Brushing BBQ sauce on racks of ribs in a Z Grill pellet smoker

Someone brushing BBQ sauce on a rack of ribs (Photo by Z Grills Australia on Unsplash)

Smoked BBQ is loved by many because of the unique flavor that only real smoke can impart. Originally for food preservation, the smoky flavor that comes from the slow cooking over wood, charcoal, or pellets creates a delicious, tender, and juicy flavor that cannot be replicated with other cooking methods. Everything including meat, fish, vegetables, and even cheeses can be smoked to enhance flavor or to preserve. As your mouth is probably now watering, we’ve selected the five best BBQ smokers to own for the most delicious backyard cookouts.

Smoked BBQ is perhaps most popular during the summer months. A recent study indicates that the top flavors for summer include lemonade (60%), barbecue (59%), melon fruits (51%), and iced tea (51%). Meanwhile, the smells that remind respondents of summer are grilled foods (65%), freshly-cut grass (60%), beach air (49%), and charcoal grills (43%).

Even with more people cooking and eating their favorite meals at home, 70 percent of home chefs are becoming bored with preparing the same meals over and over. The solution is to spice things up a bit by trying new recipes. According to a recent survey of 2,004 Americans, a whopping 60 percent of home chefs are willing to experiment with an ordinary recipe. Perfect timing!

With this in mind, a BBQ smoker could be a great solution for home-cooks that are looking to branch out into new techniques. The flavor of smoked foods also has a unique depth and complexity that never quite gets old. Additionally, smoked BBQ is often served with a variety of sauces and sides, making for a delicious and satisfying meal. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best BBQ smokers to up your grilling game and create fantastic new meals for you to try! Let us know if your favorite model was missed on our list in the comments below.

top view photo of grilling chicken and bacon
Barbecued meats (Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

The List: Best BBQ Smokers, According to Culinary Experts

 

1. Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker

Electric smokers can be difficult to assemble, but assembly of this model is said to be quick and easy. “Masterbuilt is coming up on their 50th anniversary in business, and to an extent that shows in their product lines. There is a certain KISS like aspect to their design…they keep it simple. As a result, assembly is quick, all the components come in and out easily, so cleanup is also less challenging,” says Smoking Meat Geeks.

 

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30", Black
Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker (walmart.com)

Additionally, electric smokers are not as fussy in terms of even smoking over time. “The Masterbuilt digital electric smoker is an extremely easy to use smoker for someone just getting started smoking meat, or for anyone who wants to crank out barbecue without the fuss of a charcoal or offset smoker… The built-in digital control panel lets you set your internal temperature anywhere between 100 – 275°F. The same panel also lets you control the cook time and also houses the on and off controls,” explains Smoked BBQ Source.

Finally, this modern smoker is easy to use, simply requiring an outlet and wood chips. “All you need to do is plug it into an electrical outlet and it’s good to go. It has a built-in digital control panel that lets me set an internal temperature between 100 – 275°F. The panel also allows me to control the cooking time and the on and off controls,” according to The Grilling Dad.

2. Traeger Ironwood Series 885 Pellet Grill

Traeger is a reliable and popular brand of smoker. “The woodfired flavor is delivered cleanly, there is an ease of use that is unparalleled. I love the versatility of the indirect heat and consistency of the wood pellets that gives the user the ability to grill smoke, bake, roast, braise and BBQ and overall is so attractive to me as an outdoor cooking appliance. The more you realize how consistent it is the more you use it,” says Food Network.

Traeger Grills Ironwood 885 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker with WIFI Smart Home Technology, Black
Traeger Grills Ironwood 885 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker (walmart.com)

For new outdoor smoke cooks the Traeger Ironwood could be a great choice. “While it doesn’t come cheap, this pellet grill offers a wide range of convenient features that make it a joy to use, and it’s versatile enough to replace all your other outdoor cooking tools. The Ironwood grill boasts 885 square inches of cooking space across two racks, and it can hold up to 20 pounds of wood pellets in its hopper, which has a trap door that allows you to easily empty it,” according to The Spruce Eats.

This popular brand is also described as follows: “Traeger originated the pellet grill, and the brand makes the hardiest smokers we’ve tested thanks to the 13-gauge stainless steel exterior, cold-rolled stainless steel interior parts, and double side wall interior. This construction, along with the 36,000-BTU burner, allows for better and higher heat retention (500 degrees Fahrenheit to the Pro model’s 450),” adds Insider.

3. Kamado Joe Big Joe II Grill

The oddly-shaped Kamado style grill is also a great smoker. “Considering the multitude of formats, selecting a single overall smoker was no easy task. The primary consideration, Bahr and Wood agree, is that a consumer wants a smoker that will consistently produce the same results when following the same process. After that, we judged ease of use, including how easy it is to obtain the fuel necessary to operate it. Stripping away all of the bells and whistles of several models to make a valid apples-to-apples comparison, we arrived at the Kamado Joe Classic Joe II,” says Food & Wine.

Kamado Joe BJ24RHC Big Joe II 24-inch Charcoal Grill with Cart and Side Shelves, Blaze Red
Kamado Joe BJ24RHC Big Joe II (walmart.com)

Although these units can get pricey, Kamado grills are reviewed as, “With superior heat retention and durable ceramic construction, Kamado Grills are known to be one of the most popular bbq smokers out there. Combined with fuel efficiency and high moisture retention, a kamado grill is a great choice to go with if you are looking for versatility and enhanced flavors in your smoking game,” writes BBQ Galore.

