Holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics, loves traveling and learning new languages. Fluent in Spanish, is learning French and Czech at the moment. Enjoys exploring national cuisines every time he visits new countries.
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous online and offline grilling masterclasses runs his own BBQ accessories shop.
Last updated: March 16, 2021
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In the mood for a real American cookout? No matter what season it is outside you can have a true barbecue for dinner or lunch—with its smoked meats, cooked low and slow. Anything worthwhile takes time, right? Well, smokers and slow-cookers can go through its tender process for up to 24 hours! Although an old-fashioned barbecue seems difficult to truly master, it is pretty easy to understand. All you need is charcoal, gas, wood pellets or electricity—any of these fuel sources are suitable. From there, you can add to that flavor through the use of wood chips or chunks—to really get that smoke going.
In our guide today, we’re going to not only go through the comparison process of the best smokers you can get for under $500, we’ll take you through each individual feature, type, dimension, maximum temperature, capacity, and warranty information—and why each of these features are important in the smoker. You can smoke veggies, cheese, and meats on these handy and versatile tools—until it’s time to eat! When talking about quality-control—even the cheaper, budget-smokers can produce that high-quality taste.
Top 6 Smokers Under $500 Review 2020
For everything you need to know about how it’s done—using indirect heat and smoke—these comprehensive product reviews can help you pick out the best smoker under $500 to help make your barbecue tender, juicy, and full of flavor. We’ll leave you with a buying guide to help you choose the best one.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is one of the best slow cookers on the market. Backed by a warranty of an entire decade, you can rest assured that it will last you a long time—especially since slow and steady wins with meat.
With a few iconic features, you can easily cook up the pulled pork and ribs that you always dreamed about, smoked to perfection under the lid of the Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker. This smoker is pretty big—capable of holding multiple roasts to feed the entire neighborhood. Another great feature of the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is the fact that it has an extra large water pan to help maintain the heat for all day smoking.
You can even enjoy the convenience of the iGrill 2 app-connected thermometer that it comes with—monitoring food and reaching the perfect degree. That way, you can depend on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker to serve your guests the perfect piece of meat, every time. Designed efficiently, adaptable, and built to last, the rust-resistant aluminum dampers and door, as well as the plated steel cooking grates are sturdy features of its design.
With maintenance-free, hands-on possibilities, you no longer have to tend to your meat and miss out on the rest of the fun. The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker also comes with a built-in lid thermometer and cover included.
All these features at an affordable price? That’s why we’ve placed it up front as our number one pick.
What we liked:
Extremely easy to assemble, use, and clean
You can cook all kinds of gourmet food in the comfort of your home
Quite spacious to hold large meat or multiple pieces
Not too heavy and can be easily portable
Perfectly maintains the temperature
What could be better:
No side handles, which makes it difficult sometimes to handle this smoker
The Smoke Hollow 44241GW, best run on liquid propane gas, is one of the best gas smokers priced under $500 for your enjoyment. It is equipped with a ton of features and build that make it one of the best choices on the market.
With two 44-inch doors, you can also enjoy and use the BTU stainless steel burners. They both operate simultaneously—but independently—for optimum performance and absolute temperature control.
The Smoke Hollow 44241GW can be used to cook pretty much anything, equipped with seven total cooking grids, four standard grids, two jerky style grids, one rib rack, and one sausage hanger. So, loaded and able to cook with ease, it also features two wood chip pans. These pans—in combination with the porcelain-coated water pan—are responsible for giving the meat that smoke flavor.
The Smoke Hollow 44241GW also comes with a tempered glass viewing window so you’re able to check on your meat as often as you want without having the smoke come through. The cabinet is made with welded steel, the burner is stainless steel, and the grates are chrome-plated.
You also don’t have to worry about little fingers at the family cookout. The Smoke Hollow 44241GW is designed with a cool-to-touch spring wire door handles that is configured with a “sure-lock” latch system. Plus—it’s easy to use, although powerful, the dual 12,000 BTU stainless steel burners gets kicked-off simply with push-button ignition.
What we liked:
The build is durable and designed with steel
The smoker has a large cooking area
Assembly is pretty simple and the cooker is easy to use
Maintains the moisture and temperature really well
What could be better:
Energy is wasted when cooking smaller pieces
Heavy after the assembly and can be very difficult to move
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker, designed with porcelain-coated wire grates and a firebox door is one of the best reverse flow offset smokers on the market. With its enhanced performance and versatility, the Offset Smoker has features that set it apart from others in its class.
