Last updated on November 28th, 2023
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I’m a big fan of cooking on my BBQ (I have several to go at) and have recently talked about why I love gas BBQs, including my latest addition, the Char-Broil Advantage Series 345S grill. I recently tested it out while also testing this MasterCanopy Gazebo and my LAFUMA Relax Rt2 Outdoor Recliner. This Char-broil 345S is great for quick cooking as you can fire it up and have it to temperature within minutes. Although I have had some success smoking food using a smoker box, it’s not really what I consider to be real smoked food when it comes to BBQing.
That’s what brings me to choosing the best smoker BBQ. I’m no expert when it comes to smoking, but I’d say I’m competent, at least I like to think I am. So, with this in mind, this review is more for beginners and getting you started with smoking food on a BBQ. I have also looked at some traditional charcoal BBQs here, but again these are not dedicated BBQ, smokers. Now back to my review of the best smoker BBQs.
Let’s face it, smoked meat is in a league of its own when it comes off a smoker BBQ, the way the mouth-watering, juicy, tender meat falls off the bone. There is no better way to cook meat. I’ll be honest, my favourite smoked foods are ribs, especially beef short ribs, a joint of beef and even chicken. I know you can smoke fish, but this is something I’ve not tried yet! I’ve never really been a massive fish lover, but smoked meat is my passion.
There are so many different types of smoker BBQs to choose from, but my favourite has to be bullet smokers for dedicated smoking, something like in the picture above. This is what I would personally go for, and they’re great for beginners too. You can easily learn the craft of smoking and maintaining your temperature by opening and closing the vents (opening to increase the heat and closing to decrease the heat).
If you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend £300+ to see if you like the hobby, then you can’t beat this Callow Charcoal Smoker Bullet BBQ Grill to get you started. With a few small tweaks, it makes an amazing smoker BBQ and all for around a hundred quid, give or take a few pounds. It’s a great smoker to get started with, it’s well made, has a nice powder coating finish and has all the features of the £300 alternatives. Put it this way, for the price, I don’t think you will find a better bullet-style BBQ for smoking food.
Check out this video by Barker’s Barbecue on how to properly run a bullet smoker as it gives the beginner of a better idea of how they work.
For something more premium, I also like this ProQ BBQ Smoker, the Frontier V4 version but it’s three times the price. If you are serious about smoking food, it’s well worth the extra investment. Remember, though, it won’t smoke food any better. It’s more about the build quality and not needing those little tweaks I talked about with the Callow Charcoal Smoker Bullet BBQ Grill. You will need to add some BBQ grill gasket tap around the door to keep the smoke in as it’s quite a large gap. You can find this is around £5-6 for a roll on Amazon, so is an easy fix and you get a great smoker at an even better price.
I’m also a fan of the charcoal BBQ with offset smokers. Sometimes called combi BBQ, they’re great for cooking burgers, sausages or anything else you only cook for 20-30 minutes in the traditional way. However, these also have a smoker box on the side for when you want to smoke food, and they work great.
To me, smoking is about cooking low and slow; this by far gets the best out of your meat. A great BBQ with an offset smoker is this Azuma Smoker Barbecue. For the price, it is an amazing model and well worth considering if you are NOT looking for a dedicated smoker.
Finally, I couldn’t talk about BBQ Smokers without mentioning the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker. This thing is an amazing piece of kit, but it’s expensive. The last time I looked, it was £600+, but what a Smoker BBQ. This thing is high tech; you can use Bluetooth and wifi to connect to your smartphone, although you don’t need to have your phone to use it.
Check out this video by Steve. He has made this video to give you an idea of the pros and cons
It basically connects to your phone to set the temperature etc. It makes smoking food easier, you fill the side hopper with quality coal, I recommend lump charcoal for a smoker BBQ. Then you switch it on with turns a fan on and light the coal using a couple of fire lighters you can slide under the hopper. You can then set the temperature on a control panel, and it will maintain that temperature on its own.
What’s amazing is that it seems to maintain the temperature within a few degrees of what you set it to. It’s also up to temperature within around 10 minutes, and the hopper full of coal gives about 10 hours of consistent smoking. It truly is amazing! Oh, it’s also a decent size too, so there is plenty of room for cooking.
