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For juicy smoked racks of ribs and whole chickens, gas smokers are a great choice. They don’t smoke your food with gas. Rather, the gas source, usually propane and sometimes natural gas, heats a smoker box filled with wood chips (or pellets) of your choice, adding slow, low heat and wonderful smoky flavor to achieve barbecue nirvana.
Wood smokers demand constant monitoring of heat levels and adjustments. You’ll get stronger smoke, but they’re difficult to master and require more cleanup. With a gas smoker, all you need to do is adjust the knob to raise or lower the temperature. Just make sure you have a full propane tank, or better yet, an extra one just in case. Gas smokers produce plenty of clean heat, which is why they’re the smokers many barbecue restaurants swear by. You don’t need to worry about having an electrical outlet, and gas smokers can reach much higher temperatures than their electric counterparts.
"Ultimately, they’re very simple devices," says Derrick Riches, barbecue and grilling journalist and author of "Kebabs: 75 Recipes for Grilling." "Simplicity is a good choice here, just stick to basics" when shopping for a gas grill to bring that smoky perfection to veggies, brisket, and beyond. This translates to buying something that will fit everything you want to make, has enough power, and comes with any special features you need.
These are the best gas smokers to have in your backyard.
Best Overall: Camp Chef SMV24S 24-Inch Smoke Vault
What We Love: Includes a jerky rack, easy to read door thermometer, matchless ignition
What We Don't Love: Pricey
Sometimes the simplest is the best, like with this Camp Chef 24-inch gas smoker. This excellently constructed smoker cooks your meat low and slow with a heavy-gauge steel wood chip tray and water pan to infuse all your meats with terrific flavor.
To help you regulate the temperature and smoke throughout your cooking, the flame is controlled via an adjustable dial below the front door with an easy-to-read thermometer right on the front. You start that flame with a matchless ignition and the burner drum is protected it stays lit. Additionally, three damper valves will direct the airflow and smokiness. Inside you'll find 619.5 square inches of cooking space with two adjustable racks, plus a jerky rack. That's plenty of room for a Thanksgiving smoked turkey breast or about 4 chickens for your whole hungry family and friends, too. The porcelain base tray can be removed when it's time to clean up.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 16 x 24 x 44 inches | Weight: 74.6 Pounds | Cooking Area: 619.5 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 18,000
Best Budget: Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker
What We Love: Precise control of heat and smoke, porcelain-enameled steel tray holds wood and water and is easy to clean, high-quality construction
What We Don't Love: Only one vent
From smoking veggies and pork to large cuts of meat, this is a versatile smoker that can handle it all. The 5.45 square feet of interior cooking space holds 4 stainless-steel racks that can be removed as needed, plus the sleek, sophisticated exterior will look great on your deck.
Made with high-gauge steel, this Cuisinart smoker will last and perform for many, many years. Adjust the temperature with a rotary dial, just as you would an oven, while a rear vent lets out excess smoke. You can trust it will keep all that smoke inside since the door stays tightly sealed with a twist of the handle. There's a thermometer on the front door so you can easily monitor the internal temperature, and clean-up is easy since the water and wood chips are placed in porcelain-enameled steel trays. This does come with a 40-inch hose and regulator that will attach quickly to any standard propane tank.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 22.5 x 22 x 45.6 inches | Weight: 69.5 pounds | Cooking Area: 784 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 15,000
Best for Beginners: Dyna-Glo 36-inch Vertical LP Gas Smoker
What We Love: Double-door design for more heating and smoking control, "smoke zone" on thermometer, push-button ignition
What We Don't Love: Might not be enough smoke at low temperatures
Like any new hobby, you want to invest in the right equipment, but not something so advanced, you can't use it. This smoker, built from heavy-duty steel coated with porcelain, is a great choice for a barbecue newbie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious piece of equipment.
