Charcoal smokers are useful for those who want to take backyard barbecuing to the next level. They can offer a flavor not available with backyard grills or the oven. In the past, the only way to achieve a smoky flavor was to send meat to an old fashioned smokehouse. Today’s smokers make achieving the smoky taste a simpler process. This best charcoal smoker buyers guide provides useful information on the best models available.
- 1 Here are our Top 10 Recommendations
- 1.1 Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
- 1.2 Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical
- 1.3 Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker
- 1.4 Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset
- 1.5 Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
- 1.6 Char-Broil Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera Smoker and Grill
- 1.7 Camp Chef Smoker 18-Inch Smoke Vault Large with Stainless Door
- 1.8 Lamberts Sweet Swine O’Mine Red Box Charcoal Smoker
- 1.9 Brinkmann 852-7080-C Gourmet Charcoal Smoker Value Pack
- 1.10 Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS962CBO-D Barrel
- 2 What Is A Charcoal Smoker?
- 3 How Does A Charcoal Smoker Work?
- 4 Advantages & Disadvantages Of Using A Charcoal Smoker
- 5 What Are The Top Brands Available?
- 6 What Should I Look For When Buying A Charcoal Smoker?
Here are our Top 10 Recommendations
Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
Image Credit: Amazon.com
The Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker offers an 18 inch wide cooking surface. It comes with 2 cooking grates, water pan, and built in thermometer. It features vents on both the lid and the cooking bowl. It also comes with a protective cover to keep it clean when not in use. The water pan is porcelain enamel. Users say this smoker can cook a good sized turkey, though it may come close to touching the sides. The smoker itself is made of porcelain enameled steel and comes with a 10 year warranty. This model has been tested in cooking competitions and has performed as desired.
Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical
The Dyna Glo DGX780BDC-D is a 36″ high vertical smoker with a cooking area of 784 square inches combined over 4 adjustable cooking grates. The grates are 14″ wide by 13″ long. It comes with its own charcoal chamber and a bottom grate for removing ashes. The cooking chamber is made of porcelain enameled steel. It features double doors for access to the charcoal chamber and the meats separately. This helps prevent heat loss while tending to the charcoals or checking on the meat during the cooking process. An optional cover is available for this model, but must be purchased separately.
Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker
This Masterbuilt bullet smoker comes with over 395 square inches of cooking space, 2 porcelain coated cooking racks, a charcoal access door, and built in thermometer on the lid. It’s a more basic model and is designed for portability. It also features a porcelain enameled water bowl and three legs designed in a tripod configuration. Users say it can cook a brisket or a couple racks of ribs on the top levels. This smoker is ideal for those who want to have smoked meats on camping trips and outings away from home. It does require close monitoring, as there is no lower vent to help with temperature control.
Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset
This model is made of heavy gauge porcelain enameled steel. It also features a cast iron burner and dual doors for both the cooking area and the charcoal box. The cooker process up to 100 pounds of meat at one time and comes with 784 square inches of cooking space. It comes with heavy duty stainless steel cooking grates. The Offset charcoal box allows users to direct the smoke and heat efficiently. An optional cover is available at an additional cost. The smoker is 47 inches high including the 4 legs, making it best suited for backyard cooking and entertaining.
Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
This model comes with the same construction features as other Dyna Glo signature vertical offset smokers. However, it also features a rack for grilling in the charcoal compartment. It features 5 sturdy stainless steel cooking racks and heavy gauge porcelain enameled steel construction. It provides 1,382 square inches of cooking space among the five racks. It features two legs and two wheels, so the unit is somewhat portable. It’s large size may prevent it from being taken on
outings, unless a larger vehicle like a van or truck is used to transport it. It can be moved around a back yard or outdoor living space.
Char-Broil Oklahoma Joe’s Bandera Smoker and Grill
This model is another smoker and grill combined, with an offset charcoal box. The main smoking area includes 3 cooking grates, meat hooks, and a rib rack. The grilling surface comes with an adjustable grate as well. The combined cooking surface is 992 square inches. The cooker has 2 legs and 2 wheels, so it can be moved. It also includes a rack below the cooking compartment and charcoal box for storage of additional supplies. The chrome plated handles on both lids are designed to stay cool to the touch throughout the cooking process. The entire unit from wheels to the top is 66″ high.
Camp Chef Smoker 18-Inch Smoke Vault Large with Stainless Door
The Camp Chef smoker is designed like a vault, including the stainless steel door with the large turn handle. It comes with a stainless steel heavy gauge tray for wood chips, a thermometer than reads from 50 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, two adjustable smoking racks, a jerky smoking rack, and three adjustable damper valves for greater temperature control. This model is 44 inches high, including the 4 legs. It also features a matchless ignition. The overall weight is 65 pounds. The smoker is suitable for backyard and camping situations and may be used on outings away from home, due to its portability.
Lamberts Sweet Swine O’Mine Red Box Charcoal Smoker
This smoker is a smaller model designed with double wall construction. The insulating factor is meant to retain heat and maintain efficiency in cooking. It comes with double doors for access to the cooking compartment and the charcoal box. It comes with a stainless steel cooking chamber and features a red, powder coated exterior. This cooker comes with four legs and stands 14 inches high. The front vents below the bottom door allow for temperature and air flow regulation. It comes with 3 cooking grates and can cook a smaller turkey or 3 chickens. Buyers say it gets the job done well for a small, basic backyard smoker.
