Beginners to smoker barbecue usually begin by experimenting with a kettle grill smoker. But once you’re ready to take the plunge with your own backyard smoker, that’s when the real fun begins! There is a huge range of smokers available for the home cook. You’ll definitely have to take into account how large your smoker needs to be, any fancy features you might want, and whether this will double as your main grill as well. Whether you want a professional, wood-burning smoker or something more casual for Sunday ribs, you can find one that works for your needs. For its versatility, the Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill earned its place as our best overall pick.
Since a smoker is a large purchase, it’s a great idea to do your research before buying. The good news? We did the research for you! Here are the best smokers to have in your backyard.
Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill
It is very tough to choose a single smoker here as a lot of it depends on your specific scenario and skill level. If you need a cooker that checks a lot of different boxes, it’s hard to beat the Big Green Egg. The famous ceramic cooker retains heat for hours and hours, and the design can give you surprisingly precise cooking temperatures, up to 750 degrees.
The Big Green Egg is a top-notch grill and smoker that will allow you to make almost any smoked or grilled recipe once you get over its learning curve. Fueled by hardwood, the 262-square inch cooking area can handle 20-pound turkeys, eight steaks, a dozen burgers, or seven racks of ribs vertically. Many will find this to be a wonderful backyard tool that eliminates the need for a bunch of different cookers in their arsenal.
Price at time of publish: $1,030
Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
The Big Green Egg is the high-end charcoal smoker that people love to show off, and it is an amazing cooker, but this Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill can’t be overlooked. It has an excellent price point and a very similar performance to the pricier egg-shaped models.
While many kamado grills are still made from ceramic, this model's design relies on double-walled steel, which retains heat better while less air is drying out your meat. That excellent temperature control means you can grill at high heat or smoke without issue. Cast-iron cooking grates are found in the 314 square inches of cooking space that can handle almost two dozen burgers at once.
As with any charcoal grill, there is a learning curve with these, but it’s well worth the investment in time and money.
Price at time of publish: $375
Traeger Pro 575 Wood Pellet Grill
While you can heat the grill to 500 degrees, I find this pellet grill best for smoking rather than direct heat grilling. The Traeger Pro 575 is a high-end grill, for sure, but one that comes with all the features.
The large hopper holds up to 18 pounds, so you don’t have to worry about refilling pellets constantly. There’s also temperature control for consistent cooking, which you can also control via the Traeger app on your smartphone. A built-in probe thermometer helps you determine when cooking is done, and the grill grates are coated with porcelain for easy cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $900
Related: The Best Pellet Smokers
Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
If you don’t want to deal with charcoal, propane gas, or firewood, an electric smoker is the way to go. This wonderful electric smoker from Char-Broil is an upper mid-range size, and very easy to set up and use.
Measuring 16.5 x 18.1 x 32.5 inches, the smoker comes with 725 square inches of cooking space, enough to cook eight racks of ribs, four briskets, or six whole chickens. The interior grates are made of durable stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about rust, and they’re easy to remove for cleanup.
There’s a large, 4-cup smoke box for wood chips for up to seven hours of smoke, so you don’t need to constantly refill—and it comes with a wonderful remote for easy temperature checking.
Price at time of publish: $395
Related: The Best Electric Smokers
Oklahoma Joe's Offset Highland Smoker
The world of offset smokers gets pretty intense pretty quickly, with smokers in the many thousands of dollars. But price is an important metric for smokers, and this Oklahoma Joe’s model is hard to beat.
With 619 square inches of primary cooking area and 281 inches of secondary cooking space, this is big enough for a full brisket or pork butt without a problem. The heavy-gauge steel is great for retaining a good temperature, while multiple dampers help with the heat and smoke. There’s also a front shelf to handle food preparation and a cool-touch handle to avoid accidents.
Some reviewers mentioned that this model has small leaks occasionally, which can be easily sealed with a professional smoker gasket or heat-resistant silicone-like LavaLock.
Price at time of publish: $450
Best for Beginners
Masterbuilt 30-Inch Electric Smoker
Electric smokers can get a bad rep from seasoned smoking professionals, but for a beginning smoker, it’s hard to beat their ease of use, and you can make really good BBQ in them. If you are just learning the ins and outs of smoking, Masterbuilt 30-inch Electric Smoker is a great entry-point smoker.
