Cooking food with charcoal goes a long way back into the history of humankind, even to the caves. The popularity of this method has not reduced and in fact, has seen a prominent upward trend. There is a fascinating relationship between charcoal and its fans. Charcoal fanatics will rightfully tell you the benefits of using charcoal as fuel during cooking.
Charcoal gives food that smoky aroma that you love and cannot get over it. The mouthwatering and satisfying taste of the tender meat cooked on charcoal is in no way comparable to gas or electricity. Thus, the charcoal smoking process is the best way to cook delicious and tempting food. To achieve such results, one must own charcoal smokers that facilitate the process of charcoal smoking.
Charcoal smokers are appliances that use smoke coming off the charcoal when it is set on fire. They are responsible for the charcoal flavor and texture of the food. These tools allow the charcoal to burn at a mild speed and at low temperatures for a longer period. The taste that the food gets after being smoked in a charcoal smoker is undeniably the best.
The difference between it and other smokers is very noticeable. Charcoal smokers allow their users to customize the settings by adjusting the woodchip or adding some extra flavor. Charcoal smokers do not work on electricity and thus, are portable and are the best option for outdoor events such as camping.
If you are thinking of buying a charcoal smoker, several features should be kept in mind. To start with, you must know the number of people you should be serving frequently, and accordingly, you should buy a smoker that suits that capacity.
Secondly, you must look into the range of temperature. If you prefer some high-temperature searing of salmon, bacon, or steak, you might want the smoker that delivers you to that range of temperature range. Temperature control is another feature that should be kept in mind. Although most smoker grills are equipped with a thermostat regulator, with some smokers you might have to do it manually.
Other features include the build and construction materials. whether you are seeking an aluminum build, a cast iron, or stainless steel. The build and craftsmanship are extremely important in the case of a charcoal smoker, every nook and edge should be properly forged. Maintenance and cleaning should be considered as well.
- 1 What You Need To Know About Charcoal
- 2 Coal vs Charcoal
- 3 Features To Consider When Buying A Charcoal Smoker
- 4 12 Best Charcoal Smokers In 2022
- 4.1 Best Overall: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
- 4.2 Best Compact Pick: Realcook Steel Charcoal Smoker
- 4.3 Editor’s Choice: Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
- 4.4 Best for outing: Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
- 4.5 Most Effective Design: Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker
- 4.6 Best Cooking Area: Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker & Grill
- 4.7 Best Kamado Style: Kamado Joe KJ23RHC Classic Joe II Charcoal Grill
- 4.8 Best for Beginners: Char-Griller E1224 Smokin Pro Charcoal Grill
- 4.9 Budget Pick: Masterbuilt MB20040220 Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill
- 4.10 Best Tabletop: Char-Griller E22424 Table Top Charcoal Grill
- 4.11 Best for Large family: Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker
- 4.12 Best for Vents: Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
- 5 What Is The Difference Between A Smoker and A Standard Grill?
- 6 FAQs
- 7 Verdict
What You Need To Know About Charcoal
Talking about charcoal smokers and the delicious taste they add to the food cooked in them can go on and on but for now, let us talk about the fuel which the smoker uses to keep burning and producing the aroma that we all love. Charcoal smokers, as the name suggests, use charcoal as their fuel. Two prominent sorts of charcoal that are widely available are briquettes and lump charcoal.
Charcoal briquettes have more disadvantages than advantages to them. The most basic advantage that they have is that they are uncomplicated and manageable. The blaze for a prolonged period of time. They are inexpensive and are not a burden on the purse. They are uniformly shaped and thus, can be piled effortlessly. They ensure the same temperature throughout the process.
However, Charcoal briquettes have a higher cost-effective ratio which means people may face its disadvantages more. These are not free from harmful chemicals. Getting them ignited is a challenging task altogether. Briquettes typically emit more dust and do not blaze as fiercely as lump charcoal.
