Best Smoker for Beginners in 2019

Best Smoker for Beginners in 2019

Anyone who has tried their hand at some barbecue can tell you; a good smoker can make or break your next cookout. Smokers are particularly useful for slow-cooked meals as they keep flavor locked in by smoking for hours and people all over the country spend fortunes on expensive smokers for competitions.

If you are just getting started with a smoker, there are a lot of choices out there which can make your decision hard. To save you the trouble and effort, we have put together this list of the best smokers for beginners.

These smokers are designed for beginner use and have been chosen based upon their simplicity, ease-of-use, and overall quality. We encourage you to thoroughly check out our product round up to help you find a smoker that works for you.

So, What Is the Best Smoker for Newbie Grill Masters?

1. Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Electric Smoker

Starting off our list with a bang is this wonderful digital electric smoker from Masterbuilt. It has a ton of convenient features that make it a great starter smoker for beginners, from a built-in thermometer to a digital temperature adjuster. The Masterbuilt Digital Electric smoker has 730 sq. in of cooking space and can be used with a variety of high-quality woods like cherry, pecan, and hickory.

The Masterbuilt also has very good insulation so no smoke escapes and the meats stay hot even during the cold months. Wood is loaded in through a convenient side panel and there is a removable drip pan and top air damper that controls the airflow in the central chamber.

The Masterbuilt may not be the most powerful smoker on the market, but it occupies a good price/quality ratio that makes it a good choice for first-time buyers. Digital temperature controls let you manually set the temperature and you can set heats as low as 100 degrees Fahrenheit.4 chrome racks on the inside give you plenty of space for multiple items and an 800-watt heating element ensures that meats are heated evenly and thoroughly. 

What We Liked:

  • Large interior space
  • 4 separate chrome racks for smoking
  • Digital temperature display and controller
  • Convenient side loader for wood
  • Great price/quality ratio

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not as powerful as some other offerings
  • Internal thermostat is not that durable
  • Drip pan can warp from heat over time

2. Camp Chef 24” Smoke Vault

Camp Chef 24” Smoke Vault

Up next is the 24” Smoke Vault from Camp Chef. Like all of their products, the Camp Chef is a tough and reliable smoker that is a great entry point to the world of smoking. Built like a heavy-duty safe, the Smoke Vault can be set to any heat between 50 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit and includes 2 internal cooking racks and another rack specifically for smoking jerky. The Smoke Vault has a unique flair that will definitely make it stand out amongst the competitors.

Not only does the Smoke Vault look good, but it also performs well too. It retains your heat and smoke and feels solid while in operation.

Temperature remains consistent and smoked meats retain their texture without getting too moist. Fortunately, the temperature display is built right into the door so you always know how hot it is at any given time. The temperature display knob looks like the knob on a classic western safe, further adding to the smoker’s unique aesthetic.

The Smoke Vault also has a smaller 18” model that functions identically to this 24” model, so everything we are saying applies to the 18” model too. Overall, the Smoke Vault is a powerful and versatile smoker that performs well and won’t drain a huge hole in your wallet. Beginners can’t really go wrong choosing this option. 

What We Liked:

  • Cool unique design
  • High-quality materials and sturdy construction
  • Very minimal smoke leakage
  • Temperature display knob
  • Dedicated jerky racks
  • 3 adjustable dampers

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Heavy and bulky
  • Insulation is not great
  • Assembly can be tough

3. Pit Boss 71220 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Cooker

The Pit Boss ceramic smoker has the design of a classic western smoker and is made out of a durable porcelain enamel glaze, perfect for retaining heat and smoking meats. It definitely has a high price point than some of the other offerings on our list, but the extra dough contributes to the extremely high-quality build of this smoker.

