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BBQ Smoker: Best Options of 2024, Expert Reviewed & Tested

Whether you’re an aspiring pitmaster or a casual griller… No one can deny the irresistible, insanely-addictive flavors that a genuine BBQ smoker can produce.

There’s a reason why delicately smoked proteins are always the most coveted dishes at a barbecue.

The delectably crispy bark… The richness of the melt-in-your mouth rendered fat… And the bouquet of smoke flavor always leaves you wanting more.

Since you simply can’t get the thought of an impeccably-smoked protein out of your mind… It makes sense why you’re after a BBQ smoker of your own.

pellet grill smoker featured image

You’ll have unfettered access to incredibly smoked dishes whenever you like… Cooked to your exact standard.

But in order to achieve the best barbecue of your dreams… You need the right equipment.

That’s what we’re on a mission to find.

In this article, we’ll discuss popular BBQ smoker types… And the best options on the market for 2023.

Let’s get smoking.

Quicklinks:

What to Look for in a BBQ Smoker: Build Type

To guide us through the ever-complex world of barbecue smokers… We’ve enlisted the assistance of a highly-skilled barbecuer, Ethan Fullenkamp.

He spent about 4 years in competition BBQ circles… Primarily participating in local and state competitions.

Smoking beef is Ethan’s speciality, with dino ribs taking the crown as his favorite BBQ item.

So if you’re a “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” type of person… You’ll particularly love Ethan’s perspective here.

So, what type of smoker should you be considering?

Pellet BBQ and Smoker

PELLET GRILL
ASADO SMOKER

It’s no secret that pellet smokers have taken the industry by storm in recent years… And all signs point to this being far more than just a fad.

The main reason for this?

Convenience.

“The person that’s looking for more convenience and wants that smoky flavor, but still wants to be able to produce a lot of the BBQ items they see on TV or YouTube, I recommend pellet grills”, Ethan shares.

BBQ pellet smokers are as close to foolproof as it gets when it comes to smoked food. You add pellets, set your target temperature, insert a meat probe… And just wait.

“You don’t have to tend a fire, you don’t have to maintain those temperatures, it does that for you”, he continues.

Plus, you get the benefit of being able to use your pellet smoker as a grill. The dual purpose of this grill is not to be understated, especially if you’re short on space!

Ethan recalls, “I haven’t used a gas grill for probably 5 years now. I use a pellet grill for all of my grilling and smoking needs”.

There’s no doubt a pellet smoker is a capable (and convenient) multitasker… But what about offset smokers?

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Offset BBQ Pit Smoker

Longhorn Smoker Grill

If you’re after competition-grade barbecue… An offset smoker is what you’ll be after.

These smokers are fueled with pure wood, and the fire box sits next to your food… Hence, the term offset.

Smoke will billow around the chamber, fully circulating around your proteins.

Compared to a pellet grill, “It’s a lot more intricate, but you’re going to get a better product. You will have more smoke flavor using real wood and an offset smoker than you will with a pellet grill”, Ethan explains.

If the best possible flavor is your primary goal, there’s nothing better than an offset smoker.

But just know this… Convenience is out the window here.

Ethan says, “It takes a lot more attention. You can’t just set it and forget it. You’re tending a fire, making sure you’re maintaining meat temperatures. You’re going more off of intuition than with meat thermometers or whatever your pellet grill is set to”.

So if you’re springing for an offset… Be ready to put in some work! (With worthwhile results).

Kamado Charcoal Smoker BBQ

coyote asado on asado stand

Looking for a solution in-between a pellet and offset smoker? A kamado charcoal grill might be calling your name.

These ceramic egg-shaped grills are nearly as versatile as a pellet smoker. Fueled by charcoal and through the insulative properties of ceramic… Kamados produce equally impressive results whether you’re grilling or smoking.

