While the increasing popularity of grilling and smoking has led to a rise in the number of different types of smokers to choose from, the authentic taste and overall experience rendered by charcoal smokers remain unmatched. The most sought after by pitmasters and BBQ aficionados, this category of smoker gives some of the best results in terms of smoky flavor and aroma. Add to that the general romantic appeal of firing up an old-school charcoal smoker and you have the complete traditional BBQ experience. 

Charcoal smokers do require some skill to successfully operate, but the exceptional results that they deliver are incomparable and well worth the time and effort. In this article, we take an in-depth look at everything that you would need to know if you are looking to get started with a charcoal smoker. We have also put together reviews of some of the best and most popular charcoal smokers currently on the market so that you can weigh the pros and cons of each and find out the right fit for yourself. One of our favorites (the Master built) has really made an impressive machine providing a set and forget experience with charcoal. Something that has never been available before.

In A Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks:

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBest OverallBest OverallKamado Joe Classic II
  • AMP firebox
  • Quality ceramic walls
  • Kontrol tower top vent
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byb2-table__imageFavorite Bullet SmokerFavorite Bullet SmokerWeber Smokey Mountain
  • Portable
  • Easy to adjust temp. and airflow
  • Excellent quality and construction
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byb2-table__imageFavorite Drum SmokerFavorite Drum SmokerClassic Pit Barrel Cooker
  • Consistent temp.
  • Solidly built
  • Vertical design = higher capacity
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byb2-table__imageBest Smoker/Grill ComboBest Smoker/Grill ComboWeber Kettle with Slow 'N Sear
  • Portable
  • Functionality is extended considerably with slow 'n sear
  • Inexpensive
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byb2-table__imageNew Technology to ConsiderNew Technology to ConsiderMastercraft Gravity Series
  • Innovative hopper fed charcoal smoker
  • Large temp. range (220-700 F)
  • Companion mobile app
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Charcoal Smokers – A Basic Overview

Before delving into the adventurous world of using a charcoal smoker, it is crucial that you do your research and learn all about what a charcoal smoker is, how it operates, and how to get the best results out of it. Diving headfirst without the basic knowledge of what charcoal smokers entail would get you mediocre results at best. 

A charcoal smoker is a traditional variety of smoker that smokes food over a prolonged period of time using low and indirect heat generated by burning charcoal. While all other types of smokers depend on alternative forms of fuel for heat as well as for smoke, charcoal smokers generally use charcoal for both purposes. It’s vital to note that a charcoal smoker is different from a charcoal grill, although certain brands manufacture devices that feature both a grill as well as a smoker component.

Traditionally, there are five core sections of a standalone vertical charcoal smoker. These are:

  1. The firebox: This is where the heat is generated. The firebox is usually filled with coal and topped off with some wood for the signature smoky flavor and aroma. The amount of coal required depends on what you are smoking and the level of smokiness you are looking for. 
  2. The water pan: The water pan or chamber is situated right above the firebox. It is typically filled three-quarters full with a cool liquid that adds moisture to the meat throughout the smoking process, tenderizing it and preventing it from drying up and hardening. Not all smokers have the water pan as part of their construction.
  3. The cooking chamber: The cooking chamber begins above the water bowl and holds your food during the smoking process. It usually has wire grates as seen in a standard grill where you place your food. 
  4. The lid: This is a crucial component that can make or break your smoked foods. Covering the cooking chamber, the lid is usually dome-shaped and holds in all the heat, smoke, and moisture, creating the ideal atmosphere for smoking within the chamber.
  5. Vents: Vents are crucial with charcoal smokers as they are your main instrument to control heat. There is typically a bottom vent and top vent. Both can be adjusted to hit the perfect temperature for your cook.

Types of Charcoal Smokers

Let us now explore some of the different forms of charcoal smokers that are commercially available. Each of them has a unique set of features, making them more favorable for some use cases over others.

Kamado Style 

Kamado smokers, frequently referred to as ceramic smokers, rose to popularity in the 1970s and continue to remain a favorite among BBQ enthusiasts. Made out of ceramic, these smokers are oval-shaped and loosely based around the workings of ancient Japanese rice cookers. Their shape and thickness make them ideal for low and slow cooking as they facilitate heat and moisture retention. 

