Our 10 Highest Rated Charcoal Smokers - Reviews Updated for 2019
Barbecuing and smoking are among the most American things out there. It’s a style of cooking which has, throughout history, become synonymous with the United States, and many people love the genuine barbecue flavor more than any other flavor.
Barbecuing and smoking are your best choice when it comes to larger cuts of meat, like whole chickens, racks of ribs, briskets, and pork butts. The purists of barbecuing claim that these can be adequately smoked only by using wood and charcoal chips. Fortunately, with the advent of well-designed and easy-to-use charcoal smokers, this is now easier than ever.
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What Makes a Good Charcoal Smoker?
Today’s charcoal smokers provide their users with the authentic taste that can’t be found with other types of smokers. The smoke flavor infused by electric models pales in comparison with that infused by the old-school charcoal.
Another significant advantage of charcoal models is that they require no electricity. They’re also very versatile since many people often use them for grilling and searing. With some modifications, they can also be set up for cold smoking. Portability is another benefit – there are no cables, wires, or heavy propane tanks.
However, with so many different brands and models on today’s market, choosing the best charcoal smoker for your needs can be a challenging task. This is especially true if you’ve never owned one of these contraptions before – you simply don’t know what to look for and how to determine the differences between the individual models.
To make the job of choosing a charcoal smoker easier, we’ve decided to compile a rundown of top 10 best charcoal smokers for 2019 and help you out. We’ll guide you through their pros and cons and provide you with everything you need to know about their features. Read on!
- The most significant advantage of using a charcoal smoker is unquestionably the flavor. As we already said, the gas, pellet, and electric smokers simply can’t hold a candle to the charcoal smokers. It is the original and the best flavor that you can get.
- Cooking with charcoal is, without a doubt, one of the best ways for achieving a great crust or bark. Furthermore, it is capable of producing the best smoke ring out of all methods.
- When using charcoal, controlling the temperature of your smoker is exceptionally easy. When you want to smoke the meat at a low heat, all that you have to do is to remove some charcoal. As you can already guess, this is much more difficult with wood or electric smokers.
- Charcoal smokers do not need a power source to work, which means that they can be used almost anywhere. Moreover, the relatively low cost of charcoal that’s used to heat these kinds of smokers turns them into one of the most inexpensive options out there.
- Another advantage is portability. When cooking with a charcoal smoker, there’s no need to lug around heavy propane tanks, while the lack of any cables or wires makes it very easy to move the smoker from one place to another.
Of course, a factor that partially determines the portability of your model is its size. However, most models are generally small and very camping-friendly – taking them with to a trip you is exceptionally easy.
- Versatility is another benefit. With some modifications, the charcoal smokers become capable of generating intense heats, which turns them into a perfect option for searing. They can also sit at ideal temperatures for smoking, and some hacks allow setting them up to cold smoke.
Even though there are some hugely expensive models available on the market, charcoal smokers are generally a lot less pricey than their gas or electric counterparts. Getting a good charcoal smoker won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
- Even the best charcoal grill smokers out there can be challenging to light. One can expect to add between 30 and 45 minutes of additional time to his cooking session just for waiting for the charcoal to achieve the proper heat.
- Unfortunately, charcoal smokers require constant attention. They need babysitting due to the fluctuating temperature. This can be annoying, particularly if smoking is something entirely new for you. In case you get the temperature too high, the meat will be cooked faster than it should be. On the other hand, having an excessively low temperature will lead to a decreased amount of smoke needed for the meat.
- The lack of accessories is another disadvantage. As they’re “old school” by nature, these kinds of smokers typically don’t have so many bells and whistles as their electrical or gas-operated cousins.
- Although charcoal smokers are relatively easy to use, it’s important to mention that they come with a steep learning curve. This is particularly true if we’re talking about mastering the temperature control. Once you’ve learned a couple of tricks, however, this won’t be a problem anymore.
- Another disadvantage would be the cleanup. There will always be a lot of leftover charcoal and ash for you to clean up. If you’re an impatient person and don’t like to spend a lot of time on cleaning after cooking, a charcoal smoker probably isn’t your best option.
- Even though charcoal is relatively inexpensive, it still isn’t the cheapest fuel to burn. In the long run, using this kind of fuel can be more costly than electricity or gas. The cost of purchasing charcoal can certainly add up.
Depending on what model you ultimately purchase, you might have a tough time maintaining temperature when cooking during the winter months. Cheap models are typically manufactured from thin metal, which means that they tend to lose a considerable amount of heat when it’s cold outside.
