Of all the different types of smokers, charcoal smokers have some of the most loyal advocates amongst pitmasters and barbeque enthusiasts. This is because many people think that they can’t be beaten when it comes to taste (which is what it’s all about right?).
Taste is always subjective but there is no denying that charcoal produces an extra special flavor.
In this post, we will look at the best charcoal smokers out there, so that you can enjoy this taste sensation for yourself!
Best Charcoal Smokers – Our Picks
Weber Smokey Mountain 18-inch Charcoal Smoker
1. 481 Sq. inches cooking capacity.
2. 2 Nickel-plated grates.
3. 39.1 lbs. item weight
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Barrel House Cooker Smoker 18C
1. 275°F – 310° F temperature range.
2. 44 lbs. product weight.
3. 20 gauge metal barrel
Char-Grill Akorn Kamado Charcoal Smoker
1. 447 Sq. inches cooking space
2. 200°F – 700°F temperature range.
3. 97 lbs. product weight
Realcook Vertical 17-inch Steel Charcoal Smoker
1. 453 Sq. inches cooking space
2. 2-piece cooking grids
3. 55 lbs. product weight
Best Cabinet Charcoal Smoker
Dyna-Glo 36ʺ Vertical Charcoal Smoker
1. 784 Sq. inches cooking space
2. 4 cooking grates
3. 56 lbs. product weight
Best Offset Smoker
> Even cooking temperatures
> Great value
> Reverse or traditional offset
Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker
1. 395.5 Sq. inches cooking space
2. 2 porcelain coated racks
3. 15.26 lbs. product weight
> Well Made
>Holds temp well
>2nd access door
Best Charcoal Smokers – Product Descriptions
1. Weber Smokey Mountain 18-inch Charcoal Smoker – Best Overall
This Weber charcoal smoker has a massive following among smoked meat lovers. It is also known as “Weber Bullet” in the charcoal smoking world. This smoker was first introduced in 1981, throughout the years it has experienced numerous improvements. Now, you have a fully modernized equipment that works best for your food. Weber Smokey Mountain uses charcoal and wood chunks to generate heat and smoke.
A charcoal smoker’s main job is to maintain temperature and produce sufficient smoke. Smokey Mountain is perfect on both these aspects as it has vents to control the air flow and temperature and a large water pan to absorb heat and releasing it slowly. It is a good vertical smoker that is very easy to set up, even a beginner can do this without having an issue.
Weber Smokey Mountain is available in 3 sizes, i.e. 14.5ʺ, 18.5ʺ, and 22.5ʺ. To our experience, we have found the 18-inch model perfect w.r.t. every aspect. It has a small footprint with the ability to hold steady temperature for hours. It is manufactured from powder-coated steel that withstand heat and weather, all other things like legs, vents, and grates are made of aluminum.
- 39.1 lbs. product weight
- Powder-coated steel construction
- Thermometer and water pan included
- 2 Nickel-plated grates
- 481 Sq. inches capacity
2. Barrel House Cooker Smoker 18C
This is the newest version of the smoker released by Barrel House. It is a classic barrel shape and you don’t need a firebox as the coal rests at the bottom of it. The heat and smoke circulation around the meat is thanks to some strategically placed holes around the top.
It allows you to adopt multiple cooking options like hanging your meat via an H-frame hanger and placing a full grate in the middle section.
Barrel House Cooker Smoker 18C requires a bit of assembly but it only takes around 15 – 20 minutes. It has a thermometer that has a metal bracket serving as a lid cheat. It can cook easily between 275°F – 310° F range. You can easily add more coals once the coal is burnt out. If you are going to cool longer then open the damper a little to bring in more air and create more heat.
It is a high-quality smoker barrel that only takes 18-inche of space in your yard. You get hot and fast cooking with a juicy and flavorful barbecue in 40% less time than traditional smokers. It gives you a good capacity for smoking foods, you can hang 8 racks of ribs, 4 chickens, a 15 lbs. brisket, or a 30 lbs. turkey easily. Food cooks evenly from top to bottom and doesn’t fall off when properly hooked.
