Which Is The Best Smoker For Beginners? | Your 2022 Buying Guide

Best Beginner SmokerThe best smoked food is cooked ‘low and slow’ and it comes out tender and full of flavor. But there are so many different types of smoker: electric, pellet, offset, charcoal, gas. If you’re a beginner, where do you start?

If you’d like to make your grand entrance into the world of smoking, we have your buying guide here.

We found a smoker that is by far the easiest to use, as well as being the best value.  You can jump to our #1 pick here or continue reading to see our Smoker buyer’s guide for beginners.

Jump Into It (or Read On)

 

Compare The Best Smokers For Beginners

Smoker NameSmokerOur ReviewTemp Range (F)Cooking Racks (Each)Cooking Surface (Square Inches)Weight (Pounds)Footprint
(W x D x H Inches)
Best Electric Smoker For Beginners

Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt 20070421Click Here For Our ReviewMaximum 275471150.320.5 x 19.9 x 33.3
Best Pellet Smoker For Beginners

Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet SmokerClick Here For Our Review180 to 500146583.324.02 x 50.2 x 39.8
Best Gas Smoker For Beginners

Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker
Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane SmokerClick Here For Our ReviewLow To High478469.518.1 x 19.3 x 38.6
Best Budget Smoker For Beginners

Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric SmokerClick Here For Our ReviewLow To High353649.8621.69 x 20 x 40.15
Best Charcoal Smoker For Beginners

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 Inches
Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 InchesClick Here For Our ReviewN/A24814719 x 21 x 41
Best Offset Smoker For Beginners

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal SmokerClick Here For Our ReviewN/A611765734.52 x 20.2 x 47.03

How Do Smokers Work?

A smoker comprises an enclosed fire area with or without a storage area for fuel, such as wood pellets, coal briquettes, or wood sticks. It may or may not have a water pan to create steam and regulate the temperature of the cook. And of course, it will have cooking racks for the food that you want to cook or smoke.

The fire area creates heat and smoke, which slowly filters through the food while it cooks, and the result is tender, juicy food with a suitably smoky taste.

Choosing The Best Smoker For You

Factor #1: Fuel Source

You’ve got lots of choices: Electric, Gas, Pellet, Charcoal. We’ve set out their pros and cons for you below.

Factor #2: Temperature Range

Smoking requires a steady low temperature. With some smokers, the setting you choose will be delivered without your intervention, such as in an electric smoker. For other smokers, you’re in charge of the airflow and temperature control and you need to keep an eye on it, such as a charcoal smoker. You’ll need to think about whether you’d like a “set and forget” smoker or one that needs monitoring.

Factor #3: Cooking Space

Cooking space can be considered by the square inches of space, or if that is hard to imagine, the number of shelves. Most smokers have shelves that can be removed, or their position adjusted.

Factor #4: Weight

The weight of the smoker is another consideration that will help you decide regarding the smoker’s portability. Is this a weight that can be lifted if you need to move it? Does it have wheels?

Factor #5: Footprint

The vital measurements of the smoker will determine if it fits where you want to use it and where you want to store it.

Factor #6: Price

Of course, price is always a factor. We provide both budget and luxury choices, and everything in between.

Factor #7: Warranty

The warranty offered also requires attention, especially if your purchase is full of electronic components.

Reviews Of Best Beginner Smokers

Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker (Best Electric Smoker For Beginners)

Masterbuilt 20070421The Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker is an excellent choice for first-time smokers. It’s easy to use and is highly rated.

It has a touch digital control with a display for entering cooking temperature and time. Once you set your selections, the smoker will do the rest. If you’re using pellets, this will be the only reason that you need to return to the smoker during the cooking time.

Speaking of pellets, Masterbuilt has an ingenious patented process for adding your pellets. There is a shute at the side where you load the pellets and slide the shute back in. There is no need to open the door, so the heat won’t escape, and you can still see what’s going on with the convenient viewing window. The only thing is, if you’re using pellets, you’ll need to return each 30 to 40 minutes to top up the pellet supply.

Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker Pellet Tray
This unit provides 711 square inches of cooking space over 4 rustproof chrome-plated shelves. Your family of 4 will be well fed with this size. If you want to cook something larger, such as a turkey, the shelves are adjustable and removable.

Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker Interior
The major concern of food safety is covered by this Masterbuilt MB20070421 by including a built-in meat probe. You can easily tell the internal temperature of the meat, and you will know when your brisket is done.

