When looking for a new smoker you are going to run into many problems once you see how diverse the offer at stores is.
Even if you have some experience in grilling, you can be pretty surprised with what you see. The situation is completely different when it comes to beginners, who don’t know where to start.
In this guide you will learn about the upsides and downsides of the most popular types of smokers, that’s where everyone looking for a new smoker should start. There are many types of smokers, and each of them comes with its upsides and downsides that you should know about.
With use of my tips and my suggestions, you will be able to make a conscious choice of the best smoker based on your expectations and your situation.
I’ll just add that certain smokers are easier to use and forgive mistakes, which might be perfect for a beginner.
The Best Smokers for Beginner Reviewed
Before you pick your favorite model, it is necessary to learn about the upsides and downsides of each type of smoker in the second part of the guide. It’s hard to choose a perfect BBQ smoker out of all those types, especially if you’re a beginner. In my view, the best choice is the one that best fits your cooking style and your needs.
The best entry-level smoker, there is nothing better than this model at this price. When buying a Weber Smokey Mountain, you become an owner of an efficient and very durable smoker that will withstand a whole lot.
Simple charcoal smokers are most durable out of all types of smokers while also giving the best results and being available at the best prices.
All the other types of smokers have nothing interesting in this price range or are prone to malfunctions like in case of electric smokers.
WSM is available in a few sizes, as of now I’m discussing and recommending you the universal medium size of 180-inch.
At first glance it might not have that much space but inside you will find as many as two racks that can really fit a whole lot of food.
Coming back to durability, Weber Smokey Mountain has been around since 1981 and at it keeps being improved since then. Today it’s a perfect smoking tool built of high quality materials. It is so solid that at this price you can expect 10 years of full warranty from Weber and I have no doubts that in the right conditions this smoker can last for much longer.
The water smoker design stabilizes temperature and makes it much easier to control which means that even those without much experience or complete beginners won’t have much problem with this smoker.
I’ll just add that in hands of a very experienced person it is a powerful smoking tool. It is confirmed by this smoker’s presence at numerous competitions where it often wins against those equipped with professional devices that cost much more.
As a beginner, you can also expect a very large number of useful guides online thanks to this smoker’s popularity.
The only worthy competitor of Weber Smokey Mountain in this price range. When it comes to quality of workmanship and durability, both models are top-tier. Despite PBC being covered only with one year of warranty, you have nothing to worry about, it’s a very solidly made and durable smoker.
A charcoal smoker just as great as my previous suggestion, although in my view it loses in terms of temperature control. Pit Barrel Cooker is less versatile in this regard, on top of that PBC is hotter and differs a little in the cooking system.
First and foremost, it doesn’t have a water bowl, and the cooking system consists of hanging food on hooks. It works great when smoking big and long pieces of meat such as ribs.
Also included are grill grates if for some reason you are going to need them.
According to numerous experts, a hook system is better because the meat avoids contact with a hot rack, which allows it to cook more evenly.
The PBC structure doesn’t allow to achieve lower temperatures but when smoking, the temperature is stable, although slightly higher.
Easier temperature control might be a deciding factor for a beginner. I also appreciate the hook system as well as the ability to use a rack for a whole chicken or turkey for example.
No matter if you choose WSM or PBC, you are certainly going to be satisfied in terms of quality of workmanship and durability. Besides two significant differences ( hook cooking style and stable yet higher temperature ) both models are worth recommending.
You have a very limited budget but still want to draw pleasure from smoking, or even grilling at the same time? Weber Original Premium kettle is a great combo grill that is phenomenal in both situations.
You won’t find a better grill that is great for grilling and for smoking – especially for this kind of money.
Of course in terms of smoking a dedicated smoker will be definitely much better as it will simply be much more convenient, better insulated, more spacious and simpler to use as well as will have useful smoking features.
If smoking isn’t that much important to you, though, or if you simply have no money or want to try smoking for the first time without spending a fortune, buy a weber kettle. If you don’t like smoking then it is no loss to you, as you still have the best charcoal grill in the world.
An original weber premium kettle has a lot of space which, when used creatively and with briquettes put on it, allows to turn it into a great smoker. It is much harder to control temperature in it for many hours, though, but it is possible.
