Are you a newbie to using a smoker and are not sure where to begin?
To find the smoker for your needs, you will need to set a budget and stick to it, decide whether you want charcoal, pellet, gas, offset, or electric smoker and whether you want a dedicated smoker or prefer a smoker and grill combination.
When choosing a smoker, you should also consider what types of foods you will be preparing, how much food you will be cooking, whether you want a portable or stationary smoker, and if you wish to make cold smoked foods too.
Here is a list of the finest smokers for beginners of all types and for all budgets. We have listed all the pros and cons for each of our top picks to make your choice easier.
The best smoker for beginners – charcoal
There is little doubt that the excellent flavors are achieved with charcoal, and by using a charcoal smoker, you can get a crust and bark, which is hard to achieve with any other type of smoker.
Then again, a charcoal smoker requires more effort and attention than electric, pellet, or gas smokers, and the cost of the charcoal can add to the price over time.
It is solidly built, so it will last for years and is offered at a very reasonable price for the quality provided.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker comes in three different size options, including 14, 18, and 22 inches, so there is a smoker for every need.
The one which is most suitable for beginners is the middle-sized one – the 18-inch charcoal smoker. It is easier to use and easier to control its temperature than the larger option.
Thanks to its bullet-shaped design, this excellent charcoal smoker will take up very little space in your yard or other outdoor space. At the same time, it has a total cooking area of 481 square inches, thanks to the two racks built into it. This means that you can cook food for up to 12 people in one batch.
The high-quality Weber charcoal smoker is offered with a 10-year warranty and has been one of the most popular smokers in the US ever since the 1980s.
- An easy-to-use water smoker design suitable for beginners – this feature allows for intuitive and easy temperature control thanks to the water bowl, which is placed in between the cooking racks and the coals.
- It is among the most versatile smokers – although it is suitable for complete beginners, this Smoker is often a top pick by experienced cooks looking for high quality and durable appliances.
- It is a preferred model used by the top barbecue teams and performs just as well and even better than smokers, which cost tens of thousands of dollars.
- It can be modified and upgraded easily with inexpensive materials, products, and accessories available on the market
- The door is slightly flimsy and can leak heat and smoke – this is an issue which many users find annoying but is easy to fix by installing a higher quality stainless steel door or a gasket seal, which will help keep the oxygen out and the temperature steady
With a high-quality smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain, your first steps in the art of smoking food will be both easy and fun.
It can maintain a steady temperature for hours without too much effort and attention on your side, so you can smoke your brisket for long hours or overnight without worrying about the temperature dropping or rising too much.
This is especially true if you install a gasket kit or a more stable steel door to keep the heat at a steady temperature and prevent the smoke from seeping through the door.
So, if you have decided to invest in a charcoal smoker for beginners, this one by Weber is definitely the best option you can buy right now.
Related: Smoker Water Pans – When and How to Use Them
The best for beginners – pellets
Pellet smokers are becoming increasingly popular among beginners and experienced cooks, mainly because of the convenience of not having to “babysit” the cooker to maintain the desired temperature.
A good quality pellet smoker is easy to use, and you can set it up and let it do its magic while tending to other things or going to bed. In the morning you will have a delicious meal waiting for you.
One of the downsides of pellet barbeque cookers is that they can be more expensive than charcoal ones, and you will need to get a high-end pellet smoker if you want to achieve the bark and flavor as you would with a charcoal smoker.
This versatile smoker and grill will provide you with a massive 700 square inch cooking space. And the grilling surface includes primary and removable warming or smoking rack, so you can prep enough food to feed a whole lot of guests.
This 8-in-1 smoker on pellets can be used as a wood pellet fire grill, a smoker, a barbeque, and for braising, baking and roasting.
It is offered at a very reasonable price for the quality and value provided as compared to the high-end pellet smokers. The smoker is easy to use, requires little attention, and uses 20 lbs. of pellets for 20 hours of cooking.
- It offers great value for the money asked – the appliance is very well built and offers some of the most versatile cooking options for all types of outdoor food prep for all needs and tastes.
- It keeps the temperature stable with minimal effort – the pellet smoker provides reliable temperature stability and will hold the desired temperature for hours, no matter what the weather is like outdoors.
- The digital control panel allows for intuitive and accurate temperature setting and control
- An extensive grilling area of 700 square inches
- There are not enough accessories offered for upgrading and modifying this smoker, as compared to the higher-priced pellet smokers by Traeger
Overall, the Z Grills ZPG-7002E wood pellet smoker is the best choice for a pellet smoker for beginners in this price range.
It is very solidly built and easy to set up and use, even by newbies.
Thanks to the massive cooking surface, you can prepare meals for very large groups of people. It is also a very versatile grill that you can use to prepare nearly any other meal easily and deliciously.
Short on budget? Check our list for the best cheap smokers in 2021
The best smoker for beginners – propane – gas
Gas smokers are generally less expensive than charcoal or pellet smokers, and at the same time, are among the easiest to use, making them a perfect choice for beginners.
Propane smokers are of the type “set and forget” and are capable of maintaining the desired temperature with minimal effort on your side.
They are usually portable, not messy, and easier to clean and manage than charcoal smokers.
On the downside, propane smokers cannot achieve the rich bark and smoke ring like the charcoal smokers can, and also some cheaper models are known to leak the heat and smoke, especially in cold weather conditions.