Being about 20 inches wide, this unit won’t take up too much space on your patio. However, this also means that it won’t take big slabs of beef unless you cut them up first, so you need to think about what foods you want to smoke. It weighs about 50 pounds and has no wheels, so if you need to move it around in between uses it will need to be lifted or slid.

If you have a family larger than 4 or intend to smoke long pieces of meat, you might consider the 40-Inch model, which is almost 25 inches wide.

Masterbuilt has one of the shortest warranties in the field of smokers, but then again, this unit is very highly rated by Amazon customers.

Summary – Masterbuilt 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker

Best Electric Smoker For Beginners
Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker | Amazon
Fuel Source: Electric (800 watts)
Temperature Range (F): Maximum 275
Number of Cooking Racks: 4
Cooking Surface (Square Inches): 711
Weight (Pounds): 50.3
Footprint (W x D x H Inches): 20.5 x 19.9 x 33.3
Warranty: 1 Year
Pros:
  • Very easy to use
  • Ability to add pellets without letting heat out
  • Viewing window
  • Highly rated
Cons:
  • Small pellet area
  • No internal meat probe
  • No wheels
  • Needs to be placed near electricty outlet
  • Short warranty
  • Cover not included
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Who is the Masterbuilt MB20070421 Digital Electric Smoker best for?

This unit would suit a potential smoker with an average size family who wants something that is easy to use but which produces great food. Very little babysitting is required, so the social butterfly with a beer in his hand will appreciate that.

Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker (Best Pellet Smoker For Beginners)

Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet SmokerThe Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker is super easy to use. Its auto igniter, automatic start and cool down, digital control with a display, and stainless-steel thermometer team up to take the guesswork out.

This unit is horizontally oriented and has a main cooking area of 341 square inches and an upper rack of 124 square inches, giving a total 465 square inches. To help you visualize the size, you can fit 20 4-inch burgers or 4 whole chickens, 4 pork butts, or 4 full-size racks of ribs over the total area.

The combination of the racks can be used for smoking, char-grilling, barbecuing, grilling, roasting, searing, braising, and baking. If the upper rack is not in use, it can be used as a warming rack or removed. These grids are constructed of hardy porcelain-coated steel which is easier to clean than a standard steel or cast-iron grid.

Although there is a temperature display in the lid, it’s a good idea for food safety to check the internal temperature of your cooking with a meat thermometer.

The pellets are placed in the hopper on the left-hand side, so no heat will escape by opening the lid. The hopper has a 5-pound capacity, which means that depending on the length of the cook, you may need to refill the pellets.

Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Smoker Pellet Shute

This unit is designed to make cleaning up easy.  The grease drains into a silver bucket which lifts off to be emptied and washed.  The unused pellets and ash can be emptied without much effort.

The rustproof cooking racks can be removed and washed in soapy hot water; being chrome-plated, this will be pretty straightforward.

Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Smoker Bottle Opener and Grease Bucket

This Pit Boss is constructed of durable steel and is finished with a high-temperature powder coating. It has a solid bottom shelf for your tools and accessories, a side shelf that can be used as a serving tray, plus a bottle opener! And I think the black and mahogany theme will look great on anybody’s patio.

Summary – Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

Best Pellet Smoker For Beginners
Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill | Amazon
$337.62
Fuel Source: Wood pellets
Temperature Range (F): 180-500
Number of Cooking Racks: 1 Main Rack + 1 Upper Rack
Cooking Surface (Square Inches): 465
Hopper Capacity (Pounds): 5
Weight (Pounds): 83.3
Footprint (W x D x H Inches): 24.02 x 50.2 x 39.8
Warranty: 5 Years
Pros:
  • Extremely versatile
  • Has wheels
  • Bottle opener on leg
  • Long warranty
Cons:
  • Small hopper capacity
  • No meat probe included
  • Needs to be located near an electrical outlet
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08/14/2022 11:33 am GMT

Who is the Pit Boss PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker best for?

This unit would suit someone who is looking for a true smoky taste but doesn’t want the hassle of complicated fire lighting and monitoring.

Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36 Inch Propane Smoker (Best Gas Smoker For Beginners)

Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane SmokerThe Cuisinart COS-244 was easily our choice for the best propane gas smoker for beginners due to its thoughtful design.

