The way you cook barbecue is just as important as the sauce that you put on it, and that’s why people who want an authentic BBQ taste use a charcoal smoker. Charcoal smokers are the gold standard for professional and amateur BBQ chefs across the world. As a home chef, you can make some good meat on the grill, but if you’re serious about making ribs, fish, turkey, pulled pork or bacon, then you absolutely need a smoker.
Smokers can be found in all shapes and sizes; what’s important is that you have control of the heat and air flow inside of the smoker. When you can do this, you’re able to slowly smoke meats while infusing them with genuine BBQ flavor. The best charcoal smoker gives you accurate control of the smoker’s temperature throughout the cooking process.
The great thing about modern charcoal smokers is that you don’t have to hover around them all day; they can effectively create a stable cooking environment, so you aren’t stuck shoveling coal and monitoring the temperature.
You do need to keep an eye on your food, but the stable environment gives you a lot of leeway. When you use a quality charcoal smoker, you don’t have to deal with flyaway soot, ash and creosote; you just need to worry about the cooking process.
Top 3 Charcoal Smoker Comparison Chart
|Smoker Model||Our Review||Dimensions (inches)||Color|
|Dyna-Glo Charcoal Offset Smoker||20.2 x 34.5 x 47||Black|
|Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22-1/2-Inch||24 x 23 x 48.5||Black|
|Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker 18.5 Inch||21 x 19 x 41||Black|
Best 3 Charcoal Smoker Reviews
The unit comes stocked with a water pan, built-in thermometer and a storage cover. One thing that sets this smoker apart from others is its solid construction. If you’re going to be loading and unloading your smoker, then you need something that won’t break easily. The porcelain-enamel coating is very durable, and it prevents rusting. You’ll find yourself using this smoker for many years because of its durability and dependability.
What Makes The Weber Stand Out?
- Wide Charcoal Door — The Weber 18.5 Inch makes it easy to load charcoal, and this prevents users from knocking the water pan into the coals when the unit is in use. Other units tend to ignore this fact, and it makes them more difficult to use.
- Door Latch – A spring-loaded door latch makes sure that your door is always secure. Models without a spring-loaded door can open while the unit is in use.
- Thermometer – Buying a thermometer for a smoker can run you anywhere up to $50. With the Weber, your thermometer is built right into the lid of the unit; you save money, and it allows you to easily control the temperature of the unit. It’s a useful feature, and it saves you money in the long-run.
- Ash Catch Pan – The catch pan makes cleaning this unit a cinch; all your ashes end up in your pan when they are burnt. This means you don’t ever have to deal with dirty ashes flying all over the place; you simply empty the can out when it comes time to clean up.
This smoker is a great deal for the price; it’s easy to use, and it performs just as well as more expensive units. The thermometer makes it easy to maintain temperature, and the smoke production is perfect. The only real drawback with this unit is that the front access door is a little flimsy, so you have to be careful not to bend it out of shape.
The Weber 731001 gives you an authentic smokehouse flavor at home. It has two nickel-plated 22-1/2 inch cooking grates for a generous 726 inches of cooking space. The smoker comes with a water pan, individual vents and a snap-on cover. With a 10 year limited warranty, you really can’t lose on this product.
The smoker is made of porcelain-enamel steel, and comes with a built-in thermometer to help you keep the unit’s temperature constant. It gives you more space than the 18 inch unit, so you can cook more food at once. Although it’s not the cheapest smoker on the market, it’s worth it when you realize how well it regulates temperature; you don’t have to constantly watch it to make sure that it is lit and cooking properly.
Weber makes it easy to slowly smoke meats; you can leave it on for 10-12 hours without having to check on it every couple of minutes. Its unique charcoal stand catches ashes without putting the flame out.
Like the 18.5 inch model, you need to be careful with the access door; it’s a little flimsy, and it will bend if you knock into it too hard. Once you get the door into place, it creates a good seal, and you shouldn’t have to mess with it again. Weber made the charcoal door big, so you can easily add or remove charcoal during your cooking; other units make it close to impossible to do this.
This unit shines in the following areas:
- Good amount of room
- Easy to use
- Convenient digital thermometer
- Can fit tons of food
- Can smoke for eight hours without adding extra charcoal
- Charcoal is elevated above the ash, so the fire never gets smothered
- Durable cover
The Weber 731001 is a great smoker overall. It has a huge cooking space, and it can accommodate almost any food that you can dream of. It maintains its internal temperature well, and you don’t have to worry about ash smothering the flame. When you consider the unit’s size and heat retention qualities, it’s a steal for the price.
Also, check out this video demo review:
- Offset firebox
- Heavy gage steel charcoal tray
- Six adjustable cooking grates
- Dual door design
- Made of steel
The Dyna-Glo is a nice looking unit that comes with dual door access. Some people have had trouble maintaining temperature with the unit; smoke tends to leak through the firebox. You can easily fix this problem by using glue on the edges, but many people don’t want to do that.
The unit is made of steel, but it isn’t as solid as most units on the market. It’s a bit thin for a smoker, so it tends to lose heat when you are cooking. Keep an eye on this smoker when you are cooking during a cold day; you really need to watch it to make sure the temperature is constant.
Powder Coated Finish
The powder coating on this unit is very thin, so you probably don’t want to leave it outside in the rain or snow. If you’re going to leave it outside, make sure to cover it with a tarp or plastic. The steel is thin, so if it starts to rust, you’re gong to need another unit. If you make sure to take care of it, it should last for a while.
