9 Best Vertical Smoker Options for Authentic BBQ Flavor – 2021 Top Picks

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Last Updated on May 18, 2021

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

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For most of human history, refrigeration was not an option for preserving fresh meats, seafood, and vegetables. And while methods like salt-curing or pickling had a place in certain cultures, no method of preservation has ever become as popular as smoking.

Cooking meat long and slow over wood or charcoal has the double benefit of preserving and flavoring, lending a signature taste that’s been embraced by people around the world. Learning to tend to the finicky art of smoking can be a painstaking process, though — unless you choose a modern smoker design that makes it easy and intuitive.

By incorporating everything you need into one simple, upright design, vertical smokers take a lot of the guesswork out of smoking. This makes them a perfect option for beginners to smoking, as well as a highly versatile option for experienced pitmasters looking to smoke small batches of meats.

If you’re wondering whether a vertical smoker is right for you, then this buyer’s guide is the perfect place to start. In it, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to decide on the best smoker for your needs, and then present our findings from testing and evaluating dozens of vertical smokers.

Let’s get started!

How to Choose A Good Vertical Smoker?

Who Needs A Vertical Smoker? What Are Vertical Smokers Good For?

As a simple and inexpensive way to get started on your smoking journey, vertical smokers are often the first smoker that an aspiring pitmaster will gain experience on. If you’ve ever dreamed of making your own bacon, cured meats, or smoked cheeses, a vertical smoker is an economical and easy to use tool that you can get started with right away.

What to Look for In A Vertical Smoker?

Deciding on the right vertical smoker for your needs comes down to understanding the features and the fuel source. Let’s take a closer look at each of these in turn:

  • Smoking space is king in vertical smokers, as you want to be sure that you’ll have plenty of room for smoking everything in one go. Smoking is a lengthy process, and having plenty of space for large batches is much more fuel efficient.
  • Right alongside the total space, the number of racks your vertical smoker has will determine how much you can smoke at one time. Since heating is so even in vertical smokers, the more racks the better!
  • Heat output for vertical smokers doesn’t need to be nearly as high as for a similarly-sized grill, as smoking relies on a consistent application of lower heat. Look for smokers that have easily adjustable temperatures that remain constant over time.
  • Ultimately, the fuel source you choose will be a huge factor in the final flavor of your smoked goods. We’ll cover the main types of fuel sources in the next section.

Types of Vertical Smokers

While the designs of vertical smokers may change from product to product, the fuel source is the most important difference. There are four fuel types for vertical smokers:

  • Electric smokers are the most fuel-efficient, and often hold a very consistent temperature. They rely on wood chips for their smoky flavor, and produce less intensely flavored meats than other fuel sources.
  • Gas smokers also hold consistent temperatures, and often can be set to higher temperatures than electric smokers. They also require wood chips, but their higher temperatures tend to produce better flavor.
  • Charcoal smokers require the most fuel, and can be a challenge to refill in the middle of long smoking projects. The tradeoff? Charcoal smokers produce the most robust smoked flavor of any vertical smoker.
  • Pellet smokers combine the precise temperature controls of electric smokers with a richer flavor from wood pellets. They’re a great in-between choice that features the benefits of every other type of fuel source.

Our Best Choice

Masterbuilt Adventure Series MPS 330G ThermoTemp Propane Smoker

Masterbuilt Adventure Series MPS 330G

TOP Reasons to BUY:

  • 719 square inch cooking surface.
  • 15,750 BTU stainless steel burner.
  • Dual separate doors for main smoking area and wood chip area.
  • ThermoTemp technology automatically monitors and adjusts temperature.
  • Measures approximately 23.5” W x 23” D x 43” H.
  • Weighs 70 pounds.

