The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best BBQ Smoker

by Matt

minute/s reading time

Ever wonder why some BBQ stands out more than others? The secret often lies in the choice of smoker. This guide cuts through the smoke to reveal the best BBQ smokers on the market, whether you’re eyeing a rugged charcoal model or a high-tech pellet version. We’ll walk you through what features matter most—from durability to design—so you can equip your backyard for epic smokeouts. Ready to upgrade your grilling game? Let’s find the smoker that’s right for you.

Traeger Ironwood Xl Pellet Grill with Smoke, Featuring a Digital Control Panel and Side Shelf with Tools, Ready for an Outdoor Bbq Session.

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse Options: Various types of BBQ smokers cater to different cooking styles and preferences, from the deep flavors of charcoal smokers to the convenient temperature control of electric models.
  • Fuel Impact: The choice of fuel—charcoal, electric, propane, or pellet—affects both the flavor profile and the ease of use of the smoker.
  • Size and Capacity: Choose a smoker size that matches the number of people you typically cook for, from compact models for smaller gatherings to larger units for big events.
  • Temperature Control: Essential for perfect cooking results, good smokers offer reliable temperature regulation through advanced thermostats and adjustable vents.
  • Investment and Performance: Your budget will influence the quality and features of the smoker you can afford, with higher investments typically bringing better performance.
  • Ease of Use: Smokers vary in complexity; some are designed for beginners while others cater to experienced pitmasters with more advanced features.
  • Durability and Maintenance: Opt for smokers made from durable materials like heavy-duty steel, which are easier to maintain and better at withstanding the elements.
  • Portability: If you need to move your smoker frequently, look for features that enhance mobility, such as built-in wheels or lightweight designs.
  • Technological Advancements: Modern smokers incorporate technology like Wi-Fi connectivity and automated feeding systems to enhance convenience and efficiency.
Close-up of Meat Smoking on a Grill.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Smoker

When choosing a smoker, there are several key factors to consider. Let's explore these crucial factors that can significantly influence your barbecue experience.

Fuel Type

Different fuels not only impact your barbecue's convenience but also the resulting flavor profile of your food.

  • Charcoal: Ideal for attaining a deep, smoky scent. Still, it demands active management and hands-on operation.
  • Electric: A convenient option offering accurate temperature control requiring minimal effort, which makes it one of the best types of smokers for beginners.
  • Propane: Kick-starts easily and provides consistent heat, making it perfect for those who prioritize simplicity over anything else.
  • Pellet: This one brings together the simplicity of temperature control with the rich, smoky flavor, quite similar to charcoal.

Your flavor preference and the time you can dedicate to fire management will determine the right type for you.

Cooking Capacity

The cooking capacity is another essential aspect to consider. A smoker that complements your average audience size and available space is the key.

  • Small to medium gatherings: A compact smoker suffices and is easier to operate.
  • Large parties: Bigger smokers handle larger meat quantities and are better for massive events.

Define your typical crowd size and then select a smoker that suits your regular needs.

Temperature Control

Perfectly cooked meat is all about stable temperatures.

  • Thermostats: Dependable digital or dial thermostats aid in maintaining steady heat.
  • Adjustable vents: They allow for detailed adjustments and reliable temperature management.

Good temperature control is often the fine line between tough and tender BBQ.

Price Considerations

Your budget plays a significant role in determining the features you get in a smoker.

  • Economy: Basic models are pocket-friendly but may lack some advanced functionalities.
  • Mid-range to high-end: These smokers offer more durability and features, enhancing your overall smoking experience.

Remember, a higher investment usually results in better performance, but it should match your commitment level to BBQ.

Experience Level

Your barbecue experience should match the smoker's complexity.

  • Beginners: Models that are easier to use help avoid common smoking mistakes.
  • Experienced users: Models that allow more manual adjustments and offer complex features suit the seasoned pitmasters.

Remember, the right smoker can grow with you as you improve your grilling skills.

Maintenance and Durability

Ease of maintenance and durability should be given due consideration.

  • Material quality: Durable materials like stainless steel or heavy-gauge steel stand up longer.
  • Ease of cleaning: Features like removable ash trays and grease management systems ease cleanup.

