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What features make the best smoker grill? It starts with durable, high-quality materials that help maintain the right heat levels and produce the rich smokey flavor you want in a rack of ribs, fish, turkey, or other cuts of meat. The best home smokers should come with adjustable temperature settings and a convenient way to check the internal temperature.
Many modern types of smoker grills have the versatility to handle multiple cooking functions, which may be worth it if you’re looking for a portable grill and smoker combo. Finally, some top-rated electric smoker models also use digital temperature control for more precise and consistent temperatures during long cooking sessions.
If you’re a BBQ enthusiast, you know that gas grills and electric ovens can only go so far in approximating the rich, smokey flavor of a smoker. With a home pellet smoker or charcoal smoker, however, you can make use of traditional recipes and real wood, letting you achieve that mesquite or hickory barbecue taste you want.
Keep reading to learn more about the top smoker grills and how to choose the best grill for your cooking needs.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This system has two grids and boasts a stacked design that accommodates plenty of food without taking up too much space. It can be taken apart for hassle-free transportation.
With a three-in-one design, this Realcook 17-inch grill provides a one-stop system for preparing a range of foods. It has a vertical design with two racks to optimize smoking. This unit has a built-in thermometer with detailed temperature control, allowing users to adjust the grilling and smoking settings precisely. A porcelain-enameled water pan stabilizes the temperature for great slow-cooked treats. This system comes with a charcoal pan for keeping a supply of fuel handy. However, it doesn’t come with a cover.
This grill smoker features 453 sq. in. of cooking space that is ideal for preparing family-sized meals in one go. A crossbar and hangers inside the lid are especially suited for sausages and other meats. The device can be used for hot or cold smoking and it can also bake and roast, offering flexibility. With a latching system, this device secures the ingredients and accessories, and it can also be taken apart easily for transportation. This system has two access doors for monitoring
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This smoker has an accurate temperature gauge for keeping tabs on the heating and it has five grids, offering an astounding 1,382 sq. in. of grilling and smoking space. It has a detachable ash pan for simple ash disposal.
With five different shelves, this Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D 24-inch grill offers a whopping 1382 sq. in. of cooking space. This device has a heavy-gauge steel construction that stands up to regular use and it resists corrosion and rusting, providing lasting durability. This model has a temperature gauge for monitoring the interior temperature. With a cool-to-the-touch spring lid and high-quality handles, this grill supports the easy operation. However, this device is not easy to transport.
Featuring oversize steel wheels, this system is easy to move around the lawn. It has a large door that gives easy access to all the grids and enables grilling. This model comes with high-quality grates that hold meats, vegetables, and various meals. A removable offset charcoal grate and ash pan gives quick access to fuel and enables disposing of ash. This system comes with sausage sooks in the lid that hold meats, and it accepts both charcoal and wood for wide-ranging use.
Award: BEST CONTROLLER PANEL
WHY WE LIKE IT: High-quality stainless steel construction provides durability. This system has an advanced digital controller with a heat regulation system that keeps the internal conditions within 10° of the set figure.
The Z Grills ZPG-7002B 22-inch is a multifunction device that uses wood pellets as fuel. This unit can be used for grilling, searing, roasting, and even baking. It provides wood-smoked flavors that will appeal to people who love smoking food. The one-button start system simplifies operation, and the grill features 700 sq. in. of space, allowing users to prepare family-sized meals in one go. However, this device has a large footprint and it’s not easy to transport via a vehicle.
This grilling system has a temperature range of 180° to 450°F that allows preparing a wide variety of recipes. With a large 20 lb pellet hopper, this device offers convenience, eliminating the need for regular refills. It has a stunning stainless steel design that provides visual appeal and supports hassle-free cleanup. This model has wheels that facilitate moving it in and out of the kitchen easily and it maintains the preset temperature within 10° for consistent results.
Award: BEST STORAGE SPACE
WHY WE LIKE IT: A large workspace with plenty of organization accessories is ideal for entertaining. This device has wheels for mobility and comes with a handy warming rack.
With a whopping 811 sq. in. of space, this Royal Gourmet CC1830SC 54-inch grill is ideal for entertaining. It has a 184 sq. in. chrome-plated warming rack for keeping meats and other foods warm. A 443 sq. in porcelain-enameled steel wire grate surface accommodates anything from meat to vegetables and it retains heat, offering excellent cooking performance. This device boasts heavy-duty metal construction for durability. However, it takes time and requires a wrench and screwdriver to assemble.
