There are a lot of BBQ smokers and grills to choose from nowadays.
So, if it is your first time buying one, I understand that the experience could be a bit difficult.
At first, operating a smoker seems complicated, but if you use a beginner-friendly unit, you’ll be up and running in no time!
In this post, I listed seven of the best BBQ smokers for beginners to help you with your dilemma.
There are five main types of smokers: charcoal, offset, pellet, propane or gas, and electric smokers.
The best smoker for a complete beginner is either an electric or a propane/gas smoker. That’s because these smokers are “set it and leave it” devices and don’t require much skill to operate. They are equipped with digital controls so you can set the desired temperature, and then there’s no further monitoring needed while you cook low and slow. At most, you have to refill the wood chip tray to create aromatic wood smoke.
Understand the pros and cons of each smoker. Compare their features, advantages, and disadvantages, before making your first purchase.
If you are still confused about which one to choose, I also included some quick tips to help you make an informed decision.
My favorite one when you get started is this Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset smoker. It has a lot of great features but really isn’t all that expensive. Plus, a vertical smoker is very beginner-friendly.
But first, let’s take a look at your top options real quick:
|Best smoker for beginners||Image|
|Best value for money: Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker|
|Best cheap budget smoker for beginners: Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill|
|Best Digital Electric smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20071117|
|Mid-range BBQ Smoker: Realcook Steel Charcoal|
|Best horizontal smoker for beginners: Char-Broil American Gourmet|
|Best propane smoker for beginners: Cuisinart COS-244|
|Premium beginner-friendly smoker: Weber Smokey Mountain|
|Easiest to use electric smoker with remote control: Char-Broil 17202004 Digital|
|Best propane smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20051316|
|Best budget electric smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20071117|
|Easy to use charcoal grill for beginners: Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker|
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Tips on How to Choose a BBQ Smoker
- 2 Other Factors to Consider when Buying a Smoker
- 3 What to look for in a smoker if you are a beginner
- 4 Top 7 Best BBQ Smokers for Beginners reviewed
- 4.1 Best value for money: Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker
- 4.2 Best cheap budget smoker for beginners: Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill
- 4.3 Best Digital Electric smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20071117
- 4.4 Mid-range BBQ Smoker: Realcook Steel Charcoal
- 4.5 Best horizontal smoker for beginners: Char-Broil American Gourmet
- 4.6 Best propane smoker for beginners: Cuisinart COS-244
- 4.7 Premium beginner-friendly smoker: Weber Smokey Mountain
- 4.8 Easiest to use electric smoker with remote control: Char-Broil 17202004 Digital
- 4.9 Best propane smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20051316
- 4.10 Best budget electric smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20071117
- 4.11 Easy to use charcoal smoker: Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
- 5 The main types of smokers
- 6 What accessories do you need for your smoker?
- 7 The bottom line
Tips on How to Choose a BBQ Smoker
As you know by now, you have plenty of options when it comes to BBQ smokers.
In this section, I will give you some quick tips on how to choose the right BBQ smoker for you.
First, you need to know what type of smoker fits your needs. There are four types of smoker grill that you can choose from:
A pellet smoker has a rod that quickly ignites when you turn it on and starts putting in wood pellets. Its smoking process is pretty much automated, so you do not have to spend a lot of time on monitoring its internal temperature.
A gas smoker, on the other hand, is the perfect choice if you do not want to attend to your meat as it is being smoked. It is convenient and can give your meat the classic BBQ taste.
Unlike the gas and electric smoker, there is a steeper learning curve for handling and setting the temperature of a charcoal smoker. However, the charcoal smoker is more affordable and can give your meat intense smokiness.
Last but not least is the electric smoker. As the name suggests, it is powered by electricity. If you are after ease-of-use, this is the best smoker for you. All you have to do is plug it, choose the right temperature, and wait for your meal to cook.
