Charcoal smokers create a rich smoky flavor that tenderizes the meat and makes even the toughest cuts fall off the bone.
Unlike grilling, smoking takes time. It’s a bit of a ritual, maybe even art. It’s no accident that many barbeque competitors use charcoal smokers.
A smoking session encourages you to slow down, gather with friends, and create memories that are sure to last longer than the delicious food you’ll produce on a charcoal smoker!
Want to achieve your juiciest, most tender flavor profile yet? A charcoal smoker allows you to do just that.
The 15 Best Charcoal Smokers
Below is a list of the top 5 best charcoal smokers available in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Click on the name to read reviews and check prices. Scroll down to read the full 15 reviews.
Best Charcoal Smoker Reviews
Now that you know what to look for, here are the best charcoal smoker options currently on the market.
Looking to achieve that savory, fall-off-the-bone taste you can only get when cooking low and slow? Check out the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker.
Weber offers 18-inch and 22-inch versions of the Smokey Mountain, and while I had concerns that 18 inches would be too small, I’m pleased to report that it provides enough cooking surface to feed large groups.
To put it into perspective, I can fit an entire turkey and ham on one surface and still have wiggle room.
This grill features porcelain-enameled steel construction, yet at only 39 pounds, it is entirely transportable. Inside, you’ll find a two-tiered cooking system, and both levels feature nickel-plated cooking grates. Cook your pork roast on the top and your turkey on the bottom.
Watch the lid-mounted thermometer to maintain ideal heat and conveniently add charcoal without ever lifting the lid. The front-mounted, easy-access door allows you to drop additional fuel without ever disturbing your food.
Extras include adjustable air vents for controlling airflow and temperature, a warming rack, and a slew of warranties. These include a 10-year protection plan covering the bowl, lid, center ring, and a five-year warranty that guarantees the plastic components. The rest of the unit is protected for two years.
If you’re looking for a quality cooker that delivers consistent heat output and a clean, convenient cooking experience, check out the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker.
- Material Type: Steel
- The Weber Smokey Mountain charcoal smoker helps you achieve an authentic smokehouse flavor at home
- It can accommodate a whole turkey and an entire ham at the same time. Item weight- 39.1 pounds
If you like to cook Kamado-style (that’s “grill-speak” for barbeque, grill, and smoke!), check out the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker.
Like the famous Green Egg, the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker gives you the keys to greater cooking flexibility without having to pay for it – or order from a specialty store. Want to smoke meat, grill burgers, or bake pizzas? This unit allows you to do that.
This grill features heavy-gauge steel construction, which reduces the unit to 90 pounds without compromising durability. The “guts” of this machine are double-lined with ceramic-coated steel, which ensures even heat retention and efficient distribution.
Are you tired of losing heat, flavor, and fuel? This charcoal smoker features a sealed cooking chamber that locks from the outside.
Additional features include a 314 square inch cooking surface, cast iron grates, and a removable centerpiece that allows you to add charcoal without fuss. On the bottom, you’ll find an easy-to-clean, removable ash pan, side shelves, cooking tool hooks, and an extra bottom shelf for stowing that bulky bag of charcoal.
If you’ve dreamed about the enviable Green Egg and want to achieve similar results without spending a fortune, the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker an acceptable alternative.
This unit is handsome, affordable, well-built, and without a doubt, a great conversation starter.
Nothing looks or cooks quite like Kamado smokers!
- 314 square inches of primary cooking space, warming rack 133 square inches for a total of 447 square inches
- Assembled Dimensions: 45" L x 31" W x 47" H | Weight: 97.0 lb
- Insulated design means more heat uses less charcoal and less airflow means insulated heat for juicy meat and folding side...
The best vertical charcoal smokers are compact, portable, easy on the wallet, and ideal for those who want to achieve maximum smoke flavor.
The Dyna-Glo 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker features four height-adjustable cooking grates and 784 square inches of cooking surface. Thanks to this four-tier system, you have the freedom to cook a variety of meat – or raise and lower your grates to accommodate large cuts.
This versatile charcoal smoker weighs 56 pounds, making it highly transportable and ideal for pulling double-duty. It provides the cooking space and efficiency I need for home grilling – yet I’m still able to take this along when I tailgate or camp.
