The 10 Best Smokers for Beginners in 2021

by Chris Johns | Updated: November 11, 2021

Best Smoker for Beginners

Finding the best smokers for beginners can be a little daunting with so many styles and models to choose from.

What type of smoker is best for beginners: gas, wood, electric, or charcoal?

Is there a better choice of brand? What about the size?

These are the questions you may be asking when choosing your first smoker.

This guide will help you choose the perfect beginner smoker model for you. Keep reading past the reviews for help choosing important features.

The Best Smokers for Beginners for 2021

Here is my list of the best beginner smoker options for the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. in 2021. I’ll start with the five best choices in terms of value, convenience, design, and cost.

Click on the name to read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to read the entire list by clicking here.

Best Beginner Smoker Reviews

Here are the complete reviews of the ten best smokers for beginners in 2021. Keep reading after the reviews for a guide on what to look for when choosing a beginner smoker.

1. Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Smoker – Best Overall Choice #1

Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker

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If you’re new to smoking, the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker 18-Inch Smoker is a nice budget-friendly charcoal smoker that you can learn on and grow into as you improve your technique.

I like this 18” charcoal grill for its lightweight design and sleek “bullet-style” construction. At under 40 pounds and only 21” X 41”, the Smokey Mountain won’t crowd your patio. Plus, its size and weight make it ideal for campers and tailgaters.

Despite its compact footprint, you still have plenty of room to cook for the entire family. The beauty of the Smokey Mountain is that this is a vertical smoker. So you can make use of all the vertical space inside the cooking chamber.

Crack the lid of the Weber Smokey Mountain and you’ll find two tiers of nickel-plated cooking grates. This charcoal smoker provides a lot of flexibility.

If you want to smoke whole fish or sausages, you can use smoker hooks to suspend food from the top grates while simultaneously cooking additional food on the top grates.

I also like that this charcoal smoker is made from porcelain-enameled steel and comes with a front-mounted door, which allows you to “re-up” your fuel without lifting the lid and losing valuable flavor and heat.

So what makes the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker 18-Inch Smoker one of the best smokers for beginners?

First, I like its compact footprint and lightweight design, which makes it ideal for traveling. Second, this unit provides a large cooking area.

With two grates at your disposal, you have enough room to cook a whole turkey on one level and a ham on the second. Lastly, this charcoal smoker comes with a generous 10-year warranty

Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker
4,490 Reviews
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, 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

2. Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker Grill – Best Overall Choice #2

Z Grills 450B

View on Z Grills

When you use a traditional charcoal smoker, mastering the smoking process takes time and a bit of trial and error. But you can take a lot of the guesswork and heavy lifting out of the equation with the Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker Grill.

Unlike traditional charcoal smokers, units like the 450B are powered by electricity and come with a PID controller.

A PID controller is a digital component (sort of like a microcomputer), which monitors the internal temperature of your electric smoker. So before you drop your food, you set your temperature and add wood pellets to a self-feeding hopper.

When temperatures fluctuate, the PID controller senses it and kicks on the auger, which self-feeds wood pellets and increases heat. As a result, electric smokers are much easier to use because they maintain temperatures and essentially do all the work for you.

So what makes the Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker Grill one of the best smokers for beginners? To start, it’s not much more expensive than a charcoal smoker.

Second, it allows you to master the slow smoking technique right off the bat. No trial and error. No under- or over-cooked meals.

Lastly, this electric smoker is the height of a traditional charcoal grill. So you don’t have to bend down to use it. I also like that it features a handsome barrel-top design and sits on four rolling casters with locks. So this unit is easy to move around the patio.

ZGRILLS Pellet Grill and Smoker ,450 Square Inches Grilling Area with Digital Auto Temperature Control 6 in 1 Outdoor Wood Pellet BBQ Grills Include Weather-resistant Cover ,Black
38 Reviews
ZGRILLS Pellet Grill and Smoker ,450 Square Inches Grilling Area with Digital Auto Temperature Control 6 in 1 Outdoor Wood Pellet BBQ Grills Include Weather-resistant Cover ,Black
  • Amazing 8-in-1 versatility to grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, sear, char-grill and BBQ all on the same grill. The...
  • Instead of using Gas or Charcoal, Wood pellet fueled as the the ultimate way to achieve wood-fired taste.
  • Enhanced grilling performance, 452 sq in of grilling space that can accommodate fiften burgers, three rib racks, or three...

