Last updated on November 1st, 2018 at 04:02 pm
Everyone loves grilling out and the taste of food made over an open flame. For even more cooking options and unique flavors, a smoker can open up a whole new world of possibilities. Even choosing different wood-chip types can add a variety of great flavors to the meats you cook. Smokers come in a variety of sizes, materials and price ranges. They offer a number of different features for different cooking styles and needs. With so many options, it can get overwhelming when you’re shopping for your first smoker. We will take a look at the top 9 models on the market today and what makes our top pick the best of the bunch. By following our buyer’s guide, you will know just what to look for when picking out your own smoker.
Propane Smoker Buyer’s Guide
What is a Smoker?
Smokers are similar to grills. They are simply devices to cook meats, vegetables and more over a flame. Who doesn’t love the taste of foods grilled over fire? There’s something about the smell and taste that takes us back to a more primal age. So, how is a smoker different than a regular old grill? The clue to that answer is in the name. A smoker uses wood chips or pellets to add smoke to the flames and heat. This will give your food a great smokey flavor. This is particularly amazing for cooking meats and for barbecues.
How Do Smokers Work?
Smokers are not too complicated. You will generally have a large container made of some type of metal. Some type of rack or tray will hold the foods you wish to cook. A number of burners will provide the flames and the heat to do the cooking. Most smokers will have a second door on the bottom of the appliance where water and wood chips or pellets are added. This section may or may not have its own burners. This creates smoke that bathes your meats as they cook, adding a rich, unforgettable smokey flavor.
Smokers can be fueled by a number of different materials. Some will work simply with wood or charcoal as your fuel. Many are electric and work similarly to an inside stove or oven. Still others are powered by natural gas or by propane. For the sake of this buyer’s guide, we have focused on the propane models as they have some distinct advantages over other types.
Most smoker grills will have vents and or controls to regulate the amount of smoke and heat you apply to your foods. Some models also have various gauges to let you know the inside temperature and the amount of fuel you have left. They all invariably will have a water pan or tray that keeps the air and smoke moist inside of the cooking chamber. For full details on how any appliance works, it is always best to consult your specific model’s owner’s manual.
Why Would Anybody Want One?
This is a question many consumers may ask themselves when they’re staring at much simpler grills in a store. There are so many options when it comes to the good old fashioned grill. The thing that makes a smoker great is the unbeatable taste. It broadens your ability to make a number of unique dishes that simply can’t be made as good or made at all on a more traditional grill. Whole turkeys, racks of ribs, large hams and slabs of beef, pork barbecue, and more can be made in your smoker. When having a picnic, a grill out or even for tail-gating, why not be different from the rest? Many smokers also provide more cooking area or space which means being able to prepare more food in a shorter amount of time. Nothing beats a smoker for taste, variety and versatility.
Why Propane is Your Best Option
Smokers come in a variety of types that use different fuels. Which type you want will be your first choice when selecting a model. It is strongly suggested that you select a propane fueled model. First, let’s take a look at some of the alternatives so you can weigh the pros and cons of each. Wood or charcoal-fueled smokers do provide a great flavor. They also use fuels that are relatively cheap. The downside to these types of smokers is that they can be difficult to use effectively. There’s a kind of art to cooking with charcoal or wood as your fuel. You must keep working to maintain a constant, correct temperature level. This can be difficult to do especially if you are new to using smokers.
The next popular type of smoker is one that is electric. Many grill masters consider this type to be at the bottom of the pack when it comes to flavor. It’s less like truly grilling and a little closer to simply using your regular oven. The heat and smoke created just doesn’t seem to add the flavor to your food as well as the other types of smoker. What it does have in its favor is the ease of use. So again, in short, this is easier than charcoal or wood but is not so great when it comes to taste.
Now we come to the propane smokers. These are just as easy to use as an electric model. They also maintain the great smokey flavor achieved by using charcoal or wood. Propane smokers are a great compromise and are the best of both worlds. They’re very easy to use for the beginner. You can place your foods in the appropriate chamber and on the right racks or trays, set the temperature, ignite the smoker and then let the device do its thing. You can walk away and avoid the need to constantly check temperatures and regulate the heat and smoke. Unlike electric smokers, they also do not need to be near an outlet. This makes them as portable as you need them to be.
