“Love the taste of barbequed food? Then investing in a charcoal smoker is the best choice”
Are you searching for the best charcoal smoker to elevate your barbecue experience? A charcoal smoker offers a traditional method of cooking, imparting a distinct smoky flavor to meats and vegetables that are hard to replicate with other types of grills. With a range of sizes, designs, and features, finding the right one can be a daunting task. In our selection of the best charcoal smokers, we concentrated on three main factors to help you make the most of your cooking.
- Cooking Capacity: The size of your smoker dictates how much food you can prepare at once. Whether you’re hosting large gatherings or enjoying a family meal, the cooking capacity is crucial. We looked for smokers who offer a balance between size and usability, ensuring you can cook for any occasion without hassle.
- Fuel Efficiency: Charcoal smokers should be efficient with fuel to save you time and money. A smoker that maintains temperature with minimal charcoal refills is ideal. Our selection focuses on smokers who excel in fuel efficiency, allowing you to enjoy long smoking sessions without constant attention to fuel levels.
- Build Quality: Durability is key in a charcoal smoker. You want a smoker that can withstand the elements and the heat of repeated use. Smokers made from high-quality materials, featuring solid construction to ensure longevity and reliability were considered. A well-built smoker is an investment that pays off in the long run with consistent performance and minimal maintenance needs.
Our guide simplifies the process of selecting the ideal charcoal smoker for you. In addition to the basics, our comprehensive “Buying Guide” below provides detailed insights. Continue reading to find our top recommendations and gain the necessary knowledge to make the best online purchase suited to your requirements.
7 Best Charcoal Smokers
|Dyna-Glo Charcoal Smoker
|1,890 Square Inches
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|Weber Charcoal Smoker
|286 Square Inches
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|Char-Broil Charcoal Smoker
|290 Square Inches
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|Royal Gourmet Charcoal Smoker
|810 Square Inches
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|Realcook Charcoal Smoker
|453 Square Inches
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|Cuisinart Charcoal Smoker
|402 Square Inches
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|Masterbuilt Charcoal Smoker
|394.5 Square Inches
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6 Best Charcoal Smokers Reviews
The Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D stands out as a top choice for BBQ enthusiasts seeking ample cooking space without sacrificing flavor.
Its vertical design not only enhances heat distribution for more efficient cooking but also maximizes flavor by keeping direct heat away from the food. This design is complemented by six height-adjustable cooking grates, accommodating various sizes of food and offering a generous 1890 square inches of total cooking space. The porcelain-enameled steel charcoal chamber is engineered for improved burn efficiency, keeping briquettes tightly stacked.
Furthermore, its charcoal and ash management system, featuring a chamber, grate, and sliding ash pan, simplifies cleanup and allows for hours of maintenance-free cooking. The built-in thermometer with a ‘Smoke Zone’ indicator ensures perfect smoking conditions for infusing your food with that classic smokehouse flavor.
- 1890 square inches of cooking area
- Efficient charcoal chamber design
- Adjustable cooking grates
- Maintenance-free ash management
- Built-in ‘Smoke Zone’ thermometer
- Large cooking capacity for big gatherings
- Efficient fuel usage reduces the need for constant refills
- Easy temperature control for perfect smoking
- Simple ash disposal for hassle-free cleanup
- Material in not so good
The Weber 14.5-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker is a gem for those with limited outdoor space but a passion for richly smoked foods.
This charcoal smoker is designed for durability and performance, featuring a sleek black aluminum construction and a stainless-steel interior. Its compact size, with dimensions of 14.7″ W x 14.7″ D x 31.4″ H and a weight of just 23 pounds, makes it ideal for small patios or decks. Despite its size, it offers a respectable 286 square inches of total grilling area across two cooking grates, providing ample space for smoking everything from ribs to a whole chicken.
Assembly is straightforward, with clear instructions available in the User Guide and the BILT app for 3D interactive assembly instructions. The cooker maintains an approximate internal temperature of 190°F, ideal for low and slow cooking that imbues dishes with a deep smoky flavor.
- Compact and lightweight design
- Easy assembly with the BILT app
- Dual cooking grates
- Ideal for low and slow-cooking
- Temperature control grommet
- Perfect size for small spaces
- Easy to assemble and use
- Efficient temperature control
- Durable construction for longevity
- Limited cooking space for large gatherings
- May require frequent charcoal refills
- Temperature management learning curve
- The cover could be more weather-resistant
The Char-Broil 12201570 stands out for its versatility and user-friendly features, catering to both beginners and seasoned BBQ enthusiasts.
