If you are in a hurry and want to find out what the Best Portable Smoker is then we would recommend the Traeger Scout Wood Smoker Grill.
Backyard smoking is an incredibly fun activity, but half the fun of smoking is feeding your delicious, aromatic, fall-off-the-bone roast to friends and family. This is where a portable smoker comes in: not only can you serve your meats at gatherings, tailgates, and parties, but you can even bring your favorite smoker to barbecue competitions and the like.
In this article, I’ll introduce you to some of the best portable smoker units that I’ve seen so far.
Here is our list of portable smoker reviews:
- Traeger Scout Wood Smoker Grill
- Presto 6013 Slow Cooker And Indoor Smoker
- Weber 14-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
- Breville Smoking Gun Food Smoker
- Carpathen Pellet Smoking Tube
Best Portable Smokers: Our Favorites
In the sections below, I’ve done my best to provide representative samples of all the portable smokers I like best. We’ll be looking at everything from a smoking gun to a full-blown charcoal smoker. Need a portable smoker for camping? Or a smoker convenient enough to tailgate at the big game? Which smoker is right for you depends on where you’re planning to take it, what food you plan to smoke, and how much food you’re looking to prepare.
Traeger offers a full line of grill-smokers that work with hardwood pellets, and their Scout grill is one of the smallest and most portable. The unit is shaped like a briefcase, and while it weighs quite a bit, it’s designed to be appropriately shaped for transport.
The main thing to remember with this wood pellet grill and smoker is that, since it has electronic components, you’re limited to places where you can hook it up to electricity. This means no camping or tailgating unless you have a generator or another power source handy. It’s still great to bring to the neighbors’ place or an RV-friendly campground, though.
- Acts as both a grill and smoker
- Conveniently shaped for transport
- Some issues with electronic components, malfunctioning buttons, etc.
Have you ever seen a slow cooker that doubles as a smoker? Well, now you have! This crock-pot-smoker-combo from Presto is probably the most straightforward smoker you’ll ever use, and it’ll make a mean casserole when you need it, too.
This unit isn’t as crazy as you might think, either. I find that it’s best if you open a window or two before using it (indoor smokers tend to set off smoke alarms… Who knew?), but the process is even more comfortable if you decide to use it outdoors.
The most significant advantage of this unit is its ability to smoke and cook, well, anything, even liquids. Not only that, but this slow cooker and smoker is almost entirely hands-free. It’ll turn off automatically when it reaches the end of its cooking cycle.
If I had to complain about this product, I’d say that, while it’s small, it’s not really designed to be portable. The handles on it are convenient, but clips to hold the lid in place during transport would be incredibly helpful. Additionally, similar to the Traeger Ranger we just looked at, this crockpot depends on electricity to do its job, so the places you can use it are limited.
- Set it and forget it
- Small size makes it easy to load in the car
- An excellent alternative for those who don’t enjoy grilling (or don’t grill enough to justify purchasing one)
- Requires electricity
- Could use some more travel-friendly features
The 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker from Weber might not look “portable” compared to the other smokers we’ve seen so far. Still, if you’re unwilling to compromise on things like size and electrical access, this is the most portable unit you’re going to find.
The 14-inch unit is still quite bulky, but it should fit inside just about any car for travel. The Smokey Mountain Cooker uses charcoal for its power source, too, so you can (in theory) take it anywhere you can haul it.
If you’re looking for a real, non-electric smoker that you can take with you anywhere, this is both one of your highest-quality and one of your most versatile options. The Smokey Mountain Cooker comes in three sizes — 14-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch — so you can feed as many people with it as you want.
- Smallest size is fairly portable
- This is a REAL smoker, not a combination unit or accessory
- Doesn’t depend on electricity to work
- Bulky and heavy, especially compared to other smokers on this list
The most unique on our list — and the most portable smoker you will ever have the pleasure of using — is the “smoking gun” smoker. This one from Breville is an excellent example of a well-built unit that’s neither too expensive nor too low-quality.