Top Rated Charcoal Smokers Reviewed
Weber Smokey Mountain 18″
Weber is undoubtedly one of the most well-known companies when it comes to innovation in the field of backyard grilling. Their Smokey Mountain 18″ model is the mid-size variant of the company’s popular charcoal smoker and one of the best devices of this type out there.
Coming with a sealed design, multiple vents, and superior airflow, it’s a piece of grilling equipment that every meat lover would like to have in his backyard. If all of this sounds intriguing to you, keep on reading – we’ll go over the good and bad and help you decide if it’s the right smoker for your needs.
The build quality and design of this smoker are among the best on the market. Its primary build material is porcelain enameled steel, which is not only sturdy but also retains the heat very well – consistent smoking is guaranteed. The overall construction of the model is very impressive and with a beautiful finish.
The model’s cooking grates have a nickel coating, which provides strength, resilience, and also makes cleaning much easier. The dampers, on the other hand, have been manufactured from aluminum, which prevents rust from building up.
As it is of average size, the Weber Smokey Mountain 18″ is best-suited for medium-sized families. Its approximate dimensions stand at 21 x 19 x 41 inches, and it has a total cooking area of 481 square inches. There’s enough space to cooking almost anything, and that includes entire turkey or ham.
With this model, you won’t have to continually add water to make your food juicier and moister. The reason behind that is the presence of a porcelain-enameled water pan. Its purpose is to add the liquid of the user’s preferred taste and keep the meat as juicy as possible.
When it comes to these types of products, temperature control is undoubtedly one of the most vital aspects. Fortunately, this model’s air-tight design allows the user to effortlessly maintain the desired temperature between eight and twelve hours. With four vents, it’s very easy to achieve full control over the fuel combustion – there’s no need for babysitting. There is also a built-in bi-metal thermometer, although it’s not the most precise one we’ve seen so far.
Other features worth mentioning are the silicone grommet and the charcoal door. The silicone grommet allows one to insert a digital temperature probe (which is very convenient due to the inaccuracy of the built-in thermometer) while the charcoal door makes it very easy to add more charcoal when needed.
- Impressive design and finish
- User-friendly – very easy to use
- Improved heat control
- Sizeable cooking surface
- Inaccurate bi-metal thermometer
- Somewhat expensive
As it is brilliantly designed and allows its user to easily maintain consistent temperatures, the Weber Smokey Mountain undoubtedly offers excellent value for the money. It’s an ideal choice for both beginners and veterans and will allow you to get the moistest, juiciest, and yummiest smoked meat cuts with little to no effort.
18-1/2″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
After years of domination, Weber’s Smokey Mountain model finally has a worthy opponent – the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker. It’s a simple and easy-to-operate unit that allows its user to cook up to eight racks of ribs in one session. Designed with consistent operation in mind, it’s a model that requires little attention and is very reliable when it comes to delivering tasty food for a short time.
For the price that it comes at, this model could very well become one of the most popular devices of this type on the market. Let’s check out its features!
Most of this smoker is made up of its 30-gallon drum, which was manufactured from porcelain enamel and 18-gauge steel for added durability and strength. The unit’s lid is made from the same material and as is as sturdy as the rest of it. Interestingly, its handles are made of horseshoes, which is an impressive design touch. However, they can become very hot and should be handled only with gloves.
The steel rods and the stainless-steel hooks, on the other hand, hold up the heat very well and come with a very specific authentic aesthetic that goes well with the rest of the model’s design. As it is pretty tall, the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker will allow you to fit up to 8 slabs of ribs. Since its design doesn’t allow a water pan, the meat gets to be cooked in its own juices.
The overall design of this cooker is impressive for its price, although there’s nothing too exceptional about it. However, the unit is sufficiently durable and highly capable of producing tasty, tender meat that each member of your family is bound to like.
Another thing we liked is the fact that the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker is fully usable during the winter months. It performs very well in temperatures that are as low as -15°F. For those who plan to use it during winter, it is recommended to keep the lid slightly open for about half an hour to ensure enough heat.
However, the most significant advantage of this cooker is undoubtedly the fact that it can be used by anyone, as it comes fully assembled. You’ll need no previous experience in cooking or smoking to easily create deliciously tender meat. It’s one of the best models for beginners out there, although the veterans will certainly appreciate its ease of use as well.
- Simplicity and ease of use
- Excellent build quality
- No need to refill the water pan
- Highly portable
- You must use specific charcoal
- Not much room for temperature control
Although it’s not flawless, the Classic Pit Barrel Cooker is bound to become one of the biggest challengers to Weber’s popular Smokey Mountain model. Consistent, reliable, and durable, the model offers excellent value for the money and stands as one of the best options for beginners. It is incredibly easy to use and comes at a genuinely affordable price – what more could one want?
Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker
Dating back to around 1,000 BC and originating from China, the Kamado grills have slowly made their way across the planet to America. The first Big Green Egg was born in 1974, and ever since then, many manufacturers had a go at designing and selling their own Kamado grills.
Char-Griller’s attempt to create the best griller of this type is called Akord Kamado Kooker, and it’s a model that’s already held in high regard by many grilling and smoking enthusiasts all over the country. Let’s have a closer look at its features:
This model is made from insulated, triple-walled steel and retains heat pretty well, especially when we consider its steel construction and the affordable price. Although it’s not in the same league as the grills made from ceramic, the Kamado Kooker does its job well. The result of its design is an even heat distribution – it cooks up food very well.
When it comes to the cooking surface, the Kamado Kooker has 314 square inches of it. An important thing to mention here is that its cooking surface is larger than the one found on the Kamado Joe, which is a much more expensive model. The features found on Kamado Joe undoubtedly make it worth the money, though. The cooking grates, on the other hand, have been manufactured from cast iron and are quite robust. Their excellent heat retention makes cooking very easy.
One thing we particularly liked is the small removable circle in the middle of the grates, which allows the user to add coals. Although a nice addition, its position can make adding coal awkward in case there’s meat on the grill. Fortunately, the model is very good when it comes to holding heat, so you won’t have to spend a lot of time adding extra charcoal.
Another noteworthy feature of Akorn Kamado Kooker is how its bottom tray, legs, and wheels make it very portable. There’s also a lot of working space due to the presence of side shelves with hanging hooks. We also liked the dump ash pan (for removing the ash) and the locking clip on the lid (for easier transport).
Although well-designed and quite sturdy, the Kamado Kooker still isn’t a ceramic model. When it comes to Kamado grills, ceramic will always be a superior choice, as it can hold the temperature much better and doesn’t rust. There is also a steep learning curve for those who never grilled on this type of a grill before.
- Versatile outdoor grill/cooker
- Even heat distribution
- Wide temperature range
- Well-designed ash pan
- Steel is not as good as ceramic
- Steep learning curve
Coming at an attractive price point and having a design that allows cooking delicious meals in the backyard, the Akorn Kamado Kooker is an excellent product. Its cooking capabilities are as good as those of the much more expensive alternatives, which turns it into a well-built yet affordable entry into the world of Kamado cooking.
Weber Original Kettle Premium 22″ Charcoal Grill
It’s no surprise that Weber Company has grown so popular in the last couple of years – their supply of excellent products places them on the top pages of media. The company’s Original Premium 22″ Grill is an especially interesting offering, as it comes with features such as the porcelain-enameled bowl and lid, built-in thermometer, aluminum ash-catcher, hinged cooking grate, all-weather wheels, and many more.
If you feel like you’ve already wasted a lot of time on cheap, low-quality grills, keep on reading – Weber’s Premium 22″ Grill just might be the product you were looking for.
As expected, the model’s construction is solid and straightforward, while the materials – nickel-plated steel grill, porcelain-coated steel for the body, and rust-proof aluminum legs – prove that it was built to last. Although the basic design didn’t change much since the company’s inception in 1952, Weber has managed to add a couple of new details, such as the hook handles.
As the name suggests, the model’s bowl is quite a large one, measuring 22 inches in diameter. With 363 square inches of cooking surface, you’ll have no issues with cooking multiple foods at once. The fact that the grate is hinged means that you won’t have to keep fixing it over and over while grilling – it stays firmly in its place and makes it easy to add charcoal when needed.
When it comes to the cooking performance, the Original Kettle Premium 22″ is undoubtedly among the most hassle-free devices of this type out there. It effortlessly crisps the skin of barbecue chicken over the course of low-heat cooking and produces a delicious high-heat sear on hamburgers. This is a pretty good reflection of how good this grill is when it comes to controlling the amount of heat that the charcoal briquettes are putting out.
Other noteworthy features include the one-touch ash collection system, the rust-proof aluminum dampers, as well as the angled lid hooks. We also liked that the model’s legs come with spring-loaded pins – they hold the unit firmly in place and provide the much-needed stability during cooking. Two of these legs are equipped with wheels, allowing the user to move the grill around and store it away when needed.
Lastly, the Weber Premium 22″ Grill comes with a 10-year limited warranty on its lid and bowl, 5-year warranty on its one-touch cleaning system and plastic components, and 2-years warranty on the remaining parts. All of this shows how confident Weber is when it comes to the durability and reliability of their products.
