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Best Charcoal Smokers 2022

Unlike other kinds of smokers, like electric smokers, gas smokers, or pellet smokers, the best charcoal smokers come in a wide range of styles and types. The big reason for this is that modern charcoal grills have been around for nearly 100 years. Many of these can be used as smokers and many more have been modified to become smokers.

Best Charcoal Smokers

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My list breaks down the charcoal smoker by type, discusses the virtues and vices of each, and then dispels the myths that float around. It is important for you to understand that this is a competitive market and companies often throw shade at each other. Unfortunately, many people writing in barbecue are fooled by these false statements and become committed to spreading the falsehoods. So, yes, you can do indirect grilling on a Big Green Egg. No, horizontal offset smokers are not all bad. And pellet grills do not produce superior flavor over charcoal smokers.

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The Best Charcoal Smokers

I have been testing all types of outdoor cooking equipment for more than twenty years. I have personally used every charcoal smoker on this list and many more that didn’t make it. What I look for in a great charcoal smoker is first and foremost its ability to reliably hold temperature for long periods of time. The pellet smoker people will tell you that charcoal smokers are difficult to use and that they won’t give you the precise temperature that great barbecue requires. This simply isn’t true. In fact, a charcoal smoker will give you a better smoky flavor and many can run longer on a single load of charcoal than most pellet grills will run on a hopper of pellets. Most of these smokers won’t give you a fancy app or Bluetooth connectivity, but you don’t need technology to make America’s oldest cooking tradition.

1

Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18

For nearly 40 years, the Weber Smokey Mountain has been the go-to charcoal smoker for the backyard cook. This is one of the most reliable and versatile smokers on the market. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, if you want the authentic smoke flavor with little work, you need to seriously consider this unit.

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2

Pit Barrel Cooker Charcoal Smoker
Pit Barrel Cooker Charcoal Smoker

Pit Barrel Cooker

A barrel or drum smoker is and should be a simple piece of cooking equipment. The Pit Barrel Cooker is an amazingly versatile smoker and yet simple to use. Food is hung inside so the capacity is high compared with similar-sized smokers.

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3

Big Green Egg Large
Big Green Egg Large

Big Green Egg

The kamado Grill is one of the most efficient charcoal smokers you can buy. This means a little charcoal goes a long way. Big Green Egg is the biggest name in Kamado grills and while there are many competitors in this space, in all my years of experience, this is the one to own.

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4

The Good One Open Range Charcoal Smoker
The Good One Open Range Charcoal Smoker

The Good One Open Range Smoker

Of all the Offset Smokers out there, the Good One is truly unique. This heavy metal smoker is efficient and versatile. In fact, you can smoke a brisket while grilling burgers and steaks. There are certainly cheaper offset charcoal smokers out there, but few that are better built.

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5

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill

Recently Masterbuilt has succeeded in building a grill/smoker that has the flavor of charcoal and the capabilities of a modern pellet grill. This is the only smoker on this list that includes WiFi connectivity and control out of the box (it is possible to add this functionality to most charcoal smokers). While the construction quality leaves something to be desired, the functionality is hard to argue with. I like the larger version for its excellent capacity.

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6

Broil King Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Broil King Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Broil King Smoker Vertical Smoker

From Broil King we get this simple vertical smoker. Yes, this is a vertical water smoker and it operates like a gas or electric smoker, but with a charcoal fire. This unit has 770 square inches of smoking space so you can handle a lot of food.

7

Dyna0Glos Signature Series Heavy Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

This vertical offset smoker from Dyna-Glo boasts over 1,300 square inches of cooking surface and a price that is nearly impossible to beat. Okay, I’m honest. This smoker is too good to be true. It’s very large but doesn’t weigh a lot. You can do a lot of smoking with it, but keep your expectations in the real world. and keep it covered to minimize the rusting.