Measuring 19.9 x 20.5 x 33.3 inches, this smoker has a large enough cooking space for two turkeys, four pork butts, four racks of ribs, or six chickens. Reliable digital controls handle the internal temperature and cooking time, and a side-door wood-chip loader means you don’t have to open the smoker door during cooking.
Price at time of publish: $200
Best for Small Spaces
Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Weber is the maker of classic grills and smokers, including this 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker. This small but mighty cooker only measures 21 x 19 x 41 inches, making it a great option for those with limited space.
This is a no-frills charcoal cooker that doesn’t include any remote options or other fancy features. But it can handle a whole turkey and an entire ham at the same time. Its easy-to-use damper is especially helpful for new smokers. Once you master the basics though, you can cook amazingly delicious food on it. I once catered a whole wedding using a few Weber cookers like this, and everyone ended up fed and happy!
Weber also makes a 14-inch model for tighter spaces, but the cooking space is very small. I would opt for at least the 18-inch model if you can swing it.
Price at time of publish: $455
Related: The Best Charcoal Grills
Best for the Backyard Pro
Yoder Loaded Wichita
If you are a serious backyard pro looking to up your BBQ and smoking game, the Yoder Loaded Wichita is truly a stunning smoker.
It features 1600 square inches of cooking space so you can feed the whole neighborhood, and it's made of solid 0.25-inch steel. It’s a solid cooker that doesn’t leak and has incredible temperature retainment. It also weighs almost 600 pounds so make sure you have a good spot for it (although the sturdy wheels do make it possible to move).
Price at time of publish: $3,059
The iconic Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill and Smoker (view at Ace Hardware) remains one of the very best smokers in my book. It's definitely an investment and a worthy one at that. If you're a fan of pellet smokers, the Traeger Pro 575 Wifi Pellet Grill and Smoker (view at Traeger Grills) deserves a spot in your backyard.
What to Look for When Buying a Smoker
There are a few different items to look for when choosing a smoker. Before you even get into price and features, it’s important to think about where you are putting a smoker. If you live in a small apartment or a spacious home with a backyard, that’s going to dramatically impact the smoker you buy. You also need to consider how many people you regularly cook for, as in, are your smoking projects for a small family dinner, or do you have extended family and friends over regularly for a backyard cookout. A general rule of thumb is one pound of raw meat per person.
Features are very important to which grill to choose. You might be familiar with cooking with charcoal or gas, or you might want to simply plug the unit into an outlet. Digital controls can mean you can set it and forget it. Manufacturers also add on smart technology features. Think about whether or not you want to walk away while the food is smoking, and have your phone alert you when it’s done.
Do you want to be able to smoke on the weekends and grill weeknights? Many models allow you the option to do both. If you'll usually be smoking smaller items with infrequent larger smoking projects, consider how easy (or hard) it is to modify your grill for that change. Also, make sure the grill manufacturer has the necessary accessory grills and tools available since you might want to expand your smoking horizons as you gain experience.
What's the difference between horizontal and vertical smokers?
The main difference is where the meat is in relation to the fire. Chef Derek Wolf of Over the Fire Cookings tells us that "with traditional stick burning horizontal smokers, the firebox will be on the side with the meat in a separate chamber next to it," whereas with vertical smokers, "the fire will be underneath the meat itself."
"The biggest difference is the heat shield that will be between the fire and the meat," says Wolf. Chef Adrian de Leon of Tarbell's in Phoenix adds that "vertical smokers are designed for low and slow smoking and roasting, but not for creating direct fire or flames found in typical grills."
How do you clean smokers?
Once cooled, you’ll want to remove the ashes, brush the grates with a grill brush, and use a knife to scrape out any bits of food left in the chamber. If you're using a pellet smoker, it's best to remove any unused pellets so that they can be stored in a weatherproof environment.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Nick Evans has been developing recipes for the home cook for over a decade both on Simply Recipes and his personal blog, Macheesmo. He’s used and tested a huge range of both indoor and outdoor cooking equipment over the years. For the last few years, he’s tested a variety of grills and outdoor cookers.
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