“Love the taste of barbequed food? Then investing in a charcoal smoker is the best choice”
Charcoal Smoker is affordable, extremely efficient, reliable, versatile, and a convenient way to cook food outdoors. It provides the authentic smoky flavor to the meat.
They come in all shapes and sizes, from portable units on camping trips to heavy-duty charcoal BBQ grills to cook for a crowd.
Before choosing any charcoal smoker, be sure that you have considered the following key factors.
Cooking Capacity – It depends on your family size (or) the number of people you are going to cook. Average sized grills provide around 300 – 400 square inches of cooking space, which is plenty for a small-medium family. While planning to cook for parties/crowd, choose a smoker with at least 400 sq. ft.
Fuel Efficiency – The efficiency of a charcoal smoker depends directly on its hopper size. So, the larger the size the better it will work. The Kamado-style smokers are considered more efficient than other types of charcoal smokers. Check out the fuel efficiency of a given smoker before its purchase.
Build Quality – We use smokers outdoors, which makes take wind, dust, and other aspects into account. Mostly the build quality of a smoker can be either steel or iron, in which stainless steel is preferred best. As it is easy to heat up, clean, and maintain. One has to look for sturdy door handles, gaskets and locks in a smoker for a better smoking experience.
There are various other aspects to consider when buying the charcoal smoker, which is clearly mentioned in the below “Buying Guide”.
Scroll down to read our best product reviews and the guide to pick the right one online.
6 Best Charcoal Smokers
6 Best Charcoal Smokers Reviews
First on our list is the Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D. This is a vertical offset styled widebody charcoal smoker that is one of the most reviewed and highly rated models there is. It also comes with a premium quality smoker cover that lets you cover up the device when you are not using it and if it is stored outside.
- Ample cooking space with a very large 1,890 square inches of cooking area
- Comes with stainless steel cooking grates 6 in nos. These are replaceable and can be hand washed as well
- The vertical offset design of the smoker makes it best suited for easy carry and outdoor usage.
- It also includes a very neat charcoal and ash management system. For this, there is a dedicated charcoal chamber and a charcoal grate. The removable ash pan collects the charcoal ash and can be later be dispensed off
- At the top center of the smoker, you have a temperature gauge that lets you know of the internal temperature of the food being smoked
- The cover is made out of high quality water-resistant and heavy-duty PVC 600 D polyester lining material for the cover’s cover.
Warranty: About 3 years of manufacturer’s warranty from the date of purchase
- None too specific to mention
The Weber smokey mountain cooker is a very interestingly designed charcoal smoker. While this version is a 14 inches large charcoal smoker, Weber also has 2 other models in the sizes 18 inches and 22 inches respectively.
- Has a more than decent 286 square inches of grilling area whereas the main grilling area of the smoker is about 143 square inches.
- For the 14 inches large size, the grilling machine has just about 24 lbs of weight and this makes it far more portable in nature for campsites, outings, road trips etc.,
- Can reach a top approximate temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal cooking and smoking as well
- The grill on the machine is painted and coated with stainless steel to prevent any rusting formation
- It also has stainless steel standing legs that are sturdy and both give it a height and non-movement
- Very easy to assemble and requires a minimal but simple self-assembly
- Incredibly high ratings and reviews
Warranty: Weber has a very strong warranty policy of providing a massive 10 years limited manufacturer’s warranty period from the date of purchase
- Tiny size makes it not to have racks for more room of grilling or cooking
Next up on our list, we have yet another portable and amazingly rated charcoal smoker machine. The Char-Broil is a bullet model charcoal smoker with a portable sizing of 16 inches.
- Has a decent if not great cooking space of about 370 square inches. This surface has 2 porcelain coated and sturdy cooking grates for a carefree cooking experience.
- The smoker comes with an innovative and unique airflow control system. This aids in simplifying the temperature regulation and thus makes the overall grilling and smoking easier.
- It also has a lot of number based damper settings that give you great toggle control
- The grills, which are coated with porcelain are known to last longer and also easier to clean and use as well.
- The smoker has a central opening for fire access that allows for easier dumping of charcoal and fuel thus making the grilling a much easier experience.