Its hefty shell retains heat well, so you use fuel far more efficiently. After igniting with an electronic push-button, the temperature is controlled via an easy-to-use dial. The very accurate built-in thermometer identifies when your smoker is in the “Smoke Zone,” the ideal temperature for infusing that smoky flavor into your food. Sliding dampers help you learn how to control the airflow, while you can open the lower door to add water or wood chips without any heat loss. With 784 square inches of cooking space, this beauty can smoke a whole rack of ribs with room to spare.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 27 x 19.2 x 46.5 inches | Weight: 54 pounds | Cooking Area: 784 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 15,000
Related: The Best Smokers
Best Portable: Masterbuilt MB25050416 Patio-2-Portable Propane Smoker
What We Love: Convenient to carry and store, great smoky flavor, easy to read temperature gauge
What We Don't Love: Some users said the smoker had trouble staying lit
Camping, road trips, tailgating, and even family field day are better with barbecue, and this portable smoker from Masterbuilt makes great ‘cue. Even though it's compact, it can hold up to 4 chickens or 2 pork butts. In addition to the food, you’ll need to bring along a one-pound propane cylinder, but then you just push the ignition to light the burner quickly and easily.
The 5,000-BTU stainless-steel burner sits below two chrome-coated smoking racks, with the temperature gauge built into the door. The regulator knob will come in handy for controlling the internal temperature and an air damper for even more control of your cooking. The smoker’s legs fold up for transport and storage, and there's a carrying case sold separately.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 15.9 x 23.4 x 23.4 inches | Weight: 22.2 pounds | Cooking Area: 272.5 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 5,000
Related: The Best Portable Grills
Most Stylish: Pit Boss 77435 Red Rock 3 Series Vertical LP Gas Smoker
What We Love: High-temperature door seal, two burners, large capacity, very stylish
What We Don't Love: Might lose heat through glass door
Let's face it, smokers are usually vertical black metal boxes that don't get any style points. Pit Boss changes that though, making your smoker a focal point in the backyard.
The handsome design and bright pop of color are hard not to love, but this smoker has substance and style since the durability of solid steel will hold up for years. With 3 porcelain-coated cooking grids and 884 square inches of space, you’ll have plenty of room to realize your smoking dreams over the 2 independently control burners. There’s easy external access to the wood chip drawer and grease tray, and the large viewing window makes it fun to watch your meat slowly become juicy, smoky, and perfect.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 23 x 21.5 x 47 inches | Weight: 62 pounds | Cooking Area: 884 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 12,500
Related: The Best Electric Smokers
The Camp Chef SMV24S 24-Inch Smoke Vault (view at Amazon) is large enough to handle anything you want to smoke and will last you for years. If you're looking for an affordable gas smoker, the Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker (view at Amazon) is your best bet.
What to Look for in a Gas Smoker
When you think about capacity, consider how much food you plan to smoke, how much space you have outside, or if you prefer a smaller model that you can tote around for a camping adventure. "Look for more space on each cooking rack, rather than more racks," suggests Riches. "Unless you’re smoking jerky, more towers don’t give you versatility of cooking space. Whole briskets and racks of ribs need space."
Riches recommends you "fire up your smoker and let it run for a few hours when you first get it," before setting out to cook. This lets the smoke create a sort of covering to line the inside, which prevents corrosion and helps your smoker last longer.
Keeping your smoker clean will increase its life expectancy. When you’re done cooking, remove the wood chip and water pan and clean them thoroughly to prevent buildup or corrosion. These are almost always dishwasher safe, so it’s an easy task.
The number one thing to look for is "quality of construction, which means good heat retention," says Riches. You’ll want doors that close tightly and solid insulation, which keeps the smoke and heat locked inside, essential for efficient smoking. Riches skips bells and whistles like "smart" components, which can cause more of a headache than help.
Why do some gas smokers have two doors?
The two doors provide access to two separate compartments: a cooking chamber, and a wood chip and water pan area below that. "It’s better if you can get into those separate areas without opening the whole smoker and letting all your heat and smoke out, which will only add to your cooking time," says Riches. In other words: two doors are a great feature.
How do you use a gas smoker?
Get your food ready by marinating or seasoning it, place your wood chips into the proper chamber, then go ahead and light the smoker—modern models have a gas control knob and an ignition button. Once you see smoke coming from the chimney or upper exhaust vent, it’s time to add your food. Remember to use tongs and gloves; the inside of the smoker will be smoking hot. Give your food some space from the side of the smoker. While the magic happens, you’ll want to keep the temperature at a consistent rate, usually between about 225 and 350 degrees depending on what you’re cooking. One of the best parts of having a smoker is being able to experiment, so have some barbecue fun.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Hannah Howard has been writing about food and beverages for over a decade, including the memoirs Feast and Plenty. She is married to a Kansas City Barbecue Society-certified barbecue judge and dedicated meat lover.
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