This unit features a powder-coated steel exterior and a porcelain-enameled cooking chamber. Thanks to that, this unit is easy to clean, rust-resistant, and built for ideal heat distribution and temperature management.
The vertical, two-door design allows you to access your charcoal chamber and food separately. Leave the days of removing grates, repositioning food, and losing valuable heat in the process behind you.
Choose from three modes of temperature regulation. On top of the unit, you’ll find a modifiable chimney. Below are adjustable dampers that enable you to fine-tune your heat. Monitor your progress with the handy built-in stainless steel thermometer and a “smoke zone” indicator that provides you with the ideal temperature for infusing smoke flavor.
Extras include an easy-management charcoal and ash system, a removable ash pan, and a custom-fit Dyna-Glo cover.
If you’re new to smoking and want to experiment before making a long-term investment, the Dyna-Glo 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker is a great unit to practice on. This portable charcoal smoker is easy to use, lightweight, cost-efficient, and cooks like a far more expensive unit than it is.
- 4 cooking grates
- 784 square Inch of total cooking area
- Charcoal & ash management system includes charcoal chamber, charcoal grate & removable ash pan
If you’re new to smoke-style grilling and want to hone your cooking chops before making a significant investment, the Realcook Charcoal 20-Inch Vertical BBQ Smoker is an ideal unit to start with.
This unit is affordable, but it yields fantastic results every time I use it. To start, this grill comes with 636 square inches of cooking surface and two chrome-plated cooking racks, giving you ample space to cook large cuts of meat or even hang large birds vertically by using the four hangers.
If you enjoy life on the road, this grill is the ideal companion. This grill disassembles into four parts and, at only 35 pounds, you’ll have no trouble lifting it into your vehicle. The heat-resistant handles make moving this unit even more manageable.
This grill features a multi-layered design with a latch locking system. Don’t feel like smoking? Go ahead and grill, bake, braise, roast – or get wild and use it as a fire pit. Yes, this vertical charcoal smoker is that durable. This unit is manufactured from solid painted steel, which is durable and rust-resistant.
Extra features include a built-in thermometer and dampers to control the bottom airflow and maintain consistent heat.
Also included are two independent access doors, so if you need to top off your charcoal or wood chips, you can do so without removing grates or losing heat in the cook box. This is a clean, energy-efficient design choice that saves time, money and ensures a consistent cooking experience.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, cost-effective smoker that allows you to smoke, bake, and grill for large groups, check out the Realcook Charcoal 20-Inch Vertical BBQ Smoker.
- [MULTI-LAYERED DESIGN] - Thanks to the latch locking system,Realcook water smoker can be used as a fire pit for cold weather,...
- [SPECIAL BOTTOM VENT DESIGN] - Built-in thermometer, Realcook charcoal smoker with special bottom damper and ash collector,...
- [PROTABLE & EASY ASSEMBLY] - Unlike integral barrel smoker, Realcook portable smoker can be easily disassemble to 4 parts...
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-inch Charcoal Smoker is identical to the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker with one exception: size.
This bullet-shaped smoker features 692 square inches of cooking surface and all the perks you’d expect from a Weber grill.
These include porcelain-enameled steel construction and a spacious two-tiered cooking system with nickel-plated cooking grates. Want to cook a large bird and a slab of ribs at the same time? This grill allows you to do so.
Extras include a lid-mounted thermometer and a front-mounted, easy-access door that allows you to drop additional fuel without disturbing your food. Need to add more fuel? Pop open the door on your charcoal chamber and get to work without losing flavor or heat in the independent cooking chamber above.
Also included are adjustable air vents for controlling airflow and temperature, a free protective grill cover, and a slew of warranties. These include a 10-year protection plan covering the bowl, lid, center ring, and a five-year warranty that guarantees the plastic components. The rest of the unit is protected for two years.
If you’re looking for a quality smoker that gives you cooking flexibility and enough surface area to accommodate large groups, check out the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-inch Charcoal Smoker.
- Porcelain enameled lid, bowl, and center section retain heat and won’t rust or peel
- Two cooking grates provide ample room for smoking two large items at once
- Silicone temperature grommet monitors the internal temperature of your smoker
Looking for cooking flexibility and a lightweight, compact design? The Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker delivers.
