10 Greatest Smokers for Beginners — Be a Master Chef at Your Own Backyard!
Last updated: Mar 06, 2020
67Hours of Research
There are no two ways about it; smoked meats just taste better. From savory ribs to delicious pulled pork, nothing beats the flavor and juiciness of a well-smoked meal. The only issue with smoking is that only master barbecuers can get good results, right? Wrong! Even if you have no smoking experience whatsoever, getting the best smoker for beginners is going to allow you to make delicious meals all on your own.
As you can imagine, however, there are a lot of different factors that you need to take into account when you are looking for the first smoker to buy. But don’t worry! We have taken the time to do all of that hard work for you. When we were putting together our list, which you can see below, we first looked at the cooking area and hopper capacity, since these two factors will determine how much you can cook and for how long you can cook it. Next, we checked out the temperature range, since the amount of heat a smoker can produce will directly impact what it can cook. Finally, we checked out the weight of each model, as well as its overall dimensions, since the size of the smoker will limit where and when you can use it.
Top 10 Smoker for Beginners Review 2020
In order to complete our comprehensive list of the best smokers for beginners and the detailed reviews of each cooker, we spent tens of hours reading through hundreds of user reviews. We also took the time to put together an in-depth buying guide, so that you can be sure to get your hands on the best model of a smoker for your needs.
When you are just getting into the world of smokers, the more basic they are, the better. The last thing that you want to do is get an overly complicated system that is difficult to understand how to use. This model is an excellent example of an easy to use smoker that is perfect for a beginner. To start with, this cooker is extremely effortless to set up and move from place to place.
The hardest thing to figure out when you are just getting started with smoking foods is how to get a constant temperature. It can be challenging for a newbie to keep the smoker at a low temperature for a long time, which is essential for cooking delicious meats. This model, however, simplifies this process thankfully.
The Green Mountain’s controls are easy to read and use. The wood pellets are automatically added in when they are needed with an internal auger. While you will need to make sure you add more fuel every once in a while, this isn’t difficult to do. In fact, even when you do need to add more pellets, it won’t interfere with the operation of the smoker at all.
Something else that makes this a super simple smoker to use is its remote control. This controller allows you to set and monitor the temperature even if you aren’t right next to it. That way, you don’t need to babysit the smoker and can get other work done while you are smoking your meets. The only thing that you’ll need to make sure of with this cooker is that you clean out the grease as often as possible, as its small size makes this a necessity.
Even if you ask someone who doesn’t know all that much about smokers what the right fuel source would be, the odds are that they are going to say charcoal. This type of fuel produces plenty of smoke, which is why it is such a great option for smoking food. Add in the fact that charcoal burns for such a long time, and you can quickly see why so many smoking masters use it as their go-to fuel source.
That isn’t to say that cooking with charcoal is easy to do. On the contrary, if you have the wrong smoker, it can be almost impossible to smoke meats correctly with it.
Thankfully, this offering from Weber makes using charcoal as comfortable as possible. To start with, the airflow is very easy to control. It has plenty of dampers that you can adjust. By adjusting the airflow that is moving through the smoker with this high level of precision, you can get to the exact temperatures you desire to smoke your food.
Like all smokers, this model needs to be cleaned regularly. Thankfully, it is extremely easy to do this. This charcoal smoker is so easy to clean thanks to Weber’s patented porcelain style grate system. All you need is a little bit of soap and water, and the creosote, grease, and grime basically fly off of the grates. They are also built to last too, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them failing on you any time soon.
Since this is such a highly portable smoker, it is also on the smaller side. This, obviously, makes it ideal for traveling. Its smaller size does, however, limit the amount of food you can cook on it since the overall cooking is not all that large.
Though this smoker could be used as a portable unit, it could also be kept in the backyard. It has a rustproof coating on its exterior, so it should be able to withstand the elements. Even so, however, it would probably be a good idea to get a cover for it.
When it comes to finding a good offset smoker, the more you spend, the better of a cooker you are going to get. That way, you can guarantee that it is made with the best materials possible. This model is made with nice, thick steel. This durable construction allows the smoker last for a good long time, which is ideal since this is more expensive than other models.
Of course, this does make it a bit heavier. While it does have some wheels on the bottom, it certainly isn’t easy to move around. So if you do decide to purchase this product, be sure that you have a right spot for it in mind so you won’t have to maneuver it more than you need to.
Another facet of this grill where the price point really shows is how well-designed the cooker is. Not only is it easy to use, but it is also very easy to assemble. Even if you aren’t much a handyman, you shouldn’t have too much trouble following the excellent instructions to get this cooker up and running.
The hopper and cooking area are nice and expansive. The large hopper makes this an excellent option for cooking over long periods of time at lower temperatures, which is perfect for smoking. The cooking area is actually separated into two different racks so you will have plenty of space to cook lots of food at a time.
One thing that you need to keep in mind with this smoker is that, while it does have a temperature gauge, it is not always very accurate. The higher the temperature goes, the less accurate it seems to be. As such, you will really have to watch your cooking process carefully when you are running the unit at higher temperatures.
Large cooking area
Wide temperature range
Digital temperature control
Easy to assemble
The temperature gauge isn’t accurate at higher temperatures
Propane smokers are not usually at the forefront of the industry, mostly because they do not create any smoke on their own. To properly smoke with one, you need to use a water pan that is then used to create steam to cook meat. In order for the cooker to work correctly, you need to make sure you keep the pan full, which, thankfully, can be done without opening the entire cooker. With this model, you would probably have to refill it every two hours, which sounds like a lot but isn’t that big of a deal.
One thing that propane smokers have going for them is how quickly and efficiently they can get up to the proper temperature. Unlike charcoal or wood, where you need to wait for a long time for the fuel to be burned down, propane starts heating up immediately. This model does have a touchy control panel, so you need to be careful that you don’t over adjust it.
Since it has the ability to heat up very quickly, it isn’t a big surprise that it also has a larger than average temperature range. This larger temp range makes it possible to use this cooker for more than just smoking, as you could also grill food with it as well. This efficient heating process will also help you to conserve a ton of fuel since you won’t need to burn through a ton of it just to get to the right temperature.
Another great feature for this unit is how larger the cooking space is. It is one of the biggest on the market for beginners. If you intend to cook tons of food at once, then this is definitely an option that you will want to take a closer look at.
Vertical style smokers are a great way to save some space in your backyard or on your porch, while also increasing the overall cooking area. Since this charcoal smoker is built upwards rather than sideways, it is easy to fit in just about any place that you want to place it. The fact that you don’t have to sacrifice any cooking area is just an added bonus.
Another nice feature for this model is that it has two separate chambers that can be accessed independently of each other. While this might not sound like all that big of a deal, it truly is a lifesaver. If you need to add more charcoal to this model while you are smoking your meats, you can do so without having to risk losing any of the heat in the cooking area.
This is a huge advantage, especially when you consider how long it takes for this model for heating up to the right temperature. The last thing you want to happen is to lose all of the accumulated heat that you waited for 20 minutes to go away because you opened the door to add more fuel.
Inside of the fuel chamber, you will also find a removable ash pan. This stainless steel pan makes it very simple to clean out the ashes after you have finished cooking, which in turn will help your smoker burn cleaner. A clean smoker will also keep your food tasting fresh and delicious.
To get this unit to the right temperature, all you need to do is adjust the flue to increase or decrease the amount of airflow that is reaching the charcoal. This straightforward design is relatively simple to master, which makes this smoker a good option for beginners.
Electric smoker doen’t get a lot of attention in the barbecue world, which is a shame. Though purists might not like the idea of using a cooker that doesn’t actually burn anything, that doesn’t mean that a good electric smoker can work wonders on your food. This model, in particular, is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want a lot of variables to deal with when they are smoking meats, but instead just wants delicious food.To start off with, this smoker is very easy to use. Since it is fully electric, all you need to do is turn it on and set your temperature. No fiddling with starters or flues with this model. Just turn it on, and set your temp. From there, you just need to make sure that the other parts, such as the water pan and wood chips, are full and ready to go for an extended smoking session.
The water pan is on the small side for a cooker with the quite decent cooking area of this model. As such, you will probably have to refill it at least once while you are cooking. Unfortunately, this means that you will need to open up the cooker, which will cause you to lose some heat in the process.
Thankfully, this particular electric smoker is very well insulated. It is double walled, which helps to limit the amount of heat that you lose whenever you open the door to add more water.
This insulation helps the smoker get right back to its set temperature very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that you really won’t notice too much of a fluctuation in the internal temperature, making this a great, and easy to use option for a beginner
If you are in the market for a lightweight smoker, which could be used for either tailgating, family picnics, or even camping, then this might be a good option for you. It has foldable legs, which help to make its already small body even more compact. This compact design makes it a piece of cake to fit into your car or truck as you travel, which is another reason why this smoker is such a good option for people who want to cook on the go.
Aside from its small size, the reason that this smoker is so lightweight is because of its thinner exterior. The thinness of this smoker is definitely an advantage in that it makes the smoker much easier to transport. Unfortunately, this also means that you need to watch it very closely to ensure that it isn’t losing heat while it is cooking. It is especially susceptible to heat loss on windy days, so be sure to keep that in mind if you do decide to get this smoker.
Though heat loss is definitely a concern with this cooker, it is, thankfully, very easy to get it to the right temperature again with ease. The built-in temperature gauge is top notch and very accurate. That makes it super simple to set the temperature and keep it where you want it to be.
Since this is a propane smoker, it is also straightforward to start. All you need to do is press the igniter and set your temperature. After that, it will burn efficiently, which will save you money in the long run in comparison to some other fuel sources.
Charcoal smokers are a great way to get the smokiest flavors for your favorite foods. They create plenty of smoke, which helps to bring out the best tastes in everything that you cook. Of course, all of this smoke can also be a pain to clean off of the interior and the grates.
That is not the case with this charcoal smoker, however. Since it has porcelain coated grates, all you need is a little bit of dish soap and water, and this grill will be as shiny as it was the day you brought it home. Not only will this make sure that your food tastes better, but it will also make the smoker last longer too.
In addition, this is the most portable smoker that we looked into. It weighs a minuscule 15 pounds. Even if you were to load this smoker up with charcoal before you tried to move it, you shouldn’t have any trouble lifting it whatsoever. While this high level of portability is definitely helpful, it does come at a cost. This cooker has a smaller than average cooking area and charcoal capacity. This smaller size is going to limit the amount of food you can smoke at one time, but will certainly not limit the quality.
While this smoker is definitely on the smaller side, its designers still made sure to add in some helpful features. The most important is definitely the front access door. This door will let you add more fuel during the cooking process without having to open up the cooking area. By limiting the number of times you need to open up the top of the cooker, you will be able to keep the smoker at a higher temperature level, which is necessary for a smoker.
This electric smoker is on the smaller side, but that doesn’t limit the amount of food you can fit into it. Since it is a vertical style smoker, you should have no issue fitting a lot of food into it to cook at the same time. Its four chrome-coated racks are durable enough to hold even larger items without bending or breaking. The fact that they are chrome coated also makes them a lot easier to clean, which is another huge plus.
Like all electric style smokers, this model has an easy to use set of controls that will allow you to set the temperature very easily. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to read the display to make sure that you are right at the temperature that you desire. This can be corrected by shielding the display from bright light sources, so it certainly isn’t the end of the world.
This unit is insulated, which means that once it reaches your desired temperature, it can hold it steadily. It also has a side access door which enables you to add wood chips and water without opening the main cooking area. In that way, this smoker helps to keep its temperature level for whole the duration of your cooking session.
Something else that you will need to keep in mind if you choose to purchase this model is that it has a very short power cord. This can make it tricky to find a place that the smoker can reach an outlet, and could limit where you place it. Of course, if you want to spend the extra money, you can also buy a high-quality extension cord to give you a bit more freedom when you are cooking. This electric smoker is very lightweight, so moving it to find an outlet the cord can reach shouldn’t be too difficult.
