With the long summer evenings on the horizon, it might be time to considering upping your grill game.
Smokers are a great way to enjoy your meat cooked low and slow all day long so it is tender all the way through.
When you start exploring the many smokers on the market, you’ll find they fall in four main categories:
A basic charcoal smoker gives you a traditional BBQ flavor and these smokers have developed so the experience is now far less hands-on.
While you’ll still need to keep an eye on proceedings, using a charcoal smoker is still pretty simple.
Gas smokers are a great way to roll out that authentic BBQ taste without all the mess.
When you cook with gas, you won’t notice any hint of the cooking source and you’ll get your meat healthily cooked with that unbeatable barbecued edge.
You won’t need to keep fiddling around with your meat either and cooking with a gas smoker really is no more challenging than using an oven.
An electric smoker just needs a power outlet to get you up and running without any of the ceremony of firing up a charcoal smoker.
While BBQ purists might scoff, many people appreciate the simplicity and convenience of an electric smoker. If you don’t mind losing out on that classic burnt crisp to your food, an electric smoker can work well.
Pellet grills pack a rod that ignites when you switch your smoker on.
You’ll get the flavor and aroma you associate with a charcoal smoker with almost no effort at all on your part.
You won’t need extra flavoring or wood chips since the pellets themselves give off a nice subtle flavor.
Regardless of what type of smoker has grabbed your attention, there are a few simple pointers to consider which will simplify your buying decision and help you get the best smoker for your needs.
OK, with that foundation in place, it’s time to get down to business with our charcoal smoker reviews to help you establish the smoothest fit.
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The 18 Best Charcoal Smokers
1. Our Pick Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Our favorite charcoal smoker in a crowded field comes from industry specialist Weber, so what do you get for your money here?
Well, despite the reasonably compact 18-inch diameter and overall footprint of this smoker, the total cooking area is an impressive 481 square inches. You can fit a whole ham and turkey inside this thing at the same time.
Overall build quality is commendable. The porcelain-enameled steel is hardworking and keeps all the heat inside the unit.
A pair of nickel-plated steel cooking grates give you plenty of space to rustle up smoked and grilled snacks. The twin grates give you the freedom to cook up a variety of food at the same time. You can very easily cook a large roast for the whole family and guests in a single session.
There’s an integrated temperature gauge so you can get things dialed in perfectly. You adjust the temperature using several dampers.
In an era of instant gratification, Weber markets this smoker with the strapline that there’s nothing like spending all day waiting for dinner. For all your favorite slow-cooked treats, this is one of the best charcoal smokers out there and it comes from a highly reputable brand.
2. Pit Barrel Cooker Co Barrel Cooker Package
The Pit Barrel Cooker Co makes some enduringly popular smokers ideal for when you’re cooking with charcoal.
Take full advantage of an array of rugged steel hooks so you can smoke up a storm for the family and guests.
You get a vertical cooking experience bringing you the best qualities of slow cookers and smokers combined into one hard-hitting unit. The design allows you to benefit from reduced cooking times without needing to constantly regulate the temperature. This is a set-and-forget smoker allowing you all the time you need to mingle with guests rather than being forced to attend to cooking duties.
You also get a standard grate for grilling and searing duties.
The powder-coated steel drum has a 30 gallon capacity, ample space to cook up a feast. The coal basket included is easy to remove and clean.
This smoker has been garnered with industry rewards and celebrity endorsements. Get all the traditional smoked taste without the hassle of some conventional smokers.
Easy to use and equally easy to clean, you can also pick up this Pit Barrel at a very reasonable price compared to the competition.
If you like the idea of cooking meats low, slow, and hassle-free, but you don’t want to go all-in on a traditional smoker, this superb unit is well worth popping on your shortlist.
3. Weber Premium Charcoal Grill
Weber’s Original Kettle is famous the world over for producing excellent grilling results on a budget. This 22-inch model might not be throwaway cheap, but it’s pretty keenly priced considering the performance and build quality.
Capacity is reasonable with a 363 square-inch total cooking surface area and enough room on the grill plate for over a dozen burgers.
Made from porcelain enamel, you’ll find all the heat stays inside where it belongs.
Using the grill couldn’t be easier and you’ll get all the traditional taste imparted by charcoal for deliciously smoked food. The hinged grate makes it easy for you to load in more coal as you cook with the minimum of fuss.
