Smoking your meat with a charcoal smoker provides it with that sort of traditional smoked-meat flavor that you can never get any other way.
In addition to taste, charcoal smokers also offer you a high level of emotional reward that you can’t get from electric or gas smokers. There’s a certain joy in doing things the old way.
Charcoal smokers all function using the same principle of passing air from below red-hot coals, which carry the smoke towards your meat and escapes through a chimney. The way this happens though, differs from charcoal smoker to smoker.
This charcoal smoker review provides you with the best offers in the market and shows you how to make the best choice and additionally keep it up as time goes by.
What to Check Before Buying Best Charcoal Smoker?
Most charcoal smokers seem similar in some ways but they are also different in other ways. This means that you should understand the important features of charcoal smokers if you need to make the right choice.
Following is a list of the most important charcoal smoker features.
1. Your Needs
This is an important question that you need to ask yourself first before anything else. What do you want a charcoal smoker for? Are you cooking for friends, family, or a larger group?.
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to get a better picture of the right charcoal smoker that will perfectly fill your needs and enrich your life the way you want.
2. Cooking Surface
This is a major metric that most manufacturers use in indicating how large their smokers are and how much meat it can cook at a go as a result.
A smoker’s total interior space can either be given in cubic inches or the total surface area of the cooking grates gets given in square inches. You can expect anything from 150 square inches to well over 1,000 square inches of cooking surface.
You’ll need about a 400-square-inch smoker like the Cuisinart COS-118 to comfortably smoke meat for a small to medium-sized family of over 20 persons, while a 700-square-inch smoker such as the Broil King 923610 will do for medium to large group up to 100 persons.
Remember that a piece of meat or chicken that will take up about 100 square inches of space in a grill, will need 200 or at least 150 square inches of space in a smoker because smoking is all about indirect cooking.
This aspect of the charcoal smoker also depends on the type of smoker that you need or on why you need it. Charcoal smokers can come with extra fixtures or accessories to make them more versatile.
These extras can include wheels and better handles for improved mobility, as well as grill attachments, to easily turn the smoker into a grill when you feel like.
Dampers are a very important part of charcoal smokers, so you need to understand what they are and then be on the lookout, to make sure that you get a good smoker with good dampers.
Every charcoal smoker will have two dampers: one below the charcoal level and one on the highest part of the smoker. A damper is an opening that you can regulate to allow little, no air, or even the maximum airflow through it.
The nature of charcoal is that it needs the oxygen in the air to burn and because warm air naturally rises, the lower damper becomes an air intake and the upper damper becomes the exit. This also makes the dampers a regulator for the charcoal’s burning rate.
5. Body Thickness
When it comes to smokers, the thicker the body, the longer it retains heat and the better it distributes the heat evenly. When you are making a choice, therefore, keep in mind that smokers made with thicker-gauge bodies are the better choice.
You should, however, remember that all metals are not equal. So a thinner-gauge stainless steel smoker might do better than a heavier-gauge aluminum smoker in this regard.
6. Brand, Quality & Warranty
You’ll find many respectable brands in the charcoal smoker market like Char-Broil, Kingsford, Brinkmann, and Masterbuilt.
Each brand has something unique that sets it aside from others in the market and this feature is usually what makes you love the brand or not.
You should note that better brands make better products with longer warranties and they also charge more for it. So, it’s left you here to balance quality and price, and then make your choice.
You also need to make a budget and stick to it. Charcoal smokers come in different qualities and prices, so you need to know what you can comfortably afford and then look for smokers in that price range.
10 Best Charcoal Smokers of 2021 Reviewed
|1. Weber 721001 (Best Overall)|
|2. Masterbuilt 20060416 (Best for Beginner)|
|3. Weber 10020 (Super Compact for On-the-Go)|
|4. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D (Heavy-duty for 100 Persons)|
|5. Cuisinart COS-118 (Elegant & High-capacity)|
|6. Char-Griller 16620 (Affordable Kamado Smoker)|
|7. Char-Broil 14201876 (Multi-damper Cabinet Style)|
|8. Broil King 923610 (High Quality & Elegant)|
|9. Primo Oval XL 400 (Real Kamado Smoker)|
|10. Pit Barrel Cooker (Classic Barrel Package)|
1. Weber 721001 – Best Overall
- Cooking surface: 481 square inches
- Height: 14/18/22 inches
- Material: Enameled steel
- Weight: 39 pounds
Weber makes some of the best and top-rated charcoal smokers that you’ll find. This offer is for Weber’s 721001, which comes in three sizes of 14-, 18-, and 22-inch heights.
The body comes from a porcelain-enameled steel for both strength and a long lifespan. The handle on the lid is heat-resistant and made from nylon. Plus, the lid comes with an in-built thermometer for easier monitoring.
