Best Charcoal Smoker Reviews in 2020 (Top 10 Picks)
If you’ve been smoking for a while, you probably have known or heard about charcoal smokers. They’re common compared to any other type of smokers. At least, this is where almost all smoking lovers begin. However, without knowing what the best charcoal smokers comprise, it would be challenging to achieve your goals.
You might be new to smoking with charcoal smokers or you’ve once been frustrated using your present model. For that reason, we are here to help you out. Read through our review of the best vertical charcoal smoker to see what you might be missing out and the best direction to take.
At the end of this review, you will hopefully be able to choose wisely, and ultimately, you will enjoy whichever model you choose. We are going to answer many questions you might have in mind for long. Most importantly, we have created choices and alternatives for you, as far as smoking with a charcoal smoker is concerned.
Our Top 10 Picks:
What is a Charcoal Smoker?
Charcoal smokers are common and thus available in many homes today. This type of smoker is especially beneficial for all cooks looking for an authentic smoked flavor. Although they’re considered conventional and are simple in construction, different models come with a wide range of benefits.
The design of a popular charcoal smoker is not much complicated. Its basic parts include the firebox, water chamber and cook chamber. Each one of these parts serves different but vital functions to give you the great final results.
Additionally, a charcoal smoker comprises of a steel drum and at the bottom, there is a bowel that holds charcoal. The top part has a cooking rack on which meat is placed for smoking.
Experts have thought it wise to include a water bowl and at least one vent for producing steam. The best models such as vertical charcoal smoker and Weber charcoal smoker come with two vents.
Variation among these models is what makes some models better than others. To get the best cheap charcoal smoker, you need to compare different models available on the market. If you have a wide range of models to choose from, your chances of getting the best are also high.
What You Need to Know About Charcoal Smokers
Every backyard chef or professional cook prefers having a smoker to achieve perfectly smoked meats. A smoker is an essential cooking appliance that maintains slow cooking temperature and produces smoke which enhances the flavor of the meats.
There are many types of smokers out there. A quality smoker gets the job done with efficiency and provides great smoked meals.
As I said, there are many kinds of smokers for you to buy including charcoal smokers, electric smokers pellet smokers, etc, details are below. What type of barbecue you want to smoke based on that you can purchase the smoker.
Charcoal smokers are great to get authentic smoke flavor, thus my favorite kind of smoker. Charcoal smokers are very popular among both eminent barbecue masters and back yards chefs.
Because charcoal smokers produce more flavor than any other smoker especially electric and propane. These smokers are pocket-friendly too.
This guide will help you to clear and have better ideas about different types of charcoals. The article also contains the pros and cons of various charcoal and smokers.
Top 10 Charcoal Smoker Reviews for the Money
Here are the top ten best charcoal smoker for the money in our list. Pay close attention.
Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch is the ultimate choice for anyone seeking great smoking and grilling.
We have systematically gone through all the elements of this great smoker. And all we can testify is that the name ‘Weber’ is inseparable from the word ‘quality smoker’. We have every reason to justify the truth in this. Read more...
If you enjoy cooking outdoors, you will certainly love the Pit Barrel Cooker Package. This barrel smoker can produce a flavor that is just amazing and delicious.
This Barrel smoker comes with a large cooking capacity at the least cut off from the pocket. It confers very delicious results along with ease of use. Read more...
The best Kamado grill comes to you at a time you need it the most. It is quite cost-effective and most affordable charcoal smoker you can readily afford any time.
However, this does not mean its performance is sub-standard. It only implies that this reputable brand name Kamado has all your needs at heart. Read more...
This Char-Griller 16620 model of Kamado charcoal smoker is no doubt an authentic model. Among several other models we have compared, this one has unique features which we associate with efficiency.
Kamado style grilling with Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Grill and Smoker is enjoyable thus good for enthusiasts. It is good for slow and low-temperature cooking as well as high-temperature grilling. It is a small but versatile appliance that is built to last. Read more...
Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36" model of best vertical smoker is specially designed for multiple categories of users.
For the time it has existed on the market, it has gradually won the confidence of the majority. Currently, it is owned and used by many smoked meat lovers and more people are yet to purchase and use it. Read more...
Weber Company has grown popular in the recent past due to the production and supply of its great products. This Weber original kettle premium Weber 14401001 model is among the top products that place Weber on the top pages of media.