- Extremely well-made
- Hinged cooking grate
- Ash collection system
- 10-year limited warranty
- Plastic tires on wheels
- Some assembly required
In a nutshell, one can’t really go wrong by purchasing this grill. Besides the excellent cooking performance, the Weber Original Premium 22″ sports a quality construction and comes with an array of features that make the whole process much easier and more efficient. It’s one of the company’s best offerings so far and a product that undoubtedly deserves its popularity.
Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Although not one of the top names in the grilling industry, Dyna-Glo offers moderately-priced but efficient and well-built charcoal and gas smokers. They have a wide range of both outdoor and indoor heating products, most of which require low maintenance and work just as advertised.
Even though they’re not as popular as the products made by other brands, the charcoal smokers manufactured by this company deserve a closer look. One of their most interesting models is the 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker. It comes at a genuinely affordable price and offers features that might turn it into your top contender for a new charcoal smoker.
So, you’re finally ready to take your outdoor cooking experience to the next level and you’re looking for a new charcoal smoker to help you with this. With a track record of durable but affordable products, Dyna-Glo seems to be a good choice for a brand. Their 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker can equip your deck with a reliable centerpiece that your family will always gladly gather around.
Coming in full black, this model features a vertical design (like the name suggests). This kind of construction lends itself to naturally rising heat, which allows it to achieve a maximum smoke flavor and better gas efficiency. The unit’s top smoke stack does a pretty good job at improving both the heat distribution and the airflow throughout the unit.
Its porcelain-enameled steel charcoal chamber deserves special words of praise. It was designed to keep the charcoal briquettes as tightly as possible. As you can already guess, this significantly improves the burn efficiency, which is something that both the amateur and experienced grillers always strive for.
With four cooking grates that are height-adjustable, you will be able to accommodate foods of varying size without any issues. The total cooking space measures 748 square inches (25lbs capacity per one grate), which is impressive and should be enough for any medium-sized family.
One thing we particularly liked is the presence of an integrated stainless-steel thermometer. Once the needle gets into the so-called “smoke zone,” it means that the ideal temperature for infusing delicious smoke flavor has been achieved. This easy-to-read and straightforward gauge is of great assistance when it comes to attaining ideally smoked meals. Another feature worth mentioning here is the adjustable flue on the top of the unit.
When it comes to cleaning, the 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker sports a simple ash & charcoal management system. Designed to handle large amounts of ash, its removable steel ash pan makes it very easy to maintain the smoker and keep it clean.
- Vertical design for naturally rising heat
- Stainless steel thermometer
- 748 square inches of cooking space
- Thin metal
- Comes without assembly instructions
Although not flawless, the Dyna-Glo 36″ is an ideal little backyard smoker that you can use whenever you feel like eating some smoked ribs, sausages, chicken, or any other kind of meat. For the price that it comes at, there’s nothing more you could ask for.
Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker
Nowadays, smoking your favorite foods, such as meats, vegetables, and cheese is quite easy thanks to the modern charcoal smokers. They allow their users to have barbecue parties or backyard family picnics all day long due to their adjustment settings for temperature control and even cooking.
Cuisinart’s Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker comes with advantages such as durable and solid construction, large capacity, ease of installation and use, as well as the reasonable price. It’s one of the company’s most popular charcoal smokers and a model that’s highly popular with smoking enthusiasts all over the country. Let’s check out its features:
Firstly, the Cuisinart COS-118 has an impressive design. It’s a 45″ tall model with a vertical barrel design whose purpose is to distribute the heat as evenly as possible. It has a porcelain-enameled steel bowl that holds water, while its vertical side door makes it easy to access the fuel and water. The total cooking space stands at 512 square inches.
The model’s non-stick, fine mesh mat prevents the food from sticking. As you can already guess, its secondary purpose is to prevent the smaller pieces of food, such as meat sticks and cheese, from falling through the grate. The aluminum drip trays, on the other hand, have a job of catching the drippings and preventing flare-ups.
The unit’s dual air vents make it very easy to control the quantity of heat and smoke. The user can open and close these vents anytime he wants, and in that way control the amount of smoke and heat exiting from the chamber. Accessing the food is as simple as it gets – you only have to lift the lid.
Other features worth mentioning are the basting brush, a removable silicone brush head, as well as the sauce pot. The sauce pot is particularly well-made – it was manufactured from stainless steel and can hold up to 16 ounces of sauce. The model’s steel wire racks also deserve words of praise, as they allow enough room for a whole chicken.