This charcoal smoker offers a unique combination of an offset smoker, BBQ, and charcoal grill, making it a versatile choice for any backyard cookout. It boasts a 290 square-inch cooking surface in the main chamber and an additional 140 square inches surface in the firebox chamber, providing ample space for a variety of foods. The user-friendly features include an adjustable height steel fire grate and a clean-out door for easy ash removal.
Constructed with alloy steel, this smoker is designed for durability and can withstand frequent use. The built-in temperature gauge on the lid ensures precise cooking, guaranteeing that your meats are perfectly smoked. The offset design is ideal for those interested in experimenting with indirect heating methods, imparting that desired smoky flavour to your food without the risk of overcooking.
- Combo offset smoker, BBQ, and grill
- Adjustable height fire grate
- Easy ash removal with a clean-out door
- Lid-mounted temperature gauge
- Durable alloy steel construction
- Versatile cooking options
- Precise temperature control
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Portable design with wheels
- Smaller cooking area compared to others
- Firebox size limits long smoking sessions
- May require frequent monitoring
- Assembly instructions could be clearer
The Royal Gourmet CC1830SC earns its spot for combining a spacious cooking area with a versatile design, making it ideal for both grilling and smoking enthusiasts.
It distinguishes itself with an impressive 811 square inches of cooking space, including a porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grate, a chrome-plated warming rack, and an offset smoker. This model is tailored for those who enjoy hosting gatherings, providing ample room to cater to large parties. The offset smoker is securely attached to the grill, ensuring efficient heat and smoke circulation, while the easily accessible side door simplifies the process of adding charcoal and cleaning ashes.
The adjustable pan allows for two-level height adjustments, offering improved heat control and accommodating up to 4.4 lbs. of coal. A lid-mounted thermometer gauge allows you to monitor cooking temperatures with precision. Additionally, the grill comes with a heavy-duty cover to safeguard your investment from the elements. The front and side tables provide convenient workspaces for seasonings and grilling tools, and the bottom shelf offers extra storage space.
- Large cooking and warming area
- Firmly attached offset smoker
- Adjustable charcoal pan
- Lid-mounted thermometer
- Includes grill cover
- Spacious for large gatherings
- Versatile grilling and smoking capabilities
- Easy temperature monitoring and adjustment
- Durable and weather-resistant design
- Requires significant space for storage
- Assembly can be challenging
- May be overkill for casual grillers
- The cover may not fit perfectly in all conditions
The Realcook Charcoal Vertical Smoker Grill is a versatile smoking solution that caters to BBQ enthusiasts with ease of use and precise temperature control.
This smoker grill offers a total cooking space of 453 square inches, spread across two cooking grids, providing ample room for smoking various meats and vegetables. Its durability is enhanced by heat-resistant bakelite handles and a robust alloy steel exterior, ensuring long-lasting performance. This smoker features an adjustable air supply on the lid and a built-in thermometer with a detailed temperature scale, granting greater control over the cooking temperature.
Moreover, the porcelain-enameled water and charcoal pans contribute to stable use, and the vertical design promotes efficient smoke circulation, enhancing the flavor of your food. Convenience and flexibility are key with the latch locking system and two access doors, enabling easy charcoal or wood addition and food monitoring without heat loss.
- Versatile smoking options
- Easy temperature control
- Large cooking space
- Convenient latch locking system
- Dual access doors
- Flexible cooking methods (smoke, grill, steam, bake)
- Easy to assemble and transport
- Efficient temperature and smoke control
- Allows for checking and adding fuel without opening the main chamber
- Cover not included, must be purchased separately
- Some users may find it tricky to maintain a consistent temperature
- Paint durability could be improved under high heat
- Limited by size for very large gatherings
The Cuisinart COS-116 Vertical Charcoal Smoker is built to last, featuring a robust stainless steel and steel construction.
With a cooking space of 402 square inches spread across two 16″ stainless steel racks, it offers versatility to smoke various foods, including meats and cheeses. The porcelain enamel water bowl maintains essential moisture levels during long smoking sessions, while its top and bottom vents facilitate precise temperature control through a dual air vent system.
