People love to brag about cooking with a charcoal smoker. I will walk you through the key points of choosing the best charcoal smoker.

A well-built charcoal smoker can hold a steady temperature for hours without much attention.

To make your job of choosing a charcoal smoker easy, we have put together a list of the best charcoal smokers available in 2021 across a variety of price points.

We will also guide you through the pros and cons of the 4 main types of charcoal smokers.

charcoal smoker


Charcoal smokers make it easy to introduce real charcoal flavor into your food.

They are great for backyard BBQs or tailgating, whether you’re a beginner or a competitive smoker and griller. You can also add wood chips for an even more smoky wood taste.

When it comes to charcoal smokers, there are many brands, sizes, and configurations to choose from. One of the biggest decisions is whether to go with a vertical or offset configuration.


Other types of smoker can come close, charcoal gives a flavor that just can not be beaten.

The combustion gases from charcoal grills, when mixed with smoke from wood chips or chunks add a distinctive flavor typical of traditional Southern barbecue.


Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch

The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (WSM) still holds the crown for the best all-around charcoal smoker.

The 18″ model is a good size for most people.

Over the years Weber has continued to tweak and improve the smoker, making it a hit with both pro and amateur pitmasters.

The success of the Smokey Mountain comes down to superior construction quality and ease of use at a price point almost anyone can afford.

Bullet or water smokers like the WSM are easily the most popular type of charcoal smokers, due to their small footprint and ability to hold a steady temperature for hours.

The Smokey Mountain is made up of three main sections:

The lower section holds the charcoal ring where the charcoal and wood go. This section also has three adjustable vents to control airflow which controls your smoker temperature.

The middle cooking section contains your water pan, two cooking grates, and an access door for adding charcoal or wood.

Dome lid with a built-in thermometer.

Its superior design promotes efficient airflow to hold consistent temperatures for long periods and to give your meat an authentic smokehouse flavor right in the comfort of your home.

Cuisinart Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker

This cooker has two 18” stainless steel cooking grates and has a total cooking area of 510 square inches, which lines up roughly with the size of the 18” Weber Smokey Mountain.

Equipped with a porcelain enameled steel bowl and a vertical side door, this unit provides easy access to fuel and water. Furthermore, it is also easy to control the amount of heat and smoke that this unit can produce. It has dual vents that can be closed or opened to regulate the heat and smoke.

The Cuisinart 18 inch Charcoal smoker also has two steel wire racks, that can be stacked in the interior of the smoking chamber.

There is also plenty of room to smoke fish, vegetables, and even an entire turkey. The vertical design of this smoker does well to provide optimal heat distribution benefits through the cooking chamber.

With minor adjustments to the air vents, users can easily regulate the temperature for custom meals.

Char-Broil Vertical Charcoal Smoker

The Char Boil Charcoal Smoker is one of many bullet smokers, it is durable and features high-quality materials at an exceptional value.

Featuring an innovative airflow control system, this unit does well to simplify the setting and to maintain the cooking temperatures.

It comes with two porcelain-coated cooking grates that provide an exceptional 365 sq. inches of cooking space, more than enough space for cooking meals.

The cooking racks are also well stacked and can easily smoke various types of food to perfection. 

Plus the removable ash pan system does well to collect ash that accumulates from several hours of cooking. 

The 2 porcelain grates make it easy to clean and works well to reduce food sticking. 

The formed fire access door seals the smoke chamber and steel tube legs provide a convenient height.

The front-loading doors on this unit are more user friendly than top-loading options.

For smoke, this unit will burn both chunks and chips, but a log will be a bit of a push for this little unit.

Especially for beginners, this smoker offers a great introduction to smoking that will not leave a dent in your wallet, or take up too much space on your patio.

Old Smokey Charcoal Grill #22

This unit is made of aluminized steel, making it lightweight and easily transportable. However, it is not small at 22in. 

The high dome lid means you can cook beer can chicken or large pork shoulders with ease.

The grill grate on this model is not hinged so when you do use it as a smoker, refueling can be a bit of a challenge. You will need to lift the whole grate, with food on, to add more charcoal.

This unit also has the tendency to rust a little quicker than some units made of thicker materials.

Smoke Hollow VT280SS1 Vector 3-Burner Tabletop Charcoal Grill Smoker

This unit has a new grill design promoting convection style cooking, but with improved cooking flavor.

It has two independently controlled 6500 BTU burners that can deliver great heating temperatures. Users can also add more flavor to the foods by using different types of wood chips on the porcelain coated wood chip pan. 

The hopper is large enough that you do not have to refill the pellets often.

The porcelain material is perfect for meal preparation because it is simple to maintain and durable. 

Broil King 28′ Vertical Charcoal Smoker

If you have more of a budget, the Broil King is a well-made smoker that produces great results. Made in Canada from quality materials.

With a generous 770 square inches of cooking space, you will be able to feed a crowd with this smoker.

There are four stainless steel cooking racks that are fully adjustable, along with 16 stainless steel meat hooks.

Not only is this smoker designed to cook for a crowd, but it is also designed to be easy to use.

There is a secondary door that makes accessing the water tray and smoker box easy. The water bowl and smoker box themselves are also generously sized.

The smoker is built with double walls and so does not require insulation. It keeps its heat steady over long cooks.

You pay more for this smoker. But you can take this grill straight out of the box and you will have yourself a good quality smoker ready to go.

charcoal smoker

Offset Barrel Smokers

There are different types of smokers and this one, Oklahoma Joe is “The granddaddy of Smokers” and will give you a reputation as a “true” pitmaster.