Three Kamado Grills by Beach

Once preheated to the desired temperature, Kamado-style smokers can steadily hold low heat over a long period of time. Their insulating properties also allow them to achieve searing hot temperatures as high as 700 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also fairly easy to use. All you have to do is load the firebox with charcoal and wood chunks and fire it up. A detachable heat deflector positioned between the firebox and the grill grate means that you can use both direct as well as indirect heat for smoking. 

There are two sets of vents, one at the top and one at the bottom that can be adjusted to control the airflow and maintain the desired temperature. A small 18-inch Kamado smoker can accommodate up to three 10-pound pork shoulders, while larger ones can hold much more at a time.

The lords of the kamado style grill are Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe. We put these two in a detailed comparison.

Bullet Style 

This type of smoker is also referred to as vertical water smoker and is designed to have a small footprint, making it well-suited even for the smallest of spaces. Shaped like a bullet, these smokers follow the general mechanism of a conventional vertical smoker and operate without mechanical or electrical components. Consequently, they are quite easy to use and perfect for those looking to get started with charcoal smokers. 

Inside of Weber Smokey Mountain

Bullet smokers derive their heat and smoke primarily from charcoal and wood chunks which are dumped in the lowest chamber of the unit. A water pan sits right over it that tenderizes the meat throughout the smoking process and also helps in even distribution of the heat. Over this are the cooking grates where the food is placed. Once again, two sets of vents are situated at the top and bottom that can be adjusted to regulate airflow and temperature. These smokers come in different sizes, but can mostly accommodate enough food to feed small gatherings.

Drum Style 

Drum smokers are another excellent choice for BBQ beginners as they are pretty straightforward and easy-to-use. Commonly called “UDS” or Ugly Drum Smokers, these smokers are exactly what they sound like—steel barrels resembling those used for shipping cargo, except fitted with cooking grates, a charcoal basket, vents, a chimney, and meat hooks. They are compact, lightweight, and fairly inexpensive in comparison to other charcoal smokers. 

Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

The charcoal basket is located at the bottom of the unit, with the cooking grates about a foot over it. A lid over the barrel ensures a tight seal and prevents smoke and heat leakage. Air vents are situated on the lid and at the base to help control how hot the drum gets. Capacity-wise, this type of smoker can cook around four 10-pound pork shoulders at a time.

Kettle Style 

Kettle grills can very easily be used for smoking meat without compromising on flavor or aroma. Place quality lump charcoals in the bottom of the grill, thereby creating a two-zone grill which has nothing to do with a basketball type of defense. Adding flavored wood chunks on top of the coal can get you the flavor profile that you are aiming for. Next, place a water pan on the cooking grate over the coals and your meat across the grate on the opposite end, so that it receives indirect heat. Secure the unit with the lid to seal in the heat and smoke.

Kettle Charcoal Grill with Charcoal Chimney


How Does a Charcoal Smoker Work?

Just like all other smokers, a charcoal smoker heats the food at a consistent temperature over several hours. The heat produced by burning the charcoal briquettes surrounds the food in the cooking chamber, gradually cooking it so that its internal temperature matches the temperature of the air surrounding it. The smoke from the charcoal penetrates the food, imparting the much sought-after smoky flavor. The key to getting the quintessential smoky flavor and aroma is cooking low and slow. 

Charcoal Smokers with Water Pans

Once the charcoals are lit, the water in the water pan heats, vaporizes, and rises to the cooking chamber. This moisture in the chamber keeps the meat tender and succulent. Hydrating the smoking environment also goes a long way in maintaining a consistent smoking temperature.

The placement of the water pan in between the firebox and the cooking chamber also makes the unit more favorable for low and slow cooking sessions. 

Choosing the Best Charcoal Smoker 

Since charcoal smokers are the most commonly used type of smoker, there are myriad options available for you to choose from. However, each smoker is crafted for a unique use case scenario, and getting the wrong type would overcomplicate things and get in the way of the ideal smoking experience. So, before you invest in a charcoal smoker, make sure that you have considered the following factors.

