Before we unveil our best meat smoker, let us understand what smoking is and the different types of smoking we have. Smoking is the process of adding flavour, browning, which involves reducing fats from meat, cooking, or preserving food by allowing smoke to pass over the foods. The smoke is mainly developed from the different kinds of smoking woods such as apple, cherry, oak, hickory, pecan, and plum wood chunks, chips, or pellets added to the fuel source. The fuel source can be charcoal, gas, electricity, or even wood itself. Traditionally food was directly smoked over a fire from the woods, and this highly led to the burning of the foods. With the modification in technology, there has been the development of modern smokers that have led to better ways of smoking meat, chicken, bananas, and fish using different fuel generation.
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Best Overall meat Smoker: Masterbuilt-130B digital
Best charcoal meat smoker: Weber 14402001 Original Kettle Charcoal Grill
Extraordinary Gas meat smoker: Char-Broil smoker, Roaster, and grill.
Best Pellet smoker: Z-GRILLS-ZPG-450A-2019-Upgrade-Model
Budget-friendly offset smoker: Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D
Most portable gas smoker: Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24
Types of Meat Smokers
A smoker is a piece of simple equipment that comprises segments, where one places his or her meat, chicken, or fish. Flavoured woods for the smoking of chicken or other foods are placed on another tray to form the smoke when the fuel source is switched on. Smoking can be done with the smoker closed or opened, depending on the depth of flavor on wants.
We have different types of smokers, mainly based on the primary fuel source. These include:
The main unique feature of the propane smoker is the source of heat. Heat is generated from the gas container/cylinder, which is attached to the smoker. The gas cylinder may require refilling. With the addition of smoking woods, smoke is created to add flavour to the meat. The main pronounced advantage of the gas smoker is the ease of controlling the temperature. Thus, making it much easier to adjust heat than with a charcoal or pellet smoker. Our top recommended gas smoker is Char-Broil smoker.
Charcoal smokers, such as bullet smokers, ceramic kamado ovens, and drum smokers, utilize charcoal as the primary source of heat. They comprise of a firebox where the charcoal, together with smoke woods, is placed to generate heat for smoke. In between the Smoker, there is a water pan just above the firebox to cool the temperatures while smoking. More so the smoker has got a cooking chamber where the food or meat is placed with a lid on top to let the smoke out. Our recommended charcoal smoker is Weber 14402001 Original Kettle Charcoal Grill.
An electric smoker is one of the known convenient smokers. It consists of an electric heating element capable of varying the heating temperature from that of cold temperatures to about hot smoking 135oC. Comparing the electric smoker to charcoal and pellet smoker is that they produce less flavor but can be uplifted by adding wood chips. We recommend Masterbuilt-130B Digital meat smoker as the best electric smoker.
With the pellet smoker commonly known as pellet grills, pellets are the source of fuel to generate heat and smoke. It automatically controls the temperature with the heat sensor within the heat box. They can do all that which can be done by charcoal smokers, gas grills, and kitchen ovens. From the gravity-fed hopper, the motor automatically feeds the pellets to the heat box. With the pellet grill/ smoker, one can bake, smoke, and also grill thumbs. The best pellet smoker is Z–GRILLS-ZPG-450A-2019-Upgrade-Model.
What Is The Best Meat Smoker? – Our Review of The Top 6 Picks
#1 Masterbuilt-130B-Digital meat smoker
If you want to forget about lightening up the charcoal for smoking, utilize an electric smoker. And if one mentions “electric meat smoker”, let your first thoughts run to the Master built electric smoker. This smoker has got a large capacity, enough to smoke 2 Turkeys, 4 Pork Butts, 4 Racks of Ribs, 6 Chickens all at once. Plus, it is equipped with the advanced technology of remote controlling the smoking process.
With this meat smoker, you can smoke up to 275ᵒ F. It has an automatic digital control panel that on/offs the cooking temperature and time. The thermostat generates even heat distribution, hence enabling you to achieve even smoking on all grates of the smoker. Forget about opening the door of your smoker, especially when you are adding wood chips. Masterbuilt-130B-digital meat smoker has got a wood chip loading system, which allows you to add wood chips during the smoking process, without opening the door. This helps to maintain constant heat in the chamber throughout the smoking process.
In case you want to crisp the chicken or finish ribs with sticky sauce, Masterbuilt-130B digital meat smoker has a broiling element that can handle that for you.
- Large smoking area
- Very easy to use, one does not require training to use the machine as no assembling like the charcoal smokers is needed.
