Best Charcoal Smokers In 2024

A charcoal smoker is equipment that primarily serves the function of smoking food at a consistent temperature over a long period of time. It makes use of the low, indirect heat produced by the burning charcoal.

A charcoal smoker offers multi-faceted advantages to its users ranging from easy portability to an improved flavor of the food items. Although the charcoal smoker operates on some basic principles, it might take some time for you to be well-acquainted with the cooking process. 

Charcoal smokers come in a variety of sizes, so you can choose one that best fits your needs.

Contents

What Is Charcoal Smoker?

A charcoal smoker is a type of grill that uses charcoal as its fuel source. Charcoal smokers typically have two chambers: a firebox and the main chamber. The firebox is where the charcoal is lit and smoked, while the main chamber is where the food is cooked.

It requires more attention than gas or electric smokers, as the temperature needs to be monitored closely to ensure that the food does not overcook or burn. When used correctly, a charcoal smoker can help you create delicious, slow-cooked meals that are packed with flavor.

Things Need To Know About Charcoal Smoker

There are a few things that you need to understand about how a charcoal smoker works before you can use one effectively.

  1. Charcoal Briquettes

    A charcoal briquette refers to a compressed block of coal dust manufactured from the sawdust of scrap wood. The primary functions served by a charcoal briquette are to lighten a fire or to serve as fuel. A charcoal briquette is slower to light and often requires lighter fluid.

    There are some points that one must consider before opting for a charcoal briquette. One, a charcoal briquette burns more quickly. This in turn means that it offers a shorter window for grilling and therefore, requires you to add more of it when grilling.

    Secondly, a charcoal briquette might not be an environmentally ideal option as it contributes more pollutants to the environment.

  2. Lump Charcoal

    In simple words, lump refers to charcoal in its most natural form. It comes into existence by burning wood in the absence of oxygen. Lump charcoal is often used as an alternative to charcoal briquettes primarily because they tend to burn hotter and cleaner. This particular merit of lump charcoal indicates that they’re more likely to be used up faster as compared to charcoal briquette.

    Lump charcoal offers several attractive qualities. It produces very little ash, especially when compared to the ash produced by charcoal briquettes. Additionally, it is easier to adjust the temperature when using lump charcoal primarily because it tends to be more responsive to oxygen. On the downside, however, lump charcoal might not be an economical option given the fact that it burns faster. Moreover, the bags of lump charcoal might contain such small pieces of charcoal that cannot be put to use.

Coal vs Charcoal

While both coal and charcoal are carbon-containing compounds, they differ on various grounds. 

Coal is an outcome of the geological and biological processes that plants and animals undergo for millions of years. Charcoal, on the other hand, comes into being when carbonaceous materials are heated in the absence of air.

The appearance of coal is mainly dependent on the type of coal. For instance, lignite coal has a brown, dull appearance, and at the same time, anthracite coal has a black, metallic, and lustrous display. When it comes to charcoal, it is a porous compound that appears as a black solid material.

Factors To Consider When Buying A Charcoal Smoker

There are a few things that you need to consider when buying a charcoal smoker:

Brand And Build Quality

It is crucial for you to opt for a charcoal smoker from a trusted brand that provides quality assurance. Make sure you opt for a brand that’ll help you down the road. Go for a brand that has a toll-free service that is available when you need it. The brand must also be able to offer you some extras like cooking instructions and free recipes to make your cooking experience a fruitful one. 

When it comes to building quality, it is extremely important to ensure that your smoker is made up of durable materials given the fact that it operates for long stretches of time to cook food. For instance, a smoker’s firebox is generally manufactured from thicker steel sheet metal that prevents its corrosion and makes it less prone to changes in temperature.

Warranty

No matter which charcoal smoker you opt for, it is not a cheap investment. Following this thought, it is important for you to ensure that your device is backed by an acceptable warranty. Often, it is advised that you get a warranty of at least five years for the smoker grill accompanied by a 6 months warranty for all of its parts. 