A hook for the lid saves you from setting it down on the floor. There’s a one-touch cleaning system in place allowing you to remove and dispose of the ash fuss-free.
For anyone that struggles with practical assembly, you can watch 3D instructions in-app.
While most user reviews concerning this model are overwhelmingly positive, we found some scattered complaints about this grill being prone to toppling over. Exercise care and attention when you’re using this thing, and make sure to position it on a level surface.
Overall, you know you’re getting a certain level of quality when you invest in any Weber grill, and this 22-inch gem continues that winning tradition.
4. Kamado Joe Ceramic Charcoal Grill
Kamado Joe is an industry heavyweight producing a range of characteristic grill like this ceramic charcoal model perfect for the looming summer.
You get a twin-tiered arrangement allowing you great versatility when you’re cooking for family or guests.
Now, this grill is one of the more expensive options out there, so if you’re hunting for a bargain then this is not for you. Of the multiple configurations available, this is the Classic II sitting near the upper end of the range.
The 18-inch grill sits on a cart that’s provided and fitted with lockable wheels. This streamlines maneuverability without compromising safety.
With the traditional half-moon layout and a pioneering Divide and Conquer cooking system onboard, using this grill involves a slight learning curve, but it will soon feel like a user-friendly addition to your yard.
The dual-adjustment vent on top lets you tweak the temperature from 225F (perfect for smoking) right through to 750F (for searing), so you’re spoiled for choice here.
The dome of this grill can be lifted with one finger thanks to its innovative air hinge. Airflow management is just as straightforward to navigate.
Aside from the ruthless pricing, there’s little else we can find to knock about the iconic Kamado Joe.
5. Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
Next up in our quest for the best charcoal smokers comes a grill/smoker combo from the inimitable Char-Griller. How does this thing stack up, then?
Firstly, this is a bulky unit weighing in at 90 pounds and measuring 22 inches across. In return for putting up with this substantial footprint, you’ll get a sprawling total cooking area of almost 450 square inches. This allows you the latitude for a big cookout without needing to whip up multiple batches.
This unit is precision engineered and super-insulated so you’ll need to use less charcoal when you’re cooking. The reduced airflow ensures that your meat stays tender and juicy rather than dried to a crisp.
When you’re fine-tuning the temperature by manipulating the dampers on this smoker, you’ll appreciate the numbers making it easier for you to dial in your perfect settings.
The interior and outside of this grill are both finished in powder-coated steel, delivering a combination of durability, insulation, and heat retaining qualities ideal in a grill or smoker. Triple-walled to lock all the heat inside, you can manipulate the temperature from 200F to 700F, allowing you to smoke, grill, and sear to your heart’s content.
6. Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
Next up in our quest for the best charcoal smokers comes another iteration of the classic Weber Original Kettle. How does this iteration stand and fall?
Firstly, you get a 22-inch diameter and a traditional kettle shop associated with the most effective charcoal grills and smokers.
Capacity is fair with space for 13 burgers, according to the manufacturer’s guidance. This should be considered an absolute maximum rather than a comfy working capacity.
Build quality is not the most robust, but considering the very keen price point of these grills, we feel you’re getting great overall value, and you can expect years of use if you care for this thing properly.
Made from porcelain enamel, the smoker will hold the heat where it’s needed rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere.
Controlling the temperature is straightforward with rudimentary dampers allowing you to alter the airflow.
With handy wheels to simplify transportation and the reputation of one of the most effective brands in this vertical behind it, this is one of the best charcoal smokers on a budget.
7. Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker
Masterbuilt has a deep bench of grills and smokers, with this classic bullet smoker one of the jewels in their crown.
Squat, compact, and lightweight, you’ll still enjoy a sprawling total cooking surface area of almost 400 square inches. This puts many much more substantial smokers to shame in terms of capacity.
The door is situated front and center so you won’t be fussing around when you’re loading this thing up.
There is a thermometer built into the lid of the smoker, another neat touch that allows you to monitor the temperature without relying on third-party equipment.
A pair of cooking racks are finished with a porcelain coating so your food won’t end up stuck on. This coating is also applied to the water bowl and the charcoal pan.
As you’ll be cooking with charcoal, you’ll get the trademark taste imparted into your food and a stress-free method of smoking your favorite meats at home.
Most user reviews of this smoker are positive, but we found some complaints centered upon the poor quality vent. Several users report that this means you need to manipulate the temperature by modifying the amount of charcoal you use. This is less than ideal but not a deal-breaker.
