Reviews

The Best Charcoal Smokers (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Consider these charcoal smokers for a slow and steady cooking experience.

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BY Zach Faulds / LAST UPDATED ON February 17, 2021

If you're into barbecuing or cooking a lot of meat, chicken, or fish, a high-quality smoker is a necessity. Charcoal smokers are an extremely convenient way to smoke your own meat at home or for an outdoor cooking experience on your patio, deck, backyard, or lawn. The best charcoal smokers are extremely efficient, and they are available in a variety of different types to best fit your cooking preferences.

 

These smokers are quite reliable, and they can easily be moved around your yard. Some portable options can even be stored in the back of your truck or RV to bring with you on camping trips. Whether you are looking for great value, durability, versatility, or a user-friendly option, we took a look at the best charcoal smokers currently on the market. Read on to see which product is the best fit for your outdoor cooking needs.

Best Overall
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
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Summary
Summary

Extremely durable, featuring plated steel cooking grates, rust-resistant metal legs, and a built-in lid thermometer. Dampers allow you to easily adjust the cooking temperature.

Pros
Pros
  • Water pan and heat-resistant nylon handle included
  • Requires very little maintenance
  • No need to constantly monitor the temperature 
  • Maintains steady temperature throughout the cooking process
Cons
Cons
  • Aluminum side door tends to leak
  • You can purchase a gasket kit to fix the problem at a reasonable price
Best Overall
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Best Value
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
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Summary
Summary

Extremely durable, designed to withstand high temperatures. Coals can be arranged on the fuel grate for direct or indirect grilling. Can control temperature without lifting the lid by adjusting dampers on top of the lid.

Pros
Pros
  • Cooking grate is extremely durable and easy to clean
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat for consistent temperature and even cooking
  • Prevents rusting, corrosion, cracking, and peeling while withstanding high temperatures
Cons
Cons
  • Some customers have reported leaks in the lid, which results in trouble maintaining a consistent temperature
Best Value
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
Honorable Mention
PK Grills Original Grill & Smoker
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Summary
Summary

Unique shape and four vents, perfect product for grilling hot and quickly, or smoking low and slow. Can easily be detached from the included stand, making it an excellent portable option.

Pros
Pros
  • Maximum of 300 square inches of cooking surface
  • Ten-year limited warranty included to cover rust, burnout, or any other manufacturing defects
  • Air-tight seal provides excellent temperature control
Cons
Cons
  • Takes quite a while to fully assemble this product
  • Fully read the instruction manual and familiarize yourself with various parts before beginning the assembly process
Honorable Mention
PK Grills Original Grill & Smoker
Charcoal Smoker Close Up
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Charcoal Smokers

  • Flavor. One of the main benefits of charcoal smokers are the smoky flavors. By using charcoal, you can control the amount of smoke and how much of it you want in the food you are smoking.
  • Versatile. Most charcoal smokers are extremely versatile products. They allow you to cook meat intensely at high heat, as well as allow you to smoke your meat at a low temperature for multiple hours at a time.
  • Portable. Another major benefit to cooking with charcoal is that there is no need for a power source. Many charcoal smokers contain wheels and can be easily transported in the back of your vehicle to your campsite if needed.

Types of Charcoal Smokers

Water/Bullet

The water/bullet smoker is the most common type of charcoal smoker. This smoker features grill racks for holding your food stacked above a water pan. A ring located below the water pan holds your charcoal in this design. Unlike other types of charcoal smokers, this type of smoker is not as versatile and is typically only used for smoking. The water pan can be left empty if you are cooking at higher temperatures with this type of smoker.

Offset Barrel

Offset barrel smokers are one of the most expensive types of charcoal smokers. The biggest advantage to using an offset barrel smoker is that you can easily access your fire. This is especially useful if you will be smoking your meat all day long. The smoke can be controlled by using the air intake vents.