8

Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker
Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker

Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker

Just because Masterbuilt seems determined to steer clear of pellet grills, doesn’t mean that they are not trying to bring all that convenience to charcoal. This charcoal smoker looks just like their gas or electric models. This is an impressive idea. Small box, plenty of room, and a thermostatically controlled charcoal fire. This unit is new and not truly tested in the real world, but worth a look.


Detailed Reviews of the Best Charcoal Smokers

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker

If there is one piece of cooking equipment that brought smoking and barbecue to the backyards of people across the United States and around the world, it is the Weber Smokey Mountain. First introduced in 1981 and by the 1990s had become one of the most popular charcoal smokers on the market.

The secret was in the reliability and ease of use that made this charcoal smoker accessible to everyone. It was and remains to this day an affordable cooker and therefore a great first smoker for people getting into barbecue and smoking. Properly set up, this charcoal smoker can run low and slow for as much as 20 hours without you touching it.

The secret to the Smokey Mountain’s success is excellent temperature control. The adjustable vents in the top and bottom allow you to control the airflow while the water bowl creates a stable and moist cooking environment. The WSM is a vertical water smoker (sometimes called a bullet smoker) with precision temperature control and a grate level thermometer.

The Smokey Mountain Cooker is the perfect smoker for beginners.

Sizes

The Smokey Mountain comes in three sizes. The differences are more than just capacity, however. For most of the WSM’s life, there has been the 18-inch version. It is the most popular and has the perfect combination of efficiency to capacity. Weber does also sell, however, a 14-inch and a 22-inch size of this charcoal smoker.

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Scale
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Scale

The problem with the 14-inch version of the Smokey Mountain is the size. Many years ago, I gave one of these to my mother. She loved to smoke chickens. She would put the chicken in a vertical roasting pan and place it on the second rack, just above the water pan. The size was perfect, and it didn’t take a lot of charcoal to heat up the smoker.

The 14-inch model is small. It will handle two pork butts or a pair of chickens. If you want to smoke a rack of ribs, you will need to either cut it in half or roll it up. Yes, there are racks that can allow you to fit a couple of racks of ribs (again, cut in half), but the big downfall of this size is that it is very little. I recommend it as a portable smoker, or for the person who wants to smoke occasionally and doesn’t want to invest in a full-size smoker.

On the other side of the spectrum is the 22-inch smokey mountain. This is a bit of a monster. It can do two full packer briskets and probably a dozen racks of ribs (in rib holder racks). I recommend this size for those serious about doing a lot of smoking. It requires a lot more fuel and longer preheat times, but it works very well. If, however, you think you will be smoking the occasional pork butt or turkey, then I would suggest the original size.

Read the Full Review of the Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker

Specifications

WSM 14

  • 286 square inches total cooking area
  • 32-inch height
  • 24 pounds total weight
  • Price $250 to $300USD

WSM 18

  • 481 square inches of total cooking space
  • 41-inch height
  • 47 pounds total weight
  • Price $380 to $450USD

WSM 22

  • 726 square inches of cooking space
  • 48-inch height
  • 68 pounds total weight
  • Price $500 to $600USD

What I Like

  • Excellent Temperature Control – Once you truly master the WSM you will find it can hold temperature for incredible lengths of time without refueling or adjustment. The current record is 23 hours. I’m not promising that you can set a new record, but for even, low and slow temperatures, this is the best smoker for the money.
  • Quality – Weber puts the best enamel coating in the industry. Your Smoky Mountain is built to last and maintain its appearance. I had one that I used regularly for more than a decade and it never rusted or lost its appearance. Of course, I did keep it under a cover. Buy a cover for your WSM.
  • Versatility – The Smoky Mountain works with any charcoal. There are no limitations to the food it will cook or the fuel you need to use. It can also be used as a simple charcoal grill or even a barrel-style cooker with the right accessories.
  • Community Support – Because of the immense popularity of this smoker, there is a large community of users. The best place for information on this unit is the Virtual Weber Bullet. Here you will find all the tips and tricks to get your WSM to do everything.
  • Warranty – Weber support is legendary and this smoker comes with a very good warranty. Also, parts are easily available.