Other Factors to Consider when Buying a Smoker
You also need to consider the following factors when purchasing a smoker:
- Capacity – always think about the size and capacity of the smoker that you need. How big or how small the unit should be, how much meat it can accommodate, or on what occasions you want to use it.
- Budget – how much are you willing to spend for your smoker? Always keep in mind that expensive does not mean high-quality. Some good quality smokers and grills are affordable. You just have to look for the right brand and model.
- Features – what specific features are you looking for? Do you need a movable smoker? A portable one? Do you want one with ash pan or one that you can operate easily?
What to look for in a smoker if you are a beginner
Pros are all about intense flavors and complex features. But, as a beginner, you need to keep it simple.
It might not be worth investing in a thousand-dollar smoker until you know how to use one properly. Plus, it takes time to figure out what you like, what you don’t, and what foods taste best when smoked.
Before you decide on a smoker, consider the following factors. After all, some features are more important than others, and sifting through tons of information is tiring.
The most important feature of a smoker is how well it retains and distributes heat. If the smoker is not well insulated, it will leak heat, and the food won’t be any good.
Therefore, look for well-insulated smokers with tight-seal doors.
If you’re smoking a large brisket, it can take 12 hours, and you need a smoker that can maintain a constant temperature for many hours.
Electric smokers are great because they distribute the heat upwards, and the temperature inside the device stays consistent.
Size & what foods can you smoke
Always consider how many people you plan to cook for. Are you cooking for a large group or just two or three people? Electric smokers come in small compact versions and large commercial sizes.
Therefore, you need to think about how much food you want to smoke at once. If the smoker is too small, you’ll need to batch cook.
Also, consider what types of food you want to cook. If you’re into large briskets and rib racks, you need a spacious smoker.
A propane smoker is not ideal for long rib racks because most vertical propane smokers are narrow. If you only want to smoke a couple of chickens, you can do wonders with a smaller unit.
Some fuel is more expensive than others.
- Electricity is a cheap fuel source and probably the most cost-effective in the long run.
- Propane is more expensive and runs out pretty fast, so you have to keep refiling the propane tank.
- Charcoal is cheap and cost-effective, but it takes some work the maintain it at the desired temperature.
- Pellets are a high-energy fuel source, so they burn quite fast. During a long smoke, you might have to refill the pellet smoker several times. Therefore, pellets are the most expensive option.
It all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend on smoking.
Charcoal smokers are very cheap compared to pellet grills. Electric and propane units are available in various price ranges.
The bottom line is that a more expensive unit will get you more features.
But, if you’re a beginner, you might not want to invest in costly smokers. The truth is, an affordable and mid-price smoker is perfect, and you can make delicious smoky foods.
Do you want a smoker only? Or, do you want a hybrid cooker that is a smoker and grill combo?
A grill is used for cooking food quickly on high heat, like burgers. On the other hand, the smoker is used for cooking food using the low and slow cooking techniques.
If you have an electric smoker, it’s used for smoking only, not grilling at high temperatures.
Grill and smoker combos are excellent for beginners because you can grill burgers and chicken wings when you feel like it or smoke ribs for 8 hours when you want.
Therefore, these smokers are versatile and good value for the money.
This last feature is a deal-breaker for many. Some smokers have wheels, and others don’t.
If you need a large smoker and have a designated space for it on your deck, you don’t really need wheels to move it around.
However, if you want a small smoker that’s portable too, then look for wheels.
Top 7 Best BBQ Smokers for Beginners reviewed
Let’s have a look at some good BBQ smokers.
Best value for money: Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker
The Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Smoker is one of the best BBQ smokers for beginners. This smoker has very few moving parts, so it is relatively easy to assemble.
Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Smoker has 5-cubic feet of smoking area in its main chamber.
The chamber can be divided into sections using six adjustable, removable racks. Each rack can accommodate up to 25 pounds of weight.
This vertical offset smoker also has a built-in ash pan that you can easily remove. There is a porcelain-coated wood box on top of the ash pan where you burn your charcoal or woods.