Designed vertically with a latching base, this smoker ensures consistent temperature distribution during cooking. Its vertically hinged door simplifies access to the water bowl and charcoal grate. Assembling the smoker is quick and straightforward, requiring only a screwdriver and approximately 15 minutes of your time. This means you can swiftly begin smoking your favourite foods without any delays.
- Durable stainless-steel construction
- Dual air vent system for temperature control
- Easy access with vertically hinged door
- Quick and easy assembly
- Porcelain enamel water bowl
- Sturdy build quality for lasting use
- Efficient temperature management
- Suitable for various foods with ample cooking space
- Simple to assemble and start smoking quickly
- Some users report difficulty in reaching high temperatures
- Paint durability may be compromised over time
- Limited by its vertical size for larger items
- Water bowl and charcoal may need frequent refills during long smokes
The Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker is designed for those who love the art of smoking but are constrained by space or prefer a more straightforward setup.
With 395.4 sq. inches of cooking space spread across two porcelain-coated smoking racks, this smoker ensures both durability and easy cleaning. Its front-access door simplifies the process of adding charcoal, facilitating temperature maintenance throughout the smoking session.
Equipped with a built-in lid thermometer, this smoker provides accurate temperature readings for precise cooking control. Crafted from stainless steel, it blends durability with style, complementing any backyard setup. Weighing just over 15 pounds, its lightweight design allows for easy mobility and storage, making it a versatile option for urban environments or compact patios.
- Compact and lightweight design
- Easy charcoal access for temperature control
- Built-in lid thermometer for accuracy
- Porcelain-coated racks for easy cleaning
- Durable stainless steel construction
- Ideal for small spaces and easy storage
- Simple to use, even for smoking beginners
- Accurate temperature monitoring
- Low maintenance and easy-to-clean
- Limited cooking space for larger gatherings
- May require frequent refilling of charcoal on longer smokes
- Temperature control can be challenging for novices
- Some users may prefer a larger smoking area
Buying Guide For The Best Charcoal Smoker
Finding the perfect charcoal smoker for your outdoor cooking needs can be a challenging task due to the array of options available. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve compiled a comprehensive buying guide with all the essential information you need before purchasing a charcoal smoker.
1. Smoker Type
- Vertical Smokers: These smokers channel smoke and heat in a straight line from bottom to top, resembling a large chimney. They come in various styles like kamado-style, water/bullet, and vertical cabinet smokers. Vertical smokers are space-efficient and take up less patio or deck space.
- Horizontal Smokers: Horizontal smokers, including offset and barrel smokers, have the fire source on one side, allowing smoke and heat to circulate throughout the cooking chamber. They provide more cooking space and are ideal for larger quantities of food.
2. Cooking Capacity
Consider the size of your family or the number of people you usually cook for. Smokers typically offer cooking spaces ranging from 300 to 400 square inches, suitable for small to medium-sized gatherings.
If you plan to cook for larger crowds or events, look for smokers with at least 400 square inches of space, often found in vertical and offset charcoal smokers.
3. Combination Smoker and Grill
A combination smoker and grill can be a versatile choice, allowing you to smoke and grill meats, as well as cook at high temperatures for items like pizza. While they tend to be pricier, their multifunctionality is worth the investment.
4. Build Quality
Smokers vary in quality, with lower-end models made from thinner materials without insulation, leading to temperature inconsistencies.
Higher-end models feature tight seams, thick walls, vents, sturdy handles, gaskets, and locks, providing a better smoking experience. Quality materials and construction ensure durability.
Dampers, and small vents on the smoker, are crucial for temperature control. Experiment with damper settings to achieve the desired cooking temperature.
Opening dampers slightly raises the temperature, while opening them more reduces it. Be cautious not to make abrupt adjustments to avoid overshooting the temperature.
Efficiency is closely linked to building quality. A well-constructed smoker with minimal leaks will burn less fuel, making it cost-effective.
Kamado-style grills are known for their efficiency, thanks to their tight seals and limited vents. You can also enhance efficiency by sealing seams and holes or using insulated blankets in cold weather.
Consider your mobility needs. Some smokers are portable and lightweight, suitable for camping, tailgating, and travel. Others, designed for larger gatherings, may require transportation by truck.
Look for models with wheels for easier mobility within your cooking space.
