Best Smoker for Beginners
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, no matter our political leanings or the size of our bank accounts, it’s that barbecue is great. If you can look me in the eye and tell me you don’t enjoy sinking your teeth into a perfectly cooked rack of ribs than you’re either a fool or a liar.
Bbq being great is a universal truth, and I’m not here to listen to anyone trying to tell me otherwise. While we all love going out for bbq, there’s also a deep pleasure in firing up the grill and doing your own version of your favourite meal. Something about being in the backyard, cold beer in hand, playing some lawn games, smoking or grilling some delicious meat is a pleasure than can rarely be duplicated. One of life’s simple pleasures, to be sure.
Now, most people are able to grill with relative success; home cooks don’t always get it perfect but it’s typically pretty good. Once grilling has been mastered then, what’s the natural evolution of a bbq person? It’s to smoke meat. Smoking is a much more exacting and patient exercise, but the results of a perfectly cooked brisket or pork butt is a feeling that can only be matched by that of getting married or having your first child. Hyperbolic, you say? Absolutely not, as a finely smoked piece of meat is as close to nirvana as many of us will ever get.
When we were thinking about our love of meat and bbq, it made sense to pair that with our love of backyards. And what better way to add to an already great place than bringing a smoker into the mix? We initially thought that these would be quite pricey, but after doing our homework and looking at the options out there, we found that there are quite a few affordable options for the beginner smoker.
These aren’t necessarily the biggest and baddest smokers on the market, but that’s not what the beginner needs. These are simple to use, don’t take up the entirety of your backyard or deck, and will still smoke and assist you in creating delicious meat.
It’s probably going to take a few attempts to get your recipe and smoking times correct, but that’s all part of the fun and challenge of smoking meat in the backyard. The three smokers we chose to review here will assist you in finding your sweet spot without breaking the bank or taking up all of your space. They are from recognized labels who know what they’re doing when it comes to grilling and smoking, which is partly why we chose them. Each will provide something a little different than the last, and depending on what you need, should cater to whatever it is you’re looking for.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we have determined to be the three best smokers for beginners.
Best Smoker for Beginners
The first smoker we wanted to take a look at was this one from Masterbuilt. Masterbuilt has been in the game for a long time and is a trusted name in grills. What initially caught our attention was the fact that this is an electric, digital smoker.
While some purists may turn up their nose at the idea of an electric smoker, this is something that will work quite well for the beginner looking to get their feet wet. The digital aspect makes the temperature easier to read, obviously, as well as easier to control. When you’re first getting started, having a few helping hands along the way makes the journey that much easier.
In addition to those things, this smoker has 730 square inches of space to smoke as well as four chrome-coated racks. There’s a side-loading space for wood chips and a removable drip pan. What all of this amounts to is a smoker that’s built for ease of use and convenience.
Again, smoking is constantly a work in progress- the smoker can’t do everything for you- but this particular model certainly does its best to make things as easy as possible. Reasonably priced for what you’re getting, this is a fine option for any beginner smoker.
The second smoker we chose to look at is this one from Char-Broil. This one is quite different in that it is a grill/smoker combination. Try thinking of this one as the side-car to a motorcycle. While it may not be the sexiest and greatest smoker on earth, we feel that this particular model provides a lot of value for someone looking to try things out and not spend a ton of dough. This is great if you happen to need a new grill as well, as you can kill two birds with one stone here.
With that said, this is still a sturdy, well-made smoker that will give you the opportunity to try your hand at smoking meats. It’s built to keep the smoke inside, with easy access to the wood chips as well as an adjustable top chimney vent.
As we said before, this isn’t the biggest smoker on the planet, but for what it brings to the table it’s certainly something worth investing in. if you’re looking to try your hand and don’t want to break the bank, then this is the smoker/grill combo for you.
The last smoker we wanted to talk about is the Smokey Mountain Cooker from Weber. If you happen to know anything about barbecuing or grills, then you have surely heard of Weber before. A company that strives to make quality products no matter what they’re doing. This particular smoker is no different either, blending quality craftsmanship with an ease of use.
This is a charcoal smoker that is made of porcelain-enameled steel, as well as nicked-plated cooking grates. What all of this amounts to is a consistent and even cooking and smoking experience. if you do thing right with this smoker, you can rest assured that things will turn out exquisitely.
It’s the most expensive smoker of the three here, but it still isn’t going to break the bank coming in at well under $300. If you’re looking for something that will withstand the test of time, deliver quality meats to your dinner table, and have a few extra bucks to spend to ensure these things can happen, then this is absolutely the smoker for you.