As Ethan put it, “Kamados are a really good middle option. It’s going to be better flavor than a pellet smoker, but not quite as good as an offset. The asado type smoker offers a little more convenience, but you still have to manage airflow. It’s a little more interactive and you have to watch it, but you’re not necessarily tending a fire.”

So if you want to take a more hands-on approach without too much fuss… A kamado grill is a worthwhile consideration. (The Coyote Asado, Kamado Joe, and Big Green Egg are great options to look into.)

Vertical Smokers

Weber vertical smoker

Another option you’ll encounter is a vertical smoker.

The fuel type is less crucial here… As you can find vertical smokers fueled by wood, charcoal, wood pellets, and propane. (Even digital electric smokers are an option!)

So really, what we’re discussing is how this smoker is actually designed. As you could likely guess… Rather than horizontal, these smokers have a vertical orientation.

What’s the benefit of this?

It comes down to space… And what you plan on smoking often.

“As far as space goes, with a vertical smoker, you can have a lot more cooking space without spending the kind of money for an offset”, Ethan explains.

So if you plan on regularly dishing out massive spreads of barbecue… A vertical smoker will give you the most cooking area for a reasonable price.

And if you plan to smoke a ton of sausage… There’s nothing better than a vertical smoker.

“I used to make my own sausages, and these smokers are fantastic for this purpose”, Ethan shares.

You can easily hang tons of links, and since they’ll be suspended in open air… The entire surface area will be enveloped in smoke flavor.

Gravity Smokers

Gravity smokers are brand new to the smoking scene… Making their debut in 2019 with an offering from Masterbuilt.

But what is it?

These are charcoal-fueled smokers that operate similarly to a pellet grill. There’s a hopper to the side that you’ll fill with either lump charcoal or briquettes.

The fire is digitally controlled and managed with a fan… Allowing you to set the temperature and forget about it!

While still new to the market… A gravity smoker could be an excellent solution if you want the convenience of pellets, but with the more robust flavor of charcoal.

Ready to see the best smokers on the market?

Best BBQ Smokers of 2023 (As Rated by a BBQ Aficionado)

If you’re looking to get a solid start in the world of smoking… You need the right equipment for the job.

So let’s get into the tried-and-true recommendations from our resident BBQ aficionado, Ethan Fullenkamp.

Best Budget-Friendly Starter: Recteq Bullseye BBQ Grill and Smoker

Recteq Bullseye Wood Pellet Smoker Grill
KEY FEATURES

Temperature Range: 200°F – 850°F

Cooking Area: 380 Square Inches

Warranty: 2 Years

Materials: 304 Stainless Steel, Carbon Steel Indirect Heat Plate

Fuel Type: Wood Pellets

Hopper Size: 15 lbs

For the most foolproof way to start smoking without breaking the bank… Ethan recommends Recteq’s Bullseye pellet smoker grill.

“I’ve owned multiple Recteqs, and the Bullseye is my daily driver. It can smoke as low as 200°F, and go all the way up to 850°F”, Ethan shares.

For a pellet grill, this is mighty impressive! A comparable Traeger will cap out at 500°F, making the Bullseye a formidable choice for grilling.

But we’re talking about smoking… And the Recteq performs well here.

“The Bullseye holds temperature very well. I’ve rarely seen a 3 degree swing in either direction, even cooking in the middle of winter in Iowa”, Ethan recalls.

This smoker also offers WiFi connectivity to control temperatures remotely. According to Ethan, it’s one of the best pellet BBQ smoker apps he’s used!

And for an inexpensive, economy grade grill… The build quality is nothing to turn up your nose at, either.

The Recteq Bullseye features 304 stainless steel construction, which is typically only seen in premium and luxury grade grills. 304 stainless steel is highly resistant to rust and corrosion… Providing excellent resilience in the outdoor environment.

However, the indirect heat plate is not constructed with 304 stainless steel… And will require some maintenance on your part as it is prone to surface rust.

