The best smokers for beginners are ones that give you good experiences when you first start out. It shouldn’t be too expensive, and the smoker should be reliable.
We researched the solid smokers with the best heat retention, temperature control, and are easiest to setup and use, and come up with a list of around 11 products. We used these smokers extensively, and noted their best and worst aspects.
From our research, we have rounded up this list of what we regard as the undisputed best smokers for beginners. In this article, I will list and recommend 5 smokers that will give beginners an easy entry into the world of BBQ and smoking.
After deciding on a smoker as a beginner, you may wonder what meats you can try your hands on. I got you covered. This article will also highlight some of the easiest types of meats you can start smoking today.
First, as a general introduction, I will start by explaining the different types of smokers.
Types of smokers
- Propane/Gas smokers: The fuel they use is LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) from a separate gas bottle. These smokers are also pretty affordable compared to others, e.g., electric and pellet smokers. They don’t produce smoke naturally, but you can add wood chips to get the smokey flavor you desire.
- Electric/pellet smokers: From their name, it’s apparent that they make use of electricity. They are the neatest to operate and usually have easy setups. Despite them being run electrically, you shouldn’t use these smokers indoors because they also have a compartment for wood pelets for the extra smokey flavor. Pellets are basically compressed saw dust. These smokers are usually capable of grilling and smoking. Find out how much electricity does a pellet smoker uses.
- Charcoal smokers: They use charcoal as fuel, so, you will get an abundance of the lovely smokey flavor on your meat. They typically require more babysitting than other types of smokers, but for the increased labor, they come at affordable prices. You may get even more smoke by adding some wood chips in their separate compartment usually above the charcoal chamber.
- Offset smokers: Offset smokers, like charcoal smokers, use wood or charcoal as fue; hence, add the most smokey flavor to your meats. They have a firepot that is offset to under and the side of the cooking unit, hence the name offset. You burn the charcoal or wood in the firebox, and the chamber draws in the heat and smoke, which finally get expelled from the chimney.
What are the 5 best smokers for beginners?
- Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker – Charcoal Smoker
- Masterbuilt 20070910 Digital Electric Smoker
- Pit Barrel Cooker
- Z GRILLS 700D4E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
- Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
1. Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker – Best charcoal Smoker for beginners
- Porcelain enameled lid, bowl, and center section retain heat and won’t rust or peel
- Two cooking grates provide ample room for smoking two large items at once
- Silicone temperature grommet monitors the internal temperature of your smoker
If you like the smokey flavor in your meat, you should consider getting a charcoal smoker as a beginner. And for beginner-friendly charcoal smokers, my recommendation is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
True, beginners may find the temperature control function on charcoal smokers confusing at first, but it doesn’t take much to get used to it.
You’re going to spend the first few days of smoking trying to figure out various controls on the unit. And for this, the best for beginners is hands down the Weber Smokey Mountain, as it flattens the learning curve for beginners.
Read on, as I describe the Weber Smokey Mountain and see if it’s suitable for you.
As a beginner to smoking, build quality should be your priority when purchasing a smoker. With this charcoal smoker, you would never worry about the quality because the Weber Smokey Mountain is built to last forever.
You can start with the Smokey Mountain Cooker, use it for years, and still find the performance incredible as a pro.
The price is another factor that makes the Weber Smokey Mountain an ideal smoker for beginners. It would be incredibly difficult to find another beginner-friendly smoker at this price that sports similar features as the Weber Smokey Mountain.
If you’re going to be smoking meat for yourself or only a few people at once, consider buying the 14-inch version. Otherwise, the 18-inch and 22-inch models are excellent. I use the 18-inch option daily. It can hold around 3 racks of ribs.
I own both the 18-inch and 22-inch Weber Smokey Mountain smokers, and I notice that the 18-inch smoker maintains temperature more accurately than the latter one.
You set the temperature and put in a piece of meat for smoking. Return to the smoker after hours, and the temperature doesn’t change a degree lower.
The impressive temperature control is thanks to the water bowl that you can find between the cooking grates and the coals. The water bowl humidifies the smoke chamber and serves as a heat sink to provide stable temperatures.
Also, although the 22-inch Weber Smokey Mountain heats up better than the 18-inch option, it is more fuel-hungry than the 18-inch smoker.
Visually, the Weber Smokey Mountain has a slender look, but that shouldn’t make you think it can’t handle smoking large portions.