It is meaningless paying for a grill that is sub-standard and that does not ensure pleasure. When you grill or smoke with Weber 14401001 model, both the process and end-results are premium class. Read more...
Masterbuilt 20060416 is specifically a model that has all features a typical smoker is supposed to have. In fact, most features it constitutes are found in many complex smokers.
The best thing with this smoker is that it’s good for the beginners due to its compact and simple design. And it's a best cheap charcoal smoker. So, seasonal users can also use it alike. Read more...
Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D smoker has won the confidence of more than 700 consumers and many people are yet to give a positive feedback about it.
Currently, while I’m writing, it stands at 4 stars out of 5. Some 128 concerns that were raised received prompt responses and consumers were satisfied with the responses. No one doubts Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Offset Charcoal Smoker any longer. Read more...
As a potential user, however, focusing on price alone should not be your complete guide. You also need to look at the equipment from a wholesome perspective if you want to make an informed decision.
Here, we have reviewed this smoker in different subsections that will inform your choice at the end. Read more...
Ceramic smokers are hard to come across in most households because of their high price. Here comes the best among them that requires consideration of your budget first before ordering it.
Nevertheless, the budget is not the only consideration.
The real superiority of the best ceramic charcoal smoker grill has been the result of the brand reputation in producing excellent kitchen appliances. This detailed review provides sufficient information to help you judge this smoker in the light of others. Read more...
Why Should You Trust Us to Buy Charcoal Smoker?
For a long time, we’ve been reviewing kitchen appliances and recommending the best products to the consumers. Ours is not mere reviewing.
We put forward our recommendations after testing and having firsthand experience with all the products we review.
Our goal is to make your decision informed by shading more light into the details of different products. Charcoal smokers fall within the area of our specialization. That is why, when we recommend the best top rated charcoal smokers to you, you have every reason to trust us.
Our team of experts examined a wide range of charcoal smokers in detail and identified the pros and cons of every model. Through actual experimentation, we’ve determined which one can benefit specific categories of users. Trusting us assures you of the best because our focus is not just for the good but the best.
Therefore, our long-term experience is one reason you should trust us to get your desired charcoal smoker.
The second reason is that we love what we recommend and have a proof of its functionality.
Lastly, we’ve established a lasting reputation and we’re already trusted allover. These are reasons enough to move with us and watch out for the end results.
Buying Guide: Things to Consider While Buying a Charcoal Smoker
If you are planning to buy a charcoal smoker for any given purpose, there are several factors you need to consider. Most consumers often get into the trap of buying something they least expected.
For this reason, we have come in to help you avoid such uncertainties in the future by making an informed decision.
That is why we are here with a perfect buying guide for you. Read through it to find a charcoal smoker that meets all your needs and expectations.
1. Personal Needs
One reason why you plan to buy a charcoal smoker is that you have some needs to fulfill. Buying a smoker that does not meet your requirements might be a source of regrets to you. So, it is important to consider how you are going to use it and the exact purpose it has to serve.
Additionally, the frequency of using your smoker and the quantity of food it can accommodate matters. Therefore, your personal needs are an important factor to consider since it affects the model you will ultimately choose.
Some models of electric smokers have a higher cooking capacity than others. If the size of your family is large, then you should consider purchasing a smoker with a larger capacity.
If you are smoking in a restaurant, you better buy a large, preferably vertical smoker rather than a small one.
In fact, for restaurant use, it is advisable to buy a model that smokes and grills as well. This level of versatility offers an excellent opportunity to save a great deal of your income.
2. Brand Reputation and Quality
Different brands of charcoal smokers have different levels of popularity. Brands such as Weber charcoal smoker are widely recognized for excellent performance. There are emergent brands as well, whose products have not yet been consumed widely.
For the leading brands in terms of reputation, quality of their products is often guaranteed. We have reviewed some brands here so that you can get full details of the exact model you should go for.
Moreover, you still have to read through the reviews, compare among different models and chose your best.
Factors such as certification and product warranty are assurances that you are purchasing a product of high quality. Reviews and ratings also manifest quality.
Therefore, consider purchasing a charcoal smoker that is highly rated and positively reviewed.
Price matters a lot because it obviously affects your budget. Although it is sometimes said that cheap is often expensive, sometimes cost-effective is not always cheap.
Depending on your financial ability, it is wise to spend on something that is affordable. This, however, depends on whether the smoker you are buying meets your expectations or not.