The reason Lump Charcoal is preferred by the majority of barbecue fans is that it is chemical-free. Lump charcoal burns very strongly and is pure. It ignites easily and quickly. Lump charcoal reacts actively to oxygen. Thus, you need to be aware of the vent and other openings of your smoker while using lump charcoal.
Coal vs Charcoal
There is a huge amount of ambiguity around this subject. People often mix up the two words as one even though they are not.
Coal is a naturally obtained mineral that has gradually formed over many million years. However, charcoal is a manufacturing product. Coal is a non-renewable source of energy that means it is a fossil fuel that has naturally formed without any human interference. It is very costly. Coal is not recommended for your usual backyard barbecuing as it emits harmful Sulphur dioxide which will make your food toxic.
Charcoal is produced from wood and is highly recommended for your barbecuing and grilling events. Charcoal is obtained from the wood only after meticulously removing the impurities and toxins. It blazes strongly as it is pure.
Features To Consider When Buying A Charcoal Smoker
Brand And Build Quality
You must invest in brands that give the best value-for-money charcoal smokers. You should not run behind a single company but look out for better options as per your budget.
While searching if you find a smoker that is under your budget and gives you the features that you need and require but the brand is unknown then sit back and research the brand. Be aware of the guarantees about the brand. Be aware of the guarantees and warranties provided by the company. Look out for return policies. Read customer reviews from online sources, check out the kind of customer support they provide, and so on.
New buyers often tend to forget about the warranty on their product and this is where they make a mistake. The longer the warranty of the product the higher the quality of the product. Customer reviews come in handy as you can scrutinize as per your choice and see how the smoker has performed for them and under what circumstances. Keep an eye out on the kind of problem they have faced regarding the smoker and see what is common.
Disposing Of Ashes
Charcoal leaves a lot of mess at the end of every smoking session that needs attention and requires to be cleaned. The smoker is filled with dust and ash. You must clear out the smoker after every session. To prevent any accident, you must make sure that nothing is hot as charcoal stays hot for a longer period of time. Dump the ash into a metallic dustbin so that it does not hurt anybody.
A great deal of how much better your smoker will perform lies in the hands of you. Charcoal smokers are manual and need to be managed physically. Charcoal smokers do not start with the push of a button. One must start using a chimney starter. It is a device that effortlessly lits up a charcoal smoker and makes it ready in 15 minutes.
The performance of your smoker depends on the output it gives in terms of the tenderness and juiciness of the meat. To achieve that the temperature needs to be set accurately. Since there is no automatic way of doing that, you must be aware of the heat and temperature and make changes accordingly.
Features that your charcoal smoker must have included sufficient cooking area, high-quality design, a compact shape, easy use, vents that can be adjusted as per the air circulation, strong legs, easy to clean, and the quality of the iron grill.
12 Best Charcoal Smokers In 2022
Best Overall: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
Weber is a popular brand in the vertical of grills and smokers and their appliances are expertly built, delivering impeccable results almost all the time. Available in three different colors like black, copper, and green this original kettle charcoal grill stands up to the standard set by the brand.
Weighing 32.3 pounds, this grill kettle serves you a total cooking space of 363 square inches that is sufficient enough to accommodate nearly 13 burgers altogether. Further, the grill is made out of enameled porcelain that keeps the heat locked inside while the food is cooking, and the grill.
The grill is bundled with 3D interactive assembly instructions following which you can assemble the appliance with less hassle. There are complaints regarding instructions being not clear although it is nothing that can not be worked upon.
The cooking grate is hinged, you can simply lift the grate and add the charcoal. The lid features a built-in thermometer that aids you to regulate and monitoring the temperature at the same time. Moreover, you get rust-resistant aluminum dampers that help you further temperature management.
You get a one-touch easy clean along with a high-capacity ash catcher that serves you total control over ash removal and clean-up. Thus, these features make cleaning a lot easier.
