks as the temperature builds up in the unit.
The problem is the smoke leaks where it attaches to the grill. It is not nicely sealed. So much for temperature control and slow cooking!
But there is a solution. You can get a high-temperature calk that can withstand 500 degrees’ temperature. That will solve your problem.
Because it has a separate compartment altogether, it is easy to maintain the temperature. You do not have to disturb the food while refueling. Also, the wood chips burn cleanly and easily. so maintenance is also not a hassle.
Unfortunately, durability is not a strong feature of this smoker. Their idea of heavy duty steel is not the same as mine. Because their “heavy duty steel” is very thin. It is very difficult to keep it rust free during monsoon. And during cold weather, the temperature maintenance is going to be a hassle.
It can feed an entire army.
The 784 square inch of cooking space can cook up to 100 lbs of food at a time. The smoker has 6 adjustable cooking grates. The holding capacity of this smoker is its most impressive quality. Each rack measures 12×12 inches and 6 of them means 6 square feet of cooking space.
In that much space, you can smoke up to ten chickens, 10 lbs of brisket and 20 lbs of ribs. Enough for a house party.
It is a huge smoker at an affordable price. But in my opinion, the price is such because they have compromised on the quality of the build. Vertical smokers are very useful and cook upthe perfect meat. But this one has flaws I can’t ignore.
2. The Uncomparable Masterbuilt Charcoal Smoker Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker
I know the exact synonym for this one!
It’s the rookie trainer. Just kidding. Though it is actually small and compact and wonderful. And it is, of course, the best model for those who have started to barbeque and want to get a hang of things before spending too much cash. But it is not just for the newbies. You can take it to the lake, catch a fish, smoke it and have an awesome lunch. No hassle.
The smoker looks like a barrel. It looks small from outside but still has enough space for grilling inside. The unit contains two porcelain coated racks and among the two, the meat of various sizes can be prepared. It is not ideal for a huge gathering, but otherwise, the size is not an issue. The smoker has a capacity of 395 square inches. Enough for a small family to have their sumptuous meal.
Though I am not particularly a fan of thermometers, in a design like this one, it is better to have one. And it is included in the package. This external thermometer is easy to read and depicts the doneness of your food. You can achieve perfection with the proper measurement of inside temperature which is actually necessary for beginners.
But I have noticed that the thermometer has accuracy issues. It does not show the correct temperature always. It can become a problem for beginners especially. You may have to buy an accurate thermometer if you go with this model.
The bullet smoker is really like a bullet. When you see the price of this piece, you will ask how can something so sturdy and compact be this low cost? And the weight! Oh my god! It is so lightweight. You can just pick up and transport it to anywhere you want. Of, course the size is a bit of a problem if you are an experienced smoker. It is compact and so obviously has less space.
For people who want to cook a lot, it can be confounding. But for beginners, it is perfect.
A barbeque smoker is not supposed to be overly complex, but this unit is too simple and easy to handle. The instructions are quite clear and getting it up and running does not take any time. Using it also is very simple.
If you are a rookie, a traveller, have a small family or one with limited income; this one is perfect for you. For anybody else, this is not an investment you should make.
3. The Perfect Vertical Charcoal Smoker Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker
I love this smoker, though I don’t own it. But whenever I am at my friend’s barbeque party, I take up the job of the cook. It is like the dream smoker – affordable, big and advanced. There are so many interesting features in this.
Of course, nothing is 100% perfect. We don’t live in an ideal world. But whatever little shortcomings there are; it could be worked around easily. This 36” vertical design is for the barbeque lovers like me. If I ever have to buy another one for myself, I would go for this one.
This smoker is 2-door, very well-constructed smoker with sufficient place for all kind of food items. this vertical cabinet design has 2 doors opening on one side. You need to load from the front side on the height adjustable cooking grates.
The double door makes sure that heat loss is reduced to a minimum. When you access the fuel compartment, you don’t have to disturb the food. The charcoal chamber is lined with porcelain and designed such that the briquettes could be stacked tightly for burning efficiency. The steel ashtray also makes sure that you have hassle-free cleaning and maintenance.
The teeny tiny problem:
No top loading. So no grilling!
The charcoal chamber, as I said before, is enameled which is pretty advanced. The smoking chamber is well regulated and maintains optimum cooking temperature. It has a stainless steel temperature gauge for good quality cooking.
The insides have a total of 784 square inches of cooking space. More than enough, isn’t it? There are 4 racks which distribute tons of meat and other food items for perfect smoking. The surface has a lot of space for preparations as well as cooking. You can do various barbeque cooking activities with this one unit only. You don’t need different appliances for different activities.