In this regard, before buying a product, consider some of the essential features and compare the price. At least, there will be a variation. Then consider your own financial position. We don’t advise buying a smoker that is too cheap because there might be some unrecognized deficits.
4. Versatility and Usability
Versatility refers to the possibilities of an equipment to serve multiple functions. A versatile smoker is better than a single-purpose smoker because it can grill as well as smoke. As you try to consider the best smoker on the market, it is better to prioritize a versatile one.
Even if your primary intention is to use your smoker for smoking, there comes a time when you might need to grill. To be on the safer side, we recommend buying a multipurpose equipment.
There might be some other features you are looking for that are not included in a versatile charcoal smoker. In this case, you should prioritize your basic requirements.
Convenience has to do with many things including user-friendliness, the speed of work and automatic functioning. The “set it and forget it” feature found in some advanced charcoal smokers is a very important aspect of convenience. When your smoker relieves you in one way or another, it is convenient.
Flexibility and mobility is yet another aspect of convenience. A flexible and mobile charcoal smoker is easy to move from one place to another. Although most, if not all, charcoal smokers are designed for outdoor use, you might want to shift its position indoors.
Maintenance through cleaning also determines whether the smoker is convenient or not. A smoker that is difficult to clean causes inconveniences to the user.
Lastly, general usability counts a lot among the aspects of convenience. The position and nature of the loading system determine whether your cooking or grilling will be a hassle or not. A smoker that is easy to use is worth your expenditure.
Different Types of Charcoal Smokers
Charcoal smokers are broadly categorized into different types according to their various designs. There are many charcoal smokers featuring different designs. Here, we have briefly described major types which you might consider while making your final selection.
1. Bullet Smokers
The name “bullet smokers” is derived from their bullet-like shape. Their shape is cylindrical and dome-shaped which resembles the shape of a bullet. The design comprises of the cooking chamber on the top and water pan directly below it.
On the bottom, there is a fire tray. If you have to add extra fuel or water in the course of smoking, there is an access door.
Since the cooking chamber is on the top, food is also loaded from the top of the smoker. Despite its cylindrical vertical shape, the smoker is designed with stability in mind. However, its double-decker version makes it difficult to access the lower rack without lifting the top rack.
2. Ugly Drum Smoker or UDS
This is another type of vertical smoker. Ugly drum smoker is designed in the same way as an ordinary drum. It is made of steel as the main material.
The strength of this smoker is in its top-loading design that allows efficient grilling. The vertical shape also allows lower oxygen levels, making it a convenient alternative.
For this particular smoker, you can set it and ‘forget’ until your meat is ready, courtesy goes to its self-regulating system. Other than the usual rack, the hanging rods increase the smoking capacity. This smoker does not use the water pan.
Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be a source of worry because there are no flare-ups. The drippings only result into the smoke fog and not big flames.
3. Kamado Grill
This is a relatively multipurpose charcoal smoker used for both grilling and smoking. Both functions are made possible by its top loading system and vertical design. The mobility of Kamado grill is highly enhanced as its swift wheels are able to change positions easily.
Apart from the great design and versatility, other features include a well-built body and heavy insulation. Using this grill, you can easily perform two-zone cooking because of the oval shape. To achieve this, use one hot side and another indirect side for efficient heat control.
If your desire is to have as much grilling as smoking, this is a good alternative for you. Although this smoker sells at a relatively higher price, buying it is still a great bargain on your side.
4. Vertical Charcoal Smoker (Two Door Smoker)
Two-door smoker is a type of vertical cabinet smoker with two doors on one side. Loading is done on the front side rather than on the top side. This smoker lacks the top lid. For this reason, you cannot grill using a two-door smoker.
The top door is for cooking and has multiple layers of racks whereas the bottom section is for the fuel. This smoker comes fully equipped with charcoal; box or wood tray. This unit is good for temperature maintenance. However, with repeated access, the smoker easily loses heat.
Char broil vertical charcoal smoker is a one of the most popular smoker.
5. Offset Smoker
Offset smoker (horizontal offset smoker) is the reverse of a vertical smoker. Its size, design and the way of functioning are perfect for outdoor smoking. On one side end, there is a firebox used for heat transfer from the chimney via the cooking chamber.
This is a multipurpose smoker for both grilling and smoking. The main chamber can function as a grill while the small offset firebox chamber can be used for smoking.
For offset smoking, simply load wood and charcoal into the small firebox and then smoke your meat using the main grilling chamber.
