The 5 Best Charcoal Smokers in 2018 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

When people have a taste of real barbecue, they become hooked on the juiciness and explosiveness of the flavor. This always makes people wonder if they can recreate the flavor at home. Unfortunately, you can't just toss your food on a grill hoping that it will be as tasty as professionally prepared barbecue food.

Charcoal smokers set the high standard for experienced BBQ chefs all over the world. Being a home chef, it is possible to prepare some delicious meat using a grill. However, if you seriously want to cook perfect turkey, bacon, ribs or fish, then you'd better get yourself a smoker.

Charcoal smokers are available in various designs. What's crucial is that proper manage the level of heat and smoke. If you can comfortably do this, then you're in a position to slowly smoke your meat while giving it an authentic flavor. The finest charcoal smoker provides you with precise control of temperature and smoke.

The best thing about sophisticated models is that the user doesn't have to spend hours tending to their food while cooking. They effectively establish a steady cooking environment so you can't get jammed shoveling coal or observing the temperature.

It's not necessary to keep watching your food. The steady environment offers so much leeway. When you purchase a valuable charcoal smoker, you won't have to mess around with creosote, ash or soot. The only thing that should bother you is the cooking process.

These smokers are very popular with backyard cooks. They give a classy taste to smoked food. They amazingly simplify all things to do with fire handling. Who could need more than these?

5 Best Charcoal Smoker Reviews

1. Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black

1,948 Reviews

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With its rich experience and long history in the grilling industry, Weber has stayed among the top. People have praised this brand for its durability, excellent service, and high-quality products.

Undeniably, Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker is one of the top smokers you can get on the market. It is ideal for you to make authentic barbecue right at home.

Its construction is excellent, which explains why its users can save money for years. Porcelain-enameled steel is the main material used to produce this smoker. Thus, it is unnecessary to consider wearing over time.

Besides, its handle is strongly resistant to heat, so you can touch it even when you are cooking. The hot temperature inside the smoker does not cause troubles for you.

Cooking space is a big concern for most users because nobody wants to waste money on a limited gear. Worry no more with this Weber product!

Up to 481 square inches can be used thanks to 2 nickel-plated cooking grates which are 18 and a half inches wide. It is available for most types of food, including the big ones, such as turkey.

You will find a series of useful equipment in this product's design. It has a built-in thermometer that informs you of the temperature time by time.

On its bowl and lid are some individual vents that have great effects on the ventilation of this product. The heat is distributed evenly, which makes your food taste better.

Weber guarantees to offer a 10-year warranty with its product, but remember that the warranty is limited. So make sure to check it in order not to misunderstand later.

Pros:

  • Create authentic flavor for smoked food
  • Durable construction and great materials
  • Easy to carry because its handle is heat-resistant
  • Great capacity
  • Good ventilation thanks to individual vents
  • Built-in thermometer
  • 10-year warranty, but limited

Cons:

  • Some find its front access door flimsy
  • Not including expert assembly

2. Char-Griller 26720 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker

Char-Griller 26720 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker, Brown

688 Reviews

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Griller and smoker are two important items that you need for an amazing barbecue party. It is good to know that you can get both at one time and with one payment only.

One thing you should know first: This product belongs to Kamado-style cookers. This style has always dominated the grilling market with its high price and quality.

Kamado-style cookers are the innovative products that come from the tradition of using heavy ceramic shells to cook food. Now, they have been upgraded to offer higher temperature and better durability as well.

Surprisingly, Char-Griller 26720 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Smoker and Grill is not something too costly. But you can still witness many outstanding features in it.

You would be surprised with this product's ability to cook food. It is possible to contain as much as 447 square inches in this smoker. The primary area is 314 square inches, but you can expand it with warming rack.

Its ultimate design aims at minimizing the consumption of charcoal but maximizing insulated heat to help you get juicy meat.

What's more? This means that you will have less to clean after cooking because less charcoal means less ash.

The smoker's construction is considered as excellent as most areas are steel coated with powder or porcelain.