Image

Product

Features

Price

Masterbuilt MB20050716 Mps 330g Propane Smoker

Masterbuilt MB20050716 MPS 330G Propane Smoker

BEST CHOICE

  • The temperature regulator is a great feature.
  • Nice wheels to move it easily.
  • Generates quality smoke.
  • 17.32 x 18.31 x 26.18 inches
  • 75.9 pounds
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Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch Vertical Propane Smoker

Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch Vertical Propane Smoker

RUNNER UP

  • Well-constructed with plenty of space.
  • Good temperature control.
  • Well worth the money.
  • 20 x 20 x 46 inches
  • 40 pounds
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Camp Chef 24-Inch Smoke Vault Propane Gas Smoker

Camp Chef 24-Inch Smoke Vault Propane Gas Smoker

VALUE CHOICE

  • Largest vertical smoker we tested.
  • Very well constructed and holds heat well.
  • Heats up quickly and even heats.
  • 30.5 x 25 x 17 inches
  • 74.4 pounds
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Top 9 Best Vertical Smoker Reviews of 2021

1. Best Overall - Masterbuilt Adventure Series MPS 330G ThermoTemp Propane Smoker

Pros

  • Huge surface area for smoking big batches of meat.
  • Automatic temperature control and viewing window make this the easiest smoker to operate that we’ve ever used.
  • Caster wheels make it easy to move and reposition.
  • Fuel can be added to a separate door, without releasing heat.
  • Allows for perfect fine-tuned adjustments for competition-quality smoking.

Cons

  • No options for hanging hooks.

Combining the best of the best in smoking capacity, heat output and precision, and always delivering consistently amazing results thanks to its automatic temperature monitoring system, the MPS 330G from Masterbuilt’s Adventure Series is a run-away favorite for our top pick. Simply put, it’s an exceptionally well-made vertical smoker that’s packed with useful features — all available at a reasonable price.

Take just one look at the MPS 330G, and you’ll see how different it is from other smokers in this category. The large window on the main door allows you unparalleled oversight for the entire smoking process, and a separate loading door for fuel will prevent any temperature drops during refills.

Add all of that to a spacious interior and small, sturdy wheels for easy transport, and it’s easy to see why we recommend this as your first consideration when looking for a vertical smoker.

2. Best Value - Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch Vertical Propane Smoker

Pros

  • Excellent price.
  • Plenty of cooking space for large smoking projects.
  • Durable and rust-resistant enamel coating.
  • Integrated side handles make it easy to carry and transport.
  • Front-mounted thermometer lets you monitor the cooking temperature without opening the door.

Cons

  • Front-mounted thermometer lets you monitor the cooking temperature without opening the door.
  • Meats cook unevenly between the 4 grill racks.

An exceedingly cost-effective option that’s suitable for beginner and expert barbecuers alike, the Cuisinart COS-244 is a 3 foot tall vertical smoker that features an oversized interior and easy portability. While its tightly spaced smoking racks make it somewhat less capable of handling large smoking projects like pork butts or hocks, it’s a fantastically affordable smoker that’s ideal for at-home use.

An enamel coating both inside and out lends the COS-244 added durability and makes it easier to clean, especially when combined with the slide-out drip and ash trays. The charcoal hamper is best for projects under 4 hours, but can be loaded to accommodate up to a 6 hour smoke time.

3. Premium Choice - Camp Chef 24-Inch Smoke Vault Propane Gas Smoker

Pros

  • Largest possible smoking capacity of any vertical smoker we tested.
  • Easily adjust your temperature with the heat control dial.
  • Plenty of heating power from its best-in-class 18,000 BTU burner.
  • Wet heat design keeps your meats moist and juicy while cooking.

Cons

  • Heavy and somewhat difficult to transport.
  • On the expensive side.

Premium power output for any grill or smoker always comes with a premium price. But the real test of whether any cooking tool is worth its cost comes down to its consistent results in producing delicious food. For the Camp Chef “Smoke Vault” propane smoker, we think its higher price tag is a bargain when considered in light of its added features and ultra-durable design.