Recteq offers a 2 year warranty on this grill, which is certainly on the shorter side. But being a budget model smoker… It’s not a great loss if something goes wrong. (And Ethan’s been using his consistently for 5 years!)

If the size of this smoker is a bit too small… Ethan is also a fan of Recteq’s 700 series, which can smoke several briskets and pork shoulders in one go.

Currently, the Recteq Bullseye will run you $449.00 on Amazon.

Best Budget Charcoal Smoker: Weber Smokey Mountain 22”

weber charcoal smoker
Key Features

Cooking Area: 726 Square Inches

Warranty: 10 Years on Bowl, Lid and Center Ring, 5 Years on Plastic Components, 2 Years on All Remaining Parts

Materials: Porcelain Enameled Steel

Fuel Type: Charcoal

The Weber name is a backyard staple across the country… So it’s no shock they’re making an appearance on this list!

If you want a budget-friendly way to test the waters of charcoal smoking… The Weber Smokey Mountain might be for you.

This drum smoker is set up a bit differently than the other options you’ve seen thus far.

The vertical setup allows for two grill grates… And there’s a water pan right above the fire, allowing your protein to stay moist and tender.

Managing the fire is relatively simple, with a damper on the bottom to control airflow.

Admittedly, the materials used in this charcoal smoker aren’t stellar… But that’s why it’s a budget smoker! You won’t be completely put-out if something goes wrong.

That said, the Weber Smokey Mountain is constructed with a porcelain enameled lid, bowls, and center section. Essentially, it’s a type of painted steel.

The coating will work great… Until it chips. And at that point, the interior of your smoker will quickly rust.

With that said, Weber’s warranty is quite good for the price. You’ll get 10 year coverage on the bowl, lid and center ring… 5 years on the plastic components, and 2 years on all remaining parts.

As Ethan put it, “Weber is a really good option, you’re not going to break the bank”.

Currently, you can purchase the Weber Smokey Mountain 22” for $545.51 on Amazon.

Best Step-Up Pellet Smoker: Pitts and Spitts Maverick 1250

Maverick 1250 Wood Pellet Grill
Key Features

Temperature Range: 180°F – 600°F

Cooking Area: 1,250 Square Inches

Warranty: 10 Years on the Barrel, 3 Years on the Controller, 1 Year on Remaining Components

Materials: 304 Stainless Steel, Carbon Steel Cooking Chamber

Fuel Type: Wood Pellets

Hopper Size: 35 lbs

Perhaps the ease of a pellet smoker appeals to you… But you want to start with something a bit more robust.

For that, you’ll want to look into the Pitts and Spitts Maverick 1250.

This smoker is quite large, with a 36” wide cooking surface… And a couple quality-of-life upgrades that Ethan particularly enjoys.

“I used to take this grill to competitions, and it has full sized rubber wheels. This makes it phenomenally easy to take anywhere. I could roll it over grass, dirt, gravel, and it would go over anything no problem”, Ethan says.

So if mobility is a key feature for you… The Maverick is an all-terrain smoker.

Plus, it comes with a paper towel holder. So you can keep your station tidy without missing a beat!

Another unique feature is you’ll get access to three grill grates, rather than the standard two.

To demonstrate why this is important, Ethan explains, “On pellet smokers, most of your heat source is coming from the bottom. The farther away you can get that meat away from the direct heat source, the better. When I’m using this smoker, I’ll put the meat on the top shelf and that makes a huge difference with the overall product.”

There’s a lot to love about the construction as well.

Pitts and Spitts offers near-complete 304 stainless steel construction on this model. You’ll just have to keep up with the carbon steel cooking chamber, which is prone to rust.

“The welds on it are phenomenal. It hardly leaks out any smoke, even around the lid”, Ethan recalls.

And to round out this smoker, you’ll get WiFi connectivity and a massive 35 lb pellet hopper.

Pitts and Spitts offers a 10 year warranty on the barrel, 3 year coverage on the controller, and 1 year coverage on the remaining components.

