The Pros, the Cons, and the Facts About the 10 Best Charcoal Smokers For 2018.
Out of all the different types of home smokers out there – including electric, charcoal, pellet, and propane smokers – charcoal smokers offer the best, most authentic and smokiest flavor of them all.
If you are someone that loves seeing your meats have that telltale and distinct smoke ring that all but ensures incredible smoky goodness, a quality charcoal smoker is your best option.
But what brand of charcoal smoker do you need? Which model will suit you best? Do you need to spend a lot on a charcoal smoker in order to have a quality device?
All of these may be questions you ask yourself.
Making a decision can be hard as there are thousands of smokers out there.
On the bright side, I’ve reviewed a ton of smokers over the years and sourced out the top 10 best charcoal smokers of 2018 for you, including a wide range of top picks covering all the best charcoal smokers on the market today.
Let’s take a look at these smokers, focusing on the features, pros, and cons they offer.
Top 10 Best Charcoal Smokers Of 2018Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.
- 1. Why This Guide Will Be Helpful For You
- 2. The Top 10 Best Charcoal Smokers
- 3. Charcoal Smoker FAQ: (User Pro Tips And Product Care Guide)
- 4. Additional Things To Consider Before Buying
- 5. Final Verdict – What Is The Best Charcoal Smoker?
Why This Guide Will Be Helpful For You
There are a ton of charcoal smokers to choose from. I know it can be a dizzying task sifting through customer reviews trying to decide if they are fake or not. Manufacturer sites are in the business of marketing and selling so they will usually leave any shortcomings hidden.
“That’s where I come in.”
I’ve gone to great lengths to review all of the latest smokers I could get my hands on from the top manufacturers. When I was unable to use a model personally, I did exhausting research and communicated with real users.
I can confidently say the following line up represents the best charcoal smokers you’re going to find on the market today.
“As always, my goal is to save you time and money by doing all the research and testing for you, so you don’t have to.”
Let these product overviews act as your buyer’s guide to the top performing charcoal smokers available at varying price ranges.
”Make sure to keep reading after the final review for a buyer’s guide to help you with your decision when it’s time to make your purchase.”
Before we get started If you want to familiarize yourself on how a smoker works and what to expect to achieve from using them, take a few moments to read this article first: How Does A Smoker Work? – A Grillers Guide To Using An Outdoor Smoker.
The Top 10 Best Charcoal Smokers
I’ve compiled a list of the 10 best Charcoal Smoker options to act as your guide to choosing the best one for your budget and needs.
“The list includes a variety of styles, options, prices, sizes, and features. You should still always perform your own due diligence, however. Never buy a smoker on sight and don’t be swayed by pushy salespeople before you find the perfect option.”
Without further ado…
“Editor’s Choice – Best All Around Charcoal Smoker”
#1 Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 Inch Charcoal Smoker
✅ 2 nickel-plated cooking grates
✅ Made of porcelain-enameled steel
✅ Heat-resistant nylon handle
✅ Rust-resistant aluminum heat shield
✅ Built-in thermometer
✅ Vents on bowl and lid
If you want a charcoal smoker with amble cooking space that’s still easy to lug around, check out the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18 Inch Charcoal Smoker.
This smoker offers 481 square inches of cooking space, plenty if not quite generous for your average smoker. This Weber smoker also features sturdy porcelain-enameled steel along with a heat-resistant handle.
On top of that, the barrel design of this smoker is sleek and clean. The lid features a built-in thermometer for convenience, which according to reviewers, is easy to read and is fairly accurate, and not to mention, the sturdy lid holds in temperatures very well.
Being within the moderately-priced range for charcoal smokers, many may not expect a lot from the Weber 721001. However, not only is the quality by Weber substantial, but you also receive a 10-year limited warranty with your purchase and Weber’s highly regarded customer support and service.
Just like all smokers, there are some things to nitpick.
Common complaints are that it can be a bit difficult to get to the water pan when you need to refill it up during a smoking session. Customers also mention that especially with the long, vertical design, accessing the bottom rack can be somewhat of a balancing act while the smoker is hot. Additionally, the side door on this device is on the flimsier side.
Overall, the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker isn’t free of cons, but it’s one of the top-rated charcoal smokers on Amazon and even received Amazon’s Choice for its excellence.
Even with its cons, this Weber is a well-designed and a quality built smoker from one of the most trusted names in the industry.
It also offers a variety of cooks of different experience levels the ability to produce outstanding results. And with the huge Weber community, there is more than enough online support for tips and tricks, not to mention recipes to make this a winner.