Check out SteeveeDan here with his Dyna-Glo:
On top of the main chamber, there is an adjustable side damper, as well as an adjustable smokestack that will allow you to control the smoker’s air flow and heat.
Performance-wise, Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Smoker can basically handle anything you throw at it. The removable racks will allow you to smoke or grill different food, from ham and turkey to big pork shoulder.
To summarize, here are the pros and cons of Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Smoker:
- Adjustable smokestack
- Adjustable damper
- Removable ash pan
- Removable firebox
- Adjustable, removable racks
- Heat retention issue when in cool climate due to thin metal
Best cheap budget smoker for beginners: Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill
If you are after the classic way of smoking your barbecue, the Royal Gourmet CC1830F Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker is the right smoker for you.
Aside from its compact structure, this charcoal grill is one of the best smokers for beginners because it is easy to assemble. It will not take you an hour to put everything in place.
The Royal Gourmet CC1830F Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker has a side smoker that comes with damper controls. You can easily start a wood chip and charcoal fire in it without the need for direct fire in the main grilling chamber.
This smoker also has a sturdy cart with an expanded metal bottom shelf. This design and feature keep it rigid as compared with other smokers and grills.
Its grill gates are coated with non-stick porcelain. The adjustable charcoal pan will allow you to manage the fire and heat, depending on your need.
Here are some of the pros and cons of this smoker:
- Adjustable charcoal pan
- Expanded metal shelf
- Sturdy base
- Small offset smoker box
- Smoker box is hard to clean
- Not suitable for large cut meats
Best Digital Electric smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20071117
The Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker is a digital smoker recommended for newbies.
It is easy to operate, ensuring that you always get a flavorful meal even if it is your first time smoking or grilling.
You can easily add wood chips to this smoker without opening its door. That will allow you to keep the heat within the grill box at your desired temperature. It also comes with temperature and time controllers for quick monitoring.
Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker not only has a durable build, it also has enough space inside to grill or smoke your favorite meat.
Its grilling and smoking chamber comes with four adjustable and removable racks that will enable you to cook for three to four persons at the same time.
And because the racks are removable, you can easily adjust the space inside the chamber to accommodate large cuts of meat or poultry.
Keeping the Masterbuilt MB20071117 clean is not a problem as well.
There are two trays inside its grilling and smoking chamber. One is for collecting oil and grease, the other for collecting the ash from the wood chips.
To summarize, here are the pros and cons of this grill and smoker:
- Easy to operate
- Easy to clean
- Durable built
- Issue with control panels readings under sunlight
Mid-range BBQ Smoker: Realcook Steel Charcoal
With its high-quality materials and affordable price, Realcook Vertical Steel Charcoal Smoker is a smoker that you will not regret buying.
It is extremely easy to assemble and will not take you over half an hour to put together.
The Realcook Vertical Steel Charcoal Smoker’s multi-layer design allows it to work not just as a smoker, but also as a fire pit and barbecue grill.
It comes with a built-in thermometer, a bottom damper, and an ash collector. These allows for easy bottom airflow control and temperature maintenance within the barrel when you are smoking.
This smoker can be taken anywhere. You can quickly disassemble it into four parts and place it in your car trunk, making it suitable for outdoor activities like beach and backyard parties.
The Realcook Vertical Steel Charcoal Smoker has two cooking racks that can accommodate large cuts of meat. It is also tall enough for hanging slab of ribs, turkey, and other poultry using the four available hooks inside the lid.
Cleaning the Realcook Vertical Steel Charcoal Smoke is relatively easy with its pan that catches oil and other liquid drippings. If you want to get all the ashes out, just release the lower locking clasps and remove the top sections and lid.
- Multi-layer allows for different functionalities
- Can be used as a firepit, griller, and smoker
- Hooks in the lid
- Dual access doors
- Small handles
- Not suitable for cold weather
Best horizontal smoker for beginners: Char-Broil American Gourmet
If you are regularly hosting barbecue parties, the Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker will be a great addition to your backyard.