Overall, this a versatile and highly effective charcoal smoker from a brand you can rely on.
8. Old Smokey Charcoal Grill
The Old Smokey charcoal grill gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t in a traditional style.
The aluminized steel chassis is designed to withstand sustained use, although we surprisingly unearthed some complaints about rusting with this unit.
This grill is a snap to assemble and use, so makes a great choice even for complete beginners.
A highly portable solution, this is a great travel grill if you often head out camping, hiking, fishing, or tailgating. Pop this beauty in the trunk and enjoy perfectly char-grilled food on-demand.
A pair of side handles improve maneuverability and these are designed to stay cool to the touch.
Made in the USA, you can buy this charcoal smoker with complete confidence, and you’ll add a new dimension to your summer if you treat yourself to the Old Smokey.
9. Weber Original Kettle 26-Inch Charcoal Grill
As you can see, Weber has a dominant presence in this vertical, and the company has a hard-won reputation for producing great gear on a budget.
This 26-inch iteration of the Original Kettle gives you a larger version of the family favorite we review above.
Overall cooking surface area is generous at over 500 square inches. This grill makes a smart choice for large families or anyone that frequently entertains.
The one-touch cleaning system takes most of the grief out of operating a charcoal grill. Once you’re done with cooking, just slide out the ash catcher and dispose of the contents. Replace it and you’re good to go.
Nobody wants to throw the lid of their grill on the floor, but there is often little alternative. With the hook on this unit, you can keep it clean and safe from harm.
The porcelain enamel finish locks in the heat and it won’t rust or peel over time.
As long as you don’t mind handling a larger and heavier grill, you’re getting a first-class introduction into cooking with charcoal from an industry specialist. What’s not to love?
10. Cuisinart Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Cuisinart makes a broad range of attractive and efefctive kitchenware and appliances that are also pretty keenly priced. This charcoal smoker is another fine example explaining why this brand has so many fans the world over.
Despite a reasonably compact 18-inch diameter, the overall cooking area of more than 500 square inches is perfect for bigger families.
Finished in an understated black, this smoker will make a worthy addition to any patio or decking area.
A pair of stainless steel racks provide you with the expansive cooking surface outlined above.
The door has vertical hinges and accessing the smoker is straightforward without you being forced to contort yourself.
From cheese and veggies to fish and meat, you can smoke all your favorite delicacies inside this thing with relatively little input.
Controlling heat and smoke is a cakewalk thanks to the adjustable vents.
Portable enough to take just about anywhere or ideal to leave permanently set up in the yard, this first-class charcoal smoker is well worth a place on your shortlist.
11. Dyna-Glo Signature Series
The Signature Series from Dyna-Glo is a heavy-duty smoker that’s ideal if you grill and smoke food on the regular. As long as you look after this thing, it should give you years of faithful service.
Made from rugged steel, you get a massive 1382 square inches of total cooking surface area. This makes the Dyna-Glo a class-leader in terms of capacity. Whether you have a very large family or you often have lots of guests over, you can cram a huge amount of food inside this thing.
How about cooking, then? Well, you benefit from a multi-tiered cooking environment delivering the ultimate in flexibility with plenty of hanging hooks for all your favorite meats and fishes.
A temperature gauge displays separate zones for grilling and smoking, ensuring you have all your needs catered for.
The charcoal grate and pan are offset, promoting seamless access.
While almost all user reviews of this smoker sing its praises, the same cannot be said for consumer opinion concerning this brand’s customer care. If you run into any problems, pack plenty of patience.
12. Char-Griller Smokin Pro Charcoal Grill
The ever-reliable Char-Griller Smokin Pro delivers exactly as promised. You’ll be cooking like a chef even if you have only rudimentary skills.
There’s a temperature gauge baked in so you can closely monitor proceedings and get the results you need whether you’re grilling or smoking.
The traditional layout of this grill features a firebox offset to one side for a bona fide Texan experience.
The total cooking area spans 830 square inches between the primary cooking area and the smoker so your summer evening should be filled with plenty of good food imparted with that trademark smoky taste.
As you would expect from a grill with a 50-inch diameter and such a vast cooking surface area, this is a heavy and bulky unit. The wheels allow you to shift it around without straining yourself, though, and they lock into place for safety’s sake.
