The 8 Best Smokers for Mastering the Art of Barbecue (2022)

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

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“If you’re going to smoke, an offset—the traditional Texas-style smoker—makes the best food,” says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. “Offset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.”

Well, that’s great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning—a lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we’ve tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out our top picks below, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews.

  • Best Overall: Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital
  • Best Vertical Smoker: Weber Smokey Mountain
  • Best Offset Smoker: Oklahoma Joe’s Barrel and Hitch
  • Best Wi-Fi Smoker: Camp Chef XXL Vertical
  • Best Cabinet Smoker: Pitt Boss Copperhead 5-Series
  • Best Propane Smoker: Dyna-Glo Dual Door
  • Best Electric Smoker: Masterbuilt 30-In. Digital
  • Best Combination Grill-Smoker: Recteq RT-1250

    What You Need to Know About Smokers

    The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

    Types of Fuel

    Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

    Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

    Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we’re all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It’s common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

    Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that’s compressed and stored as a liquid. As it’s released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it’s cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

    Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there’s no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

    Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

    Types of Smokers

    Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles’s sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

    Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

    Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

    Control Systems

    Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

    Digital Thermometers

    We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn’t come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don’t need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It’s wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

    How We Test

    Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you’re interested in a new smoker, there’s one here that’s right for you.


    Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital

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    Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker


    • Easy clean-up
    • Managing the temperature is simple
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    While not strictly a smoker, the Masterbuilt 560 has an innovative method of burning charcoal, making it a multi-purpose backyard cooker. A gravity-fed vertical hopper on the end of the grill stores the charcoal, which is burned from the bottom with the flames. The grill then pulls the heat from that into a large diffuser; the heat then rises to the grates. A digital thermostat sets the temperature and controls the fan that feeds the fire. Masterbuilt has an app that pairs with the grill to set and monitor cooking remotely. The grill comes with one temperature probe but has ports for three more. Smoking in the 560 is as easy as setting the temperature and a timer. Using lump charcoal will provide a great smoky flavor. And if you need more smoke, there’s an ash bucket that holds wood chips, which will burn slowly as embers fall on them. Our first cook—a small brisket we had on for almost six hours at 220 degrees Fahrenheit that developed a fantastic crust—was so easy and so tasty. And we were able to get results like this every time we cooked on the 560. If cleaning up ash has held you back from using charcoal, Masterbuilt managed to do away with that hassle. Because of the vertical hopper, the charcoal flows down as it burns, with the ash simply falling into a bucket at the bottom. Just open a door and empty the bucket—it’s that easy.

    Full Review


    Weber Smokey Mountain

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    Smokey Mountain Smoker


    • Durable, heavy steel construction
    • Takes practice to manage heat

    The 18-inch Smokey Mountain from Weber is a standard water smoker. Like many similar models, it has a bottom rack and a retaining ring for the charcoal, a large bowl for water, and two racks for smoking food on. But it differs from others in that it’s made from heavier porcelain-enameled steel, has a heat shield on the bottom to protect your deck or lawn, and comes with a fitted cover. When we first fired it up to season the smoker, we took the opportunity to get familiar with setting the three air vents around the bottom, as well as the top vent, to hold a temperature. We were able to keep the temperature in the 200-to-275-degree “smoking” range by monitoring the thermometer in the lid. Smoking beef jerky, we wanted to keep the temperature on the lower side at around 200, which was a little challenging—the temp kept creeping up, so we watched it closely and adjusted the vents as needed. The jerky smoked a bit faster than we intended because of this. In hindsight, we got a little too much charcoal burning before we started smoking, which generated more heat than we needed. We managed the heat better when smoking the brisket and were able to hold close to 225 for the five hours it took to smoke our smallish cut of meat. On longer smoking sessions, we appreciated the large door to add fuel and wood chips. The Smokey Mountain is a basic smoker that will require a little experience to use effectively but will ultimately be worth the time and produce great results.


    Camp Chef XXL Vertical Smoker

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    XXL Wi-Fi Vertical Smoker



    Buy Now

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    • Monitor remotely with App
    • Screen on smoker is low and difficult to read

    We liked the previous, non-Wi-Fi version of Camp Chef’s XXL Vertical Smoker, and this new one is even better. Paired with the brand’s app, Wi-Fi enabled us to monitor and set the temperature, the smoke level, and target temps for two included meat probes. The XXL Vertical Smoker has a range of 150 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, covering slow smoking to baking temperatures. We used the XXL to smoke a nice Texas brisket at 225 degrees and monitored both the smoker and probe temperatures remotely using the app. We enjoyed the dark crust, or bark, on the brisket that showed a nice red, smoke ring when sliced, as well as the satisfying smoky flavor of the meat. Cleanup was simple, as we found the pellets leave almost no ash and all the drippings are routed to a small bucket hanging under the side. With four regular racks, three jerky racks, and 12 sausage hooks, you’ll be able to smoke a lot of food simultaneously. This is a great smoker with almost no learning curve. Experienced grill masters and first-timers alike will be able to produce delicious, smoky results.