Its main chamber alone has a 290-square-inch cooking surface, which can accommodate up to 18 burgers all at once. If that is not enough space for you, you can also grill in its 140-sq-in firebox.
The Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker comes with a vertical pipe smokestack, adjustable dampers, a temperature gauge, and an offset firebox.
The multiple dampers can give you more control over the heat and temperature within the offset smoker’s chamber. They can be opened and closed effortlessly to adjust airflow.
On the other hand, the lid-mounted temperature gauge will allow you to monitor the internal temperature of your smoker and adjust it to your desired level.
The Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker cooking grates are porcelain-coated for quick cleaning. Another cool feature of this smoker is its cool touch handle and wheels that make moving it around fast and easy.
There is also a side shelf where you can place your sauces, rubs, and other grilling or smoking utensils.
- High-quality product
- Better mobility
- Multiple dampers for easy heat and smoke control
- Wide-surfaced grilling and smoking area
- Large size
- Heavy weight
Best propane smoker for beginners: Cuisinart COS-244
Are you planning to buy your first propane smoker?
If you are, Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical 36″ Propane Smoker may be the best smoker for you.
Cuisinart is relatively new when it comes to producing outdoor cooking products. But they did everything right with their vertical propane smoker.
To begin with, the Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker stands 36 inches tall.
The vertical design makes it easier to store since it occupies little room unlike horizontal or offset smokers. It has a sturdy frame and body, with a twist lock door for sealing the chamber.
The smoking chamber measures 5.45-cubic feet and comes with four 14×14 inches racks. The grilling and smoking chamber is big enough to accommodate slabs of meat and poultry.
If you want to smoke fresh link sausages, you just have to set the rack at the highest position and tie your sausages to them.
The Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker has a dripping pan for collecting oil, grease, and other liquid.
There is also a wood chip tray that you can easily pull out for quick ash disposal. Its grates are also porcelain-coated so cleaning them is not a problem at all.
- Removable liquid drip pan
- Removable wood chip pan
- Comes with a 40-inch hose and regulator
- No natural gas conversion
- Small grates
To make the most out of your smoker, be sure to look at our recommendations for Best BBQ smoker accessories | 20 must-have smoking tools.
Premium beginner-friendly smoker: Weber Smokey Mountain
With its easy-to-operate design, the Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker and Charcoal Smoker is one of the best BBQ smokers for beginners.
It is relatively small as compared to other offset smokers. However, the Weber charcoal smoker has already proven that “big is not everything” and here is why.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and Charcoal Smoker is lightweight and easy to move around. It is a simple smoker without much to offer as far as automation is concerned.
But that feature makes it user-friendly and easy-to-operate. In fact, because of its plain design, it is a favorite among BBQ competition participants.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and Charcoal Smoker comes with a porcelain-enameled base, middle cooking section, and a lid.
Its two cooking grates are made of stainless steel. There is also a water pan and a charcoal pan for refilling water, charcoal, or wood chip.
The smoker’s metal legs are rust resistant. It also has a built-in thermometer for monitoring internal temperature of the chamber.
The Weber charcoal smoker has four aluminum dampers that will allow you to control the airflow and keep the temperature at your desired level.
- Easy access fuel door
- Two-level smoking
- No ash pan for quick disposal
- Small size
Easiest to use electric smoker with remote control: Char-Broil 17202004 Digital
Since electrics and propane smokers are best for beginners (more on that below), I am reviewing the ones that you can use as a first-time smoker.
They are simple to operate; thus, there’s no need to worry about ruining the food.
If you need a fool-proof smoker that you can learn to use in minutes, then I recommend the Char-broil digital electric smoker.
It is an affordable and easy-to-use smoker for any beginner. Therefore, it’s my top pick for any first-timer because there are no complicated controls.
Everything is digital, and you even get a remote control to monitor the temperature from a distance.