Inside, you get two nickel-plated cooking grates, which are each 18.5 inches wide to make a total of 481 square inches of cooking space.
Things you might not like include the first assembly before use and this smoker’s price. Else, it comes with high-quality parts, including its dampers and thermometer, plus Weber’s 10-year warranty backing.
More Detailed: Weber 721001 Review
- Made of porcelain-enameled steel for long life
- Includes two nickel-plated cooking grates
- Comes with a built-in thermometer and storage cover
- Backed by a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty
- It’s not a cheap charcoal smoker
- The package comes without assembly instructions
2. Masterbuilt 20060416 – Best Budget
- Cooking surface: 395 sq. in
- Height: 31 inches
- Material: Steel
- Weight: 15 pounds
Here’s a great smoker from a top brand that’s offered at an impressive and affordable price. It’s the perfect beginner smoker for those who want to get their feet wet without spending too much.
Masterbuilt includes lots of features in this smoker, including an easy-to-read thermometer in the lid, two porcelain-enameled smoking racks, plus an enameled charcoal pan and water bowl.
You get a total cooking surface of 395 square inches, large enough to smoke for a small group of family or friends. You also get a front door for easy access into the smoker.
As one of the smallest charcoal smokers in the market, you can easily load this one into your car or SUV as well. To spend time with friends or family outdoors, with a treat of beautifully smoked food.
- A compact & affordable smoker for beginners
- Offers enough cooking space up to 395 square inches
- Fully enameled parts for durability
- Includes a convenient front access door
- It only has a 90-day warranty
- It’s not heavy-duty
3. Weber 10020 – Super Compact Smoker for On-the-Go
- Cooking surface: 147 square inches
- Height: 17 inches
- Material: Enameled steel
- Weight: 9.5 pounds
Once you improvise for the lacking water pan by folding some foil and pouring water into it, this otherwise normal kettle-style charcoal grill becomes the most portable charcoal smoker you’ll find.
It’s also very affordable and includes everything else, like an ash pan, a hardware bag, a nylon handle, and a 14.5-inch stainless steel rack.
Although it’s offered at such a low price, this grill is so well-made and so compact that you can’t help but love it. If you have to cook for a large group, however, then it’s just too small.
The top and the bottom bowl are both porcelain-enameled steel and they include an adjustable aluminum damper each. Weber backs it all with a 5-year warranty.
- Very compact smoker made using enameled steel
- Features chrome-plated legs and a nylon handle
- Backed by a manufacturer’s 5-year warranty
- Offered at a low and attractive price
- You need to improvise with a foil to make it a true smoker
- It’s not ideal for a medium to large group
4. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D – Heavy-duty Smoker for 100 Persons
- Cooking surface: 1,176 square inches
- Height: 47 inches
- Material: Enameled steel
- Weight: 57 pounds
This is the best charcoal smoker for those with a large family and enough space. With this Dyna-Glo smoker, you get 1,176 square inches of smoking surface, enough to handle small to medium-sized groups.
It features an offset design, which puts the heat on one side and the smoking chamber on the other. There are six cooking grates in the smoking chamber and you can adjust their heights to suit you.
Dyna-Glo also adds a stainless steel thermometer that is both functional and accents the smoker’s style. The air vent and the smoker’s feet design further accent this style.
If you’re wondering if this smoker is too large, then it probably is. And unless you truly need such a large smoker, there are smaller and cheaper options available.
- Provides 1,176 sq. inches of smoking space
- Offers you six height-adjustable grates
- Designed for easy cleaning
- Features a built-in stainless steel thermometer
- Large cooking capacity for up to 100 pounds at a go
- It’s heavy and not portable
- It costs a lot but it’s worth it
5. Cuisinart COS-118 – Elegant & High-capacity
- Cooking surface: 510 square inches
- Height: 43 inches
- Material: Enameled steel
- Weight: 25 pounds
This vertical charcoal smoker review is for the COS-118 smoker, which is a typical Cuisinart product, featuring a nice and stylish design, mixed with efficiency. It’s a large smoker with 510 sq. inches of cooking space and offers lots of helpful features.
You get two 18-inch stainless steel racks, allowing you to choose how you want to smoke your meat. There’s an included porcelain-enameled bowl to hold water and the door is vertically hinged, offering you easier access into the smoker.
This smoker is comparably large and not very compact for hitting the road, but if you don’t mind the 15-minute setup, then there’s no problem.
Cuisinart includes beautiful handles, a thermometer, a lovely door lock, and a 3-year warranty to back up the smoker. The package lacks a recipe book, but then, it’s designed for both grilling enthusiasts and for professional chefs alike.
