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.
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.
- 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
- Aluminum side door tends to leak
- You can purchase a gasket kit to fix the problem at a reasonable price
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.
- 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
- Some customers have reported leaks in the lid, which results in trouble maintaining a consistent temperature
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.
- 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
- 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
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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
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.