Best Compact Pick: Realcook Steel Charcoal Smoker
The next one on my list is this charcoal smoker by RealCook. It is available in two sizes of 17 inches and 20 inches so you can choose the capacity that works well with you. Here however I will be talking about the 17-inch charcoal smoker.
This 18.55 pounds smoker is a highly versatile appliance as it can deliver you several functionalities it can work as a fire pit, barbecue grills, and as a smoker. You can use this smoker for cooking in several ways, for instance, you can smoke, braise, bake, steam, grill, and roast thus adding to the overall versatility.
Moreover, the smoker is easy to assemble and disassemble with a latch locking system built-in. You can disassemble them according to your convenience and take them along on your outdoor endeavors like camping, tailgating, or fishing.
The smoker is divided into 2 grids that provide you with a total cooking surface area of 453 square inches. Further, you get a crossbar and four hangers inside the lid that gives you ample space for cooking food and meat of different sizes and shapes. You can either grill normal chicken pieces or put the whole chicken inside, this charcoal smoker will do the work for you.
The two access doors further enhance the cooking experience delivering you more flexibility in terms of checking the status of food without disturbing the other compartment. You can monitor the temperature with a built-in thermometer and regulate it with an air supply on the lid.
Editor’s Choice: Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
The compactness is something that stands out when it comes to this weber 18-inch mountain cooker. Although the compactness in no way undermines the quality of build, you get a highly versatile smoker with impeccable build and effective functionality.
To start with, this 39.1 inches smoker is made out of Porcelain-enameled steel, and it provides you with a total cooking surface of 481 square inches. Further, it features nickel-plated cooking grates that have an ample amount of space and can accommodate a whole chicken, a large turkey or brisket, and multiple racks of ribs.
The water pan attached helps to retain the overall moisture content in the smoker thus helping in maintaining the temperature throughout. Those tenderly cooked pork chops, fall of the bones ribs is not a dream anymore.
The porcelain-enameled bowl, lid, and center section are highly capable of retaining heat thus it maintains a constant temperature throughout while the food is cooking. There are dampers attached as well, for better temperature regulation. When you want to completely extinguish the heat just close the damper and you are good to go.
The smoker is available in two more sizes, so if you want to go for a smaller variant you can choose the 14 inches size. If you are seeking a slightly bigger model then you can go for the one measuring 22 inches.
Best for outing: Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
The Pit Barrel Cooker is a simple to use, uniquely designed barrel cooker that delivers you consistently cooked results almost all the time. This vertical cooker serves you both the functionality of a slow cooker and a smoker, thus you can any ingredients of your choice including vegetables, chicken, turkey, steaks, pork butts, briskets, beef, and many more.
The smoker weighs 57 pounds and is constructed out of porcelain-enameled 18 gauge steel. This easy to assemble cooker delivers you 360-degree cooking coverage with a total capacity of 30 gallons. Further, it is bundled with a coal basket that can retain an ample amount of charcoal for your cookouts.
Vertical cooking has many perks, it allows the meat to cook in its juices without needing any water pans, thus resulting in more tender and flavorful meals.
The cooker is attached with several accessories that include stainless steel hangers which expand the overall cooking capacity. You can cook a variety of meats in various shapes and sizes ranging from pork shoulders, whole chicken, or turkey. They especially work well with gravity eliminating the hotspots, resulting in evenly and consistently cooked meals.
The cooker is further attached with a standard grate for searing and grilling, and a hook removal tool for handling the food. Since the food is cooked vertically the juices fall directly into the charcoal hence cleaning the cooker is comparatively easier.
Most Effective Design: Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker
This Cuisinart 18-inch smoker serves you almost everything you need for the perfect cookout. The smoker weighs only 37 pounds thus it is very easy to carry around according to the requirements without compromising with the sturdiness and durability. Thus, delivering effective cooking results almost all the time.
Despite the compact build, you get an expansive cooking surface of 510 square inches with two steel wire racks. You can cook and smoke an array of dishes ranging from salmon, grilled fish, grilled chicken, smoked ribs, or briskets and steaks. The smoker is perfect for adorning your outdoor kitchen aiding the perfect cookouts with friends and family.