  1. Type of smoker: As discussed earlier in the article, there are four distinct types of charcoal smokers. Depending on how many people you want to smoke for, how much effort you are willing to put into maintenance, and so on, choose a type that would best serve your purpose. 
  1. Cooking capacity: Once again, keeping in mind the amount of food you are looking to smoke regularly, find a smoker that would easily accommodate the desired amount of food. If you are looking to cook large amounts of food, look for a smoker with multiple racks. If not, then a kettle or bullet-style smoker should get the job done nicely. 
  1. Build quality: Charcoal smokers are generally made of iron or steel, with the exception of Kamado-style smokers which are made of ceramic. Since charcoal smokers are for outdoor use, it is crucial to take into account the wind, dust, and other aspects of outdoor cooking. Going with a stainless steel build is a safe bet, as it is safer and also much easier to clean and maintain. 
  1. Fuel efficiency: When getting a charcoal smoker, pay special attention to the hopper size. If you are looking to cook low and slow style, make sure the hopper is large enough to hold enough charcoal so that you don’t have to replenish it multiple times during the smoking session. Kamado-style smokers are usually more efficient in this regard.
  1. Manufacturer reputation: Do your research on different manufacturers before settling for a charcoal smoker. Take into consideration the overall experience that others have had with the brand as well as the quality of their customer support. Also, look for a decent warranty window as these smokers come for a high price statement. We only recommend brands that are reputable and have a proven track record.

Charcoal Smoker Shootout


Best Overall – Kamado Joe Classic II


Pros

  • High quality ceramic walls with porcelain-glazed shell that remains cool to touch
  • Divide and Conquer cooking system allows for greater optimization
  • AMP firebox ensures longevity 
  • Air Lift Hinge mechanism facilitates easy maneuvering of lid 
  • Kontrol Tower air vent maintains precise airflow
  • Long warranty period

Cons

  • More expensive in comparison to other standard charcoal smokers 
  • Heavy weight makes it lack portability 

Kamado Joe is a tried-and-tested name among pitmasters and aficionados alike when it comes to ceramic smokers. If you are looking to get a Kamado style smoker but are overwhelmed by the number of options available, you might want to consider the Kamado Joe Classic II. From making a traditional pizza to smoking brisket, ribs, or steak, there is nothing that you cannot do with this grill.

One of Kamado Joe’s most popular ceramic charcoal grills, the Classic II, comes with an adjustable 18-inch two-tier cooking surface. The signature Divide and Conquer cooking system facilitates the splitting of racks in half so that they can be used at different temperatures. So, if you want to cook one batch of meat hot and fast while the other cooks low and slow, this grill has got you covered. You can also get different grilling and cooking surfaces, like cast-iron grates or reversible griddles, in half-rack sizes and then optimize your cooking area however you please. 

The wire mesh fiberglass gasket keeps the grill tightly sealed for a much longer period of time compared to other kamado style grills. The Kontrol Tower top vent, which is mold and water resistant, prevents leakage of heat and smoke and maintains very precise airflow, making temperature optimization a whole lot easier. It can be dialled in to fine-tune the airflow and remains in position even when the grill lid is moved. 

Another standout feature that sets this grill apart is Kamado Joe’s patented Air Lift Hinge technology. Since kamado lids are exceptionally heavy, opening and closing them can be a hassle. However, the Air Lift Hinge mechanism makes opening and closing the lid a breeze as it diminishes dome-weight by as much as 96%. 

While most kamados come with a stock one-piece firebox that is susceptible to cracking under high heat, the Kamado Joe Classic II comes with an advanced multi-panel or AMP firebox. Composed of five pieces of ceramic that expand and contract, this firebox stands up well to high-heat conditions without cracking so you don’t have to worry about replacing a cracked firebox. In addition to all this, the Kamado Joe Classic II also brings to the table a quality built-in thermometer, folding side shelves, a stainless steel latch, a cast-iron stand with locking wheels, a grate gripper, and a slide-out ash drawer.

Our Favorite Bullet Smoker – Weber Smokey Mountain


Pros

  • Truly portable with small footprint
  • Excellent quality of materials and construction
  • Large water bowl that can be filled with other fluids
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Easy to adjust temperature and airflow

Cons

  • A little expensive for its feature set
  • Burns more fuel than some competitors

The Weber Smokey Mountain is another legendary product that qualifies as a water smoker—a smoker that uses water as a means to control temperature and keep the food moist. The 18-inch variant features excellent materials and construction, plated steel cooking grates, a built-in lid thermometer, and rust-resistant metal legs. The small dimensions and relatively light weight make this a truly portable choice.

