The weather is finally getting warmer. If you are like us, you have probably been preparing for your first great summer cookout. Foods that are cooked outside just taste better- and you will be hard-pressed to find anyone that would dispute that point. While cooking on a charcoal or propane is fast and efficient, smoked foods have a unique flavor that is definitely worth the added time. This summer, you might want to look into changing up the way you are going to cook your meats to really knock the socks off of your party guests. What makes these even better is that the cook has the ability to adjust the flavors of the meats simply by using different types of wood chips.
For the chef that really wants to get the best out of their meat and impress their BBQ guests with their skills, different types of wood chips are used for different cuts of meat. Mulberry wood chips are perfect for really bring out the flavor or ham and chicken, while maple wood chips are great for cheese, vegetables, and small game. However, if you are hard pressed to get your hands on any specialty wood chips, the tried and tested mesquite chips are perfect for just about any type of meat.
- MASTERBUILT BLUETOOTH
- Adjust temperature with your phone
- MASTERBUILT DIGITAL
- Digital temperature control
- MASTERBUILT CHARCOAL
- Easy to load
10 Best Smokers
The look of this model looks like a small scale commercial model that you would find in restaurant BBQ joints. The stainless steel exterior looks great on any patio, and it doesn’t really take up all that much room to leave more room for seating and other cookery gadgets.
In addition to having a sleek and stylish design that is sure to draw the attention of all of your party goers, it also sports a lot of modern features that make cooking your food simple and easy. What makes this model stand out from the read is its Bluetooth ability. Simply download the Masterbuilt app to your phone and sync it to this unit. Once it is synced, you can control the temperature of the inside on your phone. This feature makes it easy for you to enjoy the party without feeling like you have to hover over the food. For those serious smokers- it means that you can cook in the dead of winter and control the temperature while you are nice and warm sitting around a fire inside of your house while this unit does all the hard work out in the cold. It also has a glass front so you can check on the status of dinner without losing heat by opening the door.
The price of this model is one of the most pricey out there on the market, so be prepared to feel a little sting when it comes time to check out. However, given the capacity of the interior, the ease of cooking while using your smartphone, and sharp look of this model- it is definitely worth the higher price.
If you love any reason to use your smartphone, and you are serious about the cookey of your smoked meats, there will be no way you will ever be disappointed spending the extra money on this model.
- Can adjust the temperature with your phone
- Clear glass door
- Digital display
- Users report some problems with the Masterbuilt app
This model won’t take up that much room on your patio and comes to just below the hips of an average sized man. It has a boxy design that makes it easy to fill it with all kinds of meats such as chicken, fish, and beef, and is also perfect for smoking vegetables such as corn. It has the capacity to hold 6 whole chickens, 2 full turkeys, 8 racks of ribs, 64 sausages, or 24 burgers. While it doesn’t take up all that much room- it has the capacity to cook up a great meal for the entire neighborhood.
To use this product, simply plug it into a power source (such as an outdoor electric plug). The digital display located at the top allows you to adjust the temperature that you want to cook it, and also sets a timer to go off when your meats should be done. Located on the back of the unit is a small tray labeled ‘wood chips’ where you can throw just a handful of your favorite type of wood to give your meats a unique flavor. It has 4 racks on the inside so you can cook up three different types of meat as well as reserve one rack for vegetables.
Due to the fact that it is so easy to use, and it has the capacity to cook up meats for the entire neighborhood- it’s priced a little bit higher than many of the other smaller and simpler models out there on the market. However, if you are serious about cooking up some masterfully crafted meats- this unit will sure to impress all of your friends and family this summer. Plus, its sealed design makes it perfect for even smoking foods in the winter.
If you wanted to get the top of the line model without paying the price tag of some of the larger and complicated designs that are out there- this is an excellent choice. Plus it comes with the comfort of knowing it's from Masterbuilt- one of the top brands in outdoor cooking.
- Can add wood chips without opening sealed compartment while cooking
- Digital temperature control
- Brand recognition
- Some find that it cannot get hot enough for their needs
- Heats up slowly
When conjuring an image of one of these products, you are probably imagining something big a bulky- but this is just the opposite. It has a long a narrow footprint on your patio and is made from a glossy black material. This design makes it look great in any outdoor space, and is made to cook up some really great foods. Plus, it’s small enough to be able to take with you on your next camping trip.
