Want a Tender Juicy Melt-in-Mouth Meat?
You really can’t beat smoking meat over charcoal. As an added bonus, you not only get to enjoy the delicious smokey flavor, you get to play with fire too! It’s easy to see why backyard pitmasters favor charcoal smokers. Obviously, it’s not as easy to use compared to other types of smokers in the market. There’s a learning curve; you’ll need to know how much fuel to use as well as how much air you need to let in so that you get the temperature just right. It’ll probably take you more than a couple of tries before you get your charcoal smoker completely figured out. But there is no question that the results will be well worth all that time and effort.
Of course, we’re assuming your charcoal smoker isn’t a cheapo unit. Because if you want quality smoked meats, you’re going to need a top-notch charcoal smoker. One that allows you to easily and quickly regulate the air intake. One that also features an airtight and thick cooking chamber to ensure even heat distribution and the infusion of all that smokey flavor. If you need help finding the the right charcoal smoker for your backyard barbecues, then scroll down and check out our reviews of the best ones in the market today.
- Want a Tender Juicy Melt-in-Mouth Meat?
- Weber Smokey Mountain
- Masterbuilt MB20040220
- PK Grills PK360
- Royal Gourmet BBQ
- Factors to Consider While Buying a Charcoal Smoker:
- How big is it?
- How much is your budget?
- How easy is it to control temperature?
- How is it constructed?
- How versatile is it?
- Is it easy to maintain?
- What extra features does it offer?
- What about warranty and support?
- 5 Extra Charcoal Smokers Which Will Make You Impressed
Weber Smokey Mountain
Review: When it comes to cooking over charcoal, nothing can beat the gold standard that is Weber. So, it’s not surprising that the best charcoal smoker on our list comes from the same brand – the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. It has all the features we want and need to create deliciously smoked meat. It comes with a porcelain-enameled lid, bowl, and center section for excellent heat retention. There are two plated steel cooking grates that provide 481 square inches of cooking space. You should be able to cook two large roasts at the same time with this smoker, perfect for your next neighborhood party. There’s a removable aluminum fuel door to make adding charcoal easy even during the middle of your cooking session. This door also allows you access to the water pan. In short, there’s no need to move the grates (and your meat) around if you need to replenish your fuel or water. A silicone grommet allows you to insert a temperature probe and keep a close eye on your meat, enabling you to cook it to perfection. This smoker also features air dampers as well as a large water pan that makes it easy to maintain your desired temperature. The material of the smoker is, of course, of the highest quality, ensuring the unit’s long life in your backyard. As an added bonus, this smoker can easily be converted into a standard grill.
Review: While charcoal smokers are as old school as it gets, that doesn’t mean that none of them have transitioned into the 21st century. The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 is a digital charcoal grill + smoker that combines the mouthwatering flavor from cooking with charcoal and the ease of use that you often find in a gas or electric grill. This baby features a GravityFed hopper that can hold up to 10lbs of lump charcoal or 16lbs of briquettes. There’s a digital control panel that allows you to control temperature and cook time. You can also use your smart device to control the unit; just connect it to the grill via WiFi or Bluetooth. There’s a fan that ensures that the hot air from the hopper flows to the cooking chamber and maintains your desired cooking temperature. It can easily reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit for grilling and searing. Or go as low as 225 degrees Fahrenheit for low and slow cooks. With a fully loaded hopper, you can grill and/or smoke meat up to 12 continuous hours without having to refuel. Even if you did, loading up the hopper is a breeze. What’s more, this grill-smoker combo features smoke + sear versatility. The cast iron cooking grates are reversible, enabling you to sear your meat when needed. With this digital charcoal grill + smoker, you can set it and forget it when the mood arises or keep an eye on your meats while chatting and drinking.
PK Grills PK360
Review: While all of our choices have been smokers that can function as grills, none do it better than the PK360. And none look as beautiful while doing it. The PK360 is made of durable cast aluminum which is great for heat retention and doesn’t rust like steel. It features 4 vents – two at the bottom, two at the top – that helps create an efficient cooking chamber, whether you’re grilling meat or smoking it. Its unique design – the configuration of the vents – along with its flat bottom and rectangular shape makes it easy to control temperature. The built-in Tel-Tru thermometer on the lid is quite accurate which makes monitoring your low and slow sessions easy. The hinged cooking grate lets you easily add more charcoal and tend to the fire when needed. It features hook tools for some storage. It also comes with a removable “ash plug” where you can sweep the ash into a bucket for quick cleanup. The shelves are made of high-end, engineered glass-fiber reinforced polyester material and provides you with extra prep space. These are removable and can be stowed away using the integrated side hooks. The icing on all this grilled goodness is the grill’s portability. You can easily detach it from the stand which makes it the ideal companion on tailgate parties, picnics at the park, fishing/hunting trips, and visits to the beach.