The heavy body is ideal for slow-burning charcoal and is tough as nails to boot. 2 bamboo shelves extend from the side and can be retracted for transportation and storage. A cast-iron tamper on the top lets you modulate airflow to get the right smoke flow and retention. Some people are not fans of ceramic grills as they are not as sturdy as metal grills, but ceramic has some of the best heat retention among grill materials and makes an ideal smoker.

The Pit Boss is rather heavy and may not make the best portable smoker out there. However, park it on your back porch and you’ll have a reliable home smoker for all purposes. The stainless steel grill face is tough, easy to clean and won’t degrade from rust or weather. 

What We Liked:

  • Ceramic bowl is great for retaining heat and smoking meats
  • Retractable bamboo shelves for food prep storage
  • Damper gives a lot of temperature control for the design
  • Extra-large cooking space
  • 2 tier cooking grates

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Very heavy
  • High price point
  • Some people just don’t like ceramic smokers

4. Weber Smokey Mountain 22” Inch Smoker

Weber has made its mark all over the grilling industry and for good reason. Their products are consistently shown to be among the highest quality and best performing cooking appliances out there. The Smokey Mountain 22-Inch Smoker Cooker is no exception and has the trademark Weber quality and longevity.

One of the best features of the Weber is how easy it is to maintain a consistent temperature. Many charcoal powered smokers have this problem so its nice that the Weber does not fall prey to it. The Weber can easily manage low and slow barbecue temperatures for up to 10 hours without having to make too many adjustments to the damper or charcoal. Like the Pit Boss, the Weber is made from a porcelain enamel which has phenomenal heat transfer and retention properties. Unlike metals such as steel and aluminum, ceramic won’t rust or weather.

Two cooking grates in the center give plenty of cooking space and a silicone temperature grommet monitors the heat while in operation. Webers are actually used in several top barbecue competitions and there is a lively Weber forum where users share tips and guides.

The only real problem (if it can be called that) is the somewhat goofy and arduous design. The Weber looks like a large time capsule that disassembles into three pieces. This construction makes it slightly awkward to place and it might work better if it had a less vertical design. Also, since it comes apart into three pieces, it can be a pain to transport.

Otherwise, the Weber is a solid smoker for beginners. It is easy to use, maintain, and it will teach you the fundamentals of smoking so you can upgrade to a full-fledged barrel smoker.

What We Liked:

  • Easy to use and maintain a consistent temperature
  • Ample interior space for multiple items
  • Convenient front panel for loading charcoal
  • Silicon thermometer is durable and accurate
  • Very easy to clean
  • Competition grade quality grill

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Goofy top-heavy design
  • Hard to transport
  • Legs are not very stable and are short

5. Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite Wood Pellet Grill

If you are a fan of old fashioned BBQ cookouts then your eyes may be drawn to a barrel style cooker. Barrel-style smokers like the Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite are some of our favorite types of smokers because they look exactly what a smoker should look like, rustic, durable, large, and powerful.

We will be completely honest, just because wood pellet smokers like the Traeger were among the first kinds of smokers to be invented, they are not the best. Barrel smokers have a lot of known problems such as smoke leakage, difficulties maintaining a constant temperature, and they are large and kind of bulky. However, if you are going for the classic wood-smoked flavor, then a barrel smoker is your b4est bet.

The Traeger has everything you’d want out of a barrel smoker; large cooking surface, versatility, and a robust heating mechanism. One of the better features is how you don’t have to rely on charcoal of gas, just wood. Moreover, a built-in temperature regulator works to keep internal temperatures within 20 degrees of the current settings. You can also ramp up the heat and use it as a standard grill. It is the perfect size for the would-be home chef and can fit up to 4 whole chickens or 5 racks of ribs.

Barrel smokers like the Traeger require some practice to get a handle on, so they may not make the perfect smoker for beginners per se. However, once you get some experience under your belt, a barrel smoker is a great way to test your grill master skills. 

