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Last Updated on November 26, 2021
There’s just something about charcoal.
While gas grills are a very convenient way to get a meal on the grill quickly, they just can’t infuse the same kind of flavors smoked into everything that touches a charcoal grill or smoker.
Charcoal smokers come in all shapes and sizes. From portable units that make a great companion on a camping trip or your next tailgate, to heavy duty charcoal bbq grills made to cook for a crowd.
Prices vary widely too. While inexpensive smokers can be found, most models come in at around $100 to $200. But, for a nicer grill expect to pay at least $300 or more.
Our Top Choice
- Perfect size because of fuel capacity.
- Versatile, can be used as a grill or smoker.
- Easy to assemble and easy to use.
- Perfect for both beginners and skilled griller
Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker
How to Pick the Right Charcoal Smoker?
Understand Your Needs
Before you jump in and start shopping, take a few minutes to really try and understand what you need in a charcoal smoker.
Do you just have a small family to cook for?
Or, do plan to prepare food for a crowd regularly?
Even a small, portable smoker can work for a family. But, if you’re smoking for a crowd, you’ll need a few hundred square inches of cooking space and a smoker that’s built to handle the stress that comes with heavy use.
Know the Market
As you begin your search for a charcoal smoker, it’s also important to understand what’s out there. Charcoal smokers come in many different configurations, so it’s important to understand what you’re looking at.
One of the most popular types of charcoal smokers is the traditional kettle style grill. And one of the most iconic kettle style smokers is the Weber Kettle, though many other manufacturers make similar grills. This style is good option if you plan to do a lot of direct grilling and smoking. They’re also typically fairly compact, making them easy to store and transport.
Another common style of smoker is the offset smoker. With these smokers, the charcoal is added to separate firebox that sits adjacent to the main grilling chamber. Offset smokers make it easy to keep the heat indirect and controlled.
Vertical charcoal smokers take the offset style to the next level by turning the main cooking area into a vertical space with a series of racks. These style smokers are great for smoking lots of meat.
Some of the other charcoal smokers available are small and portable units, as well as cabinet styles.
Size is another important factor when buying a grill or smoker.
Most average size grills provide around 300 to 400 square inches of space. That’s plenty of room for a family or a few friends—even a smaller party or gathering.
But, if you’re planning to cook for a larger group, you may want to consider a smoker with at least 400 square inches of space or more. Most offset and vertical charcoal smokers provide at least this much room, making them ideal for a crowd.
Know Your Budget
Fortunately, most charcoal smokers are relatively affordable. They don’t need the same sort of complex systems that make gas or pellet grills tick, and this helps keep the price down.
Most charcoal smokers can be had for $100 to $500, with most of them being priced around $200.
Top 7 Best Charcoal Smokers Reviews of 2021
1. Top charcoal smoker – Weber 22-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
What We Liked
If you want to know how to smoke ribs, then you need to have the right equipment. Weber offers a simple and authentic charcoal smoking with the Weber Smokey Mountain. It’s a vertical smoker that provides lots of space in an easy-to-use platform.
For simple, authentic charcoal smoking, a vertical smoker provides lots of space in an easy to use platform.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-Inch Charcoal Smoker is a durable smoker with enough space for a crowd.
With two nickel-plated cooking grates and over 700 square inches of space, the Smokey Mountain has enough space for a turkey or other large items. Below the cooking grates, this smoker is fitted with a large porcelain enameled water tray to help keep meats moist and tender.
A side access panel allows users to quickly add wood chips, charcoal or water without disturbing the food. Upper and lower vents provide simple temperature control.
2. Best Cabinet Type – Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D
If all you want to do is smoke—and lots of it—a vertical, cabinet-style charcoal smoker is the way to go. Instead of laying your food out on just one grate, cabinet smokers let cooks to stack several grates on top of each other inside the unit, providing maximum space. The inside is accessed with a door instead of hinged or removable lid, making it easy to slide food in and out.
The Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker is a excellent cabinet charcoal smoker that lets you smoke a lot of meat at once—up to 100 pounds at a time! Six cooking grates and nearly 800 square inches of cooking space provide plenty of room for all sorts of dishes.
This Dvna-Glo is durable and reliable with heavy-duty, all-steel construction. The steel construction combined with an assortment of vents provide for good temperature control also. The vertical cabinet-style design also allows the heat and smoke to rise naturally.
3. Char-Broil Kamander Charcoal Grill
While smoked meats are undeniably good, sometimes you need a little diversity. Direct grilling takes less time and is considerably easier.
While many of the other smokers already covered are made for double duty as both a smoker and grill, one of the best options for both charcoal grilling and smoking is the Char-Broil Kamander Charcoal Grill.
With an all steel insulated double wall exterior, the Kamander is capable of maintaining steady temperatures for long periods of time. A built-in temperature gauge and a set of air vents help users find the perfect temperature.
4. Top Choice For Beginners – Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset
- 290 square inches of indirect, smoking space
- 140 square inches of direct cooking space in the firebox
- Height adjustable cooking grates
- Temperature gauge mounted in lid
- Side shelf to help hold food and cooking equipment
If you’re just getting into charcoal smoking and looking for a smoker for your next backyard cookout, the Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker is a simple, trusted option that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
The Char-Broil American Gourmet is a simple, average size charcoal smoker with plenty of space for a family cookout or a few friends. This grill has an area for smoking and a separate firebox that can also be used for direct cooking and searing.