Best Smokers under 300 for Your Backyard
The beauty of smoking is that you often don’t need a whole lot to get going. There are plenty of ways to create your own if you have the time and patience to collect the materials and put it together. If you haven’t been blessed with the gift of time and patience than perhaps having a few extra bucks to throw around for a smoker will more than suffice.
In the world of smoking you’ll see all sorts of custom and expensive rigs out there; those built for competition or to show off to your friends. Either way, this isn’t always a feasible avenue for those with a lesser budget to go down. While everyone the world over enjoys a beautifully smoked piece of meat, some of us enjoy it as a hobby and not our life’s work. Both are fine pursuits, but we’re here today to talk to the hobbyist on a limited budget.
While there are all sorts of the aforementioned expensive rigs, there’s also a huge market dedicated to the hobbyist smoker. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get something well-built that will smoke meat just the way you want, which is where we’re going to turn our focus today. We thought that $300 and under was a fine starting point, as it doesn’t break the bank but it ensures you’re going to get into something that isn’t going to fall apart the minute you break it out.
Each of the three smokers we chose to review today will fall under, and sometimes well under, that $300 mark. With that said, each one of these smokers will also perform exactly the way you want it to, assuming you have the requisite skills to operate one of these bad boys. Don’t become confused and assume these things will do all the work, though, these are not smokers for beginners! These are merely the vehicles to take your meat from point A to point B. you are the one driving, and as such, must guide the vehicle towards your beefy destination.
Like cost, size can be an issue for those looking into smoking as well. Should you not have a lot of room in the backyard to work with, it would obviously behoove you to go with something on the stouter side of the ledger. If you have an expansive backyard with which you can smoke to your heart’s content, find something with a little more space to give you the option to try a bunch of different things at once.
With all of that in mind, take a look at the three best smokers under $300 we reviewed and find the one that works best for you. whether it be a matter of price, square footage, or taste, we feel like we’ve got you covered.
Char-Broil the Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill
The first smoker we wanted to take a look at was this little guy from the venerable Char-Broil. Char-Broil has been in the game a long time and when it comes to anything smoke or grill related, this is not the company you should sleep on. This particular model is no exception to that idea either, and in fact, is a three in one smoker, grill, and roaster. For today’s purposes, we’ll stick to the smoking category, but rest assured it’s not a single function tool.
There are a couple different things we really liked about this smoker. First, it comes in at a shade under $170, well under budget and a hell of a deal for something this practical. Second, as a stand-up style smoker, if you’re working with limited space than this is a fantastic option for you. this little guy will even fit on a small patio while still offering 180 square inches of space for smoking and grilling.
If you’re working with limited space and a similarly limited budget, this is a great way to get started smoking. It performed quite admirable in the test runs and is a great starting smoker for the first-time hobbyist looking to give things a go.
Masterbuilt 20051311 GS30D 2-Door Propane Smoker
The second smoker we took a look at is this offering from Masterbuilt. Masterbuilt has been around a long time, and like its contemporary Char-Broil, it’s a name that carries a lot of weight in the industry of smoking and grilling. This is a traditional looking stand-up smoker that has a very simple setup. If you’re someone who likes to get things out of the box and get down to brass tacks, then this is going to be a fine option for you.
What we liked about this smoker, like the first offering from Char-Broil, is that it comes in at a very reasonable price and won’t take up too much room. The other great aspect of this is that it is propane fueled, meaning that it can be set-up as a companion to the barbecue you may already own. If the thought of grilling and smoking simultaneously doesn’t get you going, then buddy, I’m not sure anything ever will.
If you want something simple, handsome, affordable, and as a partner in crime to your current grill, look no further than this fine option from Masterbuilt.
Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Standard
The last smoker we wanted to take a look at is also from Char-Broil, but it’s a little different than the first one. This is actually an offset smoker, meaning that there is a grill and smoker side-by-side here. It’s truly a dream come true to find something like this for a small sum of money. Not only that, but if you’ve also been looking into getting yourself a barbecue for the backyard you can really kill two birds with one stone here.
While not offering as much surface space as the previous two models, this is will still function just fine for someone looking to try their hand in the smoking game. It’s going to be wider than the other two models as well, so it will require a having more space on hand to house it.
It’s a great option for those looking to get started smoking and grilling, and don’t have a ton of cash to do it. This is great for beginners as it won’t set you back too harshly, but offers you the canvas you’ll need to create beautiful pieces of meaty art.