This Tardis-like smoker offers a lot of cooking space, but it also has a small footprint, making it an excellent choice for patios. There are 4 stainless steel cooking racks, each measuring 14 inches square. You’ll need to cut a standard brisket in two for it to fit, but other items such as ribs should be able to be placed diagonally on the rack. The racks are removable, meaning you can shuffle them depending on what you’re smoking and make room for larger items.

The door handles twist to lock, providing a tight seal when closed, and the handles will stay cool during the cook. There are 2 doors, which means you won’t be letting the heat and smoke out of the cooking chamber when you top up your water or wood chips.

The steel tray in the bottom of the unit is coated in a porcelain enamel, making cleaning very easy. The tray has an internal ring, where the wood chips will sit. Wood chips aren’t necessary, but they are certainly required if you’re aiming for a smoky result.

The water is placed in the outer ring, creating a bath around the wood chips. This will ensure that the steam and smoke are combined, providing moisture and that great smoky taste.

Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker Water Chips Tray

You’ll have control over the smoke and heat by manipulation of the rear vent, the water bath, keeping the door tightly closed, and of course, the temperature control at the bottom of the unit.

The temperature control will take a bit of experimenting at the beginning until you find what works for you. You might like to mark the dial where the heat level is best for future cooks.
Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker Facts

The propane tank (not included) is connected to the smoker by a 40-inch hose, which gives some flexibility regarding placement. The regulator is designed for a standard propane tank and is adjustable to control the heat level. But keep in mind that you’re looking for “low and slow” when smoking.

There is a thermometer built into the top door to give you an idea of internal temperature. However, for food safety reasons, we recommend that you check the temperature of your food with a meat thermometer before serving.

With the helpful placement of the vent at the rear of the unit, the top of the smoker is free to hold your tools and a beer.

Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker Vents

The cover for the Cuisinart COS-244 needs to be purchased separately. It has Velcro straps and is designed for you to be able to use the side handles for transporting the smoker even when the cover is on.

The warranty is for 3 years, which reflects Cuisinart’s excellent reputation.

Summary – Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36″ Propane Smoker

Best Gas Smoker For Beginners
Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36-Inch Propane Smoker | Amazon
$234.99
Fuel Source: Propane Gas
Temperature Range (F): Low to High
Number of Cooking Racks: 4
Cooking Surface (Square Inches): 784
Weight (Pounds): 69.50
Footprint (W x D x H Inches): 18.1 x 19.3 x 38.6
Warranty: 3 Years
Pros:
  • Lots of cooking space
  • 2 Doors
  • Twist locking door
  • Long propane hose
  • Small footprint
  • Handle on each side
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • Non-specific temperature selection
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08/14/2022 01:04 am GMT

Who is the Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36″ Propane Smoker best for?

This smoker would suit someone who has knowledge about handling propane tanks and the safety measures required.  It’s a great choice for a budget-conscious family and offers value for money with the expansive cooking space.

Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker (Best Budget Smoker For Beginners)

Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric SmokerHere is your best choice if you’re working to a budget. This is a hardworking smoker with no flashy extra features; Masterbuilt has gone out of its way to make this a productive and efficient smoker at the lowest possible price.

The fuel source is a powerful 1500-watt heating element that runs on electricity, so very little monitoring is required. Of course, you’ll need to place this smoker within reach of a power outlet.

The 3 chrome-coated cooking racks provide 536 square inches of smoking space. That’s up to 3 chickens, 2 turkeys, 3 racks of ribs, or 3 port butts.

There is a fitted rack holding the water pan and the wood chip tray just above the heating element at the bottom of the smoker. The water and wood chips need to be checked about every 4 hours. Unfortunately, because there is only one door, some heat and smoke will escape whenever you check them, but this shouldn’t be too often.

Masterbuilt 20070210 Water Tray

The temperature is set by moving the dial on the analog power controller at the side of the smoker. The dial has choices from “Low” to “High” with no mention of temperature. This is something you’ll need to get used to over your first few cooks. When you know what temperature suits you, you can mark it on the controller if you wish.

There is a thermometer built into the door. This will give you an idea of the heat level, but you should use a meat thermometer on the food before serving it.

Masterbuilt 20070210 Thermometer

There are no dampers or vents in this smoker. There is a hole at the back of the unit to allow smoke to escape.

This unit is constructed of cast iron and has an inner wall but is not insulated or treated with a protective coating. For this reason, the smoker will need to be seasoned before the first use to prevent rust. By using your time to season the smoker, you have saved the money that Masterbuilt would have spent doing a protective coating.

