Best Charcoal Smokers Reviews
A Good For / Not Good For
The world of grilling has seen a lot of innovations throughout the years. Grilling systems and technologies are developing exponentially. And yet, many die-hard grilling enthusiasts still prefer to stick to charcoal, no matter what.
There’s not a single electric smoker, pellet grill, or gasser that will sway them. The reason is so simple, and yet makes a strong argument – charcoal imparts a distinctive, awesome smoky flavor to the food. And there’s no better way to do that than by using a charcoal smoker.
Granted, pellet grills also infuse the meat with a unique flavor, but plenty of people still prefer charcoal smoke. Moreover, even though it might not be inferred from the name, a good charcoal smoker can use both charcoal and wood chips.
There are many kinds of wood chips, and each one delivers its own special taste. You can explore a dozen options on more than one kind of meat. The possibilities are numerous.
The thermal environment charcoal can create is considered to be perfect for smoking. Electric and pellet smokers cannot match the heat of burning charcoal.
Charcoal is always the first choice of those who really like to participate in the cooking process, instead of being mere bystanders. The “set it and forget it” setups offer a valuable luxury, but for some aficionados, they take out the joy out of preparing your own meat.
Such smokers are inexpensive, easy to transport, offer greater control over the cooking process even though there are no sophisticated electric components. Malfunctions almost never occur, and, if something breaks, it’s easy to repair.
Charcoal grills come with a learning curve. They require more investment on your part compared to electric setups. Smoking on such a unit isn’t physically demanding, but you’ll have to overlook the process until it’s done.
Aside from smoking, there’s nothing else you can use it for. They are not quite versatile. Low and slow cooking requires time and patience, so some might not be willing to wait for the payoff.
Even though white smoke is well appreciated, the debris that comes after it is not a welcome sight. You’ll have to get your hands dirty for the cleanup.
How painful, or painless, the cleanup will be, depends on the particular model you’ll be using, but you’ll undoubtedly get some ash on your hands. Despite some disadvantages, there’s no doubt that the results are worth the hassle.
Review of the products
Review of the products
Weber Smokey Mountain 18″
Pitmaster Rating: 4.2
The company has revolutionized the art of smoking. Considering that Weber has invented the first ever grill, it comes as no surprise. The weber smokey mountain 18 has a dedicated army of fans from all over the world.
Its design has remained virtually unchanged for almost four decades. There’s simply is no reason to make any significant changes – it works like a charm and is easy to use. Porcelain-Enameled steel ensures excellent performance and exceptional durability.
The smoke is consistent thanks to the heat retention properties of the setup. The nickel-coated grates aren’t only great for smoking, but also make the cleanup much more manageable. The aluminum dampers are impervious to rust.
You can tell that the product was built to last, thanks to the sturdy design. The manufacturer is so confident of the product’s superiority that they offer a 10-year warranty on all the main parts.
Beginners ought to benefit the most from this smoker – it’s a perfect setup to master smoking with. The silicone grommet and the charcoal door and allow you to easily tend to the water bowl and the fire, as well as add more charcoal.
Although not included in the basic package, you can use the company’s famous iGrill temperature probe. The unit is designed to be portable and easy to clean. No matter where you go, you can rely on it to deliver those wonderful smoke rings.
- Authentic Smokehouse Flavors
- Easy and Simple Maintenance
- Sizeable Cooking Space, Two Grids
- Convenient Handling
- Easy Temperature Management
- Top-notch Grates
- 10-year Warranty on Main Parts
- No Side Handles
- DESIGN 69% 69%
- FUNCTIONALITY 80% 80%
- PRICE 70% 70%
Oklahoma Joes LongHorn
Pitmaster Rating: 4.1
The high-quality design of the oklahoma joe smoker guarantees many successful cookouts for the years to come. You can use woodchips, aside from charcoal. They both deliver a unique, delicious, smoky flavor – it’s just a matter of preference.
Loading it is pretty simple, thanks to the top lid on the firebox. The setup is even suitable for grilling. There is also a side door that allows you to quickly remove ash or tend to the fire so that the temperature wouldn’t drop significantly.
