Smoke Meat With The Best Charcoal Smoker From The Top BBQ Brands
When you’re hunting for the best charcoal smoker, the plethora of options can feel overwhelming. If you’ve been searching online for the best option, look no further.
A tender, juicy smoked brisket needs a lot of TLC. Maintaining a consistent smoking temperature can be frustrating on a charcoal grill, but a charcoal smoker eliminates much of the hassle.
Our BBQ experts at Fire Food Chef were challenged to find the best options from top smoker brands like Weber, Masterbuilt, Cuisinart and Char-Broil. In our updated charcoal smoker guide, you can check out the 10 best charcoal smoker reviews in detail.
In a hurry? Check out the chart below for the top 10 charcoal smokers of the year.
Weber Smokey Mountain 18” Inch Charcoal Smoker
Why is it better?
Last Updated: April 27, 2020
By William Clay: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding charcoal smokers available for those who want juicy smoked meat. The best 10 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best charcoal smokers currently available on the market.
Smoking food is a long-standing tradition shared across the USA. That said, even for the pros, it takes years of tending to your barbecue pit to get the temperature and smoke just right.
Ranking criteria were based on the following:
If you’re looking for a simple smoker that you can just set up and leave to do its job, the Weber Smokey Mountain range is ideal. Set up correctly, this could continue to smoke for up to 10 hours and longer.
Originally released in 1981, the Weber Smokey Mountain is still considered the best all-round charcoal smoker by many grill enthusiasts. The 18.5-inch model tends to be the most popular choice, but you can also get the Weber Smokey Mountain in a choice of 14-inch or 22-inch models too.
Standing nearly 3.5 feet tall, the Smokey Mountain comes in three sections: a firebox base, a center cooking section and a domed lid. With the usual Weber quality construction, it has an enameled steel body with porcelain and chrome coated parts. At just under 40 pounds, the Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker can be disassembled into the three pieces for ease of portability.
The 18.5-inch Weber Smokey Mountain features 481 square inches of cooking space over two nickel plated 18.5-inch cooking grates. 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.
Utilizing a combination of charcoal and wood, the Weber Smokey Mountain creates the necessary heat and smoke in the lower part. The aluminium-lined basket features three adjustable vents to control the airflow and 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.
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The Dyna Glo Charcoal Smoker is ideal for entertaining a large group, or for those larger BBQ tournaments. Being sold in one piece, and without wheels, though, makes it less portable than other designs. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn, however, you can achieve professional results comparable to smokers that cost 10x more.
Standing at 49 inches tall with legs attached, the Dyna Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker’s 36-inch cabinet provides space for 4 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Setting up the Dyna-Glo and adding your meat is easy, 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. It’s recommended you add at least 4 pounds of charcoal, or about 75 briquettes, for a smoke session.
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 probably won’t want to be carrying it indoors too often.
This latest model of Weber’s iconic grill features a 22-inch diameter porcelain-enameled bowl with a cooking area of 363 square inches. All Weber kettles include a one-touch cleaning system which removes the charcoal and debris out of the bottom of the grill.
Measuring nearly 4-foot long and 49 inches high, the Royal Gourmet grill weighs in at 58.4 pounds. Fortunately, those sturdy wheels make it easy to move around your backyard. The expansive cooking area consists of a main chamber with 440 square inches of grilling space and a 180 square-inch warming rack.
With a total of 782 square inches cooking surface the Royal Gourmet is the largest charcoa smoker considered in this review. It’s actually a combination of a charcoal grill with an offset smoker attached to the side, which comes on a trolley.
The offset smoker provides an extra 182 square inches with the charcoal pan capable of holding 5 pounds of charcoal. The Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill adds a high-capacity ash catcher that can be removed for easy cleaning, rather than the usual steel plate.
Side doors on the main body allow you to add more fuel or remove ash while cooking.
Additionally, a lifting handle allows you to adjust the height of the charcoal bed while cooking.
For anyone who wants to experiment with smoking meats at home, the Char-Broil Bullet 16-inch Charcoal Smoker ticks all the right boxes. The Char-Broil Bullet smoker is a great introduction to backyard smoking at an affordable price. Just like the Weber, this bullet smoker is very easy to use and can be virtually forgotten once set up.
At 31 inches tall, the Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker is shorter than the Smokey Mountain but still weighs a similar 41 pounds. It features an ash pan which can be lifted with handles when cool for an easy clean up. A lid-mounted temperature gauge allows for quick and easy temperature monitoring with airflow controls on the base of the unit.
Rather than have multiple adjustable dampers, an innovative airflow control features a numbered lever which simplifies the temperature regulation. The fire access door is actually cut from the steel body, instead of just being an aluminum hatch. Although it doesn’t include a water reservoir, the dripping pan can be filled with water for a similar effect.