- Limited to areas with electricity
#2 Weber 14402001 Original Kettle Charcoal Grill and Meat smoker
Though most people prefer calling it the best griller, Weber 14402001 is also among the best meat smokers’ with an addition of wood chips which generates the smoke flavours. It is portable, with only 22-inch in diameter, bowl and lid with a cooking area of 363 square inches. This area is enough for you to smoke a whole turkey or grill six chicken breasts at once.
The cooking grate of the Weber 14402001 smoker/griller is cast with steel, giving you all the hopes to last longer than you expect.
Weber 14402001 original kettle charcoal meat smoker will also make your life easier. This is because; The cooking grate is easy to clean. In addition, it and retains heat until the cooking process is over. Plus, it is hinged for easy adding of charcoal while grilling/smoking, without the need first to lift it out.
Next is the easy procedure of assembling the meat smoker. Although some people find the legs hard to assemble, with practice, it becomes easy. To start grilling, fill charcoal on the fuel grate and add some wood chips to generate the smoke, this can be directly or indirectly. With direct smoking, place your meat just above the burning charcoal and for indirect smoking fill half of the fuel plate with charcoal and place your food on the grate without charcoal.
More to love about this meat smoker
Temperature control is precise and a breeze with Weber 14402001 original kettle charcoal grill and meat smoker. You just adjust the dampers, but don’t fully cover them as you can stop oxygen supply to the charcoal.
When done with smoking, cleaning the smoker is too easy. Below the fuel grate, there is a removable ash catcher which collects the ashes during smoking. Just remove this after smoking and pour away the ashes.
Furthermore, when cooking, you do not have to get worried about holding the lid handle as it is heat shielded to prevent you from burning yourself.
With the Weber 14402001 charcoal meat smoker, you can hang your grilling tools on the hooks. This helps to ensure that your smoking area is not disorganized. You can quickly locate and access all your tools without having to look everywhere around the smoking area.
Also, this smoker is mobile and easy to move thanks to the durable wheels. You can move your smoker from one place to another with ease. Let us enjoy our barbeque beside the riverbanks with this fantastic meat smoker.
#3 Char-Broil (3 in 1 Smoker, Roaster and grill)
Char-Broil, the big easy to use 3-in 1 (Smoker, Roaster & Grill) is incorporated with a TRU-Infrared cooking technology. This technology allows you to cook your food evenly, and also ensures even distribution of smoke flavour.
Furthermore, the smoker comes with various accessories. This include; the cooking chamber, smoking and roasting basket, removable grease tray, hose with regulator, basket lift hook, two half shelves, smoker box, and a product guide.
Char-Broil meat smoker is ultimately versatile, hence among the best meat smoker you can buy. It has about 1200 square inch smoking area, which is enough for a full turkey. The roasting basket of Char-Broil meat smoker can accommodate 20lbs of turkey. Additionally, its removable grilling grate, which when hot use an oven mitt to carry them out which is 180 square inches, is enough for your burgers, meat chops, vegetables, chickens, and all other kinds of foods.
The TRU- infrared cooking technology allows your chicken or turkey to grab less oil when roasting, preventing your turkey from getting soaked.
While smoking, you do not have to open the unit as the smoker box can be accessed from the outside of the unit, which allows putting more smoke wood chips with a lot of ease.
Char-Broil meat smoker incorporates an in-built thermometer to help you monitor the temperature in the smoking area.
This gas meat smoker is also portable and easy to move during a picnic or outdoor barbecue. It is light, with only 50lbs in weight, and has got two handles for one to hold while carrying the smoker.
Being a gas meat smoker, you need to buy a gas cylinder to hold your gas separately from the smoker.
Do not forget that with this smoker, you can still bake or make bread by placing your dough in the cook chamber.
#4 Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Meat smoker
Before I even talk about the other benefits of owning the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A wood pellet grill & smoker, let me point out its attractive and stylish design. Its beautiful designs and look will surely captivate you and your guests. Also, the smoker is painted with stainless steel for a more extended stay. This is one of the best meat smokers, because, with it, it is possible to grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise or BBQ depending on your choice.
The meat smoker uses wood pellets as the source of fuel to generate heat and smoke that adds a flavour to your meat. The most fun about this smoker is the automatic pellet system which monitors the temperature in the cooking area and then loads pellets from the chopper hence maintaining your set temperature in the range without falling or raising by 10 degrees. This ensures that your food cooks evenly and faster.
It has got a wide range of cooking temperatures to chose from. Running from 180 to 450 degrees. The temperature is controlled automatically with a wide LED display. Hence, you can forget about babysitting the smoker and continue with other work.
Plus, it is straightforward to use. You just push the start button.
More interesting benefits to own this meat smoker
When it comes to capacity, the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Meat smoker has got 450 square inches grilling area, with a 15-pound hopper capacity. The working shelf is foldable so one can open and close during and after smoking. Additionally, the cover and racks of the smoker are rustproof.
