best bbq smokers

Best BBQ Smoker Reviews (2020) and Buyer’s Guide

Finding the best BBQ smoker can be a huge challenge whether you’re an experienced camp chef or a novice. This is because there are many models and brands in the market that come with different features. This can leave you puzzled as to how to go about choosing the best smoker.

In this article, we’ll go through the various types of smokers available, their features and how each smoker functions, so that you can make a much more informed decision when you want to purchase one of the best barbecue smokers.

You no longer have to guess what to go for when it comes to finding the best smoker on the market. This is because at BBQ Start Here we’ve taken the time to review several smokers.

Here are the top BBQ Smokers we have picked. So without any further ado, let’s dive in.

NameImageFeatures 
Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D Charcoal Smoker best smokers- 1,890 square inches of cooking space
- 6 cooking grates
Comes in two sizes; standard and wide
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Masterbuilt 20078715 Electric Digital Smoker best smokers- 721 square inches of cooking space
- 4 cooking grates
Comes in two sizes; 30 inch and 40 inch
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Traeger Grills TFB65LZBC Wood Pellet Grillbest smokers- 646 square inches of cooking space
- 1 cooking grate
Comes in one size; 34 inch
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Cuisinart COS 244 Vertical Propane Smoker best smokers- 785 square inches of cooking space
- 4 cooking grates
Comes in one size; 36 inch
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Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cookerbest smokers- 726 square inches of cooking space
- 2 cooking grates
Comes in three sizes; 14, 18 and 22 inch
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Z Grills ZPG-450A 2019 Upgrade Model Wood Pellet Grillbest smokers- 550 square inches of cooking space
- 1 cooking grate
Comes in two sizes; 450 and 550 square inch
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Char-Broil Smoker Roaster & Grill best smokers- 180 square inches of cooking space
- 1 cooking grate
Comes in one size; 180 square inch
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Dyna - Glo DGO1890BDC-D Charcoal Smoker

 Best BBQ Smoker Overall

Dyna-Glo is one of the best vertical smokers that uses wood chips and charcoal for fuel, making it possible for you to cook smoke flavored foods.

You can cook all kinds and quantities of food with this unit, which has 1,890 square inches of space. It also comes with 6 height-adjustable cooking grates and offset functionality.

Its pre-installed door is sealed, which means more heat and less smoke when cooking. The offset function ensures that direct heat doesn’t get to the cooking meat.

The offset function allows the meat to cook slowly and evenly, including the ones on the bottom racks, which won’t end up cooking too fast. The slow cooking process will give you delicious, smoky flavored meat.

The charcoal chamber is coated with porcelain. This increases the efficiency of the smoker, as it makes it possible to pack coals tightly into it.

This way, you’ll be able to reduce how much heat escapes from the smoker. There’s also a steel ash pan that can hold a huge amount of ash, so you don’t need to keep emptying it while cooking.

You can cook a wide variety of foods with this smoker, such as vegetables, fish and turkey, thanks to the flexibility that this smoker offers. The sausage hooks and rib racks are chrome plated and can be taken out whenever you want.

The Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D offset Charcoal Smoker will help you up your grilling game.

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Huge,1,890 square inches cooking area
  • Efficient charcoal and ash management
  • 6 grill grates
  • Customized fit and mesh side

Masterbuilt 20078715 Electric Digital Smoker

 Best Electric BBQ Smoker

This Masterbuilt 20078715 Electric Digital Meat Smoker will make your barbecue experience much more efficient with its 4 cooking racks that are separately placed.

This allows you to cook different kinds of foods at the same time and mix up food flavors. For instance, you can barbecue meat, vegetables, and ham at the same time on its 721 inches of cooking space.

It has an easy-to-use control panel that makes it one of the best electric barbecue smokers. Temperature can go as high as 100 to 275 degrees F, which you can control using the thermostat.

The blue LED display makes it easy for you to control time and temperature when cooking. It can be easily read even under direct sunlight when you’re out cooking on a sunny day.