The damper is located in several places to distribute heat very well in the cooking process. Furthermore, you will have two folding shelves to keep charcoal or anything you want next to you during the whole process.

The damper is located in several places to distribute heat very well in the cooking process. Furthermore, you will have two folding shelves to keep charcoal or anything you want next to you during the whole process.

No need to run around for ingredients and no need to get charcoal regularly! What an amazing capability!

Pros:

  • Expanded cooking surface
  • Fuel-saving as less charcoal is used
  • No hard clean-up after cooking anymore
  • Reasonable price, compared to other Kamado-style smokers and grills
  • Well insulated design

Cons:

  • You have to maintain the smoker regularly
  • Sometimes inaccurate information might be shown on its temperature gauge

3. Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker

Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker, Black

688 Reviews

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An ancient, traditional Japanese cooking style was based on a Kamado, the Japanese word for 'place for the cauldron'. The original Kamado was a large, rounded clay pot that had a domed lid, a damper, and draft door. The Kamado gained interest during World War II when soldiers used this readily available cooking utensil and brought the idea home to the United States. It's still a popular grilling style for today's backyard barbeque enthusiasts.

Char-Griller created their Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker to replicate this age-old grill and smoker for barbecuing and smoking. The 22 gauge steel body is triple-walled and maintains cooking temperatures for perfect, slow-cooked meats. This Kamado weighs 98 pounds; a much lighter alternative to its predecessors which weighed upwards of 150 pounds.

Cook your burgers, fish, ribs, or even pizza with precise temperatures and even cooking. The Akorn Kamado Grill and Smoker can maintain temperatures up to 700 degrees! Perfect for authentic fire-grilled pizza! The top and bottom dampers keep an even airflow in and out of the grill so there are no uneven cooking surfaces. It also uses less coal than regular grills and the heat lasts longer with the coals burning for up to 24 hours.

Enjoy a quickly seared steak for tender, juicy perfection or slow cook a rack of ribs for mouth watering barbecued meat that falls off the bone.

LIMITED WARRANTY: Char-Griller® will repair or replace any defective part of its grillers/smokers for a period of up to one year from the date of purchase. Char-Griller® will also repair or replace the body (bottom half) of its grillers/smokers if the metal is rusted through or burned through for a period up to five years. Char-Griller will repair or replace any defective part of its side fire boxes for a period up to one year from the date of purchase.

Pros:

  • Grill is triple-walled to retain heat
  • Adjustable top and bottom dampers
  • Ash pan to easily dump ash
  • Removable warming rack
  • 8 inch front wheels for stability with locking rear casters
  • Cooking grates are durable cast iron
  • Maintains a steady temperature range from 200 to 700 degrees
  • Has an ample cooking area of 447 square inches

Cons:

  • Some customers found the screws for the hinge on the lids loosened and fell out.
  • The bottom of the kettle can accumulate moisture and rust through.

4. Char-Griller 2123 Wrangler 635 Square Inch Charcoal Grill / Smoker

Char-Griller seems to be a tough competitor in the grilling market when its products make up for the majority of this list. Another top smoker you should consider is Char-Griller 2123 Wrangler Charcoal Smoker. Also, it also serves as a grill.

One of the most surprising and wonderful features about this is its incredibly spacious cooking area. It is the biggest in this list with up to 635 square inches.

The most special point about the Wrangler smoker is that it is equipped with an airtight flanged hood. This means that the heat is distributed more evenly and locked in the flavor of your foods.

Heavy gauge steel is mainly used to manufacture this smoker so that you can count on its durability over time.

There are up to 3 convenient shelves along with this product. They allow you to keep spices, sauces or utensils along with you all the time. It is great because you can focus on cooking.

In this product, you can regulate the temperature completely. Its fire grate is adjustable, which is convenient in most cases.

Pros:

  • Great capacity with a reasonable cost
  • Long-lasting materials and construction
  • Sturdy design with large round legs
  • Heat gauge
  • Double bottom
  • Simple clean up with dump ash pan

Cons:

  • Quite heavy, so you might find it more difficult to move it
  • Some problems with assembly

5. Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36" Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36' Vertical Charcoal Smoker

325 Reviews

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Overall, this is one of the most affordable among top charcoal smokers on the market. Nevertheless, it still offers many wonderful features that you should look forward to.

Dyna-Glo offers two types of smokers: gas and charcoal, but as we mentioned above, the charcoal smoker has specific benefits. If you are still amazed at the cooking surface of Char Griller's smoker, are you ready to take this?

Dyna-Glo smoker even exceeds the standard of most smokers on the market. It provides 784 square inches for you to cook food, which has been such an incredible number so far.

There are four cooking grates that maximize your ability to finish amazing recipes.

This product is also equipped with the innovative management system of charcoal and ash. In particular, charcoal grate and chamber helps you to use the fuel to the fullest extent with the best outcomes.

In this vertical smoker, you will find incorporated smoke zone chamber. It is responsible for optimizing and controlling the temperature.

On the other hand, ash – the result of this cooking process – often makes people unhappy because of its dirty nature. However, with the removable ash pan, you do not need to worry about this anymore.

Pros:

  • Long-lasting construction
  • Innovative technology of managing charcoal and ash
  • Reasonable price
  • Minimal heat loss during the cooking process
  • Simple maintenance

Cons:

  • Not suitable for poorly ventilated areas
  • Possible dangers with unsuitable conditions

Workability

Charcoal smokers really give you the chance to brag. They are furnished with small wheels or footprints. For people without much patio space, these are an added advantage. The thermodynamic features assure you of a steady temperature of about 225oC.

If you want to undertake lengthy indirect cooks without really having to undergo the boredom of dust cleanup, you may need a unit with an enlarged dust catcher. A pivoted grate makes the adding of the charcoal simpler. Having the ability to perform essential grate adjustments can simplify heat control depending on the type of food.

The hydro-pan is another key attribute that keeps your food moist during the entire cooking process. It establishes a hot and moist serenity, which is vital for smoking. 

Essentially, the hydro-pan preserves heat and aids temperature stabilization to overcome any dramatic fluctuations that might occur on the smoking unit. Again, the tri-part design allows you to easily add coals or wooden flakes to the heating element. 

Once the right temperature is set and enough smoke generated, you can place your food on the smoker and close the lid. You can then have fun with your family as cooking takes place. It's that simple!

If you choose briquettes, avoid using instant-light products – they're normally soaked in oil products. Some manufacturers create briquettes using coconut shells while others use harvested wood. So, be sure to choose the finest form. When buying charcoal, ensure that you get quality brands from reputable vendors.

The burn-down approach is the most convenient way to cook low. Be certain to fill up the charcoal cradle with unlit pieces of coal and put in some lit flakes on the top.

Charcoal ignition can be challenging sometimes, especially when you aren't sure how to go about it. However, with the chimney starter, you have the opportunity to achieve fast ignition without necessarily having to use toxic light-up fluids. 

Get some waste papers and stuff them underneath your chimney, fill up the upper rack with coal flakes, and then light the papers. These simple steps are all you need to achieve evenly cooked food. Dont ignore them!

Factors to Help You in Purchasing the Charcoal Smoker

If you are looking to make some purchase a charcoal smoker, then consider the following:

Price

Price is a vital factor when choosing a smoking unit. Getting a nice smoker can cost you more than $1,000. But if you don't want to shell that kind of money, do your shopping wisely so that you get one that fits your budget. 

If your budget is tight, you might be forced to go for low-priced units on the market, maybe as low as $100. However, if you require a smoker to serve you for years to come, do not just rely on the price.

Quality

Quality trumps price, and that's a fact! If you purchase a quality unit, you don't have to linger around the smoker to ensure that acceptable temperature is maintained. Lowly-priced units usually have unreliable heat regulation mechanisms, which can result in poor flavor and texture of your meat. So, to overcome this danger, shop around for the finest quality on the market.

Versatility

Modern smoker units are designed in such a way that they can be used as grills. This is definitely an advantage to those who don't have that extra space for an additional grill unit. This is not only economical in terms of space but also makes cooking easy.