These smokers feature two cooking racks, totaling a combined 481 square inches of cooking area to make food for around 10 people.
When new to smoking, you may not know the right smoker brands for you. Thankfully, you’re reading this post. We consider Weber to be a reliable brand.
Further, you may be glad to know that you get a 10-year warranty when you purchase the Weber Smokey Mountain.
What we like:
- Heat retention: As mentioned already, I’m mostly impressed at the level of heat retention the Weber Smokey Mountain offers. This feature is extremely important, especially for beginners who shouldn’t have to babysit their meat.
- Temperature regulation: Related to the heat retention attribute is its equally impressive temperature regulation, which is made easy thanks to the water bowl featured in the design of the Weber Smokey Mountain.
- Brand assurance: Weber is a notoriously reliable smoker brand, and their smokers are used by all the pros (including me). I recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain as the best smoker for beginners, but it’s not designed for beginners or amateurs. This smoker can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any fancy smoker in the market.
What we don’t like:
- Low-quality door: For all its excellent build quality, a weak area is a door. I notice that smoke often leaks out of the door when I start smoking with the Smokey Mountain. Another problem with the door is that it gets bent quite easily.
This shouldn’t be a significant problem, but it’s more of an inconvenience. A quick solution for this is to seal it using a high-temperature gasket or change the original door to an aftermarket door made of stainless steel.
2. Masterbuilt 20070910 Digital Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt has been a staple name in the industry for well over 45 years, so beginners have nothing to worry about getting a smoker from this brand.
Unlike the Weber Smokey Mountain, this smoker from Masterbuilt is fully digital. So, you don’t have to bother about propane gas sizes or charcoal for the smokey flavor.
All you need to do is connect your smoker to a power outlet, adjust the time, and you’re good to go.
It uses electricity. However, you must never use this smoker indoors because it still produces harmful carbon monoxide.
However, the Masterbuilt 20070910 does need wood chips, which you insert in the side loader. These size loaders are designed in a way that no heat or smoke is let out when you load the wood chips.
The Masterbuilt 20070910 digital electric smoker is a high-quality unit that resembles a black safe with no locks or cabinets with no drawers.
This design was cleverly thought out to deliver a fine smoker sporting a rubber-sealed door with 100% insulation to maximize heat retention.
This smoker weighs 45.9 pounds and measures 20 x 17 x 33.5 inches. To set it up, you need a good 730 square inch space outdoors. Under the hood, you’d find four chrome-coated grates in the chamber.
The Masterbuilt 20070910 is popular for its precise temperature regulation. With its air damper at the top, this beginner smoker can get to 100 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. But the central component that helps in maintaining the internal heat is the built-in temperature probe.
Cleaning the Masterbuilt 20070910 is a breeze since it comes with a removable drip pan that tidies up the inevitable grease drippings.
If your main focus as a beginner to smoking is to find one that is easy to use, go for the Masterbuilt. It’s only #2 on this list because Weber Smokey Mountain is more practical, this is a review of smokers for beginners.
What we like:
- Built to last: The Masterbuilt 20070910 looks solid, and you can judge this book by its cover. It has a solid design and will serve for a lifetime.
- Heat retention: Masterbuilt produced a masterclass of insulation with what they did with this smoker. Most of its features are geared toward achieving 100% insulation.
- Ease of use: This is a digital electric smoker; it uses electricity and wood chips, so you don’t worry about dealing with some messy charcoal or harmful propane gas.
What we don’t like:
- Less smokey flavor: Since the Masterbuilt 20070910 is a digital electric smoker, you should expect your meats not to get as much smokey flavor as you’d get if you used a charcoal or wood pellet smoker or grill.
3. Pit Barrel Cooker
- EFFORTLESS: Whether you’re new to outdoor cooking or an expert trying to perfect your craft, cook perfectly every time with the Pit Barrel's 360º All-Round Heat Dynamics. Our vertical barrel cooker technology produces consistently great-tasting, flawlessly cooked meat, veggies, and more
- VERSATILE: The cooking possibilities are endless. For the perfect smoked meat, grill or hang ribs and brisket using the hooks and steel grill grate or use our custom GrillGrate for sear-marks and to smoke everything from burgers to desserts
- DURABLE: Each Pit Barrel Cooker is made with a superior-grade porcelain enamel finish that looks great and is designed to withstand everything from the internal heat to weather conditions
Going by its looks at first glance, the Pit Barrel Cooker doesn’t look like it’s a good smoker for beginners. But forget the looks. I have tested the Pit Barrel Cooker extensively and would recommend it to any beginner without a second thought.