Both the firebox and the main chamber have vents that can be adjusted for temperature regulation. To get the heat into the smoker, open both vents at the beginning and leave it for a short while.
If you don't like a charcoal smoker, the electric smoker should be the best choice for you.
6. Pellet Smoker
This is another type of horizontal smoker. Although its design is considered old school, few elements of modern technology have been integrated into it in recent days. For instance, they comprise of “set it and forget it” feature, thanks to its self-regulation mode.
With this wood smoker, you can connect it to electric feed. Nevertheless, they still use wood. So, the question of their automaticity shouldn’t be a source of worry. They can grill as well as be utilized for indirect heating. Due to the absence of the top lid, searing steaks is not possible with pellet smoker.
7. Ceramic Charcoal Smoker
Ceramic charcoal smoker is simple in design, yet great in its function. The grill features electric starter system located above the vent at the bottom.
Other features include dial style vents, removable ash catcher, wheeled cart, fold-down side tables among others. These features make it flexible, efficient and portable.
The most noticeable feature that distinguishes ceramic charcoal smoker from other types is its ceramic shell. The shell ensures even cooking by holding heat efficiently.
If you have to snuff down the remaining charcoal after smoking or grilling, you can easily shut it down. Generally speaking, it is an innovative smoker worth buying.
8. Weber Charcoal Smoker
If you are looking for a modernly made best inexpensive charcoal grill, Weber Summit charcoal smoker is a fine alternative. It combines both grilling and smoking capabilities. Although it is an expensive charcoal smoker, it is worth that much.
Its ignition system is gas-powered that gives it fantastic cooking and smoking abilities. Double-wall construction, air insulation, and stainless-steel cooking grates are some of the focal features that make it a great choice.
The design is convenient and simply wonderful, allowing for both mobility and flexibility.
Who is Best Suited for Charcoal Smokers?
Charcoal smokers come in a wide range of types as already seen above with every type having relatively unique features. Many of these smokers will perform all the smoking and grilling, but what matters is the process.
This implies that some models of charcoal smokers are best suited for some categories of users compared to other models. We have identified the following user categories as the potential beneficiaries of different types of charcoal smokers.
Individuals who are seeking high-quality grilled or smoked meat are in a good position of benefiting from charcoal smokers. Compared to any other types of smokers, the quality of food smoked or grilled on a charcoal smoker is indisputably awesome.
If your priority is the final outcome of smoking and grilling regardless of the process, the charcoal smoker is your ultimate choice. The final taste is always authentic and the smell is alluring.
Our best selections of charcoal smokers produce food that does not taste like charcoal. Instead, the quality is enhanced by your particular choice of wood.
People with ample outdoor space:
Charcoal smokers are best suited for outdoor smoking or grilling. You, therefore, need to have enough space in your backyard to enjoy smoking at any time. In fact, it is so enjoyable when you smoke in your backyard in the evening.
Certainly, space is something that all homeowners can plan in advance prior to buying a charcoal smoker. Even those who own restaurants, it is easy to secure some space for your smoker in the outdoors.
Smoking and grilling professionals:
Smoking professionals or any other trained individuals who consider smoking their career are looking for nothing but the best results that are perfectly attainable using the cheap charcoal smokers.
With utmost keenness and adherence to our guide, smoking professionals stand a chance to get a lot from our suggested models.
Notwithstanding the fact that such professionals require highly automated smokers, the best kitchen smokers suit their needs. Such smokers include Weber charcoal smoker, vertical charcoal smoker among other types.
People who enjoy kitchen activities:
People who enjoy performing kitchen tasks, though charcoal smokers work in the outdoors, can benefit greatly from these smokers.
Some tasks involved include lighting a charcoal smoker, loading the contents, regulating temperature and so forth. If these activities and many others are your hobbies, do not hesitate to buy a charcoal smoker.
Use of charcoal smokers requires more involvement than other smokers. If you consider this a hassle, it might be challenging for you to use a traditional model. Nevertheless, there are more advanced and automated models that are suitable for most user categories.
Those seeking cost-efficiency:
Those who want to save a great deal of their income can find satisfaction in buying and using charcoal smokers. Although there are some expensive models, the price range is wide to include cheaper models.
Similarly, if you are a beginner, you need a type of smoker that is easy to use. Most charcoal smokers have this feature. Therefore, you are an ideal user of charcoal smokers.
People who grill and smoke interchangeably:
Most charcoal smokers are versatile and this is one feature that makes some models popular. You might be uncertain of what exactly you will be doing with your smoker.