#2 Dyna-Glo DG01176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker
✅ Stainless steel body
✅ Dual door design
✅ Cast iron burner (15,000 BTUs)
✅ Adjustable, removable racks
✅ Electronic pulse ignition system
✅ Charcoal and ash management system
✅ Heavy gauge, porcelain-enameled steel chip box
✅ Integrated thermometer
Prefer an offset smoker?
The Dyna-Glo DG01176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker is an affordable, high-quality smoker you’ll love.
It features 784 square inches of cooking space and is capable of smoking up to 100 pounds of food at a time! That’s fantastic.
Besides providing more than enough cooking space, this Dyna-Glo smoker is easy to clean as it is equipped with a charcoal and ash management system which features a large, removable ash pan; charcoal chamber; and grate. Everything is on sliders making it easy to add charcoal and then tend to ash after the cooking process.
This smoker also has a dual door design that ensures controlling heat and keeping at a consistent temperature is easier. This dual door design also helps trap in smoke from woodchips to infuse flavors beautifully into your meats.
Appearance-wise this offset smoker provides a simple, matte design. But because it sticks out more horizontally than it does vertically, this won’t be a great smoker for you if you have limited space. If you space is tight, you might benefit more from a smoker that’s more vertical like the Weber above.
One of the few things that would make this smoker a better buy is if it included a protective cover; this has to be purchased separately. Also, I should point out that the smokestack isn’t as adjustable as it looks and that there is no heat deflector which causes the outside of the unit to get hot.
Yet, it’s easy to say that the pros definitely outweigh the cons in many ways.
#3 18-1/2 In. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
✅ Standard grill grate for grilling
✅ Durable steel drum with porcelain enamel coating
✅ Includes: 2 hanging rods
✅ 8 stainless steel hooks
✅ Hook removal tool
✅ And charcoal basket
The next smoker on our list, the 18-1/2 In. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker, is ideal for those who love set and forget style cooking.
With quick, minimal assembly along with simple operation, this may be a great charcoal smoker for newbies.
But this charcoal smoker isn’t just for smoking; you can also use it as a grill. Besides two hanging rods and eight stainless steel hooks for smoking, it also offers a standard grill grate for convection and hot and fast cooking. Although it was designed primarily for smoking foods, this Pit Barrel Cooker is pretty great at both styles of cooking.
Added to its versatility, one of the biggest benefits of selecting this cooker as your charcoal smoker is that it cooks incredibly quick when compared to similar devices.
Overall, this smoker-barbecue duo is great for small and large parties allowing you to cook up enough mouthwatering food to feed a lot of people.
Looking at the cons, there are, though. For instance, some state that the barrel is built too long. The large space may seem like a benefit, but the longer the barrel, the more difficult it may be to access cooking grates towards the bottom.
Another thing to be aware of when barbecuing on this cooker, it’s harder to get that nice sear you may be looking for as the cooking grate is higher above the direct heat.
But all in all, the 18-1/2 In. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker doesn’t fall short when it comes to its super durable construction, ease of cleaning and transportation, and its overall simple yet attractive appearance.
The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker has been a mainstay for years and is a definite customer favorite. If you don’t believe me, head on over to Amazon and get a load of its star rating and hundreds of positive reviews.
#4 Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
✅ Double-walled insulated design with 22 gauge steel
✅ Powder-coated steel exterior
✅ Porcelain-coated steel interior
✅ Tubular steel cart
✅ Rubber wheels with locking casters
✅ Cast iron cooking surface
✅ Locking lid
✅ 2 folding metal shelves
✅ Heat gauge
If you’re the type of person that prefers to transport your smoke around, especially when storing it, this next smoker has a convenient set of wheels with locking casters.
The Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker features 314 square inches of cooking space plus a 133 square inch warming rack for a total of 447 square inches. Plenty of space for most families.
Something important to highlight is the fact that this smoker has incredibly great construction.
It’s double-walled, airtight body not only ensures it can take on the elements but that it can cook evenly, hold its temperature well, and ensure heat won’t leak. For this smoker’s moderately-ranged price, this isn’t automatically to be expected, but of course, well-appreciated.
It makes perfect sense why this charcoal smoker and grill received Amazon’s Choice on Amazon.com for its favorable ratings and overall value.
This will be a great smoker for many as long as you don’t mind the fact that it takes a while to initially assemble and that it takes a bit longer than the average smoker to heat up. Setting these minor cons aside, you’ll have a great time grilling and smoking with this cooker as the quality is exceptional.
