The Low-down on the Best Smoker for Beginners

Best Smoker for Beginners

Ever wanted to try making that tender, juicy, fall off the bone ribs you always have at barbecue joints? How about making those smoked cheese that you love buying from your favorite deli? You can. With the best smoker grills, you can make your very own briskets, chicken wings, and roasts, all at home smoked to your desired taste and perfection.

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You’ll want to have the best smoker rather than use an ordinary grill to obtain such flavor. Well, we have the perfect guide if you’re just starting. By the end of this, you’ll be able to tell the difference between each type of smoker grill and which one you want to be able to have that delicious family Sunday barbecue you’ve dreamed of all in the comforts of your backyard.

A smoker is a piece of cooking machinery responsible for that delicious and juicy smoked meat you love. The process includes smoking these meats at a low temperature and for long hours.

You have to know the basics of smoker grills before deciding on buying one. They must be easy to use, durable, portable, and can fit in your budget. Below are 8 smoker grills to look out for:

1. Vertical Water Smokers

Vertical water smokers are known for using a liquid mixture between your meat and heat. If you’re wondering what liquid this is, this comes in the form of wine, soda, beer, or water with all the seasonings in it (you can also just add plain water).

Why does this type of smoker need such liquid? This is because while you’re in the process of smoking, the liquid evaporates and adds flavor to your meat. The vapor and smoke team up together to give your meat that taste you want it to be whether it’s the sweetness of the soda you used or the zesty and bitter taste of the beer.

The environment inside the smoker is also humid which is responsible for making your meat moist rather than dry. You may also find that the water pan catches meat drippings which also add to that delicious aroma to the vapor.

  • Fuel Type: Gas, Wood, Charcoal, Steel hotplate coil (Check the vertical water smoker’s fuel type before buying as it varies. Some can feature several fuel types while others can only carry 2 to 3 types)
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: No
  • Price Range: $100 - $700

Advantages

This smoker is compact. It can fit in a corner of your backyard or garage when you’re storing it. Vertical water smokers are also cheaper than most types of smokers. They’re also easy to use which is why this is recommended for beginners.

Disadvantages

The design causes you to lose a lot of heat when opening. If you want to take out the meat on the lower grill, you have to take the food on the upper grill out too. In addition, the vertical water smoker has a small cooking space so you’re only limited to the number of meats you can smoke.

2. Horizontal Offset Smokers

An offset smoker is one that smokes your meat with indirect heat.

Three parts make up the offset smoker: the firebox, the cooking chamber, and the smokestack. You simply just light up your heat source in the firebox. Your meats go in the cooking chamber where the smoke from the firebox will travel to. The smokestack will then allow some of the smoke to escape creating an equal distribution of temperature throughout your meats.

To better understand the heat distribution in a horizontal offset smoker, check this video out:

  • Fuel Type: Charcoal, wood and gas
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: No
  • Price Range: $200 - $600

Advantages

The horizontal offset smoker has a larger cooking space than a vertical one. Because of its design, meats are also smoked equally.

Disadvantages

One must have enough practice to get the smoking done right as this can be quite difficult to operate such as maintaining the right temperature.

3. Box Smokers

Just like the vertical water smoker, a box smoker needs your choice of liquid to help smoke the meat. The only grand difference between the two is its size. A box smoker can fit in more meats or other kinds of food than vertical water smokers.

  • Fuel Type: Charcoal, wood and gas
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: No
  • Price Range: $200-$500

Advantages

Box smokers are also known as cabinet smokers or vault smokers. This is because they resemble a box, making it compact. It also has a big cooking space for when you want to smoke several types of meat in one go.

Disadvantages

Since its design is similar to a vertical water smoker, you’ll have the same problems with losing heat when opening. Some box smokers have poor insulation materials as well.

4. Electric Smokers

From the name itself, you can already tell how this smoker is used. The electric smoker uses a steel hot plate to generate heat. Because of this, the meats have no smoke flavor since there’s no smoke emitting to begin with (although some electric smokers allow for chopped wood to be used). You also won’t be able to achieve that smoke ring, that pink color in the outermost section of the meat that defines they’ve been smoked.