Cleaning up of the Z GRILL smoker is easy. It has got a waste Oil collector to assist you with the safe and secure cleanup.
The smoker is compact and easy to move as the wheels on the ground can handle heavy duties moving the smoker from one location to another. Trust this Z GRILL ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker. This US-based brand is one of the best meat smokers, and you will not need another pellet smoker.
- Easy to use, assemble and clean
- Very consistent when it comes to temperature control.
- The flavour is not that too strong
#5 Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Meat Smoker
Are you looking for a large capacity smoker unit that does not take up much storage space, while being budget-friendly? Then the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Meat Smoker is what you should have. It makes our top picks of best meat smokers because it opens the door to barbeque all kinds of food from brisket to ribs and vegetables. Its vertical design, which smoothly calls for naturally rising heat, enables efficiency and improved smoke flavour to meat in the cooking grates.
The meat smoker has got an offset design which means it indirectly smokes your food, hence preserving it from getting burnt from the high heat. The charcoal chamber is large enough to carry both charcoal and wood chips and is also durable to withstand the high heat after long hours.
Moreso, the charcoal chamber has got a holder which easily enables one to add wood chips or charcoal during smoking.
Below the charcoal holder, there is a removable steel ash pan, which collects ash while smoking.
For your smoking, the meat smoker has got six cooking grates, which are just enough or even more for those preparing large sums of food. For better results of smoking, place the soft foods such as vegetables and fish on the first grates. The hard ones which require more heat, like the meat, put those close to the fire.
Additionally, the meat smoker has got a smokestack which boosts your cooking and controls your temperature. The smoker carries a built-in, stainless steel thermometer mostly referred to as “the smoke Zone” This shows the ideal temperature for adjusting your smoke flavour.
An easy-to-read gauge that enables you to have evenly smoked food. Let us open the door to barbeque all foods from brisket to ribs and vegetables while using the Dyna-Glo meat Smoker.
- It has got a large capacity of about 1176 square inches of total cooking space with a 25-pounds capacity per grate.
- Amazing offset design that gives the best smoke flavour ever.
- Easy to clean the smoker starting from the removable ash collector.
- A temperature gauge enables one to monitor the temperatures in the smoking area.
- Has got a large charcoal chamber that is easy to handle.
- Easy to assemble.
- During colder weather, the steel may lose heat so fast as it is thin.
#6 Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24
Meet an excellent, quite easy to use, and portable gas smoker that infuses a unique smoked flavour to your meat. The Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 is indeed one of the best meat smokers and will be an excellent choice for you. If you love smoking, grilling, baking, this meat smoker will entirely make your dream come true. You can use the Camp Chef vault smoker for a variety of foods, from ribs to a whole turkey, burger, cakes.
This simple meat smoker uses gas as the source of fuel. The smoker has got two cooking grids and one Jerky Rack, where you can place your already smoked meat.
Furthermore, for better air circulation to keep the smoke ignited, the smoker has three adjustable damper valves; one on top to let out air and the other two on each side of the Vault to let in air.
In addition to the dampers, the meat smoker has got an adjustable heat-control dial, and door thermometer. This will help you manage the heat and temperature inside the smoker.
Through the cooking process, temperature runs in a range of 160OF to 350oF with an output of 18,000 BTU/hr. For extra flavour to your food, add some wood chips to the smoker by placing them in the heavy-gauge steel wood chip tray and water pan. These will add a permanent flavour to your food.
Compared with other gas smokers, this smoker is lightweight. It weighs only 75lbs, 44 inches in height. When you buy yourself the Camp Chef smoke Vault 24, you receive some cooking tips, ideas, and recipes. Hence, You don’t have to worry, even when you are new to the smoking field. Lock in the wonderful smoke flavours with the help of camp chef smoker.
- The smoking grids can be adjusted from one height to another
- Very easy to clean because of the removable porcelain base tray which collects the ash from the wood.
- Best for smaller occasions but in case you don’t mind about prepare your food in shifts then this is a great gas smoker.
- Propane smokers are known for having less flavor so you should always add wood chips or pellets if you are a fun of intense flavor.
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Types of Smoking Food – (Forms of Smoking Food)
Though most of us are used to smoking as a method of cooking meat, making it ready to consume. However, smoking is not only limited to cooking. It can be used to achieve many goals, depending on the type of smoking.