This grill features 510 square inches of primary cooking surface and two stackable steel wire racks. Drop your pork slab on one tier and an entire turkey, chicken, or salmon on the other. The 3.45 square foot cooking chamber provides ample space for it.
The Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18” Charcoal Smoker is made from thick porcelain-enameled steel that is rust-resistant, easy to clean, and durable. The grill grates are also made from stainless steel.
Outside, you’ll find a front access door that provides easy access to your smokebox and coal chamber. I wish that the Cuisinart design would have included two independent doors (one for each partition), but considering the price and additional perks, this missing feature can be overlooked.
This charcoal smoker does have many virtues. Assembly is simple and takes only about 45 minutes. And the grill includes everything you need right out of the box – except charcoal, of course.
Additional perks include a porcelain enameled steel bowl and a well-designed dual venting system that allows you to regulate temperature with convenience and ease.
This grill is intuitive to use and performs like far more expensive grills. Light the charcoal, add charcoal or wood chunks, fill the water pan, and drop your food. Because this is a vertical smoker, heat and flavor are more effectively distributed.
If you’re looking for an intuitive, affordable vertical charcoal smoker, check out the Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker.
- Two 18" stainless steel racks provide 510 square inches of cooking space
- Porcelain enamel water bowl. Dimensions- 22 L x 24 W x 43 H inches
- Top and bottom vents provide a dual air vent system
If you want ultimate cooking flexibility, a fair price tag, and more cooking surface area than you’ll ever need, check out the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill.
This multifunctional offset smoker grills, smokes, and includes an offset smoker that doubles as a hibachi-style grill. This convenient feature is ideal for breaking up the monotony of long smoking sessions by turning them into an event. Prepare snacks and grill up lunch while building the fire for a rich, smoke-infused dinner.
This grill features chrome-plated cooking grates and 1382 square inches of total cooking space spread across five levels. It is worth noting that the grill is made with light-gauge steel, which does impact heat retention. But don’t let that deter you. This unit performs well, especially if you add heat-sealant tape to the smoker and firebox doors.
During a smoking session, I recommend adding fist-size pieces of quality wood every 15 minutes rather than dumping heavy loads in all at once.
Adding fuel judiciously ensures that you maintain better heat control. Master this technique, and the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Smoker & Grill will reward you – and your tastebuds.
Additional features include a stainless-steel temperature gauge with “Grill Zone” and “Smoke Zone” indicators to help you lock in ideal cooking temperature. Also included are a cool-touch spring lid and oversized wheels that make moving this 124-pound charcoal smoker around the patio a breeze.
With practice and a few simple tweaks, the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill becomes a star performer – and at this price point, it is worth every penny.
- Features five chrome-plated cooking grates and a total cooking space of 1382 square inches
- Heavy-Gauge Steel Body Construction. The temperature gauge features a smoke zone which indicates the ideal temperatures for...
- Cool-touch spring lid grip provides safer access to food
If you enjoy rich flavor, cooking flexibility, and handsome & efficient design, you’re going to like the Kamado Joe Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill.
This 18-inch grill features a two-tier cooking system. The multi-level, half-moon design allows you to cook different food in unique styles at appropriate temperatures – all at the same time!
This grill is constructed from powder-coated cast aluminum and features a patented dual-adjustment top vent that allows you to dial in your temperature with precision. This feature ensures that you maintain consistent airflow under the dome top.
This grill is sturdy, but thanks to Kamado’s patented design, the weight of the lid has been reduced by 96 percent. No joke, you can lift the top with a single finger. This unit holds in the heat, allowing you to achieve high searing temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit down to 225 degrees Fahrenheit for low and slow cooking.
The cast iron cart with locking wheels is included with the grill. It not only looks sleek and stylish, but it also offers plenty of amenities. The tool hooks are a convenient feature. I also like having two side tables to prep or store spices. And the wheels with locking casters ensure that this 225-pound grill rolls around the patio with ease and stays in place.
If you’re looking for a handsome design that is as unique as it is ingenious, check out the Kamado Joe Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill.