A well-built smoker should require minimal upkeep and stand up to the elements for years of reliable usage.


If you love cooking in varied environments, consider your mobility needs.

  • Wheels: Built-in wheels make movement around your backyard or different venues easier.
  • Compact size: Smaller, lighter smokers are perfect for camping trips or tailgates.

A portable smoker is a handy tool, especially if storage space is a concern or if you frequently cook in different locations. Remember, portable does not mean compromising on other parameters – ensure it is as per your needs.

Picking the right smoker is not always the easiest task. They all have positives and negatives. I find that a lot of the choice comes down to personal preference. Here are some key factors to mull over to find your smoking match:

Selecting the right smoker is a crucial decision that can affect your BBQ's quality and ease. Here’s a deeper dive into the factors to consider:

Pit Boss Navigator Pellet/gas Combo Grill with Open Compartments, Front Folding Shelf, Side Shelf, and Tool Hooks, Emphasizing Its Dual Fuel Functionality and Large Cooking Area.

Choosing the Right Smoker for You

Selecting the perfect smoker requires an understanding of the different types available, each designed to meet specific BBQ goals and preferences. Below, you'll find an enriched description of each smoker type, including examples and additional insights, followed by a comparative analysis to assist in making a well-informed decision.

Overview of Different Types of Smokers

Charcoal Smokers

  • Flavor: Offers a rich, hearty, and traditional smoky taste, perfect for achieving that classic BBQ flavor.
  • Manual Effort: Active management of coals and ventilation is required, appealing to those who enjoy a hands-on cooking experience.
  • Ideal For: Enthusiasts who relish mastering their barbecue skills.
  • Example Models: Weber Smokey Mountain for a traditional choice or the Big Green Egg for versatility.

Electric Smokers

  • Ease of Use: Features simple controls and maintains steady temperatures effortlessly.
  • Consistency: Excellent for recipes that demand stable cooking conditions, such as delicate meats and fish.
  • Ideal For: Beginners or busy cooks looking for a "set it and forget it" solution.
  • Example Models: Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker offers reliability and ease of use.

Propane Smokers

  • Quick Start: Heats up quickly, allowing for easy temperature adjustments.
  • Portability: Lightweight and easy to transport, ideal for outdoor events or camping.
  • Ideal For: BBQers on the move who need a reliable and easy-to-use smoker.
  • Example Models: Dyna-Glo Vertical LP Gas Smoker for efficient and effective smoking on the go.

Pellet Smokers

  • Automated Controls: Automatically feeds pellets to maintain set temperatures, simplifying the smoking process.
  • Versatility: Capable of smoking, baking, and grilling, offering a multifunctional cooking experience.
  • Ideal For: Those seeking both flavor and convenience in a single unit.
  • Example Models: Traeger Pro Series, known for its precision and user-friendly operation.

Kamado Smokers

  • Heat Retention: Ceramic construction ensures superb heat retention and consistent temperatures.
  • Multi-Use: Versatile enough to grill, smoke, and bake, ideal for an all-in-one cooking solution.
  • Ideal For: Gourmets looking for a durable, high-quality smoker that performs various cooking methods.
  • Example Models: Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg are renowned for their efficiency and versatility.

Comparative Analysis: How Each Smoker Stacks Up

  • Flavor: Charcoal and offset smokers are best for authentic flavors, while electric and propane provide milder tastes. Pellet and Kamado smokers offer a balanced, robust flavor.
  • Ease of Use: Electric and propane smokers are the most user-friendly, great for beginners. Pellet smokers add convenience with automated features, whereas charcoal and Kamado require more involvement.
  • Price: Electric and propane smokers are generally more affordable. In contrast, pellet and Kamado smokers are pricier due to their advanced features and versatility.
  • Maintenance: Electric smokers need the least maintenance. Charcoal and pellet smokers require more frequent cleaning to manage ash and residue, with Kamado and propane falling in between.

With this detailed comparison of smoker types, you now have a clearer understanding of which smoker may best meet your specific BBQ needs. Use this guide as a reference as you further explore your options and move closer to making your final decision.