3. Kamado Joe Classic 1 Charcoal Smoker Grill

Kamado Joe KJ23RH Classic Joe I Charcoal Grill, 18 inch, Blaze Red

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Many charcoal smokers are designed primarily for one purpose: smoking. If you’re looking for a well-rounded unit that allows you to grill, smoke, and bake, you’ll like the Kamado Joe Classic 1 Charcoal Smoker Grill.

If you’re new to Kamado grills, they’re popular because they maintain searing hot and moderate low temperatures. Because of this, they are fantastic smokers. Yet, they’re equally as adept at baking pizza and grilling burgers just like you would on a traditional gas grill.

There’s a lot to admire about this Kamado grill. First, it features an 18” cooking surface and a two-tier cooking system. This multi-level design allows you to simultaneously cook different foods on one surface.

I also like that this Kamado smoker is made from a blend of stainless steel and ceramic. Ceramic is a fabulous heat conductor.

Plus, it won’t rust or corrode over time as many inexpensive starters will. So while this is a pricier smoker for beginners, it’s designed to last a lifetime.

I also like the unique acorn-style body and that it sits on a sturdy car with two all-terrain wheels. This unit also comes with two side tables and tool hooks, which are less commonly found on other smokers for beginners.

So what makes this a good smoker for beginners?

First, the Kamado Joe Classic 1 Charcoal Smoker Grill is well-rounded. It’ll smoke delicious fish, cheese, and sausage. But it’s also just as useful for baking bread and grilling up burgers and brats.

While the Kamado Joe is more expensive than other smokers, the grill body is made of ceramic. So it won’t rust or corrode, which means that it’ll last a lifetime with proper care and attention.

On Sale
Kamado Joe KJ23RH Classic Joe I Charcoal Grill, 18 inch, Blaze Red
1,257 Reviews
Kamado Joe KJ23RH Classic Joe I Charcoal Grill, 18 inch, Blaze Red
  • Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System transforms the humble grill grate into the most powerful cooking tool in your...
  • Control Tower Top Vent lets you control air flow for precise temperature control. Perfect for smoking from 225F all the way...
  • With a slide-out drawer, cleanup is easy. Unlike other Kamado style grills, you no longer must remove the inside components...

4. Masterbuilt 30” Digital Electric Smoker

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30", Black

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If you’re new to smoking and want to test the waters before making a long-term investment, the Masterbuilt 30” Digital Electric Smoker is another nice unit for a beginner.

Electric smokers are incredibly clean, efficient, and easy to use because they do not rely on finicky (and messy) charcoal.

All you have to do is plug in your electric smoker, set your temperature on the digital control panel, add your favorite wood chunks, and drop your food. The electric smoker does everything else for you.

So what makes this a good smoker for beginners?

To start, it is only 30” tall and weighs 45 pounds. In fact, it looks a bit like a minifridge and has a comparable footprint. So it’s ideal for small spaces. It’s not meant to replace your traditional gas grill so much as it is meant to complement it.

Despite its compact footprint, there’s enough space to accommodate two turkeys, four pork butts, four racks of ribs, and six chickens. That’s a lot of room to work with.

I also like that the Masterbuilt 30” Digital Electric Smoker comes with an external wood chip tray, which allows you to “re-up” your fuel without cracking the door and losing valuable heat and flavor.

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30', Black
7,389 Reviews
Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30", Black
  • Digital panel controls on/off, cooking temperature and time
  • Electric Smoker dimensions – 20.47" W x 19.88" L x 33.26" H | Max temperature setting – 275ᵒ F | Inside capacity – 2...
  • Patented side wood chip loading system allows you to add wood chips without opening door

5. Traeger Pro Series 34 Electric Pellet Smoker Grill

Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 Electric Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, Bronze

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If you liked the Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker Grill, but are looking for sturdier construction and a larger cooking area, check out the Traeger Pro Series 34 Electric Pellet Smoker Grill.

Like the 450 B, Traeger’s Pro Series 34 runs on electricity and features a smart PID system, which monitors your cooking progress and self-feeds wood chips when temperatures fluctuate.

The beauty of an electric pellet smoker is that it takes all the guesswork completely out of the equation. Just set your temperature, add your favorite wood chunks to the hopper, and walk away knowing that your food is in good hands.

So what makes this a good smoker for beginners?

First, it comes with a consumer-friendly price tag. While it is more expensive than the Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker Grill, it is considerably sturdier. It’s also quite handsome. I like the bronze barrel-top hood and that this unit sits on a sturdy cart with rolling wheels.

I also like that this electric smoker provides 884 square inches of cooking space. That’s enough room for the entire family and a group of friends.