- 44 lbs. product weight
- 6+ hours steady cooking
- 275°F – 310° F temperature range
- 40% fast cooking than traditional smoker
- 20 gauge metal barrel
- 18-inches cooking space
- Coal basket can be used
- Easy and fast cooking
- Less assembly time
- Elevation based settings
- No side rack
3. Char-Grill Akorn Kamado Charcoal Smoker
Kamado smokers are an excellent type of charcoal smoker and the likes of Kamado Joe will set you back quite a few dollars, but this is a more affordable alternative.
To save costs, the manufacturer has replaced the costly heavy-duty ceramic with a light but durable wall insulated with 22 gauge steel.
The exterior finish of this charcoal smoker and grill is finished in powder-coated steel while the interior uses porcelain-coated steel. It has a primary cooking space of 314 Sq. inches with a 133 Sq. inches warming rack. So, combined, you get a 447 Sq. inches of cooking surface to play with. It can easily maintain cooking temperatures ranging from 200°F – 700°F so you can do all kinds of cooking.
Akorn Kamado Charcoal Smoker and Grill features an easy-to-use temperature control system. There are adjustable dampers at the top and bottom for maintaining even airflow into and out of the smoker. It is a fuel-efficient smoker so it burns less charcoal when cooking.
You won’t have any issues moving this around your yard thanks to the two large 8ʺ front wheels and a rear locking caster wheels for easy movements. You can also try the kamado joe accessories with this charcoal smoker for great results.
- 97 lbs. product weight
- 447 Sq. inches cooking space
- 200°F – 700°F temperature range
- Features a locking lid and metals shelves
- 22 gauge steel construction
If you are looking for an affordable Kamado Joe then this is a great option, It has over 2000 5 star reviews on Amazon so there are a lot of happy customers out there.
It’s clear the Akorn knew what they were doing when they designed this and they have actually improved on the ceramic eggs in some ways. For example, the entire bottom ashpan detaches which makes it super easy to clean. You can also pull out the center of the grill rack which makes it much easier to add charcoal whilst cooking.
Importantly this Kamado cooks just as well as the more expensive alternatives so you are getting some amazing food on a bargain price charcoal Kamado smoker.
If you’re looking to get the kamado experience, without the huge price tag, it’s hard to beat the Akorn. I rate it as one of the best charcoal smokers for the money.
4. Realcook Vertical 17-inch Steel Charcoal Smoker
This is an absolute bargain and can currently be bought for under $100 making it the best charcoal smoker for anyone with a limited budget.
The Realcook Vertical 17-inch Charcoal Smoker takes the concept of smoker and breaks it down into its constituent parts.
This means you get to use it as a fire pit, a direct heat grill, or a double-chambered charcoal smoker. It has a height of 41ʺ when fully assembled. It allows you to reload charcoal and wood in the lower fire chamber without loss of heat or smoke in the primary cooking chamber.
The assembly of this charcoal bbq smoker is pretty easy. You can put it together completely in about 30 minutes. There are locking clasps to help hold all the sections firmly together and keep the heat inside. It has a total cooking area of 453 Sq. inches which is large enough to make pretty much anything you want. It also includes sausage hooks that easily attach to the underside of the lid.
Realcook 17-inch charcoal smoker can be transformed into a direct heat charcoal grill or even a fire pit. The heat-resistant handles are nice for the times when you want to use this vertical charcoal smoker as a portable grill. The grates are made from chrome-plated steel which makes it very easy to clean. With crossbars and 4 hangers inside the lid, you can smoke different sizes and shapes of meat.
- 55 lbs. product weight
- 2-piece cooking grids
- 453 Sq. inches cooking space
- 2 access door
- 4 hooks inside the lid
All in all this is one of the best vertical charcoal smokers and it is available at an incredibly low price. Of course, as you would expect for the price, the Realcook 17-inch vertical smoker has some limitations.