  • Fuel Type: Electric – you may use it outdoors as well but be sure to have a power source on the ready
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: Yes
  • Price Range: $200-$500

Advantages

Because of the simplicity of such a smoker, they’re considered affordable. They’re also handy and lightweight. This smoker can be used indoors and some brands carry digital and advanced controls making electric smokers very easy to use.

Disadvantages

It does not produce smoke so meats won’t have a smoked flavor. The heat temperatures also don’t go as high as you want it to.

5. Drum Smokers

A drum smoker (also known as an ugly drum smoker) is another cooking apparatus that is built the same way as the vertical smoker. The only major difference is that these smokers have more room for your meats. Drum smokers are offered as a DIY so they can be built from scratch making it cheaper than most smokers.

  • Fuel Type: Charcoal, wood and gas
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: No
  • Price Range: $100-$300

Advantages

Drum smokers are easy to use. The cooking space is large and the whole thing is simple and affordable.

Disadvantages

Since this also works just like a vertical water smoker, you’ll lose most of the heat when the lid is open to check on your meats.

6. Smoker Ovens

A simple way of describing what smoker ovens are is that they’re high-tech. Smoker ovens have computer controls so it’s easier to use. They also have spacious cooking storage and can smoke meats faster. These are also essentially used by restaurants and other professionals since they can just leave this type of oven unattended while they do their activities.

  • Fuel Type: Steel hotplate coil (electric)
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: Yes
  • Price Range: $500 and up

Advantages

Smoker ovens are lightweight.

Disadvantages

The downside to an advanced oven like this is it’s expensive. But that’s to be expected if you’re looking for high quality and durable smokers. This smoker can be used indoors and outdoors but if you decide on using it outdoors, be sure to have it sheltered properly as exposing it to different harsh elements can cause problems.

7. Kamado Grills/Smoker

The Kamado grill is well known in Japan for steaming rice and has made its way to the United States in World War II. Since then, this grill has been used as a smoker grill as well because of the way it can cook meats slow and low.

The smoker grill is designed in the shape of an egg and many find it to be aesthetically pleasing.

  • Fuel Type: Charcoal
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: No
  • Price Range: $150 - $1,000

Advantages

Kamado grills can hit over 700°F making it an ideal smoker choice for many when they want to achieve such high heat. Their insulation is excellent which helps keep their temperatures controlled very well. Most Kamado grills are also made from ceramic therefore it’s durable against the weather.

Disadvantages

The only weakness it has is when it’s dropped or hit causing it to incur damages easily. Another downside is that it’s too heavy to move around.

8. Pellet Grills

In the olden days, meats were cooked over fired logs giving that delicious taste of smoked meat. It was an authentic way of smoking and barbecuing. The practice is slowly dying though since it’s not as convenient to do so in this day and age.

Enter the pellet grills where you can grill and smoke your food while still using wood as fuel. Wood pellets come in about 0.25-inch pieces that you feed into these grills so you can still have that wood-smoked flavor in your meats.

  • Fuel Type: Wood pellets
  • Outdoors: Yes
  • Indoors: No
  • Price Range: $250 and up

Advantages

Pellet grills are easy to use. Smoke from wood pellets also makes meats taste authentic and delicious.

Disadvantages

There are a lot of moving parts in this kind of grill. Because of this, if one part gets damaged it may affect the whole pellet grill making it difficult for you to repair at once.

How is this guide doing so far for you? Do you already have a type of smoker in mind? Now that you’re aware of all these basic smokers, here are 8 smokers we’ve reviewed should you purchase one in the future.

8 Best Smoker Grills On The 2019 Market

Name

Type

Fuel

Warranty

Vertical Water Smoker

Charcoal

10 years (bowl, lid, and center ring), 5 years (plastic components), and 2 years (on all other parts)

Horizontal Offset Smoker

Charcoal, wood, and gas

2 Years

Box Smoker

Propane

1 Year

Electric Smoker

Electric

1 Year (90 days for the products using charcoal)

Drum Smoker

Charcoal

2 Years

Smoker Oven

Electric

90 days (for parts and labor only)

Kamado Smoker/Grill

Charcoal

1 Year (5 years for charcoal grill body)

Pellet Grill

Wood Pellets

3 Years

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 Inch Smoker

The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker comes in a nice sleek design that’s compact no matter the size. It’s portable and lightweight, with the 18 inches weighing 37 pounds. It comes with 2 spacious grates for your meats that can fit 2 briskets or 4 whole chickens.