What to Look for When Shopping
Once you decide on the type of fuel you wish to have for your smoker, the next thing to consider is the size. Ask yourself how many will you typically be cooking for? Where and how often will you use the smoker? What types of food will you be preparing? Is portability something you need? If you like to entertain large crowds, cook rib slabs and whole birds or feed everyone at a tailgating party, then larger is the way to go. If you want to take a smoker camping or only feed a small family, then space becomes less important.
Price is important and definitely something you will need to consider. Many models are under a couple hundred dollars, so smokers are not the costliest of appliances. The real question to ask is whether or not the model in question is a good value. If you can find a lower cost smoker with the same quality and features, then why not choose that one? If one costs more due to features you will never use, then it’s probably not a good bargain for you.
Some brand names are like an assurance of quality. Some companies have well-earned reputations for making great quality products. These companies often have excellent customer service as they stand behind the products the produce. Some good companies to choose a smoker from include: Masterbuilt, Smoke Hollow, Cuisinart, Dynaglow, Char-Broil and Pitt Boss. You can never really go wrong by selecting a smoker model from one of these brands.
Some Common Features
The next thing to consider when shopping for a propane smoker is the build quality. You will also want to check out the features offered from each specific model. When it comes to quality, all of the brands we discussed make solid products. One feature that is nice to have is a viewing window on the cooking chamber. This allows you to view the food as you smoke it and helps to prevent burning items.
Make sure your smoker model offers a gauge to monitor the heat inside of the cooking chamber. It’s best to get a model that allows great control over this so you can be accurate with your cooking. You may wish for simple controls if you’re a novice or opt for more options and overall control if you’re a grilling pro. Make note of the materials your smoker is made of. Stainless steel surfaces are great for outdoor smokers as they are less prone to rust. Pans and racks enameled with porcelain are much easier to clean than other types of materials.
It’s always a good idea to make sure the model you are looking at comes with basic things you will need. Most models come with trays for the water and wood chips, but not all do. This is just something to keep in mind. Also make sure it includes trays or racks for the type of foods you plan to cook the most often. One term to be aware of is BTUs. The acronym BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. The higher the number, the more powerful the burners are on your smoker.
The two-door designs for smokers are popular for a number of good reasons. You may need to replenish wood chips and water in trays or pans for meats that are smoked for long periods. Models that have their own access for these trays are better than those that don’t. They allow you to manage the wood and water without letting the heat and smoke escape from the cooking chamber.
The Product Reviews
1. Smoke Hollow Pro Series
The Smoke Hollow Pro Series model PS4415 is an extra-large sized gas smoker. This smoker is the perfect solution for parties or for anyone who needs to prepare large quantities of food. It boasts a whopping 6 sq. ft. of cooking space. This 44″ smoker has an enormous viewing window so you can see the progress of the foods you’re smoking. It features two independent burners which provide you with great performance. They also provide great control over the temperature. These burners are made of stainless steel. This offers great protection against rusting for your outdoor smoker that will no doubt have to contend with the elements.
This model comes equipped with five different cooking grids. Two of these are the traditional styles, two more are for making jerky and the last one is a combo-styled grid. The combo grid combines the attributes of a cooking grid with a rib rack. The unit has two separate wood chip trays. The trays are loaded externally, which helpts to prevent the loss of temperature as you cook. Each burner can produce up to 11,000 BTUs. A heat indicator allows you to see exactly what the temperature is so you can be precise with your cooking and smoking of foods. This is one of the best smokers on the market. It is large in size, easy to use and easy to clean. The smoker is feature rich but also comes in at a very reasonable price.
