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Grilling is great, but smoking takes outdoor cooking to a whole new level. Smoke penetrates meat during long, slow cooking, giving you a big-league taste at the backyard barbecue.
Our best overall pick is the Masterbuilt MB20074719 Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker, which uses electric and Bluetooth connectivity and earned high praise in extensive at-home testing. If you're new to smoking, go with the Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, which also performed well in testing and earned high marks for its ease of use.
You don't need expensive cuts to impress, either. Fattier, tougher cuts work best to really lock in moisture. Everything from pork roasts and delicious brisket to whole chicken and racks of ribs will emerge fully cooked, tender, juicy, and full of savory, smoky flavor. Whether you're a beginner or a pro, you want a charcoal smoker or electric, or you're looking for something high-end or more wallet-friendly, there's a smoker for every meat enthusiast out there.
Here, check out our selection of the best smokers.
Best Overall: Masterbuilt MB20074719 Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker
Easy to set up and use
Four spacious racks
Comes with built-in temperature probe
Easy to add wood chips
Bluetooth range could be improved
LED display is hard to read in sunlight
Issues operating in cold weather
When it comes to smokers, this one has everything you need for easy smoking at an affordable price and it performed well in extensive at-home testing. Since it’s electric, there’s no need to fuss with lighting charcoal, and the design is sleek, modern, and attractive. This smoker uses Bluetooth to connect to your smart device, so you don’t have to keep track of a separate remote control, and when you’re cooking, there’s no need to leave your comfy lawn chair to check the temperature or turn the cooker on or off.
The Masterbuilt smoker has four chrome-plated racks that can handle up to 16 chickens, four turkeys, or eight racks of ribs. There’s no need to open the door to load more wood chips during cooking, since they can be added from the side of the smoker. When you’re done smoking and you want to crisp the chicken or finish ribs with sticky sauce, there’s a broiling element that can handle that for you, so there’s no need to fire up a separate grill or heat the oven to complete the cooking process. If smoking continues after dark, an interior light turns on when the door is open for easy visibility.
The taste of the food is where this smoker really shines. Our tester raved about all of the food she smoked, including a rack of St. Louis-style ribs and salmon. While it's easy to use and delivers tasty results, this smoker can be finicky in cold weather, and its blue display screen is tough to read in direct sunlight.
If this smoker is a littler larger than you need, Masterbuilt has the 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker, which is similar in terms of features. It has four racks with a shorter clearance between each, and it offers the same Bluetooth functionality.
Fuel: Electric | Racks: 4 | Weight: 66 lbs.
"One of my favorite aspects of this smoker is the side wood chip loading system, which allows you to add more chips without opening the smoker door." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best for Beginners: Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Easy setup for smoking
Large water bowl regulates internal temperature
Water level difficult to see when using
This user-friendly smoker doesn’t have dials or controls to worry about and works much like a familiar charcoal grill, so it can be a great introduction to smoking for people who just want something basic that does the job of making tasty barbecue. Heat and smoke are controlled by adjusting the vents, but the grill has another "sneaky trick up its sleeve" that impressed our product tester: a water pan that collects drips and keeps the interior humid for juicy results.
This uses charcoal for the heat source and has two cooking grates so you can fit plenty of food for the family or for a backyard party. A thermometer on the top lets you monitor the interior temperature, while a silicone plug in the side allows standard remote meat thermometers to slide through into the meat for perfect cooking every time. For additional versatility, this smoker can be configured to be used as a standard grill, as well.
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking area: 481 sq. in. | Racks: 2 | Weight: 39 lbs.
"The ability to convert the smoker to a grill was a pleasant surprise, and the included cover was a bonus that will keep the smoker clean in inclement weather." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Portable: Green Mountain Davy Crockett WiFi Control Portable Wood Pellet Grill
Sturdy yet portable
Doesn't need a lot of power to operate
Comes with Bluetooth capability
For its price and portability, it's really hard to beat this Davy Crockett smoker from Green Mountain. Just because this smoker is designed to be portable, that doesn’t mean it’s less capable. It even includes Wi-Fi control so you don’t need to hover near the smoker to monitor the cooking. This uses pellets as a heat source, so all you need to do is fill the hopper and let the grill do the rest.
This smoker weighs 57 pounds, so it’s sturdy but still liftable. The legs fold to make it more compact for storage or to tuck it into the trunk or the back of a pickup for a tailgate party. It runs on standard house current when it’s available, and it comes with three adapters so it can plug into your car for use on the road.
Our tester loved that the power options really mean you can take this anywhere. There are a few quirks, but for the most part, it performed like a standard pellet smoker, according to our tester. The burgers and brats made after skiing in a parking lot received rave reviews.
Fuel: Wood pellets | Cooking area: 219 sq. in. | Racks: 1 | Weight: 57 lbs. | Hopper capacity: 9 lbs.
"Friends at our tailgate raved about the deeper flavors and light smoke ring effect enjoyed even with shorter cooking times." — Justin Park, Product Tester
Best Budget: Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker
Easy to assemble and operate
Lid doesn't always seal properly
A smoker doesn’t have to break the budget, and this 16-inch bullet smoker from Char-Broil is the perfect example. It has two porcelain-coated cooking grates that offer a total of 388 square inches of cooking space. A temperature gauge on the lid makes it easy to monitor the smoker’s internal temperature for perfect cooking every time.
