Anyone searching for a way to turn an ordinary piece of beef, chicken, or pork into a culinary sensation is going to want to invest in the best charcoal smoker that they can find. There is simply no better way of adding that smoky flavor to the meat than cooking it with a little bit of indirect heat and charcoal. And thanks to the improvements made to smokers over the past few decades, just about anyone can use them to cook the perfect slab of meat. That’s why we just couldn’t resist the temptation of reviewing some of the leading smoker models.
Quick Summary of Best Charcoal Smokers
Editor’s Choice: Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Weber is probably best known as the company that makes some of the best grills available, but in this instance, they’re the company that makes the best charcoal smoker. And what a fine smoker this model is. It has a bullet shape that directs smoke up and around grilling meats, and it’s available in three different sizes. It comes in a small 14-inch size that’s suitable for grilling pork butts or sausages, an 18-inch size that can handle a slab of ribs, and a 22-inch size that can handle a turkey or a full pork belly. For our purposes, we reviewed the 18-inch model and felt that this size model would be perfect for the average size family.The first thing that we’d like to mention about this smoker is that it’s extremely well made. It’s made out of steel that is porcelain-enameled and comes with two nickel-plated cooking grates. These grates are 18.5-inches wide and as we said, it’s big enough for the needs of most families. If someone is looking to smoke just enough food for 1-2 people, then the 14-inch model is the best, but to smoke enough meat for several people, this is the one that we recommend. Of course, if a person needs to be able to smoke a truly epic amount of meat, then they might want to instead go with the 22-inch model.
This charcoal smoker comes with a thermometer, water pan, and a heat-resistant nylon handle. It also comes with vents on the bowl and lid. This model weighs approximately 40-pounds, so it’s easy for most people to move from place to place, unlike some of the larger models that are on the market nowadays. Another thing that we liked was that this model had rust-resistant metal legs that held it upright. And because it had two grates instead of one, a person can cook twice as much food as they would in a similarly sized model that only has one grate. All of these are good reasons why
- Just the right size for most people.
- It’s extremely well made.
Also Recommended: Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Smoker & Grill
For people who are looking for a good amount of smoking space, this charcoal smoker by Dyna-Glo might be the one they’ve been looking to buy. This model features a total cooking space of 1,382 inches and has five chrome-plated cooking grates, one above the next, so that the user has plenty of space to smoke whatever they need to smoke. With 5 levels of smoking, the consumer can smoke pork steaks, bratwursts, a rack of ribs and still have plenty of space left over. And because it has handles that stay cool to the touch, it’s always easy to access whatever food is being smoker.Another thing that we liked was the fact that it had a cool-touch spring lid that’s easy to open. Speaking of features, this model also has a heavy-gauge steel construction, that allows it to hold up to years of successful smoking. Other features that can be found on this model include a stainless temperature gauge that is divided into sections for BBQ, for grilling, and for smoking, as well as an oversized wheel that makes the whole unit mobile. We also liked the sausage hooks that come pre-installed and give the user a convenient way to hang sausages for smoking. This is a great unit for people to enjoy the pleasures of smoking.
If there was one thing that we didn’t like about this unit, it was the fact that it wasn’t easy to empty the ash during smoking. This isn’t a big deal during most smoking sessions, but if the consumer is smoking for a long period, then it can become a real pain to get the ash out of it while it’s being used. And that’s a shame because we thought that this unit’s removable offset charcoal grate and ash pan would make it a lot easier to empty. It does make it easier to empty, but only when the unit is not in use and is cool to the touch. If it wasn’t for this one tiny flaw, we would think that this model was the best smoker we had come across.
- This smoker is extremely well made.
- It has 1382-inches of smoking space.
- It’s not easy to clean out the ash during smoking.
Also Consider: Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Off-Set Smoker
Before we reviewed this smoker, we weren’t all that familiar with the brand Oklahoma Joe’s. Sure, we knew that the company was founded in 1987 and that they had made BBQ grills, but we weren’t familiar with their products nor did we know that they made charcoal smokers. Fortunately, we came across this product and learned not only about this company, but also about this smoker that they created. This product is one that we can see many families using to smoke their meats or BBQ their food. Although it is a little bit smaller than some of the comparable smokers in its price range, giving the user only 619-inches of cooking space. It also has 281 square inches of cooking space in the offset firebox.Just because it costs a little bit more than some other smokers and is a little smaller, we do think that it’s a great smoker. This product has an access door on the firebox that makes stoking charcoal or adding wood to the unit quite easy. It’s also equipped with several dampers that make managing heat and smoke a lot easier than it is with some other smoking models. This unit also has a temperature gauge built right into the lid, so it’s easy to see what’s going on inside of it temperature-wise. Other features that can be found on this unit include a front-mounted shelf, a heavy-duty cooking grate, and cool-touch handles that make it easy for the consumer to open the lid to the unit while it’s in use.