A 184 sq. in. offset smoker roasts meats for the ultimate flavor, and it’s firmly attached to the grill, offering great heat and smoke circulation. This model has a side door for adding charcoal and removing ash easily. An air vent stokes fires, providing fast temperature management. The device has a two-level height-adjustable control that holds up to 4.4 lbs of charcoal. This smoker grill has a bottom shelf for storage, while front and side tables hold seasonings and grill tools.
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Award: BEST FOR CAMPING
WHY WE LIKE IT: This device easily fits in a vehicle trunk, simplifying transportation to camping trips and tailgating parties. It’s propane-covered, so it provides a steady supply of heat for simple control.
Using Char-Broil’s Tru-Infrared technology, this Char-Broil The Big Easy 24-inch grill cooks fast and evenly, preventing flare-ups for juicy results. It is especially suited for preparing turkey, ribs, roasts, and other meats. The device has temperature controls, allowing people to use anywhere from 9,000 to 18,000 BTUs of heat. With space for up to 25 lbs of food, this device is adequate for families, although the 180 sq. in. grilling space is on the low side.
This device delivers the ultimate tender oil-less fried turkey and the grates are stacked closely together, preventing food from slipping through. Featuring a propane tank connector, this device is convenient to start and operate. With a heavy-duty metal design, this grill stands up to regular use and frequent transportation, and it has sturdy legs for stability. This model boasts a stainless steel side-mounted smoker unit that uses wood chips for the ultimate smoked taste.
Award: BEST WOODEN PELLET-POWERED GRILL
WHY WE LIKE IT: Powered by wooden pellets, this device adds flavor to the food. It has a high-precision temperature control system and features all-terrain wheels for hassle-free mobility.
The Traeger Pro Series 22 has a sizable 572 sq. in. cooking area, accommodating plenty of food. It is fueled by hardwood pellets, providing the ultimate smoky flavor. With porcelain-coated grill grates, this device is easy to clean and provides lasting durability. It features heavy-duty steel construction with a powder-coated finish that stands up to the elements. An included meat probe enables monitoring the food temperature without opening the lid. However, this grill doesn’t have insulated sidewalls. Yet, this is not the case for all great Traeger grills.
This grilling system features rugged all-terrain tires, ideal for lawns, gardens, and camping sites. An 18 lbs hopper accommodates plenty of fuel, eliminating the need for frequent refilling. It has a main 418 sq. in. rack and 154 sq. in. side rack with enough space to accommodate four chickens or 24 burgers at the same time. With a digital temperature controller, this device keeps the temperature within 15° of the set figure and it has a high maximum temperature of 450°F.
Smoker grills are cooking tools that allow you to infuse various food items with a smoky flavor. Smoked foods traditionally mean slow, low heat cooking in a closed or semi-closed iron or ceramic vessel over wood chosen for the flavor of its smoke. A smoker grill can make the process more convenient or more portable while adding enough versatility to work as a travel or tailgate grill. Smokers can even use electric or gas heat to separate the heat source from the smoker box. They may also employ traditional wood smoke.
Home smokers can use pellets, wood shavings, or charcoal to generate flavored smoke. Heat sources can be electric, wood-fired, charcoal, or gas.
Smoking refers to some unique cooking processes, and for that reason, smoker grills operate very differently from most other types of outdoor grills and indoor smokeless electric grills.
Regardless of the fuel source, a smoker needs to keep the wood chips, wood pellets, or flavoring at a consistent temperature. Unlike a gas grill or regular charcoal barbecue, a smoker uses a much lower heat level. The temperature range in the cooking chamber must be hot enough to cook the food but lower than the ignition temperature of the wood or charcoal. Thus, barbecue smokers don’t use an open flame, unlike BBQ grills and wood pellet grills.
Smoker grill combos, however, may have the option of multiple cooking modes, each with a distinct temperature range.
Smokers require more patience than grills since the lower cooking temperatures mean a longer cooking process. The reward, however, is a unique and authentic flavor along with less-greasy cuts of meat.
While electric smokers, wood pellet smokers, barrel smokers, and traditional charcoal smoker units differ in how they maintain temperature and deliver smoke, the basic principle of all smokers is similar. Smokers cook slowly at low heat, using a flavor-adding wood or charcoal and a controlled amount of moisture. Most smokers operate from around 225-degrees F to under 450-degrees F, while grills and barbecues reach anywhere from 450 to 750 degrees.