The Masterbuilt 20078715, 30-inch best electric meat smoker has a wood chip loader on the side, making the wood chips adding process hassle-free. Some also use pellets although not recommended by Masterbuilt. 

To add wood chips, you don’t need to open the main chamber. Just slide open the chamber from the side and add your wood chips.

This helps to control smoke within the smoker and infuse a smoke flavor onto your food.

The fact that it’s easy to clean makes this one of the best barbecue smokers on the market.

It comes with a drip pan that’s located at the bottom of the gadget, where grease and oil drip during the cooking process. The oil and grease then drain into a tiny hole that leads to a storage pot below the smoker.

CHECK OUT MORE ELECTRIC SMOKERS REVIEWS HERE

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Drip pan at the front
  • Easy-to-read blue LED display
  • 4 cooking racks
  • Thermostat power control
  • 800-watt heating component

Traeger Grills TFB65LZBC Wood Pellet Grill

 Best Pellet BBQ Smoker

Traeger Grills Wood Pellet Grill is an upgraded version of the Lil’ Tex. It offers a larger cooking area as compared to the Lil’ Tex, making it possible for you to cook more food at the same time.

This is one of the best pellet smokers that uses wood, giving your food a rich flavor and smell, unlike gas and charcoal fueled smokers. In addition, your food is unlikely to burn.

This grill provides you with a lot of flexibility when it comes to temperature control. You can easily set your food to cook fast or slow, whether you’re baking, barbecuing, roasting, braising or grilling.

All you have to do is adjust the temperature with a dial to your desired level.

This smoker provides you with 646 inches of cooking space. This will allow you to cook two dozen burgers, nine ribs, or six chickens simultaneously.

What’s more, all the oil, sauces, dirt and grease drain through a tiny spout that’s found on the side of the smoker, making it easy for you to clean up. You can also easily wipe down the grill using a slightly wet piece of cloth.

This grill is portable, thanks to its two sets of wheels. It has a big set of wheels and a small set of wheels, which can be easily locked. This allows you to move it anywhere you want to.

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Large cooking area
  • Flexibility when cooking with the hot and fast or low and slow options
  • Precise temperature adjustment

Cuisinart COS 244 Vertical Propane Smoker

 Best Propane Smoker

The Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical, black, 36-inch propane smoker can take your grilling game to the next level. You can use it at home, at a party or any social event.

Its vent design makes it easy to be turned into a table for two people to eat from. So, in case you are short on tables, no need to interrupt your dining experience, as you can use the grill as a tabletop.

You can cook for up to eight people using this grill, as it comes with four cooking grates, which are 14 by 14 inches. You can easily take out the grates, in case you want to cook bigger pieces of meat.

Its sleek design and side handles make it one of the best, due to its easy portability. Thanks to its heavy-duty design, you won’t risk the grill falling apart. 

The different elements of this grill are coated with porcelain enamel, which makes it possible for the grill to accommodate high temperatures without its external part becoming too hot.

However, you should always take caution and use heat-proof gloves when you’re cooking.

This 40-inch propane grill comes with a hose and regulator. This way, you’ll save money, as you won’t have to buy one. Find more here on how much propane you can expect it to use.

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Easy-to-read thermometer
  • Lasts a long time
  • Good value for money

Best Charcoal Smokers

Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker

If you don’t barbecue on a regular basis or if you’re buying a smoker for the first time, then the Weber 711001 Smoker is an option that you might want to consider. This 14-inch smoker is easy to use, making it one of the best options to introduce you to the art of barbecuing and smoking food.

The grill comes with a grommet, which you can easily use to keep an eye on the temperature of the smoker without having to open its door.

You can keep an eye on how hot the internal part of the grill gets using this thermometer. The porcelain enamel-coated water pan produces steam, which helps to keep the meat moist and soft as it cooks.

You can easily add woodchips through the aluminum door that’s rustproof. Airflow is optimized through air dampers.

The charcoal chamber helps to stabilize the temperature throughout the cooking process with its ability to contain fuel in one place.

