Smoking meat in your own backyard is awesome, but if you are just getting into it you might not know where to start. Don’t fret, we are here to help you find the best smokers for beginners!
So, in this post, we will explain some of the differences and features of each to help you to find the best beginner smoker for your lifestyle.
We have included our favorite smokers from different price ranges and different fuel types highlighted why they make a good beginner smoker.
The Best Charcoal Smokers for Beginners
Here are two of the best charcoal smokers for beginners that are just getting started in the world of smokers. They are easy to use, come at a great price, and will help you to make some delicious food.
Weber Smokey Mountain
As a beginner, you are sure to want a great quality smoker that is easy to use and gives amazing results. This is exactly what you get with the Weber Smokey Mountain (also known as the WSM), and all for a very reasonable price.
- Top quality smoker with a 10 year guarantee
- One of the easiest charcoal smokers to use
- Easily maintains temperature for up to 12 hours on one fill
- Vertical design is space-efficient
- Separate fuel door
- Thermometer ports
- Very popular with a big community and support network
- Long reach down into the pit
- Can’t be used for grilling
- The door can become easily bent allowing heat and smoke to leak out.
The design of the Weber Smokey Mountain is basically a modified kettle barbeque that has been stretched upwards to give enough space for smoking. There is a middle tube section where you place the racks high enough above the charcoal for your meat to cook low and slow. It is tall enough to accommodate layered cooking.
The Weber Smokey Mountain is made from porcelain-enameled steel which makes it rust-resistant and long-lasting. The lid handle is made of heat-resistant glass-reinforced nylon so you shouldn’t get a burned hand but you may well want to keep your mitts on anyway.
The WSM is a great entry level smoker for beginners as the learning curve isn’t too steep and most people will turn out food that they can be proud of on their first attempt.
But don’t think that this means there is anything lacking in this smoker, it is often seen even on the competitive circuit so there is nothing to stop you from taking your smoking skills to a high level with this top smoker for beginners.
The vertical design of this smoker means that it is one of the most fuel-efficient smokers you can buy. You can get it in three sizes depending on how much meat you want to cook and how much you want to spend, the smallest is 14” and comes in under $250 and even the largest is less than $500. For that you get much more space in a 22” smoker.
As this is a charcoal smoker I recommend using briquettes as your fuel and adding wood chips on top to give the intense smoky flavor.
Airflow is controlled by two aluminum dampers on the bottom and a vent in the lid control. By using these vents you can precisely control the airflow and this allows you to hit the specific temperature needed to cook meat to perfection.
There is a side door for fuel so that you can easily add more wood chips or charcoal without having to move your food about.
At the bottom, you will find a porcelain steel water basin, this acts as mass to stabilize temperatures and keep the cooking area moist. It is really big so it is unlikely that you will need to refill it during a smoking session.
Specs for the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker
- Fuel type: Charcoal
- Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled steel
- Grate material: Plated steel
- Cooking capacity: 726 sq. in.
- Model: 731001
- Dimensions: 48.5(H) x 23(W) x 24(D)
- Weight: 68lbs
- Warranty: 10 years (bowl and lid), 5 years (plastics and cleaning system), 2 years for the rest.
The simple design and ease of use make the Weber Smokey Mountain a very good smoker for beginners and it comes highly recommended. It is probably the best charcoal smoker for beginners but we also like…..
Pit Barrel Co. Cooker – Best Pit Barrel Charcoal Smoker for Beginners
This Pit Barrel Co. Cooker is another great option for beginners on a budget.
It is very easy to set up and very easy to cook with so it is a really good choice of smoker if you are a beginner. It is also really versatile and can be used as a grill which helps if you are used to barbequing on a grill but are looking for one machine that can do it all.
Pros of the Pit Barrel Cooker
- Easy to set up, no seasoning or assembly required.
- Very easy to use, ideal for beginners
- Can also be used as a grill
- Simple design means there is very little to break or go wrong
Cons of the Pit Barrel Cooker
- You have to lift the whole cooker to get the ash out (you can buy a basket to solve this problem).
- A bit hard to get the meat out
The vertical design of the barrel is ideal for anyone short on space. It also offers a quick and easy smoking experience without the need to mess about with too many settings whilst cooking (there are no dials and dampers to adjust – it can’t get any easier than that!).
The one-piece construction and a tight-fitting lid mean that this is one of the easiest smokers for beginners to set up. I like that the handles are fixed onto the sides and can be used as a convenient hook for hanging the lid.
Buying this Pit Barrel is an investment that will last since you will be getting a solid 18-gauge steel coated barrel with porcelain enamel. This means that the heat and smoke is kept inside where you need it, but the cooker remains cool enough to touch on the outside.