What We Liked:

  • Classic design looks and feels great
  • Very large cooking surface can make an entire meal at once
  • Runs entirely on wood
  • Temperature regulator keeps heat constant
  • Electric auto ignition
  • Porcelain grates are tough and easy to clean

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Barrel smokers take some practice to get the hang of
  • Heavy and big, hard to transport
  • Takes a while to heat

6. Lion Premium Grills Propane Smoker Grill

Up next is this propane smoker grill from Lion Premium. The Lion Premium boasts a super large 1,000 sq. in cooktop, 5 separate stainless steel burners, heating rack, and rotisserie back burner. The Lion Premium basically has any kind of surface you need for cooking any kind of food you want. While some smoker aficionados may balk at the suggestion of using a gas grill for smoking, gas-powered smokers are among some of the easiest smokers to use and the most portable.

What makes the Lion Premium great is that you can directly dial in the temperature using the knobs, no guesswork like with wood or charcoal powered smokers. A large temperature gauge on the front keeps tabs on the current heat and the warming rack can be raised or lowered depending on preference.

One thing we really like is the inclusion of the rotisserie back burner surface. It just adds an extra dimension of versatility to the grill and can be used to make sure grill meats get evenly cooked. Gas stoves are also easier to clean than charcoal or wood stoves because you don’t have to worry about ash and soot residue, just grease.

So will the Lion Premium be able to give you the classic wood-fired experience that barrel smokers are known for? Probably not, but it makes a fantastic entry-level option for someone who wants to try their hand at cooking but wants the ease of use and portability of a gas grill. 

What We Liked:

  • Temperature is easy to set; just turn the knob
  • Very large cook surface
  • Temperature gauge is sturdy, accurate, and reliable
  • Includes rotisserie backburner

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Can’t get that classic wood or charcoal smoked flavor
  • Heating rack is somewhat fragile

7. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker is a beast of a smoker and is one of the best charcoal smokers on the market. The Pit Barrel offers a huge cooking capacity with its 30-gallon steel drum frame and unique hook system for hanging meats. 2 rebars near the top and 8 hooks rest on the interior. It also comes with a stainless steel chrome-plated grate if you don’t want to use the interior hooks.

At the bottom of the barrel is the charcoal basket near a 3” hole that serves as the damper. You simply hang the meats, light the charcoal, and walk away for a few hours while they smoke. Even though the bottoms of the meat slabs are very near the coals, the steel drum distributes heat well enough that they don’t get overcooked.

Where the Pit Barrel really shines is how it cuts down cook times for traditional slow-cooked items like brisket or pork butt. The key is the vertical hanging design. Since heat rises, when you light the coals, the heat rises and evenly covers the vertically hanging meats. 30 gallons seems to be the sweet spot for air capacity before you get convection currents that can cause temperatures to fluctuate.

The Pit Barrel does come with a protective stand that raises sit a few inches off the ground, but we recommend using an additional layer to protect any surfaces sensitive to heat, like a wooden deck for example. One problem though is the steel handles can get pretty hot to the touch, so you’ll want to invest in some decent over mitts. The handles themselves are also designed like horseshoes, a nice touch for the general aesthetic of the smoker. 

What We Liked:

  • 30-gallon capacity is large enough for most cuts
  • Cut times on slow cooks are dramatically shortened
  • Unique hook hanging system
  • Very tough steel construction
  • Cool design and fun accents (e.g. horseshoe handles)

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Heavy and hard to move
  • Requires an extra safety layer underneath
  • Steel handles can get very hot

8. Smoke Hollow 33-Inch Propane Smoker

Coming in at eighth is the Smoke Hollow 33-inch propane smoker. Many propane smokers have the problem that they are too narrow, which can choke air flow and lead to uneven cooking. And weird turbulence from convection. Not so with the Smoke Hollow. It offers a generous 60-inches of height and 33 inches of horizontal space so it is more than wide enough to smoke multiple types of meat and veggies at once. The central cook chamber has 5 separate removable racks that can be adjusted based on the desired height and 2 powerful burners giving a max total of 22,000 BTUs, hot enough to get an 11 lb slab of beef to an internal temperature of 140 degrees in just half an hour.