If you are anything like my friend who likes to throw parties and socialise all the time. this is a great investment for you. It has all the essentials. Advanced technology, space, durability and affordability.
4. The Finest Charcoal Water Smoker Sougem 14-Inch Vertical Charcoal Combo Water Smoker
That’s one more in the compact and beautiful category.
It does try to solve the problem of all the above-given smokers. The water smoker definitely makes the fish and meat moister and tender. So full marks there. And unlike many other smokers, it comes with a cover. They are trying to make the unit dust-free, rust-free and no paint coming off-free (Not sure that’s a word, but you understood right?)
This smoker is full of combos. It is a combo of top load and front load. Everybody knows what an issue it is when a smoker is a one-piece unit. Therefore, this smoker has a separate horizontal hinge door for charcoal and water tray.
The racks are top load, of course. The body has a hook to hang the cover. The unit is all black and sleek. The handles are made of heat-resistant plastic and the body is made of high-density carbon steel. Though I would have preferred wooden handles for durability.
The body does seem to rust easily. So it is advisable to cover it whenever you are not using it.
There is a high-edged charcoal tray which keeps the charcoal tight and concentrated. It is an effective method for controlling temperature. The water pan is also enameled. The entire body has total 5 air vents. They are placed at the top and bottom for dual air vent system which controls the temperature properly.
Oh, and by the way, it has an inbuilt thermometer. And you know what? It works accurately.
The cooking area of this smoker is 265 square inches in total. Rather small, isn’t it? The grates are 13-inch and the smoking rack has 6 hooks. Now you can smoke your favorite fish on the lakeside.
Oh, did mention?
You can carry it around wherever you want. It is kind of lightweight.
It is good. It is lightweight, good looking, cooks nicely and has a cover. All in all, I like it. It may not be the topmost charcoal smoker; it is way more than average. It smokes up fast and for the impatient rookie cook, it is a very good deal.
5. Top Reviewed Masterbuilt Charcoal Smoker Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker, 20”
The best thing about this bullet smoker is that it has all the components of an expensive charcoal smoker but is more practical. What I love most about this smoker is its construction quality. There is so much history that gives experience to Char-Broil. America has trusted on the name since 1948. Though I am not the one to look for much of history while buying products.
So what do I look for?
Value for money. Simple. And I think that this model is worth every penny you spend. The bullet smokers are very popular for their compact design and ability to hold steady temperatures for a long time.
The smoker is made up of 3 sections. The lower portion holds the charcoal ring and the ash plate where your fuel would go. The middle portion consists of the water pan and the top portion is the dome lid with a built-in temperature gauge. There is a front door with hinges that will let you access and maintain your fire throughout the cooking process. You won’t have to do that much though.
Place the charcoal tightly which will regulate the heat. The size of this smoker is of medium level. so when the charcoal is placed properly, the cooking will be done without much interference.
Thoughthe water pan does not have much distance with the cooking grate. It’s about 3 inches apart. So when you try to refill the water, it splashes on your food. Use a long neck watering can to save your food.
The smoker has an innovative air flow system. There is a vent directly at the bottom and top. It helps maintain the cooking temperature. Also, water pan helps keep the temperature between 200 to 230 degrees. But the issue with refilling water pan can spoil the food. You have to be very careful with this one.
Once I forgot to refill the water pan and the temperature jumped to 260 degrees. Adding water is not easy with this one, but you have to be vigilant. There is a temperature gauge on the lid, as I have already told you. Along with that, there is a gasket to insert external thermometer too if you have one. But there’s no shelf to put the thermometer. So keep a table nearby.
One thing I loved about this one is the sealing. This is not a sealed design. But surprisingly there was very low smoke leakage.
The body, grates and everything else is porcelain coated stainless steel. I have seen most of the smokers start rusting in an outdoor set-up. Well, this one is built as a rust-free design.
Is it 10 on 10?
Nah. The construction is not that high quality. I mean it’s not bad or poor. But mediocre. The metal is thin. And in my experience, thin metal never stabilizes heat. The handle on the dome top is also flimsy. Very easy to break. In fact, once the lid falls tothe ground, it cracks into 2.
The smoker is good enough for medium sized family cooking. It has 570 square inches of cooking space which is more than enough if you don’t want to host an office party. It easily fits a tonne of food, but there a few tricks to fit in more food. You can use the old tin foil hack or but a rib rack. Rib rack works better to fit in more food. I am not much for hacks.
