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," he says about 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, comes with any special features you need, and is easy to clean and maintain.
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 so 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 four chickens for your whole hungry family and friends, too. The porcelain base tray can be removed when it's time to clean up. Keep in mind all of this comes at a relatively high price tag.
Price at time of publish: $440
Dimensions (DxWxH): 16 x 24 x 44 inches | Weight: 74.6 Pounds | Cooking Area: 619.5 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 18,000
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: Faulty temperature gauge
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 four 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 single 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. 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. There's a thermometer on the front door to easily monitor the internal temperature; however, some users say it is not accurate and ended up purchasing a separate one.
Price at time of publish: $235
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 DGY784BDP 36-Inch Vertical LP Gas Smoker
What We Love: Double-door design for more heating and smoking control, "smoke zone" on the 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 (some reviewers say this doesn't happen at low temperatures). Sliding dampers help you learn how to control the airflow, while you can open the lower of the two doors 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.
Price at time of publish: $228
Dimensions (DxWxH): 27 x 19.2 x 46.5 inches | Weight: 54 pounds | Cooking Area: 784 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 15,000
Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker, Roaster, and Grill
What We Love: Multiple capabilities, stable legs, easy to use
What We Don't Love: Small cooking area, challenging to set low temperatures
If you are limited with space or budget, this three-in-one smoker is a great buy. With multiple capabilities, the Big-Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker, Roaster, and Grill is all you need to achieve a great barbecue in your backyard. The 1,200-square-inch smoker/roaster basket will fit a 21-pound turkey, and the side-mounted smoker box makes it easy to fill with your favorite wood chips for that delicious smoked flavor. And when using the grilling function, the TRU-Infrared technology cooks food evenly, creating juicy results and reducing the possibility of flare-ups.
Although it's on the smaller side, with this smoker, there's no need to worry about wobbling thanks to the steel legs, which raise the unit off the ground for more comfortable cooking. Using the two side handles, you can easily move this lightweight smoker when needed, whether around the patio or when bringing it to a tailgate. The multi-functional smoker also gets high ratings for how simple it is to use: Hook up a propane tank, fill the smoker box, turn one dial to on, use the second dial to ignite, and you're ready to smoke. Some users have commented that it is challenging to set the smoker at low enough temperatures to get a "low and slow" cook; also keep in mind the grilling surface is small at 180 square inches.
Price at time of publish: $270
Dimensions (DxWxH): 23 x 23.4 x 36 inches | Weight: 23 pounds | Cooking Area: 1,200 (smoker basket)/180 (grill surface) square inches | BTUs/Hour: 18,000
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 the glass door
Let's face it, smokers are usually vertical black metal boxes that don't get any style points. Pit Boss changes that, 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 three porcelain-coated cooking grids and 884 square inches of space, you’ll have plenty of room to realize your smoking dreams over the two independently controlled 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, although may allow some heat to escape. However, the door itself has a high-temperature seal to keep the heat inside.
Price at time of publish: $371
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
Best for a Large Crowd
Masterbuilt MB20051316 40-Inch ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker
What We Love: Large capacity, temperature control sensor, fuel level gauge, safety valve
What We Don't Love: Glass door requires a lot of cleaning
Need to smoke several turkeys for a big Thanksgiving dinner? Or are you hosting the neighborhood backyard BBQ? This Masterbuilt 40-inch ThemoTemp propane smoker has plenty of room to cook for a crowd. With four racks, totaling 961 square inches, the propane-fueled smoker can fit eight racks of ribs or six whole turkeys. And thanks to the temperature sensor, the burner temp is automatically maintained, meaning you won't have to consistently check and make adjustments. Plus, the fuel level gauge means you will never run out of propane, and the safety valve will shut off the burner if the flame is distinguished.
This smoker allows you to cook as low as 175 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 350, and a diffuser evenly distributes the heat for up to 57 hours of smoking time. For your convenience, the wood chip tray is mounted on the lower door, and the grease tray is on the unit's side; the wheels and handle make it easy to move around as needed. The glass door does allow for checking on the food without opening the smoker, but it may require frequent cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $361
Dimensions (DxWxH): 22.8 x 28.7 x 53 inches | Weight: 92 pounds | Cooking Area: 961 square inches | BTUs/Hour: 7,500
Related: The Best Smokers
The Camp Chef SMV24S 24-Inch Smoke Vault 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 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 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 F, depending on what you’re cooking. One of the best parts of having a smoker is being able to experiment, so some barbecue fun.
Is a gas smoker better than charcoal?
One type of smoker is not necessarily better than another, as each offers different features that may work better for the individual cook. A propane-fueled smoker is easier to use, and the temperature of the smoker is simpler to maintain. So if you are new to smoking food, a gas-powered unit may give you better results.
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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