Cleaning will be a snap. The cooking racks are chrome plated and can be washed in hot water with dish soap. They need to be completely dry before you put them back in the smoker.

The rack that the water pan and the wood chip tray sit on slides out. The pan and the tray are lifted out and can be easily emptied and washed. This sliding mechanism is specifically for the cleaning process. If you try to slide it out during the cook, you may burn yourself or spill the liquid out of the water pan and maybe burn yourself on that.

The grease bucket is under the smoker with access from the front. This’ll make cleanup easy. Keep in mind that you should check this through the smoking process in case it needs emptying.

This smoker weighs 49.86 pounds and does not have wheels. It does have a metal handle on each side for moving it. I think it would be better if 2 people were involved in moving it out of the garage.

Masterbuilt 20070210 Full View with andles

Summary – Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker

Best Budget Smoker For Beginners
Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker | Amazon
$218.58
Fuel Source: Electric
Temperature Range (F): Low To High
Number of Cooking Racks: 3
Cooking Surface (Square Inches): 536
Weight (Pounds): 49.86
Footprint (W x D x H Inches): 21.69 x 20 x 40.15
Warranty: 1 Year
Pros:
  • Very easy to use
  • Easy ash and grease removal
  • Little monitoring required
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • Only one door
  • Temperature needs experimentation at first
  • No control over airflow
  • No viewing window
  • Needs to be positioned near a power outlet
  • Short warranty
  • No cover included
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08/14/2022 01:13 am GMT

Who is the Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker best for?

The Masterbuilt Analog Electric Smoker is for someone who doesn’t want lots of bells and whistles, such as WiFi or Bluetooth. They know that fewer extra additions have saved money in its manufacture, and now they will reap the reward.

They like the idea of getting to know the smoker and its temperature preferences and they appreciate that once the cook is started, there is little monitoring required. And they especially love an easy cleanup.

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker (Best Charcoal Smoker For Beginners)

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 InchesAs we noted previously, we don’t recommend a charcoal smoker for beginners, but if you’re keen, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker is a tried-and-true water smoker. Its unique bullet shape is designed with smoking efficiency and comfort in mind.

This smoker is assembled in a stack rather than bolted or clipped in. You just lift each powder-coated steel piece off when you need to transport it. It stands on 3 rustproof legs and has a heat shield on the base to protect the deck, patio or grass below it from the temperature generated by the charcoal.

The bottom piece contains the charcoal ring. The middle section allows access to the charcoal, water, and the lower cooking grate. The top piece, the lid, reveals the upper cooking grate. The lid has an inbuilt thermometer and a vent, and a heat-resistant handle for your safety.

The lid doesn’t have a hinge, so you need to keep something close by to set the lid down when you need to check your food. We’ve found a handy hinge kit if this is something you want, and we’ve included it in our full review of the Weber Smokey Mountain.

It has 2 round cooking grates that measure 18.5 inches across and which allow 481 square inches of cooking space. You can fit in 4 racks of ribs. Or it’s big enough to take a full-size turkey.

There are 2 doors, which means that the heat and smoke won’t waft out when you’re checking the water and charcoal. The temperature is adjusted by using the dampers. There is one in the lid and three in the bottom section.

There is a large water bowl that will act as a heat sink, taking in the heat and letting it out gradually. It will also produce a humid atmosphere, which will assist the meat to stay moist. The water bowl will also catch the stray drippings during the cook. The only thing is, you can’t really see the water level – you need to pull the bowl out to check it. But as I said, the cooking chamber remains closed so this should not be a problem.

I love the very well-designed port for your meat probe wires. It’s a soft silicone grommet that protects the wires from the heat and also wrangles them all into one spot. No more closing the lid on top of the wires.

Weber Smokey Mountain Silicone Meat Probe Port

This smoker is a space-saver and won’t take up too much room on your patio. Keep in mind that it is quite low in height for this reason, so there may be some bending involved in tending to the cook.

A cover is included and there is great customer service at the other end of the phone line.

This unit weighs 47 pounds, and it has no wheels and no side handles. However, wheels are not necessary because the smoker comes apart into 3 sections. This is also good news for storage; if it won’t fit in your garage as is, you can put the sections wherever they fit in the cupboard or on a shelf. And if you’re taking the smoker with you on vacation, it’ll be much easier to fit into your car in 3 sections.