One of the disadvantages of a vertical water smoker is that you lose heat every time you open the lid. But with the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, you don’t need to worry about it since the dampers are easy to use to adjust the temperature. The thermometer is also conveniently built-in.

PROS

  • Comes in 14-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch sizes
  • This smoker can retain heat without it peeling or rusting
  • Can accommodate large meats such as 2 briskets
  • Temperatures are easily controlled by adjusting the dampers
  • A separate door is accessed for charcoal to be added while smoking
  • Can also be used for grilling.

CONS

  • Some people have a hard time using the lid as you have to take it off completely. It does not come with a hinge or a place for you to hang.
Oklahoma Joe's Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo

Some smokers are flexible. You can turn them into a grill if the need calls for it. But not many are as versatile as Oklahoma Joe’s combo wherein you can smoke and grill at the same time. It’s also a 3-in-1 combo since aside from it being a smoker and a charcoal grill, it also has a gas grill.

The two separate chambers positioned side by side is convenient as you can check on both of your food simultaneously. Each cooking chamber is spacious, with one space measuring up to 750-square-inches while the second one is 310-square-inches. Each cooking space also comes with lids so you can keep the lid closed while you’re smoking on the other chamber, and then keep the other open for grilling.

Temperature gauges are mounted on each lid so it’s useful to check on their heat levels from where you’re standing. Also, the firebox has its own access door to stoke the fire without any fuss and without losing too much heat.

So if you need of a grill, a smoker, and a gas grill, the Oklahoma Joe combo might just be the answer to all your barbecuing needs.

PROS

  • There’s a storage shelf located underneath the cooking chamber. It’s helpful for when you want a place to store your utensils while cooking without having to stray too far from the grill to get them.
  • The touch handles on the lids come with Oklahoma Joe’s Cool Touch steels so your hands don’t get burned easily as you close and open them.
  • It’s a wagon type that makes for moving it around easier.
  • The grates are made from cast-iron that’s porcelain-coated.

CONS

  • If not well-maintained, the grills will rust first from the bottom out.
Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24"

The Camp Chef Smoke Vault is an attractive piece of smoker with its stainless steel door. It may look fancy and sophisticated on the outside, but it’s an easy to use smoker that even beginners can work with.

The knob at the bottom to adjust your heat from a propane tank is simple without any fancy controls. There are 3 damper valves to adjust your heat. The door also has a built-in thermometer to be able to monitor the heat levels inside.

The 24-inch will give you a spacious cooking area for your meats that can feed family parties. But if you’re looking for something smaller, the Camp Chef Smoke Vault also comes in 18 inches.

PROS

  • This smoking vault comes with 3 racks - two smoking racks and one jerky smoking rack
  • There are 5 slots inside so you can adjust the height levels of your racks
  • There’s a hook where you can hang your gas nozzle so that it doesn’t drag on the floor.

CONS

  • Smoke escapes through the door quite a lot. It may be best to buy a gasket to line the frame to save all that smoke from escaping.
Masterbuilt MB20073519 MES 130P Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker, Black

Smokers are slowly adapting to the modern world and we see that Masterbuilt is joining the digital age as well. This smoker’s main feature is that it has Bluetooth SMART technology so you can set the heat’s temp and timer on an app on your phone. You can also check the meat temperature with their built-in probe thermometer.

The Masterbuilt Digital Electric smoker has a window in front to check on your food without opening the door as well as 4 chrome-coated racks. It’s compact and can be used outdoors provided you have an electric source.

PROS

  • The whole device is not hot to the touch and seems to be insulated quite nicely
  • The design of the wood chip loader, which is patented, allows you to load chips without opening the door.