13. Broil King Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Next up comes another vertical cooking system with this excellent charcoal smoker from Broil King.
The first thing you’ll need to do is establish that you want to cook with charcoal. If not, this smoker also comes in a natural gas version. How does this charcoal variant stack up?
Total cooking surface area is impressive at just under 800 square inches. This should provide more than enough real estate to feed a large family and guests.
There are 4 cooking grids, all fully adjustable to suit your needs. A roast and rib rack gives you all you need to widen your repertoire further. Several users have complained about the rack holders popping out rather easily, so we would advise handling these with care.
Hang meat on the 16 stainless steel hooks and smoke it slow and low all day long for lip-smacking and succulent results.
A secondary door promotes easy access to the water bowl and smoker box. There’s also a thermometer onboard to complete a winning package.
If you have lots of hungry mouths to feed and you’re looking for one of the best smokers out there to get the job done, we can’t recommend the Broil King smoker highly enough.
14. Masterbuilt Gravity Series Charcoal Smoker
If you want a smart approach to grilling, the Masterbuilt Gravity Series allows you to take charge remotely thanks to the Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity baked in. You should note that this is only compatible with 2.4GHz WiFi. There is no support for modern 5GHz networks.
While this charcoal smoker certainly couldn’t be described as cheap, you won’t need to dig quite as deep as for the brutally expensive Kamado Joe.
This smoker hits the 225F you’ll want for smoking meat in just 7 minutes. If you’re looking to really crank up the heat, the Masterbuilt reaches 750F in less than 15 minutes, slashing tedious waiting time and allowing you to get the show on the road.
One of the key selling points of this unit is the gravity-fed hopper. This ingenious device allows you to load up enough charcoal for a 12-hour cookout, ideal for most reasonable purposes.
Cast iron grates are reversible, giving you the flexibility to cook whatever you want, however you want.
For smoking and searing food like a pro even if you’re a complete beginner, the Masterbuilt is a forgiving and user-friendly model ideal for novices and experienced grillers alike.
15. Char-Broil Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Vertical smokers deliver the ideal environment for slowly cooking or smoking your food over a tiered arrangement of cooking grates.
There are three of these grates allowing you to separate different meats or fish so you can whip up a feast.
The total surface area of 365 square inches gives you enough space to rustle up grilled or smoked food for a small family. Despite the 22-inch diameter, this is not one of the most spacious cookers out there.
Cool-touch handles are an essential touch and permit you to operate safely.
Controlling the heat when you’re cooking is a cinch thanks to the damper onboard. This allows you to whip up a variety of recipes in a single multipurpose unit.
Cleaning up the grill when you’re done cooking couldn’t be much easier. All you need to do is remove the pull-out ash catcher and ditch the contents and you’re good to go.
As with all grills, you should clean the grates after every use to prevent debris from sticking on and harboring bacteria.
There is a water pan that’s easy to fill up and slide in, completing a beginner-friendly package that should put a smile on everyone’s face this summer.
16. Char-Griller Tabletop Charcoal Grill
This neat offering from the inimitable Char-Griller gives you a standalone tabletop grill with a twist. This unit also attaches to any barrel grill from this brand, as well as the Char-Griller Duo Grill. How does it shape up, then?
Firstly, build quality is robust. The chassis is made from rugged steel, while the cooking grates are made of cast iron, delivering a winning combination of efficiency and lifespan.
As you would expect from a tabletop grill, total cooking surface area is correspondingly small. That said, with 250 square inches of cooking real estate at your disposal, you can still whip up some smoked delicacies for a smaller group.
Another bonus with this versatile model is the way it functions as a grill as well as a smoker. You need to set it up accordingly and you can only utilize one application at a time, but this increases overall value further and gives you enormous flexibility.
As with all charcoal smokers, you’ll need to manually regulate the temperature. This is easily achieved using a pair of dampers.
If you hate the idea of cleaning up after grilling out, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to dump the contents of the ash pan.
Aside from a handful of complaints about issues with customer service, we found few other gripes among overwhelmingly positive user feedback for this charcoal smoker and grill from Char-Griller.
17. Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
Vertical offset smokers offer more than just a space-saving layout. This configuration helps you generate even more smoke and get the very best from the smoking process, even if you’re a complete beginner to the art.
Perhaps the key selling point of this model is the oversized cooking surface area it delivers. You get almost 1200 square inches here spread across 6 cooking grates.