Kamado

Kamado smokers are perhaps the most versatile type of charcoal smokers. This type of smoker can be used for grilling, smoking, and even for use as an outdoor oven to cook items like pizza. Kamado smokers are typically constructed from ceramic, and they are known for generating heat that can hold a consistent temperature over a long period. This type of smoker is available in several different sizes, and some models can be extremely expensive.

Top Brands

Weber

Founded in 1893 and headquartered in Palatine, Ill., Weber has developed into one of the top American manufacturers of charcoal, gas, and electric grills, as well as related grilling accessories. In addition to high-quality charcoal smokers, Weber produces wood pellet grills, grilling tools, merchandise, and more.

Char-Griller

Char-Griller has developed into one of the most reputable manufacturers of grilling equipment and accessories in the nation. This company is known for its excellent customer service and quality equipment. In addition to high-quality charcoal smokers, Char-Griller produces gas griddles, steak rubs, merchandise, and more.  

PK Grills

Specializing in world-class grills and smokers, PK Grills has become one of the most trustworthy grilling equipment manufacturers. The company produces high-quality products that can be shipped around the globe. In addition to reliable charcoal smokers, PK Grills manufactures portable grills, hibachi grills, and more.

Charcoal Smoker Pricing

  • Under $200: Charcoal smokers in this price range provide excellent value. Make sure to read the reviews to ensure your smoker is properly sized and reliable before making a final purchase in this price range.
  • $200-$300: This is the most common price range for charcoal smokers. Charcoal smokers in this price range are available in a variety of types, and they can be quite versatile and reliable.
  • $300 and up: Charcoal smokers in this price range are priced at a premium. These charcoal smokers are typically the highest quality, extremely versatile, and tend to come included with several special features or accessories.

Key Features

Size

Depending on your space, the amount of food you will be smoking, and the number of people you will be cooking for, the size of your charcoal smoker can be an important factor to consider. Most brands of smokers are available in a wide range of sizes. If you will be traveling with your smoker to events or using it while camping, then finding one that is large enough and still lightweight is an important factor. Heavier smokers are difficult to carry or place in your vehicle while traveling.

Build Quality

The type of material that your smoker is made from and the quality of the material are extremely important features to consider. Make sure to do your proper research before purchasing a smoker that is the best fit for your needs. Most reputable companies produce smokers that are made from high-quality materials built to withstand the test of time.

Combination

If you plan on using your charcoal smoker for cooking or grilling, then a combination smoker may be the best choice for you. Combination smokers are extremely versatile, and they can be used for grilling meats, as well as cooking items at high temperatures like pizza. Combination smokers may be more expensive, but they are worth the price point if you plan to use them for multiple purposes.

Other Considerations

  • Efficiency. One of the most important considerations when shopping for a charcoal smoker is the efficiency rating of the product. You want to find a smoker that can maintain accurate temperatures for long periods. Make sure to read the reviews to find a smoker that is the best fit for you, both in ease of use and reliability.
  • Durability. Finding a charcoal smoker that is built to withstand the test of time is another important consideration. The best charcoal smokers should be reliable and built from high-grade material. Most smokers are completely rust-resistant and will hold up outdoors in all types of climates or weather conditions. 
  • Warranty. The length and type of warranty are important considerations when contemplating the best charcoal smoker to best fit your needs. Most reputable manufacturers will include some type of warranty with their smoker. Look to purchase a smoker with a limited warranty that will at least cover any manufacturing defects or issues with your product for its first few uses.

Best Charcoal Smokers Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker

If you're looking for a high-quality product, the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker may be the best charcoal smoker on the market today. This smoker is extremely durable, featuring plated steel cooking grates, rust-resistant metal legs, and a built-in lid thermometer. The user-friendly dampers allow you to easily adjust your cooking temperature as needed. A water pan and heat-resistant nylon handle are also included for added convenience. This model requires very little maintenance, and you typically don't need to worry about overcooking your meats. There is no need to constantly monitor the temperature, as it is quite reliable and maintains a steady temperature throughout the cooking process. With a weight of 39 pounds, this smoker can be transported in the back of your vehicle or truck bed if needed for events or camping.