For example, its cool-touch handles and large wheels are just a couple of the features that allow for optimal cooking and practical functionally. Also, reverse flow smoking and traditional offset smoking are great for the quality outcome of the meat, as well as the four removable baffles—which ensure even heat and smoke throughout the cooking chamber.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker is built with high-temperature and heavy-gauge steel. It is equipped with a rather large charcoal basket, which makes it convenient while cooking. This more efficient burn can make clean-up quick and tending to your meet a cinch. The convenient firebox door also makes clean-up quick and easy.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker boasts 619-square-inches of primary cooking space so you can feed and cook for the entire family. However, it also comes with an additional amount of space of 281-square-inches of secondary cooking space—so if you even have that first space full, you can always head to the second. While you‘re waiting for the other food to cook, you can also activate and place your food on the warming area, located on the firebox for added cooking versatility.
What we liked:
Has a ton of cooking capacity and heat excess space
Easy temp control and mobility
Constructed with heavy-duty steel, which minimizes the chance of warping and rusting
Extremely mobile with cart with wheels for one-person moving
The Z GRILLS ZPG-450A is rated as one of our best pellet smokers. Using an offset pellet, this barbecue smoker is backed by a 3-year warranty. With Digital Temperature Controls, this company has truly introduced barbecuing into the 21st-century.
With 450 sq. in. of space in grilling area, the grill not only covers a lot of space—it also can move through space pretty well, with all-terrain wheels. Don’t worry about leaving it outside, too, since it comes with a rust-proof cover.
You also don’t have to worry about much with the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A, since it has automated features, like an electric feed system. This sort of feature will maintain temperatures anywhere between 180ºF to 450ºF. This laid-back approach can truly allow for setup and then relax.
The Z GRILLS ZPG-450A is also a 7-in-1 Barbecue Smoker Grill. It covers all the basic grilling techniques and so much more—barbecuing, baking, roasting, braising, smoking, grilling, and searing. The Award Winning New Design is your secret weapon. When used with wood pellet flavors like pecan, oak, hickory, and mesquite, you can give your meat those flavors your friends are looking for.
It also has a 15 lb hopper capacity, a digital controller, and an auto-start ignition. These extra features also bring out the best in your meat, grilling, and abilities.
What we liked:
Pellets are included with purchase of the grill
'Wood fire' technology makes it reach target temperature extremely quickly and accurately.
Grease doesn't build up
Highly mobile with wheels
Easy installing process of about 1 hour, with all tools needed in the box.
Even if you find yourself on a budget, the Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D can still help you have access to quality—regardless of how cheap you have to be.
It is not only designed for the beginner who is just trying out a smoker, it is easy-to-use and is the best answer to get year-round, backyard cooking. The LP gas vertical smoker automatically starts with something as simple as a push button, with an electronic ignition that emits a rapid pulse for quick and easy lighting.
This sort of technology makes the Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D high class, regardless of its low price. No matter the weather, the reliable cooking performance can be done outside or inside—because of its pre-installed door seals, the smoker can retain heat and minimize all that smoke—this helps improve the cooking efficiency of your barbecue.
The Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D also features six height adjustable cooking grates, which gives almost 2,000 square inches of cooking space. In basic terms, that means a whole lot of meat!
With every single one of those six grates, you can adjust it to accommodate the size and for the type of food.
The Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D also features pre-installed sausage hooks and removable rib rack, which gives you a whole lot of cooking flexibility.
If you’re a total newbie, you can refer to the grill’s “smoke zone”, which indicates the ideal temperatures for infusing smoke flavor.
The Masterbuilt 20077515 is high tech and modern, rated as one of our best electric smokers under $500. With 730 sq inches of cooking space, this smoker has a lot to offer—along with its 4 chrome-coated racks and 800 watt heating element with full foam insulation.
The Masterbuilt 20077515 is truly flashy, with blue LED displays that make reading temperatures easy—regardless of the glare from a sunny summer afternoon. The RF remote controls also give you quality control, with access to monitors displaying temperature, time, internal light, on/off access, and meat temperature.
The Masterbuilt 20077515 also has a redesigned front access drip pan, which also is created by a smoother operating wood chip loading system than any other edition before it. No matter if you need to move inside the patio because of the weather or out in the sun, the handle and rear wheels make moving easy.
The 30” Digital Electric Smoker is a great choice—no matter if you’re a beginner or a pro. The best part? You don’t have to deal with charcoal or propane.
This smoker makes the process so easy.
With all four chrome-coated smoking racks, you can also cook enough to feed the whole family, with a food capacity of being able to fit: 12 whole chickens, 2 whole turkeys, 4 racks of ribs, 48 sausages, and 24 burgers.