- Beautifully designed in Cuisinart style
- Includes a porcelain-enameled steel bowl
- Easy to use, clean & to keep up
- Backed by a 3-year warranty
- The housing is not enameled
- It does not include a recipe book
6. Char-Griller 16620 – Affordable Kamado
- Cooking surface: 447 square inches
- Height: 47 inches
- Material: Steel & cast iron
- Weight: 98 pounds
The Char-Griller 16620 is one of the best charcoal smoker grills you’ll come across when it gets down to style, elegance, and efficiency. It looks amazing, offers 447 square inches of space, and it is highly insulated.
Designed like traditional clay ovens, this style stands out in any modern setting and is both a cooking utensil and the centerpiece of your family get together.
You get a triple steel-walled cooking chamber, which minimizes heat loss and lets you make the most of your charcoal, producing temperatures from 200 to 700 degrees F. There are folding side shelves, two wheels for pushing it around, and a beautifully made damper system.
The unattractive aspects of this smoker grill are its price, which is comparably high, and its heaviness, which makes it less portable. Else it’s a great way to make delicious food and it’s backed by a 1-year warranty.
- Very stylishly designed & affordable kamado smoker
- Offers a large 447 square inches of cooking space
- Manufactured using the best materials
- Triple walled insulation for better heat control
- Includes fold-down side shelves
- It doesn’t come with a water bowl
- The smoker is very heavy for its size
- Its price is on the high side
7. Char-Broil 14201876 –Best- Multi-damper Cabinet
- Cooking surface: 360 square inches
- Height: 39 inches
- Material: Steel
- Weight: 30 pounds
Smokers don’t always need rounded shapes and as this offer proves, a non-round and totally square charcoal smoker can also function effectively.
It offers a 360-square-inch cooking space, divided into three sections using three grates. And you can adjust them as you like to fit your cooking style.
You get two front doors, one for easy access to your food and the other for easy access to the charcoal. You also get adjustable dampers to help you control the interior temperature as you wish.
The package includes a porcelain-enameled charcoal and water pan, plus a front-mounted thermometer and 1-year warranty from the manufacturer.
- Offers up to 360 square inches of cooking space
- Solid and long-lasting steel construction
- Features cool-touch spring handles
- Backed by a 1-year warranty
- It needs modifications after assembly
- The design isn’t very stylish
8. Broil King 923610 – High Quality & Elegant
- Cooking surface: 770 square inches
- Height: 48 inches
- Material: Steel
- Weight: 70 pounds
The Broil King 923610 is a vertical charcoal smoker in its own league. It features everything you need to entertain family and friends, and this includes a large cooking area and a sturdy build.
You get 770 square inches of cooking space, four adjustable stainless steel cooking grids, 16 integrated meat hooks, four tool hooks, and heavy-duty stay-cool door handles.
There are two doors, one for charcoal and the upper one for the smoking chamber. This smoker also has double walls for better heat retention and increased fuel efficiency.
The entire smoker is beautifully made and features stylish feet, plus extra-large stainless steel water bowl and smoker tray. Broil King backs this offer with a 5-year warranty.
- Top-quality charcoal smoker featuring the best materials
- Offers up to 770 square inches of cooking space
- Includes meat hooks for your convenience
- Double walled construction for maximum insulation
- Includes a bottle opener for fun
- The smoker is very heavy
- It’s one of the costliest smokers in this review
9. Primo Oval XL 400 – Real Kamado
- Cooking surface: 400 square inches
- Height: 27 inches (ceramic only)
- Material: Ceramic
- Weight: 200 lbs
Kamado cookers are special and only known to insiders who understand their benefits. Their advantage comes from their egg or kamado shape, which maximizes heat retention and distribution inside the cooker.
Primo’s 400 XL adds one on top and that is its oval shape. By being oval, it offers you a possibility to have hot and cool zones, which means you can smoke with low heats as you like.
This smoker comes with all the standard smoker parts, like a thermometer, dampers, and a cooking grate. The ceramic chamber measures 27 inches in height, 28 inches at its widest, and it weighs 200 pounds, making it the heaviest smoker in this review.
It’s also the most expensive smoker in this review, making it a specialty smoker, reserved only for those who understand and cherish kamado style cooking.
- High-quality kamado style
- Can grill, roast, bake and smoke food
- Comes with a cart and two side tables
- Primo backs it with a lifetime warranty
- It’s an extremely expensive smoker
- This smoker is also very heavy
10. Pit Barrel Cooker – Classic Barrel Smoker Package
- Cooking surface: 3,500 cubic inches
- Height: 31 inches
- Material: Steel
- Weight: 57 pounds
The Pit Barrel Cooker is a unique construction made from existing steel drums and designed for both efficiency and ease of use.
One of its major advantages is its size. You can use the included eight stainless steel hooks and the two hanging rods to hang plenty of meat inside and smoke them all at once.
The included coal basket is also well sized to handle heavy-duty operations and there is an included cooking grate as well.