Another advantage of this grill is its very huge popularity, which means you won’t have any problems finding useful guides or videos that will show you in detail what to do step by step to prepare great barbecue.
The last argument will be quality and durability, weber kettle was created a few decades ago. Ever since then, it keeps being upgraded all the time which makes it the best grill now in many regards.
The manufacturer covers this model with 10 years of warranty, although I know for sure that well maintained models can easily lasts even a few times that long ( of course I’m only talking about the structure, not the grill grates ).
Pellet smokers are sadly among the most expensive types of smokers but in terms of convenience and versatility they definitely take number one spot.
If it wasn’t for pretty high prices for an entry-level model, I’d say that it is the best smoker for beginners or for those who don’t like being involved in the whole smoking process.
A smoker of this type comes with a lot of space for food but not quite as much as a typical charcoal smoker. On top of that, you need to know that the food will differ in taste and not everyone is okay with that.
The incredible convenience and ease of use are two very important aspects that might be a deciding factor when choosing the first smoker. Sadly, an argument against it is the price but if you have an adequate budget then I encourage you to consider this type of smoker.
It is also a great choice for those who are bored with traditional smoking. You have to admit that a pellet smoker allows to save a lot of time and effort, giving top-quality barbecue instead, with the characteristic smoky flavor ( different than charcoal ).
Another one of their advantages is achieving high temperatures which makes them good not only for smoking but also grilling.
Camp Chef SmokePro Deluxe comes with all the essential elements such as a precise controller or solutions to make ash removal easier.
It’s a solid and durable pellet smoker that can survive a lot when in good hands. Pellet smokers are sadly expensive, and in my view this is the only model worth noting in the lowest price range.
Another very easy to use and convenient smoker that is perfect for beginners or those who don’t like traditional smoking. Electric smokers offer convenience similar to pellet smokers although they definitely lose in terms of flavor, temperature control or malfunction rate.
This model is equipped with a digital controller that allows you to easily and precisely pick the temperature.
The greatest advantage and in certain situations also the greatest downside is the power source which is electricity. You don’t need to worry about buying charcoal or pellets, all you have to do is plug the smoker into a socket and you’re done. On the other hand, though, such solution eliminates any type of mobility and there’s a problem in case of blackouts.
I suggest the 30-inch digital electric smoker size as it is perfect to start with and available at a lower price, although you need to know that there’s a bigger model available, as well as other configurations.
Masterbuilt is the king in the category of electric smokers for a decent price. It comes with an easy access to spare parts and accessories. On top of that, thanks to its popularity, you will find a lot of guides and recipes online for this smoker.
At first glance, a downside of this type of smokers is lack of the smoky food flavor. In reality, however, most models are equipped with a special box where you put wood chips that can generate valuable smoke for your food.
As a result, you get a richer flavor of food, with a distinct smoky flavor. There are many types of wood chips so you have a lot of freedom to experiment.
Sadly, an electric smoker comes with plenty of crucial elements that are prone to malfunctions, unlike a charcoal smoker for example. Remember that when you buy such smoker, you need to accept the risk of malfunction within a few years.
That reason is also why it is so hard to find any model in the lower price range that is covered with a decent warranty.
Tips for buying a new bbq smoker
Budget – The first thing you need to do is define your budget for your first smoker. There are several options, a very cheap wood smoker for about $100, something better for at least $200 or a good dedicated smoker for those without a limited budget.
A very cheap smoker will allow you to get the hang of what smoking really is for a low money. If you gain experience and grow to like smoking, you have an open road to buying something better ( for example expensive offset smoker ). And if not then you simply don’t have to worry that you have spent a fortune on something of no use to you.
Sadly, most smokers available at this kind of price are junk that can effectively drive you away from real smoking. If you actually want to learn what smoking is without spending money on something that might turn out to be a waste of time, buy a weber original kettle. I have already mentioned it above, it is a perfect grill to start smoking with. If you find out you don’t like it you will just end up with a great charcoal grill at home that most importantly doesn’t cost a lot compared to dedicated smokers.
Type of fuel – Once you define your budget, it’s time to learn about the potential smokers. There are several types of them which makes it important to learn the upsides and downside of each of them as that’s the only way you can know which of them is the best for you. For that purpose, move on to the further part of this guide where I have specified the upsides and downsides of the most popular types of smokers.