Variety of High-end Smokers on a White Background: Traeger Pellet Grill, Kamado Joe Ceramic Grill, and Oklahoma Joe Offset Smoker.

Brand Comparison: Finding the Perfect Smoker

When choosing a smoker, selecting the right brand is crucial as each offers unique features that cater to specific barbecue styles and preferences. Here’s a closer look at some leading brands to help you make an informed decision:


  • Durability and Performance: Known for its durable construction, Weber smokers ensure long-lasting quality and even heat distribution, perfect for consistently smoked meats.
  • Example Models: Include popular models like the Weber Smokey Mountain.


  • Technological Innovation: Masterbuilt stands out for its advanced digital controls, making these smokers ideal for those who value ease and precision in their smoking process.
  • Example Models: Consider the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker


  • Innovative Pellet Smokers: Traeger is at the forefront of pellet smoking technology, with models equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities for remote monitoring—ideal for combining convenience with traditional flavor.
  • Example Models: Traeger Pro 575


  • Budget-Friendly: Char-Griller offers quality smokers at an affordable price, making it a great option for those starting out or on a budget.
  • Example Models: Char-Griller do a great combo unit. It has a 2 burner gas grill and a offset smoker built into the one unit. The Char-Griller E5030 is a great option. 

Pit Boss

  • Value for Money: Known for their economical pricing, Pit Boss smokers provide a good balance of features and performance, suited for both beginners and seasoned pitmasters.
  • Example Models:The Pit Boss 440 Series offers a more compact option for a pellet smoker.

Kamado Joe

  • Versatility and Heat Retention: With ceramic construction, Kamado Joe smokers excel in maintaining heat and are versatile enough for grilling, smoking, and baking.
  • Example Models: The Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series II offers a awesome 18" ceramic grilling and smoking experience. One of my favorite options due to its versatility. 

Oklahoma Joe’s

  • For the Traditionalist: Crafted for enthusiasts who prefer a hands-on smoking approach, these smokers are robust and designed for authentic, smoky flavors.
  • Example Models: One of the kings of offset smoking, the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland. Absolute beast of a smoker top quality build and design. 

Buying Guide: Finding the Best Smoker for Your Needs

Investing in a smoker opens up a world of fun smoky creations. Here's how to choose the perfect smoker to suit your needs:

Determine Your Needs

  • Cooking Capacity: Assess the amount of food you intend to smoke regularly.
  • Space Requirements: Ensure you have enough room for safe operation.
  • Desired Features: Important features might include temperature control, digital controls, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Set a Budget

  • Price Range: Smokers vary significantly in price; decide your budget but remain flexible to ensure you find a smoker that meets your requirements.

Research Brands and Models

  • Brand Exploration: Research the different brands, read reviews, and watch demo videos. Every brand has it's own special features and pro's and con's. 

Consider Fuel Type

  • Fuel Preferences: Choose from charcoal, electric, propane, or pellet based on your flavor preferences and convenience needs.

Check Warranty and Support

  • Manufacturer Confidence: A strong warranty and responsive customer support can be indicative of the quality of the smoker.

Explore Technology and Innovations

  • Technological Advancements: For those interested in the latest features, consider smokers with modern technologies like remote monitoring.

User Reviews and Testimonials

  • Performance Insights: Gauge long-term durability and performance through reviews from other users.


  • Enhancing Accessories: Consider additional accessories that can enhance your smoking experience.

Local Retailers and Online Shopping

  • Purchase Options: Compare the services and prices offered by local and online retailers.

Technology and Innovations: Modern-Day Smoking

The world of BBQ smokers continues to evolve with cutting-edge technologies enhancing both ease of use and the overall quality of the smoking process. Here are some of the latest innovations that are reshaping BBQ practices:

Smart Technology Integration

Leading the way in modern BBQ solutions, the Weber SUMMIT Smart Gas Grill features an advanced SmartControl technology. This system allows for precise temperature control via a high-definition touchscreen or remotely through a smartphone app.

