7 Best Vertical Smoker Options for Authentic BBQ Flavor – 2022 Top Picks

Last Updated on September 8, 2022

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!

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

Our Top Choice

Pitboss 3series
  • Great smoker, maintains temperature well
  • Great price, fantastic performance, easy to use.
  • Perfect for parties as it has good capacity
  • Good size smoker with adjustable shelves.
  • Cleans up nicely

Image

Product

Price

Pit Boss 3-Series

Pit Boss 3-Series

BEST CHOICE

  • Great temperature control and plenty of space.
  • Gauge is easy to read and comes with coated racks
  • It is easy to set its digital and set temp that you want
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Dyna-Glo DGY784BDP 36″

Dyna-Glo DGY784BDP 36″

RUNNER UP

  • Large capacity with moveable shelves
  • Comes with structured and solid construction
  • Works great for occasional user!
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Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch

Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch

VALUE CHOICE

  • Great instructions, easy to follow,
  • Very well constructed and holds heat well.
  • Works very well, holds a lot of meat for big cook outs.
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Vertical Smoker

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.

Top 9 Best Vertical Smoker Reviews of 2022

1. Best Overall Vertical Smoker – Pit Boss 3-Series Digital Vertical Smoker

Pit Boss 3-Series

Why you’ll love this:

This is a very interesting choice that I like quite a lot. While some of its features are middle of the road, like its somewhat above average capacity, it has some nice unique options that make it stand out. Primarily, that it has a glass door (for monitoring your food while it cooks with ease), and that it can reach temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

While not particularly useful for smoking, this does allow your smoker to double as a second oven in a pinch, and makes it great for cooking quicker meals.

If you’re just getting serious about smoking and want a reliable, reasonably priced option this is the perfect one to start with.

What We Liked

  • Construction: The double walled insulated stainless steel construction gives this smoker excellent heat retention, marred only slightly by the glass front; the ability to observe the progress of the meat smoking inside without opening the chamber more than makes up for this minor defect. While tall and unwieldy to pick up, the four wheeled design makes it easy to move around and set up where you need to, and then move it to storage afterward.
  • Temperature: The digital temperature controls are precise and easy to use as well, with a variety of options and the ability to manually control the dampers to manipulate air flow and smoke thickness. The wood tray is easy to load, as are the four sizable shelves adding up to 760 square inches of total cooking area.
  • Performance: For the amazing performance this provides, the price is more than reasonable, sitting somewhere in the mid to low end of the price range. This option is well worth picking up for easy and simple batch smoking; both quick smoking and cold smoking are possible as well, for a full temperature range of 150 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit that makes this smoker usable similarly to an electric oven as well.

What We Didn’t Like

  • While not particularly useful for smoking, this does allow your smoker to double as a second oven in a pinch, and makes it great for cooking quicker meals.

2. Runner up – Dyna-Glo DGY784BDP 36″ Vertical LP Gas Smoker

Dyna-Glo DGY784BDP

Why you’ll love this:

If you’re after that truly distinct flavor that you can only get from a smoker, then there’s no other smoker out there that will satisfy your needs in terms of features, price and build quality than the Dyna Glo DGY784BDP.

Thanks to its cast iron burner capable of outputting 15000 BTUs, this model allows you to enjoy smoked meals all year round. The double door design is truly special and it’s meant to reduce the changes in temperatures when you access the food or when you want to add wood chips or water.

Build quality is simply excellent and the DGY784BDP is made of heavy duty steel and features a powder coat, high temperature finish that guarantees a long life, while the condensation and grease management system greatly reduces the time you need to spend cleaning it.

In total, you get a 784 sq. inches of cooking space which means that you can cook chicken, ribs and steaks in a single session, therefore saving you precious time. Lastly, you’ll be very happy to know that the DGY784BDP is also CSA certified and also comes with a one year warranty. However, given its solid stainless steel construction, you won’t need to use the warranty anytime soon.