The design of the Pit Barrel smoker is as simple and practical as they come. It features a firm one-piece unit with a tightly-fitted lid.
This smoker is slim and tall and looks like it came straight out of a factory. Its masculine build receives mixed opinions from beginners to smoking.
But what does it offer, and why do I rank it so high as one of the best smokers for beginners?
Also a charcoal smoker, the Pit Barrel cooker is excellent for smoking larger cuts of meat. It features 8 hooks made of stainless steel and 2 rods for handling. These components are crucial for their Hook-N-Hand cooking method for large chunks of meat- vertical rotisserie, as Weber calls it.
Setting up the Pit Barrel smoker is straightforward (one of the main reasons I regard it as one of the best smokers for beginners). The two handles fitted on each side also act as hooks for hanging the lid when smoking.
Using the Pit Barrel cooker, even beginners are almost sure of getting meat that is evenly smoked on every side, thanks to the cloud of smoke in the chamber.
Serving as a multipurpose unit, you can also use the Pit Barrel cooker for grilling and searing meats on the stainless steel cooking grates. If you’re wondering how you’d get meat out of the unit, the manufacturers wondered the same thing and so included a hook remover tool for this purpose.
Pit Barrel cookers are as durable as Weber Smokey Mountain cookers. They owe this to the porcelain-coated 18-gauge steel construction. This design ensures that the smoker is well-insulated, and most importantly for beginners, it enhances temperature regulation.
One thing that impressed me about the Pit Barrel cooker is that it comes with a voluminous charcoal basket that has room for tons of charcoal. Thanks to this, you are assured more extensive cooks without running out of charcoal in the chamber.
The Pit Barrel cooker measures 21 x 21 x 31.1 inches and weighs 57 pounds, making it fall under the class of medium-sized smokers. However, it features a 30-gallon drum that can comfortably handle around 8 racks of ribs, 2 turkeys, or 3 pork butts simultaneously.
Its half-wide grates let you cook meat by hanging them vertically and veg on grates horizontally altogether. Heat retention is also superb in Pit Barrel cookers. I get up to 8 hours of cooking straight through when using it.
What we like:
- Easy to set up: Of all the beginner smokers on this list, I found Pit Barrel cookers the easiest to set up. They don’t come with complicated dampers or dials. Requires absolutely no assembly. Go for this if you want a straightforward cooker as a beginner.
- Sufficient fuel capacity: The Pit Barrel has enough space to load the charcoal you need for hours of smoking. You won’t have to change the charcoal for hours until you’re done.
What we don’t like:
- Not ideal for direct grilling: I think Pit Barrel cookers are excellent for beginners when it comes to smoking but not direct grilling. Read our review of the best combo grill and smoker unit or check out the next product on this list – the Z Grills 700DE.
- Limited temperature range: The natural temperature range settings on the Pit Barrel cooker is limited and probably not the best beginner smoker for you if you intend to do lower temperature smoking.
- No ashtray: The Pit Barrel cooker does not include an ashtray.
4. Z GRILLS 700D4E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
So far, we’ve featured charcoal smokers and an electric smoker on this list of smokers for beginners. The next smoker I recommend, if you’re starting out, is a wood pellet smoker – the Z Grills 700DE.
Before Z Grills started manufacturing their own grills, they initially manufactured equipment for several grilling companies in America.
So far, they have made outstanding products, such as their 1000 Series and 450-550 Series. But I highly recommend their flagship (from the 700 series) grill for beginners – the Z Grills 700DE wood pellet grill and smoker.
The Z Grills 700DE gives beginners and amateur grillers abundant cooking space of up to 700 square inches. This grill and smoker weighs 132 pounds and has a sturdy build with a dual-walled construction, meat probes, and a crisp LCD screen.
Temperature regulation was obviously a significant factor when compiling this list of grills that are suitable for beginners. The 700DE features a PID controller that enables the unit to maintain precise temperatures.
Another neat feature of the 700DE is its thermal blanket that attaches firmly to the grill with its heat-resistant magnets.
