Best Charcoal Smokers
Best Charcoal BBQ For Natural Smoke Flavor
If you enjoy the art of cooking delicious low and slow barbecue with natural smoke flavors, you’ve come to the right place. While there’s a general love of outdoor cooking on the site, no matter the style, there’s also a preference. Okay, that preference is actually more of an obsession. Charcoal is where it’s at. It’s the most versatile, the most flavorful and if you just enjoy the whole process, the most fun. When you have this kind of passion, there are so many options out there. The simple but sturdy models, the workhorses, and the high-end units with all the bells and whistles. Whatever you’re after, we’re sure you’ll find something to love on our best charcoal smokers list.
What makes a good charcoal smoker?
If you saw our best smokers article, we talked about setting a standard with two “must have” columns, as well as a third optional “bonus” column, the basics were as follows. First, we want quality construction, with materials that will last. Too often you see people looking for new smokers every 2 years because their other one fell apart in weather conditions, or it literally couldn’t stand up to the heat. Buy right the first time, and save yourself the hassle. Anything on this list should last for years to come.
Second, those same durable materials have to work for you when you cook, not against you. We want materials that help with even heat distribution, we want to keep charcoal costs down, and we want something that’s easily maintained. There’s work involved in good barbecue, but don’t make it a chore. Finally, bonus points for versatility. We also like smokers that can be moddable or may offer any cool attachment options, without actually having to rely on those mods to function.
So let’s take a look at some charcoal smokers.
Weber Smokey Mountain
The Weber Smokey Mountain is probably the most famous smoker on the list. It’s durable, versatile and best of all, easy on the budget. The 3-section chamber includes the fire-pit below, followed by the water pan in the middle, which acts as a barrier to stop flare-ups while creating moisture for your food above.
With multiple levels of cooking space, here’s ample room to smoke a variety of meats, or you can remove the middle chamber and use it as a grill! They last for years and to back it up, Weber has one of the best warranties in the business.
- Large firepit allows for hours of cooking without refueling
- Porcelain-enameled steel construction for durability
- 2-levels of cooking space
- Can be used as a grill
The best charcoal smoker, or the best charcoal grill?
Another versatile smoker on the list. Kamados can smoke or grill depending on how you set them up. The ultra-thick ceramic body is great for insulation, allowing you to hold steady at low and slow temperatures, or crank it up to over 700f for high-heat searing while being great on fuel. But what sets this charcoal smoker apart from other ceramic cookers, is its unique oval shape.
While kamados do very well at various temps, the wider style Primo Oval is much better for two-zone cooking. This gives us more control over our cooking, preventing flare-ups. No worries about burning or drying out the meat. Other high-end ceramic smokers can cost thousands, while the Primo Oval will contend with the best of them at a much lower cost, and with the right care, they can last decades. This is one of the best kamado smokers money can buy.
- Primo Oval is the only ceramic smoker made in the USA
- Handcrafted ceramics with a finish cured at 2400f for lasting durability
- Smoke as low as 95f or grill as high as 750f
- Removable diffuser plate to switch from smoking to grilling
- Easy lock and lift hinge system
Some of the best charcoal smokers are ugly.
Pit Barrel Cooker
“Ugly drum smokers” have quite the following in the backyard barbecue community. They’re simple but effective, and when they’re well built, really durable. The problem is, even though UDS plans are available online, not everyone has resources (or the know-how) to build them for themselves.
Take a look at the Pit Barrel smoker. Designed by Noah Glanville, an Iraq war vet, the PBC comes pre-made and ready to smoke out of the box, so that you don’t have to worry about welding one yourself.
As a charcoal smoker, the Pit Barrel can go for up to 8 hours without the need for more fuel. You can smoke food on racks or use the optional rods to hang multiple racks of ribs, or even large turkeys. The low-oxygen environment helps to prevent flare-ups while sealing in moisture for extra-tender barbecue.
- 30-gallon drum, porcelain-coated steel drum
- Set and forget system
- No need to season the smoker, it comes ready out of the box
- No need to clean the barrel, only the racks need cleaning
- Remove the lid and it doubles as a grill
- 24/7 direct support
Orion Cooker: Charcoal Convection Smoker
The best charcoal smokers are ones that bring something extra to the table, and this one has a completely different strategy than the rest. The Orion Cooker is unique in the fact that the charcoal burns on the outside while creating a convection current, cooking the meat faster while still keeping moisture in.
While it looks small, it can actually fit a 20 lb. turkey, or multiple racks of ribs, or whatever else you like to barbecue. They recommend match light charcoal, but you’re better off using a chimney to avoid the chemical smell/taste.
- 100% stainless steel construction for lasting durability
- Includes 3 rib hangers to accommodate 6 racks of ribs
- 3 cooking grates for multi-level smoking
- Comes with a free cover to help protect your smoker
- 5-year warranty
RiverGrille Rancher’s Grill & Smoker
If you ask some, the best charcoal smoker is an offset smoker, but not all offsets are created equal. A lot of big box store brands try and give their smokers the “stick burner” design because they know barbecue hobbyists want that impressive “pro” look. The problem is, the cheapo brands can’t hold up to the heat by design. They warp and rust out in no time.
If you try to go the other route by looking at what some of the actual pros are using, those pits can be tens of thousands of dollars. So we need to find the middle ground and find an offset charcoal smoker that’s strong but won’t break the bank. The RiverGrille Rancher’s Grill is one of them.
- 4.0mm Heavy Gauge Steel Construction, weighing in at 352 lbs.
- Porcelain-coated steel grates for heat retention
- 1,713 square inches of cooking space
- The double lid construction minimizes heat loss when opening
- Side firebox doubles as a high-heat grill