I want to just go over a few tips because it doesn’t matter how good the smoker is if you make a few common mistakes. Ideally, you need to maintain a temperature of around 120°C-125°C (250°F) and cook for several hours, and I’m talking 5-6 hours, if not as long as 8 hours, that’s why they call it low and slow. I quite like the 3-2-1 method, 3 hours uncovered, one hour wrapped in tin foil, and then the final hour uncovered again.
Most smokers have thermometers that are built into the lids. However, I have found they are a waste of time and very misleading. What I didn’t realise when I first started testing smoker BBQs, and BBQs in general, was that the thermometers are all very inaccurate. They can be as much as 25-30°C out, maybe more. So you think you’re cooking at 120-125°C but really it could be less than 100°C.
That is because the air at the top is hotter than at the grill level where your food is. Even though it might only be 12 inches lower, it really does make a difference. This threw me off for a long time, the solution is to simply get a digital thermometer probe, ideally one with two probes, one to attach to the grill and one to put into the meat. You can get one for around £20, I have this one, and it’s the best investment I’ve made for smoking food and BBQing in general.
Remember, it’s ready when it’s ready. Don’t be tempted to remove food early as you will be disappointed and it won’t be cooked properly, will be tough. Just don’t do it. Make your guests wait because there is no better feeling than serving the best ribs they have ever tasted and seeing their faces as the meat falls off the bone. If you’re looking, it’s not cooking!
I personally like to use ready-made dry rubs; it’s quick and easy and proven. I think it’s best to use dry rubs when cooking low and slow. When it comes to smoking chips, I find heavy woods are better for red meats because they burn for longer. White fruit woods are better for white meats like chicken that don’t take as long to cook. I’m a fan of these Jack Daniels Smoking Chips, however, there are lots of different wood chips available you can try.
When it comes to coal, I like to use natural coal, ideally natural lump coal. Some coals have accelerators on, I don’t like the idea of this on my food. Also, wait for the BBQ to get to the temperature before adding food. You’re looking for clean heat and smoke. Ideally, you shouldn’t be able to see the smoke much; it sometimes has a slight blue colour to it (not thick and white).
To light the coals, I use a chimney starter like the one above. Fill it with enough coal, and put a couple of fire lighters under it. I use these Natural Eco Wood Firelighters because they burn amazingly well, and I also use them to light my wood-burning stove. Within a few minutes, the coals are usually burning well and are ready to add to the BBQ. Once it’s up to temperature (120-125°C is ideal) that’s when I usually add my wood for smoking or wood chips but not before soaking them in water (chips only).
BEST PREMIUM PICK
Here are the best smoker BBQs as rated by myself
- Callow Charcoal Smoker BBQ Grill – BEST PICK – Great for beginners and learning the craft of smoking food. Also a very good price and cheaper than it probably could be.
- Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker – Premium Pick – A great pick if you are into BBQ smokers and tech!
- ProQ BBQ Smoker (Frontier V4) – 4in1 Charcoal Meat Smoker BBQ – A great choice for those looking for a premium dedicated bullet-style smoker.
- Azuma Bandit Barrel BBQ Charcoal Grill – The best choice for those looking for a BBQ with an offset smoker, making it ideal for smoking and traditional cooking.
- CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker Barbecue
- Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker BBQ – A great bullet style smoker for those who are looking for a gas alternative
My Best BBQ Smoker Reviews
1. Callow Premium Charcoal Smoker BBQ
The Callow Charcoal Smoker BBQ Grill is probably the best model for those looking to get into BBQ smoking and want to learn the ropes and see if this hobby is for them and don’t want to spend £300-400 on their first smoker. This model is actually made from high-density 0.9mm carbon steel which is a decent thickness and finished with a premium powder coating in shiny black. It really is good quality, and it shows in the materials used but at an affordable price. I really do think this could be sold at a much higher price tag, so it’s a steal at its current price.
It’s made up of the smoker hood, the smoker barrel body, the smoker bottom bowl and supporting feet, which use stainless steel locks to securely connect them to the smoker.
This BBQ grill is fitted with a thermometer. This was recently replaced by a higher quality gauge so that you can accurately see the cooking temperatures. However, I still recommend getting a digital thermometer so you can accurately gauge the temperature of the heat where it actually matters, on the cooking grate.
The unit includes four adjustable air vents at the base and two ventilation holes in the lid for cooling things down if they get too hot. These are perfect for controlling the temperature.