Also, you have a glass door so that you can see the food smoke away. That’s very exciting for any amateur!
As I mentioned, this smoker has digital controls and all the features you need to smoke your favorite foods hassle-free. As long as you have a plug nearby, this smoker will smoke the meat using an 800 Watt heating element.
There is a removable temperature gauge so you can see how hot it gets inside the cooker. As a result, anyone can easily see the temperature, so there is no chance to mess up the food!
This ensures the food is cooked at a steady and constant temperature for perfectly smoked meat.
Check out how to smoke a juicy tender brisket in a unit like this:
The smoker has a vertical shape with four height-adjustable racks. Therefore, you can assemble the smoker’s grates any way you like, depending on what food you’re smoking.
Once the food is done, the smoker has a warming feature to keep it warm.
You can even take the smoker on the road because it has wheels, so it’s easy to maneuver and portable.
As well, you have a lot of cooking space, 725 sq. inches, to be exact. That means you can smoke lots of poultry, pork, beef, lamb, fish, seafood, cheese, vegetables, and anything else you want to try!
But what really makes this easy to use is that the smoker has a spacious smoker box where you place wood chips.
You only need to refill after 5-7 hours, so you don’t need to monitor the smoker at all times. The wood chips infuse your food with the smoky aroma you’re looking for.
Additionally, there is a grease tray to prevent messes and a water pan so you can add water to make the food moist and juicy.
Verdict: This smoker runs like an advanced unit, but it’s suitable for beginners, so it’s a thumbs up from me!
Best propane smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20051316
Propane smokers are easy to use, too, once you get the hang of things.
If you’re after a great smoky flavor, Masterbuilt’s propane smoker is an excellent choice. It costs less than $400, but it’s equipped with all the features a beginner needs.
You can fit a lot of food into this vertical four grate XL smoker with 961 sq. inches of cooking space.
Starting the smoker is very easy. It has a built-in ignition push button, so even someone with no knowledge of smokers can turn it on.
You don’t have to worry about tampering with the propane because it’s all safe.
The smoker is equipped with a thermostat so you can set the desired temperature. As a result, you don’t need to monitor or adjust the temperature while smoking.
This makes the smoker beginner-friendly. As long as you know what temperature each food cooks at, you set it and leave it.
Even the assembly of the smoker is easy, here is a step-by-step video:
There are safety features, such as a safety valve that shuts off the gas if the flame is extinguished by wind. A built-in fuel gauge shows you how much fuel you have left so you can plan ahead before smoking.
What makes this propane smoker stand out is the design. It has a dual-door which allows you to add in wood chips for that delicious smoky flavor.
As well, the doors are made of heat-resistant glass so you can watch the food smoke. The wood chip tray is removable, so you can add the chips and remove the ashes quickly.
Then, you’ve also got a drip pan to collect the grease, which makes cleanup much faster.
With this smoker, you get that authentic BBQ experience because you can see the food cook, but you’ll also smell the smokiness.
Verdict: Digital temperature control and effortless maneuverability makes this smoker beginner-friendly and delivers impressive flavor!
Already hooked on gas BBQ smokers and looking to upgrade? Find the Best 2 Gas BBQ Smokers reviewed here + what to look out for when buying
Best budget electric smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MB20071117
It’s hard to beat a Masterbuilt smoker. So, getting one of their electric smokers for $200 is such a good deal.
But, since it’s a Masterbuilt smoker, the food takes on a more intense smoky flavor compared to other electric smokers. It’s not quite like a charcoal smoker, but the taste is very close with this model.
So, for any first-time smoker, this budget-friendly smoker delivers the flavors you’re after, and it’s easy to use.
As soon as you plug it in, the smoker starts to heat up. There’s no waiting around or trying to get the perfect temperature like you have to with charcoal smokers.
You operate the smoker with buttons, and it’s so fool-proof, you can’t mess up anything. The one disadvantage of this model is that it doesn’t have wheels; however, it’s so cheap, it’s not a big issue.