- Premium 18″ Ceramic Grill with Cast Iron Cart & Locking Wheels – The Kamado Joe Classic II gives the perfect cooking size...
- 2-Tier Divide & Conquer - Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System transforms the humble grill grate into the most powerful...
- Kontrol Tower Top Vent - Maintains consistent air setting for precise airflow management during dome opening and closing....
Want to challenge your preconceptions about the classic drum-style pit barrel cooker? The 18 1/2″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package will do precisely that.
This 18.5-inch drum grill utilizes what DIY grilling enthusiasts have been doing for years. Classic Pit Founder Noah Glanville has taken the design several steps further by adding a barrel-full of upgrades.
This unit uses a “hook-and-hang” method of grilling thanks to eight stainless steel hooks. This suspension technique optimizes temperature stability and is ideal for low and slow cooking.
This pit barrel cooker grill works like a convection oven, so you’re able to dial in temperatures and achieve even cooking from top to bottom. Because your meat hangs vertically, gravity does most of the work for you. In essence, the meat smokes and seasons itself with its own juices.
So here’s what you get: A 30-gallon, 18-gauge steel drum with a lid that is sturdy and uninsulated, eight hooks, two steel hanger bars, a standard grill grate, charcoal basket, hook remover tool, and a stand. If you paused at “uninsulated,” allow me to explain.
The fact that the barrel is uninsulated is a virtue. You can’t damage this pit barrel cooker or overheat it. It handles high temperatures with grace – and the cool exterior provides condensation that gathers inside and adds moisture to your food.
If you’re looking for a nearly indestructible pit barrel cooker that capitalizes on tried and true technology (with several significant upgrades) that will produce perfectly cooked meat every time, check out the 18 1/2″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package.
- Includes 8 stainless steel hooks to hook-n-hang your meal and a standard grate for grilling and searing
- Included coal basket is sized for the ideal amount of charcoal for the perfect cook
- Unique design makes the PBC simple to operate, producing consistently impressive results with minimal hassle compared to...
If you’re looking for ample grilling space, heavy-duty construction, and a modest price tag, check out the Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro Grill & Smoker.
This grill is made from heavy-gauge, powder-coated stainless steel, which means that it can handle high heat without warping. It includes two grilling stations, one for primary cooking and an additional side firebox for smoking. In total, you get 830 square inches of cooking surface.
Lift the hood, and you’ll find durable cast-iron cooking grates that provide even heat distribution and resist sticking. The grates adjust to three different heights for hot, medium, and warm temperature control.
Need to add more fuel to the fire, but don’t want to disturb your food?
Slide out the removable charcoal drawer and pile it on. Additional features include a lid-mounted temperature gauge and an open-cart design with a storage rack.
The grill weighs in at 113 pounds, but you’ll have no trouble moving it around the patio, thanks to the large rolling wheels.
Control heat flow with adjustable dampers and lock in your ideal flavor by moving your grates up or down without hassle. Cleanup, too, is quick and clean thanks to the easy dump ash pan. Just pull out the pan from the side of the grill, dump, and reinsert.
If you’re looking for an affordable smoker that gives you ultimate control, durable construction, easy cleanup, and ample cooking surface, take a look at the Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro Grill & Smoker.
- Traditional charcoal grill with side firebox for Texas style barbecue
- Grill barrel and side firebox provide heavy-gauge powder-coated steel construction; nonstick cast-iron cooking grates for...
- Removable charcoal drawers allow users to add charcoal and dump ashes easily; double bottom for long-term durability
Like to keep things simple and classic during your outdoor cooking session? The Weber Original Kettle 22 Inch Charcoal Grill may be just the grill you’ve been looking for.
This is a Weber – and it’s built like one. Unlike their premier grill packages, this one keeps things simple. No bells and whistles, nothing fancy. Just solid construction and choice building materials.
This Weber kettle features an enameled lid & bowl, durable plated steel grill grates, dampers, and rust-resistant construction. This grill won’t rust, crack, warp, or peel – and even if it did, the unit is backed by Weber’s generous 10-year warranty.
This grill features a 363 square inch cooking surface and a convenient lid hanger. It’s a small but welcome perk. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to find a clean, safe place to store my hot lid when I have my hands full.