One issue with the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker is with its side door. The aluminum side door does tend to leak. If this becomes a major problem, you can purchase a gasket kit to fix the problem at a very reasonable price.

Best Value
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

If you're shopping on a budget, then the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is one of the best budget-friendly options on the market. This combination charcoal smoker/grill is extremely durable, and it is designed to withstand high temperatures. Coals can be arranged on the fuel grate for direct or indirect grilling. You can control the temperature without lifting the lid easily by adjusting the dampers on top of the lid. The cooking grate is also extremely durable and easy to clean. The porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat for consistent temperature and even cooking. It also prevents rusting, corrosion, cracking, and peeling while withstanding high temperatures. There are heavy-duty wheels that allow you to easily move your product around your backyard, deck, patio, campsite, and more. A convenient lid hook allows you to hang the lid on the side of your grill when cooking things uncovered.


One issue with the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill is with potential leaks. Some customers have reported that their grills have air leaks in the lid, which results in trouble maintaining a consistent temperature. If this happens to you, reach out to the company regarding a potential refund or replacement.

Premium Pick
PK Grills Original Grill & Smoker

Although it is priced at a premium, the PK Grills Original Grill & Smoker is a great combination product. This grill/smoker includes an original shape and four vents, which makes it the perfect product grilling hot and quickly, or smoking low and slow. It can easily be detached from the included stand, making it an excellent portable option for travel to events or a campsite. There is a maximum of 300 square inches of cooking surface, which can hold items like large briskets and Thanksgiving turkeys. A 10-year limited warranty is included to cover rust, burnout, or any other manufacturing defects. An air-tight seal provides excellent temperature control to maintain a steady temperature anywhere between 180 degrees and 750 degrees F.ahrenheit 


One downside of the PK Grills Original Grill & Smoker is with the assembly process. It takes quite a while to fully assemble this product, so make sure to read the instruction manual and familiarize yourself with the various parts before beginning the assembly process.

Most Versatile
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill

If you're looking for a high-quality product, the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill may be the most versatile product on the market today. This grill is a small yet versatile grill and smoker combination product. It features triple-walled 22 gauge steel to retain maximum heat while cooking. It is designed to easily maintain cooking temperatures ranging from 200 degrees to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a 314-square inch cast iron cooking surface, easy dump ash pan, and built-in temperature gauge for added convenience. The exterior is made from powder-coated steel, while the interior is made from porcelain-coated steel for added durability and maximum rust resistance. It is an excellent option for grilling at the park, campsite, while tailgating, or in your own backyard. Two durable handles allow you to easily carry the grill if needed.


One downside of the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill is its weight. While the handles allow you to carry the grill, it should not be carried by just one person. Use two people to lift the grill and carry it around or transport it as needed.

Honorable Mention
Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

The Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker may be the best offset smoker on the market. This smoker is designed to optimize indirect heat flow, which is ideal for slow-cooking and infusing smoke flavor. It is an extremely versatile product, featuring six height-adjustable cooking grates. There is an adjustable flue on the steel smokestack, which can be used to maximize efficiency and temperature control. A stainless steel temperature gauge allows you to monitor the smoking temperature without losing any heat. This smoker has an incredible 1,176 square inches of total cooking space and a 25-pound cooking capacity per grate. The vertical design of this smoker improves smoke flavor and maximizes efficiency. The heavy-duty porcelain-enameled steel charcoal chamber keeps your charcoal stacked tightly to help improve cooking power.


One issue with the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker is that some customers have had issues with the charcoal lid box. The box lid does not fit quite securely and tends to leak when using for long periods.