Disposing Of Ashes

Proper cleaning of your charcoal pit is one of the primary factors that ensure the longevity of your charcoal smoker. If the charcoal ash is left behind at the bottom of the grill, it is likely to cause havoc, especially if the ash is wet. Furthermore, if the ash mixes with food drippings, it will result in a sticky and flammable mess, which is ignitable. 

To facilitate easy cleaning of your charcoal smoker, you should opt for gills that offer an easy mechanism for cleaning. For instance, a smoker consists of a drawer or an ash basket that can simply be detached from the grill. Additionally, you can choose from a wide variety of ash tool accessories provided by charcoal pit manufacturers to assist in the cleanup process.

Performance

The performance of a charcoal smoker is influenced by a wide variety of elements. You must opt for a smoker that offers ease of use and cleaning, ensures fuel efficiency, and caters to a range of cooking purposes. Versatility is the top-most factor to consider when buying a charcoal smoker. The acceptable temperature range for a charcoal smoker is from 225° – 250°F to 600°F. And lastly, the airflow allows you to control the grill effortlessly.

Features

You must consider the different features of a charcoal smoker when choosing the one that best fits your needs. For instance, removable ash catchers facilitate easy cleaning of the ashes. Built-in thermometers, particularly digital thermometers, assist in monitoring the cooking time. The lid of your charcoal smoker must fit perfectly well so that little to no heat escapes during the cooking process. 

Additionally, your charcoal smoker must be equipped with air vents that serve the primary function of releasing exhaust, letting in oxygen, and thereby, regulating the temperature. If your smoker has side charcoal doors, it’ll be more convenient for you to add more fuel. Make sure you choose from the various features available based on your cooking needs.

Difference Between A Smoker And A Standard Grill

The primary difference between a smoker and a standard grill is that both devices operate at different temperatures to cook food. In most scenarios, the internal temperature of a smoker will range much lower than that of a standard grill. While grilling is done at a high or usually a very high temperature, smoking employs lower levels of heat.

A smoker produces results less quickly as compared to a standard grill. The reason behind this trait is that a smoker’s basic function is to cook food, especially meats over an extended period of time. Therefore, a standard grill often emerges as a cooking device that is relatively quick to produce results.

The 8 Best Charcoal Smoker In 2024

Best Overall: Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker
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Best Vertical: Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker
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Best In Steel: Realcook Steel Charcoal Smoker
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Best Offset: Dyna-Glo Offset Charcoal Smoker
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Best In Value: Cuisinart Vertical Charcoal Smoker
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Best Digital: Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker
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Best In Tabletop: CUE WAY K-1 Vertical Charcoal Smoker
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Best Compact: SUNLIFER Vertical Charcoal Smoker
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Best Overall: Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker

The Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker is the perfect size for entertaining or large family gatherings. The unit has 21 x 19 x 41 inches dimensions and weighs 39.1 pounds.

The smoker features two nickel-plated 18-1/2-inch-wide cooking grates, a porcelain-enameled lid, and a built-in thermometer. There is also a water pan to help keep food moist while smoking.

It can accommodate a whole turkey and an entire ham at the same time. The smoker has a heat-resistant nylon handle and individual vents on the bowl, making it easy to control the temperature.

Pros

  • Porcelain-Enameled Steel Construction
  • Includes Wide Cooking Grates
  • Assembling Is Very Easy
  • Includes Thermometer And Water Pan

Cons

  • Quality Control Issues

Best Vertical: Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker

This smoker features 56 pounds of weight and 20.83 x 21.45 x 49.73 inches dimensions, making it sturdy and durable.

This smoker also comes with a temperature gauge, so you can always ensure that your food is cooked to perfection.

It features 784 square inches of total cooking area, 4 smoking grates.This smoker features a charcoal chamber that helps to regulate temperature, as well as a charcoal grate and removable ash pan for easy cleanup.

