You’ve made the decision to purchase your first smoker, but you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer variety of products available.
Perhaps you have no notion what to look for while making a purchase for someone else as a present.
If you’re a newbie and have no idea if you should buy a charcoal, gas, electric, or pellet smoker, have no fear. We’ll break down the available choices so you can make an informed decision.
If you’re just getting into smoking and want to avoid the hassle of a bad purchase, read on to learn about the finest smokers for beginners.
Best Beginner Smokers in 2023
Not all newcomers to barbecue are afraid of getting their hands dirty. Still others seek for a smoker that can be set and forgotten so they can concentrate on experimenting with various recipes.
In light of the fact that there is no one optimum method, we have compiled a list of what we believe to be the most promising solutions for novices across a variety of fuel types. Later on, we’ll go into the specifics of the advantages and disadvantages of each kind, so feel free to read on if you’re already convinced.
In this guide, we’ve focused on budget-friendly smokers that are nonetheless high-quality enough for beginners to use without the headache of a badly made smoker.
1. The best smoker for beginners – Weber Smokey Mountain
If you’re looking for a charcoal smoker, you can either read our in-depth evaluation of the Weber Smokey Mountain, or go through our comprehensive guide to the finest charcoal smokers.
When compared to other methods of cooking, the flavor and low cost of meals smoked over charcoal cannot be topped.
Charcoal smokers need a little more work to operate than other kinds of smokers, but the end result is deliciously smoky food.
The Weber Smokey Mountain is the best starter smoker you can get for the money. The craftsmanship is top-notch. This stuff will endure forever. This was the first and only smoking device I ever purchased.
There are three available sizes, ranging from 14 inches to 18 inches to 22 inches in height.
Since it is less complicated to maintain a constant temperature in the 18-inch smoker, it is our pick as the ideal option for novice smokers.
Though the 22-inch model can tolerate higher temperatures, it also consumes more gasoline.
The bullet shape ensures a little environmental impact, which is perfect if you’re working with restricted quarters.
Even though it’s quite small, the two cooking racks quadruple the total surface size to 481 square inches. Easily accommodate 12 diners at a time.
My 18-inch Smokey Mountain has accommodated an entire packer brisket and three racks of ribs without any problems.
These tobacco users have been around for what seems like an eon. They first appeared in 1981, although the design has undergone various revisions since then.
Weber is a trusted name in barbecue, and their 10-year guarantee should ease any concerns you may have about their quality.
Perhaps you’re thinking whether charcoal is too difficult for novices. Managing the thermostat will undoubtedly provide some additional challenges. Lighting charcoal and getting your smoker going takes extra time and energy.
With the Smokies as a classroom, education is a breeze (and a blast, if you’re into outdoor fire play like I am).
It maintains temperatures remarkably well for long periods of time with no maintenance.
I’ve thrown a brisket in the oven at midnight and come downstairs at seven in the morning to find it still at 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
What we like:
- The construction of a water smoker makes it simple for novices to regulate the smoking heat – Place the water basin between the embers and the cooking grates. This serves as a heat sink, and the smoke chamber’s increased humidity also contributes to the temperature stability.
- A tool of the trade for the elite Professionals still use this product despite its initial target market being backyard smokers. In the same way that teams using $2,000 charcoal grills may win honors and thousands of dollars in prize money when competing against smokers costing $15,000.
- Additions made by other parties – You may improve and customize your WSM in several ingenious ways.
What we don’t like:
- Weak door – Initial smoke leakage is often caused by the door that comes standard on Smokey Mountains. While it has never been an issue for us, some individuals choose to install a high-temperature gasket around their door or replace it with one made of stainless steel.
- If you’re serious about investing in a charcoal smoker, the true question isn’t whether or not to purchase one. The average person spends a lot of time worrying over what size of Smokey Mountain to purchase.
2. Runner up – Z GRILLS 700D4E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
Check out our in-depth evaluation of the Z Grills 700D4E, and if you’re still looking for more information, read our guide to the top pellet grills.
The price of pellet smokers (also known as pellet grills) is often higher than that of traditional smokers. Due to their “set it and forget it” nature, they are great for first-time smokers.
Many first-time smokers choose to invest in a Traeger, the go-to pellet grill brand, but these expensive grills might be beyond of reach for those on a budget.
