Outdoor cooking is an interesting addition to a lot of social gatherings – from house parties, to quiet weekend getaways, and even camping trips.

It’s not a long shot to say that to be able to barbeque, grill or smoke appetisers for a crowd using charcoal is an ‘Art’.

While traditional grills and barbeques require a lot more effort and frequent supervision, charcoal smokers are equipped to get the job done, though over a longer period of time.

However, the longer wait time is offset by the moist, unique flavoured food we get. So, which charcoal smoker is the best to use at your next get together?

There is a diverse range of charcoal smokers available in the market but this guide will help you identify the best of the lot, assess their pros and cons and pick the one that suits your purpose perfectly.

So, let’s clear the smoke and get to the best in the business.

5 Best Charcoal Smokers

1. Barrel House Cooker 18C Wood & Charcoal Smoker

Standout Features

Three package variants, having different additional accessories – Essential (BHC 18C Barrel Cover, 2 Meat Hanging Hooks, 0-Grate, Half Grate), Deluxe (BHC 18C Barrel Cover, 2 Meat Hanging Hooks, 0-Grate, Half Grate, Drumstick Hanging Rack, EZ-Load Large Meat Hanger) and Super Deluxe (BHC 18C Barrel Cover, 4 Meat Hanging Hooks, 0-Grate, 2 Half Grates, 2 Drumstick Hanging Racks, EZ-Load Large Meat Hanger, Slotted Grill Grate, Cedar Plank).

Utilizes grates, hooks and racks for hanging meat directly over the charcoal and wood.
Compact and portable, you can place it in your backyard or carry it for a camping trip.
Pros & Cons

Removable and convertible base – the base can be removed for easy addition and management of charcoal and wood, and removal of ashes. The base also converts to a hibachi grill and has a central air intake operated by a damper.

Adequate Capacity – do not go by the compact look; it has a huge capacity to cook ample food for a party in one go.

Strong build – the drum and base are made from 20 gauge steel. Porcelain coated drum and lid provide durability and elegance.

Setup and cleaning – initial setup takes as less as 15 minutes and cleaning and maintenance is as easy as it can get.

Multiple applications – serves many cooking applications like smoking, grilling, baking and heating. The O grate holds over a dozen other grates, allowing you to cook different foods simultaneously.

Temperature gauge – there is no in-built thermometer or temperature gauge, unlike other products in the same price range.

2. Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker

Standout Features
Three size variants – 14 inches, 18 inches and 22 inches.
One aluminum damper (air vent) on the lid and three on the bottom of the bowl open and close to control the temperature while cooking.
Built-in thermometer on the lid allows for easy monitoring of the cooking temperature.
Comes with a vinyl black full-length cover and a 10 year warranty.
Pros & Cons
Simple and effortless – easy to use and as close as it can get to automatic while using charcoal.

Easy to set up and clean – three main parts of the smoker can be easily set up and cleaned; maintenance cannot be a hassle here.

Ample cooking space – with two 18.5 inches cooking grates, it provides 481 square inches of space for smoking multiple foods simultaneously.

Superior build – porcelain-enameled steel, rust-resistant aluminum shield, and heat-resistant nylon handle prove excellent build quality.

Accessibility – door assembly (access door) for adding coal and wood chunks can be replaced by a slightly bigger door for managing the food on the lower cooking grate without disturbing the upper grate.

Minor air leaks – the access door can be better insulated to prevent any minor air leaks.

3. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker

Standout Features
Two size variants – Standard (1,176 square inch of cooking area) and Wide (1,890 square inch of cooking area).
An offset style vertical smoker that comes with two compartments having independent doors.
The smoke stack comes with an adjustable flue on top for controlling temperature.
Charcoal chamber comes with a removable sliding ashtray for easy management and cleaning.
Built-in, stainless steel thermometer with an easy to read temperature and smoke gauge.
Pros & Cons

Cooking space – six height adjustable grates can accommodate 25 lbs each, giving you the option of cooking a total of 150 lbs of food.

Offset style vertical smoking – ensures that all the food is evenly cooked and the lower most grate is not exposed to direct heat from the charcoal.

Set up and maintenance – the briquettes compartment and removable ash tray can be easily cleaned before or after cooking. Independent double doors allow for adding coal while cooking without opening the smoke chamber with the grates.

Air leaks – there are many gaps that you would need to seal (using RTV silicone or Nomex tape) to prevent air leaks through the cracks and doors.

Temperature gauge – the thermometer is not always accurate and can be off by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Average build – the charcoal and wood chamber is built well but the smoke chamber with the 6 adjustable grates feels like thin steel and does not seem durable for the long run.

4. Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Standout Features
Two size variants – 16 inches (402 square inches of cooking space) and 18 inches (512 square inches of cooking space).
Porcelain enamelled steel bowl for holding water and a side door for easy access to water and fuel
Two steel racks for food give you enough space to cook enough food for a small group.
Two air vents, one each at the top and the bottom, providing a dual air vent system.
Comes with an in-built thermometer on the front and three year warranty.
Pros & Cons

Reasonable – it certainly is the cheapest good quality vertical charcoal smoker out there, with the 16 inch variant costing only about $100.

Portable – it is compact enough to be taken along on a trip.

Setup and cleaning – the setup takes less than 30 minutes to get the cooking started and cleaning is not a hassle.

Strong build – the smoker is made from high gauge steel and feels durable enough to last 3-4 years on average.

Charcoal space – a bigger charcoal tray could solve the limitation of the smoker going for about only 5-6 hours without refilling coal and wood.

Ash can – the ash can is not attached perfectly and may fall off while adjusting the air vents.

Temperature gauge – the thermometer on the front is not very accurate and can be a bit off sometimes

5. Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker

Standout Features
One size variant; provides 395.4 square inches of cooking space.
Comes with two porcelain coated racks for smoking food.
Water style bullet smoker comes with a charcoal pan and water bowl.
Front access door and built-in thermometer.
Pros & Cons

Portable – Small enough to take anywhere for smoking food.

Durable – Made of high gauge steel and porcelain coated.

Reasonable – At it’s current price, this bullet smoker will not burn a hole in your wallet.

Modification needed – a charcoal grate could be added to the charcoal pan to keep the wood chips and charcoal out of the ashes.

Air vent – Without any air vent to control temperature, it may get fussy and require monitoring.

Limited cooking space – It has adequate space for cooking for a small group of people but cannot accommodate large meats like brisket or ribs.

When the Smoke Clears

So, which of these five smokers is the best? There is no generic answer to that applicable for everyone, as it depends on your requirement. How much are you willing to spend? How often are you going to use your smoker? How many people will you be cooking for at a time?

Do you want to carry your smoker on a camping trip? Answering these questions is important to be able to decide which smoker is the best.

Assuming an average usage and cooking requirement and based on overall features, value for money, ease of use, durability, maintenance, and last but not least, the quality of food you get from the smoker, we have rated these 5 best charcoal smokers.

Verdict

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Barrel House Cooker 18C Wood & Charcoal Smoker

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Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker

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Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker

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Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18” Charcoal Smoker

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Masterbuilt 20060416 Charcoal Bullet Smoker