Choose a charcoal smoker made from rust-resistant materials designed to withstand various weather conditions. Durability ensures a longer lifespan for your investment.
9. Temperature Management
While charcoal smokers don’t have automatic temperature control, selecting one with effective temperature management controls is essential. Pay attention to the smoker’s ability to maintain consistent temperatures.
Plan ahead by considering how often you’ll use the smoker and whether you’ll require additional accessories. Ensure the smoker’s capacity aligns with your future cooking needs.
Different smoker types suit various purposes, so choose one that accommodates your specific cooking style and preferences.
11. Customer Support
Prioritize manufacturers that offer good customer support and a supportive community for troubleshooting and sharing tips and techniques.
Avoid low-cost options from manufacturers with poor customer service, as it may lead to frustration in case of issues.
12. Care & Maintenance
Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential for a hassle-free smoking experience. Ensure the smoker has user-friendly cleaning features and refer to the user manual for proper care instructions.
Following maintenance guidelines prolongs the smoker’s life and ensures safe usage.
Charcoal smokers are generally affordable, with options ranging from $100 to $500. Models priced around $200 to $300 typically offer decent features.
Assess your budget and choose a smoker that suits your needs. Remember to factor in the ongoing cost of charcoal as your fuel source.
Opt for a smoker with a warranty, as it reflects the manufacturer’s confidence in their product. Warranties typically range from 1 to 5 years, covering manufacturing defects.
A longer warranty can provide added peace of mind and assurance of product quality.
Types of Charcoal Smokers
Charcoal smokers are widely favoured for adding that traditional smoky taste to food. They come in different varieties, each utilizing charcoal as the primary fuel. Let’s take a closer look at these types.
1. Bullet Smokers
Bullet smokers are vertical, cylindrical units resembling bullets. They are beginner-friendly, customizable, and often referred to as water smokers due to their use of water pans to regulate internal temperature.
2. Kamado Smokers
Kamado grills/smokers are versatile, egg-shaped ovens that allow baking, grilling, roasting, and smoking. They offer a broader range of cooking options, making them a choice for those seeking versatility.
3. Drum Smokers
Drum smokers are often homemade, crafted from metal drums, making them cost-effective options. While not as professionally built, some manufacturers have created dedicated products based on this design.
4. Vertical Smokers
These smokers stand vertically with the fire source at the bottom. Smoke rises through the smoker, ensuring even cooking. Vertical smokers excel at cooking large quantities of food, making them ideal for catering to crowds.
5. Smoker Grills
Smoker grills, though primarily grills, can be used for smoking as well. They offer versatility at a lower cost compared to basic grills.
6. Offset Smokers
Offset smokers are the quintessential choice for classic BBQ smoking. They feature a horizontal design with a firebox on the side, allowing heat and smoke to pass through the cooking chamber. High-quality offset models are considered top-notch charcoal smokers.
How to Use a Charcoal Smoker?
Using a charcoal smoker may seem daunting for first-time users, but it’s relatively straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide to effective charcoal smoker usage:
- Fuel Preparation: Opt for charcoal briquettes for consistent heat rather than lump charcoal, which can burn too hot. Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes to impart a unique smoky flavour.
- Fill the Water Pan: Fill the smoker’s water pan about three-quarters full with cold water.
- Light Charcoal: Use a chimney starter to light the coals, or stack them in a pyramid in the smoker and use lighter fluid. Wait until a thin layer of white ash forms on the coals.
- Add Food to the Grill: Place your meat on the grill grates inside the smoker. Most smokers have upper and lower grates for cooking various meats simultaneously.
- Temperature Control: Charcoal smokers typically include a built-in thermometer for monitoring temperatures between 220°F and 250°F. Adjust bottom vents for air intake and top vents for air exit to control temperature.
- Add Wood Chunks: Place the soaked wood chunks among the coals in the firebox to achieve the desired smoky flavor.
- Allow Slow and Long Cooking: Charcoal smokers cook meat slowly and evenly over several hours. Use the thermometer to ensure even cooking.
How to Clean a Charcoal Smoker?
Cleaning a charcoal smoker is essential to maintain its functionality and hygiene. Follow these steps for proper cleaning:
- After each use, once the grill has cooled, scrape the grill grates to remove food residue. Wipe them clean with a wet sponge and dispose of the ashes.
- Perform a deep clean at least once a year by scraping off grease and carbon buildup from the grill grates.