In addition, there are two conveniently placed access points to allow you to check on the food without removing the lid. The hinged door on the front of the body also allows easy access to charcoal and water pans. This is particularly convenient when smoking for hours because you’ll need to top up the charcoal or water at some point. The charcoal pan is well-ventilated to evenly distribute the heat and smoke. What I will say is the gap around the door is too big and loses too much smoke and heat. With this in mind, I really think you need to get yourself some bbq gasket tape and seal it around the door to form a sealed door when closed. It makes a big difference and is simply a much better smoker BBQ with a more stable temperature.
This charcoal smoker BBQ grill comes complete with two cooking grates and a smoking rack plus six hooks for smoking sausages, fish or ribs although I have never used the hooks myself. In short, there is no limit to what you can smoke and how you can smoke it. This BBQ’s simple design makes it easy to use for beginners and experts alike but I feel it’s a great starter model to learn the craft. To help your smoker last for years, there is a weatherproof cover to protect it against the elements. Overall, superb quality at a great price.
- High-density 0.9mm carbon steel with classy powder coating for strength and durability.
- Easy to monitor and top up its large 3.8L water pan with two to three hour duration.
- Includes a large, ventilated charcoal pan that provides up to six hours of smoking time.
- Supplied with a smoking rack, two cooking grates and six hooks, so you can smoke/cook a variety of foods.
- Built-in thermometer combined with adjustable air vents to allow you to control the temperature.
- Comes with a weatherproof cover to give protection against the elements.
The Callow Charcoal Smoker BBQ Grill is a high-quality BBQ smoker with all of the features you would expect from a top-of-the-range model but at a more affordable price and with a few tweaks, it’s an amazing smoker bbq. It combines style, functionality and convenience with its high gloss black finish, its smoking rack, two grates and six hanging hooks, and its ability to let you peer at your food and easily top up the charcoal and water, all without opening the lid.
I’ve made the Callow Charcoal Smoker BBQ Grill my Best Pick for Smoker BBQ for its versatility and ease of use, but also for its value for money. Plus, it comes with a weatherproof cover to keep it looking good. Overall, for anyone just starting out and not wanting to spend too much, this is a great smoker bbq to learn the ropes and get into this exciting hobby.
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Read next: The best BBQ gazebo
2. Masterbuilt MB20041020 Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker
Best Premium Pick
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker lets you cook true low-and-slow smoked meals. The best part is that you don’t have to keep checking on whether the BBQ has enough charcoal left or how the temperature is doing. They have automated this with some clever tech, it really is an amazing piece of kit.
This is an electric BBQ/smoker that has a charcoal hopper on the right side. The hopper holds up to 7kg of charcoal briquettes, 4.5kg of lump charcoal, or an equivalent amount of wood. Personally, I would stick to lump charcoal. The fuel is fed down to the fire by gravity. This gives you 12 to 15 hours of smoking time in which you don’t have to babysit your smoker. In the real world, I think you can expect about 10 hours of cooking from a full hopper.
This Masterbuilt unit is controlled by a digital control panel which is a feature I really like. The panel is situated under the prep table on the left side of the grill. This is where you set the temperature you want to smoke your food. The grill maintains that temperature throughout the smoking time, so you don’t have to keep checking the temperature gauge. It actually seems to hold the temperature within 5°C, so is very accurate.
And it gets even more convenient. You can control and monitor this charcoal grill and smoker through an app downloaded to your smart device. Use Wifi or Bluetooth to communicate with the smoker, see what’s going on and reset the options if needed.
The grill has two racks to warm, cook or smoke your food on. There’s enough room for 21 burgers, four pork slabs or eight whole chickens.
This grill smoker is easy to use. Just load the charcoal, light it using a couple of fire lighters under the hopper and set the temperature on the digital control panel. It’s hot enough to start smoking your food in 7 minutes and to grill food in 13 minutes. This is something that is unmatched by any traditional smokers. It actually has a built-in fan that’s controlled by the controller to maintain the correct temperature and burn rate.
The extras of this grill add to the convenience of this grill and smoker. Hang your utensils from the three hooks on the prep table. Place plates and serving dishes on the metal shelf under the unit. And wheel the whole thing easily out from storage on the four wheels.
Note: You need to plug the digital control panel into mains electricity.
- BBQ with a charcoal hopper on the side.
- Reaches 107°C in only seven minutes and 370°C in 13 minutes.
- Control from the digital control panel.