This is a six-in-one smoker, so it allows you to smoke, bake, roast, braise, and BBQ all on one unit. This electric smoker is also a great starter unit because it takes nearly all the guesswork out of the equation.

Thanks to the intelligent PID system, the Traeger Pro Series 34 Electric Pellet Smoker Grill maintains a +/- 15 degree Fahrenheit temperature control at all times.

On Sale
Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 Electric Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, Bronze
1,134 Reviews
Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 Electric Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, Bronze
  • Never use gas or charcoal again: cooking with wood just tastes better. Traeger created the original wood-pellet grill as the...
  • Versatile barbecue cooking: hot and fast, or low and slow, the Traeger Pro Series 34 pellet grill offers 6-in-1 versatility...
  • Precision temperature control: The Digital Pro Controller rocks Advanced Grilling Logic, which maintains a +/- 15 degree F...

6. GMG Davy Crockett Wifi-Control Pellet Smoker Grill

GMG 2020 Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker with Cover

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If you like wood-fired flavor and are looking for a road-ready electric smoker, GMG Davy Crockett Wifi-Control Pellet Smoker Grill is a great option.

This is an electric smoker, so it’s incredibly user-friendly. Just plug it in, add wood chunks to the eight-pound hopper, dial in your temperature setting, and get to work. The pellet smoker does the rest for you.

I also like that this electric pellet grill comes with a standard 110V AC plug, an auto plug for cigarette lights, and a 12V battery that uses micro alligator jumpers.

As I said, this pellet smoker is made specifically for life on the road, so it’s made with a fold-up leg design for easy setup.

This pellet smoker is on the shorter side. Yet, at only 57 pounds, you’ll have no trouble hoisting it up into the bed of your truck and cooking from there.

So what makes this one of the best smokers for beginners?

To start, it looks great. I like the sleek, polished steel hood and the powder-coated hopper and body. I also like having a detachable wire rack side table with tool hooks. This gives me ample space to store sauces, spices, and additional plates.

This pellet smoker is also surprisingly affordable, especially when you consider that it does most of the work for you. I also like that this unit travels well. It’s lightweight and relatively compact. Yet, it has ample cooking space.

I also like that the GMG Davy Crockett Wifi-Control Pellet Smoker Grill comes with a digital WIFI controller and a meat probe, which allow you to monitor your cooking progress from your favorite mobile device.

GMG 2020 Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker with Cover
620 Reviews
GMG 2020 Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker with Cover
  • 2021 Design, Davy Crockett is now the Trek - New for 2021 is an adjustable heat baffle. This new feature allows precision...
  • Coming soon are the extendable legs and cart option for the Trek ONLY. Not available on older models (Davy Crockett)
  • Server Mode Connect to your grill remotely through the GMG Server Mode to control and monitor your grill on the go

7. Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Kooker

Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill, Graphite

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If you liked everything about the Kamado Joe Classic but the price tag, check out the  Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Kooker.

Like the Kamado Joe, this Kamado smoker gives you a lot of cooking flexibility. Use it for smoking meat, baking pizzas, or grilling steaks, burgers, brats, and veggies.

That’s the beauty of Kamado grills: you’re essentially getting three cookers in one unit.

So what makes this Kamado grill one of the best smokers for beginners?

First off, it’s about a third of the price of the Kamado Joe Classic. Despite its budget-friendly price, this unit features solid steel construction, double-lined walls (for greater heat retention), and a ceramic-coated finish for all-weather protection.

I also like that the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Kooker sits on a rolling cart and has two side tables with tool hooks.

The bottom storage shelf is also handy for storing extra fuel and cooking supplies. And with its 20” stainless steel grates, you also have plenty of room to cook for the entire family.

Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill, Graphite
2,559 Reviews
Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill, Graphite
  • KAMADO CHARCOAL GRILL - Kamado style BBQ Grill & Smoker perfect for both high heat grilling and low and slow cooking
  • LARGE COOKING AREA - 20 inch Cooking Diameter with 447 square inch total Cooking Area can cook up to 27 burgers at once
  • BEST IN CLASS FEATURES - Triple-Walled Steel Insulated Design, Cast Iron Grates, Locking Lid, 8" Locking Caster Wheels,...

8. Pit Barrel 18-1/2 in. Classic Cooker Package

18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

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The Pit Barrel 18-½ in. Classic Cooker Package is a nice kit for beginners because it comes with everything you need to get started. Plus, it’s nearly indestructible, so it’ll last for years.

If you’re new to drum-style smoking, it basically utilizes what DIYers have been doing for decades. You take an industrial drum, add grates and a platform for charcoal, light your fire, and cook. It’s that simple – and that’s why beginners love it.

