Buying Guide: Top 11 Best Smokers for Beginners

Are you just starting to learn the art of smoking and need some guidance on what type of smoker is the best for beginners? If so, then you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we will explore different types of smokers, compare their features and specifications, and provide our expert opinion on which ones are best suited for beginner BBQ masters. Whether it’s electric or charcoal smokers that peak your interest, here is information about all the options available on the market today and how each one could be helpful in mastering this delicious technique. Read on if you want more insight into choosing an amazing smoker for your backyard cooking adventures.

Why beginners should invest in a smoker

Before diving into the best smokers for beginners, let’s first explore why investing in a smoker is a great idea for those just starting out. There are many reasons why beginners should consider purchasing a smoker, including:

  • Ease of use: Many smokers are designed with beginners in mind and have simple controls that make it easy to use even if you have no prior experience.
  • Versatility: With a smoker, you can cook a wide variety of foods, from meats to vegetables to even desserts. This allows for endless experimentation and creativity in the kitchen.
  • Enhanced flavor: Smoking adds a unique and delicious flavor to food that cannot be replicated by any other cooking method. It also helps retain moisture, resulting in juicier and more flavorful dishes.
  • Cost-effective: Purchasing a smoker can be a one-time investment that can save you money in the long run. Instead of constantly buying pre-smoked meats, you can smoke your own for a fraction of the cost.
  • Healthier option: Smoking is a healthier cooking method as it does not require any added oils or fats. It also allows fat to drip away from the food, resulting in leaner and healthier meals.

Now that we’ve established the benefits of owning a smoker, let’s take a look at the top 11 best smokers for beginners.

Types of smokers

There are several different types of smokers available on the market, each with its own unique features and cooking methods. Here is an overview of the most popular types:

  • Best Smokers: These smokers use electricity as their source of heat and are known for their ease of use. They often have digital controls, allowing for precise temperature control.
  • Charcoal Smokers: Charcoal smokers use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal to generate heat and smoke. They require more attention and skill to use but can produce superior flavor.
  • Gas Smokers: These smokers use propane or natural gas to heat up the cooking chamber. They offer convenience and easy temperature control but may lack the authentic smoky flavor.
  • Pellet Smokers: Pellet smokers use compressed wood pellets as their fuel source. The pellets are automatically fed into the smoking chamber, making it convenient for beginners.

Factors to consider when choosing a smoker

When selecting the perfect smoker for your needs, there are a few key factors to consider. These include:

  • Size: Smokers come in various sizes, so it’s essential to consider how much food you want to smoke at once and choose a smoker with enough cooking space.
  • Construction: Look for smokers made with durable materials, such as stainless steel or heavy-duty porcelain-coated steel, to ensure longevity.
  • Temperature range: Different types of smokers have varying temperature capabilities, so it’s important to choose one that can reach the desired temperature for the foods you want to smoke.
  • Ease of cleaning: Consider how easy it is to clean and maintain the smoker. Some models may have removable parts or ash pans, making it easier to keep them clean.

Top 11 Best Smokers for Beginners in 2023

1. Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (WSM) is one of the most popular and classic smokers for beginners. It’s a bullet-shaped charcoal smoker made of porcelain enamel steel, available in two sizes – 18″ and 22″.

Features

  • Durable construction from long-lasting materials
  • Two cooking grates provide ample room for smoking multiple foods
  • Water pan for adding moisture and regulating temperature
  • Built-in lid thermometer
  • Air vents allow temperature control
  • Very easy to use – just add charcoal and wood chunks

Pros

  • Time-tested and reliable performance
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Maintains steady temperature well
  • Imparts excellent smoke flavor
  • Relatively affordable compared to other smokers
  • Compact and portable

Cons

  • Temperature can be tricky for complete beginners to master
  • Porcelain enamel can chip over time
  • Smaller capacity than some other smokers

The Weber Smokey Mountain cooker strikes the perfect balance of ease of use and delicious smoked flavor for any beginner looking to get into smoking meat and barbecue. It’s easy to use right out of the box, and has enough capacity for smoking multiple racks of ribs or even an entire brisket.

2. Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

Electric smokers like the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker take the guesswork out of maintaining a steady smoking temperature. This makes them an excellent choice for beginners new to smoking.

Features

  • 800 watt heating element provides even, consistent smoking
  • Digital temperature and time controls for perfect results
  • Large cooking capacity – 730 square inches
  • Side loading wood chip tray for easy access
  • Glass viewing window lets you monitor smoking
  • Integrated meat probe thermometer

Pros

  • Very easy “set and forget” operation
  • Precisely controls temperature electronically
  • Large capacity fits multiple racks of ribs etc.
  • Window allows monitoring without opening door
  • Meat probe ensures perfect doneness
  • Reasonably priced and widely available

Cons

  • Does not impart as much smoke flavor as charcoal
  • Prone to electrical issues over time
  • Ventilation fans can be noisy

Overall, the Masterbuilt electric smoker delivers idiot-proof smoking for any beginner who wants hands-off, fuss-free smoking with delicious results. It’s easy to use even for someone who’s never smoked meat before.

3. Cuisinart Vertical Propane Smoker

Propane smokers like the Cuisinart Vertical Propane Smoker are similar to electric smokers in terms of ease of use, but they run on propane instead of electricity. This style is ideal for beginners who want convenience.

Features

  • Large capacity – 504 square inches
  • Uses easy-to-find propane fuel
  • Built-in temperature gauge
  • Porcelain steel interior
  • 5 chrome-plated racks
  • Gas control knob for temperature regulation

Pros

  • Very convenient propane fuel source
  • Maintains steady temperature easily
  • Generous cooking surface for large cooks
  • Easy temperature monitoring
  • Good heat distribution and ventilation
  • Reasonably affordable

Cons

  • Does not impart as strong smoke flavor as charcoal
  • Propane tank not included
  • Prone to quality control issues

For beginners who favor convenience and ease of use, a propane vertical smoker like Cuisinart’s model takes the complexity out of smoking and delivers consistent, quality results with minimal fuss. The generous capacity is excellent for family gatherings as well.

4. Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker

Another good electric smoker option, the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker offers all the benefits of a digital, electrically-powered smoker in a double-wall insulated steel construction.

Features

  • 725 square inches of cooking space
  • Advanced control panel with LED display
  • Double-wall construction
  • Glass door and internal light
  • Meat probe thermometer included
  • Large wood chip and grease tray

Pros

  • Insulated design maintains steady temps
  • Digital display for precise control
  • Large capacity is great for gatherings
  • Glass door lets you monitor smoking
  • Meat probe prevents over/undercooking
  • Great value for the price

Cons

  • Not as large capacity as some models
  • Durability issues over time
  • Can struggle to reach high temps

For beginners seeking an affordable, easy-to-use electric smoker with generous capacity and useful features like a viewing window and meat thermometer probe, the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker is an excellent choice that delivers delicious smoked results every time.

5. Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

The uniquely designed Pit Barrel Cooker is a great option for beginners looking for something different than a traditional offset or vertical smoker.

Features

  • Unique vertical drum design
  • Hanging meat basket for even smoking
  • Cooking hooks for large cuts of meat
  • Easy temperature control
  • Compact size with 306 sq. in. capacity

Pros

  • Very easy to use right out of the box
  • Produces excellent smoke flavor
  • Accommodates large cuts of meat
  • Maintains steady temperature well
  • Compact for small patios/decks
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Limited cooking space compared to larger models
  • Drum can warp or dent over time
  • Charcoal basket prone to rust

For beginners seeking a user-friendly, compact smoker that still has enough capacity for smoking most family meals, the innovatively designed Pit Barrel Cooker is a great option that consistently delivers delicious smoked barbecue.

6. Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven

The high tech Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven offers incredible versatility with 8 different functions for smoking, grilling, roasting and more. This makes it a fantastic option for beginners who want maximum flexibility in one unit.