The entire unit rests on a sturdy tripod stand with durable all-terrain wheels. At only 33 pounds, rolling this unit around the patio (or wherever I decide to take the grill) is a breeze.
The only other plastic you’ll find on this Weber kettle is the handle, but that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s glass-reinforced nylon, which is durable and heat- and crack resistant.
If you’re looking for a durable, lightweight design that will serve you at home and on the road, take a look at the Weber Original Kettle 22 Inch Charcoal Grill. It is affordable, easy to use, just as easy to clean, and provides consistent heat output every time I use it.
- Stay true to the modern version of the kettle that started it all—the Original Kettle, invented by Weber’s founder, and...
- Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press
- One-Touch cleaning system provides hassle-free ash cleanup.Removable, aluminum ash catcher
If you liked the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker, but don’t need the extra cooking surface, take a look at the Weber Smokey Mountain 14-inch Charcoal Smoker. It’s the same unit, just smaller.
Like its bigger brother, the Weber Smokey Mountain 14-inch Charcoal Smoker features porcelain-enameled steel construction and weighs a mere 23 pounds. Crack the lid, and you’ll find a two-tiered cooking system and nickel-plated cooking grates. Smoke a bird on one rack and ribs on the other.
This unit comes with a lid-mounted thermometer and an intelligent, easy-access door that allows you to re-up your charcoal chamber without having to lift the grates or disturb your food.
Extra features include air vents for controlling airflow and temperature, solid metal legs that won’t rust or warp, and a nice set of warranties. The lid, bowl, and center ring are protected for ten years, the plastic components for five, and everything else for two years.
This unit is compact, making it ideal for road warriors and tailgate enthusiasts. Despite its size, this is a mighty machine that has plenty of square footage. I have no trouble grilling two racks of ribs at the same time.
If you’re looking for a durable, easy-to-use travel companion that delivers consistent heat output, check out the Weber Smokey Mountain 14-inch Charcoal Smoker. It’s one of the best charcoal smokers available.
- Your purchase includes: One Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker + Cover
- Item overall dimensions: 14.7" W x 14.7" D x 31.4" H. Item weight: 24 lbs
- Cooking Grid Dimensions 13 1/2 X 13 1/2". Main Grilling Area 143 Sq. Inches. Total Grilling Area 286 Sq. Inches
If you like grilling over both direct and indirect heat, are fed up with finicky temperature control, and want to achieve a rich flavor profile without having to babysit your smoker, check out the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill & Smoker.
This unit burns both briquettes, lump coal, and wood, allowing you to achieve competition-worthy smoke. Like many pellet grills, the entire system is linked to a smart, gravity-fed system and “Digifan” you can control from the digital control center.
Want to cook low and slow or achieve high heat for searing? Set your temperature accordingly and walk away knowing that your intelligent, gravity-fed system will reach and maintain peak temperature within 13 minutes.
This charcoal grill smoker combo includes porcelain-coated grill grates and a self-feeding hopper that holds up to 10 pounds of lump coal or 16 pounds of briquettes, allowing you to set it and forget it. Here’s how it works:
As charcoal burns and reduces to ash, it drops into the burning chamber, then falls into the ash pan to make room for additional fuel. The smart system senses when it needs extra charcoal and self-feeds additional fuel for you.
Extras include a built-in temperature gauge and meat probe thermometer, reversible-smoke and searing cast-iron cooking grates, and two porcelain-coated racks that provide a total of 560 square inches of cooking surface.
If you’re looking for a handsome, well-built, smartly-engineered charcoal grill smoker combo that provides convenience and consistent heat output, check out the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill & Smoker.
If you’re looking for ultimate cooking flexibility and need ample cooking space that comes in a handsome, well-designed package, check out Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse grill provides 900 square inches of cooking surface spread across the main cooking chamber and an additional side firebox.
Thanks to this design, you’re able to switch between reverse flow smoking and traditional offset smoking. Relocate your smokestack and remove baffles to ensure even heat and smoke distribution throughout the cooking chamber.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse grill is made from heat-resistant, heavy-gauge steel and includes a nice set of amenities. These include pre-installed baffle plates that lock in place beneath the porcelain-coated wire grates and an efficient charcoal basket accessible from a convenient side door.