The cooking chamber itself is fashioned from porcelain enamel for impressive durability and performance. You can arrange the 6 grates to create the smoking environment you need on demand.
You benefit from a thermometer baked in so you can keep a close eye on the internal temperature to avoid overcooking your smoked treats.
The offset nature of the smoking box lets the smoke do its work without direct heat from the smoke interfering with your food.
Most user testimony for this model is pretty positive. The few issues we unearthed concern quality control, with several consumers reporting packages arriving with missing hardware.
Setting this aside, you will find this charcoal smoker easy to use, straightforward to clean, and it offers you the ability to cook large volumes of your favorite smoked food year-round. Even better? The Dyna-Glo costs far less than you might imagine, so what are you waiting for?
18. Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker
The American Gourmet is one of the best-selling smokers from the mighty Char-Broil stable, so what makes this model stand out?
Well, this is one of the most versatile smokers you’ll find, also serving as a grill and BBQ. If you’ve been unsure about which type of grill or smoker to invest in, why not get both?
Heavy and bulky, you’ll get some wheels to help you shift this smoker around the yard. The offset layout means it doesn’t take up too much space, while still allowing you to cook reasonably large batches of food.
The cooking surface area up for grabs should be ample for a small family or a cookout for a few guests.
As with most charcoal smokers, you’ll need to adjust the dampers if you want to tweak the temperature when you’re smoking food. While this involves a slight initial learning curve, this model is intuitive to use and make a great smoker for beginners.
If you’re especially short or tall, you’ll appreciate the super-adjustable cooking grate, allowing you to relax in the yard without cricking your neck or straining your back.
Priced keenly considering the functionality and flexibility, this is a solid smoker well worth a place on your shortlist.
1) Can I start using my charcoal smoker right out the box?
No, you should start with a dry burn. This will not only burn off any residual manufacturing grease, but it will also properly season your smoker. As you initiate a dry burn, you’ll also have the opportunity to gauge how much charcoal you’ll need to get your smoker up to temperature. Take the chance to practice altering the air flow and temperature without the pressure of spoiling your food. Once you’re done, empty the ash pan. Clean and empty the water pan. Brush down the grates then scour them with some hot soapy water and you’re all set with a seasoned smoker.
2) How can I control the temperature on a charcoal smoker?
This is one of the most awkward aspects of operating a charcoal smoker. Indeed, this is the reason they have developed a reputation for being somewhat hard to handle. The good news is that once you master the basics, using one of these things is straightforward. Typically, you’ll find an intake vent near the base of your charcoal smoker. This control the amount of air introduced to the burning coals. If you open the vent, the coals will burn hotter, and if you close it, you’ll dial back the heat. When you close the vent completely, CO2 accumulates and this will smother your smoker.
3) What are the main components on a traditional charcoal smoker?
The heat is generated within the fire box. This is where you load in your charcoal. If you pour in a whole 15-pound bag, this should burn all day long, more than enough time to smoke a perfect brisket. You’ll also need to load in some wood chips to add that trademark smoked taste and aroma. Positioned above the fire box, you’ll find the water pan. You’ll need to fill this roughly three-quarters of the way up with water to help regulate the temperature inside the smoker. This also serves to produce steam. The food is placed in a cooking chamber where it usually sits on top of grids just like you find on a regular charcoal grill. The lid locks all the heat inside. This is vented so you can allow smoke and steam to escape.
4) What is the optimum temperature for smoking meat?
You should aim for somewhere between 225F and 250F for best results. Most of the best charcoal smokers come with integrated thermometers so you won’t need to fuss around with third-party kit.
5) How long does it take to smoke meat?
Cooking at a low temperature for a lengthy period is the key attraction of smoking meat, and it’s this process that returns such succulent results. It will take 6 to 7 hours to smoke a rack of ribs, while a substantial turkey would benefit from 18 hours in the smoker. Pack some patience and be prepared to be amazed with the results.
OK, if you pitched up here today at Royal Tavern without any idea about how to choose the best charcoal smokers from a crowded field, you should now be much better informed.
While there might be quicker and easier ways to grill at home, there is nothing like the flavour of a charcoal grill or a charcoal smoker.
We’ve included a wide variety of sizes so you can pick something in line with your needs. We’ve drawn your attention to sizing and cooking surface areas throughout so you can easily compare these smokers like-for-like.