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: May 04, 2021
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There’s nothing quite like cooking meat low and slow. Unlike fast cooking at higher temperatures, cooking slow affects the properties of the meat in a way that makes it more tender and retains the natural juices within the meat. The best vertical smoker will cook to that sort of perfection and ensure that you don’t end up with a chewy unpalatable mess for your efforts.
You may host a lot of outdoor gatherings and want to produce the best barbeque foods in the neighborhood, or you may just want to cook for your immediate family. Whichever, you’ll achieve unique results by smoking. Slow cooking is a great way to cook, and there’s nothing more homely and comforting than that background smell of meat and fire – it’s primeval and it’s a great way to conduct any kind of outdoor socializing.
We realized that the choice out there is pretty close to being overwhelming, and that there’s a baffling number of features, configurations and choices to make when you’re looking for the best vertical smoker for your needs. So, we’ve included a table which is quick reference in this guide. We’ll also be taking a closer look at the essential elements that make up the best vertical charcoal smoker in the buying guide and we’re going to look at five of the best options out there in detail in the reviews. Now, let’s get started!
This vertical smoker is the great and distinctive Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. It’s a far more contemporary looking smoker than most of the others out there but it’s a great little unit for smoking and it comes from a very reputable manufacturer.
In terms of bells and whistles, you can stop looking for them with the Weber effort, because it simply doesn’t have any. Simple is the best way to describe the Weber but it’s extremely well made. The whole thing is enameled so that you’ll never have to worry about any paint loss, peeling or rust with this unit – as you will have to occasionally with some other vertical smokers.
This model has two grates, which gives the option of smoking a couple of very large pieces of meat or a couple of birds at the same time. The area isn’t massive but it does live up to being what it is, and that’s a vertical smoker. It packs a lot it when you work on the stack – as it should be.
There’s not much to go wrong here, and that’s great if you don’t like maintenance and just want a very serviceable and well-constructed piece of equipment for outdoor cooking. If gadgetry and gizmos are more your thing, then steer clear of the Weber.
This here is the nice little Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker and it’s a good little unit that gives you a fair amount of bang for buck. This is a quality smoker from a really reputable manufacturer, and you won’t go too far wrong here if you’re looking for a dependable unit with good solid features and the ability to cram in a lot of food. This model gives you nearly 1900 square inches of cooking space, and that’s not bad at all.
You get enameled trays with this model and lots and lots of grates, to make cooking all sorts of meats and vegetables a breeze. The design of this unit is different to traditionally made vertical smokers, because the heat is offset – although not in the normal sense that you get with proper offset units. In that way, this example is somewhat of a hybrid but it’s extremely functional and it’s a good move because it probably affords you extra space to smoke, whilst definitely avoiding the usual problems of food cooking quicker down at the bottom of the unit, as you get with a lot of smokers that have the heat in line with the food.
This design and this vertical smoker will suit a lot of people, and it certainly looks the part with a heavy powder coat that’s proofed against high temperatures.
What we liked:
Uniquely designed for even cooking
What could be better:
Not for people that want a strictly vertical smoker
The next vertical smoker on our list is another dyna-glo model, this time it’s the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill. This is another unconventional unit because again the heat is offset from the food, but as we’ve already discussed – that’s not even a bad thing with smoking.
This really is a very well equipped vertical smoker and you get lots of nice touches, such as the coiled steel door handle which is much safer to use than a solid steel handle, every time. The offset heat box means you can make BBQ items while you smoke in the main box, which is a great touch. The sensors work well, and all the seals are completely up to scratch on this unit too.
The ash pan on the offset box is in the form of a handy drawer so that you can easily clean this out between cooks without any hassle at all, keeping everything nice and dust free. The unit also features heavy duty steel wheels that make this whole vertical smoker a cinch to move around or inside to get it out of the wind and the rain.
Again, this isn’t a traditional vertical smoker, but it does do a very nice job of making all the outdoor food you could ever possibly want. There are many racks and even several meat hooks inside, and you won’t have a bad experience with the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill at all.
The Char-Broil Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera Smoker and Grill is, as the name suggests, a combination smoker and grill, making it a great choice for consumers who are looking to maximize their cooking options in limited space.
This smoker can use charcoal, wood, and woodchips for fuel, and the unit has an excellent 992 square inches of cooking space, 738 square inches of which are in the smoker alone. And the user has a choice of cooking on either surface separately, or both at the same time. The combination smoker/grill is made to cook for parties of 8 or more persons, so it’s a great choice for consumers looking for a large grill or smoker.
