These are the top barbecue smokers people are buying this year.
1. Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker 18.5″
We can’t heap enough praise on this Grand National Barbecue Championship Winner. Our hands down favorite smoker under $500 for beginners to pros. Read all about it in our review.
2. Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Electric Smokehouse Smoker
A great price point for a full range electric smoker. With a digitally controlled temperature range from 100° to 275° you can cold smoke, smoke flavor, or BBQ with this sub $200 unit. This is our top choice for an electric smoking unit in this price range.
3. Masterbuilt 40″ New Generation Electric Smokehouse with RF Control
We like Masterbuilt for a mid-grade smoker line. This new model is large, has a remote control, and a meat probe. For an electric at an attractive price point for it’s large size with a front viewing window, it’ it’s hard to beat.
4. Char-Broil Offset Smoker American Gourmet Grill
It’s tough for us to like much from Char-Broil due to generally low quality, but the incredibly low sub $100 price point for an offset smoker, where you can use wood, charcoal, or both for cooking low and slow is too compelling to ignore. Offset smoker designs are our favorite because it’s easy to keep the temp down and they hold lots of food too.
5. Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker 22.5″
Big brother to the 18″ Weber Smoker Mountain but with lots more grill area–equal to two 22.5″ Weber kettle grills. $100 more than the 18.5″. Handy if you have more than 20 hungry friends. Reviewed here, with the 18.5″ model.
6. Masterbuilt Old Generation 30-Inch Electric Smokehouse Smoker with Window and RF Controller
Masterbuilt has had some electrical and quality issues over the past couple of years, and we’d be hesitant to recommend anything “old generation.” I’d stay away from the old generation viewing window too because we’ve had some reports of failures there. Better to save some money and get the #2 item above. It’s simple and a proven design.
7. Masterbuilt 20070210 30-Inch Electric Analog Smoker
This is the same unit as #2 above but without the digital controller. The digital controller is much more accurate–get that one. Saving a few bucks with this one isn’t worth the benefits you’ll give up with the dig.
8. Masterbuilt 20051311 GS30D 2-Door Propane Smoker
This is the propane version of the Masterbuilt electric 30″ above. Although I do love the convenience of gas, I’m not a fan of propane smokers for low temp cooking as it can be hard to keep the flames throttled down for smoke flavoring (150-175°F) and practically impossible for cold smoking (80-100°F). If I was set on gas I’d go with the less expensive and more versatile Masterbuilt M7P 7 in 1 smoker grill. It’s under $150 and you can use gas or charcoal. We have sold a lot of these units this year and have had some rave reports. See our full review for the Masterbuilt M7P here.
9. Brinkmann Vertical Charcoal Smoker We generally like Brinkmann products over Char-Broil. They’re in the same price point range, but Brinkmann puts out a little better quality. In this case, because of the relatively short distance between the charcoal fire and the meat racks, either Char-Broil offset smokers above are a better choice for charcoal smokers in the same price range. For smaller vertical smokers, electrics are the best choice.
10. Bradley Digital 4-Rack Electric Smoker
Sad to see a good old name go downhill, but Bradley products aren’t what they used to be. For the $400 price range, we can find better values. You need special wood chips for fuel too, and we don’t liked to be locked into a manufacturer’s price controlled market. Save $100 and get only slightly lesser quality with the Brinkmann 40″ Electric above.
Quick Guide to Buying A Smoker
We receive a LOT of email from frustrated shoppers, asking for recommendations on smokers. We answer all emails, and are glad to help. The first question is always, “tell me what you plan to smoke.”
“Smoking” and “Barbecuing” are often used interchangeably, and although confusing that’s our American vernacular. To me, “smoking” is smoke flavoring, like for smoked salmon or jerky, and those are at temperatures from 150-185°F for hot smoking, and 80-100°F for cold smoking. Most beginners don’t cold smoke, and there are certainly risks with that process, but nearly everyone wants to be able to smoke some salmon, shad, trout, or do some jerky. For smoke flavoring an electric unit is the best choice. You have more control than with charcoal or gas, and it’s easy and inexpensive.
“Barbecuing” is low and slow cooking, from 225-275°F and for that charcoal or wood is always the best choice. You get flavor and flexibility in process and it’s much less expensive than gas. Depending on how much you want to spend, we like the Masterbuilt M7P reviewed here for a sub $150 unit that works fine. If you want top consumer quality, then the only choice is the Weber Smokey Mountain, reviewed here. This unit will last you 20 years with some reasonable care and has won the KCBS Grand Nationals. It’s seen in backyards and competitions all over the world.
So, what to do? My opinion is you need two separate units–one for smoke flavoring, and one for barbecuing, unless you want to drop around $1000 on a pellet grill, like the Traeger. If you’re only going to do some occasional salmon or jerky and don’t mind a fixed temperature of 165°F which is fine for most smoke flavoring and drying, then here’s a unit I’ll always recommend, although it never makes the top seller list on Amazon. I grew up with it in Oregon, and it’s still hard to find a back porch without one there. It called the Little Chief Smoker. It will cost you about one hundred bucks, and will hold up to 50 lbs. of meat. Trust me? This is all you need for a fixed temperature smoker. It’s a simple sheet aluminum box with a heating element and will last you until it gets so nasty with residue you didn’t clean (guilty here!) that you’ll pitch it in 10-15 years and get another.
Then, buy yourself a good BBQ, like the Masterbuilt or Weber. With a grill, you can do any style of outdoor cooking you like. Keep in touch, and good ‘que to all!