- Control also from a smart device using WiFi or Bluetooth.
- Functions include low-and-slow smoking or high-temperature searing.
- The charcoal hopper is gravity fed and holds 7kg of charcoal briquettes.
- Two warming/smoking racks.
- Metal mesh shelf on the bottom of the unit.
- Three utensil hooks on the prep surface on the left-hand side.
- Two large and two small wheels.
- The BlueTooth connection seems to be prone to dropping.
If you love low-and-slow smoked food but want it in the most convenient way, without any hassle, the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker is a great choice. With at least 10 hours of smoking time before you need to top up the charcoal and a temperature that you can pre-set, your involvement in this process is minimal. Plus you can oversee and control everything from your smart device, so you don’t need to constantly go over to check the temperature etc.
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker is for you if you long for traditionally smoked foods, are into tech and have the budget. It really is an amazing piece of kit.
Usually, when companies add tech to products, it can be a little pointless like I reported with the Karcher K5 with its smart control, but with this smoker BBQ, it’s actually a feature where the tech actually makes sense. It might be expensive, but what an amazing piece of kit.
3. ProQ BBQ Smoker (Frontier V4) – 4in1 Charcoal Meat Smoker BBQ
The ProQ BBQ Smoker (Frontier V4) 4in1 Charcoal Meat Smoker BBQ gives you choices all around. You can choose different ways to cook your food and you can select how you set up this BBQ smoker for the number of people you’re cooking for.
The design of this BBQ smoker is certainly eye-catching. It’s a tall, shiny black lozenge shape with orange silicon handles and tabs. The body is made from stainless steel that’s coated with porcelain. This makes it durable and rust-resistant. With this model, you are really paying to have a premium quality smoker, this is an excellent bullet smoker and probably one of the best of its type, but this is certainly reflected in the price.
With four vents for air control and a temperature gauge in the lid, you have options for controlling the temperature. If you need to check the temperature of the actual food, use one of the probe holes to insert a remote thermometer probe which is a good feature.
You can grill, roast or smoke your food for variety in your BBQ meals. When fully set up, there’s enough room in this ProQ BBQ smoker to cook for 16 people. That’s a large family gathering or party you can feed. However, you can use just one of the two stacks if you have a smaller crowd. And if there are just a couple of you or you need a portable BBQ, use just the bottom section for a charcoal kettle BBQ.
If this model of BBQ smoker is too large for you, check out the Ranger model, which is not only narrower and shorter but also much more affordable.
- Lozenge-shaped, shiny black, stainless steel BBQ.
- Stainless steel body coated in porcelain stands on three stainless steel legs.
- Grill, roast or smoke your food.
- Cook low-and-slow or hot-and-fast.
- Built-in lid thermometer.
- Four vents for air control.
- Five meat hooks inside the unit.
- Probe eyelets to insert your own remote thermometer probe.
- Handle made of heat-proof silicone.
- Use fully stacked, with a single stack or as a kettle BBQ.
- Cooks eight whole chickens or 80 sausages.
- Ten-year warranty.
- The door to the fuel basket is small.
- Leg bolts sometimes become loose so make sure they’re tight.
The ProQ BBQ Smoker (Frontier V4) 4in1 Charcoal Meat Smoker BBQ is a versatile BBQ. Choose to grill, roast or smoke your food. And adjust the size of the BBQ smoker to suit the number of your guests. This eye-catching black BBQ smoker is for you if your outdoor entertaining ranges from small, intimate gatherings all the way up to a crowd of 16 or so people who appreciate a variety of BBQ food.
4. CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker Barbecue
The CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker Barbecue looks like a regular BBQ until you notice the chimney on the lid and the door in the front panel. It’s made of steel with a powder coating to keep it rust- and weatherproof. However, the grill is made of cast iron which is heavy enough to not move around when you’re flipping burgers or steaks. This also reflects the overall quality of a quality cabinet-style smoker.
The door in the front panel opens onto the charcoal fire tray. This is where you put the charcoal in. The two vents in the side panel and the vented chimney let you easily adjust the airflow to control the temperature of the grill.
Further temperature control is through raising and lowering the charcoal tray itself. Using a crank handle, raise the tray to increase the heat on the food; lower it to cool things down. As with all charcoal BBQs, you need to experiment with these features to see how they interact to control the temperature. The thermometer in the lid lets you know how you’re doing, but as with all BBQs, I recommend getting a digital thermometer so you can measure the temperature at the food level.