- The fire access can also segregate different flavors of wood for different smoke seasoning
- The sides of the smoker have two chamber lift handles and the temperature gauge is lid-mounted
- With its strong steel tube legs, it stands strong and sturdy without any imbalances.
- The bottom of the smoker acts as a removable ashtray that can be replaced and removed easily as well.
- It is also available in a 20 inches large bullet version as well
Warranty: Comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty from the date of purchase
- May not be suitable for grilling large meat quantities.
Next up on our list is the Real cook, a 17 inches large heavy-duty vertical steel built charcoal smoker that is perfect not only for smoking but also for BBQ, Grilling, and much more. The grill is also available in a 20 inches variant as well.
- The real cook BBQ grill smoker has a very large and amply spaced 453 square inches of cooking area.
- This area is equidistantly placed with crossbars and has a total of 4 hangers inside the lid. This gives you the flexibility to cook/grill or smoke different shapes and sizes of the meat.
- It has a built-in thermometer that has very detailed temperature scaling. That and the fact that it has an adjustable air supply on the lid will give you greater temperature control and thus act as a cooking thermostat. The reading can be seen from the central top-placed thermometer gauge reader
- The smoker has bakelite handles that are sturdy and make moving the grill from one point to another smooth and simple.
- Highly temperature resistant and sturdy overall build.
- The smoker has a porcelain enamel-based water pan underneath. This will give you a stable water supply for the smoke.
- As for the charcoal, it also has a porcelain enamel-based pan as well.
- Easy to assemble and use. The two-layer design of the grill makes it simpler to not only take them apart and transport but also to store or clean too.
- The front of the smoker grill has a 2 access door that makes it easier to access the food, check the temperature, and level up the meat on either of the two grills.
Warranty: There is no mention of a warranty in the product literature
- No mention of warranty
- The metal joints at places kind of feel a bit cheap
The Masterbuilt 20060416 is a bullet style charcoal smoker. While the design statement for the smoker may not be ostentatious, it does the job fine and has a large cooking area and good build material.
- The smoker has a total of 395.4 square inches of cooking space.
- It has two smoking racks inside it that are made out of porcelain coating which make it easier to clean and stylish yet sturdy at the same time
- Even the pan and the water bowl are porcelain coated which makes it easier to cook and smoke up the water
- There is the front access door that makes the task of adding charcoal very easy and simple.
- For the temperature maintenance, you have the built-in lid thermometer which accurately measures the temperature of the food
- This grill can be customized with plenty of racks and shelves etc., for different types of cooking
Warranty: There is no mention of a warranty anywhere in the product literature
- No warranty
- The grills given are a bit smaller than expected
Last and finally on our list, we have the Cuisinart COS- 116, a vertical smoker. Cuisinart is a reputed brand and is known for its incredibly versatile and heavy-duty smokers and grills. This one right here is 16 inches, a portable charcoal smoker that is perfect for the outdoors and needs no electricity.
- Has a total of 402 square inches of cooking, smoking and grilling area. This makes it a great tool for outdoor picnics and other such activities
- The 16 inches charcoal smoker is made out of high-quality stainless steel material.
- Both the grills and the water pan are made out of porcelain and this makes it easier to not only use but clean as well
- Dual ventilation systems from both the bottom and topsides make it great for quick grilling, smoking, and cooking.
- It has 2 racks that make it better for you to cook twice the meat than one.
- Great temperature regulation and control
- The base of the grilling smoker is latched whereas the door has vertical hinges that makes it sturdy for pick up and place it anywhere you’d want it to.
Warranty: Cuisinart provides you with 3 years of limited manufacturer’s warranty from the date of purchase
- Need to improve the overall build quality
Buying Guide for Best Charcoal Smoker:
Finding the best charcoal smoker that fits perfectly for your outdoor cooking needs is a bit tough job. There are various considerations to be taken into account while buying this charcoal smoker. Here we are providing a detailed buying guide will all the essential information required to pick the right smoker for you. Check it out before you plan to purchase a charcoal smoker.
1. Smoker Type:
There are two main ways to build a smoker – Vertically or Horizontally. Let’s know about them in detail.
Vertical Smokers – Here the smoke and heat go almost in a straight line from the bottom to the top, just like a big chimney. It includes various styles like kamado-style, water/bullet, and vertical cabinet smokers. The main advantage of this vertical smoker is its footprint, as they take up less space on your patio or deck.