With its removable lid, the Char-Broil Bullet can also be used as a grill, with the 16-inch grill grate providing enough surface for 12–15 burgers. However, since smoking meat normally involves a lower temperature, you’ll need to refresh the coals for a decent sear.
Built for ease of use and portability, the Cuisinart COS-118 is a professional grade charcoal smoker with a vertical barrel. Just light the charcoal, add some wood chunks, fill the water bowl, and load fresh foods on the two interior racks to get started.
Equipped with two 18" stainless steel racks, the Cuisinart Vertical 18” inch Charcoal Smoker offers 510 square inches of cooking space, dual air ventilation, a vertically hinged door, latching base and a porcelain enamel water bowl. With minor adjustments to the air vents you can easily adjust both the temperature and the amount of smoke.
Dual air ventilation gives the Cuisinart Vertical 18” inch superior airflow over other charcoal smokers. Both vents can be opened or closed to adjust the amount of heat and smoke leaving the chamber. And, thanks to the vertical barrel design, heat is distributed more evenly throughout the cooking chamber for a more stable temperature.
Two steel wire racks are included that can be stacked inside the 3.45 square foot smoking chamber. Together they combine to give you enough room to smoke fish, meats, vegetables, or even a whole chicken. To access your food, just lift the lid.
Overall, this is a relatively inexpensive charcoal smoker that performs well, but doesn’t exactly have professional-grade construction. Backed by a 3 year warranty, the Cuisinart Vertical 18” inch Charcoal Smoker is still a great bargain and achieves the required smoking temperatures fairly easily. With routine cleaning after each use, it should easily last you past the warranty.
If you’re looking for the best value smoker on the market, this compact bullet charcoal smoker from Masterbuilt can often be found for under $60. Besides the low price, its compact size and lightweight portability make it ideal for fishing trips, camping weekends or tailgate parties.
Although it’s the most compact smoker in this review, it still features an ample 395 square inches of cooking space over two porcelain coated grill racks. At just 15.6 pounds in weight, this smoker stands 31 inches tall and is 22 inches at its widest point.
A bullet smoker tends to be the easiest to learn to use for most beginners. Simply place some charcoal in the bottom, fill the water pan with boiling water and add your meats to be smoked. Wood chips placed on top of the burning coals can provide that extra smokiness.
For quicker and shorter smokes, the Masterbuilt 20060416 is ideal. Many users have modified the unit and put on extra legs, or drilled holes for more airflow. The limited charcoal space may not get as hot as other smokers. With a little more attention, however, the Masterbuilt will smoke for two to three hours at a time.
As a grill, the Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker generates enough heat to add that smoky flavor, but rarely goes above 300 degrees Fahrenheit in practice. While the 2 shelves and spacious interior can accommodate meats of different sizes, you may struggle to fit a full brisket or rack of ribs.
The Realcook Vertical 17” Inch Steel Charcoal Smoker is a heavy duty, round charcoal smoker and grill for outdoor cooking. Easy to assemble, this sturdy steel smoker has a two-part design that’s easy to assemble, transport and clean. Whether you use it as a grill or smoker, you’ll be impressed by the results of your charcoal-smoked brisket, pork butt, burgers and more!
What makes the Realcook Vertical Charcoal Smoker unique is its 2-piece design. The 2 pieces cooking grids provide a total 453 square inches of cooking space. With its crossbar and 4 hangers inside the lid, you can adjust the space for smoking different sizes and cuts of meat easily.
With 2 access doors available to you, you can add charcoal or wood without losing valuable heat or smoke. If you need to check the status of foods, you can open the upper door. A b uilt-in thermometer with precision temperature scale and adjustable air supply on the lid allows for greater temperature control. Plus, the porcelain-enameled water pan and charcoal pan help to maintain a more stable temperature.
At roughly 20 pounds, the Realcook Vertical 17” Inch Steel Charcoal Smoker isn’t as heavy as some other smokers. The heat resistant, bakelite handles make transport, basting and cooking easier as well.
At first glance, the Backwoods Chubby 3400 looks more like a safe than a charcoal smoker, but don’t let that fool you. This outdoor smoker is one of the best charcoal smokers you can get. Your only regret may be that you didn’t buy this thing sooner.
Weighing a mighty 148 pounds, the Backwoods Chubby is aptly named. Heavy duty steel construction, double walled design, and reverse flow ventilation combine to give it incredible durability and amazing performance.
Thanks to the fully insulated, stainless steel cooking chamber, your charcoal and wood fuel will burn more efficiently, allowing you to maintain hours of smoking if needed. The temperature range is an adequate 180 to 300 degrees fahrenheit, ideal for smoking meat. Depending on the temperature, the Backwoods Chubby can smoke for 6 - 10 hours.
