In A Rush? Here’s our Top Winner…
√ Unique oval design for more flexible and versatile grilling and smoking
√ 400 square inches of standard cooking surface; up to 680 square inches with rack extensions
√ Exterior features a premium-grade ceramic blend coated with a protective, lead-free, scratch-resistant porcelain glaze
√ Highest quality ceramic for increased efficiency and durability
√ Measures 28 W by 21.5 D by 27-1/2 H; 20-year warranty for all ceramic parts;
Ready….Set….SMOKE! The Quest for the Best Charcoal Smoker
There’s (almost) nothing more satisfying than smoking meat. You start with something raw and bland, and you end up with a work of art, delicious and tender. Sitting down at a table with buddies, beer, and plates full of smoked steaks and brats…chewing on rib bones while you watch the Superbowl…these moments are why smoking meat is worth every second of research and labor we put into it. We want those moments to be the best, and the flavor of what we serve makes all the difference.
No wonder we’re addicted to smoking meat! If you’ve gotten started, you know the fun of pulling a rack of ribs off the smoker at just the right time and watching as the meat falls off the bones. The flavor of the charcoal smoke and the smell of the dry rub are enough to make you go crazy.
You’re already sold on smoking meat…so the only question is, which charcoal smoker is best? There are a few things to slow down and think through before you make this sort of purchase.
For now, we’ll tell you right from the start that our choice for best overall smoker is the Primo 778 Extra-Large Oval Ceramic Charcoal Smoker Grill. It’s not the cheapest smoker on the market, but the Primo is the best smoker out there. It’s large, with over 400 square inches of cooking surface, makes incredible pork butts, and is the only true ceramic smoker on the market of this size. Because of the unique design, this smoker offers features that just aren’t available on any other unit.
Best Charcoal Smokers
|1||Primo 778 Extra-Large Oval Ceramic Charcoal Smoker Grill By Primo||9.8||Buy on Amazon|
|2||Masterbuilt M7P 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill By Masterbuilt||9.6||Buy on Amazon|
|3||Weber 15402001 Performer Premium Charcoal Grill By Weber||9.6||Buy on Amazon|
|4||Camp Chef PG24 Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ By Camp Chef||9.4||Buy on Amazon|
|5||Weber 16401001 Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill By Weber||9.2||Buy on Amazon|
|6||Dyna-Glo DGN576DNC-D Premium Charcoal Grill By Dyna-Glo||8.6||Buy on Amazon|
|7||Char-Broil CB940X 08301390-26 Charcoal Grill By Char-Broil||8.6||Buy on Amazon|
|8||Char-Broil 14201876 Vertical 365 Charcoal Smoker By Char-Broil||8.4||Buy on Amazon|
|9||Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker By Weber||8.2||Buy on Amazon|
|10||Char-Broil Offset Smoker American Gourmet Grill By Char-Broil||8||Buy on Amazon|
The advantage of this smoker is its versatility. The direct and indirect heat configurations make it possible to cook steaks on one side of the smoker over direct heat while at the same time roasting a whole chicken and a rack of ribs on the other side. Just set the configuration to what meat you’ll be cooking and go with it. It’s really that simple and versatile.
The whole design is ingenious, and, because of the excellent construction, the unit should last you for a number of years. Overall, this smoker is ideal for almost every barbecue enthusiast.
If you’re looking for specific advice, though, think through a few points first.
Don’t break the bank
It used to be that purchasing a smoker was the equivalent to donating a vital organ Smokers have become a hot commodity lately. It’s not uncommon to look across the top of your neighborhood on Memorial Day and see a dozen plumes of smoke rising from back yards down the street.
The popularity of smoking meat has led to a huge number of grills and smokers to choose from, and these days, high quality smokers have become reasonably priced. You can make your wife happy by smoking tasty meat, and make her happy by keeping your 401K intact. And as we know, a happy wife…
The key is to set your budget. Find a smoker that fits your needs in the price range that’s comfortable. If you go over your budget, the smoker will feel more like an albatross than a blessing.