The dampers are numbered to make it easy to remember the best settings for heat and smoke, and the ash pan is removable for easy cleanup when cooking is done and the fire is out. For those who need more cooking space, there’s also a 20-inch version of this model.
Many customers were pleasantly surprised to find that this smoker is sturdily constructed and keeps consistent temperature, considering its price. A few people advise, however, to be careful when putting the lid back on because it won't always seal properly otherwise.
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking area: 388 sq. in. | Racks: 2 | Weight: 16.5 lbs.
"A common mistake people make with smokers is either using too much wood or adding the food to the smoker before the smoke is running clean. You want to see a thin blue smoke, not a thick white or gray smoke. The wrong smoke will taint the flavor of your food." – Christie Vanover, Owner and Pitmaster of GirlsCanGrill.com
Best Pellet Smoker: Traeger Tailgater 20 Pellet Grill
Lightweight and portable
Mysterious temperature swings
Awkward to fold up for transport
Many smoking aficionados will tell you that pellets are superior to charcoal. They’re certainly less messy since you won’t end up with black dust on your hands every time you touch them. The pellets are made from hardwood and burn cleanly while still providing the perfect wood-fired smoky flavor to foods.
This pellet smoker has digital controls that are easy to use, an electric auto-start ignition, and an auger system that feeds pellets into the fire, so all you have to do is make sure the hopper is full and the grill will do the rest. This has 300 square inches of cooking space, so it’s not huge, but it still has enough space for 12 perfect burgers or two whole chickens. If you need to store the smoker indoors, the legs fold flat for a more compact profile.
Fuel: Wood pellets | Cooking area: 300 sq. in. | Racks: 1 | Weight: 62 lbs. | Hopper capacity: 8 lbs.
"Even if you only use it for smoking and grilling, the Tailgater can replace your gas or charcoal grill and deliver better flavor than either." — Justin Park, Product Tester
Best Offset Smoker: Oklahoma Joe Highland Charcoal Horizontal Smoker
Built to last
Large cooking capacity
Offset smokers look like traditional grills with a small firebox on the side, but they work much differently since the heat comes from the firebox rather than from below the food. Controlled heat and smoke enter the cooking chamber for perfectly smoked meats every time.
A thermometer mounted in the lid, along with multiple dampers, makes controlling the heat and smoke easy. Made from heavy-gauge black-coated steel, this sturdy smoker is built to last and will look good for years. The stay-cool handles on the cookbox and firebox lids let you open the lids safely, even when the grill is hot. This has 619 square inches of cooking space in the main chamber, but if you need a little extra space, a rack in the firebox gives you extra space right over the fire.
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking area: 619 sq. in. | Racks: 2 | Weight: 178 lbs.
Best Kamado: Kamado Joe Big Joe Grill, Series II
Excellent heat retention
Versatile two-tier cooktop
Eye-catching color and design
Too heavy to transport
Ceramic is fragile
The word "kamado" is the Japanese word for "stove" or "cooking range," although today it's a generic term for a ceramic grill that's especially excellent for smoking. Compared to metal charcoal grills, kamado grills take barbecue to a whole new level with superior heat retention that traps moisture and smoke inside, locking primo flavor deep inside the meat.
Although it is pricey, the Kamado Joe Big II Charcoal Grill comes with rave reviews—a clear favorite among grillers. The red egg-shaped grill with locking wheels has an 24-inch cooktop divided among two half-moon-shaped tiers, allowing you to cook different foods in different styles at different temperatures simultaneously.
Powered by natural lump charcoal, smoke at 225 degrees or crank it all the way up to 750 degrees to sear. It's mold- and water-resistant, so you can cook in the rain, too. A fiberglass mesh gasket and self-activating stainless steel latch ensure a strong, airtight seal for tender, smoke-flavored brisket, chicken, and more. Lift the top with just two fingers (it'll stay put exactly where you position it) and use the sliding ash drawer for a super easy clean.
If you're hoping to save a little money, you can always downsize to the Kamado Joe Big Joe I. The two models have the same cooking area and temperature range, but the Big Joe II comes with an air lift hinge, improved top vent, and a few other premium features.
Fuel: Charcoal | Cooking area: 452 sq. in. | Racks: 1 | Weight: 372 lbs.
Best Indoor: Demeyere Resto Stovetop Smoker
Works with any stovetop
Doubles as a steamer
Made from high-quality material
Some smoke can escape
Lacks thorough instructions
Not everyone has outdoor space for smoking, and that’s where this stainless steel smoker comes in handy. The Demeyere Resto Smoker is designed to be used right on your stovetop, allowing you to make your favorite smoked foods indoors. The four-piece design includes a three-ply 18/10 stainless steel encapsulated base with welded side handles, a polished stainless steel lid, and two inserts.