Horizontal Smokers – This model offers the fire-off to one side and let the smoke and heat circulate throughout the chamber before heading out the smokestack. You can access the meat and fire from one or more doors. A kettle grill style comes under this model, as the fire is off to one side while smoking. The main advantage of this smoker is its cooking area. It allows you to layout various racks of ribs without hanging or rolling them. So, great for cooking large quantities of food.
2. Cooking Capacity:
Based on their family size, one has to check out the cooking capacity of a particular charcoal smoker/grill before making its purchase.
The average cooking size for most grills will be around 300 – 400 square inches of space. This would be plenty of space for cooking food for a small-medium family or smaller parties or friends’ gatherings.
Want to cook for a large group of people/crowd (like for any events or parties), then look for a smoker having at least 400 square inches of space (or above). In general, vertical and offset charcoal smokers will provide this required cooking space. Thereby makes it ideal for cooking food to a large crowd.
Mostly we notice the cooking space/size mentioned in square inches, yet you can translate this size to figure out the number of burger patties it can cook. Thus, you can get a more precise way to figure out how much space you require and how much it provides. So, you can grab the right one, as per your cooking space requirement.
3. Combination Smoker and Grill:
The combination smoker is quite useful for those who plan to use this charcoal smoker for grilling and cooking purposes. This versatile smoker will allow you to use it for grilling meats and cooking food items at high temperatures such as pizza. Though these smokers are expensive, yet it is worth investing to use them for multiple purposes.
4. Build Quality:
One can easily notice some difference in the quality of every smoker type – either it can be lower quality models or high-end smokers.
- Lower quality models have thinner materials, like sheet metal without any insulation. Its seams and door leaks will make it hard to maintain a consistent temperature.
- Higher-end models will have tight seams, thick walls, and vents. With its sturdy door handles, gaskets and locks, this smoker will provide a better smoking experience.
So, the thicker the steel quantity, the more it costs. Also, the wind and weather will fluctuate lower heat during cooking and the longer it lasts. While in high-quality models, you can either make modifications to make them work properly (or) don’t have to mess around drilling holes for replacement or upgraded temperature gauge.
These are small vents located all over the smoker that is used to control the internal temperature. If you plan to cook at a high temperature, then simply experiment to know how much these dampers have to be closed to crank up the heat. To do this, you have the check out the built-in thermometer on the lid.
In case, if the smoker’s cooking temperature is too high, then open some of these dampers slightly and continue checking the temperature regularly for 15 minutes. Whereas need to have the low temperature for slow-cooked meats (brisket), open even more dampers.
Most modern models offer an extensive damper system to provide the user more control over the temperature but become a bit difficult for those who won’t have any prior smoking or grilling experience to understand how to adjust/make use of it effectively.
You should keep track of how quickly the internal temperature rises and how quickly you can make small damper adjustments to prevent overshooting the temperature. We generally open (either fully or partially) the top exhaust damper at all times to keep the clean fire burning. If you completely shut the top exhaust damper, it leads to a dirty fire, and thereby results in cooking meat with a bitter taste and creosote buildup.
Don’t make too many adjustments to the dampers at once. All you need is slowly make small adjustments and give it some time to have an effect before making another one. So, through proper practice, you can easily know how to control this internal temperature.
Here the efficiency and build quality of a smoker are interconnected. The less a smoker leaks, the less fuel it will burn and thus makes it work efficiently. Kamado style grills are considered most efficient, which has one vent each at the top and bottom and its lid has a gasket to tightly seal it. Thus, makes it work efficient and long burning.
So, the more screw holes, seams, or other openings a smoker has, the more it can leak and thereby loses its efficiency. The best examples are the cheap offset smokers, but we can modify these cheap grills by sealing seams and holes and adding gasket materials.
Also, we can improve the efficiency of the grill with less cost. For instance, check for insulation or purchase an insulated blanket/welding blanket for the smoker while cooking food in cold temperatures.
It depends on what kind of smoker/grill you want to use for cooking. Here some models are portable, yet some others are not.
