Looking to elevate your meat game by smoking your meat? Perhaps you’ve recently gone to a barbeque and were interested in the smoker that was being used? I’m here to help you make your first step into smoking meat through curating this article on the best smokers for beginners!
Being informed and purchasing the right smoker from the get-go will save you the time and energy from wasted money as well as wasted meat. I’ve provided all the important questions and definitions at the end of this article. If you want to review them, the links are here:
- How Smokers Work
- What are the different types of smokers?
- How to Save Money and Time When Choosing a Smoker
Here are four smokers that are what I consider the best smokers for beginners. Other reviewers may give you a giant list, but my aim is to focus on smokers that are truly catered to beginners. I want you to be confident in your decision and not overwhelmed by numerous options.
Keep in mind just because they are beginner-friendly doesn’t mean professionals use them! The best overall smoker listed below, the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, is used by professionals worldwide!
- Best Overall Smoker: Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
- Best Electric Smoker: Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker
- Best Pellet Smoker: Z Grills ZPG-7002E
- Best Propane Smoker: Masterbuilt Propane 30-inch Smoker
What are the Best Smokers for Beginners?
Best Overall Smoker
Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
If you’re looking to achieve that perfect smokey taste, then the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker is indisputably the best smoker for beginners. Filled with beginner-friendly features, this smoker is the perfect introduction to achieving that perfect taste while impressing your family and friends. Even better? Many professionals swear by this smoker around the world! It’s considered globally as one of the best smokers for beginners (and professionals!).
Weber has been building smokers and grills since the 50’s and has a strong reputation in the industry. You’ll receive a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty – that’s how confident they are in their product. The reviews on Amazon also back up the reputation of this smoker.
Keep in mind charcoal smokers require extra attention unlike electric or propane smokers. The additional care and attention will result in the perfect smokey flavors in the end. Take a quick review of the different types of smokers at the end of this article if you need a refresher!
While there is a 14-inch model, the 18-inch or higher model is highly recommended. Many reviewers commented how tiny the 14-inch model is.
- Water pan, thermometer, and individual vents on bowl and lid
- 10-year warranty
- High quality internal thermometer and gauge
- Beginner-friendly to clean with porcelain-enameled materials
- Very large water pan to reduce refill trips
- Quality build backed by a reputable smoker brand
- Can achieve the desired smokey flavor with patience
- Not well-insulated in very cold weather
- Charcoal smokers require a lot of attention to achieve smokey flavor
- Charcoal costs can add up over time
Product Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001I8ZTJ0
Best Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker
If you’re looking for the easiest introduction to smoking, then the Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker is one of the best smokers for beginners.
Electric smokers are designed to be “fire and forget”; set your meat in, turn it on to desired settings and walk away! The built-in thermometer allows you to keep track and set your preferred smoking temperatures.
In addition, this model comes with side wood chip loading allowing you to add additional flavors by incorporating your favorite wood chip flavors.
As with all electric smokers, you will most likely not be able to achieve the deep smokey taste due to using electricity rather than charcoal. I would recommend this smoker if your main focus is to smoke and not be present as this is what this smoker excels in.
- Digital panel controls on/off, cooking temperature, and time
- Can add in wood chips for “seasoning”
- Extremely easy to use
- You do not need to physically present while its cooking
- Very easy clean up
- Initial setup takes less than 15 minutes
- Generous cooking area
- Cost effective due to no propane or charcoal needed
- Smoking flavor is limited due to reliance on electric
- Temperature gauge quality is lacking
- Can’t physically check food without opening and letting out the heat
Product Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CN38M23
Best Pellet Smoker
Z Grills ZPG-7002E
If you’re looking for an all-in-one smoker that does smoking and beyond, but as well as does most of the legwork that comes with smoking, then the Z Grills ZPG-7002E is the perfect solution for you. The one downside? It’s very expensive compared to the other smokers in this article. It’s considered the one of the best smokers for beginners if money is no issue.
With an ample 700 square inches of space (cook more food at once), 20 lbs capacity pellet hopper (less refill trips), and digital controls (control temperature while even away), this smoker reduces the amount of work you have to do to achieve desired smokey flavor in a single trip.
Finally, due to the design of the smoker allowing you to cook in a variety of methods, the smoker is rather large making it tricky to maneuver around. It does come with wheels to assist in moving on flat surfaces.
- 700 square inches of space
- 20 lbs large-capacity pellet hopper
- All-in-one device: BBQ, bake, roast, braise, smoke, grill etc.
- Digital controls to control precise smoking temperature
- Effortless to achieve desired smoking flavors
- Digital controls automate most of the work
- Can accommodate lots of meat and pellets reducing the number of trips/batches needed
- Practical smoker as it can handle a variety of tasks (BBQ, bake, smoke, grill etc.)
- Very easy to clean up as pellets disintegrate
- Very expensive
- Pellet costs can add up over time
- Big size to accommodate all the features
Product Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GC2F1YW
Best Propane Smoker
Masterbuilt Propane 30-inch Smoker
For a smoker that doesn’t use electricity and has marginally better smoking capabilities, then the Masterbuilt Propane 30-inch Smoker is the best alternative for you.
Coming in at 30 inches, this smoker uses liquid propane which is easily obtainable at many grocery stores or your local hardware store. Similar to electric smokers, propane smokers are extremely easy to set up and this particular smoker comes with a push-button ignition, removing the initial difficulty of getting a fire started.
All in all, there is a lot of similarity between this and its electric smoker counterpart. Both use different fuel sources but have very similar smoking capabilities. If you do not mind purchasing propane, then this is the better alternative between the two.