All of this turns the Cuisinart COS-118 into one of the best charcoal smokers for smoking meat, vegetables, chicken, fish, cheese, and many other foods. The assembly is as easy as it gets, and all the necessary accessories (apart from charcoal, of course) are included in the package. Moreover, the model is quite easy to carry around, letting its owner enjoy smoked hot wherever he goes.
- Lightweight design
- Two air vents
- Porcelain-enameled water bowl
- 512 square inches of cooking space
- Shallow water pan
- Temperature gauge gets fogged
All in all, the Cuisinart COS-118 is a genuinely good investment. It’s a well-designed charcoal smoker that’s both practical and functional – just as advertised. We could even say that its specifications and features are comparable with the pricier models, which will be appreciated by all those who need a good smoker at a reasonable price.
If you want to treat your friends and family with delicious, naturally smoked meals, you’ll make no mistake by going with Cuisinart COS-118.
Char-Broil Vertical Charcoal Smoker
The Char-Broil company has been in business ever since the 1940s, and it was one of the first manufacturers to introduce charcoal grills. Since then, it has grown to become one of the most recognizable brands in the BBQ industry.
An interesting member of their extensive product line-up is the Vertical Charcoal Smoker. It provides the user with an easy way to achieve that delicious flavor and scent of smoked meat. It has a compact design and sports a couple of interesting features that undoubtedly deserve a more in-depth look. Let’s check them out!
One of the first things to notice about this smoker is that it’s extremely easy to assemble. This is a great advantage, particularly for people who aren’t that technically inclined and have never used a smoker before. The unit comes with a well-written and illustrated user manual which makes it quite easy to figure out the location of each part.
In terms of cooking space, the Char-Broil has 365 square inches of it, and it’s distributed across three grates. These grates are chrome-plated and entirely adjustable. Controlling the temperature is as easy as it gets due to the presence of multiple dampers that control smoke and heat.
With Char-Broil, you won’t have to worry about burning yourself either. The model comes with cool-touch handles located on its door, letting the user get a firm grip on the lid without scorching his hands. For a smoking beginner, this feature is invaluable.
Another excellent feature is the unit’s slide-in, porcelain-coated water pan. If you’re not that familiar with charcoal smokers, the purpose of this part is to add moisture to the food while it’s getting cooked. In other words, the water pan will keep the meat from drying out, which is something that can and will happen at higher temperatures.
There’s also a secondary front-access door, which makes it easy to tend to the water pan and charcoal pan without risking losing heat. The unit also has a temperature gauge – it’s located on the front door, just above the company’s logo. Even though it’s a bit more challenging to control the temperature on charcoal smokers than on the gas-operated ones, it’s not impossible with careful monitoring.
However, one of the model’s most significant advantages is undoubtedly its compact size. This won’t only allow you to put it on your patio or deck, but it also makes transportation a lot less challenging. The cleanup is also easy – there’s a convenient pull-out drawer that lets the user remove the ashes when needed.
- Easy assembly
- Compact size
- Multiple adjustable dampers
- Cool-touch handles
- Less room for cooking
- Not sealed very well
All in all, the Char-Broil is a pretty good charcoal smoker for the price it comes at. Its ease of use and quick assembly, as well as the compact size, make it an excellent choice for the beginners. However, the experienced smoking enthusiasts probably won’t be that pleased with less cooking space and the model’s cheaper construction quality. This shouldn’t bother you much if you’re a beginner, though.
Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D
A brand of GHP group, Dyna-Glo manufactures and sells barbecue grilling products, portable heating products, as well as electric fireplaces and fireplace accessories. Although not as popular as those made by Weber or Masterbuilt, the charcoal smokers manufactured by this company are still held in high regard by many meat-smoking enthusiasts.
Their Signature Series Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker (code-named DGSS1382VCS-D) comes with a couple of features that turn it into an interesting offering. Some of these are five chrome-plated cooking grates, oversized steel wheels, stainless temperature gauge, as well as the cool-touch spring lid. Let’s have a closer look:
The very first thing to notice about this smoker is its heavy-gauge steel body construction. This makes it very durable and reliable – you won’t have to worry about any parts getting broken. Each part of the contraption is of black color, as is the anti-rain cover that you can purchase separately.
With 1,382 square inches of cooking space, you’ll be able to smoke massive amounts of meat all at once. Inside the unit’s heavy-gauge smoking chamber, you’ll find both the sausage hooks and grates. Both are chrome-plated and very sturdy and will allow you to accommodate a vast variety of food sizes and types.