Pick the Features
When you’re looking for the best charcoal smoker, you’ve got to analyze the features. Start by considering what kind of meat you want to smoke, usually. Is there a certain brand that makes a difference? Are you wanting ceramic coatings? Or even solid ceramic? What about fuel? Are you a wood devotee, or is charcoal or wood chips best?
Consider the options before you make a purchase, and especially consider capacity. If you’re a loner, and you just like to come home and cook a steak a few times a month, go for a smaller smoker that fits on your back patio. But if you’re looking to host next year’s President’s day block party, you’d better find something that will crank out a large meat production.
Also, think through storage. If you buy a large, high quality smoker, you may end up with a unit that will never move again. High grade smokers are made of heaven duty steel, so a smoker with that sort of construction is going to require you and a crew of friends to get it shifted.
Next, consider if you’re in the market for a wet or dry smoker. A dry smoker will work great with juicier meats with higher fat content like brisket, shoulder, and ribs. However, if you’re looking to smoke leaner cuts and still get a moist final product, a smoker that allows for water smoking. Water smoking uses a water pan above the fire chamber that fills the smoker with water vapor, maintaining some of the moisture of the meat.
Lastly, think about versatility. Our top pick (the Primo 778) is precisely that – a super versatile smoker, with a ton of options. But other smokers also offer some versatility options that really are useful, especially if you’re dealing with limited space. If you junk your kids’ swing set to make space for your three level horizontal trailer smoker, you may be back to smoking for yourself real quick.
III. Read Our List
Before you hit the barbecue store down the street, take a few minutes and read our list below. We don’t claim to know everything about smokers, but we’ve been smoking meat for a while, and, when it comes to finding the right smoker, we’re pretty experienced. After you’ve thought through the questions above, check out our picks and then make a choice based on what’s best for you.
Masterbuilt is a well-known brand for smokers. They’ve been producing quality products since 1973, and the 7-in-1 model continues the excellent tradition. The unit is really a all in one grilling/smoking man’s paradise. There’s a truckload of cooking space, which you don’t often find in a vertical smoker (let’s just say that a hame and a turkey at one time is feasible). The grilling racks are porcelain coated, meaning that they can withstand extremely high heats (the sorts of temperatures you need to sear burgers or steaks) while at the same time remaining non-stick and intact to slow roast cut potatoes or corn on the cob.
The M7P also functions as both a dry and wet smoker. A pan of water with juice or vinegar added can be inserted into the bottom of the smoker to provide additional moisture when smoking more lean meats.
The smoker also comes with a multi-fuel system, meaning that you can use propane, charcoal, and even add wood to the base layer of the smoking chamber to achieve the right smoke flavor. It comes with an aluminum veg basket and pot, plus its ridiculously easy to transport with cool touch handles.
With all the features and with the really remarkable cooking space, the Masterbuilt M7P 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill is the best overall value for the money on the market. If you’re looking for a smoker that will cover all your grilling, smoking, and party needs, look no further.
Top 10 Charcoal Smokers
Char-Broil 14201876 Vertical 365 Charcoal Smoker
This smoker is really a quality all around smoker. The design is very basic, but the results speak for themselves. Ideal for a party-style cook, this vertical square smoker offers features that are really fantastic.
First, the construction is excellent. Heavy gauge steel with solid weld points and heavy cooking surfaces mean the smoker will last a number of seasons. Second, the smoker is equipped with a series of dampers between the firebox and the smoking chamber, as well as out the top, giving the smoker full control over the smoke and temperature volume coming in and out of the smoker. As we mentioned before, however, it’s always best to start by testing a single damper and see how different movement affect the taste and moisture of the meat.
This smoker is ideal for larger, full fat meat varieties like pork roasts, beef roasts, and baby back ribs. Other items like burgers, sausages, and lean steaks are not going to cook well in this unit. However, if you’re looking for simplicity of use and flexibility with wood fire smoking, the box is easily converted between different wood pellets without too much work. Plus, it’s just a really classy looking smoker.
Char-Broil Offset Smoker American Gourmet Grill
The name speaks volumes. This is a great, classically styled, offset smoker for a smoking enthusiast. The smoker is really designed for larger scale smoking with a stunning 1280 square inches of smoking space available between the two units (fire chamber and smoking chamber). The flexibility of the offset design means that you can cook steaks and burgers on the lower, hotter firebox, while at the same time use the smoker side to slowcook ribs, or larger roasts. This makes the unit ideal for a large party, with flexibility and cooking variety.
The construction is heavy duty as well. Quality gauge steel sides and porcelain coated cooking grates make the smoker nearly indestructible. The American Gourmet also has a chrome rack int he smoking chamber, allowing for two-layer smoking and warming, even as the lower firebox is full of meat as well. The indirect heat will allow the meat to cook slowly, while at the same time infusing it with the smell and flavor of the charcoal or your favorite wood choice.
Of course, we always recommend cleaning the firebox to avoid any kind of flare up or dangerous fire situation, but that’s the same with every smoker. The major drawback is that there is no option for a gas add on if you’re looking for different fuel types. In order to add gas to this unit, you’d need to find someone with a welding torch, cut the side steel, and run a line into the smoker. It may be worth it, but if it were me, i’d stay and experiment first with coals and woods before making major modifications.
Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
Weber is a name you’ve heard of. It’s really the best known smoker and grill company on the market. Everyone knows Webber. The smoker is covered with really cool features. For example, the grates are coated with nickel for a non-stick and highly durable cooking experience. The smoker has two large sized cooking surfaces, and the handles are made of nylon for high temperatures. There’s also a thermometer at the top of the smoker to help you know if you’re capturing enough heat, as well as individual vents on the lid and bowl.
The Webber Smokey Mountain is really an ideal and well made backyard smoker. The space of the cooking chamber allows large sized cooking without any issue, and the simple vertical design sends the smells and heat around the meat cut. The smoker also functions as a moist smoker with a water pan built in to add moisture to smoked meats.
The exterior is made of a heavy gauge porcelain-coated steel for extremely high heat resistance levels. The one drawback is that you’re still going to be limited to charcoal use. That doesn’t need to be a deal-killer, but just be aware that it could cause some issues if you have other smoking dreams.
Camp Chef PG24 Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ
Built for a home griller, this smoker really has some special features for making the smoking experience super simple. For starters, the thermometer is digital, allowing for a consistent read on the internal temperature. The construction is pretty ingenious, with the upper chimney at the center of the unit, allowing for good air and heat movement over the meat.
The cooking surface isn’t huge – just 560 square inches – which is a serious drawback. However, with the pellet and hopper system, you’re free to start the smoker, set the temp, turn on the hopper, and go get a drink and wait for the meat to be done. Temperature spikes are controlled and managed by the hopper. The hopper does hold a sizable 18 pounds of wood pellets, which should do a full smoking job pretty well.
The entire system is really a fail-safe smoking design for newbies and experts alike. The temperature can vary from a low 160 F to a stunning 500 F. It also has a really handy feature – the patented Fire Pot Cleanout system allows for an easy clean up after use.
Dyna-Glo DGN576DNC-D Premium Charcoal Grill
Really a very nice charcoal smoker/grill. The unit is designed to be used in a similar way to a vertical smoker, but with greater levels of cooking space. In fact the grates cover 816 square inches, which is really quite a large surface for a true charcoal grill (that’s enough for four racks of ribs plus sides).
The external structure is a mix of steel and cast iron, depending on the item. The charcoal base is a cast iron box for holding the briquettes. The cast iron concentrates and focuses the heat transfer more directly into the meat above, rather than losing some of the heat you’ve built up out the sides of the unit. The grates are also cast iron, but with a nice porcelain feeling.
The other handy features on the Dyna Glo Premium are the crank for raising and lowering the coal bed (which is particularly helpful for moving from a searing heat to a longer cook time for steaks that are more than medium rare). Plus, if you and your buddies are all standing around the grill, there’s a helpful bottle opener built in to the side to limit the conversation interruptions.