Plus, as a beginner, you’ll probably set it up somewhere and then keep it there for years to come as you realize how amazing smoked food tastes!
The build quality is good, and the fully-insulated body ensures you get an even smoke every time. While there aren’t any glass doors, the unit is compact and equipped with digital controls.
Therefore, even beginners can set the desired temperature and cooking time.
This smoker has a patented side-loading wood chip door and tray, so you don’t need to open the front panel door to load the wood. As a result, heat doesn’t escape the cooking chamber, affecting the temperature.
For beginners, the smoker has quite a decent amount of cooking space. You can smoke six whole chickens at once or two large turkeys.
Besides poultry, you can also smoke cheese, pork, beef, fish, or whatever else you fancy. Just be sure to check on the wood chips as they burn a bit faster in this smoker because the tray is smaller.
Verdict: This is a high-quality cooker at a low price with all the features a beginner needs!
Learn more about electric smokers in my Complete electric smokers guide: how to choose 1, AND use your pick!
Easy to use charcoal smoker: Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Don’t expect to plug it in and start smoking right away. A charcoal smoker requires a bit of set-up, but there’s nothing quite like it when it comes to flavor.
Basically, if you want to start smoking meat due to flavor, then I highly recommend getting the Weber Smokey Mountain.
It’s one of the top smokers in America and for a good reason too. Not only is it affordable, but it is also well-built, durable, and it has a drum design.
Therefore, its shape makes it suitable for beginner smokers to learn to smoke with. Here is pitmaster Harry Soo explaining how to operate it:
The smoker is compact, and you can easily fit it in tight spaces, so it’s great if you have a small patio. In terms of cooking space, it’s pretty decent as you can cook two large pieces of meat simultaneously or lots of poultry and fish.
Like electric and propane smokers, this Weber model is vertical, so you can arrange and fit quite a lot of food.
When using the Weber, you’ll have to be present as it smokes the food. It’s not a “set it and leave it” smoker like my other recommendations.
But, it’s not too hard to operate because it has a side-mounted fuel door. Therefore you can add more charcoal or stoke the fire while cooking.
There are also several built-in dampers so that you can adjust the airflow to prevent overheating and flares. The lid is equipped with a built-in temperature gauge so you can see how hot the cooking chamber is.
But, I recommend using a separate meat thermometer to check if the food is cooked.
I included this charcoal smoker as a recommended unit for beginners because it is pretty easy to operate. That side-mounted fuel box makes it easy to control the temperature, even for newbies.
Verdict: There’s no beating the natural wood smokey flavor this smoker gets you, and it has a versatile and easy-to-use design.
The main types of smokers
The truth is, it takes a little bit of trial and error to become a true pitmaster, regardless of the type of smoker you get. However, some smokers are easier to use than others.
I want to break down the main types of smokers you can buy and provide a bit of information about each. Just because electrics are the easiest to use, it doesn’t mean you can’t start off with another kind of smoker.
You can learn to use a charcoal grill to smoke after a few tries too, so it might be best if you want that authentic smokey wood barbecue flavor.
Let’s look at the various types of smokers:
The charcoal smoker is the top smoker for true BBQ lovers. This type of smoker runs on charcoal as the fuel source.
Most charcoal smokers have a traditional round, cylindrical, or barrel-like design. But, most double up as grills.
One of the most popular charcoal smokers is the egg-shaped kamado-style unit, such as the Big Green Egg, a grill and smoker hybrid.
The main advantage of charcoal smokers is that they provide that classic smokey wood flavor people love. No other fuel source can give meat such an intense smokey flavor.
To create smoky aromas, you add wood chunks or wood chips to the smoker. The chips have various flavors, from mild and fruity like applewood to strong and bacon-y like hickory.
Learn more about the different woods to smoke with in this overview here.
Another advantage of charcoal smokers is that they are versatile. You can use them as grills to quickly cook some steak or as smokers to cook low and slow brisket.