The smoker further is bundled with a porcelain enameled steel bowl for holding water that helps you in regulating the overall temperature. The vertical doors at the sides further aid in temperature regulation as they provide easy access to the fuel and water.
The smoker also features two air vents that can be opened and closed according to convenience giving you complete control over the smoke and heat. Through this, you can control the amount of smokiness in your food and the time period for which the food should be cooked.
The drawback, however, is of the ashcan, as it is not well attached to the bottom and at times adjusting with the vent can cause the ash to fall off.
Best Cooking Area: Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker & Grill
Dyna Glo offers you a heavy-duty vertical charcoal smoker and grill that is constructed out of heavy gauge stainless steel. It delivers you performance, durability, and versatility, it is ideal if you grill and smoke on the daily basis or if you have a larger family to feed.
The smoker features an expansive cooking space of 1382 square inches. The steel chamber features pre-installed chrome-plated sausage hooks and five chrome-plated cooking grates that are designed to accommodate foods of different varieties and shapes. You can cook variety of dishes ranging from sausages, chicken, ribs, and pork to lobsters, shrimp, and fish.
Further, the smoker features a professional-grade smoking gauge with a smoke zone. The smoke zone aids in determining the ideal temperature for incorporating the perfect amount of smoke in your dishes, thus, it helps in enhancing the overall taste of the food. Also, you can easily access the food or fuel with cool-touch handles.
An offset firebox is further attached to the smoker that simultaneously can work as a grill. The firebox is bundled with cooking grates and the grates are made of porcelain-coated steel. They are ideal for searing and grilling smaller portions of foods, like vegetables, kebabs, or bacon.
The tray at the side easily slides out, serving you easy access to the fuel hence minimizing the heat loss. You can even remove the tray for easy cleaning.
Best Kamado Style: Kamado Joe KJ23RHC Classic Joe II Charcoal Grill
If you wish to make statement to your friends and guests, showcasing your grilling skills, Kamado Joe charcoal grill is the one you might want to have. This ceramic grill is delivered to you with a cast iron stand and locked wheels, thus adding to the overall sturdiness and stability. Though this grill and smoker is a bit costly, if you are looking for a more cost-friendly smoker this one is not for you.
The 250 pounds grill offers you a divide and conquers flexible cooking system. The grill is expertly designed in half moon design helps in consistently distributing the temperature thus serving an evenly cook food. You can prepare different meals by adjusting the temperature.
The cast iron top vent aids in regulating the temperature, maintaining the perfect airflow without opening the dome. You can smoke at the temperature of 225 Fahrenheit and do some high-temperature searing at 750 Fahrenheit. The built-in thermometer further helps in regulating the temperature.
The cleanup is easy with an easy slide-out drawer. You don’t need to remove the components to remove the ashes, you can simply remove the ash drawer, remove the ash from and get back to cooking again. You can further increase the serving space and organize the ingredients with folding side tables and handles.
Although the grill is featured with many characteristics and functions, you will still need little practice to use this grill efficiently.
Best for Beginners: Char-Griller E1224 Smokin Pro Charcoal Grill
If you love traditional Texas-style smoking and barbecue, you would like this charcoal grill by Char-Griller. It weighs 113 pounds, the grill body consists of the main grill barrel and an offset firebox, all of it made out of heavy gauge powder-coated steel. Thus, this easy to assemble grill offers you durability, stability, and versatility in terms of cooking and functionality.
Further, you get the total cooking space of 830 square inches, 580 square inches of the cooking surface in the main barrel, and 250 square inches of space in the firebox. The firebox can be used for charcoal grilling and cooking as well as for smoking the meat.
The attachments include nonstick cast iron cooking grates and a heat gauge that helps in adjusting the grate. Thus, it allows you to adjust the temperature from low to medium to high as per your food requirement and temperature needs. You can further control the heat with adjustable dampers tagged along.