This thermal blanket prevents heat loss, especially when smoking or grilling in lower temperatures. It also functions as a safe, dry storage space for your grilling tools and spare pellets.
What we like:
- Pellet cleanout system: Cleaning your equipment after smoking is the most dreadful task, and so various manufacturers have come up with clever systems for doing this. The pellet cleanout system on the Z Grills 700DE lets you replace used pellets through a little opening at the rear of the equipment.
- Price: Z Grills actively promotes the 700DE as their flagship product, and they offer hard-to-turn-down offers all the time. For the price of around $600, you can get this world-class grill and smoker suitable for beginners.
What we don’t like:
- Closing the lid can be dangerous: Like most smokers, you must be careful when shutting the lid while it’s hot. This is pretty bad in the 700DE if you’re of average height (<6 feet). In the improved model, Z Grills should consider changing the awkward angle of the handle.
5. Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
- KAMADO CHARCOAL GRILL - Kamado style BBQ Grill & Smoker perfect for both high heat grilling and low and slow cooking
- LARGE COOKING AREA - 20 inch Cooking Diameter with 447 square inch total Cooking Area can cook up to 27 burgers at once
- BEST IN CLASS FEATURES - Triple-Walled Steel Insulated Design, Cast Iron Grates, Locking Lid, 8" Locking Caster Wheels, Removable Warming Rack, Bottom Storage Shelf, and Foldable Side Shelf Workstations with BBQ Tool Storage Hooks
The next product on our list is the kamado charcoal grill I recommend for first-time smokers – the Char-griller E16620.
Its cast-iron grates give you a decent 214 square inches of cooking area to play with.
You also get another 133 square inches of space on the warming rack, making it a total of 447 square inches of cooking space.
First of all, kamado grills are not cheap. However, the higher pricing comes with added advantages. Originating from Japanese roots, kamado is an egg-shaped, ceramic BBQ product that you can use for grilling, smoking, roasting, baking, and cooking simultaneously.
Other advantages of kamado charcoal grills are that their temperature controls are impeccably precise and they consume minimal charcoal. So, if you want an absolute all-rounder and have a sizeable budget, you can’t go wrong with the Char-Griller E16620.
The ceramic build of kamado grills means that they can maintain 100% of the internal heat of the unit for 12 hours or more. However, the Char-Griller E16620 is not made of ceramic but triple-steel wall. This material was probably used to cut costs.
Replacing the kamado-esque ceramic with a triple-steel wall means that the Char-Griller E16620 is less expensive than other equally good kamado charcoal smokers but more energy efficient. This product does a commendable job of retaining low and high temperatures for hours.
Regarding the temperature range of this smoker, you are sure to attain up to 750 degrees Fahrenheits. Hence, it’s perfect for direct grilling as well as smoking for beginners.
What we like:
- Affordable kamado smoker: Kamado smokers are almost always higher-priced than other types of smokers. However, the Char-Griller E16620 is less expensive than other kamado smokers, making it one of the best smokers for beginners, This is thanks to clever cost-cutting measures by the manufacturer.
- Multipurpose smoker: You can use the Char_Griller E16620 for smoking, grilling, baking, and cooking.
What we don’t like:
- Small cooking space: This product offers a total of 447 square inches of cooking space, divided into the cooking and warming areas. You can surely get more from other smokers as a beginner.
What is the easiest meat to smoke as a beginner?
The easiest meat to smoke is whole chicken. You can simply season the chicken with your favorite spices and cook it in the smoker until it is fully cooked.
Beef briskets are also great meats for beginning your new found love for smoked foods. Most beginners start with smoking beef briskets or chicken before moving on to more complicated meats.
Other types of meats you can get started with are pork butt, brisket stalls, and making a Texas crutch. I recently published an in-depth article about the 5 easiest meats to smoke and steps for smoking them. Click on the link to read this insightful post.
If you’re new to smoking food and wondering what smoker would be ideal for a starter, I recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker. This is a charcoal smoker that is suitable for beginners, but also used by pros all the time.
Electric smokers are also incredibly easy to use and efficient. If you’d prefer an electric pellet smoker, then look no further than the Masterbuilt 20070910 Digital Electric Smoker. Other smokers I recommend for beginners are the Pit Barrel cooker, Z Grills 700DE, and the Char-Griller E16620 Akorn kamado grill.
Price last updated on 2022-08-19