Also, you can cook more than just meat. So, you can smoke seafood, fish, cheese, nuts, vegetables, and even tofu.
The biggest challenge with using a charcoal smoker is to get the right temperature and then maintain this temperature throughout the long cooking process.
Even the pros struggle with flares and the smoker getting too hot. Therefore, as a beginner smoker, you’ll struggle to operate this kind of smoker, and you might end up burning the food.
Because you need to stay near the smoker at all times to control the temperature, I don’t recommend charcoal smokers as your first-ever unit.
Propane or gas smokers
Consider propane and gas smokers as your second best choice for beginner smokers. Unlike charcoal smokers, where it’s hard to control the temperature, the gas smokers are relatively easy to set up and maintain the ideal temperature.
In fact, propane smokers are one of the most beloved smokers for those who like to smoke occasionally and beginners alike.
Most non-experts prefer this type of unit for its ease of use. The whole process is simple: turn on the smoker, add wood chips, set the temperature, and put the meat on the grates.
You don’t have to keep checking because the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much. Therefore, there usually aren’t any flareups, and the meat is cooked to perfection.
The end result is a delicious smoky flavor with no ashes.
Another advantage of propane smokers is that they are easy to move around and compact, so they don’t take up too much space.
This is ideal if you have a small patio or backyard and don’t want a chunky cooker. In terms of flavor, the propane smoker lies somewhere between the electric and the pellet or offset on the spectrum.
Most propane smokers are affordable and long-lasting.
However, consider the fuel source as the only disadvantage. Propane tanks are easy to find and buy, but they are quite costly compared to how much use you get out of one tank.
Also, the tank can run out mid-smoking, so you need to have a backup nearby.
Electric smokers – Our top pick for beginners!
The electric smoker is king when it comes to beginner-friendly smokers. It’s by far the easiest to use, and the best part is that you don’t need to monitor the food as it cooks.
Although not as popular as traditional pellet and charcoal smokers, electrics are a great option for the household.
Since the electric smoker is a relatively new invention, it usually comes with all kinds of interesting upgrades and features such as WiFi and Bluetooth control.
Therefore, you can set the temperature digitally, add wood chips, water, the food, and then control the smoker from your smartphone or remote control.
It’s definitely a fail-proof and convenient way to smoke, especially for beginners.
By far, the best advantage of an electric smoker is that you set the temperature and leave it because it doesn’t fluctuate at all. Therefore you can smoke at a consistent temperature for the preset time.
This means more precise smoking and better food because there’s less trial and error.
Electric smokers come in all sizes, and some are even suitable for indoor smoking because they run solely on electricity. Thus, they are also cheap to operate.
The only disadvantage of electric smokers is that they lack the depth of smoky flavor compared to the other smoker varieties. Sure, the food tastes smoky, but it’s not quite like the charcoal smoked stuff.
Offest smokers are another pitmaster favorite. They are versatile and capable of smoking and grilling, but they are heavy-duty, so they’ll last you for many years.
This type of smoker is called offset because of the way the hot air circulates inside the unit. Thus, the food cooks via indirect heat.
The firebox is located at the side of the cooking chamber, hence the name “offset.”
As a result of this unique design, the smoke moves from the firebox to the chamber. Thus, the smoke is constant, and the meat cooks as a result of indirect heat.
To use an offset smoker, you need to familiarize yourself with the various vents and dampers that trap and let the air out. So, when the temperature inside the cooking chamber gets too hot, you need to let some heat out.
Thus, it’s not as easy to use an electric or propane smoker. You still need to have some knowledge of temperature control, and you’ll have to monitor the food while it smokes.
But, if you’re all about smoking large batches of meat, then the offset smoker is the best option because these have a large cooking area.
As well, the flavor is fantastic because you add wood which infuses the meat with smoky aromas.