Gas smokers use a gas-fed flame and propane gas or natural gas canisters to heat a chamber called a wood chip box stocked with wood chips, charcoal pellets, or sawdust pellets, heating the food indirectly.
Electric smokers are similar but use an electric heater instead of a gas flame to warm up the smoke source. Some electric smokers offer more precise temperature control. Some also offer the potential for indoor use.
Traditional wood smokers skip the burner and use a wood fire as both the heat and flavor source. This type of smoker creates the most authentic and richest smoke flavor and requires the most attention and care since someone has to tend the fire and stoke and add wood at least once per hour.
A leading offset smoker uses a separate smoke chamber and cooking chambers, separated by vents that enable precise control over the amount of smoke that reaches the food. Direct smokers are simpler, setting the food directly over the smoke source in the cooking chamber. A vertical smoker uses an upright cylinder-shaped cooking chamber among direct smokers and works well for fish, ribs, vegetables, and certain cuts of meat. A barrel smoker has a larger, horizontal barrel-shaped body and usually offers more square inches of cooking surface, making it great for turkeys and larger smoked meals.
Modern smokers often employ automatic feed systems that add pellets or wood chips at a set rate. Some models use a water chamber for additional fine-tuning of humidity and temperature range.
Many smokers use ceramic materials for the chamber, while others use cast iron. Smokers can use various grates or hangers to position meat and vegetables within the cooking area.
A new smoker grill can add a new flavor dimension to your home cooking routine or simply streamline the process of smoking your lox, eggplant, turkey, and other foods. You might also want to pick up a home smoker grill if you’re interested in making your own beef jerky.
If you’re just getting into at-home wood smoking or are looking to experiment with making your own smoked dishes, a self-contained ceramic or iron smoker can be an easy way to try out this slow-cooking craft.
Alternatively, a seasoned expert at grilling and barbecuing might want to employ a multi-functional smoker combo or a new electric smoker with automatic feed to enable more convenient cooking and make smoked meats and fish at home more often.
Like other cooking appliances, the lifespan of even the best backyard smoker grill depends on the heat source, the materials used, and proper maintenance. Simple metal or ceramic smoker units without automatic pellet feed typically last longest, theoretically for millennia.
The most common wear items on smoker grills vary according to the type of fuel and the smoke source. Electric smokers and offset smokers typically last ten to fifteen years, and may require occasional mechanical maintenance and regular cleaning. Gas and charcoal smokers also require cleaning and may eventually need replacement igniters, feed mechanisms, and thermometers. Over time, charred material can build up on grill grates and in smoke chambers, affecting the flavor.
Experts suggest regularly cleaning the cooking chamber and grills with a grill brush and water. Proper ash removal after every two to three smoking sessions also helps keep your bbq smoker producing clean, flavorful smoke. For more convenient cooking, choose a model with dishwasher-safe grills and drip trays, if so equipped.
Various key considerations can help you determine the best meat smoker for your cooking needs. You’ll want to decide on the fuel source, the type of smoke you want, and the configuration of the smoker. You may also want to consider whether you want a versatile multipurpose unit that doubles as a grill or air fryer and whether you prefer modern conveniences like digital controls, an LED display, and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The size of the smoker grill that works best for you may depend on how much meat or other food items you need to smoke at any one time. Most home smokers offer at least 400 square inches of cooking space, which is plenty for a small pellet smoker. If intending to smoke larger food items like racks of ribs or a whole turkey, you may need a larger capacity.
While most people think of a smoker grill as an outdoor cooking tool, some models of electric smoker grills enable indoor operation via cleverly sealed and vented smoke chambers.
If you’re looking to smoke larger cuts of meat or sausages, you may want a larger drum or barrel smoker. On the other hand, if you’re mostly smoking smaller cuts, fish, and vegetables, you might want a more convenient ceramic cooker and smoker grill combo.
Modern, highly-rated pellet smokers and electric smokers can offer built-in temperature probes, digital LCD screens, and programmable timers. If you’re looking for a smoker for traditional fire pit use, you likely won’t need such features, but if you’re looking to add smoky flavor to your home-cooked meals with a minimum of extra work, then these modern conveniences can be helpful.