This style of smoker has a horizontal smoker barrel-shaped cooking chamber with a lid. This is connected to a smaller chamber or firebox on one end. This is what the “offset” refers to.

One of the advantages of cooking with an offset is that your fire is much more accessible. It needs to be if you plan on tending a wood only fire all day.

The firebox is connected to the cooking area which in turn has a chimney for venting smoke. This design pulls smoke from the firebox, into the cooking chamber, giving your food a smoky flavor before it leaves through the chimney.

You control the heat by adjusting the air intake vents.

Large Big Green Egg

A popular outdoor charcoal smoker today is the Big Green Egg. It is a kamado-style egg-shaped grill that is capable of generating extremely high temperatures of up to 600 degrees.

It is built with a ceramic shell that allows it to hold low temperatures for long periods making it the ideal smoking companion.

The Large Green Egg offers:

  • Heavy-duty ceramic shell exterior
  • Porcelain-coated cooking surface
  • Glazed interior for easy cleaning
  • Cooking area: 262 square inches.

Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Portable Grill with WIFI

This is a lightweight grill with foldable legs that make it small enough to fit in the trunk of your car.

The best part about it is its WiFi feature that allows you to control the grill settings directly from an app on your phone.

Cooking area: 219 sq inches.

Pit barrel cooker - charcoal smoker

Pit Barrel Cooker

Weber Original Kettle Premium 26-Inch Charcoal Grill

The Weber Kettle grill has been around for nearly seventy years.

There is a pretty good chance that you have eaten a steak, a hotdog, or a burger cooked on one at some point in your life.

charcoal smoker-4

Kamado Joe Classic II Ceramic Grill with Cart

The Kamado Joe Classic II 18-inch Ceramic Grill with Cart is one of the hottest smokers on the market.

It combines modern-day user-friendly features like low-temperature smoking, high-heat grilling, and other advanced capabilities that guarantee to seal in all that smoky goodness and moisture content.

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The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, has a rust-free, cast aluminum charcoal grill that is durable and easy to use.

Four-way venting makes it easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is completely portable and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than the round kamado.

Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Most cabinet style smokers are electric smokers or gas but you do come across the occasional charcoal smoker.

A nice advantage of this style of smoker is that you get much easier access to both your food and your charcoal than with the bullet or kamado-style.

These smokers are not common.

The Good-One Is A Superb Grill And Smoker All In One

The Good-One Open Range is completely different from the traditional offset smoker.

Having the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range can keep an even temperature from left to right, something hard to attain with a standard barrel shaped offset.

Vertical vs Offset Charcoal Smokers

Vertical charcoal smokers are straight up and down (vertical) and can accommodate multiple levels of cooking grids for smoking food.

Some are pill or bullet-shaped with many cooking levels and a lid, while others are more rectangular in shape. Some are even shaped like a box with a door for easy access to food. These smokers range anywhere from 286 to 1,364 square inches of cooking surface.

Most vertical smokers are also charcoal water smokers. They usually have 3 compartments.

  • The bottom section is the heat source that holds the charcoal.
  • The middle section is where a pan of liquids is placed.
  • The top section is the actual smoking chamber.

When the liquid evaporates during the smoking process, it creates humidity and adds flavor to stop food from drying out.

Vertical smokers are great for keeping the temperature nice and low. Some vertical smokers have a removable liquid pan so you can use the smoker as a charcoal grill also.

Offset smokers look like a grill with a rectangular or barrel-shaped body, they have a firebox off to the side. 

What You Need to Know About Charcoal

We have looked at a lot of charcoal smokers. Let’s take a look at what creates the heat – the charcoal.

There are two main types of charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal.

What are the differences between these two fuel sources?

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Charcoal briquettes:

Briquettes are user-friendly, you have probably used them before. They burn longer, cost less, are uniform in shape making them easier to stack, and maintain steady temperatures.

There is a price for the convenience.

Briquettes are made from sawdust and scrap woods which have been burnt down and compressed with additives. They are not a ‘chemical-free’ option.

They can be hard to get started, but some varieties will have lighter fluid added to help start them. These should be avoided though.

Use a charcoal chimney starter instead.

Briquettes do not burn as hot as lump charcoal and produce more ash.

GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone

GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Digital Thermometers Are Your Most Valuable Tool

A good digital thermometer keeps you from serving dry overcooked food or dangerously undercooked food. They are much faster and much more accurate than dial thermometers.

Track Up To Six Temperatures At Once

Inkbird Wireless Bluetooth BBQ Thermometer is an updated version of a well-received product that sets the standard for performance and functionality in the wireless food thermometer/thermostatic controller class.

Accessories, toys, tools, gadgets

After your new grill, you need heat resistant gloves and other tools and toys that make you a better outdoor cook.

Top Pick for 2021

With so many charcoal smokers in the market to choose from, each one brings something different to the table depending on your barbecuing goals and budget.

If you’re looking for something versatile, feature-rich, and with excellent temperature control, then you can not go wrong with the Big Green Egg. It doubles up as both a grill and a smoker and is ideal for someone who intends to do a lot of barbecuing.

It is no wonder it stands out as one of the greatest grills of modern times.

There’s no clear winner here because it all truly boils down to preference. It all depends on how you like to cook, what your flavor preferences are, and what kind of maintenance you will do.




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