To use this indoor smoker, you simply put wood chips in the base, place the rack on top, then add fish, vegetables, or meats and cheeses to the unit. It can be heated on any type of stovetop, including induction, and soon, you'll have tasty food with a rich smoked flavor. Plus, the unit can double as a steamer, allowing you to easily cook fish and vegetables, and it can simply be put in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.
Fuel: Stovetop | Cooking area: Not listed | Racks: 1 | Weight: 6 lbs.
The Masterbuilt Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker is our top pick because it's electric, meaning there's no need to worry about charcoal and it'll be easier to control the temperature. Plus, it features Bluetooth connectivity. If you're new to smoking, we recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. It's easy to set up and use and has a relatively small footprint.
What to Look for in a Smoker
Smokers come in many shapes and sizes and can be powered by a wide range of fuels. Here is what to consider when you start shopping for a smoker.
Types of Smokers
Smokers can be fueled by charcoal, hardwood, electricity, wood pellets, or propane. There are advantages (and some disadvantages) to these different fuels:
Charcoal and wood smokers are more traditional and typically provide a more authentic flavor to your cooking. The cheapest smokers on the market are usually charcoal, but some of the most expensive use charcoal, as well.
These are the most convenient—just plug them in and add wood, water, and food—and the heat is also easy to regulate since it’s much like a stove. But many lack authentic flavor. Computer-controlled electric smokers allow you to set up the smoker and let it run until the food is ready.
Pellet smokers are electrically powered but burn wood pellets to provide heat and smoke. These units can be as convenient as an electric smoker, but give you the flavor of the best charcoal/hardwood smokers.
Smokers powered by propane typically heat faster and easier than electric smokers but are still easy to use. They are also more portable, since you don’t need a power outlet, but you need to watch its propane levels to make sure you don’t run out in the middle of smoking that brisket.
Depending on the price you can get a smoker that gives great barbecue with very little effort. One question you want to answer is how involved do you want to be in the process. Barbecue is a long and noble tradition of people sitting by the fire making great food. Do you want to set it and forget it or do you want to take an active part in the food you cook? Look for the electronic or computer control features that may automate some of the processes for you.
Size and Smoking Capacity
The smallest smokers can produce enough food for a large family (maybe as many as 20 people). The largest smokers make enough barbecue to cater a party all day long. It is important that you consider how much barbecue you want to make before you buy. If you are only going to be smoking for the family on the weekend, then a small unit will be enough. If you want to be able to smoke for the company party, then you will need a lot more space. Most smokers will tell you how much food you can prepare. As a general rule of thumb, you need one pound of meat (raw) per person. That can mean a lot of food.
There are a number of units on the market that can smoke and grill. If you want to be able to have the best of both worlds, then these are the units for you. Charcoal units, like the Kamado Joe Classic II, are the most common of this kind of multipurpose smoker. While many of the lower-priced units will promise this feature, you must be aware that a great design needs to be both a good smoker and a good grill. Most of the less expensive models do one or the other well, but not both.
Portability isn’t just about tossing your smoker in the trunk to take it to a party—it’s also about the ease of moving it out of storage to the yard and back again. Especially if you don't have a permanent outdoor space for a large smoker, think about portability as you shop.
Smokers can be had for as little as $50 and up to $10,000 or more. If you aren't going to use it heavily, you may want to start with a small vertical water smoker. These are the least expensive smokers you can buy. You can make good barbecue in these smokers, and for many people, it is the only smoker you need, but there is a lot more to smokers than these simple units.
What is a smoker?
A smoker, sometimes called a BBQ smoker, is an outdoor cooking appliance that can maintain low temperatures for extended periods of time while producing smoke and holding it around the meat for absorption. There are numerous types of smokers, including offset smokers, box smokers, kamado grills, and pellet grills, and they can be powered by gas, electricity, charcoal, or wood pellets.
How does a smoker work?
To create their signature smoke, these appliances maintain a much lower temperature than a traditional grill. Whereas a grill cooks food at 400 to 500°F, smokers maintain a temperature between 180 and 220°F. This causes its wood chips to smolder instead of burning, filling the cooking cavity up with smoke.
This indirect heat cooks your food and gives it a delicious smoky flavor, but the process takes significantly longer than a regular grill—smoking meat typically takes six to eight hours, but it can be as long as 22 hours for large cuts of meat like brisket.
Do I need to clean my smoker after every use?
Just like your grill, your smoker needs regular maintenance if you want it to deliver optimal results and last for years. You'll want to clean out ashes, grease, and food build-up after each use, and you may need to re-season the smoker periodically, as well, to maintain its protective coating.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
From smoking guns for cocktails to a stovetop smoker to an electric smoker, Donna Currie has been experimenting with home-smoked food for a long time. She’s smoked cocktails, salt, cheese, and even her own home-cured and smoked bacon. When it comes to lighting things on fire and creating billows of smoke, she knows what she likes.
This roundup was updated by Camryn Rabideau, product tester and grill expert for The Spruce Eats. She's done firsthand testing of the Masterbuilt Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker and more popular grills. She also interviewed Christie Vanover, Owner and Pitmaster of GirlsCanGrill.com as part of her research.