7 Best Smokers of 2023, According to Experts
Whether you're looking to smoke a brisket, salmon or whole bird, these top-rated smokers will get the job done.
Want to take your mouth-watering, lip-smacking barbecue to the next level? It’s time to invest in a smoker. Unlike a gas or charcoal grill — which are used to cook your meal quickly and efficiently — smokers prove that good things come to those who wait.
Think of it as the outdoor equivalent to your trusty slow cooker: You place your meat in a chamber, and it’ll slowly cook through indirect exposure to heat. The process does take some time, but the results are so worth it. Not only can this appliance take on large, thicker cuts of meat — making them ultra-tender in a few hour's time — but it can also give your food a rich, smoky flavor.
But, which one to buy? With so many brands and price points available, finding the right smoker for your needs is easier said than done. That’s why we turned to the experts. From restaurant owners to pitmasters and barbecue enthusiasts, these individuals featured here know their way around a barbecue station. And, thanks to their favorite smokers, you’re just a few clicks away from upgrading yours.
Fan: Danielle Bennett, pitmaster at Diva Q BBQ, chef, culinary instructor, and BBQ ambassador at Traeger Grills
“I’ve owned 65 grills in the past from charcoal and wood offsets; cast iron, ceramic, reverse flow gravity, gas and electric smokers. I have found that the Traeger grills provided the most consistent flavorful results and the most versatility. The woodfired flavor is delivered cleanly, there is an ease of use that is unparalleled. I love the versatility of the indirect heat and consistency of the wood pellets that gives the user the ability to grill smoke, bake, roast, braise and BBQ and overall is so attractive to me as an outdoor cooking appliance. The more you realize how consistent it is the more you use it. Additionally, with a variety of sizes and models, there is a Traeger to fit everyone’s budget.
Fan: Steven Raichlen, author of the Barbecue Bible cookbook series and host of Project Fire and Project Smoke.
“This is the smoker I use for testing my recipes because so many people own one: Affordably priced, widely available and easy to use. (There are no electronic components that can break.) It burns charcoal with wood chips or chunks added to generate smoke.”
Fan: Gary Marandola Jr., CEO of Gary the BBQ Chef
“I love it because it’s a massive grill with tons of cooking space and adjustable top racks, and the sidekick attachment can have a pot, griddle, sear box or pizza oven on it and the entire grill is wifi! It’s a great unit and I highly recommend it to anyone looking!”
Fan: Kita Roberts
“If you love the convenience of a pellet smoker but want more classic grilled flavor, check out the Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker from Masterbuilt. It has a side loading chamber for real charcoal but the same programmable temperature and time features as an electric pellet grill. It automatically controls the temperature of the grill for a perfect low and slow smoke with authentic char-grilled flavor. I love it because I can fill it with my favorite charcoal, set the time and temp, and smoke meat without having to check the grill to make sure it’s holding and maintaining heat. The grill plates that can flip from sear to grill are a bonus if you are looking for those perfect grill marks, too!”
Fan: Kita Roberts, founder of Girl Carnivore
“When it comes to smokers, there are a lot of fun one’s on the market right now, but my personal favorite is going old school with the simplicity of the Pit Barrel Cooker in their 18.5” Original drum. It makes grilling fun again with its simple but incredibly effective design. You simply add your lit charcoal to the bottom of the barrel, make sure your air vent is set properly and either hang the meat from the rods or lay it on the grate. I have traveled all over the country with this grill, different environments and elevations and it’s so easy to use and holds heat like a champ! It’s easy, if you love the art of low and slow smoking.”
Fan: Megan Day, co-owner and pitmaster of Burnt Finger BBQ
“There is no other unit on the market that can both smoke and grill food the way the PG500 can. I trust it with our competition smoked meats and for simply charging up some wings for a family gathering. As a bonus, it has a sleek industrial look I love! Worth every penny. I’ve been loyally using mine for more than five years.”
Fan: Quy Hoang, co-owner and pitmaster at Blood Bros BBQ in Bellaire, Texas
“I like the Pitmaker Vault because it's an insulated smoker. It can hold Temps for long periods of time with very little fuel. You can set it and forget it. It can also burn several types of fuel from charcoal with wood chunks, lump charcoal, or even small splits of wood.”
What to Know Before Buying a Smoker
It's an investment: Smokers and pellet grills can be pricey. Many of our experts' top picks will run you at least $400. These are for serious home cooks who are interested in smoking their own brisket, salmon or even Thanksgiving turkey. We don't recommend investing in one of you don't plan on using it.
You'll need a meat thermometer: No matter which smoker you choose, you'll want to invest in a good meat thermometer to ensure your meats come out tender and flavorful. On a smoker, you're always cooking to temperature, not time.
Don't forget your fuel source: Some smokers require some additional purchases like wood chips or charcoal in order for them to work properly. The type of chips you buy will depend on what you're cooking. Other smokers are electric or gas-operated.
You'll need to make room: Every smoker needs ample room in a backyard setup. We recommend purchasing a smoker if you own or rent a house, rather than an apartment with a balcony.
What's the Best Smoker Style?
You can find smokers in a variety of styles and designs. The one you choose depends on your setup and cooking desires.
Offset smokers like Traegers are often designed to be used with wood chips or pellets and charcoal. We found many of our favorite pellet grills are pretty good at temperature regulation making them great for large, low-and-slow meats and weeknight dinners, alike. They often take up lots of space, so you'll need to make sure you have room for them.
Kamado smokers like the Big Green Egg can be great for beginners because they function similarly to charcoal grills. They're powered by wood chips and charcoal and are designed in a vertical egg shape making them easy to fit in smaller spaces. You can also use a Kamado-style smoker as a standard grill, which means they do double-duty.
Vertical smokers are what one might think of as classic smokers you've seen in restaurants or on TV. The heat source is at the bottom and meats sit on a rack to smoke. These usually have larger capacities, making them great for feeding a crowd.
What Should I Make in a Smoker?
You have so many possibilities! We've found smokers to be great for both weekend and weeknight cooking. You can use a pellet grill to smoke a whole brisket, side of salmon or even a whole chicken. Though many of these smokers heat up quickly enough to impart delicious flavor to weeknight BBQ chicken or grilled veggies. We also love smoking beyond just meat. You can smoke mac and cheese, desserts and more.