Overall, this is a good one. Water pan takes a lot of time and energy, but otherwise, it cooks nicely. I would like a better build than this one. I am more into the thick durable metal body. but otherwise, it is not bad.
6. Highest Quality Weber Charcoal Smoker Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker
First, let me tell you this particular smoker comes in 3 different sizes – 14-inch, 18-inch and 22-inch. But I will tell you about 18-inch because that’s the one I have used.
It looks great. But it has a lot more to offer. There are many features in this compact smoker and they all are pretty good. But what attracts me most is its ability to cook at a steady temperature. The vents are also perfectly placed to help with the perfectly cooked and moist meats.
The 18-inch model has 18-inch wide cooking grates, obviously. It’s kind of enough, though you will have to use some tricks to fit in the full slab of ribs. There are 2 cooking grates made of steel and a porcelain-enameled steel charcoal grate.
The body has multiple rust-resistant dampers on the body. Actually, they are quite thoughtfully placed to save you from burning. The fuel door is on the side and can be opened by a latch. It is quite convenient.
The smoker has an aluminum chimney starter with a thermoplastic handle. In short, you will not have to spend hours building fire manually. The charcoal ring has holes in it for proper oxygen supply. Masterstroke I must say!
You know it cooks with steady heat.
By proper venting.
There is a temperature gauge on the lid which is quite well-built. It is mounted nicely and in a long-lasting quality. But unfortunately, it is inaccurate. But don’t be disappointed. There is a soft eyelet for inserting an external digital thermometer of your own. Or else, just make sure you keep the needle straight. Like me.
The body is made of durable metal. That I like! The fuel door is made of aluminum which makes it rust-free. The water pan is also rust-resistant which is actually a necessity. But it is of good quality. Many times, the companies say that it will not rust, but ultimately it does. The pan in this smoker is actually quite good. The legs are solid.
The metal fuel door is rickety and flimsy. It is so unbalanced that it leaks smoke. But it has an option of a custom-made door. So you can go for that for a better fit.
The unit is lightweight and small. Completely portable. You can dismantle it, pack it up, unpack it and assemble it again without anybody’s help. A single person in enough to do the job. If you are a barbeque enthusiast like me, you must have gone to various barbeque cooking competitions. You remember the black smoker which everyone seems to have? Yes, it is the Weber 721001.
It is so easy to transport and it cooks with a steady heat. 2 most important requirements in the barbeque competition circuit. That’s why it is more famous among the competitive people.
This is the perfect example of a user-friendly smoker. It is light, durable, good cook and very easy to maintain. Cleaning it is so easy. This smoker is a value for money choice. And if you are thinking of going to competitions, this is a necessity for you!
7. The Exclusive Brinkmann Charcoal smoker: Brinkmann 810-5301-C Smoke-N-Grill Charcoal Smoker and Grill
This one I own!
And that is why it’s at no. 1. Nothing does smoking better than this. It does a good job with everything I put in it. It works on the proven design of passing smoke through the meat. Also, it does not burn up the food. It has a water pan which acts as a buffer. The direct heat never reaches the food. And all the juice that drips down in the water adds flavor to the steam and the food turns up really tasty. This gives me a reason to be creative. I just add lemon or orange slices in the water and let it work its magic.
It is a one-piece model. Which means you cannot lift the grill unit off the charcoal pan and tend to your fire. It also makes adding wood chips or coal units very difficult. All you have is a small door through which you need to arrange the coal. A two-piece model would definitely be more convenient.
The newbies and food experts these days go for a good thermometer to gauge the inside temp perfectly. A general consensus is that it makes the food perfect.
Or does it?
The gauge on the lid of this smoker is quite basic and I never burned the food. All I did was tend to the charcoal throughout the process and keep the needle straight up without any fluctuation. That worked fine for me! I never knew the inside temperature, don’t know it now even. Just be attentive and the food turns up fine.
This one is the most durable of all smokers. The charcoal and water pans are porcelain-coated and handles are wooden. The cooking grates are chrome-plated. I have been using it for a decade and it is still working just fine without any rust. The legs are made of aluminum and the fuel door of chrome, so no rust problem there. And I see this one going at least a decade more without any problem.
The two racks are of medium size and some might feel that the capacity is a little less. But for me, it’s worked just fine at 50 pounds. If you want to smoke high quantity meat, just pack it tight.
A 2-piece model serves better and is definitely convenient. But it is not a deal breaker. It is an old model and works in the most basic way, but it is one of the greatest charcoal smokers I have used.
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