Honorable Mention
Kamado Joe Classic Joe III Charcoal Grill

The Kamado Joe Classic Joe III Charcoal Grill is another premium-priced product, but it is one of the highest quality products on the market. This is an extremely versatile product, which can be used for grilling, smoking, or even baking. The charcoal basket can be divided into different cooking zones, and there are three cooking tiers to cook with various temperatures on different surfaces. The tower top vent includes a temperature control to monitor your cooking temperature throughout the day. It is designed for smoking meats at temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The heavy-duty, heat-resistant shell locks in smoke and moisture at any temperature. An air lift hinge makes it easy to lift the lid if needed to monitor your meats while cooking.


One issue with the Kamado Joe Classic Joe III Charcoal Grill is with its price point. Although this is one of the most reliable products on the market, it is quite expensive. But if you are looking for high quality and price is not an issue, then this is an extremely trustworthy product.

Honorable Mention
Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Smoker

The Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Smoker is another high-quality offset smoker. This product features a large, 900 total square inch cooking surface, including 619 square inches in the main chamber, and 281 square inches in the firebox chamber. Adjustable smokestack locations allow you to choose between reverse flow smoking and traditional offset smoking. The four baffles locked under porcelain-coated wire grates deliver an even heat distribution and smoke through the cooking chamber. A large charcoal basket makes it easy to tend to the fire and allows for a quick clean up when finished. The firebox door conveniently swings open to let you tend to the fire without opening the chamber lid and losing any heat. There are shelves located on the front and bottom that are ideal for storing utensils, condiments, or other food items.


One downside of the Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Smoker is that it is not completely airtight. You can purchase a separate gasket kit to install around the door and provide an airtight lock.

Honorable Mention
Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill

The Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill is another heavy-duty, extremely durable product. This grill and smoker combination product is specifically designed to retain heat and moisture for the most flavorful food. It features an insulated steel grill body that is built to withstand the test of time, even in extreme conditions. This smoker features cast-iron dampers on top and aluminum dampers on the bottom to precisely control the airflow through the grill, resulting in consistent and reliable cooking temperatures. A cast-iron primary cooking grid provides 280 square inches of cooking space, in addition to a 200 square inch swing-out chrome secondary rack. There are removable resin side shelves and a versatile multi-tool that can help you adjust and clean your grill.


One issue with the Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill is that some customers have reported damaged parts or pieces upon delivery. Make sure to inspect your grill, and reach out to the company about replacement parts if anything is broken or damaged upon delivery.

Tips

  • When considering your purchase, make sure that your smoker has enough cooking space for your specific needs, including your family, and any large events where you may be using it.
  • If you are looking to travel with your charcoal smoker, make sure that it is lightweight and portable enough to carry and transport in the back of your vehicle, truck bed, or RV.
  • Always make sure that the coals are fully extinguished after using your smoker to prevent any fire hazards.
  • Let your charcoal burn for a few minutes before using the smoker. Look for the coals to be covered in white/gray ash as a sign that they are hot enough.
  • Always keep the lid and/or doors open to your smoker while you arrange and light your charcoal. You can close the lid once the charcoal is burning properly.

FAQs

Q: Are charcoal smokers bad for you?

Charcoal smokers can be dangerous if not used properly. Charcoal briquettes emit carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors and result in poisoning, unconsciousness, or even death. Make sure to always use your charcoal smoker in an open, outdoor space.

Q: Should I use charcoal in my smoker?

Yes, regular charcoal briquettes should be used because they burn at the proper temperature for smoking. Some models can be used with wood pellets and other types of wood for added flavors.

Q: What is the best charcoal for smokers?

Regular charcoal briquettes should be used because they burn at the proper temperature for smoking meats.

Final Thoughts

For a high-quality charcoal smoker, consider the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, featuring a water pan and a heat-resistant nylon handle, or the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, featuring a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl to retain heat. Drop us a comment and let us know what your favorite charcoal smoker is and what you love about it.