Most people love to boast about expertly cooking with charcoal. After all, this cooking technique is more than just flipping hotdogs and burger patties over hot charcoal, as it requires a little bit of skill, determination, and mastery to work along with the right tools and equipment.
Those who are fond of cooking with charcoal know how crucial it is to have the best charcoal smoker to make the task easier, more convenient, and considerably more fun.
If you are new to charcoal cooking, you will most likely be confused when choosing a charcoal smoker, as there are numerous options available in the market. To make it easier for you, we have reviewed the best of the best charcoal smoker devices in the market. Read on to find out which device suits you best.
|The Best of the Best Charcoal Smoker – Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker (721001)||95/100|
|The Second Best Charcoal Smoker – Classic Pit Barrel Charcoal Smoker (18-1/2 inch)||95/100|
|The Best Budget Pick Charcoal Smoker – Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Smoker (E06614)||93/100|
|The Best Cabinet Charcoal Smoker – Dyna-Glo 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker (DGX780BDC-D)||91/100|
|Best Portable Charcoal Smoker – Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Smoker (121020)||85/100|
Below, you’ll see more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read reviews on Amazon.com
Top 5 Best Charcoal Smoker Reviews 2023
The Best of the Best Charcoal Smoker (Editor’s Pick) – Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker (721001)
[amazon box=”B001I8ZTJ0″ ]
When you want to cook the juiciest cuts of meat, the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker is the best griller for you. This 18-inch charcoal smoker will make it easier for you to enjoy authentic smokehouse flavors and the juiciest meat right in the comforts of your home.
This charcoal smoker comes with two nickel-placed 18-inch wide cooking grates, which total about 481 square inches of cooking space. The cooking space is generous enough to cater to a large chunk of meat.
This unit is made of high-quality porcelain-enameled steel and measures about 21 inches by 19 inches by 41 inches.
This smoker is made up of three sections. The lower part contains the charcoal ring, and this is where the charcoal and smoke wood are placed. This section comes with three adjustable vents that control the airflow. The middle part is where the water pan is located, along with the two cooking grates and an access door for adding wood and charcoal. Lastly, the dome lid section contains the built-in thermometer.
Also, this smoker unit comes with several accessories, including a built-in thermometer, individual vents on its lid and bowl, a water pan, a heat-resistant handle made of nylon, and a storage cover.
What We Like
- High-quality construction and materials
- Cooks the juiciest meats with its water pan for added moisture
- Easy to use
- Large cooking capacity with 481 square inches of cooking space
- Includes numerous accessories and features, including air vents, thermometer, water pan, and a storage cover
What We Didn’t Like
- Has minor air leaks
The Second Best Charcoal Smoker – Classic Pit Barrel Charcoal Smoker (18-1/2 inch)
[amazon box=”B00BQMDZYY” ]
If you like the DIY approach when it comes to charcoal smokers, then the Classic Pit Barrel Charcoal Smoker package is the best device for you.
This charcoal smoker shares the same vertical design as the Weber Smokey Mountain with a few notable differences, which as its lack of a water bowl. Despite this, this charcoal smoker is still very popular because it performs well and delivers sumptuous grilled meats.
It is made out of a 30-gallon steel drum (18-gauge) and lid. This smoker can handle high temperatures, while its cooler external temperature can create condensation inside the barrel for additional moisture. The heat is also distributed evenly inside the smoker because of its cylindrical shape.
This unit also does not make use of grill racks. Instead, it uses metal hooks where you can hang the meat vertically inside the charcoal smoker.
What We Like
- The unique meat hook system includes eight stainless steel hooks.
- Less messy cleanup because meat juice falls directly on the hot coal
- Easy to use, easy to assemble
- Made of high-quality and durable materials
- Contains other cooking accessories like a standard grate for searing and grilling, two hanging rods, a charcoal basket, and a hook remover tool
What We Didn’t Like
- Tends to run hot when too much charcoal is added
The Best Budget Pick Charcoal Smoker – Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Smoker (E06614)
[amazon box=”B00EBWBFQQ” ]
This charcoal smoker may be cheaper compared to other smokers in the market and small, but this unit is a versatile grill and smoker that is built to last. Now, you can enjoy low and slow roasting and grilling with the Char-Griller Kamado Charcoal Smoker.
This smoker is designed with triple-walled steel (22-gauge), which efficiently retains heat for optimal performance. Its durable steel construction is built to last.
It has a top to bottom adjustable dampers that can easily maintain even airflow in and out of the grill while smoking or grilling. With such a design, you can use less charcoal while cooking, making it a fuel-efficient charcoal smoker.
This unit also comes with an easy dump ash pan, cast iron cooking grates, and a stainless heat gauge. It even comes with convenient handles for portability.
What We Like
- Steel construction is built to last
- Comes with an adjustable damper for even airflow
- Comes with accessories including dump ash pan, stainless heat gauge, and cast iron cooking grates
What We Didn’t Like
- Its gaskets can leak, especially when cooking at a very high temperature
The Best Cabinet Charcoal Smoker – Dyna-Glo 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker (DGX780BDC-D)
[amazon box=”B010759GCU” ]
Yes, this is one of the best cabinet-design charcoal smokers. It has a generous 784 square inches of cooking area. With its vertical design, you can quickly capture the maximum flavors when cooking.