Electric smokers are usually on the smaller side. That is definitely still the case with this model, at least on the outside. Thanks to advances in circuitry and heating systems, the interior of this smoker is actually quite large. While it is not the biggest on the market, it is right up there.
It has over 544 square inches for you to smoke your food in, which is more than enough for a party of people, let alone a small family. This model also comes with three cooking grates, which make fitting in different sizes and types of food that much easier.
The compact size and lightweight design of this smoker make it very easy to transport. Even though it doesn’t feature wheels, but an integrated handles make transporting the smoker around a breeze. Of course, if you do want to take it along with you tailgating or picnicking, you need to be sure that you have an outlet nearby. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it at all.
As you would expect with an electric smoker, this model is elementary to get up and running. You simply need to set your desired temperature and how long you intend to be cooking for, and it will take care of the rest. The only real issue that this smoker has is that it doesn’t work very well at high temperatures. This will limit the types of meats that you can cook. Thankfully, it works very well at a lower temperature required for smoking and is easy to use, which helps to make it an excellent option for a beginner.
Comes with a food thermometer
Large cooking area
3 cooking grates
Easy to set temperature
Difficult to get higher temperatures
In this section, we will guide you through everything you need to know to find the best smoker your needs. We have also taken the time to answer some frequently asked questions, so be sure to read through those answers as well for further clarification.
Why is it worth buying?
This is a question that a lot of people ask, especially if they have been using a grill for a while. The first thing that jumps out as a big advantage for a smoker over a grill is the amount of temperature control you are going to have. Even the very best grill is difficult to hold at a steady temperature, which is necessary for properly smoked meats. A smoker, on the other hand, will only fluctuate within a five to ten-degree range. This fluctuation will get even smaller with more and more experience. This makes it possible to smoke foods for extremely long amounts of time, even overnight on occasion, which is essential for bringing out a meat’s best flavor.
Secondly, as you can guess from the name, a smoker will pack your meat with that savory, smoky flavor. A smoker, unlike a grill or oven, does not rely on heat alone to cook meat. Instead, it also uses smoke that is produced from charcoal, propane, wood, or wood pellets. This helps to create a smoke ring on food. This pink ring is created on the outside of the food when the smoke mixes with the natural juices in the meat and forms nitric acid. This helps to seal in the flavor more effectively than standard grilling, which makes meats taste a whole lot better.
Finally, the biggest other reason to get a smoker is so that you can get not only a great taste but also tenderness as well. Since a smoker cooks for such a long amount of time at a lower temperature, it doesn’t toughen up the food in the same manner as a standard grill. This slow cooking nature allows the meat to achieve a perfect level of tenderness so that the meat easily pulls apart and melts in your mouth, all while being filled with delicious juices and smoky flavors.
You got the smoker. What’s next?
Alright, so you purchased your smoker, and you have it home. Now what? Well, the first thing you want to do is figure out exactly where you are going to be using it. Since these units produce plenty of smoke, it is best to have them next to open windows or even outside. The last thing you want to do is set off the fire alarm inside your home after all. The fuel source might also dictate where you can place it. For instance, the Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker is an electric smoker, so you’ll need to keep it near to an outlet, or make sure you have a long enough cord to use it properly. Each smoker gets pretty hot, so it is best to not have it nearby to walls or structures.
Once you have selected your spot for your smoker, you should take the time to read through the instruction manual. Depending on the type, fuel source, and size of your smoker, you will need to use it differently than other model types. For example, the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker, which is an offset smoker, has an auger that automatically feeds the fuel source into the cooker. This operation is much different than what you can expect from the Weber 711001, which requires you to add the fuel manually.
Finally, once you understand how to use your smoker, you need to decide what kind of meat you are going to be cooking. The type of meat you are smoking will dictate the temperature you use, seasonings you select, and also how long you’ll be cooking it.
Barbecue chicken should not be cooked in the same manner as a rack of ribs. Be sure to take the time to find out what temps you need, so you can guarantee yourself some delicious smoked food.
