Charcoal vs Propane Smoker: Which One is the Best for Barbecue?

Charcoal vs Propane Smoker: Which One is the Best for Barbecue?

The controversy over the best smoker continues to stir up between charcoal smoker lovers and propane smoker enthusiasts. The debate burns brighter than all the hullabaloo about the best smoker; this is understandable though because nothing beats a perfectly smoked and finger-licking meat.

Smoked meat has a great mouth-watering flavor you will not get from an oven. Gone are the old days when you had to build your smokehouse. Today the market is growing with hundreds of different smokers each boasting of unique benefits you cannot find from the competition.


Well, it can be tough to settle for the ideal model but don’t worry because this article will make this task a lot easier. Some barbecue enthusiasts feel that the propane smoker beats all other smokers, but a number still prefer the flavor they get from their charcoal smokers.

Before you let barbecue message boards tell you the right model to pick, here is an overview of these smokers so that you can know what to expect.

The Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers are quite common in many homes. For most barbecue lovers, they are the ‘it’ thing if you want the most authentic smoked flavor to your meat. Popular charcoal smokers have a steel drum with a bowl at the bottom to put charcoal and at least one cooking rack above.

Often, they also come with one or two vents and a water bowl designed specially to add steam to the process, so your meat stays moist and tender.

Furthermore, when the water vapor and smoke condense together, you can be sure that your food will have the sweetest flavor and mouthwatering taste.

There is, however, a price to pay for such deep nuance flavor. Charcoal smokers require more attention than electric smokers or propane smokers. If you are not an outdoor person, starting the fire might be a hassle adding more time to the process.

Some Best Selling Charcoal Smokers:

Aside from this, you will have to watch and stoke the charcoal to maintain the temperature range required for the best results. You can use meat thermometer to manage temperature perfectly. This will take some time to master and at first, you might ruin a perfectly good meal trying to learn your new smoker.

Though they require some adjustments to reach the desired temperature, charcoal smokers are quite temperature stable, and there will be little to no adjustments once the desired range is achieved.

The real reason you will love a charcoal smoker is, it gives food the perfect flavor you otherwise won’t find in an electric or propane smoker. Besides, this smoker gets hotter than propane models, and this is what you need to get your meat crisp both inside and outside.

Why a Few People Hate Charcoal Smokers

There is a flavor that charcoal smokers give that any other smoker can’t match. On the downside though:

  • Starting a fire can be hectic and maintaining it can be quite a hassle. With these models, you need to keep a low, slow and consistent temperature throughout the process. This can be cumbersome and time-consuming but an art you can master with time.
  • Charcoal is dirty to handle, and it will cost you money. Most people hesitate to buy propane smokers because they feel fuel is expensive. Charcoal is not cheap either, and you will have to dig deeper into your pocket to maintain these smokers.
  • It takes time to get the right temperature range, and it is equally hard to tell what temperature you are cooking at.
  • You cannot turn down the temperature rapidly while cooking.
  • A lot of ash collects when using charcoal, in turn, making clean up a hassle.

Why You Will Love the Propane Smoker

Propane smokers outsell charcoal grills, and this should come as no surprise. For starters, they are quite easy to control and offer the convenience that charcoal smokers cannot.

These models can be a great option if you enjoy cooking outdoors because they are portable. They share the same advantages of a gas grill and are more convenient than charcoal smokers.

Propane smokers have a steel chamber built with a gas burner under a box containing wood chips. This box has vents so when the burner is turned on; the wood chips generate smoke instead of burning to cook your food.

Just like charcoal smokers, these units also have a water bowl to add steam to the process, so your food stays moist. The best thing about propane smokers is that they are easy to start with just a push of the button. 

Some Best Selling Propane Smokers:

Moreover, the built-in temperature gauge will help you set the right temperature to cook your meat.

What’s more, most of these models can get up to higher temperatures than other smokers making them very flexible to use. They are pretty easy to clean and even when they break, the repair costs will not dent your wallet: this is a selling point for propane smokers.

They are not perfect though:

  • One major downside of the propane smoker is that you need to monitor the gas closely when cooking. Depending on the amount of cooking you need to do, these models can run out quickly, and you do not want to have a half-cooked meal.
  • These units do not perform well in cold or windy weather conditions because they lack insulation.
  • Most models are equally not large enough to accommodate large meat or a full rack of ribs which means you will have to cut the meat until it fits.
  • There are concerns about storing a propane tank in the house where there are children.

One Last Thing:

A few tips to remember whether you want a charcoal or propane smoker:

  • Invest in a good thermometer for your charcoal smoker.
  • Avoid cheap models but if you are working on a tight budget, consider charcoal smokers that can control air flow the best.
  • Ensure that you have two propane cylinders when cooking and that one is always full.

The Bottom Line:

Which is the right model? Well, there isn’t one! The right model depends on your particular needs and your budget. What is your priority? If you want something convenient, then a propane smoker is the best model. However, if you are after the best smoky flavor, then you need to consider the charcoal smoker as your ideal model.

Whether you are using a charcoal smoker or a propane smoker, the true spirit of barbecue is rooted in the time you spend outdoors with your loved ones.

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Theresa Lori

Hi, I'm Theresa. My passion for grilling delicacy gradually built during the time I was living with my parents. My family members especially my mother was a great fan of grilled dishes to and from the love of food. I started preparing smoked food with my mom. This bonding helped me to know more and more about to smoke, grill what always I share on So, in two words you can call me a BBQ lover.

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