Summary – Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker

Best Charcoal Smoker For Beginners
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker Cooker | Amazon
$419.00
Fuel Source: Charcoal
Number of Cooking Racks: 2
Cooking Surface (Square Inches): 481
Weight (Pounds): 47
Footprint (W x D x H Inches): 19 x 21 x 41
Warranty: 10 Years Total
Pros:
  • Charcoal and water can be added without opening the cooking chamber
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Readymade port for internal temperature probes
  • Space saver
  • 3 Sizes to choose from
  • Cover included
  • Customer support available
Cons:
  • Low to the ground; bending required
  • Water level hard to see during cook
  • No hinge on lid, but hinge kit is available
  • Some smoke may escape the door
  • No side handles, but smoker dismantles into 3 pieces
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08/14/2022 01:10 am GMT

Who is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker best for?

The Weber Smokey Mountain would be great for someone who needs a smoker that can be transported easily in the car or to and from the garage. Anyone looking for an easy-to-use and easy-to-clean charcoal smoker would love this one. It doesn’t require much monitoring after the smoking session has started; about every hour or so. Someone who likes an almost set-and-forget situation would appreciate this smoker.

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker (Best Offset Smoker For Beginners)

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal SmokerYes, we said that offset smokers were not the best choice for beginners. And we said the same thing about charcoal smokers. But just in case you wish to start as you mean to go on….

The Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker is a workhorse smoker in the traditional offset style. It doesn’t have any fancy attachments, but it stands ready to do its job. It’ll take some time for you to get used to the temperature and airflow control, but once you do, you’ll have perfectly smoked meat to show off to your friends.

This highly-rated smoker boasts 6 removable height-adjustable cooking grates that hold up to 25 pounds of food each. That’s 150 pounds in total without taking up too much of your backyard. You’ll be able to cook a lot of briskets, but not in whole pieces; they’ll need to be cut to fit. Ribs will also need to be cut, but baby back ribs should be fine.

Dyna-Glo-Vertical-Offset-Charcoal-Smoker-DGO1176BDC-D-lifestyle-shot

This unit is constructed of powder-coated 14-gauge steel. The firebox is coated in porcelain enamel, but the cooking grates have no coating and will require washing and drying after each cook. Due to the thinner steel, this smoker finds it hard to stay at the correct temperature in very cold weather.

There is a smoke leak between the firebox and cooking chamber, but this can be fixed with some smoker gasket tape.

For temperature control, there is an adjustable side damper and a smokestack damper in the form of a chimney. There is a built-in thermometer in the main door, which includes a handy “smoke zone” to let you know when you’re in the most common smoking temperature range.

The heat is not evenly distributed, as is the case in offset smokers. It is very predictable though, with higher temperatures at the top of the cooking chamber. This area should be reserved for meat, while vegetables and fish can go on a lower rack.

The firebox is behind its own separate door, which means you won’t let all the heat and smoke out when you tend to the charcoal or wood chips. The charcoal basket is designed to hold its contents tightly to aid in fuel efficiency and make it easier to handle. It also is on a sliding rack, making it easy to access without needing to lift it.

Both the door handles are quick-release and are designed to stay cool for your safety.

There is an effective ash removal and grease-catching system for easy cleanup, although, as noted earlier, the cooking grates need to be attended to after every smoking session.

Dyna-Glo-Vertical-Offset-Charcoal-Smoker-DGO1176BDC-D-pull-out-tray

At a weight of 57 pounds and handles placed on either side, it really needs 2 people to transport it anywhere. The cover for the Dyna-Glo DG01176BDC-D is not included but can be purchased separately.

The warranty period is quite short at one year, but there are no electronics with this smoker and most problems should show themselves within that time.

Summary – Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

Best Offset Smoker For Beginners
Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker | Amazon
$190.00
Fuel Source: Charcoal
Number of Cooking Racks: 6
Cooking Surface (Square Inches): 1176
Weight (Pounds): 57
Footprint (W x D x H Inches): 34.52 x 20.2 x 47.03
Warranty: 1 Year
Pros:
  • Lots of cooking area without taking up too much space
  • Built-in thermometer with a "smoke zone"
  • Two doors
  • Easy removal of ash and grease
  • Few moving parts, no electronics or circuits to burn out
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • Uneven but predictable heat
  • Grates not big enough for whole brisket
  • No port for internal temperature probes
  • Smoke leaks from gaps between firebox and cooking area
  • Not suitable for use in very cold weather
  • Takes a bit of getting used to in terms of temperature and airflow
  • Short warranty
  • No cover included
View on Amazon See Our Full Review Here
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08/14/2022 12:32 pm GMT

Who is the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker best for?