The addition of a temperature gauge at the top of this model makes it easy to really control the cooking temperature. When it comes to cooking low and slow, it’s important that you don’t get the temperature get too high. And if the temperature gets too low- you might have some hungry campers as you wait more time for dinner to be ready. The front of the unit is where you can load up more charcoal quickly and efficiently without running the risk of putting your hands directly over the heat source. The great thing about charcoal is that it can be used to cook foods quickly, but it can also be used to smoke them slowly.
This unit is incredibly affordable, and you will likely spend the same amount of money it would cost you to fill up your tank to head out to the campsite for the weekend. Considering that it’s perfect for cooking foods slowly or quickly- it is offered at a really great price point.
If you were in the market for something that was a little more versatile for those evenings where you don’t have the time to let something cook slowly- this is an excellent option that won’t break the bank.
- Can cook slowly or more quickly if needed
- Easy to load
- Difficult to assemble
- No lower vent makes it difficult to regulate temperature
Char-Broil Gourmet Offset
Like we stated earlier, this has the look of those commercial roadside cookers, but just a lot smaller. The cylindrical design offers a cooking surface of 290 square inches, and the side cooker provides an additional firebox cooking area provides an additional 140 square inches. It has wheels on the base so it will be a cinch to move around our patio as needed, or haul into the garage when the weather starts to get cold.
The steel frame is incredibly durable for cooking meats low and slow, or for higher heats- and is completely safe. When you want to add more wood chips or water in the middle of the cooking process, all you have to do is opened the door along the side and slide more in. This way of adding chips is great because it means that you don’t have to open the main chamber. Whenever you open the main chamber, you lose a lot of smoke (and flavor), and it means that your guest will just have to wait longer on their food. This model has a small table along the side to prepare vegetables, and meats, or just serve as a place to set a soda while you cook.
One of the best features about this design is the affordable price. Some users have found that it is a little difficult to put together, so the lower price point comes at the cost of a little extra time spend on assembly. However, if you have the time and the patience to put it together- it is offered at an incredible deal that will save you more money that you can use to spend on expensive cuts of meat.
If you are in the market for a basic model that doesn’t have all of the additional bells and whistles as some of the Masterbuilt products have- this will be a great addition to all of you summer parties and BBQs.
- Easy to use
- Requires a lot of babysitting- keeping an eye on the temperature
- Some find that it is a a little small
Char-Broil Analog Electric
The boxy design means that it can fit easily into the corner of your patio and allows you to have more room for seating and places to play games. The exterior is all black with a basic gauge on the front to control the temperature. The interior is silver with stainless steel racks to allow for an even cook and well as to be able to see your food better.
It might look like it is a little small, but you would be surprised at how much that is can really hold. The three racks on the inside can hold an impressive 544 square inches of cooking space. Along the bottom of the unit are multiple trays that are used to add water, catch grease drippings, and add wood chips for additional flavor. To use, simply plug the entire unit into an outdoor outlet. It has a max temperature of approximately 400 degrees.
The cost of this unit is more expensive than the standard options that only run off of charcoal and wood chips. Generally, the electric models are quite a bit more expensive, but this model is set at a considerably lower price than many of the other electric models out there on the market. If you were looking for an electric model but didn’t want to spend the extra money- this would be an excellent option.
If you are in the market for an electric unit that is easy to use and has an excellent capacity to be able to cook up sausages for the entire neighborhood, this model would be an excellent option for all of your summertime events.
- Easy to use
- Affordable electric option
- Some found that the temperature gauge doesn’t fit securely to get an accurate reading
Dyna-Glo Signature Series
The interior of this model offers up an impressive 1,382 square inches of cooking space. The main compartment is great for smoking various different types of meat and veggies and has 6 separate racks that stack tall for easy access without the need to bend over. Next to the main compartment is an offset grill that offers an additional 284 square inches of cooking space.
