Smoking and grilling are as American as apple pie or that Thanksgiving turkey.
Many would argue you haven’t really lived until you have tried low and slow cooked pulled pork.
Being cooked for 16 hours over a selection of aromatic woods gives a flavor that nothing else comes close to.
It’s not just about the pork.
Brisket just melts on the smoker and it raises chicken to the next level. Even seafood and fish will benefit from the added aromas of a charcoal smoker.
Last Updated: July 27, 2019
By William Clay: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding charcoal smokers available for those who are interested in smoking a perfectly smoked meats. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best charcoal smokers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Originally released in 1981, the Weber Smokey Mountain is regarded to be the best all-round charcoal smoker by many grill enthusiasts.
With the usual Weber quality construction, it has an enameled steel body with porcelain and chrome coated parts.
We looked at the 18.5-inch model, but you can also get the Weber Smokey Mountain in a choice of 14-inch or 22-inch models too.
The 18.5-inch model tends to be the best choice for most people, but everything in this review applies just as much to the other models too.
The 18.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain features 481 square inches of cooking space over two nickel plated 18.5-inch cooking grates. Standing nearly 3.5 feet tall, the Smokey Mountain comes in three sections: a firebox base, a center cooking section and a domed lid.
At just under 40 pounds when assembled, it’s not unthinkable of breaking it down into the three pieces to transport in your trunk.
The Smokey Mountain uses a combination of charcoal and wood to create the heat and smoke in the lower part. The aluminium-lined basket features three adjustable vents to control the airflow and hence regulate the temperature of your smoker.
Above the firebox is the middle section, which features a water bowl, and the two cooking grates with a trap door on the side for refuelling.
The water pan, which sits between the fire and the grilling grates, is where the magic happens. The water bowl not only adds humidity to the smoke chamber, but also helps to maintain a more stable smoking temperature.
With the two nickel-plated racks and large cooking area, you could easily smoke two Boston butts in this smoker. The domed lid features a thermometer with easy-to-read temperatures and a smoke zone indicator for ease of use.
The side compartment door seal is known to be a problem for some, with smoke and/or heat escaping. When smoke escapes, it’s not too much of a problem and normally means the chamber is completely filled up with smoke. But heat escaping can be an issue, with a whole side industry of replaceable gaskets popping up online.
Other customers have complained the temperature gauge is unreliable, although you can get a third-party thermometer. Personally, when smoking or cooking for longer periods, I would advise investing in an additional probe, whatever smoker you use.
If you are looking for a simple smoker that you can just set up and leave to do its job, the Weber Smokey Mountain range is ideal. If set up correctly, this could continue to smoke for up to 10 hours and longer.
Being one of the best-loved smokers available, there are many online resources to help you get the most of your Smokey Mountain.
These include websites like The Virtual Weber Bullet and a linked discussion forum.
At under $200 for the 18.5-inch model, you are getting a quality smoker featuring a cooking space that rivals competitors costing twice as much. With the industry-leading Weber 10-year warranty, you can rest assured your Smokey Mountain cooker will last for many years.
Standing at 49 inches tall with legs attached, the 36-inch cabinet of this vertical smoker provides space for four grill racks.
This adds up to an impressive 784 square inches of cooking space, with each grate able to accommodate up to 25 pounds of food.
Below the powder-coated steel smoking chamber is a porcelain enameled steel charcoal box.
A heavy-gauge enameled wood chip box can be slid over the hot charcoals for smoke.
It’s recommended you add at least 4 pounds of charcoal, or about 75 briquettes, for a smoke session. The front of the unit features a double door design, one for the charcoal box and the other for the firebox.
Both are double-lined for better insulation and the top door also features a stainless steel temperature gauge. The unit is durable and weighs over 56 pounds when empty.
The larger capacity of this smoker makes it ideal for small businesses or cooking for large groups. This would be ideal for those larger BBQ tournaments, but being solid in one piece, and without wheels, it’s not as portable as other designs.
Although the enamel charcoal chamber may look small at first, it’s been designed this way for a reason. A tighter packing of the briquettes ensures an efficient and steady burn while smoking your meats.
The double door design allows for adding foods much easier than designs that need you to remove the top grates first. The lower door for the firebox aims for refuelling or adding wood chips without too much heat escaping.
It may be easy to set up the smoker and add the meats, but controlling the temperature can take more practice. The Dyna-Glo will need tending more often than the Weber, as each time you open that door, heat escapes.
Some users have commented on the thinner steel used on the smoke chamber compared to the thick gauge steel of the firebox. Heat can easily be lost when cooking.
And finally, the closed design with no removable lid means this smoker can’t be used as a grill. It is also rather bulky for transporting, and probably best in a fixed location in your backyard.
An additional cover is available from Dyna-Glo to protect it from the elements. At 56 pounds, you won’t want to be carrying it indoors too often.
The Dyna-Glo DG780BDC-D offers an affordable vertical smoker with a huge capacity for those large smoking sessions. Many users have commented on how well it smokes food, often with results comparable to cabinets costing 10 times more.
It’s easy to set up and tend to, with the double door design, although keeping the correct temperature will take practice. If you are willing to put the time