CONS

  • The window of the door needs to be cleaned regularly as it can get stained just after two smokings.
Oklahoma Joe's 19202089 Bronco Charcoal Smoker, Black

A lot of people may refer to drum smokers as ugly but Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Charcoal Smoker doesn’t seem to care. The style may still be that of a classic drum smoker but it’s made more durable with its heavy-gauge steel construction. It’s also easily transported from one place to another with its wagon-style wheels.

The basket inside for charcoal is huge that you can smoke for up to 10 hours. The smoker is also versatile as it can be converted into a grill as well. You can customize your cooking setup whether you want to use the grates for smoking your meats, or use the hangers and hook them.

A valve is used to control the airflow that it brings about accurate control over the heat of your smoke. At the end of the day, the Bronco makes for easy cleaning with its conveniently removable ash pan and drain cup.

PROS

  • Handles are not hot to the touch because of the rubber handle grip
  • The Bronco uses a professional temperature gauge with accents that glow in the dark
  • The grates are porcelain-coated.

CONS

  • No known issues.
Cookshack SM025 Smokette Elite Electric Smoker Oven

Cookshack’s Smokette is a simple looking smoker oven. It is box-shaped that runs on electricity. Just put in a couple of wood chips, set your temperature, smoke your meats, and you’re good to go.

Although it may just be a simple device, its features are worth noting. For instance, the interior and exterior of this smoker are double-walled so it’s not hot when you touch it even while it’s turned on. The smoker uses a 750-watt heating element as well.

The grills are stainless steel and can easily slide out. The racks are adjustable so you can get your desired height level for some of your meats to fit. All in all, Cookshack’s Smokette is a decent smoker that can hold whole briskets and full slabs of ribs.

PROS

  • Though the control system is digital, it’s still easy to use as it displays simple functions rather than advanced ones
  • Grills and racks are dishwasher safe
  • It can be used outdoors if you have an electric source.

CONS

  • There is no built-in drip pan
  • The door lock may be difficult to use
  • It says it can be used outdoors but in the event of bad weather such as snow or rain, it's best to keep it covered since it's electric
  • There may be times wherein heating temperatures can be difficult to achieve especially when you want it low for fish.
Char-Griller E06614 AKORN Jr, Red Charcoal kamado Grill

If you’re looking to try out a ceramic Kamado grill and smoker for the first time but afraid of the cost, then Akorn Jr.’s Char-Griller can be your pick since it’s budget-friendly. It also weighs just 37 pounds, which is a little lightweight compared to other Kamado grills that weight more.

Adjustable dampers can be found both on top and at the bottom of the smoker to control heat flow. It can also easily maintain 200-700°F.

PROS

  • Can be safely placed on top of any surface while using it, even on top of a plastic table
  • It has a hinged lid with a latch to lock the lid in place
  • This smoker uses cast iron grates
  • Despite it being ceramic, it’s still portable and can be easily carried around.

CONS

  • This is a low budget Kamado grill and smoker so expect the build to be a little less decent in quality than the more expensive ones.
Traeger TFB42LZBC Grills Lil Tex Elite 22 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker - Grill, Smoke, Bake, Roast, Braise, and BBQ (Bronze)

Cook the way you want to with Traeger’s wood pellet griller. It not only grills and smokes meat but can also roast, braise, bake and barbecue food. The cooking space is large enough to fit 16 burgers or 4 whole chickens. And since it’s made with steel with a powder-coated finish, it’s all the more durable.

>> To see more options see our guide to the best pellet smokers. <<

PROS

  • Digital control display with LED panel to control heat
  • This can accommodate most types of cooking (braise, bake, grill, smoke, roast, and barbecue)
  • The grill grates are easy to clean
  • Comes with an electric auto-start ignition.

CONS

  • Might be a little too advanced for beginners.

Got what you were looking for? We hope you did. Because now, let’s check out some of the guidelines in choosing the best smoker for you.

Guide In Choosing The Best Smoker for Beginners

Guide In Choosing The Best Smoker for Beginners

Cooking Space

Before deciding on buying a smoker, think about how much meat you will be cooking with. Sometimes, you’ll underestimate such a task that you’ll end up with a very small smoker which in turn will make you frustrated.

