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vertical vs horizontal pellet smoker

Vertical vs Horizontal Pellet Smoker (Here Is Why They Are Different)

Do you have a love for tantalizing smoked meat? Then perhaps the vertical vs horizontal pellet smoker comparison below will be of interest to you. These two pellet smokers may work the same but they both have key differences that set them apart.

If you’re shopping around for a meat smoker then consider the vertical and horizontal pellet smokers. But before you pick one take a look at the specifications, similarities, and differences between these two smokers below.

What is a Vertical Pellet Smoker?

Vertical pellet smokers are devices that you use to smoke meat. It’s designed to smoke and roast meat but it can’t grill. What’s more, the vertical pellet smoker has an upright design. Typically, it has various levels so you can place more meat inside the pellet smoker.

How do Vertical Pellet Smokers Work?

You can use charcoal, wood, or a combination of both to fuel your temperature. Typically, the source of heat is further away from the meat so that it doesn’t burn the food. With a vertical design, the smoke from the charcoal or wood can only travel from the bottom upwards.

Types of vertical smokers include:

Z Grills
  • Smoker ovens
  • Box smokers
  • Drum smokers

However, with any type of vertical smoker, the burner is always located at the bottom of the device. Place your charcoal or your wood on the burner to operate the vertical pellet smoker.

What is a Horizontal Smoker?

A horizontal pellet smoker is also used to smoke meat but it’s more versatile than a vertical pellet smoker. With a horizontal pellet smoker, you can grill, bake, and even direct flame boiling. Unlike the vertical smoker, the horizontal cooker has one grill and it has a parallel design with a lid.



How Does a Horizontal Smoker Work?

The main source of fuel for a horizontal pellet smoker is wood pellets. You can’t use charcoal or wood chips with this smoker. Some horizontal smokers require an electric source to light up the pellets. There’s also an electric auger that continuously feeds the flames pellets to keep the heat going.

The horizontal pellet smoker is similar to a standard barbecue grill. There’s a large grill that you can place your meat on and then there’s a lid so you can close your meat off. This allows you to retain the heat inside the smoker so your meat can cook.

How are Vertical and Horizontal Smokers the Same

The vertical and horizontal pellet smokers both serve the same purpose which is to smoke meat. Both of these smokers are easy to use and no matter which one you pick they’ll most likely come with a warranty.

Vertical vs Horizontal Smokers: How Are They Different?

Energy Efficiency

Cooking meat in an oven uses a lot of energy and this isn’t ideal because some meats need to be cooked for long periods before it can be eaten. Fortunately, vertical and horizontal smokers are energy efficient.

Z Grills

However, the vertical pellet smoker uses less fuel making it more energy-efficient compared to the horizontal pellet smoker. Furthermore, the vertical smoker heats up quickly but will need consistent monitoring when cooking meat.

Multipurpose functions

The horizontal pellet smoker has multipurpose functionality. You can grill meat as well as make roasts and even bake loaves of bread. This is because you can monitor the temperatures more effectively with the appliance.

On the other hand, a vertical smoker only has one function which is to smoke your meat. But some users state that the vertical smoker provides better flavors and tender meats that horizontal smokers don’t provide. It could be because horizontal smokers use wood pellets.


If you take care of your vertical smoker it will last for many years. But you’ll have to purchase a high-quality vertical smoker because lower-grade products won’t last. A horizontal pellet smoker may not last as long because there are parts such as wires and mechanical parts that tend to wear over time.

In some cases, if there are a few moving parts inside a horizontal smoker that stops working, you won’t be able to use the machine for its intended purpose. So if you have concerns about the wear and tear of your smoker, then a high-quality vertical pellet smoker may be what you need.

Cooking Capacity

Even though the vertical smoker has a compact design you can smoke more meat in it than you can with a horizontal smoker. Since the vertical smoker has an upright design it has three or more levels inside that you can place your meat onto.

A horizontal pellet smoker only has one grill so you can only cook a certain amount of meat at a time. You can purchase bigger horizontal smokers to fit more meat on the grill but then you’ll be compromising on space. If you have a small outside area a bigger smoker won’t be the ideal choice.

If you simply want to smoke large quantities of meat and save on space then pick a vertical pellet smoker for the job.

Horizontal vs Vertical Pellet Smokers: Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantage of a vertical smoker is that it has a compact design so that it doesn’t take up floor space. It cooks more meat at a time because it has more racks and it saves on electricity bills when you want to cook meats for longer.

The disadvantage of a vertical smoker is that it can only smoke your meat and you have to continuously monitor the temperatures inside the unit. It may not be suitable for beginners who want to learn how to smoke meat correctly.

For horizontal smokers, the advantages are that you can cook different types of food on the grill and you don’t need to monitor the temperatures. This type of smoker is suitable for beginners who want to learn how to make smoked meat.

However, the disadvantage of a horizontal smoker is that it’s not compact and it requires electricity to work efficiently. So if you have a power outage you may not be able to use the ignition of the grill.

What’s the Difference Between a Smoker and a Pellet Grill?

A pellet grill plugs directly into an electric outlet for it to operate. To fuel fires with this type of grill you need pellets which is essentially sawdust compressed into wooden bits. With a pellet grill, you can monitor the temperatures of the heat with a controller.

What’s more, a pellet grill automatically feeds the wooden bits into the fire to control the heat. You can use a pellet grill for your BBQ because you can cook any type of meat on it.

On the other hand, a smoker is a device that doesn’t require an electrical outlet. You can use wood or charcoal to fuel the heat source with a smoker. You can cook any type of meat inside a smoker for long periods of time. A smoker grill provides even cooking.

What Else do You Need to Know About Meat Smoking?

With so much to know about vertical and horizontal pellet smokers, there’s always more to learn about these nifty appliances.

Does Traeger make a vertical smoker?

No, Traeger doesn’t make vertical smokers. It would seem that the brand only makes pellet grills. However, if you’re specifically looking for a vertical smoker then perhaps Pit Boss is your best bet.

Are Pit Boss vertical smokers good?

Yes, Pit Boss is one of the leading brands when it comes to vertical smokers. The brand intends to provide vertical smokers with lots of cooking space and racks that won’t wear over time.

If you’re looking for a quality vertical smoker you may love the Pit Boss Grills Vertical LP Smoker. It has a stainless steel valve burner that provides a high performance 3500 BTU heating power. It has an 884 square inch cooking area with four porcelain-coated racks.

Watch this video to find out how to clean your Pit Boss vertical smoker.



What is an Offset Smoker?

An offset smoker is similar to a vertical one but it’s much larger and it has a simpler design. There are two parts of the offset smoker which consists of a large cooking chamber and a firebox where you place your wood or charcoal. The box is either located under the chamber or next to it.

The offset smoker can resemble a regular BBG grill but the location of the firebox is what makes it unique and is the reason it’s called an offset smoker. The position of the firebox ensures sufficient air and smoke flow through the chamber.


Final Thoughts

Smoking your meat gives it a delicious flavor without over spicing or marinating it. Using a smoker is also therapeutic because it provides a slow cooking process. But the type of smoker you choose will have a huge impact on the flavor of the meat.

You may want a vertical smoker if you want to save on space and have a larger cooking chamber. But if you want versatility then you may want to look at horizontal smokers. It will all depend on your preferences, budget, and the ease of use you’re looking for.

That being said vertical smokers are suitable for experienced meat cookers. The horizontal smoker is ideal for beginners.

Vertical vs Horizontal Pellet Smoker (Here Is Why They Are Different)