However, some users reported that the paint on the grill/smoker peeled off after the first use. This doesn’t affect the usability of the appliance, just its appearance, and many users just repainted it with high-temperature paint to keep it looking nice. Some customers also stated that their firebox needed to be replaced due to rusting after some years of life, although many loved this great smoker.
This smoker/grill has 4 adjustable cooking grates and has a rib rack set and two meat hanging hooks, making it versatile and easy to use. Not to mention, the ash removal is hassle-free, making it simple to keep clean and work efficiently. There’s also a storage shelf, so you can keep your grilling and smoking accessories nearby. Finally, it has two wheels for better maneuverability, which is good because this beast of a smoker/grill weighs 192 pounds.
The Pit Boss Grills 77435 Vertical LP Gas Smoker isn’t a very bad unit at all. This is a fully gas powered vertical smoker and it’s nowhere near traditional, in any way, shape or form. So, if you’re an old fashioned meat smoker and you don’t like innovation or different design, move along because there’s nothing to see here.
This unit gives a relatively small cooking area for a vertical smoker and really only gives you the capacity of a good domestic sized offset barrel smoker, which is ok for feeding the family, certainly, however you will struggle quite a bit trying to cook for a larger party with this unit, so bear that in mind before you buy. If you’re frequently hosting big gatherings, you’ll need to have a traditional BBQ on the go alongside this smoker, or people will get a bit hungry.
The big glass door on this unit is a great idea because it means you don’t have to open it very often to observe what’s happening inside, so that’s going to maintain a far more stable temperature than when you do have to open the door frequently and it’s a nice touch, if a little unusual.
All in all, this is a great option if you’re not going to be cooking massive amounts of food and you don’t want to mess around with buying and cleaning up after charcoal. It’s small but it’s neat and it brings smoking to smaller yards so there’s definitely a place for it on this list.
What we liked:
Small cook area
Small and lightweight, so can be moved around with ease
What could be better:
No charcoal flavor
Things to Consider
How do you choose the best vertical smoker out of all the options out there? We reveal all in this guide. We’ll go walk you through the key features you should consider when choosing your smoker, and share some tips on getting the most out of using it.
Benefits of a top-quality vertical smoker
With smoking, as with many other things, quality is the key to great results. Price for vertical smokers varies greatly and with it so does quality. One of the main considerations when looking for the best vertical smoker for the money is that it has to have good welds and seals to be effective. A good indication of integrity of smoke is going to be cost, to a certain degree. In addition to that, one of the first cost-cutting exercises a manufacturer will turn to when creating a budget smoker is reducing the number of, and quality of vents. In order to be able to maintain and effectively control temperature, you really need to have the best options possible with regard to seals and welds, and vents. Remember that you’ll be cooking and smoking ‘low and slow’ with your vertical smoker. That means extended cooking periods – often up to 16 hours in duration. You’ll also sometimes be smoking overnight, while you sleep, so the better the vents and welds, the better the results you’ll get.
Poorer and cheaper vertical smokers will require far more attention than the best charcoal vertical smoker will. The more you can leave the smoker alone during the process, the better you’ll fare too. While you’re looking, you’re not cooking, and you don’t want to be fiddling with that system too often, because it will affect the end product. You really only need to turn meat a few times over the extended cooking period, and whilst you may have to lift the lid to give it some attention here and there, the lesser you do that, the more likely you’ll end up with a mouth-watering, perfectly smoked hunk of loveliness. Lifting the lid too often will affect temperature and introduce cold air – so avoid it if possible and try to spend enough cash to get a system that will allow you to maintain a consistent temperature of roundabout 250 degrees Fahrenheit, by using the vents and having good seals. It’s the basic principle of smoking, and if your smoker isn’t up to the basics, then that’s not a good start at all and good results are always going to be an uphill struggle.
Features to consider when choosing a vertical smoker
Looking through the best vertical smoker reviews can be quite confusing so stick to the basics. Portability as we’ve said, may be a consideration for you. Thickness of metal and good seals with great ventilation options is a must. Accessibility to all the different parts of the smoker is important because it’ll define how easily you can add chips and charcoal during the cooking. Footprint of your smoker and good clearance around it on your particular site is essential for safety and convenience too.