You’ll find this BBQ and smoker combo listed for $2,549.99 on Pitts and Spitts’ website.

Best Pellet Smoker Splurge: Twin Eagles BBQ Smoker Grill

Twin Eagles Pellet Grill
Key Features

Temperature Range: 140°F – 725°F

Cooking Area: 720 Square Inches

Warranty: Lifetime Warranty

Materials: 304 Stainless Steel

Fuel Type: Wood Pellets

Hopper Size: 13 lbs

If money is no object to you, and you want a pellet smoking experience that’s out of this world… The Twin Eagles pellet smoker should sit at the top of your consideration list.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do a couple cooks on it, and my goodness, that was an experience. If you want the best of the best, Twin Eagles is just something else”, Ethan shares.

Talk about high praise!

One of the reasons for this is the impressive temperature range you can achieve on this smoker. Sitting at a 140° – 725°F range… That low end gets you nearly into the realm of cold smoking on a pellet grill. (This is unheard of!)

“What’s so significant about that is you can smoke butter and cheese. It’s not necessarily a cold smoke, but I can put an ice tray right under it so the cheese doesn’t melt”, Ethan explains.

And with the convenience of a pellet grill, if you play your cards right… This could be the most hands-off, pseudo-cold smoking experience out there.

That 140°F low temp also means that your smoker can double as a warming tray for resting your proteins.

“When you’re done smoking a brisket or a pork butt, you want it to rest for 2 hours at an absolute minimum. I used to rest my meat for 8-12 hours in a warming tray. This pellet grill allows you to rest the meat right inside the grill”, Ethan says.

Convenience is the name of the game with the Twin Eagles pellet smoker. Although, it’s not quite perfect.

This grill has a modest 13 lb hopper… So you can’t stray too far before a refill is needed.

That said, the quality of this WiFi enabled smoker is unimpeachable.

Aside from true and complete 304 stainless steel construction… It comes with a super-powerful 120V auger.

Why does this matter?

The auger brings pellets from your hopper to the fire box. The more powerful it is… The longer it will last, and the less likely you will have jams.

As Ethan put it, “If you want something that will last 20 years, the Twin Eagles will last you 20 years. In fact, you’ll probably want to get rid of it before it dies out on you”.

Twin Eagles offers a lifetime warranty on their pellet smoker, but you’ll be paying dearly for it!

The list price on this model is currently $9,269.00 on BBQGuys.

The Perfect BBQ Hangout Spot

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RTA’s Pick: Coyote 36” Pellet BBQ Grill Smoker

coyote 36" pellet grill
Key Highlights

Temperature Range: 175°F – 700°F

Cooking Area: 808 Square Inches

Warranty: Lifetime Warranty

Materials: 304 Stainless Steel

Fuel Type: Wood Pellets

Hopper Size: 15 lbs

We’re going to insert ourselves into the conversation… But rest assured, this is a fantastic (and experience-backed) recommendation!

Coyote’s pellet grill is an impressive premium option for all your BBQ smoking needs.

With a temperature range of 175°F to 700°F… You can pull off both slow-cooked smokes and high temperature sears with ease. (And you get laser-cut grill grates for even more incredible searing.)

The complete 304 stainless steel construction is nothing to scoff at… And actually improves the results of your BBQ smoked dishes.

The Coyote pellet grill comes with a double walled hood, contributing to superior heat retention and improved temperature control.

This smoker BBQ grill is also designed with an effortless front-loading hopper, with a capacity of up to 15 lbs.

Out of the box, you’ll be given three temperature probes as well to ensure all your proteins are smoked to an ideal doneness.

And unlike the majority of the BBQ smokers we’ve mentioned already… The Coyote pellet grill can be used as a freestanding model, or built into an outdoor kitchen. (The Twin Eagles model can do this, too.)

This option offers excellent versatility if you want the added convenience of smoking within a ful BBQ island structure.