Whenever you feel the need to remove ash and add more charcoal or wood chips, the tray on the side is easy to pull out and remove old ash and add new fuel without the need of opening up the main compartment. When you open the main compartment, you often lose a lot of smoke, heat, and flavor, so this design is perfect for not losing heat and flavor.
Just looking at this bad boy is a little intimidating- it’s probably about the same height as you are, and you would likely think that it would have a price tag that is way out of a casual home cook's price range- but that would be where you would be wrong. While it is more expensive than most of the other options on this list- it isn’t by much. In fact, it is less expensive than the Masterbuilt Bluetooth model and offers double the cooking space.
If you are looking to do some serious smoking, and you don’t want to waste your time in smaller models that just won’t cut it for your summer BBQ needs- this is an excellent option if you are willing to dish out just a little bit more money than some of the other options out there on the market.
- Over 1,300 square inches of cooking space
- Easy to add charcoal or wood chips
- Some find it doesn’t hold heat long
- Some users find it leaks and needed to buy sealing tape
The design of this model looks just like many of the other vertical units out there on the market. It stands 18 inches off the ground, and a 16-inch model is offered at a lower price point. The exterior is a shiny black metal and the interior houses two tier of stainless steel cooking racks. The narrow design makes it a perfect fit for even smaller patios and backyards that don’t have a lot of extra space.
To use this model, all you have to do is lift off the upper part and fill it with your favorite brand of charcoal. Its narrow design makes it a cinch to pack up into the car and take along with you on fishing or camping trips. Nothing tastes better than smoking a fish that you caught earlier that morning. The two racks are ideal for smoking many different kinds of foods such as meats, veggies, or even hard cheeses. It stands a total of 45 inches tall so tending to your dinner won’t be a total pain in your back, and the thermometer in the top of the model will make it so that you can see what the temperature is on the inside without needing to lift the lid and lose precious heat and smoke.
While it isn’t the most inexpensive non-electric model out there on the market- it is not the most expensive either. This product runs about in the middle of the road in terms of price. Given the confidence that comes with the name Cuisinart, and the ease of use and durability of this design- it comes in at a really great price point.
If you are a home cook that wants a new way to cook up summer foods other than your propane gas grill- Cuisinart allows you to cook up a lot of food on 512 square inches of cooking space without breaking the bank.
- Brand recognition
- Easy to travel
- Simple to use
- Users need to add charcoal at least every 4 hours while in use
- Difficult to assemble (instructions are unclear)
While it is a vertical model, it sports a more boxy design rather than rounded or cylindrical design. The outside is a solid black color with sharp silver accents. It has a temperature control gauge on the outside to ensure that you always know what temperature you are cooling your dinner without the need to open the door which will cause longer cooking times in the long run.
To use this model, all you have to do is hook up the hose to a propane tank, and you are ready to go. There is a knob at the bottom that allows you to control how much heat and smoke is pumped into the unit- a feature that isn’t available on most models and can come in quite handy when you have hungry dinner guests that are ready to eat. There is a tray that is made from porcelain enamel at the bottom of the unit that is used to catch drippings as well as provide a place for water and wood chips.
Considering that it runs off of propane and has an impressive 4 racks to cook food- it is offered at an excellent price. While it isn’t the most affordable model you might come across on the market- it does come with the Cuisinart name and a long line of satisfied customers to ensure that every penny spent on this model is worth it.
If you are looking for a unit that runs off of a fuel source that isn’t electric or charcoal- this is an excellent choice. Propane makes it easier to control the heat when needed, and it’s easier to bring a propane tank to the campsite rather than an electrical outlet.
- Brand Recognition
- 4 racks for cooking
- Easy to control heat levels
- Some find the bowl for wood chips is too small
- Difficult to reload chips in the middle of cooking
This unit looks much like all of the other cylindrical models out there on the market. It stands up to be about 36 inches tall and had a matte black design that will look great in any outdoor space.
Unlike a lot of the mother models that have a series of roasting trays, this design has a cage that you drop down into the unit. It also has a grill tray on the very top lid that allows you to grill veggies and other things separately from the main compartment. On the side of the model is a small compartment that you can use to insert your favorite type of wood chips to give your meats a unique flavor every time you use this model.