Royal Gourmet BBQ
Review: While charcoal smokers are as old school as it gets, that doesn’t mean that none of them have transitioned into the 21st century. The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 is a digital charcoal grill + smoker that combines the mouthwatering flavor from cooking with charcoal and the ease of use that you often find in a gas or electric grill. This baby features a GravityFed hopper that can hold up to 10lbs of lump charcoal or 16lbs of briquettes. There’s a digital control panel that allows you to control temperature and cook time. You can also use your smart device to control the unit; just connect it to the grill via WiFi or Bluetooth. There’s a fan that ensures that the hot air from the hopper flows to the cooking chamber and maintains your desired cooking temperature. It can easily reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit for grilling and searing. Or go as low as 225 degrees Fahrenheit for low and slow cooks. With a fully loaded hopper, you can grill and/or smoke meat up to 12 continuous hours without having to refuel. Even if you did, loading up the hopper is a breeze. What’s more, this grill-smoker combo features smoke + sear versatility. The cast iron cooking grates are reversible, enabling you to sear your meat when needed. With this digital charcoal grill + smoker, you can set it and forget it when the mood arises or keep an eye on your meats while chatting and drinking beer with your peeps.
Factors to Consider While Buying a Charcoal Smoker:
Buying a charcoal smoker is no easy feat. Because of its popularity among grillers everywhere, more and more models are popping up in the market today. So, figuring out the best one that will suit your needs will take time. Not to mention, buying the wrong charcoal smoker can be a pain in the pork butt you don’t want to handle. With the best charcoal smoker, you won’t have to constantly hover over the grill – adding coal, spritzing it with your personal blend of moisturizer, fiddling with the air vents – just to make sure that it doesn’t overcook. With a little practice, you can expect to produce amazing barbecue that will rival those offered by the best restaurants. This buying guide should help you decide which model will help you make the most amazing ribs, pulled pork, smoked salmon, and bacon you’ll ever eat.
How big is it?
Size matters, most especially if we’re talking about smokers. Obviously, with a smoker, you’ll be cooking large cuts of meat to feed a group of people. But the size of the meat as well as how much of it you can cook at a time will be dependent on the size of the unit. Some smokers can easily fit a pork butt or a whole turkey. But you need size if you want to smoke several racks of ribs. If you want to be able to smoke various types of meats at a time, you may want to find a smoker that offers a lot of cooking space. Here’s another thing you might want to think about when considering size. If you’re going for a smoker that can be used as a grill, then you’ll want to think about cooking space in terms of burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and the like.
How much is your budget?
The prices of charcoal smokers range from $100 all the way up to thousands of dollars. And in this category, it’s important to note that you do get what you pay for, most of the time. While there are some models that will give you a lot of value for your money, they are few and far between. So, you really need to think about how much you’re willing to spend to get your barbecue just the way you like it.
How easy is it to control temperature?
We’ve already mentioned that charcoal smokers are perhaps the hardest type of smoker to “handle.” It takes a bit of practice in order to reach and maintain your desired temp using dampers. Some require more practice than others. Inspect the unit and check reviews. Are the dampers easy to reach and operate? Do they seal tight when closed? The answers to these questions can mean the difference between setting it and forgetting it, and hovering over the smoker for hours on end. Of course, there are some models like the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 that don’t require any effort from you at all because it’s all digitally controlled.
How is it constructed?
The material of a smoker, just like with grills, can make or break its performance. You need to look for a charcoal smoker that is constructed out of thick steel or cast aluminum. Thick steel is great at absorbing heat and distributing it evenly. Cast aluminum is similar without the problem of rust.
Aside from the type of material, you need to also inspect how well the smoker is made. Is the material thick? Thickness is not only great for insulation, it also increases the unit’s durability. Check the welds and the seals. The legs should be sturdy. Look at all the moving parts – hinges, latches, wheels, etc. Are they going to last long? Giving a charcoal smoker a deeper inspection instead of a cursory glance could be the difference between tender, juicy ribs and dried out ones.
How versatile is it?
If you don’t have a grill yet, you might want to consider if your charcoal smoker could function as more than just a smoker. Some units can actually be converted into a grill. Others are grill-smoker combos. This provides you with a lot of versatility in terms of cooking. Plus, it saves you space. Why buy two units when you can have only one that performs two jobs?
Is it easy to maintain?
There’s no doubt about it that charcoal can be incredibly messy. Cleaning up all that ash after a low and slow cooking session isn’t going to be one of your favorite things to do. So, make sure to find a smoker that makes cleanup a breeze. Some will come with a removable ash pan. Others will feature a plug that allows you to “sweep” all the ash into a bucket. Aside from cleaning out the ash, you also need to be concerned about the fat, seasonings, and juices that will drip onto the grates and possibly splatter on the insides of your smoker. These can become potential breeding grounds for bacteria if not cleaned properly. Make sure that your unit is one that can be easily wiped down and the grates easily scrubbed clean.
What extra features does it offer?
A basic charcoal smoker would have a lid, a charcoal grate or pan, grates, dampers, and an ash collector. Anything else would be considered extra. The question is, what extra features do you want to get with your smoker? Some units will come with built-in shelves, providing you with extra prep space. Some would come with tool hooks, possibly a bottom rack for extra storage. Others would feature a built-in temperature gauge while others may even feature a grommet that allows you to insert a meat probe without having to open the smoker.
What about warranty and support?
Should there be problems with your charcoal smoker, you’ll want to be able to reach customer support right away. Some brands such as Weber is well-known for providing excellent customer service. In addition to customer support, you’ll want to look for a unit that has a good warranty. Cheap units often only provide a 1-year warranty while reliable brands can offer up to 10 years warranty.