Something strange has been happening lately. The world is turning into a place of instant gratification that rewards ease and rapid results. Whatever happened to patience and hard work?
Not to get all preachy, because that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because when it comes to barbeque, lots of people still value charcoal smokers even though it requires more effort and attention than other smokers.
Why? Because nothing else gives your food that authentic smoky flavor. But what you might not know is using a charcoal smoker doesn’t have to be more work.
It all depends on the type of smoker you have. Something that’s sealed well and holds a steady temperature is all you need to make delicious, authentic-style smoked barbeque.
Of course, not all charcoal smokers are equal. That’s why this buyer’s guide goes over the best ones available in different price ranges – based completely off the feedback of professional cooks.
You want to make sure to do your homework before committing to a unit so you don’t get ripped off – or even worse, have a platter of failed barbeque. Before we dig into the reviews, let’s have a quick look at what makes a charcoal smoker unique.
What’s the Difference Between an Electric Smoker Vs a Charcoal Smoker?
A lot of novice smokers start off with an electric smoker because it’s easy and convenient. Basically, all you have to do is:
- Plug it in
- Place some wood chips in the pan
- Set the temperature
- And forget about it
Why would anyone want to complicate such an easy process? Well for starters, charcoal-grilled barbeque wins the taste test. Hands down. Every. Time.
Charcoal is what gives that authentic, smoky flavor characteristic of traditional barbeque. Any experienced food enthusiast can tell right away what type of smoker cooked their meat by taste alone.
Another drawback of an electric smoker is you need to stay close to an outlet. Forget about taking your smoker camping unless you want to run a generator to power the sucker.
For the person that’s serious about their smoking game, you can’t compromise on using anything but charcoal. On that note, here’s a look at the best charcoal smokers available on the market today.
Choose the Right Smoker For the Job So You Can Relax
Many things set one charcoal smoker apart from others. Some of those factors include cooking size area, features to help control heat and smoke, and the sturdiness of the smoker itself.
What you choose depends entirely on your budget and what you want to use it for. Here’s a look at the number one charcoal smoker that’s more than enough to impress.
#1 Weber 18” Smokey Mountain Cooker
Not only is this unit jam-packed with features to make smoking a breeze, but it also looks the part too.
The sleek vertical bullet design of Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cooker is porcelain-enameled to help retain heat and prevent rust. With two cooking grates, you can throw a pork butt AND a rack of ribs on there at the same time.
Easily control the heat with the dampers and monitor the temperature with the built-in thermometer on the lid.
The 18-inch smoker made it on this list because it would fit a sizable turkey if you’re aiming to grill for the holidays. And it’s very well priced for what you get.
Low and slow – that’s the Weber smokin’ motto.
- Available in 14, 18 and 22 inches
- Easy access to the fuel door to prevent loss of heat
- Rust-resistant legs
- Double racks for large cooking capacity
- The location of the dampers can allow rainwater in
Basically, the only thing that could improve this unit is the location of the dampers. Instead of being right on top, Weber could have put it off to the side to prevent rainwater from entering. But this is easily addressed by keeping your smoker undercover.
The only real way this bad boy could get any better is if it were bigger. Luckily, there’s an option for that.
#2 Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D Vertical Charcoal Smoker
This vertical unit boasts a generous 784 square inches of cooking area spread over 4 removable cooking grates.
The double door design makes it easy to access the charcoal chamber and ash pan without losing all your cooking heat.
Conveniently, the temperature gauge on the front includes the ideal smoke zone for deliciously flavoring your meats. And the size of the water bowl is also generously sized to keep your meat juicy and tender.
- 784 square inches total cooking area
- Includes custom fit Dyna-Glo cover
- Large capacity water bowl
- Lightweight for easy transport
- Removable ash pan
- Some smoke loss through the seals in the door
Overall, this charcoal smoker works well for the price range it’s in. You may lose some smoke through the door but that just means a little extra time in the cooker. Alternatively, you can get some food-grade sealer to place along the door.
It’s the perfect option for novice and experienced buyers who have to stick to a budget.
#3 Realcook 17” Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Coming in at 453 square inches of total cooking space, this vertical smoker is perfect for a family of 4 or small dinner parties.
What this unit lacks in size, it makes up for in quality. Made out of heavy duty steel, it feels solid especially considering its price range.
Featuring 4 hooks for sausages and 2 grilling racks, this unit gives you plenty of options on how you want to cook.
- Enamel water pan
- Double door system for easy ash removal while cooking
- Built-in thermometer
- Convenient latch locking system
- Adjustable air vent system for heat control
- Too small to handle larger volumes of food
The Realcook Smoker is perfect for someone just getting into smoking. All in all, this unit is well balanced between functionality, price and size.
#4 Char-Griller E22424 Table Top Charcoal Smoker
The Char-Griller tabletop smoker is the ultimate portable system you can take anywhere with you. No need for a truck or a camper.
This thing is so convenient you barely even need a backyard. Pretty much a tiny deck or even an above-ground patio would work for making food on this thing.
In total, it offers a modest 250 square inch cooking area for smoking or grilling. Just because it’s small doesn’t make you feel embarrassed about it either.
Heavy duty steel makes up the construction for this table topper. You can feel the quality just by touching it.
The reason it belongs on this list is because it doubles as a side fire box attachment to any Char-Griller barrel grill so you can turn it into an offset smoker.
- Heavy duty steel
- Cast iron grate
- Removable ash pan for easy clean up
- Attaches to any Char-Griller barrel grill
- Adjustable dampers for maximum heat control
- Once you add this as a Char-Griller side fire box, you can’t convert it back to a table top grill
Whether you’re using this as a portable smoker or converting your Char-Griller into an offset style, you won’t regret this purchase.
#5 Dyna-Glo DGVS390BC-D High Gloss Black Charcoal Smoker
This Dyna-Glo model is affordable and the best option for newbies looking to get into charcoal smoking.
Dyna-Glo designs tons of high quality units so they know what to compromise on to bring you the best smoking experience on a budget.
In total, you still get 360 square inches of cooking area on two sizable grates. The middle section is entirely removable so you can convert it into a portable grill too.
- Chrome plated cooking grills
- Removable middle section
- Built-in stainless steel temperature gauge
- Adjustable dampers on the lid and base
- Converts into a portable grill
- Only one door to access the charcoal so you’ll lose your cooking heat
- At 10mm steel construction, unit has trouble maintaining heat in cold weather
Despite some of the drawbacks of this unit, it performs surprisingly well and still results in mouthwatering barbeque. For beginners or those on a tight budget, this Dyna-Glo smoker is perfectly priced.
Pack Your Foods Full of Flavor With a Tried and Tested Charcoal Smoker
There’s something about letting people know you smoked your food over charcoal that is unmatched by anything else. And you deserve to know that feeling again and again.
Depending on how often you plan on smoking meat, the unit you choose is very important. If you’ll only use it seasonally for smaller meals, a basic smoker is all you’ll need.
But those that plan on smoking large volumes of meat or using it often throughout the year need to consider something more heavy-duty that will last.
Whatever you choose, make sure to research or you risk getting a faulty product. Also, remember to buy from reputable sources that have return policies in place so you don’t get ripped off.
For the best smoking experience, choose the unit recommended most often by professional backyard cooks. Choose the Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.