Larger grills or smokers used for cooking food in bigger or commercial parties are not meant for portability. They are often vertical units that let you transport in trucks. While other models offer amazing portability, which we generally use for personal or individual smoking. These are lightweight, which let you take them for camping, tailgating, and traveling. Also, a few models have portable wheels to help you easily move them from one place to another.
Choosing a charcoal smoker that offers the best durability and built to last longer by withstanding various issues is a bit difficult task. A charcoal smoker/grill has to be reliable and built from high-grade material. For this, check out for smokers, which are completely rust-resistant and can hold up outdoors in any type of weather or climatic conditions.
9. Temperature Management:
It is another crucial factor to consider while purchasing this charcoal smoker. Though the charcoal smoker won’t have an automatic system, which makes it somewhat difficult to manage the temperature. So, you have to grab the smoker having the best temperature management controls.
Here the future-proofing means to ensure that your smoker doesn’t become obsolete after a single season. Predict how often you cook on the smoker, how much meat at once and planning to use smoker and grill (or any one type). This will avoid buying multiple grills or smokers along with various accessories.
Here are a few recommendations that help you in picking the right one.
- If you are planning to cook a variety of food items like from cheese pizza to ribs, then choose a model having a large capacity, enough racks, and probe ports to fulfil your cooking needs.
- Whether you smoke meat or sear steaks on weekends, then a kettle or a kamado grill will be your best option.
- For cold smoking a lot of fish and cheese, you can better go with an offset model.
- One has to essentially consider the capacity of a particular smoker for its future-proofing. For instance, do you and your partner like to have some smoked meat every time (or) planning to gear up for large groups.
- For low – moderate usage, you can simply go with a kettle grill (or) bullet-type smoker. If you are a budget freak, then purchase a kamado grill, which provides both grilling and smoking capabilities. Also, this kamado grill appears more elegant on any deck or patio.
- Looking for a smoker with higher capacity, then select a vertical type or offset model, which comes in various sizes.
- Planning for rotisserie cooking, sear on soapstone, bake pizzas or fry fish gently in baskets, then check out what accessories you need and whether your model is providing or not, before its purchase.
11. Customer Support:
Ensure that the manufacturer provides both customer support and a community built around the products before you any product, including this charcoal smoker or grill. Does the manufacturer provide an email address (or) toll-free number to contact them for resolving your queries?
Don’t get tempted to low price and buy a product from a manufacturer providing poor customer service. Mostly, it helps to share the tips and techniques from like-minded people on how to resolve their queries.
12. Care & Maintenance:
Regular cleaning and maintenance will provide the required attention to the charcoal grill. For this, you have to check the cleaning feature of the smoker and clean it regularly. It won’t let end up with a messy smoker to make smoking food a nightmare, if not cleaned properly.
Also, go through your user manual to extend the life of your smoker. It has all the information on how to set it up, use, clean and maintain it properly along with the safety precautions and warnings.
Usually, most charcoal smoker models are affordable, ranging from $100 – $500. You can find a decent quality charcoal smoker with average features priced around $200 – $300.
Are you a first-time user (or) don’t want to use it regularly? Then avoid looking for any extra features. Pick up a basic charcoal smoker with decent features, which comes at an affordable price. Also, make sure to keep in mind that the running costs of a smoker, as charcoal is the most expensive fuel to purchase.
Choosing a product covered by a warranty will be like getting an incentive, why because the manufacturer stands behind their product. Most models come with a minimum of a 1-year warranty, whereas other higher-priced smokers will offer a long warranty period of about 2 – 5 years. So, choose a model offering a lengthy warranty covering the body, grates, and other manufacturing defects of the product.
Different Types of Charcoal Smokers:
In general, we use charcoal as fuel to grab the classic smoky flavor or smoke ring to the dish cooking in this smoker. You can find various other types of smokers using this classic charcoal as their fuel. Let’s know about them in detail.
1. Bullet Smokers:
These are vertical, cylindrical smokers that appear as bullets. Considered as great beginner smokers that work well and are customizable. They use water pans to regulate the internal temperature, which makes them called water smokers.
2. Kamado Smokers:
These Kamado grills/smokers offer a versatile way to cook outdoors. They look like oval ovens (egg-shaped) that let you bake, grill, roast and smoke. So, considered a perfect choice for those who are looking for something more than having a simple smoker.