Things you’ll love about this smoker include its ease of use when smoking and its long life, since its effectively a porcelain-enameled steel drum.
- Steel drum smoker package with 3,500 cu. inches of space
- Classic design and an easy-to-use smoker
- Comes with stainless steel hooks and a cooking grate
- The large steel drum is porcelain enameled for a long life
- This package includes everything you need
- It’s not the nicest looking smoker
- The size is only ideal for medium to large groups
How to Use a Charcoal Smoker?
Smoking meat using a charcoal smoker is different from grilling and you need a proper understanding of the process if you want to get the best results.
With a smoker, your goal is to cook the meat with indirect heat, while flavoring it with smoke and keeping it tender with steam.
Following is a step-by-step guide to guide you through the simple but important process of using a charcoal smoker to get amazing results.
Step 1: Ready the Charcoal
The first thing to do is to get your charcoal hot and the best way to do this is with a charcoal chimney. You simply follow the instructions to make red-hot coals ready for smoking. If you don’t want a chimney, then you’ll have to heat up your charcoals in the smoker first.
Step 2: Add the Charcoal to the Smoker
Once the charcoals have gotten red-hot, introduce them into the smoker, placing them on one side. This is an important aspect of smoking because you’ll hang the meat on the other side of the smoker so that it cooks with indirect heat.
You can also use any coal arrangement that you like, as long as the meat pieces are not placed directly above the charcoals but rather to the side, so that they receive indirect heat.
Step 3: Add Wood Chunks
Here’s another important step. Wood chunks create the smoke that gives the meat its distinctive smoking flavor. You want to use hardwoods like apple, oak, hickory, and cherry, but avoid softwoods because they’ll ruin the flavor.
Step 4: Add Water
Most smokers will come with a water pan. Fill it up to two-thirds and add it to your smoker. You can consult your smoker’s user guide for instructions on best water placement.
Step 5: Add Food
Now’s the time to introduce your meats or vegetables. Keep in mind that lower grates get more heat than higher ones, so you want to keep larger pieces below and smaller ones above. Remember to keep the items away from direct heat to enhance the smoking process.
Step 6: Close the Lid
Once fully loaded, you can now close the lid, making sure to place the vents above the meat, so that the smoke and the heat are properly directed through the meat for maximum flavor.
Step 7: Regulate & Monitor
All you have to do now is to regulate the dampers or vents and watch the temperature on the lid thermometer. You want your meat cooking around 220 degrees F (104℃) and not exceeding 250 degrees F (121℃).
To increase the smoker’s temperature, simply open the lower vent wider or close it a little to cut the temperature. You can also increase the heat by adding more hot charcoals. The upper vent should stay wide open.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Following are some of the most often asked questions about charcoal smokers and often by beginners.
Q: What type of charcoal should I use?
Ans: No type of charcoal is better than the other, whether it’s lump or briquette charcoal, but for smoking, you need even and steady heat, which is best supplied by briquette charcoals.
Read More: Lump Charcoal vs. Briquette
Q: How do I control the Temperature of my Charcoal Smoker?
Ans: You control the temperature using the air vents of the smoker. The upper vent on the smoker’s lid should stay wide open, while you increase the lower vent’s opening to increase the smoker’s temperature or reduce the vent to cut the temperature.
Q: How do I clean my Charcoal Smoker?
Ans: Brush the grates after heating up the smoker, because they’re easier to clean when hot. Clean out the ashes before each smoking session but do not clean the smoker down to the bare metal.
You need to season the smoker before the first use and additionally as well. Just wipe it clean and then rub food-grade oil all over inside it and then heat the smoker for about 15 minutes. This protects your investment from rust.
We’ve come to the end of this charcoal smokers review and you’ve seen all the offers out there, from improvised steel drums, to carefully crafted ceramic smoking ovens.
You can go with the Weber 721001 if you simply want the best overall smoker or the affordable Char-Griller 16620 if you’re interested in kamado smokers.
The final choice is however yours alone to make and you can base it on your needs, family size, or budget.
In this post:
- What to Check Before Buying Best Charcoal Smoker?
- 10 Best Charcoal Smokers of 2021 Reviewed
- 1. Weber 721001 – Best Overall
- 2. Masterbuilt 20060416 – Best Budget
- 3. Weber 10020 – Super Compact Smoker for On-the-Go
- 4. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D – Heavy-duty Smoker for 100 Persons
- 5. Cuisinart COS-118 – Elegant & High-capacity
- 6. Char-Griller 16620 – Affordable Kamado
- 7. Char-Broil 14201876 –Best- Multi-damper Cabinet
- 8. Broil King 923610 – High Quality & Elegant
- 9. Primo Oval XL 400 – Real Kamado
- 10. Pit Barrel Cooker – Classic Barrel Smoker Package
- How to Use a Charcoal Smoker?
- FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions