There’s no better way to welcome summer than breaking out a backyard smoker and hosting a barbeque. Whether you’re cooking for your family or your entire neighborhood, this guide to buying the best smoker will help you narrow down your choices and make an informed decision.
But first, you may be asking, why is the Sous Vide Guy writing about smokers? As many of my readers already know, sous vide is a way of achieving precise temperatures from the center of your meat to the edge, without any overcooking. Smokers are an incredible final step after cooking sous vide for the perfect ribs and briskets, so I’ve had my fair share of experience with a wide variety of smokers on the market including electric smokers, gas smokers, charcoal smokers, and even pellet smokers. Let’s dive right in and take a look at my top recommendations for the best smoker for 2017.
Best Smokers: Comparison Chart
Weber Smokey Mountain
|View Lowest Price||Charcoal|
|View Lowest Price||Electric|
|View Lowest Price||Pellet|
|View Lowest Price||Electric|
Char-Broil Big Easy
|View Lowest Price||Gas|
Types of Smokers
Shopping for a new smoker can be quite overwhelming due to the wide variety of brands and types available on the market. The first step in narrowing down your selection is to understand what type of smoker you want. There are four main kinds of smokers including electric, gas, charcoal, and pellet. Each type of smoker has its pros and cons and some are better suited for beginners while others are definitely reserved for enthusiasts. For example, electric smokers vs pellet smokers are very different from one another. So, let’s dive into each type to compare the smokers and ultimately pinpoint our top smokers in each category.
As you could probably guess, electric smokers are the best for beginners. These are great options for long cooks as you do not have to worry about running out of gas or reloading pellets. However, even experienced smokers may enjoy using electric smokers for multiple reasons, including:
✅ PROS: “Set it and forget it” which is great for long cooks. It’s also really easy to clean since there’s no charcoal and these are relatively cheap.
❌ CONS: Requires a power source (sometimes tough for outdoor cooking) and also produces less smoke rings compared to charcoal.
Best Electric Smoker: Bradley Smokers Original Smoker
The Bradley Original Smoker (BS611) is a world-class, feature-packed smoker without breaking the bank. This electric smoker comes with an automatic wood feeder system (you can see this on the side of the smoker in the picture) so it will maintain the temperature you set without you having to do anything. The wood feeder system can create continuous smoke for 8 hours before having to re-load the unit. So you can finish a full 15 hour brisket with only having to reload wood once.
As for the interior, it’s fully stainless steel for easy cleaning and contains four removable racks. Another great feature about the Bradley Original Smoker is the separate smoke and oven burners. This means you can decide between heat + smoke, heat only, and smoke only, which really adds another dimension to its’ potential uses.
Budget Pick: Masterbuilt 30-Inch Electric Digital Smoker
While I really like the Bradley smoker, this 30” Masterbuilt smoker must be recommended as well due to its low cost and performance. This is definitely the most universally popular electric smoker on the market. The Masterbuilt 30” Digital Smoker has over 700 sq inches of cooking space with 4 fully removable racks. While the Masterbuilt smoker doesn’t have an automatic wood feeder like the Bradley unit, it still has an easily accessible side loader. If you’re a beginner and looking to get a reliable smoker without spending much cash, the Masterbuilt is your best bet.
Gas, or propane, smokers are ideal for those who want the easiness of electric smokers but don’t want to worry about finding a power source. Simply connect a propane tank to the smoker, much like you already do for a regular grill, add some wood chips, and begin cooking. Gas smokers can often reach higher temperatures, however, a long smoke can easily go through a full propane tank pretty quickly.
✅ PROS: Gas smokers are easy, much like electric, and they also offer better mobility since you do not need an electric power source.
❌ CONS: Propane tanks can deplete rather quickly on longer cooks, and gas smokers still fall short to charcoal and pellet smokers in terms of smoke rings.
Best Gas Smoker: Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker
While I typically do not use gas smokers, the Char-Broil Big Easy TRU-Infrared smoker is a home run due to its multiple creative uses. The Big Easy Smoker Roaster and Grill lets you do just that. This 3-in-1 machine can do a lot, but it can’t cook a lot. The cooking space of this smoker is only 180 sq inches, compared to 700 sq inches on the electric Masterbuilt smoker.
Overall, it really depends what you plan on smoking. For example, this Big Easy smoker is great for sous vide because it has a regular grill right on top of the smoker so you can finish off a great sear after soaking up some of the smoke flavor. However, if you plan on smoking full racks of ribs or hosting a neighborhood bbq, you may want something with more cooking space.
Charcoal smokers take a big step up from electric and gas smokers in terms of performance, however they obviously require a little more work and maintenance. If you are a fan of charcoal grills, such as the Big Green Egg, you will likely prefer using charcoal smokers over anything else. Even if you have no experience with charcoal, this may be an excellent opportunity for you to realize the performance benefits of using it.
✅ PROS: Charcoal smokers give off the best flavor, bark, and smoke rings, period.
❌ CONS: However, with charcoal comes cleaning. You also have to pay more attention and monitor the cook a bit more, but this adds to the experience!
Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
This is the holy grail of smokers. I really don’t think the Weber Smokey Mountain can be beat. Backed by the infamous 10-year limited Weber warranty, this charcoal smoker is built for heavy use and contains two 18” racks adding up to about 480 sq inches of cooking space. While the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker doesn’t have as much cooking space as most electric smokers out there, it will definitely get a better smoke ring and better flavor.
If you’re looking for an authentic smoking experience and don’t mind paying a little more attention during the cook, you have to get this smoker. There’s a reason the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is our top rated smoker.
Pellet smokers grew in popularity over the last couple years, and for very good reason. It’s very easy to recognize a pellet smoker over other types because of its size and the large pellet hopper on the side of the smoker.
✅ PROS: Pellet smokers are close to “set it and forget it” like electric due to their temperature controllers, and they also typically have large cooking areas.
❌ CONS: However, these are often more expensive up front, and still do not produce a smoke ring like charcoal can.
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
If the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crocket pellet smoker is good at one thing, it’s making your neighbors jealous. This thing is the Rolls Royce of smokers without the hefty price tag. The WiFi controlled (that’s right!) Davy Crockett smoker comes with Sense-Mate which monitors the temperature of the grill and can be controlled from your phone.
This Green Mountain Grills smoker is also surprisingly portable for being a pellet smoker. If you’re looking for a little more “set it and forget it” but don’t want to fall back on electric smokers, the Davy Crockett pellet grill is my top pick which will allow smoke rings closer to that of charcoal.