This is a charcoal-fueled smoker and you simply add wood chips on top of the coals to produce the smoke. It is a couple of feet wide and 31 inches tall making it a good medium-sized smoker that can cook a good amount of food at once. You could smoke two decent-sized turkeys at once, or four racks of ribs.
The coal basket is big enough to allow for 6-8 hours of cooking. The coals go at the bottom and can’t be topped up without removing your food.
The grate on this pit barrel can be used for grilling meat or vegetables. You can even use half-width grates to allow a combination of vertical and horizontal cooking. So you could hang large suits of meat on one side whilst grilling vegetables on the other. This is pretty handy as it means you can get a whole meal ready all at once.
Whilst this is a good feature to have in a beginner smoker it has to be said that this is mainly a smoker (and a very good one) rather than a true smoker grill combo.
This may be one of the best beginner smokers for those on a budget but that doesn’t mean that it is lacking in accessories since it comes with two steel hanging rods, eight steel hooks, a grill grate and a wooden hook remover all included.
Specs for the Pit Barrel Co. Cooker
- Fuel type: Charcoal
- Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled, 18-gauge steel
- Grate material: Stainless steel
- Cooking capacity: 240 square inches (varies depending on accessories used)
- Model: Pit Barrel Cooker
- Assembled size: 21″ W x 31.1″ H x 21″ D
- Weight: 57lbs
- Warranty: 1 year
All in all, this could be the best smoker for beginners looking for a traditional pit-barrel-style smoker.
Best electric smoker for beginners
Electric smokers are ideal for beginners as they are easy to use, easy to clean, and very affordable.
Masterbuilt 20070910 Digital Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt is the most trusted name in the world of electric smokers and they produce machines that are well built and easy to use. We would say that this is the easiest smoker for beginners to use out of the whole list.
- Very easy to use
- Built to last
- Well insulated, efficient, and cheap to run
- The display could be clearer
- Hard to move (no handles)
- The control panel isn’t waterproof
As an electric smoker, the heat comes from an electric element at the bottom, whilst the smoke comes from some wood chips in a tray above that. Some smoking aficionados turn their noses up at electric smokers as the taste is a little less smoky and comes out less crispy.
But, if you are looking for a beginner smoker you will almost certainly be happy with the results, and the small trade-off in taste is compensated for by the ease of use.
This model is very sturdy and weighs in at 46 pounds so you can tell they have used some quality materials. You get an impressive 730 square inches of cooking space across the 4 chrome plated grates, which should hold around 80 lbs of meat.
This smoker is so easy to use because you just have to set the temperature and cooking duration using the digital control. You then simply load wood chips inside the unit by using the side loader.
You will probably want to top up the wood chips every hour or so to make sure that you are getting the smokiest flavor. But other than that you can do what you like, there is no need to stand guard over your smoker or check on your food.
One of the benefits of Masterbuilt over other brands of electric smoker is that they come really well insulated and the door has great rubber-sealed doors for energy-efficient smoking.
This means that the temperature remains constant which is essential for perfect cooking and means that cooking times can be predicted. It also keeps all of that lovely smoke inside adding its flavor to your meat.
One of the best features if you are a first-time smoker (or just a bit forgetful) is the auto shut off feature which will ensure that your food doesn’t get overcooked.
Even cleaning this grill is easy for beginners and experienced smokers thanks to the removable drip pan.
Specs for the Masterbuilt 20070910
- Fuel type: Digital electric
- Wattage: 800 watts
- Barbecue material: Steel
- Grate material: Chrome-plated grates
- Cooking capacity: 730 sq. in.
- Model: MB20070910
- Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 33.5 inches
- Weight: 46lbs
- Warranty: 1 year
Overall, this is one of the best entry-level smokers that money can buy and it makes for a very good starter smoker for anyone that is a bit nervous about controlling the temperature of their smoker or who isn’t keen on having open flames in the backyard.
Best Pellet Smoker for Beginners
Pellet smokers are amongst the best meat smokers for beginners thanks to the fact that they truly set and forget smokers. These clever machines are able to auto-regulate both temperature and smoke levels to ensure that your food is perfectly cooked every time.
The 700D from ZGrills is a top beginner smoker as it hits that sweet spot of low price and awesome quality.
Pros of the Z Grills 700D Pellet Smoker
- Easy to use. Maintains temperature. No need to add fuel, totally set and forget.
- Versatile. Smoke, bake, roast, braise and grill on one machine.
- Solid construction and good quality materials.
- Storage cabinet underneath.
- 3 year warranty
Cons of the Z Grills 700D Pellet Smoker
- No Wifi
- That’s all I can think of
When it comes to taste, ease of use, and consistency, pellet smokers are the best type of smoker for beginners. The only downside is that they can be pricey and this puts off some would-be smokers.