Features

  • 8-in-1 functionality: smoke, griddle, bake, air crisp, roast, char-grill, sear, dehydrate
  • Instant startup and cool down
  • Fan-forced convection power
  • Temperature range up to 500°F
  • Stainless steel construction

Pros

  • Extremely versatile 8-in-1 cooking abilities
  • Fast startup and cool down time
  • Powerful fan-forced convection
  • Large temperature range
  • Durable stainless steel build

Cons

  • Very heavy at over 200 lbs
  • Relatively expensive
  • Can take some practice to master

While it comes at a higher price point, the state-of-the-art Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven is an incredible all-in-one unit that lets beginners smoke, grill, and more. The versatile abilities make it an excellent choice for those who want maximum functionality from their first smoker.

7. Smokehouse Products Easy-Access Thermostat Control Smoker

The Smokehouse Easy-Access Thermostat Control Smoker is an affordably priced electric smoker with useful features for beginners new to smoking.

Features

  • 1,100 watt heating element
  • Easy thermostat temperature control
  • Water pan for moisture
  • 3 chrome plated cooking grids
  • Quick access front-load wood chip tray

Pros

  • Very easy to control temperature
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Easy access wood chip tray
  • Affordable price point
  • Compact 38″ size

Cons

  • Prone to rust over time
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Requires frequent wood chip refilling

For beginners seeking an electric smoker with generous capacity to smoke for large gatherings, the reasonably priced Smokehouse electric smoker is a great choice. The thermostat temperature controls and front-load wood chip tray make it very easy to operate even for first-time smokers.

8. Dyna-Glo Signature Series Wide Body Offset Smoker

Offset charcoal smokers allow smoking purists to cook low and slow using classic live fire smoking methods. The Dyna-Glo Wide Body model is an excellent choice for beginners seeking authentic charcoal smoking.

Features

  • 1,382 square inches of cooking space
  • Offset firebox for indirect heat
  • Adjustable smokestack
  • Large temperature gauge
  • Removable charcoal chamber
  • Steel body construction

Pros

  • Huge capacity for large cooks
  • Traditional offset smoking method
  • Excellent smoke flavor from charcoal
  • Easy heat and smoke control
  • High quality construction

Cons

  • Requires some technique to master
  • Consumes a lot of fuel over long cooks
  • Heavy to move around

While it has a learning curve, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset Smoker provides an immense amount of cooking space and authentic charcoal smoking flavor perfect for devoted beginners who want to hone their smoking skills the traditional way.

9. Z Grills 7002B Pellet Grill & Smoker

Pellet grills that run on wood pellets are an excellent choice for beginners thanks to their set-it-and-forget-it ease of use. The Z Grills 7002B model offers excellent performance at a reasonable price point.

Features

  • 8-in-1 versatility
  • Large 694 sq. in. capacity
  • Digital auto temperature control
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Foldable working shelves
  • Pellet fuel with 20lb hopper

Pros

  • Maintains steady temperature automatically
  • Huge capacity for large cooks
  • Infuses great smoke flavor into food
  • Easy to operate even for beginners
  • Durable stainless steel build

Cons

  • Prone to electrical issues over time
  • Pellets can be expensive
  • Requires electricity to operate

For hands-off smoking that infuses deliciously smoky flavor into meat with little effort, the Z Grills 7002B pellet smoker and grill is the perfect choice for beginners who want simplicity. The generous capacity and useful features like the foldable shelves make it even easier to use.

10. Traeger Pro 575 Wifi Pellet Grill

Traeger pioneered the pellet grill smoker category, and the WiFi-enabled Pro 575 model provides incredible smoking and grilling abilities powered by hardwood pellets. For tech-loving beginners, this smoker’s advanced features make smoking mouthwatering barbecue a breeze.