- Four chrome-coated smoking racks
- Push-button ignition
- Porcelain-coated flame disks
- Can add in wood chips for “seasoning”
- Very easy to set up
- Easy to clean due to using propane
- Smoker itself is very affordable
- Somewhat better smoking capabilities than an electric smoker
- Narrow and limited rack space
- Requires using propane which may run out unexpectedly if you don’t keep track
- Not as great smoking flavor as pellet or charcoal smokers
Product Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CN38M29
How Smokers Work
A smoker utilizes the smoke from a fuel source to slowly cook meat instead of direct heat. Instead of direct fire like over a barbeque grill, it uses the smoke from burning sources such as propane, wood pellets or charcoal. The source is burned in another chamber which then is dispensed to the smoker, where your meat is resting.
What are the different types of smokers?
There are numerous types of smokers which can be overwhelming at first. We’ve listed them below in simple summaries for you to digest. Of course, I have the abridged version right here for those looking to get straight to the point:
- Willing to work to get perfect flavor: Charcoal
- Willing to sacrifice flavor for much less work: Electric
- The middle ground of cost, flavor, and work: Propane
- Pay extra money to get charcoal flavors with the effort of electrics: Pellet
Beginners should avoid off-shoot smokers (e.g. barrels) completely. They are not beginner friendly. Anyone suggesting an off-shoot smoker in a beginner-focused smoker article has not done their research!
Charcoal or Wood Smoker
- Considered the golden standard/staple in the smoking world which I highly recommend
- Here is an informative article on using charcoal-based smokers
- Burning charcoal is what causes that smell/taste and smoky flavor you think of
- Adding wood chips is like adding seasoning
- Come in many shapes and sizes and adds the most flavor of any smoker option
- However, it requires the most time and effort due to setup, babysitting, and cleanup
- Smoky flavors achievable with charcoal smokers
- Golden standard of smoking – charcoal gives best flavor
- Can come in small or larger sizes – works for all sizes of backyards
- Can use a variety of wood chips or wood chunks to “season” your meats
- Require constant babysitting/attention and practice to get perfect flavor
- Requires to be around smoker for long durations
- Need to regulate temperature throughout the process to avoid burning meat
- Cost of charcoal adds up quick
- Essential “fire and forget” (you can walk away while its cooking)
- No need to burn anything like charcoal or pellets – no clean up involved
- Very easy as you can set temperature and worry about other things
- You can add different wood chips to get unique flavors
- Some newer models even have Bluetooth apps to control from a distance
- Extremely easy to use
- Saves money in long run due to no charcoal, gas, pellets
- No babysitting required as you can set preferred temp and forget. Great if you want to avoid being outside or doing something else
- Does not create much smoke due to not using pellets, charcoal etc. so flavor may be limited compared to all other options
- If you don’t have a source of electricity, then it is inoperable
- Least flavorful option
Propane & Gas Smokers
- Considered the easy mode of charcoal smokers
- Easy to use for smoking meat – all you need to do is attach a propane tank and that’s it!
- Don’t have to worry about maintaining temps or ashes
- Not messy, propane has no mess
- Very fast and easy to set up
- Easy control of temperature
- Better smokey flavors than electric
- Loss of some flavor control due to reliance of propane rather than coal
- Propane tanks cost a lot
- Some models may be too narrow to fit full rack of ribs, large brisket, or turkey (may need to portion or cut meat into smaller cuts)
- Achieve charcoal flavors with the amount of effort that resembles electric smokers
- Utilize pellets, combined with pellet smokers, remove a lot of the work that is usually involved with charcoal
- Using wood pellet grills allows to combine flavor of actual wood smoke with our foods
- Essentially you are paying to win – the pellets and smoker does most of the work to get resulted close to charcoal smokers
- Less cleaning as pellets are burned down
- Great for those without experience and are willing to pay for it
- Smokers are expensive
- Pellet costs add up very quickly
- Traditionally unused oil drums
- They are the barrel-shaped smokers you find in stores
- Highly not recommended for first time smokers
I will not go into more detail about offset smokers as they don’t make good smokers for beginners to learn about.
How to Save Money and Time When Choosing a Smoker
When choosing a smoker, make sure you consider the questions below so that you are well informed before making your final decision.
- Cooking Space: How much real estate can you afford? Are you on an apartment balcony or have a large backyard to work with?
- Who are you cooking for: Are you cooking for larger crowds or perhaps a small group of friends? You may need to consider the number of racks available in the smoker if you need to cook more
- Time commitment: Charcoal smokers provide the best flavor however require a lot of your time. Do you need to be cooking other foods or entertaining guests? The reason why there are markets for electric, propane, and pellet smokers is because not everyone has the time to be constantly managing their smoker while it is cooking.
- Fuel source and costs: Think beyond the smoker cost and cost of meat. Charcoal and propane costs could easily add up very fast – especially if you’re cooking often.
- What kind of meat are you cooking: Some electric/propane models are too narrow to fit full racks; ensure you pick the correct size.
- Portable or stationary: Is the smoker going to be in your backyard forever, or do you want to bring it to other locations? Consider more portable/ lightweight options then.
The best smoker for beginners is indisputably the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker. The aim for both beginners and professionals alike are to achieve that perfect smokey taste on their meat and the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker does the job. While there are other electric and propane smokers, they don’t quite achieve the same level of flavor as charcoal-based smokers.
Finally, I do want to note one final thing – I’m all for healthy eating. Meats, especially red meat in abundance is not great for anybody. If you’re having a great smoke-out, you can also consider some alternatives, like vegetables, beside your meat when you’re smoking them!
Looking for more tips on your household? I’m here to make challenging new topics easy for you as a new homeowner myself trying to navigate learning house maintenance and living with a permanent work from home situation. I’ve done my research on weed killers for lawns but as well as indoor products such as vacuums for pets and the must have essentials for working at home.