A recommended size of cooking space is 700 square-inch or more. This should be enough to fit 3 whole racks of ribs.


Material And Quality

Always check for reviews before buying a smoker. Read the material it is made out of. Double-walled stainless steel and ceramic are good terms to look out for when reading the details of a smoker grill.


Temperature

Check if the smoker you’re getting can easily adjust to smoking temperatures of up to 250°F since this is the temperature most meats need for them to be smoked. Seafood on the other hand, such as fish, requires lower temperatures.

Make sure the controls for heat temperatures are easily flexible so you can control the heat levels to your liking.


Portability

It would be nice if smoker grills are portable so you can bring them around with you during camping, barbecue picnics at the park and many more. A nice smoker should also be accessible wherever you are. Electric smokers are a little disadvantageous at this point. But if you have an electric source wherever you’re going then it shouldn’t be such a problem.

Barbecue Accessories

We all know you’re excited about getting started on smoking your meats. But before you do so, there are accessories you should be familiar with. To have them would be a major help in your smoking experience as well. Not to mention, these items can ensure your safety while you cook.

1. Heat Resistant Gloves

BBQ gloves or heat resistant gloves are used for your safety. This is to avoid any accidents and burns on your hands that may result from grilling. If you think you don’t need this, you do. Because you’ll be using these gloves from start to finish. You’ll use these to light your charcoal, while you’re handling the smoker grill and even when you’re cleaning the grill afterward.

Heat resistant gloves are durable. Find ones that can protect you up to 900°F. Also look for gloves that come with a silicone grip so you can hold on to your tongs, knives and other BBQ items with care.

2. Charcoal Chimney Fire Starter

If you’re still using lighter fluid to start your charcoal, get rid of it at once! Lighter fluid is not a recommended way of starting your charcoal for smoking your meats or else you’ll get that strange petroleum taste in your food. It will also affect the meat’s texture as well.

Get a charcoal chimney fire starter. They look like oversized cylindrical mugs where you can put all your charcoal in. Just light the space underneath with newspapers and watch the fire and heat spread through the charcoal inside the cylinder. Wait for about 10 to fifteen minutes. When you see it all consumed with fire, you can then pour the coals safely into your firebox.

3. Tongs

Another accessory you most definitely need is tongs. Long sturdy tongs for grilling meats and another one for shifting around your coals. Tongs are very helpful since it helps you get a better grip at what you’re grilling without you coming into contact with them at such a close range. It can be very hot when you’re standing in front of that grill so having the proper tongs around is important.

4. Grill Brush For Cleaning

It’s important to keep your smokers and grillers clean after use. Leaving them dirty would make them susceptible to wear and tear easily and you don’t want to do that after spending so much money on them.

Clean your smokers with a grill brush. Be sure to look for a brush that has a long handle. You don’t want to burn yourself since your grill should still be a little hot while cleaning them to easily get rid of the dirt. Check if the grill brush is also safe to use on porcelain, ceramic, stainless steel, and cast iron.

5. Boning Knife

Knives are very essential when you’re cooking. They’re considered a must-have even when you’re just starting. But a boning knife is more useful when you’re on a smoking grill.

The shape of the blade helps in trimming off fat from your meats and making them look pretty while sitting there getting smoked. You must also take into consideration the handle and how comfortable it should be to hold.

There you have it. With this guide, you’ll be well equipped with the knowledge of what the best smoker for beginners is. You’ll know the right terms used so it’s easy to distinguish one from the other. Just keep on practicing how to get that fire going and let your smokers do the rest. You’ll be able to have those juicy ribs you’ve been craving for in no time.

Get that grill out and smoke those briskets up! Family barbecues are going to be even more delicious and fun with a smoker grill around.

Smoker FAQs

Do you still have some questions in smoking meats? Here are a few FAQs that might help:

Which is better, electric or gas smokers?

If there’s one thing you should know about electric smokers, it’s that they don’t reach high temperatures easily. However, gas smokers can do the trick for you. Gas smokers are also portable which makes it a better option than electric.

Is gas grill better than charcoal?