Luckily the price of pellet smokers is starting to come down and this one is a bargain. Pellet smokers were invented by Traeger but their patent has now run out which means other companies are able to enter the market with their own devices.
One of the best new brands is Z Grills and the Z Grills 700D offers tremendous value for well under $1000.
It is made from high-quality, heavy-duty stainless steel and backed by an impressive 3-year guarantee which shows that the manufacturer is confident in the quality of their product.
The automated auger on this pellet grill will keep your smoker at a very consistent temperature within 20°F of the temperature that you have set on the simple dial (did I mention how easy to use this is?).
Another reason that this is a good smoker for beginners is the versatility that it offers. You can use it as a smoker of course, but it is also possible to bake, roast, and grill using this unit as the temperature can be set anywhere between 180 and 450°F.
You won’t go hungry using this entry-level smoker either since you get 513 square inches of smoking space and a 187 square inch warming rack. We think that this is a great value smoker for beginners and it comes with a perfectly fitting cover too.
Specs for the Z Grills ZPG-700E Pellet Smoker
- Material: Heavy-duty stainless steel
- Cooking capacity: 513 sq. main rack, 187 sq. warming rack
- Pellet hopper capacity: 20 lbs
- Temperature Range: 180°F – 450°F
- Fuel type: Wood pellets
- Model: ZPG-700E
- Dimensions: 51.2″ W x 48.4″ H x 22.5″ D
- Weight: 175lbs
- Warranty: 3 years
Overall, we think that this could be the best pellet smoker for beginners. It is a truly quality piece of kit and has features that we would usually expect to see only on a much more expensive smoker.
It is so easy to use and so well made that we recommend the Z Grills 700D Pellet Smoker to anyone looking to get started smoking meat at home.
Best Grill Smoker Combo for Beginners
Masterbuilt Gravity Series Vertical Charcoal Smoker
So, you are looking to get into smoking meat but also want to be able to grill. Then this could be the smoker for you and I think it is the best smoker grill combo for beginners.
It is a very easy smoker for beginners to use since the temperature is controlled by a digital fan whilst a gravity-fed hopper loads the wood and charcoal when required. All you have to do is set it on the digital display and let it smoke away!
If even that sounds like too much effort, you can even control the settings from your phone using wifi or Bluetooth!
Pros of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series
- Charcoal and wood smoke gives amazing flavor
- Easy to use and control (even by wifi or Bluetooth)
- Equally good as a grill or smoker
Cons of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series
- The app to control it from your digital device could be improved
So this is a great versatile option if you are looking for an easy-to-use smoker and grill combo. It also offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to size since there are 3 models to choose from the 560, 800, and 1050 series.
The number here handily refers to how many inches of cooking space you get so with the 1050 version you get 1050 inches of cooking space which should keep you fed for a while!
Of course, the price varies depending on the size that you go for. But they are all great value for a quality piece of engineering.
Specs for the Masterbuilt MB20041220 Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill + Smoker
- Material: Heavy-duty stainless steel
- Cooking area: 1050 sq. inches
- Pellet hopper capacity: 20 lbs
- Temperature Range: 165°F – 700°F
- Fuel type: Charcoal and wood
- Model: Gravity Series 1050
- Dimensions: 33.07 x 61.02 x 52.17 inches
- Wifi: Yes
- Weight: 202 lbs
- Warranty: 1 year
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 is one of the best starter smokers for anyone that is looking to do a bit more than just smoke meat. This added versatility to grill and barbeque food is very popular with many beginners.
Best Propane Smoker for Beginners
Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker
Another of the top smokers for beginners is this propane-powered smoker from Cuisinart. It comes with four removable stainless steel shelves that give a combined cooking space of 792 square inches.
Pros of the Cuisinart COS-244
- Long gas hose means you can hide the canister (no electricity required)
- Very compact
- Thermometer on the door
Cons of the Cuisinart COS-244
- Only one door
Despite the large capacity, the actual smoker is not that big thanks to the vertical design, and it will not become a dominant feature of your yard. It will sit quietly and get on with its job rather than standing out too much, although we think the classic look is quite classy.
You have full control over how much heat is produced, and there is a rear vent, which can be opened and closed to control smoke and heat.
This smoker has a simple dial control that lets you control how much heat is produced, and there is a vent that can be opened and closed to further manage the heat and smoke.
As the vent is on the back of the smoker you can actually use the top of it as a handy prep space where you can keep tools, sauces plates, etc, or you could use it to balance the rack when you take it out.
One of the advantages of a gas smoker over an electric one or a pellet smoker is that you do not need a source of electricity.
This means that you can put it wherever you like and as this one comes with a 40-inch hose and regulator you can easily keep the propane tank tucked out of the way somewhere, either in a cabinet or just hidden behind something.
The smoky flavor is provided by wood chips that can be added to the convenient porcelain-enameled tray which also holds water.