If you’re smoking low-and-slow, you need to keep an eye on how much charcoal is left and top it up if necessary. It does take quite a while to get through the 2.7kg of charcoal briquettes that the charcoal tray holds at full capacity.
This CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker Barbecue has a few handy features. There’s a side table on each side. Each table folds down independently so it can be put out of the way when you don’t need it for preparing the food. Plus, the BBQ takes up less storage space.
Each table has a few hanging hooks for utensils, tea towels and so on. It’s a good idea to keep these out of the way and on hand for when you urgently need them. The storage shelf at the base of the unit is a good place to store the larger items that BBQing always seems to need, including serving platters.
- Smoker barbeque that looks like a regular BBQ with a small chimney in the lid.
- Made of powder-coated steel.
- Fuel capacity of 2.7kg of charcoal briquettes or 1.35kg lump charcoal.
- The grill grate is cast iron.
- Chimney has a closable vent.
- Vents on the two side panels.
- Side tables are foldable for ease of storage.
- Hanging hooks below each side table for utensils.
- Raise and lower the charcoal tray with a crank handle.
- The ashtray below the firebox is easily removed for cleaning.
- Bottom storage shelf.
- Two large wheels for ease of transport.
- Good assembly instructions.
- The charcoal tray buckles easily.
The CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker Barbecue is a straightforward BBQ smoker that won’t look out of place on any patio or deck. It’s easy to access the charcoal basket and the ashtray. Adjusting the temperature is also straightforward through the two side vents and the chimney vent; you can also raise and lower the fire tray.
The CosmoGrill Outdoor XXL Smoker Barbecue is for you if you want a basic BBQ smoker, without any frills.
5. Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker BBQ
BEST GAS SMOKER BBQ
The Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker BBQ is a famous choice when it comes to high performance and great tasting results. It’s powered by gas which is why it’s different from the other models in this review. This model smokes, roasts or grills your food.
The standout feature of this Smoker BBQ is the TRU-Infrared technology that prevents flare-ups that often burn food, this is something my Char-Broil Advantage Series 345S grill also has. It additionally ensures an even heat distribution for perfect results and up to 50% juicier food compared with traditional cooking, whilst using 30% less gas to cook.
With its large cooking basket, the Big Easy can roast up to 11kg of protein for the whole family to feast on. And it does that with no oil when used with the cooking basket and adjustable racks. Four hooks are available for roasting ribs and a smoker box where you place the wood chips to infuse the flavour and get that genuine smokey taste. You can’t do long-and-slow smoking with this model because you smoke it for only the length of time it takes to roast or grill the food.
Of course, you’ll need to keep your smoker clean and tidy. Thankfully the porcelain-coated grate is removable for easy cleaning.
We really like the ultra-quick assembly of this model. No head-scratching manuals and complicated parts; putting it together is a snap and you will be cooking in no time at all. Generally, if you are looking for something that can cook food really well, add a subtle smokey flavour and double up as a grill without fiddling around lighting charcoal and trying to control temperatures, this is it. The only downside is that it does not come with a regulator so make sure you purchase one separately to avoid disappointment.
- Gas-powered smoker BBQ so no messing around with coal or wood.
- Uses Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared technology that cooks food evenly without flare-ups.
- A removable top allows for easy cleaning.
- A large cooking basket fits up to 11kg of food.
- Easy to put together following straightforward instructions.
- Lights up quickly thanks to rotary ignition.
- Comes with four rib hooks to roast ribs as a change to a roast.
- Can’t do “low and slow” smoking.
The Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker BBQ lets you mix up your outdoor grilled food with a roast from the same unit. Smoking here is optional and is done while the food grills or roasts. So don’t look for 12-hour slow-smoked brisket from this unit. But it’s great if you just want a smokey flavour from your BBQ. And, of course, this is a gas BBQ so there’s no hassle from lighting the charcoal and waiting for it to heat up; just turn on the rotary ignition, and you’re ready to go. To get that smoky flavour, you need to use a smoking tray filled with smoking chips.
The Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker BBQ is the gas smoker BBQ for you if you like your BBQing to be almost effortless and your grilled food to be juicy and have a smokey flavour.