Store your fire and add additional fuel without ever opening the chamber lid.
Additional features include a large front shelf that runs the entire length of the grill and a bottom shelf that provides ample space for charcoal, cooking utensils, and additional grilling supplies.
The large wagon-style wheels look sleek and make rolling this 180-pound unit around the patio a breeze.
This unit also comes with a lid-mounted temperature gauge, cool-touch handles.
If you’re looking for a durable smoker that allows you to customize your cooking experience and dial in your temperatures with ease and precision, check out the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker.
- 900 total Square inch cooking surface- 619 Square inches in main chamber, 281 Square inches in firebox chamber
- Reverse-flow smoker employs a Series of 4 baffles to guide heat and smoke through the main chamber delivering an even and...
- Removable baffles and optional smokestack locations for a customizable setup
The Pit Boss Memphis Ultimate 4-in-1 Gas/Charcoal Smoker features a massive 2,100 square inch cooking surface that’s spread across three unique cooking stations: one for gas grilling, another for charcoal grilling, and a third glass-doored electric smoker.
This unit features three independently controlled burners that put out over 36,000 BTUs of combined firepower.
The charcoal station is built with a six-tier grate system and includes a front air intake and rear chimney exhaust system, ensuring that you lock in ideal temperatures.
Below, you’ll find a 2.7 cubic foot, 1,500-watt, three-rack electric smoker. This add-on design allows you to offset smoke and channel it into your other two grilling stations so you can add extra flavor to everything you cook. A bonus is that this station comes with a removable wood chip tray so you can customize your flavor profile.
Additional features include a two-drawer storage system, six heavy-duty tool hooks, a spacious side shelf for storage or prepping, and four coaster wheels rolling and locking with ease.
If you’re looking to make an investment and enjoy endless cooking flexibility, check out the Pit Boss Memphis Ultimate 4-in-1 Gas/Charcoal Smoker. It is well-built, easy to use, and produces rich, consistent flavor every time.
- This Pit Boss Smoker Grill Combo makes an excellent addition to a household. This grill and Memphis smoker is capable of...
- some assembly required
What To Look For in a Good Charcoal Smoker
Charcoal smokers have come a long way since the good old days of repurposing barrels and transforming them into DIY smokers.
It’s exciting to see what manufacturers produce, but it’s equally overwhelming to even the most experienced griller.
So what should you look for when shopping for the best charcoal smokers? This guide will help you decide.
Types of Charcoal Smokers
Before you choose your charcoal smoker, you should acquaint yourself with the primary styles.
Vertical smokers utilize a vertical design built to accommodate multiple layers of cooking. Many vertical grills use a bullet-shaped design with a lid.
Inside, you’ll find a system of stacked cooking grids and anywhere between 250 to 1300 square inches of cooking surface.
Most vertical smokers allow you to add food to a separate coal chamber without ever disturbing your food. These are versatile machines that allow you to cook a variety of meats on one surface.
Kamado grills allow you to smoke meat, grill burgers and bake pizzas all in one unit. The ceramic egg design may look futuristic, but the Kamado grilling technique originates in China and is actually a couple of thousand years old.
This technology has evolved with time, but the principle remains the same: superior heat retention, smart venting, and the ability to cook just about anything. Kamado grills are sold at specialty stores or available online. They are durable, well-designed, and generally more expensive than most smokers.
Barrel smokers utilize tried-and-true technology that grilling enthusiasts have been using for years. Barrel smokers are made from large metal drums and use a “hook-and-hang” method of grilling. Because meat is suspended inside the grill, gravity does most of the work for you. In essence, the meat smokes and seasons itself with its own juices.
Barrel smokers have many benefits: they are large (up to 55-gallon drums are used) and can accommodate a lot of food at one time. They are easy to use, inexpensive, and nearly indestructible.
Offset smokers are built with two stations: a primary cooking surface and an offset compartment where combustion occurs. Separating the heat source from the cooking chamber allows convective heat to move from one chamber to another, which is ideal for low and slow cooking.
Offset smokes produce flavorful food, but they are challenging to use because they require constant temperature management. Once you dial in your method, these grills make rich, smoky food.