The handles of these smokers are made out of nylon and they’re heat resistant, which is quite essential when you’re barbecuing. Other similarities shared are the storage covers, the small air spaces that are in the bowl and lid and the built-in thermometer, which is quite accurate.

A lot of changes have been made to upgrade the thermometer since the original model was first released.

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Retains most of its heat due to the porcelain-enameled coating on bowl and lid
  • Doesn't corrode or peel
  • Comes with two racks
  • Silicone rubber grommets
  • Easy temperature control using dampers

CHECK OUT MORE CHARCOAL SMOKERS REVIEWS HERE

Z Grills ZPG-450A 2019 Upgrade Model Wood Pellet Grill

If you like smoke-flavored food, then the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A wood pellet grill is the one for you. This 7-in-1 model is ideal for cooking wood smoked recipes.

You can use Z Grills to roast, smoke, braise, bake, barbecue or sear up to 20 pounds of meat within 20 hours. This best pellet smoker has a temperature range between 180 degrees and 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

The grill uses advanced wood fire technology that’ll leave your food with a rich, smoked flavor. It’s can be used to cook for small groups or large groups of people. This smoker uses either gas or propane.

This is one of the best barbecue smokers for first-time buyers or users of grills due to its easy-to-use nature. The ignition automatically starts and you can easily keep an eye on various controls, such as the temperature through the LED Display.

You can use it to cook different types of meat, such as pork, tenderloin, steak, chicken wings and chops as you connect and have fun with your family and friends.

The Z GRILLS ZPG-450A doesn’t rust easily and it’s quite durable. It has a smooth design and a contemporary look that’s emphasized by its fine finishing. Once you buy it, expect to use this stainless-steel grill for a long time to cook your favorite smoke flavored recipes.

It’s easy to control the temperature of this best meat smoker as wood chips can be automatically added as required. Once you set the temperature, it’ll stay within 10 degrees of the temperature that you have set. This will make sure your food is evenly cooked for the best dining experience.

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Large cooking area
  • Automatically started
  • 3 years guarantee
  • Electric feed process that has been automated
  • Fan forced natural cooking process

Char-Broil Smoker Roaster & Grill

The Char-Broil Infrared Smoker looks like a barrel and you can use it to smoke, grill and roast. This grill has an inner stainless-steel inner layer and an outer layer. These two layers are separated by an air gap that’s in between them and is opened from the top.

You’d expect that the smoker gets really hot due to the fact that it uses infrared. However, this isn’t true as the temperature never gets that high. It’s heated by a propane burner set that’s found at the bottom of the air gap. This radiates energy that heats up the inner layer.

To get smoke, you can put the wood in a stainless-steel gadget, which you can hang inside the grill. You can place the rack on top of the cooking chamber. This rack can have up to four shelves. This is where the food stays.

Even though this grill has a modern design, we really wouldn’t classify it as one of the best barbecue smokers. It doesn’t hold a lot of food and can hardly support two chickens being cooked simultaneously or even a medium-sized pork shoulder.

If you want to cook rib slabs on it, it’ll be best that you first cut them in half. In addition, if you want to baste or mop meat that’s on a lower rack, you first have to remove the racks on top of it or at least take off the meat that’s on the upper shelves.

The meat cooked on this grill won’t darken, mainly due to the fact that the grill never really heats up.

Moreover, the smoke produced by the wood chips isn’t enough to leave your food with that tasty smoky flavor.

This smoker is rather a light-duty smoker. An important thing to note is that it’s a little challenging to put together.

For best results, you should use this grill in a well-covered place, as the flames can be easily blown out if it’s placed in a windy place.

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • It grills meat evenly
  • Can roast up to 25 lbs of food
  • Uses TRU infrared technology
  • Has 180 inches of cooking space

Types of BBQ Smokers

We’ve broken down the best smokers into seven categories. Some of the categories might overlap, but generally, we grouped them based on style and build.

A lot of the best barbecue smokers fall into one of the categories that we’ve listed here.