Still, the propane smoker is among the easiest to use and the least expensive options and is perfect for people with little or no experience with using a smoker.
While most propane smokers are too narrow to fit whole briskets and other large pieces of meat, the Smoke Hollow PS40B provides sufficient space thanks to its four chrome-coated racks and enough space (860 square inches) to smoke up to 20 whole chickens, 16 pork butts, or four turkeys.
The propane smoker is very easy to set up and use, even if you are using a smoker for the first time.
It holds the temperature stable and as desired for hours and requires very little attention while it works.
The temperature of the two burners can be set from 150 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and thanks to the built-in temperature gauge, you can keep an eye on the temperature at all times without opening the door and letting the heat and smoke out.
You can use this unit for grilling, searing, and cooking all types of food, apart from using it as a smoker.
It is very well built from stainless steel and can withstand all kinds of weather and outdoor elements for years.
- It offers a massive cooking area, especially for the price asked for the smoker. You can cook for many people, or even if you don’t need to cook so much food, you can still easily fit as much food and full racks of ribs in it without having to cut and chop them.
- It is very easy to ignite and set the temperature with minimal effort and constant “babysitting.”
- You may need to apply high heat spray paint on the inside before you start using it because users claim that the factory paint starts pealing over time with the heat.
This propane smoker is among the easiest to set up and start using, so it is perfect for beginners who are just starting to learn the art of smoking food.
It is made of stainless steel but may need to be painted with high heat paint on the inside to keep the coating intact once you start using it.
The smoker is affordable, has a small footprint, and provides massive cooking space for smoking large quantities of meat and food in one batch.
The best smoker for beginners – electric
Electric smokers are no doubt the easiest ones to use, which makes them an excellent choice for newbies, as well as for people who want to have a “set and forget” smoker rather than to spend hours watching and adjusting the unit.
The electric smokers maintain the temperature very stable and can easily be left to work overnight without being overseen.
These types of smokers are a great choice if you are planning on prepping jerky or cold-smoked foods.
At the same time, electric smokers cannot achieve the smoke ring of the charcoal smokers, and you will need a waterproof extension cord and a power outlet nearby in order to plug in the unit.
Plus, given that they contain all kinds of electrical components, they are more prone to breaking and can require expensive repairs by professionals.
It has an intuitive digital panel, so all you have to do is pick the desired temperature up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and set the timer, and your smoker is ready to go. The thermostat will ensure that the temperature is maintained during the entire cooking time exactly as you want it.
With this electric smoker, you don’t have to worry about running out of charcoal, pellets, or propane, as all you need to do is plug it in a power outlet.
There is a special side wood chip system for loading the chips without the need for opening the door and letting out the heat or smoke.
It is well built and insulated, so it can work in all kinds of weather conditions.
- It provides 730 square inches for smoking and cooking, just like the more expensive 22-inch Smokey Mountain charcoal smoker.
- Thanks to the digital control panel, you can easily set the exact temperature you want, as well as the timer with a press of a button.
- The temperature can be set from 100 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
- You can upgrade and modify this electric smoker as you want thanks to the multiple optional accessories offered by Masterbuilt, including a cold smoking unit and many more useful add-ons.
- You can choose all types of wood chips and experiment with the different flavors as you go to find the perfect ones for your taste.
- It may be a bit too narrow for some types of foods, such as full racks of ribs.
This electric-powered smoker by Masterbuilt is among the cheapest smokers for beginners, so if you want to start off with a smoker which won’t break the bank, this one is the best option you can find.
Once you gain more experience and confidence, you can upgrade and tune the smoker with one or more of the wide variety of accessories offered by the manufacturer.
It is a great smoker for newbies and for people who want an easy-to-use unit, but it will not impress traditionalists who prefer charcoal and wood smokers.
Then again, it is a great and inexpensive way to get started.
The best smoker for beginners – Kamado
Kamado smokers and cookers are egg-shaped grills based on similar cookers used in ancient China. They can be made from ceramic, cast iron, or steel and, thanks to the shape, provide a large space for grilling, cooking, and smoking food.
They provide superb insulation and can maintain high temperatures even when the temperature outdoor is low.
They are versatile smokers and grills, which are suitable for newbies and for experienced pitmasters alike.
It has a traditional egg-shaped design and provides 314 square inches of cooking space, which can be increased to a total of 447 square inches if you remove the rack for warming.
The smoker is compact and portable and yet is sturdily built from 22 gauge steel, coated with porcelain on the inside and with a powder coating on the outside.
It has superb insulation and will hold a temperature at the desired level without the need to add more charcoal.
It is perfect for maintaining slow and low temperatures for long hours.
The temperature can be adjusted from 200 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit via the easy-to-access bottom and top dampers.
- It is an inexpensive smoker for beginners who are not willing to break the bank for a higher-end smoker and cooker.
- It offers excellent insulation and is much more affordable than all-ceramic kamado cookers, thanks to the fact that it is made of powder and porcelain-coated steel.
- It is portable and has a small footprint.
- It is an excellent choice for low and slow-temperature smoking and cooking.
- You can upgrade it to an even more versatile cooker by adding a ceramic smoking stone and turning the kamado smoker into a convection oven as well as a grill and smoker.
- The wheels are not as sturdy and stable.
- The thermometer is not the highest quality, but you can easily upgrade it with another more reliable one from another manufacturer.
Do you want to build your own smoker? Check our comprehensive guide and DIY smoker plans
Last update on 2021-10-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API