    Oklahoma Joe’s Barrel and Hitch Offset Smoker

    Barrel and Hitch Offset Smoker

    Oklahoma Joe’


    Buy Now

    • Affordable
    • Takes more attention and experience to use

    We got Oklahoma Joe’s Barrel charcoal grill and Hitch portable charcoal grill as a bundle, and when combined, they form a traditional offset smoker. It’s easy to be intimidated with the analog process of smoking with charcoal and wood if you haven’t done it before. We found managing the temperature was easier than we anticipated. As long as you take your time and avoid big adjustments to the dampers, you’ll be able keep temps in the range you desire. When we smoked out Texas Brisket, we ended up with the darkest, smokiest tasting one in the whole test. It takes more care, and more over time watching over it, but it’s as simple as smoking gets. If you’re interested in the process of smoking or experienced already, this traditional offset smoker is an affordable option that is as capable of producing delicious results as you are. Plus, Oklahoma Joe’s grills and smokers are made from heavy gauge steel and should last, without fancy technology that may fail after being out on the patio for a few years.


    Pitt Boss Copperhead 5-Series

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    5-Series Vertical Pellet Smoker



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    • Easy to use
    • Glass door makes checking on food simple
    • That glass door requires cleaning

    We pulled the best brisket of this test off the Copperhead 5-Series, which accomplishes the rare feat of making smoking simple. The glass door is a nice feature, allowing you to monitor things without opening it and losing heat. It is a double-edged sword, though, because we had to clean it after each use to see what was going on inside. The first meat we put in the smoker was that brisket, going for 9.5 hours at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. As it fed in pellets, the unit visibly put out a lot smoke, something we found quite reassuring. After the brisket was done, we noted the amount of ash the grill produced and decided to clean out the fire pot and bottom of the smoke chamber once it cooled. Doing that was a simple process and should take you just a few minutes if you use a shop vac. We also smoked chicken leg quarters at 350, followed by beef jerky at 175, and were pleased with the results in both cases.


    Dyna-Glo Dual Door

    Dual Door Smoker


    $219.00 (32% off)

    • Propane is easy to work with
    • Smoke box might not smoke enough for you

    The Dual Door 36-inch gas smoker from Dyna-Glo boasts a large 784-square-inch cooking area. Despite that generous space, the unit takes up only a 19-by-19-inch patch on your deck or patio, thanks to the cooking surface being divided between four stacked, adjustable shelves. We found two advantages to the Dual Door using propane as fuel: One is the ease of adjusting temperatures (it isn’t as reliant on vent adjustments), and the other is not having to add fuel, like charcoal, in the middle of a smoking session. Purists will probably want to forego the convenience, but we appreciated it. The top door provides access to the smoking racks, while the bottom door opens to the water tray and wood chip box above the 15,000-BTU burner. When we smoked brisket, we used the door-mounted thermometer to monitor heat, aiming to keep it around 225 degrees Fahrenheit, which was relatively easy. However, we weren’t getting as much smoke as we would have liked, so we turned up the burner and opened up the bottom vents to let more air in, as well as the top chimney vent to let more heat out. This helped quite a bit. We smoked beef jerky, trying to keep the temp closer to 200, which was just a little more of a challenge to keep the wood chips smoking enough for our taste. We found using a thin layer of smaller chips worked best, adding more when the smoke started to thin. When everything was said and done, we couldn’t notice a significant difference in flavor between the jerky smoked over propane from any of the others.


    Masterbuilt 30-In. Digital

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    30-In. Digital Electric Smoker


    $227.00 (19% off)

    • Affordable
    • Easy to use
    • Doesn’t smoke as much as wood fired smokers
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    The Masterbuilt 30-In. Digital Electric Smoker is an easy way to smoke without needing to stockpile propane, charcoal, or wood pellets. All you need in an outlet and a small bag of wood chips and you’ll be set. To smoke a Texas brisket, we set the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, filled the water pan, and, once the smoker was up to temp, used the side loader to add wood chips. During our testing, the Masterbuilt was able to hold consistent temperatures, never deviating more than about 10 degrees from 225. Our brisket didn’t turn out quite as smokey as those we made on pellet or charcoal smokers, because this one isn’t constantly burning wood fuels to generate the heat. The brisket was still plenty tasty though, because the long, slow cooking process has a lot to do with the meat breaks down and the flavors that generates. The tradeoff for convenience versus more smoke may be necessary for people in apartments, condos, or other close neighborhoods. In any event, we found the Masterbuilt to be a very easy to use, effective, and affordable option for your smoking needs.


    Recteq RT-1250

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    RT-1250 Pellet Grill and Smoker


    • Front shelf placement doesn't interfere with grill lid
    • Expensive

    Recteq’s RT-1250 is as much a grill as it is a smoker. With its temperature range from 180 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll have the versatility to smoke as well as grill and sear. Smoking is where we thought the RT-1250 really shines, though. Through the use of a digital proportional integral derivative (PID) controller, it constantly monitors temperature, making adjustments with a fan or adding pellets as needed to maintain your set temp. We were impressed with the RT-1250’s very consistent temperature—through RecTeq’s free app, we could view the temp history as graph and see just how accurate it was. We also used the app to monitor the meat probe temps when we smoked a Texas brisket. Regardless of whether we used the app, the grill controls took the guesswork out of smoking, making it easy for us to get great results. The grill features a massive pellet hopper that can hold enough fuel for up to 40 hours of use—so you’ll never run out if you fill it before smoking your next big hunk of meat. One last feature we appreciated was the front folding shelf, which was positioned low enough so that, when it was loaded up with your barbecue supplies, we could open the grill lid without knocking everything over. Very smart.

    Bradley FordTest EditorBrad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things.

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