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It would seem almost insane to change a smoker as popular at Weber's Smokey Mountain (WSM) Smoker, but Weber has listened to the fans and made only slight (requested) changes to this unit. The addition of a lid-mounted thermometer and a bottom-mounted heat shield doesn't affect how this unit works but gives you a better smoker. In the past, you either had to drill a hole and put in your own thermometer or set one inside and lift the lid to check the temperature. Now you can see the cooking temperature easily. The heat shield will protect whatever surface you put your smoker on. Altogether, a better WSM.
Char-Broil is, of course, one of the leading names in outdoor cooking and while they have been able to produce some innovative products, they tend to have difficulty in the follow-through. This model, part of a large line of electric refrigerator style smokers, has digital controls and an insulated construction that promises to make it easy to use and efficient, and generally, it is. This little smoker has good capacity and a great line of features and if yours works well, it can be a pretty good investment. The biggest caveat with all electric smokers of this type is that smoke production can be limited so if you are looking for a heavy smoke flavor, looks somewhere else.
The biggest limitation of gas smokers is the range of temperatures they can hit and the fact that most of them leak smoke and heat through the doors. The Smoke Hollow 44-inch smoker doesn't have these problems. The doors latch closed tightly and the dual burner design gives it a much wider range of temperatures. It is also a very large smoker, standing 5 feet high with five racks and seven cubic feet of capacity. If there is a problem with this smoker you probably won't see it for a few years. The lightweight burners and thinner metals shorten the life expectancy of this smoker. Care should be taken to keep it in good working order.
The Pit Barrel Cooker is a simple, easy to use charcoal unit that can cook up to eight racks of ribs at once. Designed to operate consistently at around 300 degrees, this smoker needs very little attention and can be relied upon to turn out some great food in a relatively short period of time. While there are those that might argue that it isn't a real smoker, it does create smokey flavors and great food.
If you need more helping finding the right product, our guide to buying a smoker can help. There are many things to consider before making a purchase, such as price, features, and fuel type.
The Napoleon Apollo 3-in-1 takes the simple, vertical water smoker to a whole new level. Also known as the ProQ, this three-section smoker can be reduced to a simple charcoal grill or assembled to a large capacity charcoal smoker. Loaded with features, this unit is capable or smoking up a large amount of food, or small load without wasting lots of extra charcoal. Standard with a bar in the lid for hooks to hang racks of ribs or sausages, eyelets for meat probes, and a good airflow system. All of the body connection points can cause it to leak smoke, but that is typical of this kind of smoker.
For smoking large cuts of great barbecue buy a different smoker. For nearly 55 years the Big Chief, and its little brother, the Little Chief, have been designed for smoking all those things that don't traditionally fall into the strict category of barbecue. For smoking fish, jerky, sausage, cheese, this is the perfect smoker. The lower cooking temperatures, that can't be adjusted, and decent smoke production is great for preserving foods and adding smoke flavor to things you might not cook, or might finish off someplace else.
One of the problems with gas smokers is that the heat output can be limited by a factory who thinks they know best. While smoking is done in a specific temperature range, it should be up to the user if they want to "flash" smoke or do a low-temperature smoke. This Camp Chef smoker has a temperature range from 160 to 400 degrees F so it is much more versatile than many gas smokers on the market. However, like many most box style gas smokers, the body isn't insulated, and although the door fits well you still get some smoke leakage.
The Char-Griller is another classic offset firebox smoker. This design is so popular because it works. The Char-Griller is easy to use and you can even get a rotisserie kit for it. Like all units of this type, it also doubles as a charcoal grill. It is also one of the least expensive of this type of smoker.
This vertical smoker has an offset smoke box that helps keep excess heat away from the food to avoid overcooking the items at the bottom, while also sending tasty smoke to the entire cooking box.
The six adjustable cooking grates allow you to adjust the height of the cooking space for foods of different thicknesses, so you can have thin filets on one rack, large chickens on another, and a wheel of cheese or a bowl of salt on another rack, with less wasted space between the foods. There is a total of 1176 square inches of cooking space, so you can smoke up to 150 pounds of food in one session.
The exterior of this smoker is powder-coated steel and the wood chip box smoking is porcelain enameled steel, so this smoker will still look good after many years of use. The sturdy handles make it easy to move the smoker to the perfect spot for cooking, and the integrated thermometer lets you monitor the temperature without opening a door. For sure you’ll appreciate the grease system that collects both food drippings and condensation from the inside of the cooking chamber, so cleanup is fast and easy.
We bought two top-rated smokers under $400 and our reviewers spent more than 100 hours testing them. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these smokers, from portability to fuel type. We’ve outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Fuel type Sure, you’ll use wood to create the smoke in any of these smokers, but you have choices as to how that wood gets its heat. Electric smokers are convenient, while charcoal is more traditional. Gas grills offer yet another option. Since it’s wood that provides the flavor, the fuel choice is more about personal preference.
Portability While you likely won’t be moving your smoker very far, you may decide to keep it in storage when it’s not in use, or you might want the option to move it to a better spot in the yard when the wind suddenly shifts. Think about whether you’ll be able to move the smoker by yourself or will need a helping hand.
Ability to cold smoke Most smokers have no problem with hot smoking but cold smoking is a little trickier. Do you want to cold smoke salmon or bacon, or are you more interested in smoking and cooking slabs of ribs or large hunks of brisket for dinner? If cold smoking isn’t something you plan on exploring, then you needn’t look for smokers with that option.