Producing 18,000 BTUs at maximum heating output, the Smoke Vault easily holds the title of hottest smoker we’ve tested. And while you’re not likely to use it at its maximum temperature of 500 degrees F for just any smoking project, it gives this smoker from Camp Chef the ability to cook anything from breads, to pizzas, to whole roasts — all while infusing them with its signature rich, smoky flavor.

In short, the Camp Chef Smoke Vault is an impressive smoker with an equally impressive price tag, and one that’s guaranteed to impress any experienced grilling fanatic.

4. Best Electric Vertical Smoker - Pit Boss Blue Blazing 3 Series 22-Inch Vertical Analog Electric Smoker w/ Window

Pros

  • Very affordable, especially for how large its smoking capacity is.
  • Generously sized grilling space with four adjustable racks means you can smoke lots of different things at once.
  • Electric power source means you’ll save a lot of money on fuel.
  • Extremely durable cold-rolled steel construction.

Cons

  • Only holds enough wood chips for 2 hours of smoking at a time.
  • Preheating takes quite a while.

Fans of electric smokers love the fuel efficiency and reliability provided by having an inexhaustible power source, and know that with the proper wood chips they won’t be sacrificing any of the deep flavor that charcoal is known for.

This is all especially true of the Pit Boss Blue Blazing 3 Series vertical smoker. Powered by a hefty 1650 watt heating element, it boasts a wider range of temperatures than many gas smokers — from 150 all the way to 400 degrees F. Combine that with 4 porcelain-coated racks and an easily refillable wood chip tray, and the Blue Blazing 3 Series smoker becomes a serious competitor in the vertical smoker market.

In short, we recommend this large and affordable electric smoker to anyone who’s willing to spend a little more time on preheating and refilling wood chips. Your patience will be rewarded with incredibly consistent, delicious results for anything you want to smoke.

5. Best Value Electric - Americana by Meco 2 In 1 Electric Water Smoker Grill

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Electric power is convenient and inexpensive to use.
  • Very inexpensive.
  • Great smoker for beginners.

Cons

  • Fairly small cooking area.
  • Takes a long time to heat up.
  • Needs frequent refills of wood chips while smoking.

Are you interested in the sounds of an electric smoker, but working with a smaller budget? If so, we recommend considering the Americana by Meco 2-in-1 smoker and grill. It’s a small and lightweight smoker with excellent fuel efficiency and a design that makes it easy to store and transport.

Standing just over three feet tall and weighing 26 pounds, this vertical smoker from Americana by Meco really shines more as a smoker than a grill, due to its long preheating time. It’s almost shockingly inexpensive, making it a perfect option for beginners to smoking or anyone who’s curious about whether an electric smoker is the right choice for them.

6. Best Premium Electric - Smokin Tex Pro Series Residential BBQ Electric Smoker

Pros

  • Double insulated construction makes it cool to the touch on the outside.
  • Racks are dishwasher-safe, making it super easy to clean.
  • Mounted on four caster wheels for easy transport.

Cons

  • Mounted on four caster wheels for easy transport.
  • Quite expensive.

Extra large and built with double-insulated walls that make it cool to the touch, the Smokin Tex Pro Series electric smoker is often seen in professional kitchens and small food preparation businesses. Sturdy and durable, it’s best when used for professional applications but may not be the best choice for home smoking.

Four dishwasher-safe racks give plenty of space for smoking even large cuts of meat, but a maximum temperature of 250 degrees means that this smoker is designed for long cook times. It’s sealing front door retains smoke as well as any smoker we tested, giving a richly infused flavor to the brisket we slow-smoked.

7. Best Vertical Pellet Smoker - Pit Boss 77350 Copperhead 3 Series 25-Inch Vertical Pellet Smoker w/ Window

Pros

  • Very large cooking area with 4 racks to accommodate any project size.
  • Easily adjustable temperature for fine-tuning your smoking.
  • Front window and integrated thermometer make it easy to monitor your smoking progress.
  • Huge pellet hamper gives up to 8 hours of smoking on a single load.
  • Caster mounting makes it easy to move and reposition.
  • Ultra-durable cold-rolled steel construction.