Even though the Oklahoma Joe LongHorn Smoker is heavy, it sure does make up for it with its impressive 1060 sq. in. of total cooking area. That translates to forty burgers in a single cookout, which ought to be enough for a backyard party.
The smoker stands on two sturdy wheels, making it easy to move around the yard. The grates are porcelain coated. The coating makes them rust-free and easy to clean.
You won’t have to worry about burning your palms thanks to the chrome-plated handles. The Oklahoma Joe LongHorn Smoker doesn’t lack in extra features either. For starters, there’s a built-in thermometer that makes smoking much easier.
The smoke and the temperature can easily be adjusted by the chamber dampers. There’s also the option of adjusting the height of the grate. Despite its size, the assembly process is simple.
- Easy Setup
- Temperature Gauge
- Two Shelves
- Porcelain-Enameled Grates
- Adjustable DAmpers
- Cool-Touch Handles
- Sizeable Cooking Area
- Durable Construction
- Pain Peels Off
- DESIGN 88% 88%
- FUNCTIONALITY 73% 73%
- PRICE 72% 72%
Weber Smokey Mountain 22″
Pitmaster Rating: 4.4
The weber smokey mountain 22 is in many ways similar to its little brother. Their crucial difference is their size. This model comes with an incredible 726 square inches cooking area.
The compatibility with more accessories makes it different from the smaller version, but also a bit more expensive. Considering the excellent design and sizeable smoking area, it’s definitely a bargain.
If you buy it, you’ll quickly realize why the design hasn’t significantly changed over four decades. The Smokey Mountain is almost perfect in every way, and excellent for beginners.
The small changes that were made over the years were targeted at the noticeable flaws, such as the rust around the dampers, and have successfully been eliminated. As a result, we have a product that’s almost impervious to malfunctions. No wonder the company offers such generous warranties.
When it comes to durable chrome and porcelain coasting, hardly anyone can beat Weber. The robust legs come with an aluminum heat shield. The side door allows you to add wood, coal, and water easily.
Aside from being great at smoking, it’s the unique shape and two-grate design give it a significant advantage over the competition. The bullet-shaped design allows you to easily transport it wherever you want. It’s not the only portable smoker, but it’s one of few with such a sizeable cooking area.
- Sizeable Cooking Space
- Sealed Design – Saves Fuel
- Superior Airflow, Multiple Vents
- Even Temperatures
- Silicone Grommet
- Authentic Smokehouse Flavors
- Smoke Cover
- Porcelain-Enameled Main Parts
- Plated Steel Cooking Grates
- 10-Year Warranty on Main Parts
- Could Be More Flexible
- DESIGN 60% 60%
- FUNCTIONALITY 70% 70%
- PRICE 77% 77%
Primo Kamado All In one
Pitmaster Rating: 4.0
Not everyone has the time to master grilling and smoking, as much as they love the superior smoky flavor. For those, there’s the primo grills and smokers 773. It’s a time-saving Kamado that has many perks.
Aside from smoking, you can use it for roasting and grilling – simultaneously! Kamado grills are an ancient breed originating in China. The 3000-year-old technology lives to this day thanks to the excellent results it delivers.
It’s simple, yet ingenious design is what makes it so great. The airflow is superb and controlling it requires minimal effort on your part. It also ensures even spread of heat.
Even though kamados are inherently simple, the model comes with a couple of very useful accessories. There’s a built-in temperature gauge that is highly accurate. Other notable accessories are the grill lifter, ash tool, cradle, and the two shelves.
The model is all about convenience. There is almost no assembly required at all, which is quite surprising for its size.
Moving it around the yard ought to be no problem, as the Primo Kamado stands on four caster wheels. Everything sounds perfect so far, so where’s the catch? The price.
Unlike most smokers, the Primo Kamado is a bit pricey. However, it’s multi-functional design and 20-year limited warranty on ceramic parts make it an investment worth considering.
