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5 best smokers for beginners and 1st timers
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.
|Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker||PrimeEligible||Check Price|
|Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Black Electric Digital Smoker, Top Controller||Prime||Check Price|
|Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package - 18.5 Inch Drum Smoker | Porcelain Coated Steel BBQ Grill | Includes 8 Hooks, 2 Hanging Rods, Grill Grate and More||Prime||Check Price|
|Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Grill Smoker with PID Controller, 700 Cooking Area, LCD Screen with 2 Meat Probes, Rain Cover for Outdoor BBQ, 700D4E||Prime||Check Price|
|Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill, Graphite||PrimeEligible||Check Price|
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:
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
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.
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.
3. Pit Barrel Cooker
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.
4. Z GRILLS 700D4E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
So far, we’ve featured charcoal smokers and electric smokers 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.
5. Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
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 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.