3. Drum Smokers:
These are homemade smokers made from metal drums, which makes them cost-efficient and a great option for budget freaks. Yet they don’t work as a professional built smoker. Some manufacturers used this design to create a dedicated product around the UDS idea.
4. Vertical Smokers:
As the name implies, these smokers stand vertically and thereby the fire lit at the bottom. Here the smoke rises up through this smoker and cooks the meat perfectly. The main pro of this type is that they can cook plenty of food at once. This makes it as best option to cook food in bulk for a lot of people.
5. Smoker Grills:
Though they are grills, yet can slightly be used as smokers. It let you grab the versatile benefits at quite less cost, compared to other basic grills.
6. Offset Smokers:
Whenever you think of classic BBQ smoking, you can use this typical offset smoker. There are horizontal smokers with a firebox on a side, which makes the heat and smoke get pulled through the smoker from the firebox. This way, the food gets heated and cooked well. So, the higher-end offset models are considered the best charcoal smoker types.
How to Use a Charcoal Smoker?
Using a charcoal smoker is easy but it is not that everyone knows how to cook in a charcoal smoker (or its cooking process), especially for first-time users. So, here we are providing some useful suggestions that help you in knowing how to use this charcoal smoker effectively.
Fuel Preparation – We know charcoal is the main fuel for this smoker and among its two types, prefer to use charcoal briquettes rather than lump charcoal. The reason is that it generates consistent heat, instead of too hot. Also, to create a unique flavor, you have to soak wood chips in water for about 30 minutes before using them.
Fill the Water Pan – Fill the water pan with three-quarters full of cold water.
Light Coal in a Charcoal Chimney – Having a chimney then add lit coals in a smoker. Not having a chimney, then stack coals in a pyramid in the unit. Lighter fluid is suitable and wait for some times to burn the coals till a thin layer of white ash appears.
Add Food to the Grill – Place the meat inside the smoker on the grill grates. Usually, a smoker has both upper and lower grates that let you cook more than one type of meat at a time.
Temperature Control – Most charcoal smokers offer a built-in thermometer, which is used to check the temperature ranging from 220°F – 250°F to have perfect cooking. Here the bottom vents are designed to allow air to enter, whereas top vents allow air to exit from the smoker.
Add Wood Chunks – As we already soaked wood chunks in water. Place them into the firebox among coals to grab the perfect smoky flavor.
Let the Meat Cook Slow and Long – This charcoal smoker cooks meat slowly and evenly for hours. Simply, trace the thermometer to make sure that the meat is cooked perfectly and evenly.
How to Clean a Charcoal Smoker?
A charcoal smoker leaves grease, oil and organic matter after you completed the cooking process. So, it is essential to clean the device. Here are the following tips that help you to keep the smoker clean and neat.
- After every smoke, especially after all grills are cooled, you have to scrape the grill grates. Wipe off all these cool grills by using a wet sponge and throw away ashes.
- One has to deeply clean the smoker at least once a year by scraping off grease and carbon clinging to grill grates.
- Check out the inside of its cooking chamber, clear buildup substances that includes carbon and soot, along with dry internal parts. This will reduce the formation of rust.
- Usually, grease gets separated from the grilling area after you cook by flowing into oil collectors, dripping pan, or aluminum foil sheets.
- Finally, wipe off the thermometer probe by using a damp soapy sponge.
How to make the best out of the charcoal smoker?
Here are some tips that help you to get the most out of your smoker. Have a look and follow them.
- Lighten the charcoal smoker properly, which can be done easily with either an electric lighter or chimney lighter. While using a chimney starter, you should learn how to use this lighter to start a charcoal smoker.
- Experiencing any troubles in maintaining a constant temperature, then simply opt for an automatic temperature controller. You can use a digital thermometer for accurate reading rather than built-in thermometers.
- Most experts recommend using lump charcoal (the purest form of charcoal) rather than briquettes. The reason is that they burn naturally and cleaner.
- Make sure to replace the evaporated liquid in the water pan. It is not good to let the water pan run completely dry, as it makes the temperature shoot up.
- Use tongs to add and place either charcoal or wood lumps carefully on the hot coals. There won’t require to stir the coals (or) place the charcoal deep into the hot coals.