However, one of the most interesting parts of DGSS1382VCS-D is the offset firebox. It features porcelain-coated steel cooking places and conveniently doubles as a grill. Not only will it allow you to perfectly sear your favorite food, but its side tray also provides easy access to your charcoals. Once the cooking session is over, you can simply remove the side tray and clean it up.
The unit’s temperature gauge, on the other hand, has the so-called “Smoke Zone” that indicates required temperature levels for infusing an ideal amount of smoke flavor. For safe access to food and fuel, the DGSS1382VCS-D also has a couple of cool-to-touch handles.
Dyna-Glo advertises this model as something that lets the user “expand his culinary horizons”. This isn’t so far from the truth – the model is indeed a versatile, multi-functional, large-capacity BBQ machine. The unit’s chamber allows cooking briskets and ribs in a low & slow manner, while its offset barrel makes it easy to grill brats and burgers at the same time. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
When it comes to disadvantages, it should be mentioned that Dyna-Glo doesn’t hold the temperature as well as some other smoker’s we’ve tested. This is because most of its body is manufactured from thin metal. Although durable, the model indeed isn’t the champion when it comes to retaining heat.
- Solid construction
- Offset firebox included
- Large wheels for portability
- Includes hooks & grates
- Doesn’t hold heat too well
- Somewhat difficult assembly
Although not flawless, the Dyna-Glo DGSS1382VCS-D is undoubtedly one of the most versatile charcoal smokers on the market. As it features both the smoking chamber and an offset firebox, it’s an excellent choice for those who want to grill and smoke massive amounts of meat at the same time.
Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker
Masterbuilt is undoubtedly one of today’s best manufacturers of smokers. Their appliances let the users use pellets, wood chips, and charcoal to both cook and add smoke flavor to their favorite foods. Is their Charcoal Bullet Smoker the right model for your needs?
Compact in size, easy to maintain, but also cheap and affordable, this smoker seems to be an excellent choice for the beginners. If you’re one of them, we advise you to keep reading – we’ll take a closer look at its features and help you determine if it’s the right charcoal smoker for your demands.
Masterbuilt’s Charcoal Bullet Smoker is among those inexpensive smokers that make for an authentic smoking experience. This statement might seem untrue once you take a look at the model’s size – it’s one of the most compact charcoal smokers on the market. Still, it features 395 square inches of cooking space, which makes it ideal for tailgate parties, camping weekends, and fishing trips.
The thing that makes bullet smokers so suitable for beginners is that learning to use them is so easy. With this model, you’ll only have to put some fuel in the bottom, fill the pan with hot water, and then put in your favorite food to be smoked. This makes it perfect for quicker and shorter smokes.
Although small, the model has a relatively spacious interior with its two cooking racks that can accommodate meats of varying type and size. It maintains temperatures of up to 400 °F and has a frontal-access door that makes adding charcoal quick and easy. However, it’s important to mention that the Bullet Smoker comes without a grate that would keep the charcoal and chips out of the ashes.
Another noteworthy feature of this appliance is the integrated external thermometer. Its purpose is to assist the user in getting a precise reading. For anyone who knows how crucial even cooking is, this feature will be invaluable.
Even though it’s hard to expect for a model coming at this price to be complicated, its relative simplicity is undoubtedly one of its most remarkable characteristics. Getting it up and running can be done in no time, especially once we consider that it’s accompanied by the well-written tips and instructions provided by Masterbuilt.
On the downside, it’s important to mention that the model’s thin-metal build can cause internal temperature fluctuations. And, as we said, it comes without a grate in its charcoal pan, allowing the charcoal and chips to fall into the ash.
- Compact size
- Extremely easy to use
- Ideal for outdoor trips
- External thermometer
- Possible temperature fluctuations
- No grate in the charcoal pan
Although it can’t really cook larger meats in a single session, the Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker is an excellent starting point for the beginners. Moreover, its compact size makes it highly suitable for
Backwoods Chubby 3400 Outdoor Charcoal Smoker
Everybody loves good barbecue – it’s hard to beat the delicious, juicy beef brisket that just came out of your charcoal smoker. If you’re new to this game, you’re probably searching for a compact, easy-to-use model that will help you learn how to properly smoke your favorite type of meat.
Although one of the smallest appliances of this type on the market, the Backwoods Chubby 3400 seems to be a good choice for the beginners. It delivers excellent results and comes with a couple of genuinely interesting features. Is it the right outdoor charcoal smoker for you?