#5 Cuisinart 18-Inch Vertical Charcoal Water Smoker – COS-114
✅ Two 18” stainless steel cooking racks
✅ Dual air vent system
✅ Porcelain enamel water pan
✅ Vertically-hinged door
✅ Integrated thermometer
The Cuisinart 18-Inch Vertical Charcoal Water Smoker – COS-114 is on the more affordable end of charcoal smokers.
But don’t worry; it doesn’t skimp out on the cooking space and heat control. This Cuisinart charcoal smoker features plenty of room with 510 square inches of cooking space.
Even with its inexpensive cost, many praise Cuisinart for giving this vertical smoker sturdy construction that in turn allows this device to hold its temperature well, even at nighttime and during cooler temperatures.
But because this smoker tends to scratch easily and leaks small amounts of heat, you’re going to want to do two things: 1) get a cover for this smoker and properly store it, and 2) apply gasket around the door and lid just to seal things up a little more. You can get a good gasket made for smokers for less than $12 and it takes less than 5 minutes to add them on. After you do these things, you should be good to go.
In general, this Cuisinart smoker is phenomenal for those on a tight budget who still want to get great bang for their buck.
It may only feature two cooking racks and have a few minor cons as discussed, but the Cuisinart 18-Inch Vertical Charcoal Water Smoker is nonetheless equipped with favorable materials and provides the cooking quality everyone wants.
#6 Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker
✅ Steel construction
✅ Porcelain-coated cooking grates
✅ Clean-out door for ash removal
✅ Stainless steel fuel basket
✅ 4 baffles to guide heat
With Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker, you’re going to get a whopping 900 square inches of cooking space.
Surely, this smoker would come in handy for a large party or major holiday!
Despite this being a larger smoker, the Highland Reverse still has durable construction, is easy to assemble, and can keep its temperature with very minor fluctuations while also providing even heat throughout the cooking chamber.
A “trade-off,” although it’s a matter of opinion, is that this smoker offers a more traditional “charcoal grill” design. But traditional doesn’t mean unattractive or something you should avoid.
The fact that it tends to leak heat around the main door, a con that has frequently been pointed out by owners, you may want to invest in an added gasket made for smokers. Again, this is a minimal investment that will pay off in the long run.
Even with the heavy-gauge all-steel construction, the firebox’s painted exterior is susceptible to peeling from the heat it produces. Proper care is required.
In spite of the above mentioned cons, the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker has achieved almost a solid five stars on Amazon and has a large following. It also provides near professional-grade quality inside and out, making it worth every penny of its higher-than-average cost.
#7 Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36” Vertical Charcoal Smoker
✅ 4 stainless steel cooking grates
✅ Stainless temperature gauge
✅ Double door design
✅ Removable ash pan
✅ Adjustable flue
✅ 4 height-adjustable cooking grates
✅ Porcelain-enameled steel charcoal chamber
✅ Charcoal and ash management system
✅ Built-in thermometer
Back to the more affordable end of charcoal smokers, we have the Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36” Vertical Charcoal Smoker featuring 784 square inches of cooking space and the ability to hold up to 100 pounds of food at a time, 25 pounds per 4 height-adjustable cooking grates.
This vertical smoker offers a matte, upright design with angled legs with modern, beveled edges. With its built-in thermometer on the top door, it doesn’t just add to the overall visual appeal of this smoker; it also provides accurate temperature.
Like the Dyna-Glo DG01176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker, the Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D has a charcoal and ash management system that makes it simple to add more charcoal and clean up ash, providing convenience for you.
Even with having a significant amount of cooking space and having construction that looks quite heavy and durable, this device is easy to transport, which is a bonus.
Coming to the cons, it’s a slight disappointment that this smoker doesn’t automatically come with a protective cover. Another drawback is that this smoker leaks heat despite its double door design, but it’s nothing gasket can’t fix.
But as a bottom line, this charcoal smoker is solidly-built, offers more than enough cooking space, and for the slim price, you really can’t complain much.
#8 Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill
✅ Steel body
✅ Offset grill cooking space
✅ 5 removable, chrome-plated steel cooking grates
✅ Vents for air movement
✅ Removable ash pan
✅ Integrated thermometer
With an incredible total of 1,382 square inches of cooking space with 284 of those square inches dedicated to offset grill cooking space, this next Dyna-Glo charcoal smoker and grill will be a dream for all of you long-time smokers and grillers.
The design of this Dyna-Glo model is intriguing in that it features a vertical and horizontal design in one device, thus the title.
The smoker provides five cooking grates in total, each offering plenty of room. For large cuts of meat, you can remove individual grates, as needed, which helps since there are only five inches between each grate.
Making the cooking process even easier, this Dyna-Glo smoker and grill, even while being so massive, is efficient in that it rarely needs the charcoal or wood chips to be refilled. You can count on this smoker to be more of a set it and forget it type of cooker with less monitoring.
But then here comes the cons.
For one, this smoker takes a while to assemble, and while it’s mostly easy to put together, it can be a tad difficult at times given all of its pieces. Also, the DGSS1382VCS-D fails to provide a reliable thermometer.
The steel construction is also not a thick as it may seem in pictures. In reality, you’re getting a LOT of cooking space for a moderate price; Dyna-Glo had to cut the costs somewhere, right?
Don’t let the latter cons fool you into thinking this smoker and grill isn’t worth it. It earned almost a solid five stars customer satisfaction rating on Amazon for a reason.
A lot more often than not, its owners love it – but just make sure you have the adequate space to accommodate it. With a little care and maintenance, this Dyna-Glo smoker should make a great investment for years to come.
#9 Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker
✅ 2 porcelain-coated smoking racks
✅ Porcelain-coated charcoal pan
✅ Integrated lid thermometer
✅ Front access door to add charcoal
If you don’t want to spend much on your first smoker, you’ll be happy with 395.4 square inches of cooking space provided by the compact Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker, which is currently listed on Amazon for about $60.
Being a smaller smoker, you’ll only get two smoking racks and the ability to cook up to 360 degrees Fahrenheit, and really, this is phenomenal for a compact, inexpensive smoker.
Even being at an affordable price, the Masterbuilt 20060416 has quality construction we’ve come to expect from Masterbuilt and has a decently reliable thermometer featured on the smoker’s lid. And with the compact size, it also doubles up nicely as a grill.
You can’t really complain much knowing that this smoker still offers good quality for its low cost, I still need to mention some common cons.
For one, this smoker’s water pan isn’t the most accessible while in use. Secondly, heat is a bit hard to control with this little smoker, but if you keep an eye on it while it’s in use and with a little practice, you should be able to figure it out. Thirdly, this smoker has minor heat leakage. But added a cheap gasket, you can solve this issue with no problem.
Overall, when it comes down to what it’s priced at and the benefits it provides including its ultra-portability and small footprint, the Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker is a pretty good deal, perhaps too good to pass up. If you are realistic in what you should expect for this price, you will be happy with this smoker.
#10 Masterbuilt 20060516 Vertical Charcoal Smoker
✅ Dual door design
✅ Side air dampers
✅ Integrated temperature gauge
✅ Porcelain-lined water bowl and charcoal pan
✅ 2 chrome-coated cooking grates
If you’re looking for a lower-end vertical charcoal smoker, consider the Masterbuilt 20060516, which has earned Amazon’s Choice designation on Amazon.com for its popularity and favorable price and reviews compared to other vertical charcoal smokers for sale.
Once getting it home, this smoker is practically fully assembled and ready to go. The smoker itself is well-built for its price range and offers a simple, easy to use design – nothing too fancy to look at, but function is more important than aesthetics anyhow.
With two sturdy chrome-coated cooking grates, you can smoke up to 50 pounds of food at a time with this Masterbuilt smoker, which for most people will probably be more than enough. This charcoal smoker also has plenty of room to work with if you’re cooking for several folks.
The adjustable air vents on this Masterbuilt model are more than favorable, but one major concern is that smoke and heat escape from around this smoker’s door. But with a bit of gasket, this issue can be fixed right away.
The charcoal pan also doesn’t get the best airflow, and the built in thermometer isn’t very accurate. But again, you’re getting this smoker for under $100.
But surprisingly, there aren’t many other cons with this charcoal smoker. This is a great product if you’re new to smoking or if you’re not looking to buy a smoker for a hefty cost.
Generally, the Masterbuilt 20060516 Vertical Charcoal Smoker is roomy inside, is easy to store, and has great chamber airflow via its adjustable vents.
Charcoal Smoker FAQ: (User Pro Tips And Product Care Guide)
Before settling on a charcoal smoker, it pays to make sure it is the best for your wants and needs.
The following frequently asked questions and answers will help you decide if a charcoal smoker, in general, will be easy and convenient for you, and most importantly, that you are able to pick out and purchase the right one from the start.
Are Charcoal Smokers Better Than Electric Smokers?
Everyone has their own opinion regarding what type of smoker is the best fit for them overall.
There are some aspects that people enjoy more about charcoal smokers than other types of smokers. But with all types of smokers, there will be trade-offs; you just have to decide which you’re willing to take.
Unlike electric smokers, charcoal smokers offer the following:
- Stronger, smokier flavor
- Better portability as an electric outlet is not needed
- More affordable price tag
Overall, when it comes to flavor, portability, and affordability, charcoal smokers are a better choice than electric smokers in these realms.
As mentioned earlier, all types of smokers have aspects or even features that they lack though. For charcoal smokers, their convenience and ease of use fall short when compared to other types of smokers. They require much more hands-on interaction and monitoring, but to many, that is an enjoyable part of the challenge.
Are Charcoal Smokers Hard To Use?
Charcoal smokers aren’t incredibly difficult to use. However, they do require a bit more maintenance than, say, electric or propane smokers.
This is because charcoal smokers, relying on burning charcoal for heat, can fluctuate in temperature more easily than a smoker that’s electrically run. Charcoal smokers can also be a messier option to clean due to coal ash.
But still, operating a charcoal smoker is not rocket science; it just takes a little trial and error and time to get used to.
The bottom line is if you want a smoker that is easier to use and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance while in the midst of smoking, you might want to opt for an electric smoker instead.
You can check out my list of the 10 Best Electric Smokers available now right here.
How Do Charcoal Smokers Work?
Well, in a nutshell, in order to operate, charcoal smokers rely on slow burning charcoal and wood in order to produce heat, smoke, and enhanced flavors to meats. Once get a steady temperature established, the operation of charcoal smoker is pretty straightforward.
Can You Use Wood For Heating A Charcoal Smoker?
Yes, you can burn non-treated hardwoods instead of charcoal for your smoker if you wish. Many people do this.
Most backyard users tend to opt for lump charcoal or briquettes though, and for added flavor, they add woodchips. Common woodchips used in smoking include apple, hickory, cherry, and oak. Stick to hardwoods.
Which Charcoal Is Best For A Smoker?
Your best bet for finding the perfect charcoal to use for smoking is to give several brands a go. But generally, many find that briquettes on a broad scale are easiest to find and use.
The following grilling/smoking charcoals are highly rated:
- Royal Oak Ridge Briquettes
- Weber Natural Hardwood Briquettes
- Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
- Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes
- Jealous Devil All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
- Fogo FHWC35LB 35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Additional Things To Consider Before Buying A Charcoal Smoker
Lately, electric smokers have been a popular option to charcoal versions due to their ease of use, simpler clean up, and set it and forget it convenience.
These are all worthy aspects to consider, but the downsides are that you will not get the same authentic smoky flavor nor the signature smoke ring that you get from charcoal. The results are still really good and many people are willing to overlook these drawbacks.
A charcoal smoker WILL take more hands-on time and their learning curve is higher. But for many, this is part of the fun. The final results will be more authentic and the personal satisfaction of a well-smoked meal will definitely be a source of pride.
While the many choices can be a tad bit overwhelming, finding the best value for your money should be your goal. Several qualities should stand out when making your buying decision to help separate average performance and value from the best.
Always know your price range, but even with that said, the most expensive option is not always the best. If you are looking for a long-term investment, the mid-range and up options above offer higher quality build materials (that should be a requirement), but you will pay a little extra for them.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a shorter term investment that you will only use occasionally or you are looking to stay within a budget, a cheaper option may be the way to go. The bargain options above may not come with the same quality or extra bells and whistles, but are still proven and to be solid choices.
All of these smokers above should and will last for years with a little care and maintenance.
Final Verdict – What Charcoal Smoker Is The Best?
While there are a lot of really good smokers on our 10 top list, the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker is the top choice for 2018.
Without a doubt, the Smokey Mountain Cooker offers quality and high performance in the charcoal smoking world! It’s no wonder they have such a huge fan base or that you see them being used to win many smoking competitions.
The following are others that are the highest and most frequently rated on Amazon:
- Dyna-Glo DG01176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker
- 18-1/2 In. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
- Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue and Smoker
Overall, if you match your needs, you won’t go wrong with any of the charcoal smokers on our list. Each model offers good value and with a little practice, you could expect a good smoking performance from all of the models listed above.
Once you figure out your budget and needs, I am confident the above choices will ensure you enjoy the outcome.
Now It’s Your Turn
I want to hear from you:
Which outdoor smoker have you used before?
Have you used a charcoal smoker and have any tips to share?
What features do you typically like to see in a charcoal smoker?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
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