Space Concerns

If you intend to buy a bigger smoker unit, check that you have enough space. Remember, charcoal models are heavy, and they're cumbersome to move around. This can be a challenge, especially if you don't have a permanent spot. Therefore, purchasing a portable smoker is advantageous in the long-run.

Usage

Usage is another important factor you should consider before acquiring a new smoker unit. Ensure you have a clear picture of how frequently you'll be using your smoker. For instance, if you're planning to use it once or twice a year, investing in a smaller smoker unit would be best. 

Also, always check the capacity of the smoker in question so that you purchase a smoker that can serve your entire family. Smoking takes time. So it's sensible to purchase a large-sized smoker that can handle any amount of food you intend to cook.

Pros and Cons of Charcoal Smoker

Buying the right charcoal smoker can be very tricky, and more so if you have little knowledge of smokers in general. 

Therefore, it can be hard to determine the right smoker to buy. Fortunately, with the following advantages and disadvantages, you can now make an informed decision.

Pros

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    Flavor

Smoking is a unique cooking technique that can impart an aromatic flavor to beef, chicken and turkey, when done properly. And when charcoal is used, a sweeter flavor is achieved. With charcoal, your meat will taste just like the smoked meat from your favorite barbecue joint in town.

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    Temperature control

With charcoal smokers, you can comfortably control the temperature. All you need is to determine the amount of heat required to cook your meat. Then you can either remove or add some charcoal to increase and decrease the amount of heat respectively. 

You can also learn about the recommended temperature required to cook beef, chicken and turkey so you don't overcook or undercook your meat. The recommended temperature range required to cook common meat is between 500 to 700 degrees Farads.

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    Maintenance

Charcoal smoker units are straightforward as far as their design is concerned. You don't have to worry about unnecessary replacements. And if they're well taken care of, replacing a chipped off gate is about as much as you need to do. These units are designed using strong materials, hence the minimal maintenance.

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    Cleaning

Buying a charcoal unit that is accessorized with an ash catcher will make the cleaning process easy. The ash catcher is used to collect the charcoal remnants, and it can be disposed of afterwards. In addition, these units will require you to brush and scrape the gate before cooking any meat on it.

Cons

  • Oxygen Levels

Charcoal smokers are normally associated with high temperatures. Therefore, you need to be extra careful when using these kinds of smokers so as not to overcook your meat. It's important to regulate the level of oxygen to the smoker: excess oxygen can result in a sudden burst, which will quickly burn.

Ensure that you fiddle with your draft vents until you establish the right spot for airflow. However, this will require you to follow some simple step-by-step instruction coming along with your unit.

  • Winter-time Cooking

Using these types of smokers during the winter can be a challenge as maintaining your smoker's temperature is never easy. Cheaper units are usually built using very thin metals. This means heat is lost in colder surroundings. 

If you are planning to throw a party around this time, then you're likely to experience difficulty in maintaining the right smoking temperature.

  • Flame Maintenance

Charcoal smokers must be periodically checked to ensure a steady flame is kept. This can be time-consuming.

  • Safety concerns

Working with charcoal smokers can be risky at times. As a result, several residential buildings encourage not using them. Coals and charcoal sparks may escape through smoker openings or the chimney, and you might be forced to put them out using either water or fire extinguishers.

  • Dirty, Handling and Health concerns

Generally charcoal is dirty, and you always have to clean up after. Lighting it can be very difficult, and it usually takes more time to achieve higher cooking temperatures. 

It's usually associated with flare-ups that can pose health risks to human beings. You may also find it difficult to establish the right cooking temperature, rapidly turning down the temp might be difficult and if enough oxygen isn't supplied, your food will be ruined.

All these issues can be surmounted easily if you carefully handle your smoker. Always ensure that you eliminate fire risk, carefully use cooking gloves, shovels, and cooking tongs, and avoid handling burning coals. 

You can also make sure that the fatty foods don't drip onto your coal by setting up a two-zone smoking environ by pushing your coals to one corner of the smoking area. Also, ash clean-up is usually easy, especially if your smoker has a removable ash tray.

Last update on 2018-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API