With the right fixes, this smoker can give you some great results. It’s inexpensive, and it cooks fairly reasonably when you take care of the leaking problem. It’s a good starting unit, but most people recommend spending a little more money to get a unit that doesn’t need any work after assembly. The Dyna-Glo has thin steel walls, and many people say that it doesn’t maintain temperature very well. The thermometer that comes with the unit has given people problems, and some people say that you don’t get a correct reading from it.
The Dyna-Glo can cook a lot of food at once, and you’re able to add wood chips to the unit to give your food some extra flavor. Unfortunately, this unit needs some fine-tuning out of the box; when people seal its leaks, they find that the unit works better.
Factors To Consider When Buying A Charcoal Smoker
- Price — Most people start with price when choosing a new smoker; if you get a professional setup, it can run you as much as $10,000. Most people can’t shell out that kind of cash, so they go for a smoker that fits their budget better. If you don’t have much of a budget, you can get one for as low as $100, but most people spend a couple hundred dollars for a good quality smoker.
- Quality — It’s important to get a quality smoker. When you buy a decent unit, you don’t have to hover around your smoker all day making sure that it’s maintaining the right temperature. Cheaper models tend to have bad heat regulation, and this can negatively impact the taste and texture of your food; the last thing you want to do is overcook your meat so that it comes out tough and tasteless.
- Versatility — Some people opt for smokers that can double as a grill. If you find yourself in a position with limited space, then you might want to look into a charcoal smoker that can also grill your food; it can make things easier.
- Space Concerns — If you’re buying a large smoker, then you need to figure out where you’re going to keep it. Larger units can be heavy, and moving them around isn’t very practical. If you don’t have a permanent smoking spot that you can use, you might want to look into buying a portable unit; it’ll make things easier in the long-run.
- Usage — Always consider how much you are going to use the unit. If you only plan on using it once a year, you might want to invest in a smaller unit. Always check the smoker’s capacity; you don’t want to buy a unit that won’t be able to feed your family and friends. The smoking process takes a long time, so you have to make sure that you buy one that is large enough for the meals that you’ll be serving.
Advantages Of Charcoal Smokers
People often get confused when buying their first smoker; they don’t know if charcoal is the right fit for them. When compared to other types of smokers, charcoal comes with the following advantages:
Charcoal adds a unique flavor to all the meat that you smoke, and you can add wood to it to give it an even more complex taste. When you use charcoal, you get a piece of meat that has an authentic complex flavor. It tastes just like the meat that you’d get from the best BBQ joint in town.
It’s pretty easy to control the temperature of your smoker when you use charcoal. If you need to smoke your meat at a low heat, you just remove some charcoal; this can be tough to do with electric smokers or wood smokers. If you need your smoker to get hot, you add more charcoal; the best charcoal smokers top out at around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, but most of them maintain an average temperature of about 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Charcoal smokers are pretty straightforward when it comes to their design; there aren’t any small parts that you will need to replace. If you take care of your smoker, the most you’ll have to do is replace its grate if it gets chipped or starts to rust. Smokers are durable pieces of equipment, so there’s no special maintenance required.
If you get a smoker with an ash catcher can, then cleaning it is simple; the ash can catches all the burnt off charcoal, and you simply dump the can when it gets full. Other than ashes, you just need to brush or scrape the smoker’s grate before you cook anything on it.
Disadvantages Of Charcoal Smokers
If you aren’t careful, charcoal can reach very high temperatures. That’s great for grilling, but high heat in a smoker will produce meat that isn’t as tender as it should be. When using a charcoal smoker, you have to control the amount of oxygen that enters the smoker; if you let too much oxygen in, it will produce a quick burst of high heat that burns out quickly.
You need to fiddle with the draft vents on your smoker until you find the sweet spot for airflow; it takes a lot of little incremental steps. Most people consider this to be part of the fun, but it can take a little while to get used to.
Tough Wintertime Cooking
Depending on what model you choose, you might have a hard time maintaining temperature during the winter months. Inexpensive charcoal smokers are generally made of a thin metal, so they lose a lot of heat when it’s very cold outside. If you’re smoking meat in the middle of the winter, then you might have a hard time maintaining the right temperature.
When you light charcoal in your smoker, there’s a small chance that it goes out, so you need to periodically check it to make sure that it’s lit. You don’t have to sit there and watch your smoker like a hawk, but most people take a look at their smoker every hour or so; it’s always good to make sure that the temperature is where you need it to be.
How To Use Charcoal Smoker
Check out this video to give you some tips and hints on using a charcoal smoker to cook amazing juicy ribs.
Choosing the best charcoal smoker really depends on what you need out of your unit. You have tons of choices when it comes to charcoal smokers, but you probably want to get a medium priced unit; if you go too cheap, you’re going to have problems with temperature regulations and heat loss.
It is not enough to have a good BBQ, the main thing is to use it well.
Before you buy a unit, make sure that it’s big enough for your needs; you never want to end up short on the delicious food that you’re making. Buy a sturdy unit with a good warranty, and you won’t have to worry about replacing it for years. When it comes to charcoal smokers, it’s all about personal preference. Every unit has its pros and cons, and you have to figure out what is going to work for your needs.