Pros

  • Features 4 Cooking Grates
  • Provide 784 Total Cooking Area
  • Comes With Stainless Steel Temperature Gauge
  • Includes Removable Ash Pan

Cons

  • Sometimes Not Gives Accurate Temperature

Best In Steel: Realcook Steel Charcoal Smoker

This model has dimensions of 22 x 17 x 35 inches, making it large enough to accommodate a variety of foods. It also has a weight of 18.55 pounds, making it easy to transport from one location to another.

It has two pieces of cooking grids that provide 453 square inches of cooking space with crossbars and four hangers inside the lid.

This smoker is made of heavy-duty steel for lasting use and features porcelain-enameled water and charcoal pans for even heat distribution.

It also comes with a temperature gauge, so you can accurately monitor the temperature inside the smoker. Plus, it has heat-resistant bakelite handles for easy transport.

This smoker features two access doors for easy loading and unloading of charcoal and wood and comes with a latch locking system to keep the doors securely closed during smoking.

Pros

  • Provide Built-in Thermometer And Large Cooking Area
  • Features 2 Access Door
  • Includes Latch Lock System
  • Multi-Functional

Cons

  • Not Works Faster As Expected

Best Offset: Dyna-Glo Offset Charcoal Smoker

Dyno-Glo offset smoker comes with 83 Pounds weight and has 21 x 43.3 x 50.2 inches dimensions. This charcoal smoker has stainless steel body construction.

It has six height-adjustable cooking grates with a 25-pound capacity per grate. This allows you to cook for a large group of people with ease.

Also, it has a temperature gauge so you can keep track of the temperature inside the smoker at all times.

It includes a Porcelain-enameled steel charcoal chamber, removable steel ash pan, and an adjustable flue.

Pros

  • Large 1890 Square Inches Cooking Area
  • 25 Pounds Capacity Per Grate
  • Includes Removable Ash Pan
  • Gives Maintenance-Free Cooking

Cons

  • Weak Temperature Control

Best In Value: Cuisinart Vertical Charcoal Smoker

This smoker has some great features, including 20.5 x 20.5 x 22.8 inches dimensions and 37 Pounds weight.

It has two 18″ stainless steel racks that provide 510 square inches of cooking space, making it perfect for entertaining.

The smoker also features a built-in temperature gauge, so you can always make sure your food is cooked to perfection.

The Cuisinart Smoker also features a unique vertical design that allows for better airflow and smoker performance.

This unit features a porcelain enamel water bowl that helps to keep food moist during smoking, as well as top and bottom vents that provide a dual air vent system.

The latching base also makes it easy to transport the smoker from one location to another.

Pros

  • Provide Top And Bottom Vent System
  • Includes Porcelain Enamel Water Bowl
  • Latching Base Design
  • Two Stainless Steel Racks

Cons

  • A Bit Difficult To Assemble

Best Digital: Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker

The Masterbuilt digital charcoal smoker is versatile and durable and comes with dimensions of 24 x 28.3 x 49 inches, it is large enough to smoke a variety of meats.

The digital control panel ensures that the temperature is always where it needs to be, and the smoker can reach 225˚f in 8 minutes or 400˚f in 17 minutes.

With four racks for a total of 1,320 square inches of cooking space, this smoker can accommodate large cuts of meat or multiple racks of ribs.

The digital control panel makes it easy to set the temperature and time, so your food comes out perfectly cooked every time. The charcoal tray is easy to load and allows you to adjust the amount of charcoal for optimal smoking.

One of the most notable features is the built-in meat probe thermometer. Additionally, the digital fan is designed to circulate air throughout the smoking chamber.

Pros

  • Provide Versatile Temperature Range
  • Includes Built-in Meat Probe Thermometer
  • 1,320 Square Inches Of Cooking Space
  • Controlled By Wifi And Bluetooth

Cons

  • Construction Should Be More Strong

Best In Tabletop: CUE WAY K-1 Vertical Charcoal Smoker

The CUE WAY K-1 charcoal smoker comes with dimensions of 14.5 x 14.5 x 37 inches and a weight of 24 pounds, it is sturdy enough to smoke for large groups of people.

