There’s nothing like smoked meat to let you know that the summer has arrived. But it takes a good quality smoker to help you get that result and if you’re on the market for one then you’ve come to the right place.
We know that finding a smoker can be difficult due to all the available options, and it’s even worse with small portable smokers.
Why would you want a portable smoker grill? For one, it’s easy to assemble and because it’s lightweight you can take it with you on the road.
Most people use best portable smokers when road tripping, boating, fishing, and camping (we’ve reviewed these smokers for camping as well!). Plus, a portable smoker fits perfectly in a small patio or balcony space so you can keep cooking even when it’s raining outside.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Smoking vs. Grilling
- 2 How Does Smoking Work?
- 3 How to Do Your First Smoke
- 4 Best Portable Smokers reviewed
- 5 Conclusion
Smoking vs. Grilling
Smoking is different from grilling because it cooks meat at low temperatures and over long periods of time. Temperatures are usually kept at 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and cooking can take anything from three to 15 hours and more. Most pitmasters use wood chips, pellets or chunks so they can get that nice smoky flavor that only wood can impart.
On the other hand, grilling requires you to cook at higher temperatures of up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or more, but over a shorter period of time. Grilling doesn’t necessarily require wood chips or chunks and it allows you to open or close the dome according to your preferences.
How Does Smoking Work?
The key to making the perfect barbecue is to keep a low temperature and cook the food over a longer period of time. In theory, this sounds simple but in reality, it can be difficult to master.
To simplify, let’s start with the fuel.
You can use wood pellets, charcoal, gas or electricity. Wood chips or wood chunks can be added for that perfect smoky flavor.
The key is to keep oxygen supply under control to maintain low temperatures; hence smoking is called the “low and slow” method.
How to Do Your First Smoke
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to master smoking from the get-go. It takes time for anyone and you’re no different. In the end, your meat will taste that much better when you know how much effort has gone into making it, so don’t be afraid to experiment and learn as you go.
Most experts recommend starting with something simple like a clean cut of pork butt. It’s easy to make and allows you to learn through trial and error without completely ruining your dish.
Next, consider buying a few combinations of spice rubs and some barbecue sauce to add flavor and take it from there. Of course, you’re going to need a good quality smoker to get a good final result, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the portable smokers on the market.
Best Portable Smokers reviewed
We know how hard it can be to find the best portable smoker for your needs because we’ve been there. That’s why we’ve reviewed our favorite options to help you get a head start.
This portable charcoal smoker offers great value for money with a low-profile design that’s complemented by a lightweight frame. It’s small enough to fit into a tiny boat or a truck so you can take it with you when camping or when you feel like grilling during a beach day trip.
The manufacturer definitely didn’t skimp on quality, as this grill offers several different features that make it easy to use, and yet it’s so compact that it boggles our mind how they managed to fit everything in.
With that said, this grill has enough space to cater for one or two people at a time so you may need to make a few batches of whatever you’re serving if you’re catering for a group of friends. Otherwise, it works great, it’s easy to transport and it’s well-built.
- Easy to install
- Easy to clean afterward
- Perfect for camping and outdoor use
- Offers great value for money
- This grill is too small to cater to families or groups of friends
This Masterbuilt smoker is an ideal smoker for anyone that’s into outdoor adventure sports and activities. It’s powered by propane which is easy to access and it’s a convenient addition to any road trip, as well as hiking, camping and boating excursions.
The temperature gauge is easy to read as it’s placed on the visible door display, and with its foldable legs, this smoker is portable and easy to store away when not in use. You can either operate it with a normal 1-pound propane cylinder or opt for a large 20-pound propane tank. Of course, it’ll be heavier with a 20-pound tank attached so it may not be the best option for use on the go.
This is undoubtedly the best portable smoker on the market because of its ability to offer high-quality features at a very reasonable price.
- Comes with foldable legs
- Easy to read temperature gauge
- There have been some complaints about units that don’t stay lit
When it comes to portable smokers, you want something that gets you results without burning a hole in your pocket. The Char-Griller 2-2424 tabletop charcoal smoker delivers just that with its array of marvelous features.
This tiny smoker is made to last with heavy-duty materials like cast-iron cooking grates, and it offers 250 square inches of cooking space. This means even though it’s small you can still use it to cater to a small group of friends and/or family.
This smoker is also easy to clean, thanks to the removable ash pan and it’s versatile enough to use as a traditional grill as well.
- Easy to clean thanks to the removable ashtray
- Compact and portable
- Affordable price
- Made from durable steel with cast-iron cooking grates
- Doubles as a grill
- Heat resistant handle
- The temperature is difficult to control at times
- This unit doesn’t come with instructions which can make things hard for a newbie
The Weber 711001 model lives up to its name as you can use it to smoke meat anywhere you like, even on a mountain. It’s the preferred choice for camping and hiking enthusiasts, and anglers have praised it for its portability and ease of use on the boat.
This smoker comes with an easy to clean yet durable porcelain-enameled water pan which allows you to keep your meat succulent and flavorful. This is in addition to the built-in thermometer and rust-resistant aluminum fuel door.
Then you have dedicated air dampers that help maintain even temperature levels by regulating the amount of air in the charcoal.
Although it’s small and lightweight, this smoker has no handles and this can be a challenge when you’re trying to carry it from one point to the other.
It’s also a bit pricy but will last much longer than most of the other models out there.
- Well-made from durable materials
- Comes with a built-in thermometer
- Air dampers to maintain even temperatures throughout
- It’s a bit pricey
- Has no handles
Well, there you have it! That was our guide to help you find the best portable smoker for your needs. We hope it has helped you figure out which option is best for your needs because now you know what to look for and how smokers work (here in more detail) in general.
If we were to recommend one option from the ones featured in this buying guide then it would be the Masterbuilt 20050116 portable smoker . According to reviews, this is the best portable smoker for camping because it’s small but has all the features you need to cook an authentic barbecue. It also comes with a convenient temperature gauge and is very well-priced. For customer reviews here Masterbuilt 20050116 portable smoker reviews.