In this case, we recommend going for a multipurpose model that will handle whichever task you are confronted with. Whether you have to grill or smoke, buy a charcoal smoker that can perform both functions.
How do Charcoal Smokers Work?
Charcoal smoker relies on the heat produced by the burning of charcoal to burn up the wood chips. Wood chips, in turn, produce smoke that is used to smoke your specific type of meat. Your choice of wood chips to use with the charcoal smoker depends on your desired flavor.
Charcoal smoker is mostly characterized by strong smoke and high-quality final flavor. As the smoking process continues, the vents produce steam which impacts significantly on the quality of your meat.
In the end, you obtain moist and tender meat that satisfies your desires. The simultaneous process of condensation for both the smoke and the vapor enhances both taste and flavor.
Generally, a typical charcoal smoker is less technical, thus easy to use. Charcoal smokers are designed for the use in the outdoor space.
In fact, it is convenient while starting a charcoal grill in the outdoor compared to the indoor use. Outdoor use also minimizes risks of accidents that are likely to occur if the charcoal smoker is used indoors.
However, using any type of charcoal smoker requires you to maintain close attention throughout the cooking process. Although this is often considered a bottleneck by busy professionals, smoking enthusiasts will find it an advantage.
How to Start?
Starting a charcoal smoker begins by preparing your grill and making it ready for lighting. To prepare your grill, follow these steps:
How to Light?
There are two methods to light your charcoal grill: Use of a lighter fluid and use of a chimney starter. To use a lighter fluid, follow these steps:
Lighting a grill using lighter fluid:
How to light a charcoal smoker with a chimney starter:
Whether to use a light fluid or chimney starter, it all depends on whichever way is convenient for you. Generally, using a chimney starter is preferred over the use of lighter fluid.
Some advantages of chimney starter are: it does not produce unpleasant odors. It is also quick, efficient and effective.
It is wise to consider getting a higher capacity chimney smoker for the purposes of convenience. Nevertheless, use of light liquid to light your smoker is still an alternative if you don’t have a chimney starter. If done correctly, it saves your time and resources.
How to make Charcoal?
A charcoal smoker is mostly used for heat and then added flavor. The making process of charcoal is interesting and requires close attention. Everything has its positives and negatives, so do charcoal smokers. They are competitively cheaper, but you also have to buy charcoal every time you want to smoke.
Charcoal is made from pure carbon, named “char.” Char is made by cooking wood in a place where the presence of oxygen is low. The process takes many days.
When charcoal is produced commercially, the cooking takes place in a large high facilitated area, and the process created black lumps and powder, up to 25% of the original weight.
Char produced more energy than raw wood and the carbon present in charcoal forms carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide with oxygen. Excellent quality of char that it burns steady while producing less smoke and dangerous vapors.
Types of Charcoals
The concept of charcoal is old, and humans have been making it from ancient time. Commercially charcoal has been producing from the last century. Based on the type of charcoal required for grilling, it can be divided into main categories:
One of the popular kinds of charcoal for grilling and smoking since they are made to burn consistently and maintain a steady temperature throughout the grilling or smoking process.
Briquettes charcoals can reach up to at least 600 degrees F for 1 hour. Sawdust, wood scraps, coal dust, borax, and petroleum binders are used to produce traditional briquettes.
Instant-light charcoal consists of briquettes which grow orange and begins to ash over.
“Natural” briquettes, which contain only wood scraps and starch binders are used in most heavyweight barbecue competitions.
History of commercially produced briquettes charcoal dates back in 1897 when Ellsworth Zwoyer patented the process. Henry Ford, in collaboration with Thomas Edison and EB Kingsford, made lots of them from sawdust and wood scraps at Ford's Detroit auto plants in the 1920s. That made outdoor barbecue experience easier.
To some extent, this charcoal is environment-friendly and has less effect on climate change.
This is natural and original charcoal for which many people call it, “hardwood or natural lump charcoal.”
Lump charcoal is made burning wood logs, trees in a closed big hole or cave. Sometimes are made on the underground as well. This charcoal is real wood, which means it doesn’t contain any binders or petroleum-based accelerates as result charcoal burns pure hot, and cleanly.
If you refuel a lump charcoal it with unlit charcoal, it won’t produce acrid smoke. On the other hand, lump charcoal burns easily and gets hotter in the beginning. And then it gets cooler at the end.