Vertical Water Smokers

Vertical water smokers are budget-friendly. This could be one of the contributing reasons as to why they’re quite popular on the market.

Vertical water smokers have a compact design. Since they’re small in size, it means that they don’t use a lot of fuel when cooking. This makes them a much better option compared to large smokers.

Box Smokers

Box smokers can also be referred to as cabinet smokers, vault smokers or block smokers. These best barbecue smokers are pretty simple as they have a basic design. The cooking chamber is at the top, while the fireplace is at the bottom of the grill.

Since the fireplace is directly under the cooking chamber, there’s efficient use of fuel. What makes some box grills better than others is the quality of insulation.

Offset Smokers

An offset smoker usually has two sections; the cooking chamber and the firebox. The cooking chamber of the offset smoker consists of a barrel-shaped or box-shaped metal that has a lift door and a smokestack. The firebox is usually connected to the cooking chamber, it has vents that can be adjusted and a door either on the top or on the sides.

The heat and smoke are conducted into the cooking chamber through a tiny hole that’s found between the two sections. The smoke then moves through the smokestack, which is usually on the opposite end of the chamber. If you want to know more check out our guide dedicated to offset smokers.

Smoker Ovens

Smoker ovens use an electric heating element, which is placed on the lower part of the oven. It’s well insulated. The element heats the wood chips that are placed over it in a pan.

The grill uses indirect heat, as a piece of metal between the heat and food conducts away the heat, while also collecting oil and grease drippings from the cooking food.

This helps keep the grill clean. To cook meat, it’s placed on the cooking racks. It’s then cooked at an optimal temperature, as the oven has a computer that’s used to control the temperature of the oven while the food is cooking.

Drum Smokers

This is the best basic grill that’s usually made out of a steel drum. The cooking rack is placed at the top, while the firebox is at the bottom part of the grill.

The temperature is controlled through the air spaces that can be found on the lid and the bottom part of the grill.

The grill is tightly sealed to avoid smoke from leaking out. The direct heat from the charcoal cooks the food and no water pan is placed in the chamber.

This makes this smoker ideal for cooking chicken and ribs. However, it can be quite challenging to cook pork roasts and briskets.

Pellet Grills

These barbecue smokers use wood pellets for fuel. This is actually hardwood sawdust that has been made into quarter-inch round pellets. The best pellet smokers are known for being used for cooking, and heating indoor areas.

In the 1980s, Joe Traeger started, and Traeger Grills popularized the idea of these grills being used outdoors. The grills produce constant heat and have a clean burn that produce a light smoky flavor.

Kamado Grills

Kamado grills can cook food at very high temperatures that can go as high as 750 F (400 C). Also, they’re versatile enough to allow slow cooking at low temperatures.

This makes them quite ideal to be used outdoors. They have an attractive design and can last for a long time, especially if they’re well taken care of. 

When compared to other types of smokers, Kamado grills are worth every penny you spend on them, especially if you’re planning on using it often.

How to Choose a Smoker

There are many kinds of smokers in the market and you can easily find the best cheap smoker or even an expensive one that’ll be well worth your money. Smokers come in different sizes, shapes and they use a wide variety of fuels.

There are various factors you should have in mind when you’re looking for the best grill to buy.

Temperature Range

If you want your food to have that smoky flavor, then you have to cook it on low heat over a long period of time.

When choosing a grill that allows you to adjust the temperature settings, go for a smoker that can reach up to 500 degrees. You can use the high temperature to caramelize your food.

The best pellet smoker would be one that gives you the flexibility to control the temperature the way you want. This will give you the freedom to just set the temperature and leave it to cook until it’s done, without you having to do anything else.

Features

You can easily grill your food without putting a lot of effort into the process. If you’d rather just gather around the fire and have fun with your friends as you cook, then you might prefer to go for the best simple model, where you can put your food on the fire and then forget about it until it’s done.

