Best Charcoal Smoker For Connoisseurs

Smoking is different from grilling in the sense that the food is cooked through indirect heat rather direct. A charcoal smoker is a great way to make delicious, tantalizing food. Here, we share what we know about charcoal smoking and how you can find yourself the best charcoal smoker to make the same great food.

If you are looking for a quick recommendation, we suggest that you go for the Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker. That is because we like the 2 door design of this a tad more than the others and coupled with the affordable price makes this the perfect first choice.

The Models That We Are Introducing In This Guide

What Are The Advantages Of A Charcoal Smoker?

Advantage #1. That Smoky Flavor

Often, we BBQ because we love that smoky tangy flavor, and have you ever wondered how we get that flavor? No, it is not from the BBQ sauce. It, in fact, comes from the charcoal itself. When high heat makes your meat sweat, figuratively. If you close the lid when you cook, the sudden outburst of aroma when you lift the lid instantly whips up your palates. You will drool uncontrollably, and your stomach will start growling. While there are wood chips and flavored pellets that enhances the taste of the smoked meat, the original taste from the hot dried wood aka charcoal is irreplaceable.

Advantage #2. The Price

Although the price of using charcoal is relatively more expensive than using propane. The cost of the smoker itself offset the marginal price difference and possibly more. A propane smoker usually twice as much as a charcoal smoker. Moreover, a propane smoker is made up more delicate parts than a charcoal smoker. Consider this, a propane smoker has a burner (some burners), the regulator and the gas hose. Any one of these parts get damaged and your entire cooking process went up in smoke. If you are not aware, the regulator is prone to wear and tear. Getting them replaced needs time, and even we disregard the time factor. The cost of replacing them takes a chunk out of your piggy bank.

Whereas when using a charcoal smoker, unless there is structural damage that makes the entire smoker unusable, you wouldn’t need to worry about any of the parts not working – because there isn’t a lot of parts. Most of the parts are structural in nature. The only part that may need regular replacement is the grates. All grates will wear out over time, no matter the quality and the brand.

Advantage #3. The Weight Of The Grill

Winter is coming and you need to keep the smoker in the garage. Would you rather drag a 100 pound smoker or one that is half that weight? A charcoal smoker is made up of only a couple of essential parts compared to other types of smokers. This means that you save a lot in the weight department.

Advantage #4. It Is Easier To Assemble A Charcoal Smoker

With lesser parts, the assembling time for a charcoal smoker reduces too. Moreover, it is easier to assemble a charcoal smoker too. Take a quick look around the net, you will find that there are not many guides written on how to assemble a charcoal grill – precisely because it is of little difficulty to assemble one that there is no need to write one.

What Are The Disadvantages Of A Charcoal Smoker?

Disadvantage #1. There Is A Steep Learning Curve

You might have already heard of it. There is a really deep learning curve to get by. What is that? Temperature control. Controlling the heat in a charcoal smoker can be tough and you do not have the handy dandy convenience of turning a knob left or right unlike a gas smoker. However, once you are able to do it, the reward far outweighs the initial frustration. Perfect temperature control not only give you a boasting right, but you can also even make money out of it. Look at the number of BBQ parlors.

Disadvantage #2. A Charcoal Smoker Is Dirtier And Messier

Dealing with wood ashes is bearable. Add black soot to the mix and you get a perfect recipe for headaches. You would have to get your hands dirty, literally. There is no two way about it. That is the very essence of smoking with charcoal. But if you are also a fan of that smoky flavor and enjoy the process as much as we do, it shouldn’t be that much of a big minus.

Disadvantage #3. Preparation Time

By preparation time, we are specifically referring to the time needed to get the smoker to the fun part – the actual smoking. While there are charcoal chimneys to take some work off you these days, but it will always be longer than pushing a button on gas smokers or electric smokers.

What Are The Things To Consider Before Getting A Charcoal Smoker?

Consideration #1. Ample Smoking Area

Many recipes require you to smoke your food for a long period of time. Some can take hours; others may suggest smoking upwards to a day. What is undeniable is that you can only smoke that many times a day. And when your guests are coming this evening, you might even only have one shot at it.

Imagine having a small charcoal smoker, you are not going to smoke out enough food for the evening. And, you won’t have enough time to smoke a second batch. If that is the case, why not go for a larger charcoal smoker at the start? We suggest that you go for a large one rather than scramble at the last minute. The great thing nowadays is that a bigger charcoal smoker doesn’t cost that much more than a smaller one. So, if you have the capacity to place a larger smoker in your backyard and have ample storage space in the garage, there is no harm to getting that.