This is an incredibly versatile smoker that can work with a wide range of temperatures. It can even be used for cold smoking if you use the snake method and ice in the reservoir. You just need to fill the bottom ring with lit charcoal and place your choice of fluid in the water bowl. Then, you can add wood chunks to the coal and put the food you want to smoke on top of the racks.

Along with using different kinds of wood, you can also substitute the water with other fluids like fruit juices and cider vinegar to get an extra flavor kick. Assembly and setup are relatively easy and the unit is also simple to clean. You can also invest in a range of accessories to enhance the functionality of this smoker.

Our Favorite Drum Smoker – Pit Barrel Cooker


Pros

  • Drum design keeps temperature consistent
  • Solidly built with quality materials
  • Vertical design increases capacity

Cons

  • Controlling temperature can depend on external factors like ambient air temperature and elevation
  • Needs regular cleaning
  • Needs a wireless thermometer to precisely monitor temperature

If you are looking for the classic drum smoker design, our pick is the Pit Barrel Cooker-—a simple, versatile, and powerful smoker that can smoke a variety of meats conveniently. With drum smokers, the results can be fantastic every time as the meat is usually hung inside the smoking chamber while the smoker acts like a convection oven. This maintains a consistent, even spread of heat from top to bottom while the meat bastes in its own juices and fat while smoking. This is a great way to create delicious BBQ.

The design features an 18-gauge steel drum with a 30-gallon capacity and a solid lid. There is no external insulation, which can create condensation and keep the meat tender and moist. The smoker has two steel bars on top and a set of 8 stainless steel hooks you can use to hang your cuts. While the primary cooking capacity is 240 sq. inches, the vertical orientation means that you can really pack in your meat for larger cooks.

The airtight construction and vertical design means that temperature remains very consistent throughout the cooking process. This makes it an excellent choice for beginners. All you need to know is how to adjust the plate to control airflow. The smoker can also be used as a grill and comes with a grill grate that you can place inside the drum for a quick grill or sear. The unit features excellent quality of materials and a sturdy build, with an exterior porcelain enamel coating.

Best Smoker and Grill Combo – Weber Original Kettle Premium
with Slow ‘N Sear



Pros

  • Iconic, tried and tested product
  • Excellent construction and materials
  • Easy to assemble
  • Portable with robust wheels
  • Inexpensive and value for money
  • Functionality extends significantly with Slow ‘N Sear

Cons

  • Lacks advanced features
  • Fully manual temperature and airflow control
  • Small size needs frequent refilling

If you are looking for the perfect smoker and grill combo, our top recommendation is the brand that started it all—Weber. The iconic Weber Original Kettle Premium 22-inch is a spectacular product that has stood the test of time. It is inexpensive, built like a tank, and one of the most versatile portable grills that you can buy.

The iconic kettle design has been around for over 70 years. Over time, Weber has enhanced it, added features, and helped it evolve into an even better product. With the premium model, there is a hinged grill grate that makes it easy to add or move coals, an improved ash catcher that makes cleanup easier, and a thermometer integrated right into the lid.

The construction is solid with a porcelain-enameled bowl and lid that do a great job of keeping heat in. The heavy-duty steel grates and the plated steel cooking grates add to the feeling of solidity. In such a small, portable footprint, the grill provides a whopping 363 sq. inches of cooking area. The lid is easy to use with a glass reinforced nylon lid handle with an integrated heat shield that keeps the handle cool even with high temperatures inside. Two of the three legs have large, strong wheels.

The Weber Original Premium Kettle is a celebrated and versatile product. However, its functionality can be increased dramatically with the help of the right accessories. If you are looking for an excellent grill and smoker combo, the accessory to get is the Slow ‘N Sear. This is a multi-utility charcoal divider designed for the Weber Kettle that can help transform it into an even more versatile unit for both grilling and smoking. Essentially, you can use this to create a very hot zone for quick sears or for low and slow smoking.

