Summer is well underway, and many of us are stepping up our outdoor cooking game. Whether you’ve just installed a beautiful outdoor kitchen, or are looking to deviate from the usual grilling routine, a great smoker can become a staple. We’ve gathered our top picks for the best bbq smokers of 2021.
Today’s smokers are not all the same. Rather, smokers are now defined by the way in which they are powered. Depending on what you’re looking for, different styles of smokers can be best for different purposes and skill levels. From traditional charcoal smokers, to electric and gas, there are many iterations on the market. With a little information, you can find the model that is best for your outdoor kitchen.
For those who consider smoking meat to be an art form, charcoal smokers are non-negotiable. In comparison to the other methods on this list, charcoal produces far more smoke. As a result, your meat of choice is likely to retain more flavor by default. However, charcoal smokers aren’t for everyone.
Charcoal is a learning curve, and there is likely to be some trial and error until you have perfected the method. Unlike other options on this list, cooking with charcoal is a more attentive process. The temperature should be monitored constantly to ensure it does drop or rise beyond the desired threshold. Additionally, charcoal smokers need to be cleaned and maintained to avoid build up of material such as creosote which can be harmful if ingested.
Still, for those looking to achieve an unmatched flavor profile, cooking with charcoal can produce some out of this world results.
The Big Green Egg
A classic, the Big Green Egg remains one of the most popular outdoor charcoal smokers on the market. And for good reason. This uniquely shaped grill can produce temperatures of up to 600 degrees. It’s construction details include a ceramic shell that retains even the lowest temps over long periods of time.
If pricepoint is of concern, the Big Green Egg isn’t cheap. Coming in near $1,000, you pay for quality with this model. However, their extended warranty and rave customer reviews should give you peace of mind that the purchase is well worth the extra money.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker
If you don’t have $1,000 dollars to spend on a charcoal smoker, or you’re not quite ready to take the dive, this is a great option. The Weber Smokey line contains great options of pros and beginners alike. Coming in three different sizes and styles, even small spaces can adapt to fit the 14 inch model.
Also notable is the Weber’s portability. Unlike the Giant Green Egg, the Smokey line maintains portability making it a great camping companion. This smoker comes equipped with multiple features including rust resistant hardware and a thermometer built directly into the lid. Reviewers cite great airflow and consistent temperatures.The Smokey line starts at $229, with larger sizes costing about $100 extra each.
If you want a hands off, convenient experience, pellet smokers may strike your fancy. Unlike charcoal which demands constant attention, pellet smokers allow users to pay less attention to the smoking process. Pellet smokers are fueled by wood pellets that have been recycled and compressed. During use, simply determine your desired temperature, input into the control panel, and let the unit do the rest.
While the flavor of pellet smokers is still great, it doesn’t obtain the same level of smokeyness found in charcoal options. Additionally, the automation of these machines makes them difficult to move. Once you have found a great spot in your outdoor kitchen, you’re unlikely to be inclined to change it.
Camp Chef 36 in. WiFi Woodwind Pellet Grill & Smoker
Take your smoker into the 21st century with this pellet grill and smoker combo fully equipped with WiFi capabilities. This slick, $1,500 model includes state of the art features including preset smoke levels, advanced temperature control, and a continuous feedback loop. The WiFi allows you to control temperature settings and monitor the cooking process from anywhere in your home. Working on some sides indoors? Take potatoes out of the oven while keeping an eye on your ribs all from your smartphone application.
This smoker includes a 22 pound pellet hopper–larger than most on the market today. A convenient chute allows you to empty the hopper easily, and makes clean up less of a chore. While this Camp Chef model is state of the art, it’s also new to the market. Time will tell whether or not this continues to be a go-to for home enthusiasts, but so far, so good.
Another do-it-all smoker, the Ironwood is another modern day addition to at home smoker technology. Much like the Camp Chef, it features Wifi capabilities that allow for constant monitoring. It also allows for users to grill, roast, bake, and more, all in addition to smoking their favorite cuts.
Unlike the Camp Chef, the Ironwood boasts only a 20 pound pellet capacity, meaning the whole bag won’t fit. Still, with an impressive 885 square inches of cooking space, we doubt you will be disappointed.
Unlike pellet and charcoal smokers, electric smokers require a bit more from their environment. Naturally, they must be plugged in. This makes their usability limited to within the home, with within range of safe power.
Many looking for a beginner’s approach to smoking prefer electric set ups for their simplicity. Simply plug in, set your temperature, and let the unit work its magic. Many will argue that the lack of physical fuel source drives a compromise in flavor. However, for those looking to step into the world of smoking meat, electric units are a great option.
Masterbuilt Smoke Hollow Digital Electric Smoker
If you’re new to the world of at-home smoking and have opted for the electric route, here is a great place to start. Selling for $250 dollars, you get a great value for money. Simple to use, this model features a digital control panel, easy side loading system, and four metal, chrome-coated racks.
At 42 pounds, this smoker is fairly portable where a plug is available. Standing at 20 inches high and 33 inches wide, it is not overbearing, but still allows plenty of room for cooking. Powerful enough to produce a great finished product, this smoker remains approachable and effective for first time users and seasoned smokers alike.
Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker
If you’re looking for an incredibly easy to use, no frills smoker, the Char-Broil delivers on these fronts. Highly affordable and large enough to cook for many, this model is often so out so snag it when you can.
To use, simply plug in and let it work its magic. Assembly is straightforward and not too labor intensive. This model comes with a built in temperature gauge, though some reviewers have noted that it seems to be more affected by ambient air temperature than others on the market. Still, with a one year warranty decent return policy, it’s worth a go.
Don’t love the finicky nature of charcoal, but aren’t in love with the idea of letting electricity smoke your meat? Welcome to gas smokers. A gas smoker is as easy to light as electric smokers are to turn on, but don’t quite retain the same hands-off approach to smoking. This is because the flame, powered by propane or natural gas, must be temperature controlled as it cooks. This means that you get a similar experience to charcoal smoking without the start up time.
Gas smokers are not perfect, however. They are typically smaller than other types of smokers and some have limited mobility. While those running on propane tanks can be moved, natural gas hookups are more permanent. If you are short on space in your backyard, or don’t want to move a giant smoker into a smaller outdoor kitchen, gas can be a great compromise.
Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane Smoker
Looking to entertain a crowd? The last smoker on our list has you covered. With enough space for a whopping six turkeys, it’s safe to say you’ll have plenty of room for food in the Masterbuilt 40 inch Propane Smoker. This model features a temperature control sensor that helps to maintain consistent heat without interruption.
Fueled by propane, you can easily check levels with a convenient gauge. When it’s time to switch out the tank, simply disconnect and reconnect a new one with a simple screw system. At $400, this model is middle of the road as smokers go. Sleek and easy to use, the transparent doors allow you and your guests to keep an eye on what’s cooking.