A feature that makes this one of the best smokers for beginners is the thermometer on the front door. This is very convenient and provides an accurate reading of the internal temperature. Most newbies like to keep an eye on things when they first start out so it is likely that you will be checking this all the time as you wait for your meat to smoke.
Specs for the Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36-inch Propane Smoker
- Material: Stainless steel
- Cooking Area: 785 square inches
- Model: Cos-244
- Fuel type: Propane
- Weight: 69.5 pounds
- Dimensions: 19.3 x 18.1 x 38.6 inches
- Racks: 4
All in all, this is a top gas smoker for beginners. It is easy to use, has loads of cooking space, and can be used anywhere.
Beginner Meat Smoker FAQs
What is the best type of smoker for beginners?
There is no single answer to the best type of smoker for beginners. Some people will love the ease of use and simplicity of an electric smoker or pellet smoker, whilst others swear by the flavors you can get from a charcoal smoker or love the benefits of a combo grill/smoker for perfectly seared steaks.
Let’s take a look at the different types of smoker
Smoking enthusiasts often claim that charcoal smokers give the best flavors of all types of smoker. They are not the easiest smokers for beginners to use and tend not to be set and forget machines. But if you are keen to get involved with smoking and want the best flavors then they could be a good choice for your first smoker.
Pros: Charcoal smokers tend to be cheap to buy and the charcoal itself is a relatively cheap fuel source.
Cons: There is a steeper learning curve with a charcoal smoker and they are banned from apartments and some residential areas where there is a high risk of fire.
Probably the easiest type of smoker to get started with, electric smokers are similar to ovens in many ways and you simply set the temperature and timer and leave your food to smoke away.
Pros: They are a great option for beginners that want a foolproof smoker and don’t want to get too involved or get their hands too dirty.
Cons: The downside is that it is hard to produce a really good bark or smoke ring and the flavor is a bit less smoky than other options. They are a great choice if you live in an apartment or where fires are banned (as long as you have some outside space to use it).
Pellet smokers are also very simple to use which I think makes them an ideal choice for beginners. An automatic auger and fans maintain a consistent temperature. All you have to do is wait. Unlike an electric smoker, pellet grills use a wood fire to cook the food so this provides a true wood-smoked flavor.
Pros: Set and forget simplicity. A wide temperature range allows you to barbecue, smoke, roast, braise, bake, and grill. Great flavor from all-natural wood pellets.
Cons: They can be expensive and need a source of electricity to run which restrict where you can use them.
Gas smokers look and operate a bit like electric smokers, only with natural propane gas as the heat source. An advantage that they have over electric ones is that they can be used anywhere with a portable gas canister.
Pros: Quite cheap, easy to use, easy to clean, and compact
Cons: Often too small for big cuts. Need to store pressurized gas. Banned in some places.
We cover the differences between types of smoker in way more detail in these posts: Electric Smoker vs Gas Smoker, Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker, Electric Smoker vs Charcoal Smoker
How do I choose the right smoker?
To choose the right smoker you should think about your lifestyle and how a smoker will fit into it. If you are very busy and have young kids running around the place then an electric smoker might be the best option. It is probably the safest one for kids to be around and it is very easy to use with minimal input required from you.
If kids on the loose are less of an issue and you see smoking as being a big part of your lifestyle we suggest getting a pellet grill as we feel it gives the best flavor and ease of use combination.
Is it worth it to buy a smoker?
If you love the taste of smoked meat then it is absolutely worth buying a smoker. It is not just about the taste though, It is also about the lifestyle of eating outdoors and taking time to craft delicious food. It is not for everyone but many people embrace it and love it.
Does smoking meat actually cook it?
There are two types of meat smoking. Cold smoking does not actually cook the meat, it cures the meat and gives it a smoky flavor. Salmon, bacon, and cheese are often cold smoked. Hot smoking is more commonly done at home and this does cook the meat, you might smoke brisket, a whole chicken or pork butt.
What is the easiest smoker to use?
The easiest smokers to use are ones that automatically control the temperature and do not require manual adjustment. Pellet smokers, electric smokers, and modern charcoal smokers can all be bought with these settings. Check out some of the easiest to use smokers in our reviews above.
How much do smokers cost?
Smokers can be bought at prices to suit all budgets. A good beginner smoker can be bought from around $200 to $500 whilst $1000 will get you a pretty professional setup. If you have the budget for it, luxury smokers can cost as much as $10000.
The Best Smoker For Beginners – The Verdict
I hope that you have enjoyed reading my best beginner smoker review. All of the smokers covered would make a great introduction to the wonderful world of backyard smoking, but my top pick would be to go for the wonderful ZGrills pellet grill.
It will give you the flavors that you will love and ease of use that you will hardly believe. Plus they look really cool!