It includes capabilities like setting the temperature, selecting the cooking method, monitoring quick start and preheating steps, and even shutting down the grill remotely (Weber Grill). Similarly, the Traeger Pro 575 and the Masterbuilt 710 WiFi Digital Electric Smoker offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing adjustments from your smartphone, which has become essential for the modern pitmaster (Angry BBQ).

AI-Enhanced Features

The Seergrills Perfecta utilizes NeuralFire technology, which automatically adjusts cooking settings to simplify the process and ensure perfect results.

This AI-powered approach to grilling aims to enhance precision in cooking, providing an easier and more reliable smoking experience (BBQ Near You).

Improved Cooking Surfaces

The Blackstone Iron Forged 36” Griddle features a new high-efficiency Omnivore griddle plate that promotes even heat distribution across the entire cooking surface, including corners.

This design reduces propane usage while maintaining optimal cooking performance (Angry BBQ). Additionally, Weber has introduced their new Slate griddle series, which features a pre-seasoned, rust-resistant carbon steel cooking surface, enhancing durability and maintenance ease (Weber Grill).

Digital and Automated Control Systems

Control systems in pellet grills and smokers, like those found in the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker, are becoming more prevalent.

These systems typically include a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures, with some units also featuring an auger to feed the pellets to the fire for consistent temperature and smoke levels (Popular Mechanics).

Portable and Compact Designs

The new Weber Traveler Griddle offers a portable solution with adjustable legs and a new carbon steel cooking surface, making it perfect for uneven surfaces and on-the-go grilling (Angry BBQ).

Enhanced Viewing and Monitoring Options

Many modern smokers now feature viewing windows, allowing cooks to observe the smoking process without opening the smoker and disrupting the internal temperature.

The integration of advanced temperature monitoring systems, including integrated probes and remote monitoring capabilities, ensure that meats are smoked to perfection without the need for constant manual checking (Popular Mechanics).

These advancements reflect a broader trend of integrating cutting-edge technology with traditional smoking methods. The use of AI, digital controls, and connectivity not only makes smoking more accessible but also enhances the precision and enjoyment of the cooking process.

These tools are reshaping BBQ practices, making them more aligned with modern culinary trends and consumer needs.

Elevate Your BBQ Game

This guide has equipped you with the essential knowledge to select a BBQ smoker that fits your cooking style, environment, and expertise. Whether you prefer the rich flavors of a charcoal smoker or the ease of an electric one, the best choice is one that meets your specific needs and enhances your grilling experience.

Use this information to confidently pick a smoker that not only suits your lifestyle but also improves your cooking outcomes, helping you enjoy both the process and the delicious results.

Now that you have chosen your new smoking companion, why not check out my blog on Smoking Meat for Beginner's. Or download a free copy of my eBook here.


How do I choose the right type of smoker?

Consider factors like your preferred flavor profile, the effort you want to invest in managing the smoker, and practical aspects like space and budget.

What are the pros and cons of different smoker fuels?

Charcoal typically offers a richer flavor but requires more effort to manage. Electric and propane are easier to use but might not give as deep a flavor. Pellet smokers provide a good balance with easier use and good flavor.

How do I maintain the temperature in my smoker?

Managing the air intake and exhaust vents is crucial for controlling temperature. More air increases the heat, while restricting air will lower it.

What regular maintenance do smokers need?

Regular cleaning is essential to prevent buildup of grease and residues, and maintain proper airflow and functionality.

What safety precautions should I take when using a smoker?

Always use protective gloves, keep children and pets away from hot surfaces, and ensure the smoker is on a stable, non-combustible surface.

Can I modify or upgrade my smoker?

Many smokers can be modified with additional racks, better thermometers, or even by changing the type of fuel used. However, modifications should be done carefully to not affect the smoker's safety or performance.

What should I do if my smoker starts to rust or deteriorate?

Regular maintenance like oiling and cleaning can prevent rust. If deterioration occurs, parts may need to be replaced or professionally restored depending on the severity.

About the Author

Matt Barrell

Hi, Matt Barrell here. A BBQ and Smoked meat enthusiast. I love grilling and smoking meat, it is not just my hobby its my passion. My goal is to share my passion with as many other like-minded people as possible.