Many barbecue enthusiasts consider the Chubby 3400 to be one of the most versatile appliances of this type in Backwood’s range of products. One of the reasons behind this is in the fact that it has multiple uses. One can easily convert Chubby 3400 into a barbecue pit or grill just by removing its water pan. Pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say?
This compact but well-built smoker comes with four cooking racks, each of which measures 16 1/2″ x 15 1/2″. There’s also an extra slider that allows the user to arrange his pieces of meat properly. With the unit’s cooking compartment measuring 13″ x 17″ x 16″, there’s enough cooking space to prepare a pork butt, a rack of ribs, thigh and leg combos, and a beef brisket all at once.
The model’s award-winning design is apparent right from the start. There are stainless steel protectors on the unit’s top corners, the door gaskets and latches are tight (preventing the heat from escaping), and its shelves have been manufactured from 304 stainless steel. However, all this also contributes to the model’s weight – it’s no wonder that its name is “Chubby.”
Another feature we liked is the presence of a Tel-Tru analog thermometer. This high-quality thermometer is located on the unit’s door and its purpose is to help the user maintain the necessary heat level. It’s very accurate and invaluable for preparing your meals to perfection.
Other features worth mentioning are the removable stainless-steel water pan, pre-drilled holes for casters on the bottom of the feet, as well as the heat diverter. There are also a couple of optional accessories that you can purchase separately. These include casters that raise the smoker, a cover that protects it from the elements, as well as the optional drip guard.
The only real downside of Backwoods Chubby 3400 is its price. It’s one of the most expensive models out there, and, as such, it’s an unsuitable choice for the beginners who are looking for an affordable charcoal smoker.
- Excellent construction quality
- Efficiently retains heat
- No assembly required
- Accurate thermometer
- Very expensive
If you’d like to enter the world of charcoal smoking in the best possible way, the Backwoods Chubby 3400 is probably your best choice. Although expensive, it’s one of the most well-designed and feature-packed appliances of this type on the market.
Charcoal Smokers - Buyer's Guide
If you’ve decided to get yourself a brand-new charcoal smoker, you’ll be pleased to know that today’s market offers plenty of brands and models that come in a variety of sizes and shapes. However, those that are unfamiliar with these appliances might find themselves struggling to determine which features their brand-new charcoal smoker should have.
Have no worries – we’ve compiled a list of factors that you should consider while buying a charcoal smoker:
Durability, Materials, and Workmanship
In order to manage the temperature, charcoal smokers need to be built very well. If you’re going to buy one of these appliances, try to get a unit that has been manufactured from heavy-gauge steel. As you probably already know, heavy steel doesn’t only hold, but also distributes the heat better than thin steel.
You’ll also have to consider the insulation. Make sure that your smoker is well-insulated. It needs to be tight and to have a reliable system of dampers, particularly the air supply to the fuel. Cheap units leak, making it difficult to manage the amount of smoke flavor and stabilize the temperature. Even though the leaky models are still capable of producing delicious food, the results are always less predictable.
Study the insulation, welds, thickness of the metal, and seals before making the final purchase.
If your family is small and you only occasionally cook slabs of ribs, a small bullet model will probably be enough for you. If your family is big and you often throw barbecue parties, consider getting a charcoal smoker with more capacity.
Bullet shaped models typically have footprints that are no larger than 3′ x 3′, making it easy to use them on balconies. An offset pit, on the other hand, can take as much as 9′ x 4′, as well as some space around it. A factor to have in mind here is that you need some space and ventilation around your charcoal smoker.
Water & Drip Pans
Many smokers, particularly the bullet-shaped models, come with pans that are placed right above the heat source. These pans can be filled with water, wine, beer, or herbs, with the liquid being the factor that moderates the temperature fluctuations. The humidity in the unit causes the rise of moisture, which, in turn, keeps the meat from getting dry while allowing the aromatics to penetrate it and add the flavor.
Having a drip pan is also important. Its job is to catch the drippings such as fat and other fluids that usually drip from the meat. These can be gathered and used for sauce.
Ease of Cleaning
Although cleaning the charcoal smoker’s exterior is optional, cleaning its interior isn’t. When you use the smoker, the juices, seasonings, and fat will drop off and splatter, thus creating a real breeding environment for the bacteria. Most of them will be killed when you crank the smoker up, but it’s still essential to thoroughly clean every surface that comes into contact with meat.
Before making the purchase, ask yourself the following questions: Can I hose down the interior? Will the water pan, drip pan, and the grates fit into my dishwasher? How difficult is it to remove ash? Before buying, carefully study the unit and find out how easy it is to keep it clean.