The biggest downfall of this smoker is that it has a bottomless design. This means that there is no vent to adjust the fresh air coming in which makes temp control very difficult. For this reason, it is probably not an ideal smoker for beginners but it is definitely worth considering if you are looking for a cheap smoker and are happy to learn how to get the best out of it.
5. Dyna-Glo 36ʺ Vertical Charcoal Smoker – Best Cabinet Charcoal Smoker
With this Dyna-Glo vertical smoker, you can smoke your favorite foods as it is ideal for capturing maximum smoky flavor. It is a rare example of an affordable charcoal cabinet smoker.
Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker has 4 height-adjustable cooking grates with a total of 784 Sq. inches cooking space to accommodate different types of foods. The main advantage of this style of smoker is the easy accessibility of food. Unlike many other smokers where you have to remove grill racks to have food access, you can easily access all 4 racks of food here in this charcoal smoker.
There are no issues related to the assembly of this charcoal smoker as it is very straightforward. The main box is already assembled so not too much fiddling about with bolts is required.
It has nice temperature controls but you will encounter a bit of smoke leakage. If you want to go for a cabinet-style charcoal smoker then this is one of the best ones to go for and one of the top charcoal smokers available.
- Vertical style door
- Wide range of temperature controls
- 4 cooking grates
- 784 Sq. inches cooking space
- 56 lbs. product weight
6. Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker – Best Offset Smoker
Offset smokers are also known as stick burners or wood-burning smokers. The are a more old fashioned, and some would say more authentic, kind of smoker. This Reverse Flow Smoker offers enhanced performance and versatility.
It is also a convenient and durable product made from heat resistant, heavy-gauge steel, and equipped with a large charcoal basket. the quality materials mean that this offset smoker is not too lightweight and leaky to hold the heat in. If you go too cheap with this kind of smoker it might just put you off smoking altogether!
It features optional smokestack locations to let you switch between reverse flow smoking and traditional offset smoking. A reverse flow design means the smoke is directed to the far side of the cooking chamber before it travels across the food and exits through the chimney. This is an efficient smoking mechanism that gives you a more even result when cooking as the temperature doesn’t vary from one side to the other.
By having a traditional offset smoker and a reverse flow smoker in one, you can get the best of both worlds and save a few bucks by just having the one dual-function offset smoker.
Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker offers you 619 Sq. inches of cooking area in the main chamber, and 281 Sq. inches cooking space in the firebox chamber which you can use for searing. This means that there is plenty of room to cook a brisket and 2-3 racks of ribs.
You might think that the Oklahoma Joe’s offset smoker doesn’t belong in a list of the best charcoal smokers since it uses wood but in fact charcoal still forms the base of your fire. The wood is great for smoke and the charcoal helps to keep the temperature where you need it (this smoker is great at keeping a stable temp).
This offset smoker is a rare example of an offset smoker that can be bought for well under $1000. You get good value for money buying this product but you may find that you need to make a few modifications to get the most out of it.
If you spend a few bucks to install door seals, seal the firebox, add door latches, and get better thermometers you will have an offset smoker that can compete with those that cost twice as much. This might be too much hassle for some people while many people will be happy with it straight out of the box.
But, if you like tinkering with things and love value for money I would grab this great offset charcoal smoker and add the mods.
- 180.8 lbs. product weight
- 900 Sq. inches cooking space
- Large stainless steel fuel basket
- 4 removable baffles
- Clean-out door
7. Char-Broil 20ʺ Bullet Charcoal Smoker
This Bullet Charcoal Smoker has tried to add some innovation to the whole smoking process. Its lower damper is operated via an easy-to-slide handle. There is no formal water pan in this smoker, rather the drippings pan pulls double duty for sessions where you want to have some extra steam.
There is an innovative airflow control system that simplifies settings and maintains cooking temperatures. There are no issues of rust as it features a durable porcelain-coated steel body. The removable ash pan system of this bullet charcoal smoker neatly collects the ash from hours of cooking, making the cleaning process very easy. Packed with such features, this bullet smoker provides good performance at a very low price.
Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker has a cooking area of 570 Sq. inches (easily enough for a turkey). It has 2 porcelain-coated grates that are easy to clean and non-stick. The lid-mounted temperature gauge is easy to read and allows quick and easy temperature monitoring. High-quality fire access doors enable you to manage your smoke flow throughout the cooking process.
This smoker is easy for even beginners to use and should maintain a consistent temperature with minimal intervention for yourself. You might find that whilst the thermometer is pretty accurate to begin with, it gives an overly high reading once things start warming up. To be honest, I always recommend using a digital thermometer no matter what smoker you are using, so it is great that this one has a handy grommet to attach one.
The Char-Broil 20ʺ Bullet Charcoal Smoker is noticeably cheaper than the hugely popular WSM and with this comes a few compromises. For starters, the build quality is not quite so good and the materials used are thinner.
There are quite a few leaks between the joints so you will lose smoke and this also makes it harder to maintain a consistent temperature or to keep the temp really low. The door handle is disappointingly thin and can easily break off
So, it is not the perfect charcoal smoker but it certainly offers a cheaper option if you are looking to buy a bullet smoker. The Weber Smoky Mountain (my number 1 top charcoal smoker) is popular for a reason and if you can stretch the budget you will have a smoker that you can happily use for years.
If you want to save some cash now then this is still a good option at a great price.
- 570 Sq. inches cooking space
- 27 lbs. product weight
- 1-year complete product warranty
- 2 porcelain coated cooking grates
- 2 chamber-lift handles
8. Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker
Masterbuilt Charcoal Bullet Smoker is a decent choice for you if you are new to smoking or only plan to use a smoker a couple of times a month. It is a great option for those who are on a budget, and for anyone prepared to make a few modifications to improve performance.
It can also deliver moist smoke that imparts superior flavor as it creates succulent meat.
This unit offers 395.4 Sq. inches of cooking space so it is one of the smallest o this list and not ideal for cooking for lots of people but more of a family option that won’t take up loads of space.
Unfortunately, the design doesn’t have anywhere for the ash to fall so you will probably want to add a grate in the charcoal pan so that the coals are raised slightly above the ash. If you want more airflow then you can drill holes on opposite sides of the firebox.
I know that many of you will be put off by the idea of buying a smoker and having to drill holes into it but it’s just an option if you want to improve performance. Another trick that you can try is to raise it on blocks as this will also improve airflow.
It is constructed from quality materials having porcelain-coated cooking grates, a water pan, a woodchip tray, and a drippings pan.
This smoker is easy to get to temp, imparts great flavor, and is small enough to store conveniently. For the price, you can’t beat it, and it also works great as a grill (just move the fire pan to the water pan spot).
- 15.26 lbs. product weight
- 395.5 Sq. inches cooking space
- 2 porcelain coated racks
- Front-access door
- Porcelain coated charcoal pan
- Key components are porcelain coated
- Designed to be durable
- Built-in lid thermometer
- Affordable option
- Inefficient in cold weather
9. Broil King 923610 Vertical Charcoal Smoker
If you are looking for a vertical charcoal smoker that produces guaranteed great results, the Broil King 923610 Vertical Charcoal Smoker could be the best charcoal smoker for you.
This charcoal smoker gives you a generous cooking space of 770 Sq. inches so you can feed a large gathering easily. There are 4 fully adjustable cooking racks along with 16 stainless steel metal hooks.
This smoker looks great and the materials used are high-quality. It has a double-walled construction and a secondary door for easy access to the extra-large stainless steel water bowl and smoker box. These double walls don’t require any insulation as they keep heat nicely over long cooks. You won’t be facing any issues while using this vertical charcoal smoker.
You can save yourself some bucks by putting the unit together yourself as it is not a difficult task. The manufacturer even provides you with some spare screws just in case you lose any of them.
This product is a bit more expensive than some of the others but if you are not a fan of DIY modifications, you can take this product right out of the box and have a smoker that is ready to go.