Consideration #2. Dampers And Vents Are A Must

I have not seen any quality smoker without either of these two features. Certainly, I have not seen one that does not even have any of it. In the event that there is one, please drop me a mail and let me be amused by it. Perhaps, there is some kind of new design and tech that goes into it that we are not aware of.

Meanwhile, charcoal vents and dampers are critical in making or breaking smoked food. They are essential in regulating air flow in and out of the smoker. This airflow is what feeds your charcoal to make to burn and heat. Without airflow, you cannot control the temperature and most likely, your smoked meat will not taste as nice as it should be.

Consideration #3. Stable Base And Legs

You are going to cook for a long time, and you do not want the smoker to topple over while doing so. What worse is if you have children or pets around, toppling the smoker over is going to risk having hot and scalding food injuring them. Let’s prevent that, shall we?

Consideration #4. The Smoker Should Have Removable Parts

At the very least, you should expect that the ash tray and water tray are removable. I cannot understate how much of a help this is going to do when you are cleaning up after the smoke. When the parts are removable, it is also going to mean that these parts can be replaced when damaged. Hence, you do not have to buy an entire smoker again when it is spoilt.

Consideration #5. The Smoker Should Be Made With Quality Materials

If you ask me, I will prefer that the entire charcoal smoker be made with steel. Steel is very durable, cheap and long-lasting. This means that the smoker is going to hang around long enough for you to use for years. Luckily for us, steel constructed charcoal smokers are more of the norm these days.

Consideration #6. Comes With Warranty

Charcoal smokers take a lot of punishment over time and there would be some out of the entire population (of charcoal smokers) will suffer an untimely and early demise. Therefore, the next logical thing to do is to check whether it is still under warranty. If it is, you are going to save some money to buy more food. I know that you are thinking that a charcoal smoker is cheap anyway – but really, I would love to have a couple more dollars in my pocket than not.

Best Charcoal Smokers To Bring Your Cooking To The Next Level

#1. Cuisinart COS-116 Vertical Charcoal Smoker

 

The first model that we suggest comes from Cuisinart. This model features a smoker area of 402 square inches which is enough for up to 10 people worth of smoked food at any one point in time. The racks are also removable, so you do a meat hang in it. There is no top hook so you will need to hand the whole bird from the top rack. It is a vertical design, so to place any food at the bottom tier, you will have to remove the top rack first. The racks are made with stainless steel.

For easy access to water and fuel, there is a side door to do that. However, the downside on a side door is that there will be a leak of smoke and moisture in the short window when you are adding more charcoal or water.

To control the temperature, there are two vents – on at the bottom and one at the top. Used them in conjunction with the in-built thermostat at the top and it should be adequate to help you reach and maintain the optimal temperature.

At the point of writing, Cuisinart offers a 3-years limited warranty on this product to set your mind at ease.

Product Specifications And Features At A Glance

  • Material: Steel
  • Racks Material: Stainless Steel
  • Cooking Area: 402 Square Inches
  • In-Built Thermostat: Yes
  • How Many Racks: 2
  • Removable Racks: Yes
  • Dimensions: 21 x 21 x 32 inches
  • Weight: 22.8 pounds
  • Warranty: 3 Years Limited Warranty

#2. Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker


If you are liking the vertical smoker that we have introduced earlier but wish that it was bigger. Then check this Dyno-Glo model. This features a cooking area of 784 square inches divvies up by 4 cooking grates. The stainless steel grates are totally removable and allow you to smoke a whole bird with ease.

The unique and welcomed feature about this smoker is that it is a 2 door design. Remember that we mentioned if you were to open and close the chamber door to add fuel and water, it might cause a loss of temperature, smoke, and water content? This is where the two door design comes really handy. The two doors are the main smoke chamber door and the firebox or fuel box door. When you need to add more fuel or water, you can add it from the bottom door as this will allow you to add as many times as you want and minimize the loss of temperature and water.

The other good thing about the Dyno-Glo is that it comes with its own smoker cover. Yes, there are many brands out there that sell you a smoker cover but a bespoke one is always preferred. You won’t get one that is oversized or undersized.

At the time of writing, the manufacturer offers a 1-year warranty on this product. But seeing that the terms could change from time to time. We suggest that you contact the manufacturer before purchase if you are looking at this guide at a different time from when we wrote it.

Product Specifications And Features At A Glance

  • Material: Steel
  • Racks Material: Stainless Steel
  • Cooking Area: 784 Square Inches
  • In-Built Thermostat: Yes
  • How Many Racks: 4
  • Removable Racks: Yes
  • Dimensions: 20.8 x 21.4 x 49.7 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Warranty: 1 Year Limited Warranty

#3. Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker


Weber is known to make great grills, so we are not surprised and pleased to see that they are also making smokers. This Weber Smokey Mountain charcoal smoker features a smoking area of 510 square inches divvies up into two plated steel, removable racks. If you think that this is not enough and wants more space. They are also offering a 22 inch model that can go up to 760 square inches. The grates are made with plated steel.