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
The classic charcoal grilling system is really what made Weber famous. They’ve had a number of home runs, but this unit is what put them on the map. The classic design is ideal for a good-sized cooking surface (508 square inches), but an overall smaller sized grill when space is a concern. The bowl and lid are heavy duty steel with a porcelain glaze to eliminate scratching and surface abrasions.
The unit has a really simple ash removal system, and allows for direct and indirect cooking methods. The thermometer is built in and positioned near the crest of the unit for perfect temperature control.
The unit is perfect for burgers, steaks, and brats, while also providing flexibility with temperature control to cook slower cooking meats like roasts and whole chickens.
Weber Performer Premium Charcoal Grill
This unit is really well designed. It’s a smaller take-off of the old classic kettle model with a smaller food cooking surface (only 363 square inches), meaning that it’s really designed as a family-plus-a-few-more style grill. The unit is really well made, though, and has some quality features.
The lid is the same excellent coated and enameled heavy gauge steel, and the charcoal bin to the right will keep your charcoal dry and light-ready. It’s not uncommon to hear the complaint that there’s always half a bag of charcoal left after every grilling session and there’s no where to store it. Weber heard the complaints and has made a really nice model to deal with it.
There are also some nice user-friendly models like a digital read out display for cooking times, as well as the patented One Touch cleaning solution to make the whole process just that much simpler.
Char-Broil CB940X 08301390-26 Charcoal Grill
The CB940X is a really nice model with excellent construction specs. The body is a heavy gauge steel and the cooking racks are cast iron with a porcelain coating. The unit also has a helpful fire pan adjustment mechanism that really reduces the complexity of temperature control for direct cooking.
The CB940X also has some really handy features like dual removable cutting boards not he sides, adjustable dampers, and a simple and easy ash pan removable system. The total cooking space isn’t huge (540 square inches), but the overall functionality and simplicity of the design are really helpful.
Plus, the variation in cooking temperature and the simple temperature readout make cooking a variety of foods pretty simple.
IV. Buy the Farm
When its all said and done, you’ve got to pick a smoker. You know our choices.
For the best overall, we’d suggest the Primo 778 Extra-Large Oval Ceramic Charcoal Smoker Grill. It’s a great unit, and we know you’ll be pleased. Large cooking space, remarkable build quality, and ease of use all make this an amazing smoker.
For the best value, we’d go with the Masterbuilt M7P 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill. The unit is a really great grill with tons of versatility, high quality construction, and multiple fuel sources. Masterbuilt thought of everything on this unit, and it shows. The whole unit is well constructed, should last you a number of seasons, and is priced at a really good value for what you’re receiving. So if you’re committed to the smoking and grilling process, but want a really quality and versatile unit, you’ve found what you’ve been looking for here.
We know choosing a smoker can feel daunting, but take the time to read through the advice we’ve included and familiarize yourself with the features of the grills above. Consider your budget, and the features that you really need, and then go get the grill that works best for you. If you take our advice, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect unit at the price you’re expecting. Enjoy the back yard, and throw an extra rack of ribs on for us!
Best Overall Smoker: Primo 778 Extra-Large
The Primo 778 (View on Amazon.com) is hands down the best overall charcoal smoker you can currently get. With its amazing heavy gauge construction, large cooking surface and overall ease of use, it can turn turkeys, hams and other types of meats into mouthwatering culinary works of art. Given its size and the fact that this is the only ceramic smoker that’s currently made in the United States, you are guaranteed to get superior results compared to any other smoker out there.
Best Value Smoker: Masterbuilt M7P 7-in-1
The Masterbuilt M7P 7-in-1(View on Amazon.com) is the best smoker you can currently get if you’re looking for something not too expensive and not that feature-rich. As the name suggests, this is a seven in one smoker that’s going to make all your meals taste simply delicious. One thing that makes it a winner is its large cooking space, which allows you to cook a ham and a turkey at the same time. You can even smoke burgers and steaks at very high temperatures, but also consider indirect grilling for corn on the cob and foil wrapped potatoes.
Lastly, thanks to its 10.5 quart aluminum basket and pot, cool touch handles and solid steel cooker stand, the M7P is by far one of the best smokers you can currently get for the money.