- Easy to Use
- Great for Beginners
- Premium-Grade Ceramics
- Sizeable Cooking Area
- 5-Year Limited Warranty on Metal Parts
- 20-Year Limited Warranty on Ceramic Parts
- Built-in Thermometer
- DESIGN 65% 65%
- FUNCTIONALITY 95% 95%
- PRICE 68% 68%
The Original PK Grill and Smoker
Pitmaster Rating: 4.4
The retro design of the model is sure to catch everyone’s attention. It looks as if it was built in the 50s. But make no mistake, the pk grill and smoker is famous for a reason.
Not only does it excel at grilling and smoking, but its cast aluminum construction makes it almost indestructible. You will never have to worry about rust.
Actually, there’s a good reason why it looks very similar to the 1950s models it bast on. You can still find sixty-year-old PK grills that are still in function.
The thick aluminum casting makes the smoker excellent at retaining high temperatures. You can rely on it even on a cold, windy day.
Aluminum is light compared to steel, making the grill easy to transport. The model isn’t exactly classified as portable, but it’s not far from that.
The setup is known for its precision air control. The system enables you to set exactly how much air you’ll let inside the grill. It also lets you precisely adjust its circulation inside the chamber.
The remarkable 4-point system is made of two air exhausts on the top of the smoker and two air inlets beneath the base. It’s a simple design feature that ensures maximum control over the smoking process.
It’s also the choice of the pros. The PK is the official grill of the Steak Cook-Off Association Championship series.
- Cast Aluminum
- Industry Standard
- Grates Fit in Average Dishwasher
- Can be Used For Grilling Too
- Retro Design
- Easy to Transport
- Precision Air Control
- Not Suitable For Larger Parties
- DESIGN 68% 68%
- FUNCTIONALITY 65% 65%
- PRICE 61% 61%
Primo Oval XL
Pitmaster Rating: 4.5
This kamado is the company’s largest model so far. Its size is comparable to that of an average three burner gasser. The primo oval xl has been named after its unique shape. The structure design isn’t aesthetic – it’s what enables two-zone grilling and smoking.
The feature allows you to slide meats from a cool to hot side for reverse searing steaks and crisping chicken. The possibility is made even better with the cleverly designed porcelain-enameled grates. Although the setup is a bit heavy, lifting the dome doesn’t require much effort thanks to the spring-loaded lid hinge.
The four, sturdy caster wheels make the setup quite mobile and easy to handle. It’s one of the larger smokers out there as well. You won’t have a problem fitting a thirty-pound turkey inside the dome. There’s also a cast-iron damper that allows you to control the airflow precisely.
The manufacturer has done a great job of perfecting the ancient kamado technology. It performs exceptionally well in all the essential aspects, such as heat retention, heat distribution, and heat consistency. As a consequence, the Primo Oval isn’t only great for smoking, but also baking, roasting, and grilling.
Hardly any other smoker can match its performance, any many tests have been conducted that have proven its superiority. In one test, the firebox stayed at 225° for 3 days. It’s a significant investment, no doubt, but with the Primo Oval, you are sure to get a lifetime setup with an almost impeccable performance.
- Made in USA
- Can be Shut Down
- Large smoker Capacity
- Premium Materials
- Divided Firebox
- Cool-Touch Handle
- DESIGN 88% 88%
- FUNCTIONALITY 77% 77%
- PRICE 66% 66%
CHARCOAL Smokers – 2019 Buyer’s Guide
With a bit of practice, and a well-made smoker, you’ll be making better dishes than restaurant briskets and ribs. Having a proper smoker is just as essential as learning the art of smoking itself. However, the better the smoker is suited to your needs, the easier the process will be.
An informed purchase is the best way to avoid any regrets in the future. Before deciding on a model, one must know what they want to get out of it.
Do you plan on smoking in the backyard or would like to take your setup to the campsite? Will I make the most out of $1000? Asking yourself such questions beforehand will lead to happy smoking.
Heat retention, distribution, and airflow are essential to smoking. They dictate what the results will be as well how easy it will be to achieve them.
Unlike electric models, charcoal smokers relly on structural design to achieve optimal circulation, so it’s important to see what features the manufacturer has employed to achieve proper temperature control.
Smokers are no different than most products – you get what you pay for, in most cases. However, there are exceptions, and some of those exceptions ended up on our list.