This Pit Barrel cooker works a lot like a convection oven. Just add your fuel to the base of the barrel and drop your cooking grates. Because your meat hangs vertically, it is cooked from every angle. Plus, the meat seasons itself with its own juices.

So here’s what you get with this package: a 30-gallon drum with a powder-coated finish, eight hooks, two steel hanger bars, grill grates, a charcoal platform, a hook remover, and a stand.

What makes this a great starter unit?

To start, it’s affordable. It’s also virtually indestructible. It doesn’t have any electrical or mechanical parts – plus, it’s made from top-to-bottom stainless steel.

Unlike other charcoal smokers, this one comes with everything you need including hangers, a grill cover, and two bags of Pit Barrel wood chips.

If you’re looking for an affordable, well-made unit, the Pit Barrel Classic Cooker Package is definitely one of the best vertical charcoal smoker units for beginners.

18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
972 Reviews
18-1/2 in. 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...

9. Barrel House Cooker Smoker

Barrel House Cooker Smoker

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The Barrel House Cooker Smoker is a lot like the Pit Barrel 18-½ in. Classic Cooker Package, but it’s sleeker and can also double as a fire pit.

So here’s what you get with this vertical smoker: a 35.5” tall barrel smoker with a built-in thermometer, an H-frame, cooking grates, eight meet hooks, and an accessory wand.

This unit works exactly like the Pit Barrel Classic Cooker. The difference is that the barrel separates from the stand and charcoal chamber, making it easier to add fuel.

What’s more, you can remove the top portion of the barrel entirely and use the base as a fire pit.

I also like the sturdy carrying handles, the elevated base (which means you can use this unit on wood decks), and the stay-cool lid handle.

I also like that this unit makes use of vertical space. At 18” X 24.5” X 35.5”, this unit has a smallish footprint, so it won’t crowd your patio.

Having vertical space also allows you to smoke whole fish, long sausages, and other cumbersome foods that wouldn’t typically fit on traditional grates.

If you’re looking for an efficient, well-rounded slow cooking machine that you can also use as a fire pit, check out the Barrel House Cooker Smoker. It’s one of the best smokers for beginners on this list.

Barrel House Cooker Smoker BHC 18C
131 Reviews
Barrel House Cooker Smoker BHC 18C
  • Includes: (1) Barrel House Cooker BHC18C, (1) Manual & Instructions Booklet, (1) Built-in Thermometer, (1) H-Frame, (1) Full...
  • Fast Results: Cooks at 275˚- 310˚F, a competition proven alternative to “Low & Slow" for faster cooking with incredible...
  • 8 lbs. of Charcoal, 6+ Hours of Burn Time: This cooker uses 8 lbs. of charcoal briquettes, which can burn for 6+ hours...

10. Camp Chef Smoker 24″ Smoke Vault

Camp Chef Propane Smoke Vault

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If you’re looking for simplicity, a budget-friendly price, and a compact unit that won’t cram your patio space, you’ll like the Camp Chef Smoker 24” Smoke Vault.

Achieving rich smoky flavor has never been easier. All you have to do is plug in the Camp Chef, add wood chips to the basket, dial in your temperature, and get to work.

Because this is an electric cooker, you can lock in temperatures between 160-360 degrees Fahrenheit. So it’s ideal for low and slow smoking.

I also like that this unit comes with two 21.5” X 14” cooking racks. This gives you a lot of flexibility. It’s wide enough to accommodate large food items. However, you can also remove one of the grates and use smoker hooks to cook whole fish and sausage vertically.

This unit measures 30.5” X 25” X 17”, so it has a relatively small footprint and won’t crowd your patio space. Despite its compact footprint, it still provides ample cooking area for the entire family.

Unlike other electric smokers, this unit comes with a heavy-gauge steel tray for wood chips, a removable grease pan, three dampers, and a front-mounted temperature gauge.

So what makes this one of the best smokers for beginners?

Well, it’s user-friendly, affordable, made with quality materials, and provides a massive amount of cooking space. I also like that it utilizes vertical space, making it ideal for compact spaces.

How do smokers work?

To use a smoker, prep your food, light your charcoal or turn on your propane smoker, and then add wood chips into the pan. Now, wait for the desired temperature (between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit). Next, set your food, close the lid, and wait.

Smoking typically takes between six and eight hours. However, larger pieces of meat (like brisket) can take as long as 24 hours to smoke.

How do I choose my first smoker?