During any outdoor grilling or smoking cookout, you’ll need to refuel the grill every 30 minutes if you use lump charcoal. It is suggested to avoid “lump” charcoal that comes in straight-edged rectangular blocks because they are made from lumber scraps.
Coconut shell charcoal:
This is a regional concept. Coconut shell charcoal is widely popular in countries like Thailand. Coconut husks are used in the grill to produce fire and heat. Husks burn fast while producing scorching heat. Asian street vendors use this coconut shell charcoal a lot.
It is another name that is Japanese charcoal. Binchotan charcoal is used in many states both in Japan and the US. Japan’s super premium charcoal is made from Ubamegashi oak tree in mud-sealed caves in the southwest part of the country.
The way it burns is very clean and hot but doesn’t produce any charcoal flavor, and takes a long time to light. It is expensive for the source to generate heat and ignite the fire.
Usually, it takes at least 30 minutes for the coals to catch fire, but once the charcoal is lit, it burns a long time.
Coal vs Charcoal
Both charcoal and coal are used as sources of fuel. They are impure states of carbon for which they don’t know all the proportions of pure carbon. For their chemical arrangements, it is hard for many people to differentiate the similarities or differences between coal and charcoal.
Unfortunately, the two carbon products are harmful to the environment and have been affecting climate change. Coal is used for heavy duties such as an industrial source of energy.
Coal is a natural fuel which occurs naturally unlike Charcoal. Generally, coal is fossil fuels that form from the plant garbage in swamps. It takes many years for coal to build. Charcoals are mostly used as a domestic source of generating energy. Different variety of coal includes lignite, anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous, etc.
On the other hand, charcoal is an artificial product. Higher temperature and a limited supply of oxygen are used to produce charcoal. Different types of charcoal include Japanese charcoal, briquettes, lump charcoal, and extruded charcoal among others.
Theoretically, coal produced more heat than charcoal for which it is used to generate heat in industries. The natural source of energy is also used to produce steam for creating electrical energy and power.
It takes a huge amount of charcoal to generate heat; thus barbecuers prefer using it for home cooking as charcoal burns for longer.
In terms of grading coal is classified in heat production while charcoal cannot be classified. Anthracite coal is considered as primary classes of coal for its ability to produce a high level of heat which lasts a long time. Light coal doesn’t burn longer thus produces less amount of heat.
When it comes to the expenses coal is costly since its natural occurrence and can be found in coal mines.
Also, since coal is a non-renewable source of energy, this is another reason coal is a valuable source of energy. Additionally, charcoal is comparatively affordable because it is easily generated, and arterial.
What are the Differences between a smoker and a standard grill?
Most of the backyard cooks can’t decide whether they should use a smoker or a standard grill for an outdoor cookout. For many, a standard grill is the main appliance for any kind of smoked or grilled experience while others prefer smokers.
If you have a clear idea and know the differences between a smoker and a grill, it would be easy for you to decide: you want to get a smoker or grill or both?
Although, in general, we believe that both appliances function in the same way, in reality, they are quite different in terms of essential features, and work differently while preparing foods.
First of all, we have to understand how a smoker works. A smoker uses smoke to cook food. In a smoker, the source of energy might be gas, charcoal, wood, and electricity. In a smoker you will get to use direct heat and the source of energy will pass through smoker chamber.
A smoker uses the combination of a water basin and wood chip basin located in the chamber. Water keeps the inside temperature steady while the wood chips produced the smoke, thus the flavor.
Grills are usually powered by gas, charcoal or electricity. In a grill, you can use both direct and indirect heat. Indirect heat slows down the cooking process.
However, the main differences between a smoker and a standard grill are determined by three main factors which are:
In a smoker you will be able to cook meats for a long time at a low temperature, infusing the flavor into the meats. It is a slow cooking process but makes the meats very tender. A significant advantage of cooking in a smoker is that you won’t have to adjust meats frequently which you have to do in a grill.
However, you will need an additional appliance while using a smoker. It is better to have a meat thermometer for a smoker; otherwise, it would understand if the meat is overcooked or undercooked. Smoking time chart here.
Many prefer to use a smoker for large cuts of meats such as briskets, roasts, ribs, ham, and jerky. On the other hand, the grill is a better option for steaks, chicken, and fish.
Main difference between a smoker and a grill is that they use different temperatures to prepare your food.