Smoking guns are convenient and easy to use, even for those who don’t smoke as a hobby. However, the most significant advantage of the smoking gun is also its biggest drawback: because it’s designed to be quick and versatile, it’s not actually an actual “smoker.”
A smoking gun is excellent for imparting that smoky taste into your food, but in essence, it’s a fast, ineffective cold smoker. It won’t cook your food for you, and the amount of smoke flavor it can give you is limited. This makes it great for small, fast applications that a full-blown smoker isn’t appropriate for, but it also means that it’s not suitable for cooking smoked meats (though just using the smoking gun to flavor them after cooking is okay).
- The fastest way to add smoky flavor
- Most portable option — can fit in a bag or purse
- Can’t cook food, only flavor it (cold smoking only)
- Doesn’t impart as much smoky “flavor” as other options
This unit doesn’t look like much at first glance, but it doesn’t get less expensive or more portable anywhere on the smoker market today. This “smoking tube” takes the idea of a traditional smoker and turns it on its head by separating the smokebox from the smoker itself.
To use a pellet smoking tube like this one, all you need to do is add your favorite hardwood pellets to it, light them on fire, and, once they’re smoldering, add to your existing grill or smoker.
This means that, if you have a portable grill already (that’s big enough to hold the smoking tube, of course), you can turn it into a smoker by merely adding the smoking tube. This product doesn’t work quite as well for those who don’t have a portable grill already, but even without one, you can use it to impart cold-smoked flavor.
- Most inexpensive option
- Small enough to fit in a medium-sized bag or purse, along with wood pellets
- Use it to add smoke flavor in a pinch with or without a grill
- Needs to be used with a portable grill for standard smoking (not cold smoking)
Portable Smokers: What to Know and How to Choose
It’s hard to say what’s the absolute best portable smoker out there today. Because we make innovations in size, function, and portability all the time, something you thought was portable one day might look unwieldy and troublesome the next.
The first step you should take in choosing your smoker is to list why you need it, where you need it, and what you plan to cook. This will help you narrow down parameters like size and function.
For example, are you a backyard barbecuer who has significant experience smoking, or who wants a reliable smoker to bring to smoking competitions? If so, you might have to sacrifice a bit on portability in exchange for quality. However, if you’re looking for the small portable smoker you can find to bring with you on a camping trip, you might purchase a vastly different product.
Smoking vs. Cold Smoking
Before you purchase anything, you should decide your goals regarding smoking and cold smoking. Traditional smoking, as you know, involves cooking your meats and foods as they smoke, which requires a rather robust power source.
On the other hand, as the name implies, cold smoking doesn’t always involve cooking the source meat or food. Cold smoking can be incredibly fast, efficient, and easy to do, especially if you’re somewhere far from home.
If you’re okay with just cold smoking your food when you’re out and about, you’ll find that your options become much more portable (and much more creative, too). If you need to smoke your meats and foods traditionally, you’ll most likely need to resign yourself to bringing a larger unit with you. Just how large, as always, depends on how much food you want to cook.
So, which of the above is the best portable smoker for our backyard barbecuers out there? It’s hard to choose between these products because they’re all so different.
If I were going on portability alone, I would choose the Breville Smoking Gun. The unit is entirely self-contained — just top off the wood chips before you go, and the unit will handle the rest. However, because it can only be used for cold smoking or imparting a quick burst of smoky flavor, some might not call it a true “smoker.”
If I were to pick one on function, it would be the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. While this unit is the least portable of all five we looked at, it’s an honest-to-god smoker, and sometimes, that’s just what you need.
A good pellet smoking tube, like the Carpathen tube, hits a great middle point between the two products. While it can be used for both cold smoking and standard smoking, it requires the assistance of a grill for the latter, but its low price and portable size help balance out that aspect.