The trade-off for the higher price is of course the greater quality of manufacturing. “The word ‘kamado’ is the Japanese word for ‘stove’ or ‘cooking range,’ although today it’s a generic term for a ceramic grill that’s especially excellent for smoking. Compared to metal charcoal grills, kamado grills take barbecue to a whole new level with superior heat retention that traps moisture and smoke inside, locking primo flavor deep inside the meat,” adds The Spruce Eats.

4. Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker

This simple, yet effective smoker was a favorite with many of our sources. “Setting this grill up is easy and straightforward, and once assembled, a pile of charcoal, some wood-smoking chips, and a basin (included) filled with water are all you need. You’ll have to keep on top of the fire and airflow throughout to find the perfect balance — and make no mistake, that is an art unto itself, but also part of the fun,” writes Insider.

Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker,Black
Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker (walmart.com)

Other sources exclaim, “Cooking with charcoal is a must for many barbecue enthusiasts. So if you’re looking for a reliable charcoal option for smoking your meats, more than 2,000 Amazon buyers would agree Weber’s model has everything you need,” mentions Southern Living.

Further specifications on this versatile cooker are as follows: “But the grill has another ‘sneaky trick up its sleeve’ that impressed our product tester: a water pan that collects drips, keeps the interior humid for juicy results, and helps to regulate the temperature during smoking sessions. This vertical smoker uses charcoal for the heat source and has two 18-inch cooking grates so you can fit plenty of food for the family or for a backyard party,” says The Spruce Eats.

5. Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Offset Smoker Model 17202052

Oklahoma Joe is a popular brand that was listed on nearly all our sources. “This offset smoker is the perfect option for a professional pitmaster, offering a massive 619 square inches of cooking space, plus an additional 281 square inches to smoke in. Other perks include multiple adjustable dampers to regulate heat and smoke, a firebox door to help you regulate your flame without opening the entire chamber, as well as rust-resistant, porcelain-coated wire cooking grates,” as stated by Southern Living.

Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker, Black
Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Offset Smoker (walmart.com)

Offset smokers are considered by some to be the best and most traditionally authentic type of smoker.  “Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Offset Smoker was slightly smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the Char-Griller. It didn’t retain heat quite as well the Char-Griller and took longer to get back up to temperature than either the Char-Griller or the Weber, though only by a few minutes—not much if you’re doing a 10-hour cook… It does offer two configurations for the smokestack allowing some additional customizability and opportunity for experimentation,” writes Epicurious.

Sometimes referred to as stick burners, “Offset smokers look like traditional grills with a small firebox on the side, but they work much differently since the heat comes from the firebox rather than from below the food. Controlled heat and smoke enter the cooking chamber for perfectly smoked meats every time. A thermometer mounted in the lid, along with multiple dampers, makes controlling the heat and smoke easy. Made from heavy-gauge black-coated steel, this sturdy smoker is built to last and will look good for years,” writes The Spruce Eats.

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Sources

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Alan Corona

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15 Comments

  1. Steve Young says:

    Anyone that would say a Webber grill is better cooker than a Camado joe is not much of a cook. I’ve had 3 Weber grills and I’ve never really cooked anything until I got the Camado Joe. Weber not even close, I even have one Weber that won’t get hot enough too sear a steak and I wish I could give it away but no one will take it. It’s a gas grill.

    1. Michael Gould says:

      I had a Traeger for 15 years which was great. I purchased another in 2018. What a lemon. They replaced every part. Still didn’t work. I purchased a Camp Chef Woodwind 24 Pro. This is by far the best grill out of the several I have used.

  2. Bob McKinney says:

    I just bought a camp chef woodwind pro and I’d put it against any of these.

    1. Michael Gould says:

      I agree. I had one Traeger that was great and lasted 15 years. The 2nd never worked properly. I purchased the same one you did. This is by far the best smoker/grill I have ever had. This keeps the temp within 1 degree of the setting. Best smoke.

  3. Klaus says:

    Definitely written by someone who doesn’t bbq

  4. Scott says:

    I’ve had 2 Traeger grills . The Ironwood is an excellent pellet grill. No complaints.

  5. RealWoodSmoke says:

    None of these are even a true stick burner. How can you have a list of the “best” and not have any offset smokers? This must be satire or written by someone who BBQs in their oven.

  6. JD McGee says:

    From a competition bbq pitmaster…you got #1 correct…the rest aren’t even close.

    1. Chris says:

      Real smokers don’t have affiliate links, that’s the problem with articles like this.

  7. Stu says:

    I’ve owned pellet grills, offset stick burners, but nothing beats the Smoin’it electric smokers IMHO.

  8. Chris says:

    Would be nice to see smokers that don’t have affiliate programs or aren’t on Amazon listed.

  9. Eric Caldwell says:

    Man, ya’ll missed it by a mile on Masterbuilt. Their best smokers are the gravity series that uses real charcoal and the temps are regulated by the built-in digital control. They are like religion on Facebook groups with people even building accessories.

    Even my Traeger friends are jealous of my 1050.

  10. Eric says:

    Memphis, Yoder, Recteq, Grilla, seriously some of the best names didn’t even make the list? Not to mention the stick burners at all except a very CHEAPLY MADE Oklahoma Joe. This list is laughable.

  11. Thepersonyouhate says:

    Ohh. By best you mean who pays you the most. Gotcha

  12. Wayne says:

    Like other replies, I think you totally missed the mark. All of the products are junk and very low on my list of acceptable smokers. Bradley, which you failed to mention is by far the best smoker on the market for the weekend warrior. They also make restaurant grade equipment. I also found that RECTEQ rules over any Traeger. Especially since the company was sold