Cons

  • Ultra-durable cold-rolled steel construction.
  • Somewhat difficult to clean.

Pellet smokers offer a wonderful in-between choice that combines the best qualities of electric and charcoal-powered smokers into one convenient and easy to use package. While most pellet smokers feature a small, horizontal design, the Pit Boss Copperhead 3 series is an incredibly well-equipped example of a vertical pellet smoker.

Boasting a huge 800 square inch cooking surface area, the Copperhead 3 Series has plenty of room for smoking anything — and a maximum temperature of 450 degrees F allows it to live up to that claim. 

Add to that a large front window for monitoring your smoking progress and automatic pellet igniter within its generous 35-pound capacity pellet hopper, and this smoker from Pit Boss is ready to handle your toughest and most finicky smoking projects. If it wasn’t quite as pricey, it may have easily made our top choice pick.

8. Best Vertical Charcoal Smoker - Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker

Pros

  • Virtually weather proof, and comes with a cover for maximum longevity.
  • Large cooking area at a reasonable price.
  • Easy to adjust the temperature with vents at top and bottom.
  • Wet heat cooking keeps your meats juicy and tender.

Cons

  • Charcoal basket isn’t very large.
  • Needs frequent refilling on longer smokes.

More than any other type of outdoor cooking, using charcoal as your fuel source is an art form. It requires the utmost patience, planning, and care — but once you’ve mastered the craft, the results are undeniable. For the experienced barbecuer, a vertical charcoal smoker like the Smokey Mountain from Weber may well be a dream come true.

Perfectly sized and designed for maximum charcoal smoking flavor, the Smokey Mountain features a bevy of adjustable vents and an easy access fuel door that won’t disrupt your temperatures while smoking. It’s already weather proofed thanks to a porcelain enamel coating, but Weber throws in a fitted cover to protect it from the elements even more.

9. Best Drum Smoker - Gateway Drum Smokers 55 Gallon Charcoal BBQ Smoker

Pros

  • Potentially huge smoking capacity -- up to 1,386 square inches if you purchase extra racks.
  • Fast and easy temperature adjustments with multiple vents.
  • Extra-long 14 hour smoking time on a single charcoal basket fill.
  • Heavy-duty construction is built to last a lifetime.

Cons

  • Quite expensive.
  • Heavy and difficult to move.

The original prototype for all vertical smokers that have come after it, drum-style smokers are a super-sized option for smoking that were traditionally made from cast-off oil barrels. This drum smoker from Gateway Drum Smokers keeps the same simple and hand-crafted design, but adds thoughtful features that make it easier to dial in temperatures on longer smokes.

Fully assembled and ready to roll as soon as you receive it, our only gripe with this smoker is how difficult it is to move as a single person. Weighing right at 100 pounds, it’s a real beast that demands to be set up and left in one place.

See our complete list of drum smoker reviews here.


Final Verdict

Masterbuilt Adventure Series MPS 330G

Of all the vertical smokers we tested, none quite compares to the Masterbuilt Adventure Series MPS 330G ThermoTemp Propane Smoker. It offers a near-perfect combination of size, versatility, and precision temperature control — all at an excellent price that’s geared towards the serious beginner. We’re proud to name it as our top pick for vertical smokers.

For especially budget-conscious smokers, though, the Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch Vertical Propane Smoker offers the same thoughtful features as our top pick, but in a smaller and less expensive package. It’s an excellent alternative for anyone looking to save money, but still get into smoking the right way.

After reading through this guide, do you think a vertical smoker is the right pick for you? No matter what sort of grill or smoking system you go with, we wish you the best of luck in all your future barbecuing adventures!

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