Space is not an Issue – The Best Smokers for Small Spaces and Home Use
I think we can all agree that one of life’s simple pleasures is successfully cooking a great meal. That can mean a lot of different things to different people, but whether that means cooking the perfect steak or crafting the perfect salad dressing, there is a palpable sense of pride that takes over when you know you’ve succeeded.
Some foods are easier to knock out of the park than others, however, and when you are able to nail a dish that requires some difficulty for the home cook then your pride may swell to even greater levels. Something, to us at least, that qualifies as “difficult” for the home cook is to smoke a perfect piece of meat. Whether it be chicken, beef, or pork, it takes a deft touch and a tremendous amount of patience and practice to get these things right.
Sure, you could always go out and buy smoked meat from a number of decent to great bbq joints, but there’s no real pride in that is there? No there is not. Once you’ve got that bbq bug in you it’s tough to shake. It’s tough to always find the right products to take on these sorts of challenges at home too. In the world of bbq you often see a lot of homemade rigs and massive custom jobs. While these look cool, they’re certainly not the most practical or affordable for someone who wants to cook meat as a hobby instead of a profession.
For that reason, we wanted to discuss what we have determined to be the best smokers for home use. There were a few criteria we wanted to fill here to make sure that these are actually useful for the home, not just to pay lip service to the idea. The three we have picked out are all upright type smokers that take up only a small parcel of your backyard. They should all be able to fit onto your patio and allow you to maneuver and still enjoy the space you have.
The three here vary in quality as well, ranging from one of the better smokers out there to something that’s fairly rudimentary. What they all will do for you, though, is smoke meat and do it deliciously. No matter the smoker you have, if you don’t know what you’re doing than your meat will taste like shoe leather. We always recommend getting some practice in with some cheaper cuts before you start to step up to the more expensive fare.
These smokers are all from brands we have discussed in the past and are labels we trust in terms of producing a quality product that won’t fall apart on you within six months. If you’re someone whose been at this thing awhile, you may want to step up to something a little more expensive and higher quality. If you’re someone who’s just looking to get their feet wet and this is your first foray into bbq’ing, then it may be better to try something lower in the cost category. You never know, you may end up hating it (you won’t, by the way) and you don’t want to be out a couple hundred bucks on something you never plan on doing again.
With all of that in mind, please read over our reviews of the three best smokers for home use. There will be something in here for any level of skill and interest. All of these are perfectly suited, size wise, for home use so there’s no need to worry there. Don't forget to check out the best smoking accessories afterwards, to further your addiction!
Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker, Black
The first smoker we thought would be great for home use was this offering from Weber. They’ve been at this bbq thing for a long time and continually produce high quality products. This particular smoker is not exception as it provides everything you could possibly want for home use. It’s fairly small, but you can still get a good amount of meat on it while it will only leave a fairly small footprint on your property.
On top of that, this is the highest quality of the three smokers we took a look at. Using porcelain enameled steel, it’s built from the best materials and truly will cook some of the best meat you’ve ever had. If you’re someone who’s quite into smoking and is looking for something to take your game to the next level, then we highly recommend this smoker. It’s got all the trappings of a top-quality rig and will assist you in getting to the next level of meat smoking, aka nirvana.
Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker
The next smoker we wanted to take a look at was this one from Masterbuilt. As you know, Masterbuilt has been around for a while and crafts products that we have trusted all along. They’re well built without being overly expensive, which is always a huge bonus in our eyes.
While this is a fairly bare bones rig, it is still is built with the materials necessary to keep an even temperature throughout the smoking process. Like any smoker, these require you to keep an eye on them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing their job.
This is an inexpensive, but quality smoker that’s not going to take up more space than is necessary in your backyard. It’s pretty much all you can ask for if you’re someone who’s looking to get going with smoking but doesn’t want or need something terribly expensive. This is a great smoker to get started with.
Char-Griller 2-2424 Table Top Charcoal Grill and Side Fire Box
The last smoker we wanted to discuss is from Char-Griller. While this little guy doesn’t look like much, it’s a great smoker to get started with. It may be small, but if you’re looking to get started and don’t want to spend a ton of money and don’t have a ton of space to a lot to something like this then look no further. It’s a pretty fun little rig and we found that it maintains temperature excellently for something in this class.
This is an easy, inexpensive, and fun way to dive into smoking if you have a few limitations. Don’t sleep on this; it’s the gateway drug to bigger and better things.