- Make sure to check out the temperature chart and smoking times to ensure that your food is cooked properly and perfectly. Also, season your new smoker properly by using a seasoning guide.
Tips to Follow for a Safe & Efficient Operation:
Here are some safety tips that have to be followed for safe and efficient usage of the charcoal smoker.
- Always purchase a smoker having enough cooking space to cook food as per your requirements -either for your family or at large events to use it.
- Ensure that the coals are extinguished completely after using the smoker to get rid of any fire hazards.
- Want to travel with this charcoal smoker, then select a model that is lightweight, compact, and portable enough to carry along with you. Place this smoker on the back of your RV, vehicle (car), or truck bed.
- Before using the smoker, you have to burn the charcoal for a couple of minutes. Check out for coals to be covered in gray/white ash as a sign to hot enough.
- Remain open the lid/doors to the smoker while arranging and lightening the charcoal. Close the lid when once the charcoal starts burning properly.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Charcoal Smokers:
It is quite essential to know about the pros and cons of charcoal smokers before making its purchase. Let’s get started.
Advantages of Charcoal Smokers:
Here are its pros/benefits…
- The flavor is the main advantage that we grab from a charcoal smoker. While pellet smokers, electric smokers, and gas smokers won’t hold the flavor produced by the charcoal.
- One can easily use these charcoal smokers without any electricity or propane. It only requires charcoal as a fuel, which is inexpensive and can heat up easily to cook food perfectly.
- These smokers are versatile and allow you to cook meat at high heat and smoke meat at a low temperature (for several hours) as well. You can choose either as per your cooking requirements.
Here are its cons/drawbacks….
- It is difficult to light most of the charcoal grill smoker, even the best ones as well. This makes you add extra 30 – 45 minutes to your cooking time to set charcoal to get the right heat.
- These smokers require constant attention, why because their temperature will fluctuate constantly. This makes the user (new user) frustrate while using this smoker. If it runs at a high temperature, the meat cooks too quickly, if runs with too low temperature, then it won’t produce enough smoke to the meat. So, set it wisely.
- It will make more mess and can be difficult and dangerous to clean up if the ashes didn’t cool completely. So, let the coal ashes cool properly before cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions
The coal/charcoal fuel burns for about an hour at a specific temperature, in which this heat level is generally hotter than smoking temperature. So, set the coal fuel and temperature for the perfect cooking of your food.
Whenever you inhale this charcoal smoke, its particulate matter will enter into your lungs and bloodstream quickly. Thereby may worsen your health with these harmful effects. One of the main elements called carbon monoxide will cause the most detrimental effects on health, even if inhaled just a small amount of this gas.
In general, once every 30 minutes or every hour is the best way to add charcoal to the smoker, as per the temperature gauge instructions. We place extra charcoal on the smoker every couple of hours to adjust the airflow if you found any decline in the temperature below the required level.
Yes, you can add more charcoal by placing them directly into the burning coals to lower the temperature. If you want to put the charcoal on the top of the burning coals, then lighten them first before placing them.
One can add unlit coals to ensure that the temperature starts to dip. Make sure to add only unlit coals, yet the lit coals have to be gradually added to the smoker. Keep the chimney to fire up extra lit coals before pouring them into a smoker (or) simply add them by using tongs.
In general, we use both smoker and grill to cook meat by using charcoal as fuel to create a distinctive flavor. Yet the main difference among these devices is the heat mode. The smoker uses an indirect heat with low temperature, whereas a grill uses direct heat with higher temperature.
For a smoker, the charcoal burns in one area and meat are placed in another area and the ideal heat temperature will be 220°F – 250°F. While the grill cooks meat above the burning coals with a heat temperature of over 500°.
Out of all the smokers mentioned in the list today, the Dyna-Glo charcoal smoker is a great fit. This wide-body vertical offset charcoal Smoker comes with a premium quality smoker cover as well. It is a high model with a very large 1,890 square inches in cooking and a grilling area, 6 stainless steel grates, a great ash management system, and a vertical offset design.
That, coupled with its great reviews, ratings, and an incredibly large 3 years warranty window make it the best charcoal smoker to buy online. While that was our list, we would want to know what you think of it. Did you like it? Or do you want us to add or remove anything from it? If so, feel free to write to us in the comments section below. We will write back to you as soon as possible.