There are several factors to consider when shopping for smokers for beginners. These include fuel source, class, and ease of use.

Fuel Source

While many people associate smoking with wood and charcoal, modern smokers are powered by electricity, wood pellets, propane, and natural gas.

Electric smokers do most of the work for you because they come with thermostats, digital control panels, and self-feeding augers which allows you to “set it and forget it.”

Charcoal smokers are affordable, portable, and provide rich smoky flavor, but have a steeper learning curve.

Gas smokers are similar to electric units in that they provide a clean burn, steady heat output, and a minimal learning curve.

Class

There are four classes of smokers: luxury, premium, practical, and entry-level.

If you’re new to smoking, I suggest purchasing a mid-priced smoker that is budget-friendly (between $400-800), comes with enough cooking space, is well-insulated, made of powder-coated steel for all-weather protection, and has a competitive warranty.

Ease of Use

If you’re a beginning smoker, you’ll find that electric and propane smokers are easy to use, easier to clean, and offer a cleaner smoking experience with tasty results. Non-electric smokers are, in general, more affordable, but they do require more attention, patience, and practice.

What things to consider when buying your first smoker

There are several features to consider when shopping for smokers for beginners. These include budget, size, portability, fuel source, and the additional features below.

Budget

Budget-friendly smokers begin at $200 and rise to about $800. While beginners may be tempted to buy an entry-level smoker, they may find that they quickly outgrow it as their technique improves. So as you shop, look for a durable, user-friendly unit that is large enough to grow into.

Size

Most smokers are intended to complement your primary grill, so they are relatively compact and portable. As you shop, consider the size of your patio space, the number of people you want to feed, and your budget. As a general rule, allow approx. 72 inches of grate space per person.

Portability

In general, a budget smoker is compact, lightweight, and portable. Many portable smoker units weigh under 40 pounds, have carrying handles, and are under 3’ wide, making them ideal for travel. Some units even feature folding legs, so they stow away nicely and set up in under a minute.

Fuel source

Smokers are powered by two fuel sources: electricity, natural gas, propane, and charcoal. Each fuel source has benefits and limitations.

Pellet smokers

Many pellet grills run on a smart PID system, which self-regulates heat by automatically adding wood pellets to the fire. Electric pellet smokers are ideal for beginners because they self-monitor from start to finish, basically doing all the legwork for you.

Electric smokers

Electric smokers are often considered the best smoker for beginners because they are compact and simple to use. All you have to do is plug them in, add your favorite wood chips to the cooking chamber, set your temperature, and get to work. The smoker does everything else.

Charcoal or wood smokers

Non-electric charcoal and wood pellet smokers offer affordable, non-mechanical design and fantastic flavor. Because they do not rely on electricity or digital components, they travel well and often last longer than electric smokers.

With that said, charcoal and wood pellet smokers require more patience, practice, and close monitoring.

Natural gas or propane smokers

Propane smokers offer increased portability, fewer fumes, and a clean burn with minimal cleanup. Beginners like propane smokers because they operate like a traditional grill, but allow you to grill, smoke, braise, and more.

A natural gas smoker operates like a propane unit. The difference is that they do not travel well because they must tie into your home’s natural gas line.

What is the best smoker for a beginner?

So what is the best smoker for beginners? That ultimately depends on your budget, needs, and preferences. However, if I had to choose only one standout unit, it’d be the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker 18-Inch Smoker.

Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker
4,490 Reviews
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, 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

There’s a lot to admire about this beginning smoker. To start, it has a sleek, lightweight design. I like the unique “bullet-style” body.

At under 40 pounds and only 21” X 41”, this unit is ideal for tight spaces or those who like to travel or tailgate.

I also like that this is a vertical smoker, which means that you can utilize all of the vertical space inside the cooking chamber. This allows you to cook full fish, sausage, and much more.

Lift the lid and you’ll find two tiers of nickel-plated cooking grates. This provides a lot of flexibility.

I also like that this charcoal smoker is made from porcelain-enameled steel and comes with a front-mounted door, which allows you to “re-up” your fuel without lifting the lid and losing valuable flavor and heat.

With two grates at your disposal, you have enough room to cook a whole turkey on one level and ham on the second. Lastly, this charcoal smoker comes with a generous 10-year warranty.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to smokers for beginners and were able to find a beginner smoker just right for you.

Happy smoking!

4.7/5 - (21 votes)

Chris Johns is the founder of The BBQ Report® and has been an avid barbecue fan for over 20 years. His mission is to make grilling and smoking the best food possible easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with grilling, smoking, and barbecue recipe recommendations.