The Smoke Hollow also adds removable wood chip trays so you can get that wood-smoked flavor, something a lot of gas-powered smokers have trouble doing. Chip trays are accessed via a separate door so you can fill them without opening the main chamber and letting heat escape.

Moreover, you can control the burners separately and only run one if you want to just keep things warm instead of cook them. 

Overall, a smoker of this size and simplicity can be used by one person to create an entire meal for a party or get together. The steel quality is good and durable, and the burner knobs are responsive and easy to set. The only real con is how heavy it is, but that is what you expect from a large-volume smoker. 

What We Liked:

  • Extra-large interior chamber
  • 5 removable and adjustable smoking racks
  • Knobs are responsive and easy to set
  • Wood chip trays are accessed with a separate door
  • Able to use single burner

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some parts like the door handle or lock, feel cheap
  • Legs just out at awkward angles, watch your toes and feet
  • Burner knobs can come loose over time

9. Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

If you have ever wanted to try a Kamado grill, then this one's for you. Based on traditional Japanese earthen cookware, Kamado grill shave seen a resurgence in the west in recent years for their simplicity and ease of use. The Akorn Jr. is a triple-walled steel built Kamado griller and occupies an extremely reasonable price point compared to other commercially available Kamados.

The 22 gauge steel frame retains heat great and can get a temperature anywhere between 200-700 degrees Fahrenheit, more than hot enough for any cooking endeavor. The steel frame has a powder-coated exterior and a porcelain enamel interior that resists damage and weathering from repeated use.

Other features are a 140 sq. in cooking space, caste iron cooking grate, 2 adjustable dampers, removable ash disposal tray, and convenient handles that do not retain heat for transportation. As far as introductory Kamado grills, the Akorn Jr. is one of the best around. It has a low price point but is reasonably durable and well-made. It won’t be able to make a giant family feast for the holidays, but it’s perfect for small get-together with 3-4 people. 

What We Liked:

  • Compact design fits basically anywhere
  • Ceramic/steel construction retains heat well
  • Excellent price point for a Kamado grill
  • Removable ash tray
  • 2 dampers for precise temperature control

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Lid can be awkward to secure and remove
  • Temperature gauge is not great, but better than nothing
  • Legs are not adjustable

10. Weber Original 22-Inch Kettle Smoker

Rounding out our list is Weber’s classic 22-inch kettle smoker, a model that has stood the test of time. The Weber Kettle is super simple, just a porcelain bowl and lid with a stainless steel grate cooking surface. The simplicity is what makes it so great though. There are no annoying doors to fasten, hooks to attach, or knobs to turn. Just light the charcoal, place the meats, and walk away for a few hours to return to perfectly smoked meats, every time.

Cleaning is easy with the porcelain finish and the removable ash catcher makes cleaning a cinch. The quality and durability of the materials are great and it has an extremely reasonable price, perfect for the budget smoker. Nylon reinforced heat-resistant handles keep things cool and make it easy to transport. A locking wheel system also lets you roll it around like a small trolley.

It may not be the fanciest of smokers out there but does the weber Kettle really nail the fundamentals. If you are looking or a classically inspired easy to use smoker that won’t cost you a fortune, then the Weber Kettle is a solid choice. 

What We Liked:

  • Simple, no frills design
  • Porcelain construction
  • Easy to wheel around and transport

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Relatively small cooking surface
  • Ashcatcher can get clogged

Conclusion

So there you have it, the 10 best smokers for beginners. Each of these smokers has been picked in virtue of its simplicity, ease of use, and overall quality.

Nothing quite beats the taste of good smoked meat, so make sure you do it right. A good smoker will introduce you to the craft and let your practice those grill-master skills to show off at your next annual cookout. 

>