3.  Best Value – Cuisinart COS-244 36-Inch Vertical Smoker

Cuisinart COS-244

Why you’ll love this:

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.

What We Liked

  • 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.

What We Didn’t Like

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

4. Best Electric Vertical Smoker – Pit Boss 3-Series Analog Vertical Smoker

Pit Boss Blue Blazing 3 Series

Why you’ll love this:

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.

What We Liked

  • 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.

What We Didn’t Like

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

5. Best Vertical Pellet Smoker – Pit Boss 77350 Copperhead 3 Series 25-Inch Vertical Pellet Smoker

Pit Boss 77350 Copperhead 3 Series

Why you’ll love it:

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.

What we liked

  • 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.

What we didn’t like

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

Other Products to Consider

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

Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch

Why you’ll love it:

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.

Looking for something more like this? See our complete list of drum smoker reviews here.

What we liked

  • 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.

What we didn’t like

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

7. Best Small Choice – Americana by Meco Charcoal Vertical Water Smoker

Americana by Meco

Why you’ll love it:

If you’re looking for a smoker that’s great for beginners and won’t break the bank, we recommend strongly considering the Americana by Meco vertical smoker. Borrowing design elements from traditional drum smokers, it’s a hybrid-style smoker that’s perfectly sized for weekend smoking projects and gives reliably moist and juicy results thanks to its wet heat smoking.

What we liked

  • Very affordable.
  • Great option for first-time smokers and barbecue amateurs
  • Wet heat cooking keeps your meat moist and flavorful.
  • Durable stainless steel construction.

What we didn’t like

  • No vents for temperature adjustments.
  • Wooden handles are not weather-proofed

Offered at a price that makes entry into the world of home smoking possible for just about anyone, the Americana by Meco sports less than half the cooking space of many other drum smokers we tested — but costs only a fraction of the price of any other smoker in our review. For the most part it’s built to last, but you might end up needing to replace the wooden handles if you leave it uncovered in the rain too often.

8. Smoke Hollow 44241G2 44-Inch Vertical Popane Gas Smoker

Smoke Hollow 44241G2

Why you’ll love it:

The Smoke Hollow 44241G2 smoker is undoubtedly the only smoker the company produces that’s larger than any other models in their lineup. It features a forty four inch double door cabinet that makes it easy for you to feed the wood pans and the water without being forced to access the top door, therefore releasing smoke and heat.

This way, not only will you be able to control internal moisture, but also internal heat which directly impacts the time it takes to smoke your meals and how delicious they’re going to taste.

Other features you’ll love about the 44241G2 include the dual gas control system which increases the temperature range (low to high), the 2 stainless steel inline burners which can be controlled separately and have a total output of 10000 BTUs and the welded and 1 rib rack, 2 jerky trays and 3 standard cooking grates.

9. Runner Up – Landmann USA 3895GWLA Smoky Mountain Vertical Gas Smoker

Landmann USA 3895GWLA

Why you’ll love this:

With a total cooking surface of 1476 square inches, the 3895GWLA from Landmann USA is one of the largest smokers you can currently get.

Besides its spacious design, it also incorporates very useful features such as easy access drawers with handles that allow you to easily gain access to the water pan and the wood chip box without having to worry about opening the main chamber door. The 3895GWLA also features a magnetic door closing system that effectively latches the door.

There are of course, many other features you’re going to love about this incredible smoker, including a heavy duty steel wood chip box (with lid), a steel water pan (coated in porcelain), large nylon plastic door handle, adjustable side damper vents that feature tab guards made of plastic to effectively control temperature, and an adjustable top chimney.

Lastly, you also get a high quality burner made of cast brass that won’t rust and a massive 10-year warranty.

FINAL VERDICT

Pitboss 3series

Of all the vertical smokers we tested, none quite compares to the Pit Boss 3-Series Digital Vertical 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 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!

Read More: Learn How To Season A Smoker And What’s The Importance Of It.