A few tips from the maker, if you’re going to be using wood chips, hickory chips work well with most meats. Apple wood goes well with chicken and pork. Mesquite is better for beef and Alder is a great choice for fish.
What we liked:
Very easy to use and maintain
It is extremely affordable but doesn’t lack in quality
Easy to assemble and move around your yard
The RF technology gives you more control
Full foam installation for heating
What could be better:
Might not fit perfectly on a patio.
Things to Consider
Now that you have your top choices for the best smokers under $500, let’s help with the finer details—because as any griller knows, the details truly matter.
Budget smoker – what to expect for the price
Especially if this is your first smoker, you might be curious about how you could possibly be getting such good quality at such a low price. However, the smokers on this guide normally will cost less simply because they’re much smaller than their more expensive counterparts.
You won’t have to worry about low-quality pieces because not only do these grills on our list have the quality parts, they also have quality-controlled mechanisms.
Of course, the higher the price gets, the higher the quality of the shells, domes, etc., will be, however, this doesn’t mean that it will do a better job.
For the price, you’ll still be receiving a sturdy, insulated, and efficient smoker.
Types of smokers to consider
Before you go picking from one on our list, you should first know the various types of smokers and which to consider.
You can either choose from:
Charcoal Smokers: This type of smoker, like the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, will use the interactive nature of charcoal. You will be able to control the chimney starter, the oxygen, and the temperature. Some may say that it gives you one of the best flavors—however, this is simply up to you and your taste, it will vary. If you want your meat to have a bark or crust, charcoal is your best bet. However, of course, charcoal is a little bit more work than an electric, a gas or a pellet smoker.
Gas or Propane Smokers: If you’re looking for a hands-off approach, you can set this gas smoker, like the Smoke Hollow 44241GW, and simply forget it. It is definitely a great choice if you have a big family or party and need to attend to other matters. They are generally much more consistent than other smokers. It is much easier to control, use, and can easily last for up to 15 hours. However, they normally run pretty narrow, meaning that you won’t be able to fit a lot of meat on there at once.
Pellet Smokers: A popular surge has been surrounding the pellet smoker, like the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A. This is also a low-maintenance choice and can be definitely a great buy if you’re looking for a smoker that doesn’t require much attention. Since it is thermostatically controlled, you can leave the smoking and grilling to the machine and enjoy the party. You also don’t have to worry about re-feeding the smoker, since it automatically feeds the right amount of pellets. However, these types are normally a bit more expensive than other types on the market.
Electric Smokers: If you really want to get a long smoke out of your grill and come out with some amazing meat, an electric smoker, like the Masterbuilt 20077515 truly believes that slow and steady wins the race. A cook with this smoker can take over 12 hours—which might be considered a con. However, it does amazing things for moisture and temperature stability. For an electric smoker, be aware that you’ll need an available power outlet or weatherproof extension cord.
Universal safety tips
Before you go on to smoking up a whole mess—especially in front of friends and family, make sure to read these universal safety tips for your next barbecue party.
Watch the fire: Although you might consider leaving and forgetting about it—make sure you do have an eye on it every now and then. It is important to truly know how to control it and the grill. Especially if there are children around, you’ll definitely want to be careful. If anything, keep a fire extinguisher around, as well as burn ointment, and have someone manning the grill at all times.
Don’t disregard basic food safety: No matter if you are just cooking vegetables, just know the basics when it comes to proper cooking temperatures.
Also—don’t disregard the Grill Instructions: These are not for Dummies. No one will think any less of you for reading the instructions and setting up the grill properly. Especially since each individual grill will have very specific ranges of operation, you’ll need to know and be aware of these small details.
Watch the Smoke: Just be aware that smoke can actually be quite dangerous, getting into the lungs. There are carcinogenic agents in smoke from grease. Although you are using a smoker, don’t try and inhale the stuff on a regular basis.
Set the grill in a safe place: If you check the manual for your grill, you’ll find the minimum distances for putting the grill in the correct location to keep everyone (and everything around it) safe.
Be aware of charcoal, gas, and alcohol in the grill: Use basic safety rules when it comes to alcohol around the grill. Especially if you’re having a fun summer party or barbecue, it’s easy to drop alcohol (accidentally) on the grill.
7. When you’re finished, clean the grill: No matter if you’re using the grill the next day, you should definitely clean it after the cook-out. A flare-up can be quite dangerous and a quick clean can help prevent it.
Features to consider while buying the best smokers under $500
Before choosing the perfect smoker for your backyard barbecue, make sure to have a closer look at these individual features.
No matter if you are a newbie in using a smoker or a seasoned (literally) veteran, temperature control is something that you definitely need to pay attention to. Knowing and setting the right temperature will help cook the meat within the time normally allotted for it and not leave your guests hungry.