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6. Azuma Bandit Barrel BBQ Charcoal Grill
The Azuma Bandit Barrel BBQ Charcoal Grill offers the option to smoke or grill food using either charcoal or wood chips for fuel. Its large 68cm barrel grilling area and offset smaller smoker box provide more than enough room for grilling or smoking up to 18 standard-sized beef burgers. The grilling chamber can also be used for smoking. Both the large chamber and firebox are supplied with charcoal grates.
The adjustable charcoal grids, along with the side vents, allow you to control the temperature, whilst a built-in thermometer lets you keep an eye on the heat levels for perfect results. An adjustable chimney damper also helps control the level of smoke and temperature inside the main chambers.
There is plenty of storage space below the cooking area for accessories such as dishes, food trays, plates and BBQ sauces. In addition, this unit has a handy front tray for holding utensils. The tray does not fold in, however, so it may take up more space than you would like. The chambers are made from 1mm thick steel with a black powder coating that withstands rust and wear.
Thanks to its wheels and handles, this BBQ smoker is easy to move out of the way after a party. If you are using it on the patio, however, be careful not to scratch your floor because the feet have no stoppers. You will also appreciate the wooden handles on the lids and sides when you want to open or move the hot BBQ. Assembly time is fair, though the instructions could be clearer. An optional heavy-duty cover is a must if you intend to store the barbecue smoker outdoors.
- Separate smoker barrel and large grilling section for multi-tasking your BBQ.
- Multi-functional BBQ barrel for wood and charcoal.
- Adjustable charcoal grid height and side vents allow heat control.
- A built-in thermometer makes it easy to monitor heat levels.
- Comes with wheels and handles for easy movement.
The Azuma Bandit Barrel BBQ Charcoal Grill is versatile in its fuel needs because you can use either charcoal or wood, whatever you have around or what’s cheaper at the time. I really like that you have the option to smoke food and grill at the same time or use it as one big BBQ smoker. The large storage spaces mean that you can be organised and bring out everything you need for BBQing at once and not have to keep running back inside to fetch stuff.
All in all, this Azuma smoker BBQ is a good choice for entertaining guests or for anyone with a big family.
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BBQ smokers provide the best of two worlds – charcoal-grilled or smoked proteins. Each taste has its followers, but with the models in my review, you can alternate meals from one flavour to the other on a whim. Charcoal and wooden smokers are the best in producing the signature smoky flavour and are the smoker of choice when it comes to cooking outdoors, at least for me they are.
My Buyer’s Guide covers the main factors to consider when choosing which BBQ smoker is best for you.
Factors to consider when buying smoker grills
Pay attention to the size of the cooking surface. A small smoker may be enough for two people, but anyone with a large family or who entertains frequently should look at one with a large grill area. If you want to smoke large fish, a turkey, a side of beef or slabs of ribs make sure that the smoker has enough hooks and interior space (width and depth) for these large pieces of meat.
Ideally, your smoker should be able to withstand the test of time but that comes down to whether it’s made of strong materials. A steel body with powder coating and cast iron grates is very durable. The paintwork should be rust- and waterproof. Cost often does equate to quality, so really look around for the best-made model your budget can afford. How often you plan on using the smoker and how long you want to keep it come into play here too.
A thermometer is an essential feature of a barbecue smoker. It lets you know your food is cooking at the optimum temperature and eliminates the need to open the lid just to check the temperature. With all BBQs, I highly recommend getting a separate thermometer with a probe so you can accurately measure the temperature where it matters, at the food level.
Along with the thermometer, the damper is crucial in regulating the heat inside the smoker BBQ. If you buy charcoal or wooden smokers, bear in mind that the temperature in these smokers is regulated by cutting or increasing the oxygen supply. As such, a damper on the chimney and another in the firebox are absolutely necessary. Find out if the damper is easy to reach and use.
BBQ smokers should be kept indoors during wet weather, especially in the UK where we get more rain than the sun. Therefore, consider a model with a set of sturdy wheels that allows you to easily move it from one place to another. If it doesn’t have wheels, then make sure you invest in a good quality bbq cover.
Whether you need to top up the charcoal, water pans or turn your grilling food, there should be easy access points. Smokers that come with front doors are easier to use than those that load from the top.
Ease of cleaning
Maintaining the exterior part is usually straightforward but cleaning the interior is a little trickier. Fat, juices, seasonings, ash and the smoke itself will cause a mess inside the smoker. Juices will tend to stick on the grates and grease will make your food unpalatable. Removable grates, a drip pan and a removable ashtray are easier to deal with than permanently fixed components. Make a habit of cleaning your smoker after every use to ensure safe and flavourful food the next time.