There are many types of smoking, as explained below;
Cold Smoking of Meat
With cold smoking, temperatures are set at 20 to 30 °C (68 to 86 °F). This type of smoking is basically employed with the aim of preserving food, which may be cooked later using other methods. The food, meat, chicken, or fish remains raw but acquires the flavour from the smoke. During further cooking or frying, the food will remain with the flavour from the smoke. During cold smoking, The meat, such as chicken breasts, beef, pork chops, salmon, scallops, and steak are smeared with salt, curry powder, and seasoning, then placed in a meat smoker. Cold smoked food should not be consumed there and then before further cooking it or hot smoking it again.
Hot Smoking of Meat
During hot smoking, meat, such as chicken, pork or fish is placed in an enclosed temperature-controlled environment such as in a meat smoker. In hot smoking, higher temperatures are used 52 to 80 °C (126 to 176 °F) compared to cold smoking. Just like cold smoking, hot smoking requires the use of a meat smoker, which generates heat from its source of fuel.
The fuel source of the smoker can be a charcoal base, electrically heated element within the smoker or from a stove-top or oven with the addition of woods or pellets that produces smoke that flavours the meat. For better results from your smoking hung the beef first to develop a pellicle then continue with smoking for about 1 hour to 2 hours and then enjoy your food. Since during hot smoking higher temperatures are used 52 to 80 °C (126 to 176 °F) the foods are always ready to be consumed immediately, but also still can further be cooked or fried for source purposes.
Smoke Roasting of Meat
Smoke roasting is commonly known as barbecuing in North America, and it involves both roasting and smoking. The process of smoking is usually done in a smoke-roaster, closed wood-fired oven, or a barbecue pit, or using any smoker that can reach above 121 °C (250 °F). Some people use conventional ovens by placing woods or wood chips below the oven which generates the smoke.
Meat Smoker Buying Guide – What To Look For In The Best Meat Smoker
Before buying anything, one will always first ask him or herself a lot of questions, starting from; Why I need to buy this appliance?; How much is it?; What brand do I need?; and a lot more. I know, even when it comes to buying the best meat smoker, the same questions will come to your mind. We have put together this meat smoker buying guide to help you in making the best choice for your meat smoker.
To buy the best meat smoker, these are the things you should consider;
Meat Smoker Capacity
The smoker capacity is determined by how much amount of food you wish to be smoking or grilling in your meat smoker chamber. Meat smokers come in different sizes, starting from small to large for smoking turkey, up to smoking the whole cow chest. Are you planning to buy just for your small family? Just go for a smaller sized one. If you are planning for a big family or commercial use, then a large smoker will appreciatively work for you.
Before buying a meat smoker, first, check for its portability. This refers to whether it can be moved from one place to another. Most smokers can be assembled at the location of use and then after, dismantled to be taken back for storage. Such smokers are considered as portable meat smokers. When the smoker is portable, it becomes even easy to clean, and then also to store it. However, some people will not mind about the portability of the smoker, especially in a case where they have a permanent place or room designated for food/meat smoking.
Meat Smoker Fuel Type
Fuel type is one of the features most considered before choosing a meat smoker. You need to ask yourself whether you need charcoal, gas, pellet, or electric smoker. Unlike other smokers, with an electric smoker, you just have to plug the smoker into the socket and start smoking. Whereas with other smokers, you need to add charcoal or pellets to generate heat to start smoking. However, all types of smokers would require the addition of wood chunks or chips for more smoke flavours. Depending on the fuel type, smokers have their advantages and disadvantages, starting with the availability of fuel and others.
I would prefer to buy a meat smoker, besides smoking my food and meat, I can still use it for baking, grilling. Pellet smokers are much known for their versatility. The same with some charcoal smokers. Also, buy a smoker that can smoke all kinds of food, such that you do not have to buy an extra smoker for other food types.
Cost of the Smoker
A meat smoker can go as low as $50 and as high as $10,000, or even more than that. Depending on your budget, you can always get a good meat smoker. For a start, you can go for a cheaper meat smoker, which is great for barbecuing. And the fact that smaller smokers usually are easy to use, so you end up with the best smoker, though sometimes they are limited to only smoking.
The durability of your meat smoker will be determined by the coating material, and finishing used. This could be aluminium, stainless steel, or copper. Aluminium and steel are the preferred primary materials as they are waterproof. Though steel is a little expensive, it lasts forever. Aluminium made meat smokers are very easy to clean after use.
Accessories of the smokers
Some smokers come with extra accessories. These could include; a cover, tool hooks, thermometers to measure the temperature as you smoke as well as blowers that provide a steady and adjustable temperature. But not all smokers come with these accessories; this highly depends on the price of the smoker.
Smoked food always gives you a fantastic smell and flavour, but all this varies from the type and brand of the meat smoker you buy. I hope with this guide and review; you can now choose for yourself the best smoker.