It features a 3-layer design, with two cooking racks that give you plenty of space to smoke meats and vegetables.

This smoker has a built-in thermometer on the lid, six air vents, and a thermometer hole. The temperature gauge, so you can keep an eye on the temperature and make sure your food is cooked properly.

Pros

  • 3 Layer Design Construction
  • Includes Thermometer On The Lid
  • Large Capacity
  • Also, Used As A Tabletop Grill

Cons

  • Some Rusting Complaints

Best Compact: SUNLIFER Vertical Charcoal Smoker

The SUNLIFER charcoal smoker comes with its 20.67 x 24.8 x 41.34 inches dimensions, it is able to smoke various cuts of meat.

Additionally, its vertical design means that it takes up less space than other smokers on the market, making it a great choice for those with limited space.

The multi-functionality of this smoker is another selling point, as it can also be used as a grill, meaning that you can cook your food in multiple ways.

This smoker also comes with a temperature gauge, meaning that you can cook your food to perfection every time.

It features a total of 646 square inches of cooking area, making it large enough to accommodate a variety of food items.

The four hooks and crossbar inside the smoker help to keep food items in place, while the latch lock system ensures that the smoker stays securely closed during cooking.

Pros

  • Equipped With Latch Lock System
  • Includes Heat Resistant Handle
  • Provide Versatility In Cooking With Multi Functions
  • Large Cooking Area

Cons

  • Doesn’t Hold Temperature

FAQs

How Much Can You Spend?

The cost of a charcoal smoker varies from as little as $20 USD to as high as $1000 USD and even more. The main reason behind such a huge diversity in the prices is the durability. With a higher price comes better quality and longevity of the device. While the least expensive models are available, they’re simply not built to last. 

Nonetheless, if you will not be using your smoker heavily, you can opt for a small vertical water smoker as a starter. These are the most inexpensive options that are available to you in the market. However, if you want an expert setup, you may choose smokers that range from $700 USD to $1000 USD.

How Many People Will You Be Cooking For?

The number of people that you’ll be cooking for should be taken into consideration when choosing the design and shape of the charcoal smoker. If the primary purpose of the smoker is to cook food for your family, a smaller or bullet-shaped Traeger model will suffice your needs. However, if the smoker will just cater to your needs, then you can opt for a Kamado. 
Lastly, if you’re looking for a charcoal smoker to be used for big parties or cater to the needs of a considerable number of people for example at a business gathering or competitions, you will require a full, towable large–capacity model.

Do You Need A Dedicated Smoker Or A Combo Grill?

Whether you require a dedicated smoker or a combo grill completely depends on your needs and the space that you have with yourself. You may choose a dedicated smoker if you are a barbeque fanatic. However, if you tend to have limited space to work with, a combo grill might be an ideal option for you. 

Combo grills are definitely easier and more convenient to use. Make sure you opt for a combo grill whose warranty covers it as well as all of its parts for a minimum duration of five years. Additionally, a stainless steel contraction along with porcelain-covered grill plates often points to excellent build quality, something that you should look out for. 

Are You Going To Want To Move Your Smoker?

In most cases, you will be storing and using the smoker at different places. Therefore, you require a smoker that can be easily moved around without much effort. Make sure your device has wheels under it. However, it doesn’t end here. It’s also important for you to check if the wheels can be smoothly rolled on rough surfaces like decks or pavers, as well as analyze how sturdy the wheels are.

Conclusion

Therefore, it is evident that there are many factors to consider before you opt for a charcoal smoker to expand your outdoor cooking options. You need the right smoker for your smoking plans, which is influenced by your needs and the ability to spend. 

Factors ranging from the brand and build quality to the features provided by the charcoal smoker are likely to impact your buying decision. Remember, it is important for you to have the right grill to be able to because your food’s only going to be as good as the smoker that you opt for.

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