This unit would suit someone who wants to learn about smoking in the traditional way and someone who doesn’t mind monitoring the smoker during the cook. If you’re looking for a self-respecting and serviceable smoker, this may be the one for you.

What’s The Best Type Of Smoker For Beginners?

Beginners who want a flavorful result without pulling their hair out would consider a pellet smoker or an electric smoker.

We do not advise beginners to try a charcoal smoker or offset (horizontal) smoker as their first smoking experience. Although, if you’re willing to take the time to learn about these beasts and then have the ongoing patience to operate them successfully, then give them a try.  Let’s have a look at the different types of smokers more closely.

Types Of Smokers

Smokers come in lots of shapes depending on their fuel source and how they operate.  We can group smokers according to their fueling source. And there are quite a few to choose from.

Pellet Smokers

How Do Pellet Smoker Grills Work?

Food-grade wood pellets, which you load into the storage hopper, are the fuel for a pellet smoker, also known as a pellet grill. They are then gradually and automatically moved to the fire area by the auger, a metal rod in the shape of a corkscrew.

The pellets are automatically ignited by a ‘hot rod’, which is an electric ignition rod. An electronic regulator monitors the temperature.

The pellet smoker also has an internal fan, which drives air into the fire area, feeding the fire and pushing the smoke around the cooking chamber and then out through the chimney.

At lower temperatures, there will be more smoke, adding more flavor to the food. At higher temperatures, there will be practically no smoke at all.

Advantages Of Pellet Smokers

• Versatility – you can smoke, grill, sear or bake just about anything
• Flavor – the wood pellets provide the flavored smoky taste to your food
• Easy to Use – did you notice how many times the word “automatic” appears in the description above?
• Stress-free cleanup – the pellets are burned to almost nothing, most models have a drip bucket and keep the ash separate from the oil

Disadvantages Of Pellet Smokers

• Needs to be in range of an electric outlet; the smoker is fueled by pellets, but it is run by electricity
• Pricey, but you won’t need to buy a separate BBQ or oven
• Ongoing cost – you’ll need to keep a supply of wood pellets handy

Who Are Pellet Smokers Best For?

Pellet smokers are best for BBQ chefs who want to explore new techniques, but still want a helpful appliance that doesn’t need to be babysat.

Electric Smokers

How Does An Electric Smoker Work?

At the bottom of the electric smoker is an electric rod or set of rods, which is the initial source of the heat.

In some models, they include a wood chip tray where you can add chunks of wood to provide a smoky flavor. The vents in the electric smoker provide a source of oxygen to feed the burning wood chunks.

Above the electric rods and wood chip tray, there is a water pan or tray. At the start it’s filled with cold water, which gradually heats and sends steam upwards, providing a convection cooking effect.

Above the water pan are the cooking racks. You can put the meat directly onto the racks or use a cast-iron food pan. If you’d like less cleanup, there are grill mats available that are designed for using in an oven.

Advantages of Electric Smokers

• Easy to use – once it’s set to go, no babysitting required, except for adding more wood chips if you’re using them
• No extra ongoing cost – if you choose not to use the wood chip tray, electricity will be your only ongoing cost

Disadvantages of Electric Smokers

• Slow to cook – electric smokers operate at lower temperatures than other types of smokers, a better choice for weekend cooking rather than weeknight cooking
• Not much smoke – it’s called a smoker, but the smoke flavor is less noticeable compared to other types of smokers
• Needs to be in range of an electric outlet – of course!

Who Are Electric Smokers Best For?

Electric smokers are best for weekend backyard cooks who would like to have a beer and a chat during the cook.

Gas Smokers

How Does A Gas Smoker Work?

The gas smoker, also known as a propane smoker, is fueled by a propane burner at the bottom of the smoker. Natural gas can also be used with the assistance of the appropriate conversion attachment.

Its heating capacity is measured in BTU (British Thermal Units). As the heating capacity increases, so does the price.

The heating area contains a wood chip tray, which will add some smoke to your cook.

Above the heating area is the water pan. At the beginning of the cook, this is filled with cold water. It has two purposes: to assist with the regulation of temperature and to add steam to the cooking process.