A smoker uses slow cooking at a low-temperature method for which the internal temperature of a smoker ranges as low as possible from 160to 300 °F. Contrarily, a grill has a much higher internal temperature range from, starting from 400°F to higher.
For the higher temperature, many barbecuers prefer to use grill since it’s easier and faster.
A great advantage of cooking in a smoker is the authentic barbecue flavor. Both emerging and eminent cooks use smokers for the flavor that comes from smoking meat with charcoal and wood smokers.
Smokers add smoky, barbecue flavor to your food. Unfortunately, a standard grill can’t add the same smoky flavor to your food. But grilling is considered as a healthy cooking option.
Whether you will choose a smoker or grill or both, it depends on how you want to cook your food and personal preferences, but knowing the options and all the differences always would be helpful.
Don’t forget to emphasize the importance of health issue and safety while deciding to get either a smoker or standard grill.
Managing Temperature on a Charcoal Smoker
Unlike electric smokers with automatic temperature regulation system, charcoal smokers function in a reverse way. Temperature regulation is, therefore, a skill you have to learn and master if you have to use a charcoal smoker.
For those who have already mastered this skill, temperature regulation is neither a hassle nor a struggle. It is an adventure for them. You can join them today by learning these tips.
Here is how to achieve optimal temperature regulation while using a charcoal smoker:
Using vents to control the temperature:
The vents are used to reduce or increase the cooking temperature of your kitchen smoker. The vents serve two purposes: letting in oxygen for combustion, and regulating grilling temperature. By opening the vents, more air will get in, leading to increased combustion to make your grill hotter.
To reduce the temperature slightly, partially close the vents. It will prevent air from entering and the grill will become cooler due to reduced combustion.
It is crucial that you let in maximum oxygen at the beginning to achieve the highest temperature you need for grilling. Also, avoid clogging the vents with ash as this may obstruct the airflow.
Manage the grilling distance:
Most charcoal grills allow for easy adjustment of the grates. If you are using this type of grill, your task is simple. When you want a hotter grill, adjust the distance so that your food is closer to the burning charcoal. The reverse also works perfectly.
In case your smoker does not allow for this adjustment, use more charcoal if you need a hotter grill. If you need a comparatively less hot grill, use lesser charcoal. The amount of charcoal is directly proportional to the grilling temperature.
Make use of a grill shield:
A grill shield is made using a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. When the grilling temperature rises too high, fold the foil into thirds and slide it under the food. This helps to block the heat and reduce the heat reaching the food. Additionally, the shield is great at maintaining the exposed bamboo skewers’ ends from burning.
Pros and Cons of Charcoal Smoker
Care and Maintenance of charcoal smoker
Taking care of a charcoal smoker requires two steps of maintenance and cleaning process. You must take care of the smoker after you use it, but also before cooking on the smoker and all the year round care is also important to increase the life span of the appliance.
Some pre-cleanup before each use enhances the chances of your smoker to perform optimally. Additionally, to extend the smoker’s life, thorough cleaning and maintenance is a must at least once a year.
If your smoker performs heavy duties and you use it frequently, then cleaning two or three times a year is necessary. During winter when you don’t use the smoker, store it properly.
In order to take care of your smoker and keep it clean, you will need a few tools and kits which will make the cleaning process convenient. The necessary cleaning supplies you will need are:
Taking Care before Cooking:
Now that you know the list of tools you will need to clean the smoker, the first thing you have to notice before beginning the cleaning process- is the coal grate -which might be greasy after every time you smoke anything.
Taking Care after Cooking:
After each smoke, try to follow a few steps to maintain the smoker for longevity. Right after you have finished cooking, brush the racks with the grill brush.
Also, when the smoker starts to get cool down, and touchable, try to scrape out the grease and drippings. Again you should use the grill brush.
Take out the spent ash and garbage it into an ash can. Keep the lid clean as well. Otherwise, the dirt stuck in the lid might get into your foods.
Rust is a problem for a smoker to prevent it, apply oil on the smoker sometimes. It will keep your smoker rust free and safe.
Taking care of your smoker might vary depending on the design and size of the smoker you have. But the necessary cleaning process is the same. Following the steps as mentioned above and using the tools, it is possible to keep the charcoal smoker functioning for a long time.
With a clean and well-maintained smoker, you can enjoy better meals with friends and family. There is no alternative to keeping the cooker clean to get flavored meats.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q-1: What is the best vertical smoker?