Features

  • WiFi connectivity & app control
  • 575 sq. in. capacity
  • D2 direct drive for precision temperature
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Dual meat probes
  • Hardwood pellet hopper

Pros

  • Remote monitoring/control by app
  • Maintains rock-steady temperature
  • Imparts excellent smoke flavor
  • High-end construction quality
  • Superb performance overall

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Requires patience to master app
  • Prone to electrical/technical issues

While it commands a steep price, the Traeger Pro 575 WiFi pellet grill utilizes advanced technology to enable remote monitoring and control for incredible smoking results. For tech-savvy beginners who want maximum features, it’s a stellar smoker.

11. Pit Boss Classic 700 sq. in. Wood Fired Pellet Grill

With 700 square inches of cooking space, the Pit Boss Classic pellet grill offers excellent capacity and performance at a very wallet-friendly price point that’s perfect for beginners.

Features

  • 700 sq. in porcelain coated grill
  • Large hopper capacity
  • Digitally controlled burn system
  • Flame broiler for direct heat
  • Double wall insulation

Pros

  • Very affordable price
  • Huge cooking surface area
  • Maintains steady temp for long cooks
  • Direct and indirect heating ability
  • Excellent for smoking large quantities

Cons

  • Prone to quality control issues
  • Pellet sensor can malfunction
  • Requires frequent emptying of grease tray

For beginners seeking maximum capacity to smoke large quantities of food for big gatherings, the Pit Boss Classic pellet grill is an outstanding option. The remarkably low price coupled with the expansive cooking surface makes it a smoker that punches far above its weight.

Tips for using a smoker for the first time

  1. Read the instruction manual thoroughly before using.
  2. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure food is cooked to a safe temperature.
  3. Start with smaller cuts of meat and work your way up to larger ones as you gain experience.
  4. Experiment with different types of wood chips for different smoke flavors.
  5. Don’t open the smoker too often during cooking, as this can cause temperature fluctuations.
  6. Keep a supply of extra wood chips on hand for refilling during long cooks.
  7. Use a drip pan to catch drippings and make clean-up easier.
  8. Allow the smoker to cool completely before attempting to clean it.
  9. Research and learn about different smoking techniques, such as hot smoking vs cold smoking, for different types of meats.
  10. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes and techniques – smoking is all about experimentation and finding what works best for you. So, keep practicing, have fun, and enjoy the delicious results!

Maintenance and care of your smoker

  1. Empty and clean out the ash and grease pan after every use.
  2. Wipe down the interior of the smoker with a damp cloth to remove any residue or build-up.
  3. Clean the exterior of the smoker regularly with a mild detergent and water.
  4. Check for any wear and tear on parts, such as gaskets or seals, and replace them as needed.
  5. Oil the moving parts, such as hinges and latches, to keep them working smoothly.
  6. Check and clean the vents regularly to ensure proper airflow for smoking.
  7. Store your smoker in a dry, sheltered location when not in use to protect it from the elements.
  8. Clean or replace the cooking grates if they become rusty or worn.
  9. Have your smoker serviced annually to ensure all parts are in good working condition.
  10. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance to keep your smoker in top shape for years of delicious smoking.

Conclusion

So, What is the best smoker for beginners?

Choosing the best smoker as a beginner ultimately depends on personal preference and budget. However, with its affordable price point and user-friendly features, the Smokehouse Easy-Access Thermostat Control Smoker is an excellent choice for those just starting to explore the world of smoking.

For those looking to learn traditional charcoal smoking techniques, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset Smoker is a solid option with its large cooking capacity and high-quality construction.

For those who prefer the ease of pellet grills, the Z Grills 7002B Pellet Grill & Smoker offers great performance at a reasonable price, while the Traeger Pro 575 Wifi Pellet Grill provides advanced features for tech-savvy beginners. Finally, the Pit Boss Classic 700 sq. in. Wood Fired Pellet Grill is a fantastic budget-friendly option for those looking to smoke large quantities of food.

Whichever smoker you choose, with a bit of practice and experimentation, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of smoking delicious meats and other foods. So fire up that smoker and get ready to impress your friends and family with mouthwatering barbecue and smoked dishes. Happy smoking!