How many people you cook for – How many people you are going to cook for and how much is also a deciding factor. It impacts what size of a smoker you should look for, most models are available in several sizes but remember that the bigger the smoker the higher the price.
What you’re going to cook – Not all smokers are big enough to fit bigger chunks of meat whole. For example, in order to smoke ribs whole without cutting them in half you’re going to need a big enough smoker or of an adequate structure ( for example Pit Barrel Cooker and its hook cooking system ).
Do you only want smoking? Or grilling as well
Personally, I only recommend a combo grill in a situation where you have a very limited budget or you simply want to try your hand at smoking for the first time and you don’t know if you’ll like it.
In such situation, a great solution is a kettle grill, like something from Weber. It is very cheap compared to typical smokers and works great both for smoking and for grilling.
A dedicated smoker has a completely different type of structure, it is more airtight, designed only with smoking in mind. It comes with all the necessary features that make temperature control easier and increase the convenience of smoking.
The same goes for a dedicated grill, its structure is completely different as well.
That’s why, whenever possible, I recommend buying a dedicated smoker for smoking and a separate dedicated grill for grilling.
Types of smokers
Every type of smoker can make great barbecue but it takes the right skills to make this happen. This guide refers to several types of smokers where the source of heat is not only charcoal, but also propane, electric or pellet.
Each of them is different – it has its own upsides and downsides
I can’t tell you which one of them is the best as it all actually depends on the situation. Learn the key upsides and downsides of each of them and make your own decision on which of them fits your situation the best.
This type of smoker is associated with time-consuming smoking process that requires a lot of attention. Contrary to a popular belief, it is something that every smoking enthusiast loves, starting with getting the charcoal burning, to temperature control, air flow, amount of fuel, and all the way to great results that come from your hard work and large amount of time spent.
- Charcoal gives food the best flavor
- Smoking meat with charcoal gives better results when it comes to creating smoke ring bbq and bark
- It requires a lot of attention and time which in a way is a lot of fun to many
- Sadly, they require the most time out of all types of smokers
- Before you start cooking, you need to take into account the time to get the charcoal burning and then just as much to achieve the right temperature.
- Without a doubt, a charcoal smoker is the best option if you want to learn everything related to smoking A to Z. Contrary to a popular belief, it is not that time-consuming, good models allow for very easy temperature control.
Convenience, speed and great results of smoking are the three most important aspects of this type of smoker. A great alternative to charcoal smokers when you don’t have time or simply don’t feel like controlling the entire process of smoking.
- Incredibly convenient and simple to use, even for beginners
- It reaches the adequate temperature very fast, pretty much about a dozen minutes since getting started
- You don’t need to worry about the amount of fuel, air flow control or temperature, everything is taken care of by a system that adds more pellets in the furnace when needed.
- First and foremost, very high prices for a decent model
- Pellet gives a slightly different flavor from charcoal, not everyone likes it
- People came to love this type of smoker for its convenience, ease of use and great results. There is no denying that the ability to prepare great barbecue without much effort is something very encouraging to buy this type of smoker.
- It is also advertised under the name pellet grill but in reality it is a dedicated smoker that isn’t very good at grilling.
Just as convenient and fast as pellet smokers, but much cheaper. They are perfect when you’re thinking about really long smoking as you don’t have to worry about refueling and maintaining a fixed temperature.
- Convenience, speed and precision
- You don’t have to think about controlling temperature or fuel
- They are versatile and capable of effective cold smoking ( if you buy the right accessories )
- Sadly, their biggest downside is being prone to malfunctions, electric elements are known for their problems. If any problem arises, in most cases it renders the smoker useless until repaired, which tends to cost a lot
- Problems arise much more often and sooner especially if you buy a cheap electric smoker
- The food flavor will never be as great as from a charcoal or even pellet smoker
- A good choice for someone who doesn’t like BBQ at all or is super lazy. A great choice for those who think of smoking things other than meat. Cold smoking gives plenty of opportunities, fish, cheese or sausages.
- You actually won’t learn anything about real smoking with that kind of smoker, to me its biggest advantage is mostly the cold smoking ability.