Home » Blog » Equipment » Smokers » The Best Charcoal Smokers 2024

The Best Charcoal Smokers 2024

The best charcoal smokers come in a wide range of styles and types. The reason for this is that charcoal grills have been available for nearly a century. Many of these units can function as smokers, while others have been modified to become smokers.

Best Charcoal Smokers

derrickriches.com is supported by you, our readers (the smartest, best readers in the world). We may earn an affiliate commission if you buy through a link on this page. This comes at no cost to you. Learn more.

This list breaks down the best charcoal smokers by type, discusses their virtues and vices, and dispels the myths surrounding these units. It is important to understand that this is a competitive market space where companies disparage each other. Unfortunately, many barbecue equipment reviewers are fooled by these false statements and become committed to spreading the falsehoods. So, yes, you can indirect grill on a Big Green Egg. No, horizontal offset smokers are not all bad. And pellet grills do not produce superior flavor over charcoal smokers.

derrickriches.com is supported by you, our readers (the smartest, best readers in the world). We may earn an affiliate commission if you buy through a link on this page. This comes at no cost to you. Learn more.

The Best Charcoal Smokers

Let me start by saying that I have conducted thorough testing of every type 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 the cut. What I look for is its ability hold temperature for long periods of time. The pellet smoker fanatics will tell you that charcoal smokers are difficult to use and that they won’t give you the precise temperature that 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 come with an app or Bluetooth connectivity, but you don’t need technology for America’s oldest cooking tradition.

The Best Charcoal Smokers

1

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

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18

Since the 1980s, 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’re seeking authentic smoke flavor with little work, you should consider this unit.

Read More

2

Pit Barrel Cooker Charcoal Smoker
Pit Barrel Cooker Charcoal Smoker

Pit Barrel Cooker

A barrel or drum smoker is a simple piece of cooking equipment. It is versatile, easy to use, and straightforward in its approach. Because the food is hung inside rather than laid on a grate, it has a higher capacity compared to similar-sized smokers.

Read More

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, this is the one to own.

Read More

4

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

The Good One Open Range Smoker

Compared to other offset smokers on the market, the Good One is truly unique. This heavy metal smoker is efficient and versatile. In fact, you can smoke a brisket while simultaneously grilling burgers and steaks. There are certainly cheaper offset charcoal smokers available, but few are as well built.

Read More

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. I recommend the larger unit for its excellent capacity.

Read More

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 it 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. I’m being honest here; this smoker seems too good to be true. It’s quite large but lightweight, but you can smoke a lot of food on it. It is prone to rusting, so keep it covered when not in use.

8

Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker
Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker

Masterbuilt Digital Charcoal Smoker

While this manufacturer seems determined to steer clear of pellet grills, but they are trying to bring the same convenience to charcoal smokers. This unit resembles their gas or electric models, has a small box, plenty of room, and thermostatically controlled.


In Depth

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker -Best Smoker for Beginners

Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker

The WSM is a vertical water smoker (sometimes called a bullet smoker) with precision temperature control and a grate level thermometer.

Reliability and Ease: The secret to this smoker is in its reliability and ease of use. It remains to this day affordable and therefore a great first smoker for people new to low and slow cooking.

Temperature Control: The secret to the Smokey Mountain’s success is excellent temperature control. With proper set up, this charcoal smoker can provide a steady low temperature for up to 20 hours. 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 Smokey Mountain Cooker is the perfect smoker for beginners.

Sizes

The Smokey Mountain comes in three sizes: 14, 18, and 22 inches. The 18-inch is the most popular and has the perfect combination of efficiency and capacity. However, the small and large sizes appeal to those with specific cooking needs.