All things considered, we think that this product is one of the better ones out there but it’s not without its drawbacks. It’s well-made, but it’s also a little bit smaller than other models and may cost a little more, unless the consumer can get it on a deal.
- This model does a great job of smoking.
- It’s a little smaller than similarly priced smokers.
A Detailed Guide To Charcoal Smokers
Once people realize the fun and convenience that charcoal smokers can bring them, they’re more than eager to immediately go out and buy one. However, that can be a mistake if the person has never bought or used a smoker. Before they try to use one, or even before they buy one, they should understand the principles that allow them to make short work of smoking meat.
To help our readers not only use their smoker but also to purchase the best charcoal smoker available, we’ve written this guide. The first section is designed as a buyer’s guide, to help our readers think about some of the features they may need and other features they can feel free to disregard. After we finish that part, our second part of this guide will give some tips on using these devices properly. Sound good? Well, if it does, then we encourage you to join us on our journey.
How To Buy A Charcoal Smoker
As promised, the first part of this guide features some recommendations that will allow people to purchase their own charcoal smoker. We decided that this section was necessary because there was so much misinformation out there we felt that we just had to set the record straight. With that said, below are some things smoker buyers are going to want to consider when purchasing a new smoker.
Tip One: You Don’t Need To Make Your Own Drum Smoker
The first thing we want to address in this section is the belief that there’s something wrong with offset charcoal smokers. I’ve seen several so-called “experts” claim that offset smokers don’t work and that people would be better off purchasing drum smoker for smoking their meat. That simply isn’t true. If a person knows how to use an offset smoker, they will find that they smoke just as well as anything else.
Tip Two: Look For Temperature Control
The next thing that we want to talk about is one of the most important things to look for on a charcoal smoker: temperature control. You will want to make sure that the smoker has a damper system and a built-in thermostat so that you can monitor and control the temperature inside the smoker. The biggest factor between successful smoking and unsuccessful smoking is the heat inside of it. You have to get the smoking temperature between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve the best results.
Tip Three: Look For Quality
Some people might say that this is an obvious statement, but you wouldn’t believe how many people try to purchase a charcoal smoker for under $100 and then wonder why it doesn’t work very well. “Cheap“ smokers have terrible heat regulation and that will have a dramatic effect on the piece of meat that you’re smoking.
Tip Four: Consider A Versatile Smoker
A lot of people want a charcoal smoker that doubles as a grill. This allows them to save space and prevents them from having to purchase a separate charcoal grill. If that’s important for you, then choose one of the smokers we’ve selected above. All of them can be used as smokers and grills, so consumers don’t have to spend extra money on both.
Tip Five: Consider Size
The last thing that you’re going to want to consider is the size of the charcoal smoker. You’ll want to make sure that the smoker is going to be large enough to smoke enough food for the number of people you intend on feeding. For 1-2 people, a 14-inch smoker is usually big enough for their needs. For 4-6 people, then an 18-inch smoker is good and a 22-inch smoker can handle the smoking needs of even more people than that.
How To Use A Charcoal Smoker Effectively
Okay, once you’ve purchased a charcoal smoker that will fit your needs, it’s time to turn your attention to using that smoker as effectively as possible. One of the best ways to get good results from your charcoal smoker is to make sure it’s properly set up in the beginning. Once the smoker is properly setup, then you should have no problem using it to smoke whatever you want to smoke.
Step One: Expose The Lower Charcoal Grate
Remove the smoker’s upper grate and expose the bottom of the charcoal smoker. The lower charcoal great is known as the fire ring or coal chamber. It should be clean of any ashes and ready to go.
Step Two: Use A Chimney Starter
Place briquettes in a chimney starter along with some newspaper. Light according to directions. When the charcoal is lit and burning well, add them to the coal chamber of the charcoal smoker. Add hardwood chunks to the charcoal if desired and open the bottom damper all of the way open. Reassemble the grates.
Step Three: Fill The Water Pan (If Equipped)
If the charcoal smoker has a water pan, then make sure that it’s filled. Some charcoal smokers have this feature and some don’t.
Step Four: Close It All Up
Close the lid, make sure the vents on the smoker, and wait. During the smoking process, you’re going to need to check the smoker’s temperature and make sure it’s in the 225-250 degree Fahrenheit smoking range. You may need to open or close the vents of the smoker to keep the smoker in the “sweet smoking spot.” Once that’s done, all you have to do is wait.