Back to Basics: How to Smoke Meat in a Smoker
It occurred to me that we’ve been talking a lot about smoking meat recently and hadn’t, to this point, discussed, you know, how to smoke meat. An auspicious start to this bbq adventure if there ever were one. Once we realized this error in judgement, we sought to rectify it as soon as we possibly could.
That said, we, like you presumably, are hobbyists at best and drunken weekend warriors at worst. Some may say describe that as being two sides of the same coin but we clearly see a demarcation in these descriptions.
All of this is to say that instead of taking our advice on how to best smoke meat, we thought we should look to the professionals and those who do this sort of things more seriously for something resembling helpful advice. A little research showed us that there are many great books pout there that put things perfectly into layman’s terms. We found these books to be not only easy to read, but readily applicable to the type of smoking we were trying to succeed at.
We chose the three books we’re going to talk about in a minute here for a few reasons. The first, and primary reason, is that we wanted something that offered practical and easily applicable advice for the beginner smokers and hobbyists out there. Secondly, we wanted something that was easy to digest and understand. Finally, we wanted the books to be fun reads and hopefully offer something in the world of bbq that you may not have heard or thought of before.
Each one of these books has a slightly different approach, but that’s what makes them interesting. You can buy one of them or all of them and still get something unique and different out of each.
Two of these books are from celebrated pitmasters who, if you’re even slightly aware of the goings on in the bbq world, you would have surely heard about. What’s unique about these two pitmasters is that they both have a very different approach to how they smoke and bbq their meat, which will in turn allow you to decide which approach to use.
We’ve read through all three of these books and found that there was great practical knowledge and fun ways to utilize them at home. We liked the fact that the ideas eventually led to us being better at using our smokers and getting the best results we possibly could have out of what we tried.
Not only that, but there are great recipes to try in each book. These are the types of books that apply techniques that the hobbyist wouldn’t think to ever try, and are using ingredients and recipes that may seem foreign until you sink your teeth into them.
What we’re driving at here is that if you care about improving your skills, are looking for new and interesting ways to bbq, or maybe want to try a few fun reads that relate to your new-found hobby, these three books are a great starting point. If you happen to pair some of the products we’ve recommend and products you’ve recently purchased with the wisdom bestowed upon you by these books, then you’ll find yourself in a new bbq nirvana.
With all of that said, please take a look at our three favourite books that teach you how to bbq and smoke. There’s obviously a whole world out there and these are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smoking. But if you’re looking for some fun and practical reads about the world of bbq’ing and smoking, look no further than these three books on how to smoke meat in a smoker.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
This first books comes to you courtesy of Franklin Barbecue, the world renowned bbq joint based in Austin, Texas. If you haven’t seen or heard of Franklin than you may have been living under a culinary rock for the past few years. As one of the country’s most lauded and popular bbq joints, Franklin has all but perfected meat.
All of that aside, what we really came to appreciate about this particular book is that there is a lot of practical knowledge and application that tends to screw towards the more culinary inclined. There’s also great information regarding some of the recipes used at Franklin as well as how to create your own smoker, should you be looking at this as an extension of your hobby.
If you’re looking for tips from one of America’s most celebrated and renowned pitmasters, look no further than this book as a great jumping off point to your journey.
Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue
The second book we chose to include here is a much more straightforward and practical look at bbq’ing and smoking. As opposed to the other two books we’re including here, this is much less about the journey of smoking and a much more elementary look at the science of bbq. This book covers everything from brining and injecting to smoking and which is the best wood to use for which meat.
This book is extremely practical for anyone looking to up their game and take their bbq skills to the next level. We really came to appreciate the straightforward approach and how we were able to utilize these tips and tricks in our own recipes. This book should be acquired by anyone who even has a passing interest in bbq.
Smokin' with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple, from the Winningest Man in Barbecue
Lastly, we thought we would include this book by the bbq legend Myron Mixon. Myron is a good ol’ boy who, as the title states, has won more than anyone else in the history of bbq. This ended up being a very fun read from a no-bones kind of guy who is extremely passionate about what he does.
Aside from the great and funny anecdotes Myron relays throughout the book, this has a lot of great advice and he shares many of his best recipes. Myron’s approach to bbq is to always keep it simple, which is great advice for beginners and hobbyists. Aside from this, you’ll find bits on types of wood to use as well as tips on cooking times and temperatures. A fun and practical read for any fan of bbq out there.