2. Masterbuilt 44-Inch
This is another large, 44-inch smoker, this time from Masterbuilt. The model number for this specific unit is 20050614. This model offers 2000 sq. in. of cooking space. The smoker has four chromed racks to keep your various products separated as you cook them. It also features a double-door design for easy access to whatever you’re cooking. Placing and removing your foods is easy and convenient. A large viewing window allows you to safely check on your food’s progress without loosing heat or exposing yourself to that heat. Speaking of heat, the burners on this model can crank out 8250 BTUs, making it both powerful and efficient.
A push-button starter and intuitive gas controls makes igniting the unit and cooking simple. The high quality wood-chip tray is coated with porcelain, as is the water pan. If you plan on a big gathering at home, a picnic or even tailgating, this smoker can get the job done. The overall weight of the smoker comes in at just under 90 pounds. This model offers a lot of the same features as the Smoke Hollow Pro Series. Both units are similarly sized and of similar build qualities too. This model from Masterbuilt does come in at a higher price, though.
3. Smoke Hollow 2-Door
This second offering from Smoke Hollow is the model 38202G. This is a somewhat smaller model coming in at 33 inches and with a cooking area of 3.4 cu. ft. It does also come at a seriously reduced price, though. If you only need a smaller model with the same great quality of its bigger brother, then the 38202G may be the best choice for you. This hollow, gas-powered smoker has two doors. This allows the user to add water and wood chips to their respective pans without opening the main door. That means you won’t be losing heat and letting the smoke out.
This model does not have the viewing window of the bigger unit. It does, however, offer some nice upper and lower vent controls, making it easy to control the moisture and temperature. The gas system overall is well built and made of cast brass. The system is excellent in terms of the control it allows you. The cooking cabinet is made of welded steel. The smoker is started with a nice push-button ignition. The system cranks out an impressive 20,000 BTUs. The water pan and wood chip trays are included with this unit. It also offers a nice, comprehensive 1-year warranty.
4. Dynaglow 36” Vertical
The Dynaglow 36” Vertical is the next propane-fueled smoker on our list. This unit offers up 784 sq. in. of cooking space. Four steel racks hold your various meets in place. These can easily be adjusted to better fit whatever it is you’re cooking. This model is a great budget-friendly purchase. It is smaller than some of the models on this list, but so is the price. The controls are large and easy to see and use. An electronic push button gets things started. The Dynaglow has a cast iron burner and is capable of generating 15,000 BTUs.
The Dnyaglow water box and wood-chip tray are both made of steel. The steel is enameled with porcelain, which makes it durable and easy to clean. The unit has an upper and lower door so you can add water or wood chips without releasing the heat and smoke from the cooking chamber. A large, decorative temperature gauge makes it super easy to see the internal temperature. This smoker has air dampers on both the sides and the top for easy adjustments to suit whatever amount of smoke and heat you need to apply to your meats. The smoker is CSA certified and offers a one-year warranty.
5. Masterbuilt Portable
The Masterbuilt Portable is one of the more affordable smokers on this list. This second model from the Masterbuilt company offers something unique. It is not only the cheapest model but is also the most portable. It’s perfect for camping or tailgate parties. Instead of the usual portable grilling fare, you can feed guests something unique in the form of that smokey taste only one of these units provides. The stainless steel burner on the smoker produces 5000 BTUs. A 1-pound propane cylinder fuels the smoker, but an adapter can be purchased separately for use with larger propane tanks.
This portable smoker weighs in at just 22 pounds, making it easy to cart around. The dimensions are 15.9 x 23.6 x 23.1 inches. The smoker features sturdy handles and also has legs that fold in for easy transportation. It includes a removable wood-chip tray and a water pan. The door has an easy to read gauge so you can monitor the temperature as you prepare your food. While this unit is on the smaller end of the spectrum, you can still get an entire turkey or side of ribs in there with ease. This is a high-quality and versatile smoker that is perhaps the best option for those who love to cook on the go.
6. Cuisinart Vertical 36”
The Cuisinart Vertical is a 36-inch smoker with a small footprint. It takes up very little space which makes it ideal for patios or a small barbecue kitchen. The smoke vent is located on the back instead of the top as is the case with many other smokers. This allows the chef to use the top as an extra table-style space. A 40-inch hose and regulator make it easy to connect this smoker to any standard-sized propane tank. This unit features the popular 2-door design that allows you to add water or wood chips without releasing the smoke and heat.