Another factor to consider is the inclusion of accessories. One of them is the wheels, which determines how portable a specific charcoal smoker is. They can help you move the smoker and store it during the winter. In case the model you’d like to buy has wheels, check if they’re large and sturdy enough to roll on surfaces such as deck, lawn, and concrete.
Another accessory is the thermometer, which needs to be as reliable and accurate as possible. Other accessories to consider are the movable shelves, rib hooks, storage compartments, tool hooks, cool-touch handles, cover, as well as the cold-smoking baffle.
With these tips in mind, you should be able to purchase a quality charcoal smoker that will serve you well for the years to come. Try to stay away from the extremely cheap units – you won’t be able to use them properly, and you’ll be wasting your money.
Different Types of Charcoal Fuel and Their Characteristics
There’s not much difference between the individual models of charcoal smokers, except when it comes to the fuel source. Believe it or not, the market offers different types of charcoal, and each of them has its own advantages. Sticking with just one type will prevent you from experiencing plenty of different ways to cook some of your most favorite meals. For that matter, let’s have a look at the three most popular options out there:
Consisting of charred hardwood, lump charcoal is the most original type of charcoal out there. It can be made from many different types of hardwood, and its characteristics largely depend on the type of wood that was used to make it.
The most significant advantage of this type is heat. Lump charcoal doesn’t only release more heat than the briquettes, but its smoke also comes from hardwoods which have not been adulterated in any way. Its main drawback, on the other hand, is in the fact that its pieces burn quite quickly and are also pricier when compared to briquettes.
Since it easily produces high temperatures, lump charcoal is the best possible type of charcoal for grilling steaks. Many grilling experts use it to sear the exterior in a quick manner but without overcooking the interior. However, it is far less effective for cooking processes which require stable lower temperatures, such as slow smoking.
The charcoal briquettes, on the other hand, consist of more than just charcoal. They can also include some additional ingredients, such as sodium nitrate or sawdust. Sodium nitrate, for example, makes them burn better. Some varieties can also contain an accelerant (which makes them easier to light) or starch (which acts as a binding agent).
Moreover, briquettes tend to burn at lower temperatures and more evenly than the lump charcoal. Because all pieces of it come in the same shape and size, they also provide more consistent heat. As they produce more ash, they help with insulating the coals and dampening their heat.
All of this makes briquettes an excellent choice for processes that don’t require searing heat, such as slow smoking. If you, on the other hand, need high temperatures, you can simply add more briquettes – it’s yet another benefit. They’re also a lot less pricey than lump charcoal.
The most significant downside is the considerable volume of ash they produce, as well as the fact that the briquettes coated with accelerant can infuse the food with an unpleasant taste.
As the name suggests, this type originates from Japan, where it’s used for the traditional yakitori grilling. Made from a specific type of oak, binchotan produces no unpleasant odors and burns as clean as possible. One of its main advantages over the other types is undoubtedly the burning time – it can burn for up to six hours and can be extinguished and started up again several times.
The main disadvantage is the price – it can be very high. Another drawback is that it can be quite difficult to light, which makes it unsuitable for the amateur charcoal-smoking enthusiasts.
There are a couple of good reasons behind the fact that charcoal smokers are among the most popular appliances used by backyard barbecue enthusiasts. Even though using charcoal for smoking imparts the flavor to a certain degree, it’s still a process that results in a unique smoky flavor that other methods can’t really replicate.
And that’s not the only advantage. Cooking with charcoal also produces a better crust and smoke ring, while the fact that it’s a relatively inexpensive fuel turns it into a suitable choice for almost everyone. The same can be said for the charcoal smokers – they’re typically a lot less expensive than their electric or gas counterparts.
Coming in all shapes and sizes, these appliances are typically very versatile, portable, and easy to use and maintain. As they don’t need a power source to work, they can be used almost everywhere, which is especially true for the models with wheels. Depending on a specific model, they’re also quite easy to keep clean, while the temperature maintenance comes down to merely adding or removing charcoal.
However, with so many different brands and models out there, choosing your first appliance of this type can be a daunting task. If you’ve never owned a smoker of this type before, you simply won’t know what to look for – a vast variety of different charcoal smokers on the market can be genuinely confusing.
Hopefully, this article will assist you in narrowing your choice. We took a closer look at the market’s most popular options and carefully analyzed their features in detail. No matter which one of them you choose to go for, you’ll find that buying a commercial charcoal smoker is an excellent investment. You’ll be able to enhance your everyday menu with delicious treats and become a true master of the food-smoking art that everyone will look up to. Good luck!