You can easily clean the grill with an easy dump ash pan, just slide out the pan from the side of the grill and discard the contents. Although, the grill is quite heavy considering the heavy steel build, you can easily carry the grill around and adjust its position with the help of two wheels attached for easy transport.
There are three side shelves attached to the grill, and they are of great help in organising the grilling essentials without creating a mess around.
Budget Pick: Masterbuilt MB20040220 Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill
MasterBuilt gravity series offer you flavorsome smoked cooking, with gravity and precision controlled airflow. This MasterBuilt charcoal smoker weighs 146.98 pounds and is electrically powered, it aids you to remotely control the temperature and heat content via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
You can cook in various ways including baking, braising, roasting, or searing, all you need to do is to set the temperature with your smart device and its inbuilt digital fan helps in maintaining the desired temperature.
The distinctive feature that makes this smoker stand out from the rest is its gravity-fed charcoal hopper. It can hold over 12 hours of lump or briquette coal. With the help of gravity, the hopper ensures that you are getting a constant heat supply without worrying about adding or removing the charcoal from time to time.
It further takes comparatively lesser time in reaching the temperature range of your choice. Precisely, it takes only 7 minutes to reach the temperature of 225 Fahrenheit and less than 15 minutes to reach the temperature of 750 Fahrenheit.
The smoker comes bundled with reversible cast-iron grates that are adequate for both low-temperature cooking and high-temperature searing. Moreover, you get two porcelain-coated warming racks that deliver you a total surface area of 560 square inches.
Best Tabletop: Char-Griller E22424 Table Top Charcoal Grill
Made of heavy steel, this charcoal smoker is a pro in terms of compactness and durability. The smoker weighs only 32.22 pounds thus this is lightweight and portable. It can prove to be your ultimate companion while camping, tailgating, or any form of outdoor cooking.
The smoker is attached with cast iron cooking grates that deliver you an adequate cooking space of 250 square inches. This standalone tabletop smoker aids in whipping some scrumptious delicacies for your small get-togethers. You can prepare small meals like hamburgers, chicken pieces, fish, sausages, and vegetables.
The smoker is equipped with two air vents on either side, it aids proper ventilation. Proper air ventilation ensures that the heat is evenly distributed and thus further helps in an even and consistently cooked meal. With dampers attached, you can manually regulate the temperature according to your cooking requirements.
The smoker further works as an offset attachment to any barrel grill. So if you are tired of cooking it horizontally on the tabletop you can simply attach it to the barrel Texas-style smoker and use it as an offset firebox.
Further, you can easily access the coal and ashes with the sliding drawer and check on the meal with a stay-cool handle. An easy dump ash pan attached aids in maintaining cleanliness.
Best for Large family: Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker
Next on the list, I have this reverse flow offset smoker by Oklahoma Joe. The brand is a popular name in the vertical of Texas-style barbecue smokers. This reverse flow smoker is constructed out of high-temperature, heavy-gauge steel thus it is durable, with enhanced effective performance.
The smoker is 180.8 pounds heavy and it works both as a traditional offset smoker and reverse flow smoker. The reverse flow smoker uses four baffles to easily guide the heat thus serving you an even and consistently cooked meal. If you are intending to switch to the traditional offset smoking, just adjust the smokestack location remove the baffles, and carry on with the cooking.
When talking about the cooking space, it is worth mentioning that you get an enormous cooking space of overall 900 square inches. Precisely, you get 619 square inches of primary space in the main chamber and 281 square inches of secondary space in the firebox chamber. You can easily whip up different varieties of scrumptious delicacies for your friends and family, all at the same time.
The offset firebox is bundled with a large charcoal basket for more efficient heat content. The swing-open door at the side of the firebox delivers you convenience and you can easily stoke the fire without opening the chamber box. When you are done with cooking you can easily remove the ash through the door.
You can organize all your grilling and smoking essentials on the front and bottom shelves. The front shelf is ideal for keeping utensils and food items while the bottom shelf is perfect for keeping charcoal and wood.