There are vents at the bottom and the top of the smoker. The vents at the bottom allow oxygen to feed the heat, while excess steam can escape from the top vents.

You’ll need to check the fire regulations in your area and building because propane is a combustible liquid.

Advantages of Gas Smokers

• Easy to use – “set and forget”
• Good temperature control – it’s easy to keep a consistent temperature

Disadvantages of Gas Smokers

• Not much smoke – it’s called a smoker, but the smoke flavor is less noticeable compared to other types of smokers
• Ongoing costs – tanks of propane or natural gas if you have a conversion attachment

Who Are Gas Smokers Best For?

Gas smokers are for those BBQ chefs who would prefer not to hang around the smoker and who are looking for a smoker with the feature of consistent temperature.

Charcoal Smokers

How Does A Charcoal Smoker Work?

The charcoal smoker, sometimes referred to as a water smoker, is fueled by coal briquettes. They are loaded into the firebox at the bottom to generate heat. You can add wood chips to the firebox through the cook to add that smoky flavor.

Above the firebox is the water pan. The cold water helps to control the temperature and will provide steam to aid the cooking.

The cooking racks sit above the water pan, where you can place your food directly on the rack or in a cooking pan.

At the very top is the vented lid, which will keep the heat and smoke in, while allowing excess steam out when necessary.

You’ll need to check the fire regulations in your area and building because the lighting of charcoal smokers can be considered dangerous in some situations.

You’ll notice that the feature of “temperature range” is not included in our review of the best charcoal smoker for beginners below because that is entirely up to you, but it should be between 225 and 250F.

Advantages of Charcoal Smokers

• Flavor – your food will be full of that smoky taste

Disadvantages of Charcoal Smokers

• Don’t invite your friends over immediately – it takes some practice to learn to use the charcoal smoker effectively
• Manual lighting of fire – could be a disadvantage for some BBQ chefs
• Babysitting duty – this is not a set and forget appliance, the energy required for setup, monitoring and cleanup
• Time commitment – charcoal smokers are not quick cookers
• Ongoing cost – you’ll need to keep a supply of coal briquettes handy

Who Are Charcoal Smokers Best For?

Charcoal smokers are best for BBQ chefs who love tending their smoker, doing things from scratch, being totally in charge of the outcome.

Offset Smokers

How Does An Offset Smoker Work?

Offset smokers are also known as horizontal smokers. The cooking chamber is the main horizontal area of the smoker, with the firebox offset to the side. The firebox can be accessed without opening the cooking area, keeping the smoke and heat inside.

The heat and smoke from the firebox travel horizontally through the food on the shelves in the cooking area and then exits through the chimney at the end of the barrel. The temperature is controlled by opening and closing both the vents and the chimney.

Advantages of Offset Smokers

• Big cooking area – the horizontal shape of the cooking chamber plus the shelves means that you can cook a lot all at once
• Grill component – some models have a grill section above the firebox to make the smoker more versatile
• Separate firebox – no heat will escape while topping up the fuel

Disadvantages of Offset Smokers

• Not recommended for beginners – it takes some practice to learn to use the offset smoker effectively; even harder to learn than the charcoal smoker
• Babysitting duty – this is not a set and forget appliance, the energy required for setup, monitoring, and cleanup
• Hard to light – the lighting of the fuel is a process that requires patience
• Usually heavy – look for models with wheels

Who Are Offset Smokers Best For?

Offset smokers are best for lifelong BBQ chefs who want to learn the science of heat and cooking in an offset smoker. They also like to stay by their smoker monitoring every wisp of smoke and every fall of the burning wood. No beer until the smoking’s done!

What Is The Easiest Type Of Smoker To Use?

The easiest smoker to use is the electric smoker, closely followed by the pellet smoker. Both types of smokers are easy to use and require minimum monitoring.

Verdict

The best smoker for you as a beginner depends on your choices.  Did you settle on a fuel source?

If not, the Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker would be a great choice for ease of use; it also offers the best value for money.  This smoker has a viewing window, which is one feature that I look for.

On the other hand, if you want to spend less than $200, the Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker might be a better selection.

If you need a truly portable choice that can go up to that mountain cabin with you, the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker would fit that brief.  But remember, a charcoal cooker will take some learning in the short term for beginners.

Wishing you sunny smoking days!

 

Tom Plummer
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