Total cooking area & number of racks
With a vertical smoker, this is going to come down largely to how many racks or shelves you can stack effectively within the box. Hooks are also another method to get more into, and more out of your vertical smoker. Cheaper and smaller units will likely only feature three or four shelves or racks – which will obviously affect the volume of meat you can smoke all at once. A good smoker may have up to eight racks and some hooks for suspending additional cuts. If you’re accustomed to hosting large gatherings, then you’ll need to consider carefully if there’s going to be enough room for everything you want to smoke. Remember, we’re not grilling steaks here, and you’ll sometimes be smoking over the night before your gathering so it’s not going to be possible to cook in shifts to get everyone fed like you might do when grill barbequing, you’ll need to be able to cook everything in one shift because cooking times for low and slow smoking can be a few hours at the very least. Choose carefully based on how much stuff you need to get done. Our top choice, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Smoker, has a total cooking area of just under 2000 square inches (1890 to be exact).
This will depend on how flexible you want the smoker to be. If you’re going to need it to sear the odd steak as part of your party or Superbowl gathering, then look for something that can reach 500 degrees Fahrenheit. For poultry like a turkey you’ll need to get up to near 400 degrees. If you’re purely going to low and slow smoke meat, then temperature range isn’t such an issue.
Dimensions and weight
Heavy is good, because it probably means that your smoker is made of thickly gauged steel – which is excellent for heat retention and even distribution during the smoking process. Smokers that are manufactured from lighter gauge, or lighter weight metals like aluminum just don’t smoke as well as heavier units. You may well find yourself with a beast that weighs over a hundred pounds, though. Sometimes even heavier.
There’s a couple of important things to consider with regard to this weight. First is if you’re going to want to move this baby inside a garage or similar place when you’re not using it. This can be a great idea to protect it from the weather and rain. Second reason you may want to move this smoker around is lack of space, or you may have an area that’s multi-purpose.
Whatever the reason, you’ll need to look for sturdy wheels if you’re going to be moving it around. Chances are that your smoker will be way too awkward and heavy to move it any other way.
Warranty is always a great feature to have. The longer the warranty, the better off you’ll be if a seal does fail or something breaks or cracks. A longer warranty is always a good sign with reference to how much confidence the manufacturer has in their own product too. And warranty length is often directly proportional to how good after sales service is. A great warranty is never a bad thing, so always consider this before you spend a big chunk of cash.
A good meat thermometer is a must because it gives you an accurate idea of the temperatures that you’re achieving inside the meat. This is important because you’ll need to reach high enough temperatures for safety – in terms of killing off any harmful bacteria that are present in raw meats.
It’s also a necessity because you want to stay within a defined range of temperature and not go too high, to afford great results when cooking time is up. This temperature accuracy is one of the most important parts of smoking and it’s doubly important when you’re cooking at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.
Tips on getting the most out of your vertical smoker
Playing around with different wood chips is a great place to start with your flavors. Different options will vastly change the flavor and often times people will find a nice blend of different chips for different foods.
When you get your new smoker, you may want to consider how you jump in and take it slow and steady to get used to your unit. Brisket is one of the most popular meats to smoke but it can be unforgiving. Pork is a great meat to experiment with because it will let you make a few errors during your trials but still be perfectly acceptable to eat.
Using water is a good way to evenly distribute smoking and heat. Steam circulates and spreads the smoke and temperature nicely. Water can stop meat drying out too, and you can even add lemon or something else to the water to impart extra flavor. Use a tray of water over your coals to get this effect and keep topping it up as you smoke. Never use cold water, always add boiling water to the tray.
There’s no real substitute for charcoal smokers, if you ask most enthusiasts. You get extra flavor from burning the coals as well as chips. The best vertical gas smoker and some electric smokers will still give you good results, but ‘cleaner’ fuels lack what the charcoal imparts into whatever you’re cooking. Even the best vertical propane smoker won’t be quite the same as a charcoal one.
Most vertical smokers are relatively easy to put together and often come with comprehensive instructions, all the nuts and screws you’ll need and are pretty self-explanatory anyway. Good advice is to know the principles of how these things work before you buy, and that way it won’t be so much of a puzzle to assemble, because you’ll have a good idea of what each part is for and roughly where it should be. A good vertical smoker is worth some effort and head scratching, because it’ll serve you well and produce delicious meat for a good long while.
We’ve looked at five great vertical smokers here and there was a clear winner. The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker came out on top because it had all of the features we wanted in a great vertical smoker and it was easy to use too. It’s the best all-round option on the list and you’ll be hard pushed to find better for the money.
In at a smoking number two was the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker, which was also a great vertical smoker but didn’t quite hit all of the spots like our number one pick did. The choice for different folks will be dependent on certain things so don’t automatically rule this one out. It’s also a great smoker.
With smokers, it’s about the cooking and the end result, but it’s also about the process and the enjoyment of all that preparation. Whichever you choose, just make sure you have fun with it, because fun is what the outdoors, getting together, and cooking is all about!