A thermostat on the top door allows you to see the temperature inside as you prepare your food. Four racks allow you to cook multiple foods at once. These can be removed and rearranged to accommodate a number of different things including large birds and rib racks. Even though the smoker has a small footprint, it still offers 5.45 sq. ft. of cooking space. You’ll never feel like you’ve run out of cooking space with this model. The wood-chip and water trays are enameled with porcelain to make clean ups a breeze. This model even comes with a nice recipe book to help you get started making great meals.
7. Pit Boss
Pit Boss is a renowned name in the grill and smoker business. The Pit Boss Grills 77425 2.5 Gas Smoker is the next model on our list and is one of the best smokers you could buy. Dual valves and two burners provide a cooking temperature between 100 to 300 degrees. The two burners are made of stainless steel for easy cleaning and for protection against rust. One is a dedicated burner just for the wood chips that provide the smokey flavor. This burner cranks out around 3500 BTUs. The burner that regulates heat in the cooking chamber produces an impressive 10,000 BTUs.
The two burners share one control knob for simple operation. A piezo, push-button ignition makes starting the smoker simple. A nice, large gauge is on the upper door so you can see the current temperature. The unit offers 2.5 sq. ft. of cooking space. It comes with porcelain coated trays for the water and wood chips. This smoker also includes three cooking racks which are also coated with porcelain for easy cleaning. This model also has a large viewing window in the upper door. This makes it easy to see your food’s progress and of course harder to accidentally get your meats too well done.
8. Char-Broil Vertical
Char-Broil is yet another great brand in the world of smokers. This model’s full name is the Char-Broil Vertical Liquid Propane Gas Smoker. It is another good budget buy, coming in at a very reasonable price while still maintaining good quality and a nice array of features. Three chrome-plated cooking grills provide 595 sq. in. of surface area for cooking. The entire smoking chamber offers 7566 cu. in. of space. A porcelain water pan and wood-chip pan is included in this set just as in most of the smokers we’ve reviewed.
One unique feature to this model is a warming rack located on the top of the unit. This allows you to heat or keep foods warm as you smoke other products inside with the more serious heat of the smoke chamber. An easy-to-see temperature gauge allows you to keep an eye on the amount of heat inside of the smoker. The controls provide adequate abilities to control the amount of smoke and heat. A rotary styled starter makes igniting the smoker fast and simple so you can get started cooking right away. The model stands about 46.5 inches high and weighs in at around 53 pounds. This is a fine smoker for anyone who needs to make large quantities or large cuts of meat.
9. Masterbuilt Thermotemp
Masterbuilt finds itself on our list for a third time with their Masterbuilt Thermotemp model number 20050716. This smoker is on the pricier side of the cost spectrum, but it has the quality and features to match that price. Being a propane smoker, you will never need to use this appliance near an electrical outlet. You will also never need to manually adjust the heat as an automatic thermostat takes care of this for you. This is a worry-free smoker. It even has a cut-off valve which makes sure your burner is off once the flames are extinguished. This makes the model a very safe one to use.
This smoker has a viewing window and the popular double-door design. The upper chamber is for placing your food in, and the lower chamber is for the included, porcelain-coated water and wood-chip pans. A great feature on this model is a gauge that shows you the current level of propane in your fuel tank. You’ll never have to worry or wonder if your tank can get the job done before you need to exchange it. Nothing is worse than a big outdoor party being stalled because the smoker runs out of fuel. This large-sized smoker provides ample room for whatever meats you wish to smoke.
What More Can We Say?
It has been our pleasure to have you visit our site, and we thank you very much for reading. We hope that you found our page useful, and that you are well-prepared to buy your brand new propane smoker. What do you think, would you visit us again? We have tons of pages for cooking and heated related products, so if you’re ever looking for others consider coming back. Thank you for choosing BEFR!