Ans: Char-Broil Vertical Charcoal Smoker is the best vertical charcoal smoker on the market. One of the easy maintaining smokers in the market has three adjustable cooking grates and about 365 square inches of space. Removing ash is more straightforward in this vertical charcoal smoker.
Q-2: Can you use wood in charcoal smoker?
Ans: Using wood chunks and chips in a charcoal smoker enhances the flavors of the meats. Cherry apple, Oak, and hickory woods are often used in smokers. Hardwoods works better in a charcoal smoker. You have to place them in the chimney with the charcoal.
Q-3: What is the best barrel smoker?
Ans: Char-Griller 1224 Smokin' Pro Smoker is regarded as the best barrel smoker for its design and efficiency. Its side firebox and grill barrel are with made steel that 'won't get rust. It is a great affordable barrel smoker.
Q-4: Do you keep adding wood chips when smoking?
Ans: Yes. You have to refill wood chips while smoking in every interval. Usually, it is better to add wood chips every 45 minutes or hour. Although it is different for each smoker, you have to add wood chips at least about half of the total smoking time.
Q-5: Can you put wood chips directly on charcoal?
Ans: You can. But to avoid burning huge amount of wood chips, you can soak the chips into the water for about a couple of hours. Then, add the chips directly with the coals for charcoal barbecue.
Q-6: How long do wood chips take to smoke?
Ans: In most cases usually it takes about 20 to 25 minutes for wood chips to burn at temperatures between 300 and 400 °C (570 and 750 °F), but it creates smoke at a lower temperature.
Q-7: Does lump charcoal smoke?
Ans: Lump charcoal smokes since it is made with hardwood. It creates authentic flavored smoke. Also, it burns longer, so you have to use less of it during grilling. It is a great source of fuel for outdoor cooking.
Q-8: Do you need to wet wood chips when smoking?
Ans: If you wet wood chips before cooking, it would burn for a longer time, and you will need fewer chips throughout the process. It is recommended to soak the wood chips in water for about 30 minutes before putting them in a smoker.
Q-9: Can you smoke with just charcoal?
Ans: Yes, you can. Most traditional cooks prefer using charcoal for authentic smoked flavor. Good quality charcoals last a long time while speeding up the heat.
Q-10: What temperature does wood start to smoke?
Ans: Wood usually starts to burn at high temperatures like between 300 and 400 °C (570 and750 °F). However, wood creates smokes at a lower temperature in the smoking process. Soaking the wood chips before using them is a good way to raise the combustion temperature.
Q-11: How long does charcoal burn in a smoker?
Ans: If you use charcoal in a smoker, you will have to keep the temperature at a lower heat for a long time while the meat is being cooked. Generally, charcoals burn in a smoker more than an hour.
Q-12: How do you keep a charcoal smoker at 225?
Ans: Keeping charcoal smoker at 225 °F requires patience and a few types of equipment. First of all, you will need to have a temperature probe in order to keep the charcoal smoker at the ideal temperature for smoked foods. Then you have to open the damper and adjust the vent as needed.
Q-13: Does lump charcoal burn longer?
Ans: Yes, it does. Consequently, you have to use less lump charcoal, depending on the time and amount of heat. These charcoals create less ash and more heat. Although lump charcoals are comparatively expensive but then again they burn longer.
Q-14: How do you make charcoal burn longer?
Ans: Charcoals burn longer by using unsoaked wood chips in the smoker or grill along with the charcoals. Keeping the temperature at 225225 °F also make the charcoals burn longer, up to 8 to 12 hours.
In a nutshell, the charcoal smoker is among the basic kitchen appliances that you need for smoking and grilling. Fortunately, most types of charcoal smokers perform both functions effectively. One of the greatest advantages of charcoal smoker is that you are always certain of achieving the best flavor and taste of food.
Different models have been described to give you a wide variety from which you can choose your desired model. Your choice entirely depends on your needs, convenience and other considerations such as the price. Different charcoal smokers can be used by different users in different contexts.
The working of charcoal smokers uses a simple process involving the burning of charcoal to release heat used for grilling or smoking.
Different smokers vary in efficiency and convenience, right from starting the grill and temperature maintenance. This is why it requires utmost consideration of multiple factors while choosing one that fits your requirements.
For this reason, we are here to help you out. Trust that you will get the best charcoal smoker by simply reading and considering our best charcoal grill smoker for the money reviews. Ultimately, you will be able to make an informed choice for which you will never regret.