The body of the smoker is made of porcelain enameled metal and is known for its heat retention and heat distribution properties. To monitor the temperature, the in-built silicon thermostat is placed at the top of the lid. Hot air rises, right? So, it makes perfect sense to be there.

Two dampers or vents are placed at the top and bottom of the smoker. Adjust them accordingly as what your recipe demands. Chances are you will only need to use the bottom damper and it should be enough. For stability, the Weber has 3 prong-like metal legs, so it won’t topple over easily. Overall, this model is quite lightweight so moving them around should not be a problem.

There is a fuel door at the front and once removed, you will be able to add more fuel into the charcoal tray. You should be able to see the grates as well, so you can check on the progress of the food without the need to open the top lid. This model comes with its own smoker cover too.

At the time of writing, Weber offers a limited warranty and the option to purchase an extended warranty if you should need it.

Product Specifications And Features At A Glance

  • Material: Porcelain-enameled metal
  • Racks Material: Plated Steel
  • Cooking Area: 510 Square Inches
  • In-Built Thermostat: Yes
  • How Many Racks: 2
  • Removable Racks: Yes
  • Dimensions: 21 x 19 x 41 inches
  • Weight: 39.1 pounds
  • Warranty: Limited Warranty With The Option To Purchase Extended Warranty

#4. Kinger Home 18 Inch Vertical BBQ Smoker


The next model comes from Kinger Home. While this manufacturer is relatively less well known compared to big brands like Weber, the charcoal smoker they made checks all the mark of a quality smoker. You might also find it very similar to the Weber model we introduced above – just more affordable.

This model also features a 510 square inches of cooking space divvy up into 2 removable racks. The body, lid, and bowl of this smoker are made with porcelain-enameled metal as well. And with it, comes better heat retention and distribution properties.

As with any good quality smoker, there are at least 2 vents at the bottom and the top, providing mechanisms for temperature regulation. A thermostat is also provided and is positioned at the top of the lid. The front loading door allows for easier access to the fuel compartment.

Product Specifications And Features At A Glance

  • Material: Porcelain-enameled metal
  • Racks Material: Plated Steel
  • Cooking Area: 510 Square Inches
  • In-Built Thermostat: Yes
  • How Many Racks: 2
  • Removable Racks: Yes
  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 21.5 x 29.6 inches
  • Weight: 31.6 pounds
  • Warranty: Not Stated

How To Use A Charcoal Smoker To Smoke Food?

The process to use a charcoal smoker is almost the same as what you would do for a charcoal grill. The first few steps are the same. The difference only comes in the later steps. First of all, You have to fire up the charcoal first, you can either start it in the fire chamber itself or use a charcoal chimney. A charcoal chimney is much preferred.

After that, add the flaming charcoal to the smoker and add some flavored wood chips or pellets for added taste. That is not mandatory and really up to you. Then, there should be a water tray which you will need to fill it up. The water is there to make sure that there is ample moisture in your food as the long hours of smoking will drain the meat of any water, making it tough if you were to not add any.

Some here would prefer to add cold water to the smoker as it offsets the temperature of the smoker. However, we don’t think there is much difference whether you add water at room temperature or cold water. The outcome is the same, no significant difference in taste. Depending on the recipe that you are following, you might find yourself refilling the water tray and wood chips a couple of times.

Next, place the food that you want to smoke in the smoker. Often, there are detachable or adjustable racks in modern smokers. If you are smoking a variety of food, we suggest that you leave the veggies at the top tier and meat at the bottom tier. That is because the bottom tiers will usually be hotter and there is where you want your meat to be at. Veggies lose water content fast and will do better at the top tier where the temperature is relatively lower.

Now, the most important step is to regulate the temperature. This is a steep learning curve and would usually take more than a try to get it right. There are a couple of mechanisms to help you to regulate heat. They are the thermostat, which should be inbuilt and comes with the smoker, and the vents. You would want to keep the vent at the bottom open to allow oxygen in to fan the charcoals; keep the top vents closed to prevent the smoker from getting out. You can adjust as needed looking at the thermostat. If you need more heat, open the bottom vent wider, if otherwise, close the bottom vent but not entirely.

Charcoal Smoker For Better Taste

In this guide, we have gone through all that you should know to choose the best charcoal smoker for your needs and heck, we even go all the way to include a section to share with you on how to use a charcoal smoker. If at this point, you still have no idea which one to choose, we suggest that you go for the Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker. That is because we like the 2 door design of this a tad more and coupled with the affordable price makes this the perfect first choice.

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