Gas grilling is better than charcoal grilling since you can control the heat temperature properly. But as for the taste, charcoal would probably win this round since they’ll give your meats that distinct delicious flavor rather than gas which gives off that fried bacon flavor.

Is smoked meat healthy?

It has long been discussed that there are certain health concerns, such as cancer, posed when grilling or smoking meats. The answer to this is that it depends on how you cook them. Admittedly, cooking in high heat can be more harmful.

There is also no right or wrong answer when asked which is healthier, gas grilling or charcoal grilling. Both pose their risks although gas grilling allows you to control the temperature from getting too high.

The rule of thumb in all things being consumed is to eat in moderation. Eating in small quantities is still the right way to consuming smoked or grilled meats.

To learn more about this, you may visit this site for a more detailed explanation.

Are gas grills safe?

All smokers and grills are safe no matter the type and size. What is important is that you know how to use them properly and store them away safely after use. It is also recommended to check your smoker or grill for any defects before using it.

Make sure your barbecue area is clear from shrubs, trees, or any material that can catch fire quickly. Never let your kids or pets play near the smoker grill.

Always turn off the tap before switching cylinders. Double-check if the main control is turned off after you are grilling.

Please also note that having a proper fire extinguisher such as a bucket of sand or water nearby is helpful. Lastly, always remember not to keep your smokers unattended for too long.

What brand of smoker grill is the best?

There are many brands with different strengths when it comes to smokers. But according to the Best Sellers in Outdoor Smokers in Amazon, the best brand of smoker grill is Masterbuilt with their MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker.

Should I buy a smoker or a grill?

This depends on which one you want or which one you already have. If you have a grill at home, you can just get a smoker. But some smokers can function as a grill too so you can have two functionalities in one cooking apparatus. You should also think about which one you’ll do more frequently. Will it be grilling food or smoking them? Which one will you be more interested in doing?

What is the quickest meat to smoke?

The quickest meat to smoke would be sausages which takes up about 30 minutes to 1 hour. In contrast, the meat that takes the longest to smoke would be a beef brisket, which takes 12 to 20 hours, or a chuck roast, which takes up also 12 to 20 hours.

What temp do you smoke cheese?

Smoking cheese can be quite delicate as there should be a proper temperature for it. Set your smoker up to 90°F only for cheese. You do not want to smoke your cheese way higher than that since it might melt.

Leave it smoking for about 2 to 4 hours. Seal it afterward in a reusable or plastic bag to keep the flavors packed in. Leave it sealed for 2 weeks for a more aged and smoky flavor before eating.

Are electric smokers worth it?

This depends on what type of taste you’re looking for in your smoked meats. Electric smokers may be easy and convenient to use but they won’t give off that smoky flavor in your meats. You’ll have to add other methods to strengthen the smokiness.

It’s also not an outdoor type of smoker since you’ll need a power source hooked up to it.

But if you’re fine without the smoky flavor and the smoke ring, and if you’re looking for just a simple indoor smoker, an electric one will do.

How much electricity does a smoker use?

For most electric smokers, they usually take up about 800 watts per hour.

Should you close the lid when grilling steaks?

This depends on how long you want your steaks to be grilling. Opening the lid will slow down the grilling process since more heat escapes. Closing the lid will get the heat to circulate and therefore grill your steaks a bit faster. The same applies to different types of meat and not just steaks.

What is the 3 2 1 method for ribs?

The 3-2-1 method for ribs is when you want that fall off the bone kind of ribs. It is just simply:

  • 3 hours of smoking – Start by smoking your ribs for over 3 hours. It is recommended to use low heat of up to 225°F.
  • 2 hours in foil – After the 3 hours are up, take it off the grill and wrap your ribs in foil and smoke them again for up to 2 hours. This allows it to soften and marinate in its juices.
  • 1 hour of smoking – Afterward, remove the ribs from the foil and put them back in the smoker for another hour of smoking. This will tighten the ribs just a bit.

Some add more sauce in between each method. But this is the basics of the 3-2-1 method for ribs should you wish for a juicy, tender, and soft outcome.

How long does it take to smoke ribs at 250°F?

Back ribs would take about 3 to 4 hours while spare ribs take 5 to 6 hours.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a comment.

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