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Scale
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Scale

14-inch: One thing to consider with the 14-inch version of the Smokey Mountain is it’s small size. It will handle:

  • 2 5 pound pork butts
  • 1 4 pound whole chicken
  • 2 racks of ribs
  • 12 pound turkey

18-inch: This unit is moderately sized, and perfect for most backyard cooks. It can hold:

  • 4 halved chickens or up to 3 spatchcock chickens
  • 2 whole packer briskets
  • 4 pork butts, 7-8 pounds each
  • 5 racks of ribs (baby back or St Louis)

22-inch: On the other side of the spectrum is the 22-inch Smokey Mountain. This is a bit of a monster, and is great if you consistently feed groups of up to 20 or more. 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. The 22.5-inch can hold:

  • 2 full packer briskets
  • 7 racks of spareribs (using the rib holder racks).
  • 2 pork shoulders, 7-8 pounds each
  • 5 chickens

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

14-inch cooker

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.
  • Quality – Weber puts the best enamel coating in the industry. Your Smoky Mountain is built to last and maintain its appearance. I had one for more than a decade, which I kept covered, and it never rusted or lost its appearance. Do purchase 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 close the door properly.

Pit Barrel Cooker

Pit Barrel Cooker Charcoal Smoker

Barrel or drum smokers combine super simplicity with impressive functionality. The basic principle is not dissimilar from the vertical water smokers, though most don’t have water pans. In fact, with barrel cookers, the food is exposed directly to the fire, and temperature is controlled by limited airflow.

The Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) burst onto the scene in 2010, and quickly gained popularity for a few reasons. They are comparatively inexpensive, versatile, and easy to use, with minimal vents to adjust.

Hanging Smoker: The biggest difference between this smoker and similar ones is that the Pit Barrel is a hanging smoker. Two bars sit at the top of the cooking chamber, and food is hung from these bars. This is a traditional method of smoke cooking, and it also means that while this is a small unit, it can handle up to eight racks of ribs.

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 using Kingsford blue bag charcoal as it was used when developing the unit. Please note that there is a small vent in the bottom for 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.

pit-barrel-cooker-

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 do it all very well. If you buy this unit I encourage to you explore all its possibilities. You will find a wealth of information at PitBarrelCooker.com including 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. Hanging meat from a hook cooks it more evenly, and you use the maximum amount of space available to you.
  • Easy to Clean – Since the grease drips directly into the fire, all you’ll need to do is dump out the ash pan and the cooker is ready to use.

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 with the lid off, it will give you a high grilling temperature, but most of the time it runs between traditional low and slow temps and a typical roasting temperature. This makes it great for beginners, but more experienced BBQ cooks might find it 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 with the extra stainless steel cooking grates. These is not an inexpensive unit.

The Gateway Drum Smoker is popular amongst competition cooks because it delivers great results. I highly recommend investing in one especially if you are looking for a small (in size but not capacity) charcoal smoker. The Gateway Drum also comes in a variety 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, a heat deflector, and vents for temperature control. 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 great, as the designers have no clear idea of what this unit 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 and 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 – A grate over the charcoal fire allows you to grill at high temperatures while smoking. Yes, you can grill steaks at the same time you have a couple of briskets in the cooking chamber. 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 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. It will leave a bad taste on smoked foods.

If you want a stronger smoke flavor, 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 and provide steady smoke.

More Smokers!

About Me

I have been writing about Barbecue & Grilling since 1997. In that time, 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. My belief is 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.

Buy Our Books!


Recipes

  • Twice Baked Potato Casserole
    This rich and creamy potato casserole is the ultimate comfort food and the perfect side dish for any occasion!
  • Smoked Bourbon Apple Crumble
    This isn’t your ordinary apple crumble! We’ve infused this traditional dessert with a hit of smoky flavor and a splash of bourbon.
  • Tomahawk Steak Rub
    Take your tomahawk steak to another level with this flavorful, homemade rub!
  • Cedar Plank Salmon
    This recipe infuses the salmon with a hint of scotch and smokiness from the cedar wood, making it truly irresistible.
  • Georgia Mustard BBQ Sauce
    This easy homemade Georgia mustard BBQ sauce has a unique tangy flavor that is perfect for pulled pork!