Tips on using a BBQ smoker
Patience is key to that smoky flavour. You need to go low and slow; smoke in low temperatures and for a prolonged period.
Remember that you don’t need to use much wood to get that awesome smoky taste and you don’t need to have the smoker wood in for the duration of the smoking time.
Don’t forget to keep the pan filled with water. Smoking for extended periods of time can cause the food to become dry. Water adds moisture inside the smoker to prevent dryness.
It’s all in the colour of the smoke coming out of the smoker. A cloud of white smoke is an indication that everything is good. Black is bad and probably indicates that the smoker barbeque is dirty or lacks proper ventilation. This can negatively affect the taste of the meat.
Avoid opening the lid too frequently because this allows some of the smoke to escape and results in a weaker flavour. That’s why a built-in thermometer comes in handy for monitoring the temperature.
Restrain from adding too many sauces and marinades to the food. The smoked flavour should stand out and not be overpowered by other additions. (See the FAQ for advice about which wood to use.)
Learning all the subtleties of smoking food takes much experimentation. Follow some guidelines initially but don’t be afraid to experiment with your own ideas.
How does a smoker work?
As implied by the name, BBQ smokers use actual smoke to cook food, be it meat, fish or poultry.
A typical smoker has a water pan and a wood chips pan at the bottom of the smoker chamber. Both of these pans are heated by either charcoal, wood, gas or electricity, depending on the fuel source of the smoker model you chose. The water helps maintain the internal temperature at optimum levels, whilst the wood provides the authentic smoky taste.
You don’t have to turn the food because a smoker cooks using indirect heat. It creates conditions similar to an oven, allowing food to cook slowly whilst the smoke flavour penetrates the food.
What are the best woods to use for smoking?
We consulted several knowledgeable sources and developed the following brief summary.
Any hardwood that’s low in resin will impart flavour. But some are definitely better than others. And remember that you don’t need to have the wood in the smoker all the time you’re smoking the food.
The flavour of woods is on a spectrum from mild to strong.
At the mild end are the fruit woods, including cherry, peach, apple and pear. These are subtle and sweet and go well with poultry and fish. But try them also with pork. Birch is on the border here and works well with fattier fish, such as salmon.
In the middle of the spectrum are maple, pecan, oak and hickory. These stronger-flavoured smokes are wonderful with pork and are robust enough for game meats and beef.
At the strong end of the spectrum is just one wood – mesquite. This has a powerful taste that some people love and others can’t stand. Be careful when you use this one as Bon Appetit calls it the Chilli Pepper of woods. Use it in moderation until you figure out how much of its flavour you can handle.
If you don’t know which wood to start with, the sources we consulted recommend using hickory or oak. If you get bored of the usual woods, remember you can always create your own custom blends for your own unique smoked flavour.
If you waffle between whether you like chargrilled burgers or smoked ribs the best, a BBQ smoker lets you cook both on your patio. Some of the models I review focus on smoking and grilling equally, while others take smoking food really seriously. Some of the smoker BBQs in this review can handle a whole turkey or racks of lamb and strings of sausages. Investing in one of these grills could change your outdoor barbequing life completely.
The Callow Premium Charcoal Smoker BBQ is my Best Pick out of all the models I have reviewed. It’s great for a family or a group of friends and is nicely balanced between grilling and smoking. It’s a great smoker BBQ to learn how to smoke food on. Just don’t forget to get bbq gasket tape to seal the door better.
My Best Premium Pick is the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker. Cook long-and-slow BBQ with minimal effort due to the gravity fed charcoal fire and the digital control panel or smart device app. This is just an amazing piece of equipment so had to be included.
If not all your family or friends like smoked food, check out my review on the Top 5 Best Outdoor Pizza Ovens, Buyer’s Guide & Reviews.
Plus if you decided that smoked food really isn’t to your taste, read some of my other BBQ reviews: 5 Best Kettle BBQs – Charcoal Flavour and Grill Marks; The Best BBQ – Gas & Charcoal Barbeques Compared; and The Best Charcoal BBQs.
And every successful BBQer needs the right tools. I can help with that too. Head over to the Top 4 Best BBQ Grilling Tool Sets.
Last update on 2023-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API