With four cooking racks, there’s enough space in the cabinet to smoke 8 slabs of baby back ribs, 2 - 3 briskets, or 2 - 4 Boston Butts. The door design of the cooker has a flexible gasket, so any probe wires for a thermometer can be used easily even when the cooker door is closed.
Admittedly, the Backwoods Chubby isn’t built for portability, but the set it and forget it performance makes it worth every penny. Quality construction, a powder coated exterior for longer protection will ensure your Backwoods Chubby will serve you well for many years.
You can always expect great quality from Broil King and their charcoal smoker is no exception. It’s not designed for charcoal grilling, but if you’re just interested in a quality charcoal smoker, a Broil King is one of the best places to start. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile charcoal smoker.
The Broil King 923610 Vertical Charcoal Smoker offers 770 square inches of total cooking surface and 4 cubic feet overall cooking capacity. There are 4 adjustable 5 mm stainless steel cooking grids, 1 multi-purpose roast/rib rack, as well as an Ace-Temp thermometer.
The stainless steel grease catch has a folding designed to prevent grease from dripping down the front of the smoker when removing or checking on food.
Using Root-Draft damper technology, the Broil King Vertical Smoker makes it easier to achieve a stable smoking temperature over several hours. The double walled construction and secondary door provide easy access to the extra large stainless steel water bowl and smoker box.
Double walled insulation helps to maintain the internal temperature so you can smoke food just as well in cold or hot weather. It has 2 doors so you only have to open the bottom door to check the water level and add wood without letting heat escape. Since it has door gaskets, the smoking chamber is sealed more tightly.
16 stainless steel meat hooks are also included.
Before the likes of national brands like Weber, Char-Broil, Broil King, and Cuisinart, charcoal smoking was much more straightforward. In fact, the essential elements - a smoke box, lid, coal ring, and racks - could be home made and set up in your backyard.
It looks like a trash can, yes, but it doesn’t perform like one. The Po Man Charcoal Grill is constructed of highly durable rolled steel and stainless metals, so it can endure exposure to the elements as well as high heat.
The Original Po' Man Charcoal Grill gives you all the essential elements of a charcoal grill without the appealing design features of other brands. You can use your Po Man to grill burgers, steaks, pork chops, as well as smoking chicken or roasts.
You’ll find the fire box located at the bottom holds the charcoal. The 23” inch can is designed so that the skewers lock into place once the meat is hung.There is a removable rack positioned above the fire box. Since the design is so straightforward, you can literally set it and forget it once you load your charcoal. Simply light the coals, add the meat, tilt the lid and forget about.
At 20 pounds, the Original Po’ Man is lightweight compared to more heavy duty charcoal smokers. Take it to your camping site, outdoor cookout, or set it up in your backyard. Assembly is very easy, and each of the parts can be cleaned separately to maintain the quality over many years.
There’s nothing better at the end of a day’s camping than to smoke your own meat. You could even sit around the smoker at night, smoking the bacon for the next morning’s breakfast.
Why Choose A Charcoal Smoker?
Electric and gas smokers may be able to create a smoke flavor, but for grill enthusiasts it doesn’t come close to charcoal.
The main reason is charcoal creates more smoke than pellet, gas or electric, with a wider range of flavor molecules.
More complex organic molecules, including cellulose and lignin are found in combustible gases when charcoal is burnt. These gases mix with the smoke from wood chips or chunks to give that distinctive flavor of Southern barbecue.
The type of smoker you choose to purchase will often dictate the size. There are 3 basic types you’ll come across:
If you want something you can leave in the backyard throughout the year, the larger the better. If backyard space is limited, then a vertical charcoal smoker or larger bullet smoker can be the solution.
Directly related to the actual size is the cooking area the charcoal smoker offers. Remember, most of the meats which are best for smoking also tend to come in big chunks. Racks of ribs, Boston butts of pork shoulder and cuts of brisket aren’t normally small.
Keep these tips in mind when considering the size of the cooking area that best suits your needs:
Cleaning And Maintenance
A charcoal smoker is used for much longer periods than a traditional grill. Ash, debris and grease soon builds up. As with all grilling equipment, routine maintenance and cleaning can reduce the risk of food poisoning, and extend the life of your smoker.
With a charcoal smoker you don’t have to worry about electrical components or gas pipes that could get damaged. These tips, however, will help you pick a smoker that is easy to relatively easy to clean:
Deliciously seared, charcoal-smoked meat isn’t easy to achieve. With experience and the right smoker, however, your charcoal smoked recipes will leave a lasting impression on your BBQ guests.
If you’ve always wondered about dabbling in the world of charcoal smoking, this buying guide will help you invest wisely in the best option for your needs.
Any of the top ten smokers included in the reviews will do an equally good job of smoking your meat. With a little practice and the best charcoal smoker, you will soon be smoking meat like the pros!
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.