Go for models that have electronically-controlled processes. However, if you would like to be more involved in the cooking process, then a grill that comes with many features would be quite ideal like temperature control, headspace, side shelves, side burners, refractory bodies, carts and wheels etc.

Price

The price of the smokers vary widely. They can be as low as $100 or as expensive as $10,000.

If you’re going to be using the smoker only once in a while, then go for the best basic model like a vertical water smoker.

This is a cheap smoker and you can barbecue various kinds of food on it. It works for most people, as they don’t have any extraordinary needs. However, you can get a lot more from smokers than just the basic necessities.

Size

The size of the smoker that you buy mainly depends on how much food you’ll be cooking on it on a regular basis. If you’ll cook for your family only- as many as 20 people- then go for a small-sized grill.

Many brands will indicate how many people you can cook for using the particular grill that you want. Generally, when you’re planning to grill, budget one pound of raw meat per person that you’re cooking for.

Versatility

Some brands can carry out a variety of actions, such as smoking and grilling. So, if you want these two functionalities, find a grill that can do both. However, you should be aware that even though low-end products promise both of these functionalities, in most cases, that’s not actually true.

Unfortunately, they won’t work well both. If you want a model where both the smoker and grillwork as they should, then you’ll have to invest in more expensive models.

FAQs

Do smokers come with a weatherproof cover?

Not all smokers have a weatherproof cover. Some come with it, but usually, you’ll have to buy the cover separately at an extra cost. Therefore, always check whether the smoker you want to buy comes with a weatherproof cover.

What’s the recommended temperature range?

The recommended temperature varies between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. However, for most smokers, you can adjust the temperature between 50 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do windowed smokers come with any advantage?

Windowed smokers give you the advantage of seeing the food while it cooks. However, the disadvantage of windows is that it allows heat to escape from the grill, thereby making it hard to regulate temperature. To us, the disadvantages of having it outweigh the advantages.

Do you have to season the grill or grates?

Grill models that come with a porcelain enamel coating don’t require seasoning.

However, if the grill comes with cast-iron or stainless steel grates, it’s best that you season them before you start grilling and after you clean it too.

All you need to do is coat the grill’s surface with oil that can withstand high temperatures, like canola oil, for instance. Heat the grill for around 15 minutes, and once the grates are cool, apply a second coat of oil to avoid rusting.

Here is an in-depth guide on how to season a smoker.

How can I clean the grill?

To clean your grill, turn the temperature on high for around 15 minutes. That way, anything sticky on the grill will burn off and will become much easier to scrape. 

You can then clean the grill with hot soapy water using a grill brush.

Don’t forget to give the exterior of your grill a quick wash too.

Are BBQ smokers portable?

Some grills have wheels, while others are stationary and you can’t move them.

If you know beforehand that you won’t be moving the grill around, you can opt for a stationary full-sized grill.

Portable smokers and grills ideal if you’ll be using them in various places. They’re also a better option if you have limited space, because they’re usually smaller in size.

Are temperature gauges accurate?

You’re better off using another way to gauge the temperature in your grill rather than using the built-in temperature gauge. The gauge tends to stop working after some time due to the exposure to high heat. There are many thermometers that are more accurate.

Do smokers come pre-assembled?

Most of them come fully assembled. However, you’ll need to assemble the larger units on your own.

Can I use a BBQ Smoker for cold smoking?

No. Cold smoking is a completely different technique to smoke food. With cold smoking you add to the food a unique smoke flavor. There are specific cold smokers on the market and also some DIY solution you can try such as turning a refrigerator into a cold smoker.

Final Thoughts

Selecting the best smoker boils down to your own needs and preferences.

After reviewing our top picks, we found that the Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D Charcoal Smoker made it to the top of our list. It’s a well-insulated grill that minimizes heat loss and uses less fuel when cooking which means it’ll save you money as well. It’s also easy to use.

It leaves your food with a rich, smoky flavor. You can use it to cook for large groups of people, as well as for your family.

Best BBQ Smoker Reviews (2020) and Buyer\'s Guide
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