You would think that because it uses a fairly new technology of using infrared heat that this particular model would cost a whole lot more than most other brands- but you would be mistaken in that assumption. This model, while still pretty expensive, is just slightly more than many of the moderately priced models out there, and it actually less expensive than many of the Masterbuilt designs.
If you are in the market for something a little different, and that uses a more modern technology to get the most out of every cut of meat while still offering that classic flavor that can only come from cooking something low and slow with the aid of wood chips, you will find that this design is worth every penny.
- Brand recognition
- Uses infrared light
- Can hold up to 25 pounds of meat
- Difficult to assemble
- Some find that the handles do not fit right
- Not very much cooking space
Char-Broil Deluxe Electric
The design of this model is a little bit different from many of the others out there. Instead of having a solid black frame, this model is matte silver and has a clear door on the front so that you can keep an eye on the progress of dinner without actually opening the unit. This model will look great on your patio and will be sure to impress all of your BBQ dinner guests.
To use this product, simply plug it into an outdoor outlet to fire it up. There is a digital display on the front of the unit that is great for not only adjusting the heat but also for setting a timer to go off when you are finished cooking your meat and veggies. Along the bottom of the unit is a small tray that is used to add the type of wood chip of your choice to ensure that your dinner will have a unique flavor every time. This tray can be opened and additional chips added without the need of opening the main compartment. Additionally, the glass door also means that you can monitor the progress of your dinner without losing any heat or smoke.
This unit will likely cost you the same amount that you would spend on the Masterbuilt model that is similar to this one. However, the glass door and the easy access to the wood chip tray, as well as the digital display make it well worth the slightly padded price tag.
If you are in the market for something that will look great on your patio, doesn’t take up that much space, and will provide you with juicy and tender slow-cooked meats every time- this is an excellent option to make your next summer BBQ your best.
- Brand recognition
- Glass door
- Easy to add wood chips
- Some find that it take a long time to heat up
- Once door is opened, takes a long time to recover
What We Considered When Choosing the Best Smokers
Before you take the plunge into the world of smoked meats, it’s important that you take into consideration exactly what you will be using it for. If you want something that you can take along with you on all of your fishing and camping trips (nothing tastes better than a smoked fish you caught that morning) you might want to shy away from electric models.
Units that use charcoal or propane are perfect for taking on the go. If you plan on buying one to keep on your patio to use for all of your summer BBQs, then an electric model might be your best bet. Plus, some electric models come with the addition of apps or remotes so you can monitor the temperature of the meat without even going outside. Here are some of the things that we took into consideration when selecting some of the best units on the market for our list:
How will it look on your patio?
Of course, you want something that is effective, but you also want something that is going to look good and not takes up that much space. Everyone is working with different spaces, so we tried to keep it smaller to accommodate everyone. Besides, the less space that it takes up just means that you will have more room to add more seating and party guests. We were impartial to the vertical designs because they had a very small footprint for smaller patios, and they were really able to hold a surprising amount of food. Some of the taller designs could even hold more food that your vertical propane gas grill. Some of the vertical Masterbuilt designs are big enough to cook up to 64 sausage links at one time!
What does it do differently than traditional models?
While smoking meats is the ultimate goal, we also wanted to know what else they could do. When a piece of outdoor gear can do more than one thing- we like that. If the unit used an alternative fuel source other than wood chips or charcoal, users have a tendency to prefer those more. Sure, using only wood chips is the traditional way of smoking, but it can be temperamental. If you are just using wood chips or coal, you might have to check in frequently to make sure that it is still lit and cooking. If you have a more reliable fuel source such as electricity or propane, you can rest assured that the heat is still going even if the temperature drops or it becomes windy.
Is it easy to use?
Cooking outside is supposed to be calming and soothing after a long work week, and we didn’t want to add any additional frustration from a cooker that is hard to use. Generally speaking, units that have a reliable fuel source will free you up to do more things like yard work or hiking without feeling like you need to hover over hot coals and wood chips. We were also drawn to units that had digital displays that were easy to read as well as easy to set. Cooking low and slow is a long and drawn out process, and you want to be able to go out and enjoy your day knowing that the stab of BBQ ribs you set in the morning will be tender and delicious by the time you get back from your afternoon hike.