Features to consider while choosing best smokers for beginners
As you can imagine, there are a ton of different features that you need to take into account when you are looking for the best smoker for beginners. In this section, we will go through everything that you need to know to find the right model for your skill level and needs.
Smokers come in all shapes and sizes. They also use a bunch of different fuel sources, and each of them will give food a different flavor. When you are looking for a smoker, you can select from propane, charcoal, electricity, and wood pellets. Each of these fuel sources has its own pros and cons, so be sure to take these into careful consideration before you make your final decision.
Propane is probably the cheapest power source to run your smoker with. The removable tanks make moving the smoker much easier as well since a smoker without a tank is extremely lightweight. Propane also makes it very easy to control the temperature, since it burns so cleanly. The only real downside with using a propane-powered smoker is that it doesn’t produce any smoke on its own. This means that you need to use some sort of additional fuel source to create the smoke you need to cook your food.
Charcoal smoker features another cheap fuel source to use. Charcoal burns very evenly, making it easy to get the right temperature when you are cooking. It also creates its own smoke, making it ideal for this type of cooking. Charcoal is, however, rather heavy to transport.
Electrical smoker is smaller than other styles of smokers. This small size makes such models ideal for smaller spaces, such as apartments or small backyards. Of course, you will need to use them near an outlet, or invest in a long power cord. These types of cookers also don’t smoke very much in comparison to other fuel sources, which, again, makes them a great option for smaller spaces.
Wood pellet smokers are among the easiest to keep running for an extended period of time. This is because they have a built-in auger system which keeps the fuel burning by adding more automatically. These smokers do tend to be more expensive than other models, however.
The overall cooking area of a smoker is going to determine how much meat you can make at a time. This is especially important if you are looking for a best smoker for large gatherings. The last thing you want to do in that case is picking a model that can’t handle the amount of food you need for your parties. If you are looking for a larger model, then the Pit Boss Grills 77425 is going to be your best bet. Its cooking area is over 800 square inches, making it the biggest beginner smoker on the market.
On the other hand, if you are in the market for a smaller sized model, there are certainly options for you. While you won’t be able to fit as much food as you could on a larger model, that doesn’t mean you can’t make fantastic meals. It simply means that the cooker will be smaller, and you won’t need to pay as much to get it. The Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker would be a good option for someone looking for a smaller, yet effective, smoker.
Hopper capacity – for pellet models
If you are looking for a smoker that uses pellets as its primary fuel source, such as the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker and the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E, then you’ll need to think carefully about the hopper capacity. The hopper for this type of grill is the place that you are going to be putting the pellets. They will then be fed into the combustion chamber with an auger so that you don’t need to do it manually.
When you are looking into the size of the hopper, you should take the amount of time you want to spend cooking into the equation. If you are going to be cooking for a shorter amount of time, then a smaller capacity hopper is going to work out just fine. If, on the other hand, you intend to cook for longer, then you will want to be sure to get a larger capacity hopper. That way, you won’t need to worry about your smoker running out of fuel on you while you are trying to make the best batch of meats possible.
Number and quality of grates
Something else that is a big determining factor on the amount of meat you can smoke at one time is the number of grates the cooker can hold. The more grates you have, the more meat you can fit in at the same time. The Pit Boss Grills 77425, for instance, has a total of four different grates. This increases the cooking area dramatically, making it much easier to fit more meat in the smoker at one time.
No matter how many grates you want your cooker to have, look for those that are made out of the highest quality materials possible. Usually, cooking grates will be either stainless steel, porcelain, or cast iron. Each of these materials is a good cooking surface, as long as you keep after them. Cast iron is the easiest to clean, while stainless steel needs the most attention. Porcelain grates conduct heat in the most efficient manner, but they are only marginally better than the other two options.
Dimensions and weight
When it comes to the overall dimensions and weight of your smoker, you need to carefully consider what you want to use it for. If you are looking to use your smoker for tailgating, for instance, then you will want to go with a much more lightweight model, like the Masterbuilt 20050116. That way, you will be able to move it easily from place to place without too much strain on your back. Its smaller size also makes it ideal for tailgating, since you can fit it into a vehicle. The Weber 711001 is another good option for this type of application.
Of course, if you are not looking to lug your smoker to different sporting events with you and you have a bigger area to keep it, the size and weight won’t make too much of a difference. If your smoker is going to be a homebody, and you are looking for a high-quality option, the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E would be a good choice. It is quite heavy, thanks to its durable steel framework and cooking grates, which shouldn’t be too big of a deal if you don’t ever intend for your cooker to leave your backyard.
One of the essential extra features that you should look for in the best smoker for beginners is an accurate and easy-to-read thermometer. The key to smoking meats properly is controlling the temperature over long periods of time. This is not something that you want to leave up to chance, so be sure to look for a model with an excellent thermometer. That way, you can ensure that you make delicious meats each and every time you fire your cooker up.
To go along with an easy-to-read thermometer, you should also look for a model that makes it super simple to adjust the temperature. That way, you will be able to get the temps you want without any guesswork, which will only make smoking your foods that much easier.
Finally, you should look for a smoker that makes it easy to add more fuel while you are cooking. The last thing that you want to do while you are cooking a piece of meat for hours on end is mess up the temperature because you need to add more fuel.
By getting a smoker that makes it easy to add more fuel without opening the whole cooker, you will be able to keep the temperature at the right level to cook your meats properly.
Tips for maintaining your smoker
As you would expect from anything that regularly fills with smoke, you will want to clean your smoker as often as possible. With a clean grill, you will be better protected from grease fires, and the unit itself will be better protected from breaking down. To properly maintain your smoker, be sure to do the following:
Clean out the cooking grates with soap and water. Otherwise, rancid grease could accumulate, which could ruin your food or cause fires.
Clean the lid and the interior of the cooking chamber. The carbon buildup on these areas could fall onto your food during cooking, which could make it taste awful.
To save yourself from having to clean the grease out of the smoker chamber, line it with aluminum foil and replace this foil after every other use.
Be sure when you are cleaning the interior to clean off the thermostat probe as well. Otherwise, it will not read the temperature accurately.
Last, but not least, take the time to clean out the hopper. That way, you will be able to fit the proper amount of fuel in your smoker when you are cooking.
Of all the different fuels that you can use to smoke your meats, the two easiest options are usually going to be pellets and gas. This is because these types of cookers typically have an automatic starter switch which makes igniting them simple and efficient. Wood chips and charcoal take a bit of practice to master, though they work just even better when it comes to adding a mouthwatering smoky flavor to your dish.
Electric smokers are also very simple to start. Since they rely mainly on electricity for a power source, their ignition system is as simple as flipping a switch or turning a dial.
While experienced BBQ chefs can usually just look at their meats and know when they are done, this is not usually the case for beginners. The best thing that you do is to get yourself an easy-to-read meat thermometer. That way, you can easily check the internal temperature of your food to make sure that it has reached the right temperature to cook evenly.
There really isn’t a limit as to what you can cook with your smoker. Obviously, the first thing that everyone would think of is any type of meat, whether it be chicken, beef, or pork. You can, however, also cook other types of food as well. You can smoke fish or vegetables, and even some unexpected foods, such as nuts, eggs, and cheese if you so desire.
If you truly want to get your hands on the best smoker for beginners, then we highly recommend you check out the Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Grill/Smoker. It is a very easy-to-use smoker. This is thanks in part to its automatic auger that feeds wood pellets into it whenever it is running low. It maintains its temperature very well and is effortless to set up, making it perfect for anyone that is just getting started.
Charcoal grills have long been the favorite among smoking masters, and the Weber 711001 is a great option for masters and beginners alike. It is very easy to use, durable, and simple to keep clean.
Offset smokers like the Z GRILLS ZPG-7002E are a great option if you are looking to cook things for a really long time. The automatic auger, easy-to-set temperature control, and sturdy design make this an excellent smoker.