You should definitely try and get a grill that makes it easy to control the temperature.
Smoker’s size equals capacity
If you have a large family or want to be able to cook a lot in a small amount of time, you will need a bigger smoker that has a large capacity.
Some of these bigger smokers, like the Masterbuilt 20077515, can hold a whole lot of food. However, the smaller ones do just as fine—they just take a lot longer if you’re going to want to cook more food.
Some of the other smokers might even come with a hanging rack for sausages, which means more room for other food.
Especially since most of these smokers are budgeted at a lower price (less than $500), they’ll generally be designed with stainless steel—however, the type of steel will differ from grill to grill.
Since you want to be a hands-on griller, you’ll need those vents to control the air going in and out of the smoker. Most of these high-quality smokers will have three vents—however, the least you should have are two—one on the top and one on the bottom.
This water pan will play a huge part in cooking—absorbing the heat when it’s too much—so that you won’t burn your food (not a promise—you still have to pay attention).
When filled with water, it will also help maintain the optimal temperature.
The thermostat on the smoker will help indicate the temperature at which the grill is at that exact moment. Some thermostats on these smokers have ranges as to where it should be according to what type of meat you’re cooking. These are great hints if you’re a newbie at grilling.
The weight can also pose a problem if you’re going to be moving the grill from here to there—or going to be posting it up on your deck. Make sure you have the proper weight according to your situation and preference. A smoker that has handles or wheels, like the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker can also help with transportation.
The warranty can also make a difference—especially since this is an investment not only for your friends and family, but also for your home. Having a quality smoker in your backyard can really up your grill out game, making your house a popular summer hang-out spot (which means that you won’t have to do much traveling to other people’s homes).
Don’ts of smoking
Finally, before you go and test out your new smoker, here are a few mistakes to avoid:
Go big or go home—definitely do not go for the cheapest cut in the meat section. You have to have the best quality.
Make sure you’re using the right type of fire starter. If the smoker takes fluid, don‘t use charcoal, etc.
Don’t get overwhelmed with all the types of controls. If you notice your meat isn’t cooking as it’s supposed to, adjust one thing at a time instead of just tweaking everything at once.
Try to avoid drinking while manning the grill. If you don’t feel like you have control anymore, pass the spatula on to a responsible friend.
Don’t add too many wood chunks or closing the vents to hold more smoke in. You’re already smoking the meat—so less is more in this case.
Finally—give it time. Don’t be impatient when it comes to smoking. Make sure you have enough time for the meat to get to its perfect temperature. Rushing the job won’t make it any better (or good).
To top it all off, here are a few frequently asked questions that we see all-too-often about smokers:
Yes! Smoking is more of an art form—it takes much longer (around 3-15 hours) and is a slower process. While using a smoker, you’ll be using temperatures between 225 and 275°F. You generally will also be using burning wood chips, chunks or pellets.
Grilling normally is done at a higher temperature (around 350°F). However, it takes a much shorter time. The big difference might be in the taste—it won’t have that smoke-y taste.
If you’re going to be using a smoker for grilling, you’ll definitely need a quality digital thermometer. Some of these grills have the thermometer included or built-in. Make sure you check before you buy to see if you have to buy an extra one. If you really want to make a good investment, look for a dual probe digital thermometer.
A chimney starter can help get the fire going, as well. As any good griller, you’ll definitely need a good set of knives—including carving and slicing ones.
Most of these smokers are relatively easy to clean. Simply by loading the grills and the racks into the dishwasher, those are taken care of. The interior of the smoker can be wiped down with paper towels—and that’s it!
If you’ve skipped everything else in the guide, here are the best smokers under $500:
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is our Best All-Around Smoker Under $500. Backed by a decade-long warranty, this cooker has rust-resistant aluminum dampers and door to help weather the rain. It also comes equipped with glass-reinforced nylon handles, plated steel cooking grates, a built-in lid thermometer for easy readability, and the cover is actually included.
The Smoke Hollow 44241GW is our runner-up and best gas smoker on the market. Run on liquid propane gas, it has two 12,000 BTU stainless steel burners, an easy-to-use ignition with push button, 7 cooking grids for full use, tempered glass viewing window, and a“sure-lock” latch system.
The Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D is the best Budget Pick around. Using propane gas, the stove covers 1,904 sq in and comes equipped with two cast iron burners, six cooking grates, an electronic ignition with push button, and a built-in stainless steel thermometer—not too bad for a budget pick.
We hope that this guide has helped you pick out the best smoker under $500 fit for your grilling needs!