- 70 lbs. product weight
- 770 Sq. inches cooking space
- 4 adjustable steel cooking grids
- Ace-temp thermometer
- 16 stainless steel meat hooks
- Secondary access door
- Damper technology
- Durable and aesthetically pleasing
- Great value for money
- Pans lack handles
Best Charcoal Smokers – The Bottom Line
Backyard barbecue enthusiasts love using charcoal smokers for many good reasons. Most people agree that charcoal imparts the best flavor, and it also tends to result in a better bark and smoke ring.
There is another reason that they are popular with bbq enthusiasts, and that is that they are a bit more involved and require more skill to master than a pellet grill or electric smoker. This is great if you have the time to learn and are happy to put the effort in (maybe getting less than perfect results along the way)
If the thought of tinkering with air valves, and managing the coals gets you going, then one of the best charcoal smokers that we have reviewed in this post is the perfect place to start.
My top pick is the Weber Smoky Mountain. It is a tried and tested smoker that has a huge community behind it, is capable of competition-winning standards, and will help you to improve your bbq skills without putting you off meat smoking altogether.
Best Charcoal Smokers – Buyer’s Guide
Size is one of the most important factors when choosing a charcoal smoker. Obviously the bigger it is the more meat you can smoke, which means that you can cook for a lot of people. This might be important to you if you have a large family or often have gatherings at your house.
But it also means that you can cook the largest cuts of meat which gives you the flexibility to cook anything you want, even if you typically only cook for a small number of people (you can always freeze the smoked meat, it keeps is flavor).
Bigger isn’t always better though as they will use more fuel. If you think you will mainly cook for a smaller number of people then a moderately big smoker probably the way to go.
Before you set out to buy a smoker, it is a good idea to decide what you can afford to spend. Remember, you can easily swept up into buying a smoker that is loaded with features but over your budget.
If you are buying your first charcoal smoker or use it once in a while, you might not want to spend too much on it. What you want to avoid is the whole ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ issue so make sure that you are getting something that is made well. The ones on this list are a good place to start.
You also need to consider the running cost of your smoker as charcoal is a fairly expensive fuel source.
Smokers and their parts are made of different materials but usually, they will mainly be made from stainless steel. Some of them are coated with porcelain to further enhance their durability.
Portability and size often go hand to hand. Normally, a large smoker is too big and bulky to take away camping but there are some portable models that are designed for this purpose.
Around the home, it is more likely that you will want to move out from one end of the yard to the other or get it in and out of your shed or garage. Many of the smokers on this list have decent wheels to make this easier but they can still be heavy and awkward to move about.
Best Charcoal Smokers – FAQs
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1. Is charcoal or wood better for smoking?
A charcoal smoker uses both charcoal and wood while smoking your food. Cooking over indirect heat with charcoal providing most of the heat and wood providing the flavor.
Most people agree that a charcoal smoker produces the best-tasting food. Charcoal provides a more complex flavor as it gives off additional compounds as it burns. These compounds stick to the food and add even more flavor.
2. Can I add charcoal while smoking?
Depending on the cooking time of your meat, you may need to add additional charcoal whilst cooking. You can use either charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal which is all-natural and has no added chemicals. Lump charcoal is probably the best charcoal to use.
3. What burns hotter, charcoal or wood?
Charcoal burns hotter than wood as it has an energy value of 29MJ/Kg. If the conditions and environment are not ideal (like poor air supply), the charcoal will burn less efficiently.
4. How often should you add charcoal to a charcoal smoker?’
It is best to check the temperature of the unit every 30 minutes to see how stable the temp is. As you get more experienced you will get a feel for how often you need to add charcoal but it is generally around every couple of hours that you will need to top up the charcoal and adjust the airflow as needed.
5. How often should you add wood to a charcoal smoker?
There is no set rule for adding more chips or wood chunks to your smoker. Wood should probably last for around 5-6 hours of smoking. You can add one or two cups of chips on top of previously used chips every now and again to ensure that you keep a good level of smoke.