This charcoal smoker has a double-door design which minimizes heat loss when you try to access your food or the charcoal when cooking. Its porcelain-enameled charcoal chamber is designed to keep your charcoal tightly stacked to improve its burn efficiency significantly.
Assembly is rather straightforward. In fact, its primary box is already assembled to ensure that there will be less fiddling with bolts required. The racks included are also sturdy and well-made. This unit contains four cooking grates and a removable ash pan.
What We Like
- Comes with a generous 784 square inches of cooking space
- Double-door design for food and charcoal access
- Easy to use, and assembly is straightforward
- Has a vertical design for optimum performance
What We Didn’t Like
- Tends to leak
- The lids on the wooden box do not fit securely
Best Portable Charcoal Smoker – Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Smoker (121020)
[amazon box=”B00004RALJ” ]
When it comes to portability, the Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Smoker is the best option for you. In fact, this is the perfect companion for camping.
While it may have a compact design, it still has a generous grilling area which is large enough to fit about four medium-sized steaks. It has a lid that can be locked into place with the unit’s pivoting legs.
With this unit’s built-in lid hangers, you can rest the lid located on the sides of the unit, which can create an efficient wind barrier. It is also crafted without nuts and bolts to ensure optimal performance and ease of use and assembly.
Its grate is constructed of steel coated with three layers of nickel, which makes it easy to clean. Also, its porcelain-enameled steel cooking box and lid are durable and built to last.
What We Like
- Very portable with cool-to-touch handles attached to the unit
- Comes with plated steel legs to secure the lid in place during transport
- Designed with a steel grate with triple-nickel coating and a porcelain-enameled cooking box and cover that are built to last
- Ideal for bringing during camping and other out-of-town grilling needs
What We Didn’t Like
- Very small in size
Charcoal Fuel Types that You Should Know About
Charcoal smokers are designed differently and will have a variety of requirements, especially when it comes to the type of fuel or energy that is needed for it to work correctly.
So, what are the fuel types that you can use on your charcoal smoker?
This type of charcoal is a Japanese-made super lump charcoal, which is processed in cylinders that resemble branches. This coal is derived from ubamegashi, which is a type of oak that grows in mud caves. It burns quickly and does not exhibit the usual woody flavor that overpowers the meat you are cooking.
Because of the complicated process of how it is produced, this type of coal can be a bit pricey. Also, it can take a long time for this coal to burn correctly.
This type of charcoal is also referred to as natural charcoal. It is binder-free and is made of pure wood heated in a device called a kiln, which is also referred to as a sealed cave. This charcoal burns cleanly and purely, making it an environmental-friendly option. However, this type burns more unevenly with hot spots than cold ones. It also heats rather quickly, requiring you to refill it often.
This type of coal is commonly used in South Asia. This burns fast compared to the other types of coal, and it is also rather cheaper.
This type of coal is also referred to as treated charcoal. It burns evenly and hotly over an extended period. This charcoal is often infused with a fuel-like fluid so it can light easily and quickly. Experts agree that this type of charcoal is the best type for the causal griller, as it burns steadily and costs less than the other charcoal types.
However, this charcoal is composed of different materials that give off a heavy smell and taste, which can overpower your meat when cooking.
How to Choose the Best Charcoal Smoker
Choosing charcoal can be quite overwhelming, as there are numerous options available for you. Also, these charcoal smokers have different features and different prices.
If you are looking for the best charcoal smoker, you should consider these factors before purchasing one.
When choosing a charcoal smoker, it is always best to think about how much money you want to spare for this cooking equipment. You do not have to buy the most expensive one in the market, as there are charcoal smokers that are high quality and perform well, which are not so expensive.
Another essential factor to consider when choosing a charcoal smoker is its capacity. Some smokers are designed to cater to big parties, while others are made for small gatherings and are portable enough to bring with you to a campground and the like.
A good charcoal smoker should satisfy your needs regarding the size. If you are thinking about catering a large party, then you should opt for a bigger grill.
It is always important to know the kind of grill that you are looking for, as some grills are more portable than others. Larger grills are usually not as portable as smaller ones.
If you are thinking of bringing the smoker with you when you visit the park or a campground, you should consider getting a smaller and more portable charcoal smoker.
Charcoal smokers have also evolved over the years, and they now sport advanced features like heat settings, temperature gauges, and thermometers.
Most smokers who have more modern features are often priced high. If you think you can benefit most from these advanced features, you should consider looking into charcoal smokers with the modern features you need.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the perfect and the best charcoal smoker should not be that hard as long as you know what you are looking for in a smoker.
The first thing that you have to think about is your cooking needs and whether or not you want something that can cook for a large number of people or just a few of your friends. If you have decided on the size, the next thing that you need to think about would be your budget and the features you want your charcoal smoker to have.
To make it easier for you, we have reviewed the best of the best charcoal smokers in the market. If you are right on track, the best charcoal smoker is the Weber Smokey Mountain 18-inch Charcoal Smoker.
This unit is built to last with high-quality porcelain-enameled steel construction. Also, it has a generous cooking space that allows you to cook various foods for your family and a few of your friends.
It even has several other features, including a built-in thermometer, air vents, a water pan, a heat-resistant handle, and a storage cover.
Jen Lin-Liu is the founder of Black Sesame Kitchen. A Chinese-American writer and a nationally certified Chinese chef in Beijing. Jen is the author of two memoirs, Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China and On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta.