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Best Charcoal Smoker: The Ultimate Guide

If you are in a hurry and want to find out what the Best Charcoal Smoker is then we would recommend the Weber 14-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker.

If you’re looking to upgrade your backyard grill game, consider investing in a charcoal smoker! A charcoal smoker is a combination between a charcoal grill and a classic smoker. For those who love the flavor of a charcoal grill but long to impart some smoky wood flavors into their grilled foods, a charcoal smoker is the best of both worlds.

In this guide, I’ll go over the best charcoal smokers available on the market today. There are several different varieties of charcoal smokers, too – we’ll dive into these varieties below.

Here is a list of our Charcoal Smoker Reviews:

Best Charcoal Smokers: Our Picks

I’ve compiled my favorite charcoal smokers in the sections below. You might have a favorite that isn’t on this list, as it’s far from exhaustive! However, these are the ones that I and many others have had success with.

Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker

The Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooler is the first entry on this list, and it’s also one of two vertical water smokers we’ll be looking at. It’s an incredibly popular smoker that competitors in BBQ competitions swear by!

The secret to Weber’s claim to fame is its three sizes. Depending on how much meat you want to cook, you can choose a small, medium, or large model. We’re looking at the 14-inch model here because it’s the most appropriate size for a small family, but you can upgrade to the 18-inch or 22-inch sizes if you’re looking for more cooking room. 

The Weber 14-inch has 286 square inches of total grilling space, so it’s enough to do a rack of ribs or two and then some. Additionally, the way this unit comes apart makes it very easy to clean, and it’s more efficient with charcoal use because of its smaller size, too. 

Undoubtedly, if you’re looking for the best charcoal smoker and don’t mind the handicaps that can come with vertical water smokers, this is an excellent choice. If I had any complaint to make about it, it’s that the temperature gauge on the unit can be a bit inaccurate, but this is easy to replace.

Pros:

  • Several sizes to choose from
  • Efficient and portable
  • Designed to keep the meat moist and tender during smoking
  • Very little heat and smoke loss

Cons:

  • Temperature gauge could be more accurate
  • Difficult to access bottom grate while smoking

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker

This vertical charcoal smoker from Dyna-Glo is designed to be easier to access than vertical water smokers. Because you can access the meat and the charcoal from the front, you don’t have to worry about disassembling it whenever you want to check or remove your meat. 

For someone who leaves their smoker running all day and rotates meat in and out all the time, this can be a tremendous back-saving feature. It’s also a bit cheaper than the Weber smoker above. 

The Dyna-Glo is about as portable as the Weber we looked at above because of its 36-inch size, but keep in mind that this is the only size it comes in. It has much more rack space than the Weber, depending on the size of the meats you roast.

One of the reasons why this smoker is so popular is because of the company’s excellent customer service. However, some parts of the smoker itself could use work. For example, it doesn’t hold up to cold weather well, and the smoker box itself is a bit flimsy. 

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive
  • Excellent customer service
  • Optional protective cover
  • Easily accessible
  • Excellent capacity vs. size ratio

Cons: 

  • Some parts are flimsy
  • Not suitable for cold or rainy weather

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker

This vertical bullet smoker from Char-Broil is very similar to the Weber smoker we looked at earlier. The main difference is that the Char-Broil only comes in two sizes  — 16-inch and 20-inch — and the Char-broil is a bit less expensive. 

Because it’s larger, the 16-inch Char-broil has a bit more cooking space: up to 370 square inches. However, it seems that with this smoker, you pay for its lower price with slightly less quality.

Notably, this smoker has a lot of heat and smoke loss, and it’s difficult to keep stable temperatures with it, too. As such, while it’s possible to use it to smoke very well, you’ll have to babysit this unit much more than you would, say, the 14-inch Weber from earlier. The sidewalls of the unit feel and look a bit thin, too. 

All in all, if you’re willing to deal with the drawbacks that come with a budget unit, this should still be a charcoal smoker for you to consider. If you can figure out a way to seal up the smoke gaps, it could serve you very well!

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Two size options
  • Portable
  • Larger

Cons: 

  • Lots of smoke loss
  • Tends to run hot

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Royal Gourmet 30″ BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker

This smoker from Royal Gourmet is great because it doubles as a grill! Because it has a smoking compartment attached to a more traditional “grill” section, you can add a bit of smoke flavor to meats without needing to wait all day for them to cook.

Now, if you’re looking to smoke meats exclusively, this grill-smoker-combo might be overkill for you. Because it’s a combination unit, there’s also the worry that it might not be able to perform as a pure grill or pure smoker. 

However, because it can do both things, this unit is perfect for someone starting to dabble in smoking. The smokebox itself looks a bit small, but it’s designed so that the smoke will funnel into the rest of the grill and flavor whatever else is inside.

Unfortunately, this grill has some insulation issues, but it still seems to do an excellent job despite them; because it’s designed to work as a grill and smoker, it can run at a higher temperature without sacrificing the quality of the meat. It’s portable, lightweight, and inexpensive, too – the most inexpensive smoker in this lineup!

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Can grill, smoke, or both
  • Excellent for beginner smokers

Cons:

  • A bit small
  • Tends to run hot and leak smoke

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Dyna-Glo Signature Series Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

If you’re really looking to get into routine smoking, especially for a lot of people at once, consider giving this offset charcoal smoker a look. Like the Royal Gourmet smoker above, this unit also functions as both a grill and a smoker, but it has significantly more smoking space than the former. 

Admittedly, this smoker almost has too much room. For all but the most prolific of smokers, it will likely be too much space, which means you’ll be wasting energy and wood in the process. You should plan to feed large gatherings for this unit – it might even be better suited to those looking to smoke as a business rather than smoking hobbyists.

However, aside from being almost too big, I can’t find anything else to complain about with this model. It’s sturdy, easy to move because of the wheeled design, and because of its vertical design, it’s great for hanging and smoking sausages, too – an advantage that few backyard smokers can boast. 

Pros: 

  • Lots of smoking space
  • Dual functionality

Cons: 

  • A bit unsteady because of its size
  • Large size means inefficiency

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Charcoal Smoker Types: What’s Right for You?

There are countless types, shapes, and sizes of smokers out there, so it can be a bit daunting when you’re looking for the best charcoal smoker to suit your needs. Fortunately, in this guide, we’ll only be looking at three different charcoal smoker types. 

Vertical Water Smoker

First, we have vertical water smokers. These smokers are small and inexpensive, and they do a pretty good job of smoking small amounts of meat. Because these smokers are round (or somewhat pill-shaped), they make very efficient use of heat and smoke.

The thing about vertical water smokers is that they can be a bit small. While most of them have two racks, the racks themselves can only hold a few cuts of meat each. These smokers are typically big enough for a small family barbecue, but they might not be enough if you plan to invite your whole neighborhood. 

Additionally, the racks in vertical water smokers can be a bit tricky to access. Because the grates are situated one above the other, depending on how the smoker opens, you may have to remove the top grill to access the bottom one or vice versa. 

All in all, though, vertical water smokers are great charcoal smokers for the beginner smoker. They tend to be inexpensive, reliable, and easy to use. These are the “no-nonsense” smokers out of all three options.

Vertical Cabinet Smoker

Vertical cabinet smokers are very similar to vertical water smokers, but the way you open and access them is fundamentally different. As you would expect, a cabinet (or “box” smoker) has a large door that you can swing open to access what’s inside. 

Because of this, cabinet smokers can hold more racks (and thus, more meat) than most vertical water smokers, and it’s easier to get at the contents, too. However, this can make it so you lose more heat in the process, as beginner barbecuers might be tempted to open the smoker more often than they should!

Vertical cabinet smokers tend to be hit and miss when it comes to insulation, too. Because there’s a big door on the front of the unit, cabinet smokers can quickly lose heat through cracks and crevices. It’s extremely important to pick out a cabinet smoker that’s well insulated, otherwise, you might end up having to add more insulation yourself. 

You may have to shell out more for a high-quality charcoal cabinet smoker, but in exchange, it offers more control and more space for your final product. 

Offset Smoker

Offset smokers are hybrid smokers that offer the functionality of a smoker and a grill at the same time. The “offset” in the name comes from how the smokebox is outside (but connected to) the central unit, so instead of sitting below your meat like it would in a vertical smoker, it often sits off to the side.

Offset smokers are especially lovely for backyard barbecuers because, with these, you don’t need to keep both a smoker and a grill on hand! Moreover, the smokebox itself often acts as a secondary cooking compartment, so if you want to cook some vegetables or other meats separately from your main barbecue fare, you can. 

Unfortunately, the weakness with most offset smokers is smoke and temperature retention. This makes the metal housing and insulation on your smoker all the more important! Make sure to read offset charcoal smoker reviews before making your purchase, as this can help tell you whether your prospective smoker is well-insulated or not.

On the whole, though, these smokers offer incredible functionality, especially for those with space constraints. 

The Verdict

Who’s the winner of this best charcoal smoker roundup? Well, if you’re looking to get serious with smoking, the Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker is easily the highest quality. It’s backed by BBQ enthusiasts everywhere, and it promises to get you a top-tier charcoal smoke despite its portability and small size.

However, if you’re just looking to dabble in smoking a bit, you might be better off looking at the Royal Gourmet 30-inch Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker instead. Even if you decide that smoked meats aren’t for you, you can still get plenty of use out of it through its grilling functionality. 

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