Backed by a lifetime warranty… The Coyote pellet grill offers similar features to the Twin Eagles pellet grill, but without the luxury price tag.

Currently, you’ll find the built-in model listed for $3,499.00 and the freestanding option for $4,399.00 on Amazon.

Best Beginner Friendly Offset Smoker: Oklahoma Joe’s Highland

Oaklahoma Joes Offset smoker
Key Features

Cooking Area: 720 Square Inches

Warranty: 2 Years

Materials: Coated Cold Rolled Steel, Porcelain Coated Grill Grates

Fuel Type: Wood

Now, what if you want to foray into true offset smoking?

To dip your toes into the water… Oklahoma Joe has the thing for you.

The Highland smoker “is a fantastic entry level option to get into actual wood burning offset smokers. The fire pot is small enough to where it’s pretty easily managed. On the barrel side of things, it’s not too big to where it’s going to create a challenge”, Ethan explains.

It’s always a smart idea to start small.

That said, you can still smoke up 6 pork shoulders in a single go!

And when it comes to flavor, Ethan attests to the quality. “It creates phenomenal barbecue”.

Good enough for us!

But as with most budget-friendly starter options… The material durability is a bit lacking.

This smoker is constructed with a coated cold rolled steel, and comes with porcelain coated grill grates. Like the Weber Smokey Mountain… Things are great as long as the coating stays intact.

But once chipping happens… It’s a rust-fest from there on out.

So while this is a great starter option that won’t break the bank… If you end up falling in love with offset smoking, you may want to look to upgrade in several years.

Oklahoma Joe warranties their Highland smoker for a period of 2 years… And you can buy it for $349.00 on their website.

Best Mid-Tier Offset Smoker: Franklin BBQ Wood Smoker

Key Features

Cooking Area: 42” Cook Chamber

Warranty: 3 Years

Materials: 1/4” Thick Rolled Steel

Fuel Type: Wood

Designed by Ethan’s personal BBQ hero, Aaron Franklin… If you’re after the challenge of true offset smoking, this is the BBQ pit for you.

As Ethan says, “Anyone who uses this smoker, if you know what you’re doing, you’re able to get competition-grade barbecue off that smoker.”

With one look at this thing, you can see why!

Renowned pitmaster Aaron Franklin designed every inch of this smoker with his expertise in mind. This comes right down to the door… Which is specially designed to produce a clean fire.

Plus, the chamber itself is designed for optimal airflow and circulation of smoke throughout the interior.

This offset BBQ smoker weighs an insane 625 lbs… Due to the 1/4” thick American-made steel cook chamber and fire box.

And since this is raw steel… The Franklin wood BBQ smoker will require regular maintenance. You’ll want to season your smoker often with oil to prevent rust.

As stated on the website, “Basically, take care of it like you would your grandma’s heirloom cast iron pans”.

This heavy duty BBQ smoker will come with a 3 year warranty… And you can purchase it for $5,150 on the Franklin BBQ Pit website.

Enjoy Your New BBQ Smoker to the Fullest

dark plank outdoor kitchen with built in asado cooker

Getting an idea of which BBQ smoker you want?

No matter what you choose… We’d like to suggest another upgrade to make the slow cooking process even easier for you.

Something that will keep you from running in and out of the house for supplies…

Something that will let you prep your culinary creations right outdoors…

And even serve them to your guests al fresco.

Got any guesses?

It’s an outdoor kitchen.

If you want the most functionality possible… The Coyote Asado and Twin Eagles wood pellet grill can actually be built into your outdoor kitchen.

But even if you choose a smoker that’s not compatible with your BBQ island… You’ll still be reaping the benefits.

You can conveniently handle every part of the smoking process outside… Without missing a single moment.

Just think about the potential.

You could have a sink for handwashing, a refrigerator for marinating meats, and a warming drawer for resting your proteins.

It’s the easiest way to make your smoking experience stress-free.

If you’re curious about how to get started… Check out our free online design tool, and we’ll go from there!

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