The Slow ‘N Sear inserts seamlessly into the grate of the Weber Kettle and has a ventilated chamber for fuel. From there, you just have to fill and light it according to your cooking needs. For searing, just put your lit coals into the unit and place the grate on top. Then, you have access to two separate heating zones that you can use to achieve the desired results. The high heat side can be excellent for quick, blistering sears while the other side can help make sides or grill more delicate meats.

Slow and Sear with Charcoal and Water

For smoking, you need to fill the Slow ‘N Sear with unlit charcoal and top with good smoking wood. Then, add a few lit briquettes to the corner and allow the temperature to come up. You can control the temperature and airflow by controlling the top and bottom vents, or by adding water. While this makes your Weber Kettle a powerful smoker, it can also make things more convenient. Since it can last up to 8 hours without refueling, it means less opening and closing to add more coals and wood.

The unit is solidly built with quality steel and can last you a lifetime. With the Slow ‘N Sear, the Weber Original Premium Kettle truly reaches the height of its potential as a grill and smoker combo.

New Technology to Consider – Masterbuilt Gravity Series Charcoal Smoker


Pros

  • Innovative hopper-fed charcoal smoker with digital control
  • Maintains temperature accurately
  • Excellent 220-700F temperature range
  • Companion mobile app makes tracking easy
  • Large hopper capacity lasts up to 15 hours
  • Easy to clean
  • Can work with both lump and briquette charcoal

Cons

  • Quality of materials and constructions is average
  • New Technology not proven yet
  • Some users report issues with the fan
  • Limited one-year warranty

The charcoal grill market has always been a space for creativity and innovation, with manufacturers looking to design products that make the process of grilling easier, more fun, and more interesting. With the Masterbuilt Gravity Series of charcoal smokers, BBQ enthusiasts have a whole new way of smoking their favorite cuts with minimal hassle and maximum convenience.

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 digital charcoal smoker is a first of its kind—a charcoal grill that is digitally operated and fed by a hopper. It uses the same principle as a pellet smoker but is, in fact, a charcoal grill/smoker. This way, it combines the heating and cooking characteristics of a charcoal grill with the ease and convenience of a pellet smoker.

The standout feature is a large, digital control panel that lets you set an exact temperature between 220 degrees Fahrenheit and 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Like any traditional charcoal smoker, you start by adding briquette or lump charcoal to the hopper and use a firestarter to get it going. However, once your charcoal has started, the digital controller takes over and maintains a steady temperature according to your settings by maneuvering the fan speed and airflow. This way, the grill can expertly manage the burn rate and can control the temperature with a great degree of precision.

The smoker is well-designed with a total cooking area of 560 sq. inches, with a 430 sq. inches primary cooking area and a 130 sq. inches warming area. There is a provision to use a total of four meat probes and one is included with the package. Things become even more convenient if you use the mobile app, which connects to the grill via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. With the app, you can monitor temperature and time and also directly monitor meat probes. You can set things up to get an alarm notification once your meat reaches a certain temperature.

Cleanup is a breeze with the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 digital charcoal smoker. All the ashes from a smoking session conveniently fall into a large tray which you can take out of the grill and empty when you are done. There is also a large grease pan that you can pull out from the rear of the unit that traps any drippings down the grate. A smaller grease tray is also attached to the grease pan for easy disposal of general grease.

In our testing, the smoker came up to temperature quickly and did a splendid job of maintaining temperature over time. 

Advantages of Using a Charcoal Smoker

It is the authenticity of the flavor, texture, and aroma rendered by charcoal smokers that gives them an edge over any other type of smoker. While other varieties of smokers may be more convenient and beginner-friendly, there is absolutely nothing that compares to the fantastic results that you can achieve with the help of a good charcoal smoker. 

Charcoal smokers offer the most in terms of versatility. Getting one can, therefore, be just the thing for you if you are looking to step up your smoking game several notches. Here are some of the many benefits of a charcoal smoker that set it apart from its other counterparts:

  • Smokey Flavor: The incredible smoky flavor imparted by charcoal smokers remains unmatched. The charcoal instantly vaporizes food drippings into aromatic flavor particles that infuse your food with mouthwateringly intense smokiness. No other smoker can achieve this intense smokiness or flavor depth – even your vegetarian friends may consider switching over to the meat eating team after this wonderful experience. 
  • Heat Output: It goes without saying that charcoal smokers burn hotter than other varieties of smokers. Since there is no upper limit of temperature, unlike gas smokers, for instance, you can fire it up for a hot and fast quick sear as well as use it for a low and slow style cook.
  • Ease of Wood Application: Incorporating the perfect wood flavor that you desire is a breeze when using a charcoal smoker. All you have to do is add a few chunks of wood on top of your lump of coal and you will get excellent results.
  • Versatility: The versatility that charcoal smokers bring to the table is commendable. While other types of smokers would only allow smoking, charcoal smokers can very easily accommodate a number of different cooking styles, from smoking to roasting, and, in some cases, even grilling. 
  • Capacity: Charcoal smokers generally offer a larger capacity. This means there would be ample room for large cuts of meat.
  • Reliability: Repairs would be the least of your concerns when using a charcoal smoker. Since this type of smoker is the norm and the most popularly used in the world of BBQ, finding someone to make repairs to your smoker would be quick and hassle-free. Spare parts are also extremely easy to find in general hardware stores or BBQ specialty stores. They are simply made with few components to fail.
  • Affordable: Though available in a wide range of price points, charcoal smokers, on an average, are far less expensive compared to other types of smokers.

Using A Charcoal Smoker The Right Way 

The key to getting the best results out of your charcoal smoker is to use it the correct way. While there are a few standard protocols to be followed, a lot of the process involves a few trials and errors to get right. Once you have it down, experimenting to find out what suits you best can work wonders for your overall smoking experience. 

Prep your fuel: Standard-issue charcoal briquettes work best with charcoal smokers as they burn at the proper temperature required for smoking. Add a few chunks of wood on top of your charcoal to get a distinct smoke flavor. Hardwood chips or chunks like hickory, mesquite, cherry, and oak are some standard choices that you cannot go wrong with. If using chips, soak them in water for about 30 minutes prior to the smoking process. If you’re going to be grilling with your charcoal smoker (Kamado, Kettle, Masterbuilt) you might prefer to use lump charcoal as it emits more heat but burns faster.

Fill the water pan with cool water: Since one of the functions of the water pan is to regulate the temperature, warm water would be of no use. Fill the water pan about three-quarters with cool water for the best results. Again, not all charcoal smokers have the water pan. Skip this step if you do not have the water pan.

Light your charcoal briquettes: This is where a charcoal chimney can come in really handy. Another option that can mimic the effects of a charcoal chimney pretty well is stacking the charcoals in a pyramid shape inside the smoker. Wait until the coals are covered in a thin layer of white ash.

Weber Chimney Starter

Temperature optimization: Adjust the vents to control the temperature within the smoker. If it is burning too hot, slightly close the bottom vent and open the upper one, and vice versa. The ideal temperature for smoking meat ranges from 220 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, so try to keep it within that range. 

Add the wood chunks: Introduce the wood chunks to your firebox approximately a quarter of the way through the session. Depending on the type of wood you have chosen, it will impart a subtle fruity or earthy note to your meat.

What Are The Best Foods To Smoke In A Charcoal Smoker?

While you can smoke just about anything with charcoal smokers and still get fantastic results, they are most popularly used to smoke meat. The flavor of charcoal smoke complements just about any meat and gives it the perfect sear. The classic meats smoked in a charcoal smoker include pork shoulder, beef brisket, and ribs. Since these are large smokers, you can even cook whole game birds, which are delicious when cooked low and slow. 

If you are new to smoking with a charcoal smoker, a smaller, more manageable cut of meat might be a better choice. There is no going wrong with a small pork shoulder like a Boston butt. 

A Word on Charcoal 

The quality of charcoal you use is of no less importance than the kind of smoker you are using. Good quality charcoal lasts a while and produces steady heat and smoke. Here are a few important pointers to help you choose the right charcoal for your smoker—

  • Consider using charcoal briquettes (when smoking) as they burn cleaner and longer than lump charcoal. They also maintain a steady temperature which is vital to the smoking process. 
  • Do not use charcoal with additives. The charcoal that you use as your heat and smoke source should be as clean as possible. Even if you are purchasing inexpensive charcoal, look for one that has no additives. Self-starting charcoals, for example, use lighter fluid additives which, in addition to being bad for the environment, produce bad-tasting smoke that can give a bitter aftertaste to your meat.
  • It is important that you store your charcoal properly. Contaminated or damp charcoal does not burn clean and leaves a harsh taste in the smoker. Storing it in an empty trash can or storage bin with a tight lid is good practice.

Should You Buy A Pellet Grill Or A Charcoal Grill? 

Pellet smokers use wood as the heat source as well as the smoke source, so the flavor of wood will definitely come through in the finished product. However, cooking over charcoal will render an intense smokiness to the meat that a pellet smoker will not be able to attain. Moreover, since charcoal smokers burn much hotter than pellet smokers, it would give the meat a great sear. Many pit bosses even claim that the wood flavor you can get by adding wood chunks to your charcoal is much stronger than what you can get from a pellet smoker. 

Initial costs of a pellet grill are also much higher. A good pellet grill is going to be a much more expensive investment than a good charcoal smoker which you have to consider in a high cost environment because of new policies. Considering pellet smokers can only be used as smokers and light grilling (hard to sear on a pellet grill) whereas charcoal smokers offer a great deal of versatility, getting a standout charcoal smoker can be a better value for money. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I personally own both because they provide very different flavors and require different methods to cooking/smoking.

Are Kamado Style Smokers Worth The Large Price Increase?

Compared to standard charcoal grills, Kamado style smokers are rather expensive. High-end Kamado smokers are made of large quantities of refractory ceramic. They are thick-walled and can easily weigh about 100 pounds. Their design and configuration remain unmatched. The placement of the air vents ensures perfect air circulation and the thick walls hold in all the moisture and smoke possible. If that is not enough, some of the best-rated Kamado smokers come with some form of lifetime warranty. 

Keeping all this in mind, it is safe to say that Kamado smokers are absolutely worth the investment, but only for those who are truly passionate about grilling and smoking and do it on a regular basis. Their heat control, versatility, moisture retention, and longevity are incomparable, making them the best bang for the buck.

Maintenance 

Charcoal smokers can be somewhat demanding when it comes to maintenance. Keeping them in top shape will help you get the most out of them in the long run. Cleaning your smoker regularly instead of after long intervals of time will reduce the amount of work and effort that would have to go into it.

  • Remove the cooking grate as well as the charcoal grate, if any, and brush them down. Wipe away any big chunks of charcoal, food, ash, or other debris and then soak in soapy water for a few hours if necessary. 
  • The inside of the firebox and the lid may be washed with soapy water and a steel wool soap pad or scrubber brush and then rinsed thoroughly.
  • Wipe down the cooking grate using a rag soaked in olive oil or vegetable oil. Beef or bacon fat may also be used. This prevents food from sticking to the grate and also keeps it from rusting.

Where To Buy A Charcoal Smoker?

Since charcoal smokers are the most common variety of smokers, they are very easily available. The best place to buy would be from a local BBQ specialty store. These stores generally have a decent selection of different types of smokers so that you can get the look and feel of one before purchasing it. You can also purchase your smoker online. Many renowned brands now have their dedicated online stores where you can browse their products, look at reviews from fellow BBQ enthusiasts, and make an informed choice, without worrying about the authenticity of the product. We are providing links to large online retailers that have amazing shipping methods for these smokers and also are helpful in the setups.

Best Charcoal Smoker Review 

After reviewing some of the top-rated vertical charcoal smokers, our final recommendation would be the Kamado Joe Classic II. As far as charcoal smokers go, it offers the best of the best in terms of build quality, cooking capacity, and fuel efficiency. The long list of innovative and ingenious features, such as the Kontrol Tower vent, the Air Lift Hinge, and the Divide and Conquer cooking system, incorporated into it give it an edge over other charcoal smokers and promise spectacular results at the end of every session. 

Although the Kamado Joe Classic II is one of the more high-end options, it does bring together the best of what charcoal smokers have to offer and lasts a lifetime. However, if you are not looking to make as big of an investment, you can choose any of the other smokers mentioned in this article since they will also deliver wonderful results.

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