What I Don’t Like

  • The Door – There is a front access door on the front of this smoker. It lets you get to the fire and the water pan. It is also a thick piece of aluminum foil. I’m not kidding. It bends easily and frequently needs to be straightened out to get the door to close properly.

Pit Barrel Cooker

Pit Barrel Cooker Charcoal Smoker

Barrel smokers have been around since a few days after the first metal barrel was produced. Barrel or drum smokers are a combination of super simplicity and amazing functionality. The principle is basic and not dissimilar from the vertical water smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain above. These don’t (generally) have water pans though. In fact, for most of them, the food is exposed directly to the fire. Temperature is controlled by limited airflow.

The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) burst onto the scene more than a decade ago and has quickly become a favorite. This is for two reasons. They are comparatively inexpensive, versatile, and easy to use. There are no vents to adjust (okay, there is one, but we’ll get to that in a minute). The biggest difference with this smoker versus other similarly-looking units is that this is a hanging smoker. Two bars sit at the top of the cooking chamber. You hang food on hooks from these bars. This is a traditional method, and it means that while this is a small smoker, it can handle eight racks of ribs.

So, while you do have to get used to hanging foods (and there are accessories for a number of items) this is an easy-to-use charcoal smoker. The manufacturer recommends that you use Kingsford blue bag charcoal because that is the charcoal it was developed with. There is a small vent in the bottom, but this is an altitude adjustment. Once it is set, it never needs to be touched again. It is this simplicity that makes the PBC one of the best charcoal smokers.

See my Full Review of the Pit Barrel Cooker

Specifications

  • 240 square inch cooking grate
  • 36 inches tall
  • 51 pounds total weight
  • Comes standard with a charcoal basket and hanging hooks
  • Porcelain enamel finish

What I like

  • Versatile Cooking Capabilities – You can use this barrel cooker as a smoker and a grill. It will smoke a brisket, roast a chicken, or grill steaks and burgers. And it does all of these very well. If you buy this cooker I encourage to you explore all its possibilities. You will find a wealth of information about how to use it most effectively at PitBarrelCooker.com where there is a huge library of recipes.
  • Hanging Food Is Better – Metal gets hot so when you put food on a cooking grate the food heats unevenly. That metal transfers heat at the contact point. By hanging meat from a hook, it cooks more evenly. If you have this cooker you will quickly get used to hanging everything. And because you can hang foods inside the drum, you use the maximum amount of space available to you.
  • Easy to Clean – All the grease drips into the fire so all you need to do is dump out the ash pan and the cooker is ready to cook again.

What I Don’t Like

  • One Temperature – Because the Pit Barrel has no adjustable dampers you get one temperature for everything. Yes, if you are grilling on the cooking grate and keep the lid off, it will give you a high grilling temperature, but most of the time, you will cook at a temperature between traditional low and slow temps and a typical roasting temperature. This makes it great for beginners, but more experienced BBQ cooks might find this a bit limiting.

Other Barrel Smokers

Gateway Drum Smokers 55 Gallon Charcoal Smoker

Gateway Drum Charcoal Smoker

Gateway takes the Drum Smoker to a whole new level. This is your standard 55-gallon drum with serious construction and excellent temperature control. You can fit over 1,300 square inches of smoking space in this unit if you buy the extra stainless steel cooking grates. These are not inexpensive little smokers. The Gateway Drum Smoker is popular amongst competition cooks because it can deliver. I fully recommend the investment in one of these if you are looking for a small (in size but not capacity) charcoal smoker. The Gateway Drum comes in a number of colors.

Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker

Oklahoma Joe's Bronco Drum Smoker

The Bronco Drum Smoker is a hybrid between the Weber Smokey Mountain and the Pit Barrel Cooker. You can hang food from hooks and smoke directly above the fire, but this smoker also has a water pan and a heat deflector. There are also vents for adjusting the temperature. You get versatility but lose much of the simplicity of the other cookers. Similar in size to the WSM 18 and PBC as well as price. The construction quality is not as good and this unit doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what it is trying to be. 

See my Full Review of the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco Drum Smoker


Big Green Egg

Big Green Egg XL

The kamado grill has the benefit of being not only a phenomenal grill but an excellent smoker. Few pieces of outdoor cooking equipment can compare with the sheer versatility of these ancient ceramic cookers. But for the purposes of this list, let’s just consider the Big Green Egg as a smoker and forget about its other capabilities.

There are several sizes of the Big Green Egg (as well as most other Kamado Style Grills). The smaller sizes (up through the medium) do not have the area to do much smoking, though it is possible. If you want to smoke with one of these, I recommend the large or larger. Personally, I have the XL model (see Big Green Prices) because it can easily handle a pair of full briskets or several pork butts. 

Kamado Efficiency

What makes the Kamado Grill such an excellent smoker is the efficiency. The high level of insulation means that a little charcoal goes a long way. It also means that the elements won’t affect the cooking temperature. You can smoke at sub-zero temperatures with very little impact on fuel consumption or smoking times.  This is one of the most reliable cookers for making BBQ in the coldest conditions. 

To optimize the Big Green Egg for Smoking you will need the ceramic deflector plate (plate setter) attachment. This separates the flame from the food. On the larger Eggs, you can build an indirect fire, but the deflector gives you all the space without drying or searing the meat. Build a fire, put on the food, close the lid and you will be able to smoke for several hours without touching the grill. 

Also, see the Best Kamado Grills, check out the latest Big Green Egg Prices, and read my Full Review of the Big Green Egg.

BGE Large

  • 254 square inches primary cooking area
  • 30-inch height
  • 162 pounds total weight
  • Price $999USD

BGE XL

  • 452 square inches of total cooking space
  • 27-inch height
  • 219 pounds total weight
  • Price $1399USD

BGE 2XL

  • 660 square inches of cooking space
  • 35-inch height
  • 424 pounds total weight
  • Price $2199USD

What I Like

  • Versatility – Simply put, this is one of the most versatile pieces of cooking equipment you can buy. It is an excellent smoker. It is also one of the best charcoal grills. It is also a fantastic pizza oven. While most of the best charcoal smokers on this list are great smokers, most won’t do much else. With a Big Green Egg or most any kamado-style cooker, you are not stuck with one style of cooking.
  • Efficiency – I know I said that this is an amazingly efficient cooker, but you can fire it up and when you are done, close the vents and save the remaining charcoal for next time. Since it doesn’t use as much fuel as most other charcoal smokers, you will save money in the long term.
  • Durability – Under normal use, the ceramic body of this smoker will last for decades. You may need to replace the gasket periodically, but this is a smoker that will last probably longer than you will. Take care of it and you will leave it to someone in your will.

What I Don’t Like

  • Weight & Fragility – Critics (competitors) of ceramic cookers like to point out that they are fragile. I have had several over the years, moved them many times, and never broken one. On the other hand, they are delicate and require care when you move them. They are also very heavy. With cart (nest) and side shelves, a Large Big Green Egg weighs nearly 200 pounds. They need a steady and solid location and it is best that they stay in that location as much as possible.

Other Kamado Smokers

Primo Oval XL

Primo Oval XL Charcoal Grill

Primo has been in the Kamado business nearly as long as Big Green Egg. To come up with something new, they produced the oval kamado grill. This shape allows for indirect grilling and gives you the space to smoke without a deflector plate. Of course, you will only get half the cooking area, but the oval XL is a large grill. Aside from the shape, you get all that ceramic insulation and efficiency.