Is it easy to install?
Often, these products arrive on your doorstep in a box that will feel is way too small- and that means one thing: it’s time to bust out your toolbox. There really are no models out there that will come to you completely put together unless to hire someone to do it for you. Due to this fact, we made sure to listen to what past users said about how easy it was to put together.
If the company provided a link to a video that had a detailed instructional video on how to put it together- we liked that. If users compliment the detailed and easy to read instructions- we liked that too. If they included all of the tools that you would need to assemble it- we loved that. It’s Incredibly important that these units be put together right the first time because their effectiveness relies heavily upon if they are able to be sealed properly. If the door doesn’t seal, that means that you are going to lose a lot of heat and smoke and you meats just won’t cook.
How much will it set you back?
This may be a product that you will want to use every once in a while, or it may be something that you will want to use every day. Either way, we wanted to keep the price down to save you a little bit of money in the long run. Masterbuilt products have seemed to find that sweet spot between offering up great quality products that use the best materials, but they also do a very good job of keeping the price reasonable. If you are looking for something that will last you a long time, Masterbuilt might be your best bet if you are willing to spend a little bit extra than some of the less expensive models.
Other Factors to Consider
Keep in mind that these units are not designed to cook anything fast. Low and slow is the name of the game. May users pop a chunk of meat into the unit early in the morning, go off and enjoy their day, and then come back to find a perfectly seasoned and delicious cut of meat waiting for them come dinner time. When using one of these, we suggest that you be patient, don’t open the hatch door too much (or else you will lose heat and flavor), and be sure you invite your neighbors over- because they are probably on the other side of the fence salivating at all of the delicious smells coming from your backyard!
Q: How do they work?
It might seem strange and unsettling to cook a few pounds of meat at a low temperature, but that’s the best way to extract flavor and maintain juiciness. Many of the models that use propane or electric create a sealed container for the meats and have special compartments to place a handful of wood chips that give the meat a unique flavor. The only way these models will work correctly is if they chamber that they are being cooked in is completely sealed- so when you are assembling your unit take extra care when it comes to installing the door onto the unit.
Q: Can I use them for other things besides meat?
Absolutely. What is great about these is that because the cook foods slowly, you can add different kinds of foods in then that you wouldn’t put in a traditional gas grill. You can throw vegetables on one rack while you cook your meat, and they will be infused with the same wood chip flavor as everything else. If you really want to get fancy, you might want to try smoking hard cheeses- such as gouda- for a little something different. There is no better way to impress a house full of party guests than to offer them a selection of cheeses that you smoked yourself at home.
Q: Are they easy to use?
They are no harder to use than a gas or electric grill. Actually, they may be a little bit easier. However, if you have decided on a model that only uses water, wood chips, and charcoal as a fuel source, you may run into some difficulties- but nothing you couldn’t handle. When you are working with a fuel source that isn’t steady, it has a tendency to become unreliable. Sometimes the coals just become cold for one reason or another and will need to be relit. This isn’t very difficult, but it does mean that you will have to babysit your cooker a little more than you would one that utilizes gas or electric and has an internal thermometer that regulates the temperature for you automatically.
Q: What’s better: electric, propane, or charcoal?
As we stated able- anything that has a steady fuel source such as gas or electric will do a lot of the hard work of regulating the temperature for you. Some of the seasoned veterans will tell you that using gas or electric is cheating a little bit because it does some of the hard work for you- but we think that as long as you have a great cut of meat when it comes dinner time, and you had the freedom to go fishing or for a hike in the afternoon- things like that really don’t matter at the end of the day.
Q: Is smoked food bad for you?
There are people out there that will tell you that cooking meats over an open flame or cooking them using wood chips is bad for your health because the fat released in the meats while cooking over an open flame released a compound called Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs- and they can cause cancer. It should be noted, however, that the research in this area is still under review, and no concrete assumptions can be drawn yet due primarily to the fact that no tests have been conducted on humans. Any research into PAHs and cooked meats are kind of all over the map, and no one can seem to come to a single conclusion.