- Check the interior of the cooking chamber and remove carbon and soot buildup, as well as dry internal components, to prevent rust formation.
- Grease from cooking typically collects in oil collectors, drip pans, or aluminum foil sheets. Dispose of the collected grease.
- Wipe the thermometer probe with a damp soapy sponge to maintain accuracy.
How to Make the Most of Your Charcoal Smoker?
- Here are some tips to maximize your charcoal smoker’s performance:
- Light the smoker properly, using an electric or chimney starter for easy ignition.
- Consider investing in an automatic temperature controller for precise temperature management.
- Opt for lump charcoal over briquettes for a cleaner burn.
- Replace evaporated water in the water pan to maintain consistent cooking temperatures.
- Use tongs to add charcoal or wood chunks carefully, avoiding stirring the coals.
- Refer to temperature charts and smoking times for perfectly cooked food, and season your new smoker as per the provided guidelines.
Tips To Follow For a Safe & Efficient Operation
Follow these safety and efficiency tips for using your charcoal smoker:
- Choose a smoker with adequate cooking space for your needs.
- Ensure coals are completely extinguished after use to prevent fire hazards.
- Select a portable model if you plan to travel with your smoker, ensuring it’s compact and lightweight for easy transportation.
- Allow charcoal to burn until covered in gray/white ash before cooking.
- Keep the smoker lid open while arranging and lighting the charcoal, then close it once the charcoal is burning properly.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Charcoal Smokers
Before purchasing a charcoal smoker, it’s essential to understand the pros and cons:
Charcoal smokers impart a unique and authentic smoky flavor to food.
They operate without the need for electricity or propane, relying solely on charcoal.
Charcoal smokers offer versatility, allowing both high-heat cooking and low-temperature smoking.
Lighting charcoal smokers can be time-consuming, adding extra prep time to your cooking process.
Maintaining consistent temperatures can be challenging, leading to frustration for inexperienced users.
Charcoal smokers may generate mess and require careful cleaning to prevent ash-related issues and maintain safety.
Charcoal Smokers – FAQs
The coal/charcoal fuel burns for about an hour at a specific temperature, in which this heat level is generally hotter than smoking temperature. So, set the coal fuel and temperature for the perfect cooking of your food.
Whenever you inhale this charcoal smoke, its particulate matter will enter into your lungs and bloodstream quickly. Thereby may worsen your health with these harmful effects. One of the main elements called carbon monoxide will cause the most detrimental effects on health, even if inhaled just a small amount of this gas.
In general, once every 30 minutes or every hour is the best way to add charcoal to the smoker, as per the temperature gauge instructions. We place extra charcoal on the smoker every couple of hours to adjust the airflow if you found any decline in the temperature below the required level.
Yes, you can add more charcoal by placing them directly into the burning coals to lower the temperature. If you want to put the charcoal on the top of the burning coals, then lighten them first before placing them.
One can add unlit coals to ensure that the temperature starts to dip. Make sure to add only unlit coals, yet the lit coals have to be gradually added to the smoker. Keep the chimney to fire up extra lit coals before pouring them into a smoker (or) simply add them by using tongs.
In general, we use both smoker and grill to cook meat by using charcoal as fuel to create a distinctive flavor. Yet the main difference among these devices is the heat mode. The smoker uses an indirect heat with low temperature, whereas a grill uses direct heat with higher temperature.
For a smoker, the charcoal burns in one area and meat are placed in another area and the ideal heat temperature will be 220°F – 250°F. While the grill cooks meat above the burning coals with a heat temperature of over 500°.
Choosing the best charcoal smoker for you depends on your needs and budget.
- If you are looking for a versatile and affordable option, the Dyna-Glo Charcoal Smoker is a great choice. It has a large cooking capacity, good temperature control, and comes with a cover to protect it from the elements.
- If you are looking for a more portable option, the Weber Charcoal Smoker is a good choice. It is small and lightweight, making it easy to take with you on camping trips or picnics. It also has a good reputation for producing delicious smoked food.
- If you are on a tight budget, the Cuisinart Charcoal Smoker is a good option. It is small and affordable, but it still has enough space to cook food for a small family. It is also easy to use and clean.
These are just a few of the many great charcoal smokers on the market. When choosing a smoker, consider your needs and budget to find the best option for you.