Best for Vents: Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
Take your smoking experience to next level with this Dyna-Glo vertical offset smoker. This does not just serve you space efficiency, but the very best of the cooking experience, even if you are new to this world of smoking and grilling.
The smoker consists of a main vertical chamber and an offset chamber. The main chamber borrows the heat from the offset fire chamber and vertical rising heat in the chamber ensures you get an efficient heat content and improved smoky flavor. The porcelain-enameled offset chamber further enhances the slow cooking experience by keeping the direct heat away from the food.
Moreover, you get a total cooking space of 1176 square inches and 784 square inches of the total smoking area. The vertical chamber is attached with six cooking grates, each grate can hold up to 25 pounds of weight. You can even adjust the grates according to your convenience, depending upon the shape and size of the food.
There are dampers attached to the smoker, for effective temperature control and maintenance. You further get a built-in thermometer equipped with a smoke zone, that aids you in figuring out the perfect temperature for infusing the smoky flavor.
Ash removal is further very hassle-free, just remove the ash pan and dump the ash. The ash pan is equipped with enough capacity to handle a large amount of ash, thus ensuring a longer duration of maintenance-free cooking.
What Is The Difference Between A Smoker and A Standard Grill?
The answer to this question lies in the basic difference between smoking and grilling. Grilling is usually done at high heat for a brief time. Smoking involves the application of extremely low heat over a period ranging from an hour to many weeks. In smoking, there is this smoky aroma that is attached to the food item which is missing in grilling. Whereas at the end of the grilling process, the meat is slushy and pulpy from the inside, and on the exterior, it is crispy and crunchy.
How Much Can You Spend?
If all your backyard is missing is a superior quality charcoal smoker, then you must wisely invest in it. But before that, you must calculate your budget and requirements. If you are new to smoking and barbecuing then probably you do not need smokers that have a lot of features. You should invest in a decent charcoal smoker that has basic yet important controls. When you calculate and formulate your budget also include the cost of the charcoal beforehand. As it is an expensive fuel.
How Many People Will You Be Cooking For?
Cooking for a larger crowd in a large smoker can be a bad idea. Big smokers tend to take up more space and it is exceedingly difficult to move them around. If cooking for such a big crowd is a one-time thing or the frequency of such events is extremely low then you must avoid investing in big smokers. Smokers come in varieties of sizes and shapes thus, you must invest in the one that is ideal for you.
Do You Need A Dedicated Smoker Or Combo Grill?
Take note that certain charcoal smokers may only be utilized for smoking, while others can also be used to grill. Feel free to pay a little more for an extra adaptable device, but it may save you money on a grill in the future.
Are You Going To Want To Move Your Smoker?
If you and your friends have planned camping in the forest, taking your charcoal smoker is the best option. However, if the size of your smoker is nothing less than an elephant. Packing the smoker carefully and then re-installing it later might be very hectic. Therefore, invest in a smoker that is lighter.
Charcoal smoking could be tricky especially when the appliance is not according to your requirements. You can take help from this comprehensive list of smokers that I made after much thorough research. There are a varieties of smokers mentioned in this list and you can choose the one that works for you the best.
For instance, if you are inclined towards buying the vertical smokers, that serve you space efficiency as well as the performance you can go for the vertical smokers like Cuisinart cos-118 vertical smoker or Dyna- Glo vertical smoker with an offset chamber.
If you are more into traditional offset Texas-style smoking you might want to choose either a Char-grill smoking pro charcoal grill or Oklahoma Joe’s Highland reverse flow smoker.
You can also go for the classic smoker like the Kamado Joe that speaks class and efficiency or you go Pit barrel 18-inch smoker that is a bit on the quirky build, with no compromise on the functionality.
I hope I was of any help in your quest for a perfect charcoal smoker. Comment down below if you can think of any other smoker that could have made it to the list or you have any suggestion as to how I can improve any further.