You can get a great smoker for two hundred dollars or a piece of junk for a grand. It’s a double-edged sword. Since the price tag can be deceitful to inexperienced, prospective cooks, it’s best to focus more on the technology, materials, and the history of the model.
One of the factors that impact the price the most. The material also tells us how long the grill will last and how well it will perform.
Stainless Steel, Porcelain-enameled Steel, Cast Iron, Aluminum and Ceramic are held in high regard as they are marks, of a durable, high-quality product.
The portability of a smoker depends on the size of its cooking area. A smoker with a 700 – 1000 square inches cooking area will be mobile and easy to move around, but won’t be easy to move outside your yard. Models that come with two cooking grates, one on top of another, can be suitable for camping trips and other adventures, but won’t feed a large crowd of people.
Experts Tips and Tricks
An Early Start
Meat absorbs smoke best when it’s raw. It is because a lot of compounds in the smoke that impart the distinctive taste are water and fat soluble. The smoke won’t penetrate as well when the surface if the meat dries out.
Going Low and Slow, but Not Always
Proper smoking is done over low, indirect heat. It takes time as well. Using wood smoke is the best way to make sinewy meat so juicy and tender. That way, you’ll barely need your teeth to chew through the delicious steak. Charcoal is great, but using wood chips in your smoker will help you get most out of it.
Do try to add sweet wood flavors to the meat that’s cooked over high heat just for a couple of minutes, like shrimps and steaks. You can even try it with some vegetables.
Utilizing a Water Pan
When the heat fluctuates, it tightens and dries out the meat. When smoking with charcoal, make sure to use a water pan whenever you smoke for longer than one hour. The water pan adds some humidity and therefore helps stabilize the heat. Some models don’t come with a water pan. If that’s the case with yours, use a disposable foil pan. You must remember to refill it.
Most beginners are often tempted to add too much charcoal or wood chips. Caving into those temptations will result in some bitter-tasting food. As a rule of thumb, smoking the meat should take no longer than half its cooking time. Make sure that the smoke flows gently. If it billows like its coming right out of a diesel engine, it’s no good.
Mind the Color
Gentle streams of white smoke layering over the meat means you can expect a delicious dinner. Beware of black smoke as it will ruin your meal. To prevent its occurrence, make sure there is enough airflow.
Also, try not to place the meat directly above the heat. If the food is too close to the heat source, juices might drip into the fire and burn. The smoke from the burning juice will end up in your food, tainting its taste.
Vents are an essential part of every charcoal smoker. They are instrumental in the process. The charcoal should be opposite to the vent on the lid. Open the vents so that they’ll draw the smoke away from the fire below, causing it to swirl around the meat before it escapes through the opening. When you notice the fire getting too hot, shut the top vent almost completely. Make sure there’s still some room for the air to circulate.
Smoking doesn’t require much effort on your part. It’s a delicate art form that won’t exhaust you physically. However, it is typically time-consuming. Don’t be tempted to go golfing while you wait for the food to be done. One should always be cautious around smokers.
Checking the heat now and then is also recommended. Adding more charcoal when needed or adjusting the vents seem like minor steps, but can significantly impact the results.
Opening the setup releases smoke and heat, the two things you cannot go without here. You will need to open it but make sure you do it rarely and quickly. When you open it, try to tend to the food, the fire, and the water pan all in one take and as quickly as possible.
Not all flavors are equal. We all know which one should be the star of this show, so don’t let thick coats of sauce, heavy-handed seasonings, or a potent marinade spoil its splendor. Harmony is key. It’s what separates the masters from the masses. You wouldn’t want to upstage something that is inherently flavorful.
Almost nothing can beat the rich taste of well-smoked food. It’s an art form that’s older than some long gone civilizations. Many steps were taken from the days of the ancient Japanese kamados to contemporary times of porcelain-enameled steel setups, but the essence of the process has stayed the same.
Still, each prominent manufacturer has brought something to the table, contributing greatly to the art of smoking. Now that you are equipped with the proper knowledge, finding the best way for you to achieve the superior, smoky flavor will be like a walk in the park. Happy smoking!