Brinkmann 852-7080-C Gourmet Charcoal Smoker Value Pack
This double grill smoker comes with a heat indicator on the lid, two chrome plated, steel cooking grates, and a hinged door with access to the charcoal and water pans. The smoker value pack comes with a digital thermometer, a protective cover, and a bag of hickory chips. Users say it can cook a medium sized turkey. The smoker comes apart to be used as a grill, by using the base with charcoal. It also comes with a side clean out door for the fire box.
Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS962CBO-D Barrel
This smoker features a side model firebox and fits some Dyna Glo barrel grills with the smoke stack. It features a total of 962 square inches of cooking space. The side cooking area is 287 square inches of cooking space. The cooker is made with 1.5 mm thick steel and comes with a 3 year warranty. Buyers have been pleased with both the grilling and smoking functions of this model.
What Is A Charcoal Smoker?
A charcoal smoker is a device used much like a backyard grill to cook meat. The difference is that a smoker cooks meat using indirect heat produced by the coals, while giving the meat a more noticeable smoky flavor. The smoker looks somewhat like a charcoal grill, but will typically be cylindrical or round in shape and will have a much deeper reservoir for adding the meat to be cooked. Charcoal smokers usually come with legs. Shorter legs are designed for table top models, while longer legs are designed for stand alone smokers that can be used anywhere in the back yard, as long as they’re used with safety in mind.
How Does A Charcoal Smoker Work?
In a charcoal smoker, the charcoal is typically heated in a chimney first, then added to the smoker when it’s ready to do its job. The way the charcoal is set up and the amount of water added are two tasks that are important to consider, when using a charcoal smoker. The temperature of the smoker is usually maintained between 220 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit, to maintain flavor and tenderness. Use of a charcoal smoker requires frequent attention, especially for new or inexperienced users. It’s not absolutely necessary to use a chimney. If a chimney is not used, however, the user must make sure the charcoal in the smoker gets hot, before adding the meat. Users can also add some wood chips, to get different wood flavors. But, user should choose hard woods, like Oak, Apple, Cherry, or Hickory. Soft woods will create too much smoke and may ruin the taste of the meat.
Advantages & Disadvantages Of Using A Charcoal Smoker
There are several advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious disadvantage is that charcoal is messier than using gas. An advantage is that a more authentic smoky flavor can be achieved in any cut of meat, by cooking it in a smoker. Another advantage to a charcoal smoker is the convenience of not having to worry about replacing a gas tank prior to heading for an outing or having a backyard barbecue. Some smokers take several hours, which can require plenty of advanced planning if guests are invited or a special family get together is planned.
Charcoal is less environmentally friendly than gas, so some consumers may not choose a smoker as their first choice for barbecuing and cooking outdoors. However, smokers usually come with a pan to make catching the ashes an easier and cleaner job. The smoky taste is not for everyone. However, different flavors can be achieved by adding wood chunks or chips to the charcoal or in a separate box. There are many smoker models available, from smaller portable table top cookers to larger models that can be used for larger groups.
What Are The Top Brands Available?
Weber offers smokers in several sizes. There are models suitable for camping and taking along on outings. Larger models offer plenty of cooking surface space. Most models offer additional convenience features, like double doors for both cooking areas and charcoal boxes.
Dyna Glo offers several smoker models, made with heavy gauge stainless steel. Some models also come with grilling capabilities, to make the most of hot coals. While these smokers are heavy, some models come with features that make them more portable under certain conditions. Overall, the smokers are well made and designed for durability.
Brinkman offers smokers and accessories, with features users value most, such as durable construction. The products are easy to use and come with the most important features, such as adjustable vents and durable hardware, for reliability.
This brand is designed with quality most users find more than adequate. Double walls and stainless steel chambers make it a highly desirable smoker brand, for occasional backyard use for smaller
amounts of meat. However, the little red box charcoal smoker packs many quality features into a smaller model and it’s cooking capacity is surprising.
Masterbuilt makes smokers that can be used in a variety of places. They don’t have many of the extra features of larger or more expensive models. But, for the price the smokers are designed to do a lot within a smaller space.
What Should I Look For When Buying A Charcoal Smoker?
When deciding on which charcoal smoker to buy, construction quality and capacity are the two most important features. If you’re spending money on a larger model or one with more features, you will want one that’s built to last. Well built smokers tend to come with warranties. Capacity is important for those who do plenty of entertaining and want to cook plenty of meats or a variety on a single day. Size is important in terms of capacity and design only. Many of the largest models are larger because they contain a side fire box. Some users believe a side fire box is better, but many people use other vertical models with no problems.
Features like double doors make it easier to get meats cooked just right and maintain the right temperature of the coals. Dampers or vents aid in controlling temperature. Smokers come with either built in thermometers or manual digital thermometers, in most instances. What you need will depend on how much work you’re willing to do and how frequently you plan on checking the smoking process. With double doors, the right temperature can be maintained while checking progress, without too much heat loss.
The best charcoal smoker buyers guide can help you narrow down the long list of options available. By determining which features are most important and which you can live without, you’re more likely to find a model that fits your specific needs in outdoor cooking, while also fitting your budget.