Read my Full Review of the Primo Oval XL

Broil King Keg 5000

Broil King Keg 5000 Charcoal Grill

Does a ceramic smoker sound too fragile? Don’t worry about it, but if you want a more mobile and lighter-weight kamado, consider The Broil King Keg 5000. This is an all-metal kamado grill. It uses high-temperature insulation

between two metal walls to maintain temperatures. The lid locks in place and the vents have precision adjustments. This grill can actually hold temperatures longer than any ceramic unit. All parts are steel or cast iron including cast iron grates. The Broil King Keg 5000 is comparable in size to the Big Green Egg Large. 

Read my Full Review of the Broil King Keg 5000


The Good One Open Range

The Good One Open Range Charcoal Smoker

Offset smokers have a cooking chamber separate from the firebox. These are connected so that heat and smoke flow into the cooking chamber and out through a smokestack. The fire is kept away from the food to optimize for smoke over heat. Now there are a number of bad, cheap offset smokers out there. But the Best Offset Smokers can produce some of the best-tasting barbecue you will ever eat. 

The Good One Smoker is the offset smoker perfected. The firebox runs parallel to the cooking chamber allowing for extremely even heating. A damper separates the two spaces so you can cut off the heat and smoke when you are working on the food or as an adjustment to the cooking temperature. The vents spin, providing a level of precision you won’t find on any other charcoal smoker. 

The Open Range is the smallest of the Good One Smokers. If you want to go big, I recommend the Good One Marshall. Now, these are heavy, solid steel grills and they are priced accordingly. You can find cheaper offset smokers, but few that work better or have this level of durability.

Read the Full Review of the Good One Open Range Charcoal Smoker

What I Like

  • Precision Control – Many offset smokers lack precision so they rely on brute force to reach and maintain temperatures. The Good One is much more refined than that. With the spinner vents and baffle between the cooking chamber and the firebox, there is a lot of room for adjustment. No wonder The Good One was the smoker Chris Marks used to win eight world championships.
  • Dual Cooking Function – With a grate over the charcoal fire you can grill at high temperatures on this smoker, while smoking. Yes, you can grill steaks at the same time you have a couple of briskets in the cooking chamber. I know that several offset smokers can do this, but in my experience, The Good One does it better.

What I Don’t Like

  • The Legs – The Good One was built to be a serious smoker and quickly became popular at barbecue competitions. It is built like the sort of smoker you would expect from expert welders, all metal. And yet for the freestanding versions (regardless of the size), the legs are just weak. This smoker is very heavy and yet it stands on two inflatable tires and a single leg. I have to believe that there is a better solution here.

Other Offset Smokers

Pitts and Spitts Ultimate Smoker Pit

Pitts and Spitts Ultimate Smoker Pit

Pitts and Spitts of Houston, TX have been making serious smokers since 1983. They are one of the biggest names in hardcore barbecue cookers. Their Ultimate Smoker Pit is actually a series of cookers ranging in price from $2,400 to $3,300. The reason for the steep price compared to size is in the features. The Ultimate Smoker Pit has several stainless steel body parts as well as a 30,000 BTU gas burner for lighting the fire. Yes, load it with logs, turn on the burner, and you will have a fire burning in ten minutes. 

Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker

Oklahoma Joes Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

This Oklahoma Joe’s isn’t the company of 20 years ago. This is something else. Yes, this is a reverse flow offset smoker and you can buy it for around $600. A reverse flow offset smoker has a plate under the cooking grates that allow the smoke to flow to the opposite side of the cooking chamber. Generally, this makes for more even heating and consistent smoke production.

Oklahoma Joe’s is, of course, a brand of Char-Broil. Char-Broil also owns American Gourmet. While this is a more affordable model than the Oklahoma Joe’s I do not recommend the American Gourmet Offset Smoker. It is extraordinarily lightweight and an example of the kind of offset that gave this style of smoker a bad name.

See my list of the Best Offset Smokers!


Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill

You are reading this list because you want something more than a pellet grill. You want the taste of charcoal in your barbecue and smoked foods. But be honest, you are interested in all the features that pellet grills have to offer. Wifi Connectivity and ease of use. Well, Masterbuilt, has you covered. The Gravity Series are charcoal grills (smokers) that can temperature control that you can access via an app.

The 1050 is the largest of these charcoal grills and offers plenty of smoking space. This has the technology and temperature control that makes it one of the easiest to use charcoal smokers you can buy. The downside is that the build quality isn’t fantastic and you will find many videos online to ‘improve’ this unit.

Read my Full Review of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series Charcoal Grill

560

  • 560 square inches of cooking area
  • 52-inch height
  • 148 pounds total weight
  • Price $500USD

1050

  • 1050 square inches of cooking space
  • 52-inch height
  • 231 pounds total weight
  • Price $800USD

What I Like

  • Fuel – The Masterbuilt Gravity Feed Grill (and smoker) can burn any kind of charcoal. You can use briquettes or lump charcoal and you can add hardwood chunks to the charcoal chute. While results may vary, you don’t have to stick to any type of charcoal to get this smoker to work.
  • Multifunctional – This cooker has a temperature range of 225° to 700° F so you do most any type of cooking on it. It also heats quickly. It will reach 700° in 15 minutes which is fast for a charcoal grill. And you get the ability to control that temperature with a control panel or via the smart device app. There are no vents or dampers to adjust. This makes this unit versatile and yet very simple to operate.

What I don’t Like

  • Construction and Durability – The biggest problem of the Masterbuilt Gravity Feed Series is in the construction. The attention to detail isn’t great and occasionally it comes out of the box with broken or missing parts. Also, this grill can generate extreme temperatures that the metal can’t always handle. There have been issues with the combustion chamber being damaged by high temperatures. If you research this through forums where it is discussed you will find a number of people making modifications to the unit to make it more durable. It also can suffer rusting and metal fatigue so you need to inspect it regularly and take precautions accordingly.

Selecting Charcoal

If you ask any online forum which charcoal you should use in your charcoal smoker, you will get as many answers are there are brands of charcoal. The big question is usually lump versus briquette. Charcoal briquettes are pressed sawdust char while lump is made from scraps of wood (either lumber or timber) turned to charcoal in an oxygen-starved kiln.

Purists will tell you that lump is better and in many ways they are right. However, both the Weber Smokey Mountain and the pit Barrel Cooker on this list were designed to work best with good ol’ Kingsford charcoal. On the other hand, Big Green Egg and all of the ceramic kamado manufacturers will tell you to use pure lump charcoal.

Personally, I am not a snob and as long as you are using good charcoal, it really doesn’t matter that much. I do not recommend using self-lighting charcoal ever and when it comes to charcoal smokers I suggest a charcoal chimney starter over lighter fluid. Lighter fluids will leave a bad taste in smoked foods.

I also suggest that if you want a stronger smoke flavor, you add hardwood chunks, not wood chips to your charcoal fire. These should be dry, never soaked, and large in size. They can burn for longer periods of time and give you a steady smoke.

About Me

I have been writing about Barbecue & Grilling for 25 years. I have cooked on almost every grill or smoker ever built. In that time, I have endeavored to match people with the grill or smoker that is right for them. I believe that the right product is the one that you find easy to use, capable of doing everything you want, and is reliable. If you have a good first experience, you will be back for more. In this way, we grow barbecue for the next generation. I want you to make the memories that your children will cherish.

Affiliate Disclosure

This article and the website it appears on uses sales affiliates to cover the cost of operation. If you choose to purchase a product through the links provided, a portion of that sale will go to me. It helps me create content, so I can help you and others have the best barbecue experience. I am grateful to all my readers over the years that have been so kind as to assist me in my exploration of outdoor cooking. Thank you.

Derrick Riches

I began writing about Barbecue & Grilling in 1997 with one mission, to help the backyard chef have the best experience possible.

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