Once you’ve homed in on a particular style of a charcoal smoker, check out the extra features – and pay close attention to the following:
Charcoal smokers can be purchased for as little as $100 or as much as several thousand dollars. Proficient smoking requires some discipline, practice, and time – so it’s not for everyone. On average, smoking takes six to eight hours, but some meats (brisket) take nearly 24 hours to smoke.
If you’re a casual griller with limited time, you may want to begin with a moderately-priced smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker. This unit is well-built, relatively easy to use, and, If you enjoy the smoking process, you can always upgrade down the road without experiencing buyer’s remorse.
Thick-gauge stainless steel smokers retain heat better, but they are also heavier and cost more money. One way to optimize heat control is by purchasing a double-door grill. One door allows you to access your food; the other enables you to re-up your food without losing valuable heat or disturbing your food above.
Before purchasing, also consider the venting system. Multiple vents ensure even heat distribution and enable you to lock in temperatures with ease.
Are you looking for a patio unit – or do you like to travel with your grill? Charcoal smokers come in various shapes, sizes, and weights – and these factors impact how and what you can cook.
Want to smoke a variety of meats at once? You may want to look at vertical smokers. These handy machines allow you to cook on a multi-grate system – and many vertical grills are large enough to accommodate large slabs of ribs and whole turkeys at the same time.
Want to grill, smoke, and enjoy the freedom to experiment with wood chips, pellets, and logs? Offset smokers allow you to do that – but they generally do not travel as well as pellet smokers because they have a larger footprint.
There are many factors to consider when shopping for a charcoal smoker, but this should get you started!
Is charcoal or wood better for smoking?
If you are cooking large cuts of meat, charcoal is easier to manage than wood, especially if you want to utilize direct and indirect heat.
It’s also cheap, readily available at every grocery store, and produces high, steady heat that lasts. The downside is that charcoal is messy, often treated with chemicals, and produces messy ash.
Wood-burning smokers allow you to customize and blend flavor profiles by using a variety of woodcuts. Hickory produces a mild smokey flavor; mesquite and applewood give off a sweet aroma. Every wood is unique. All of this flavor infuses with your food.
An added benefit is that wood is additive and chemical-free. The downside is that wood is slow to heat and requires careful monitoring. Too much smoke will overwhelm your food. Too little will underwhelm it!
Can you smoke with just charcoal?
You can certainly smoke with just charcoal – just be judicious when choosing your charcoal. I recommend smoking with additive-free charcoal.
Briquettes are ideal because they burn cleaner and are manufactured using sawdust and a natural, sugar-based binding agent.
Charcoal briquettes maintain a steady temperature and burn longer than wood and lump charcoal.
With that said, you can also use lump charcoal. Lump charcoal is a hardwood that has been fired – so it produces a rich flavor profile but doesn’t require you to split logs! An added benefit is that lump charcoal burns cleaner, hotter, and produces less ash.
What is the best charcoal smoker to buy?
If I had to choose one charcoal smoker that triumphs in terms of price, cooking flexibility, looks, and ease of use, it’d be the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker.
This 18-inch smoker provides ample cooking space, is sturdy (yet lightweight: 39 pounds), easy to transport, and looks fantastic.
I like the two-tiered cooking system and that I can drop additional fuel into the grill without ever disturbing my food, moving my grates, or losing valuable flavor and heat.
This is a Weber smoker grill, so it comes with a nice set of warranties, including a 10-years protection plan covering the bowl and lid.
If you’re looking for quality, consistency, and a fair price tag, consider the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-inch Charcoal Smoker.
I hope you enjoyed my top picks for the best charcoal smokers.
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15 Best Tabletop Grills for 2021
Cook food right at your table with guests with a tabletop grill. Find out which are our top picks for best tabletop grills in this roundup.
5 Best Offset Smokers Under $1000 for 2021
An offset smoker can take your smoking game to the next level. We have compiled a list of the best offset smokers under $1000 for 2021.
9 Best Vertical Pellet Smokers for 2021
A vertical pellet smoker is the best way to smoke meats. Find the best vertical pellet smoker for 2021 in this complete review.