With plenty of vents and a temperature gauge, tracking and adjusting temperatures is easy to manage. Inside, the American Gourmet has trays for both wood chips and water, making it easy to add extra flavor and moisture. Wheels make the American Gourmet easy to transport or move around your back porch.
5. Best Small Unit – Char-Griller E22424 Table Top
If you’re tight on space or want a charcoal smoker you can take with you, check out the Char-Griller 2-2424 Table Top Charcoal Grill
This small charcoal grill still has about 250 square inches of cooking space, despite its compact size of just 18.5″ x 17″ x 16″. With a barrel shape that’s suitable for both indirect, 2-zone smoking and direct grilling, this little Char-Griller is a very versatile unit.
As the name implies, this smoker is designed to sit on a table or other suitable surface. The short legs only hold the Table Top a few inches off the ground.
The exterior of this grill is constructed of heavy duty steel with a wood covered handle and vents at either end. Inside, you’ll find a long-lasting cast iron cooking grate.
Other products to consider
6. Weber Smokey Joe Premium
Why you’ll love it:
For true portability, it’s hard to go wrong with the classic Weber Smokey Joe Premium 14-Inch Portable Grill. This little grill is truly compact and portable with a cooking grate that’s just 14.5 inches wide.
The Smokey Joe also employs a handy retainer for the lid that keeps the unit in one piece during transport. The same retainer also forms a rest for the lid while cooking.
At less than 10 pounds, the Smokey Joe is also very easy to transport for camping, cookout, tailgates, or other events.
The only downside to the Smokey Joe is its size. At only 14.5 inches wide, it’s probably not the best way to smoke foods, but will work with smaller dishes.
7. Weber Original Kettle Premium
Why you’ll love it:
Sometimes it’s hard to beat simplicity. There are few experiences like grilling over charcoal and there are few charcoal grills like the classic Weber Kettle.
The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch is a medium sized grill that provides plenty of space for cooking for a family or a small group. The Weber Kettle is a versatile grill that can be used for both traditional grilling and indirect smoking.
The Kettle’s durable, porcelain enameled bowl has nearly 400 square inches space. Even though it’s round, the large cooking grate provides plenty of space for large items like ribs or brisket.
This premium version also includes a one touch, easy to use ash collection system. This allows users to quickly disconnect the ash collection tray and empty when necessary.
The Kettle Premium is fitted with a lot of great features. There are heat shields to protect hands on each of the handles, a thermometer, plenty of vents for heat control, and hooks for utensil storage while cooking.
If you’re looking for the best all-around smoker that can handle both smoking and grilling, it’s hard to beat the Weber 22-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker.
The Weber Cooker is simple, durable, and easy to maintain. It also has plenty of space to cook for a few people or a small crowd with nearly 800 square inches of cooking space.
The Kettle’s distinctive shape make is a great platform for smoking, despite its compact overall footprint.
So, if you’re on the market for a new charcoal smoker, be sure to take a look at the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill. It’s guaranteed you won’t regret it!
Advantages of Cooking With Charcoal
When it comes to outdoor cooking, there are countless debates over what fuel to use. While gas grills are growing in popularity due to their convenience and ease of use, many barbecue enthusiasts rarely steer from charcoal. Although there are several benefits to each fuel type, charcoal has many unique advantages.
1. High temperatures
Charcoal grills can be heated to exceedingly high temperatures. This gives pitmasters a lot of freedom and control over what they want to cook and how they can cook it. It is also possible to produce direct and indirect heat. If designed correctly, these grills are capable of grilling, smoking, searing, and baking.
2. Dual-zone cooking
This involves dividing the surface of the grill into two separate temperature zones. Usually, one zone is for high heat cooking, while the other is for low heat cooking. This helps for precise cooking and temperature control.
Charcoal grills give food, particularly meat, a smoky and aromatic flavor. This is due to the mechanism by which charcoal grilling works. It effectively vaporizes meat juices, giving it a distinct taste. Flavor can also be enhanced using particular types of wood chips.
4. Low cost
Charcoal grills don’t use expensive burners or valves for cooking. Due to the primitive nature of charcoal grills, they are generally cheaper to make, buy, and operate than gas alternatives.
Grilling with charcoal is the traditional method of barbecuing. Many cooks take pride in cooking in this way, particularly with homemade grills.
Beginner’s Guide To Smoking in a Charcoal Smokers
Recipe #1 Smoking Ribs
When learning how to smoke ribs on a charcoal smoker, it can be tempting to purchase premium materials for superior results. However, there is no need to spend too much money on pure charcoal that burns hot and fast. Smoking should be a slow process, so standard charcoal briquettes are sufficient.
Follow this guide on how to smoke ribs on a charcoal grill.
Smoking on a Kettle Grill BBQ
Because you’re smoking using low indirect heat, this process takes longer than grilling. Foods can take several hours to smoke, allowing you to relax on a sunny day. To avoid smoke escaping, try to keep the lid closed as much as possible.
It’s okay to lose some smoke when checking on the cooking progress, but you don’t want to lift the lid too often. A suitable target temperature for smoking meats on a kettle grill is around 250°F.
We have the complete guide here on how to use a kettle grill.