However, chances are, if you want easy smoked meats, there’s no need for complex cooking units. Until you learn to operate the dampers and vents, you’ll have some difficulty with offset smokers.
Also check out my post on BBQ smoker baffle plates – how to use them and where to buy them
A pellet smoker is exactly what it sounds like: a smoker that uses tiny wood pellets as its fuel source. I would call this a medium-easy smoker to use as a beginner.
It’s not as tricky as the charcoal but more challenging than the electric. Since the smoker runs on high-energy pellets, you need to refill the pellets if you smoke for many hours.
The advantage of this smoker is the flavor. The flavored wood pellets give your meat a deep smoky taste.
Once you taste pellet-cooked foods, it’s hard to forget the delicious aroma. It’s no wonder this type of smoker is quickly growing in popularity across America.
Just like propane smokers, the pellet one lights up and reaches the desired temperature quickly. So, you can set the preheat temperature and start smoking in minutes.
Most models have digital temperature buttons so that you can control the heat from there. Thus, this type of smoker is an excellent compromise between a charcoal and electric smoker.
Is it the best for beginners? Not really, but if you want to get an intense flavor, you can learn to use it in a matter of days.
However, there is one big disadvantage to buying pellet smokers, and that’s the hefty price tag. Most reputable models are more expensive than other types of smokers.
Also, you’ll have to plug it into an electrical outlet, so you can’t smoke on the patio without a plug.
But, if you have the budget for a pellet smoker, it is an excellent investment, and it’s quite simple to operate as long as you don’t mind keeping an eye on the pellets.
The smoker uses up quite a lot of pellets, but it gives amazing flavors.
What accessories do you need for your smoker?
Once you get a smoker, you’ll realize you need some unique accessories as well.
Now, there’s no need to go overboard and grab everything but some of these tools are helpful.
Probe smoker thermometer
Most smokers are equipped with a built-in thermometer that shows you the temperature. This is extremely useful and handy.
However, there is one problem: the thermometers are not always accurate, so you can end up ruining your meat.
A true pitmaster knows that a separate probe thermometer is key to successful smoking. The fact is that you have to cook the food until it is fully cooked.
Different foods have various cooking times, and the internal temperature must be exact. Therefore, you need an external temperature probe to poke into the food to check the internal temperature.
If you want authentic BBQ flavor, then you must use wood chunks of wood chips. Most electric and propane smokers have wood chip trays, so you can add your favorite wood chip flavors.
The whole point of slow smoking is to infuse the food with a smokey aroma, so having wood chips is an essential part of smoking.
Dark meats pair well with strong woods like hickory, mesquite, and alder. Poultry and seafood taste amazing with fruit woods like apple and cherry chips.
There are so many more wood chip varieties too, just check.
Even though you’re smoking on low heat, the truth is you can easily burn your hands. Always use heat-proof gloves to handle trays, food, and touch the smoker.
I recommend getting a good pair of gloves to prevent burns or injury.
The gloves I recommend have non-slip fingers, so you don’t drop the food as you handle it. They’re also easy to clean and very durable.
Knives and trimmers
Don’t underestimate the utility of a good pair of meat knives. Most meats require some trimming and cutting, so you need to have a pair of smoker-friendly blades.
With these, you can cut up the food to make it fit into the smoker.
For example, a brisket-slicing knife can be very useful because it helps you remove fat and make the meat more tender. Long-blade knives are also good at cutting other meat cuts and even fish.
Smoking food is the type of delicious backyard activity the whole family loves.
When you’re after the best easy-to-use smoker, look for vertical units with side-loading wood chip trays. If you’re excited to watch the food smoke, get a glass door smoker.
The main takeaway is that a great beginner-friendly smoker doesn’t have to cost a fortune. An electric or propane smoker with digital controls is the best option for someone starting their BBQ journey.
Once you get the hang of smoking delicious meat cuts (& more), there’s no going back.
You have a smoker, but what to cook? Check out these Top 10 BBQ Smoker Recipes – From ribs to veggies