When you don’t want to pay more for a name brand, Z Grills are a fantastic option.
For years, they supplied grills via distributors in the United States, but recently they decided to go direct to consumers with their own brand.
The Z Grills 700D4E is the most recent version and has several upgrades, such as a PID controller for accurate temperature regulation.
With a combined 700 square inches of grill area between the main grill and an elevated warming/smoking rack, you’ll have plenty of room to prepare your favorite meals.
It comes with a sealed cabinet to keep extra pellets and grilling accessories out of the elements, unlike many other pellet grills in its price range.
A Z Grill may be customized with a front shelf for additional storage or a thermal blanket for use in cold weather.
What we like:
- The best values available given its size, build quality, and practicality.
- There were some concerns with the grill’s temperature stability in the past, but with a 2019 update, Z-Grills seems to have ironed out the kinks.
- Process of emptying the pellet hopper — Simply open the rear door and swap out the pellets. It’s a breeze compared to the 700E model before it.
What we don’t like:
- Careful handling of the hot lid is required; how tough this may be may vary depending on your height; at 5 feet and 10 inches, I had a little of trouble getting a firm grip on the handle. The position and inclination of the grip might need some work.
- This barbecue is rock-solid in every respect. It is packaged in two separate containers (total weight 132 pounds). The quality of construction and the ease of assembly are both exceptional.
The Z Grills 450B is a good alternative if you need a smaller grill with a similar design but less space requirements.
3. Masterbuilt Gravity Series Digital Charcoal Grill & Smoker
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series is a cutting edge barbecue that brings together the best of both worlds, the authentic taste of charcoal and the convenience of a pellet grill.
Like a pellet grill, this one also has a digital control panel with a temperature range of 225 degrees to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most pellet grills can only reach temperatures of around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making them unsuitable for searing.
Charcoal lump or briquettes are used instead of wood pellets, although the grill still requires electrical power. You may add wood pieces for more smoke taste, and a fan will regulate the burn pace for you.
Depending on the temperature of the stove and the weather, the hopper can hold enough charcoal for 12-15 hours of continuous cooking.
The aforementioned 560 is only one of three available variants; the other two are the 800 and the 1050 XL.
What we like:
- It’s easy to use, so you can have the taste of charcoal grilling or smoking with the ease of automated settings.
- Capable of both high searing temperatures and mild smoking temperatures without difficulty.
Charcoal ash drops into a detachable pan, making cleanup a breeze. Much less hassle than disassembling and cleaning out the Weber Smokey Mountain after each use.
What we don’t like:
- Design wastes charcoal by allowing bits of charcoal to fall through the tray at the bottom of the hopper. See our entire review for more information on how to remedy this.
- The one-year warranty offered by Masterbuilt is among the shortest available.
- If you’re just getting started with smoking and grilling but don’t want to sacrifice taste, the Gravity Series is for you.
Think of the delicious smoked and grilled foods you could make without constantly monitoring your smoker to ensure it stays at the perfect temperature.
It’s fantastic to be able to set your smoker and leave it alone while you drop the kids off at soccer practice or take care of some other pressing business, knowing that your pork butt will be cooked to perfection when you return.
4. Masterbuilt MPS ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker
Propane smokers are great since they are simple to use and inexpensive for beginners.
Since they don’t need an electrical connection, gas smokers are easier to transport, and their wider temperature range is crucial for producing perfectly crisp skin on smoked chicken.
When compared to other types of propane smokers, the Masterbuilt MPS ThermoTemp’s thermostatic temperature control provides more stable and uniform temperatures.
Four chrome-coated racks provide a total of 792 square inches of cooking area for the 30 inch model and 961 square inches for the 40 inch model.
To accommodate a complete brisket or rack of ribs, we suggest upgrading to the 40′′ model, since this smoker is on the small side.
What we like:
- MPS ThermoTemp’s ability to maintain consistent temperatures by communicating between the smoker’s back-mounted thermostat and burners.
- Separate chip and drink trays may be accessed via a lower door, allowing you to do so without disturbing the rest of your meal.
What we don’t like:
- Warranty is just for a limited time. Although the one-year guarantee is better than nothing, Masterbuilt still has a reputation for providing low-quality workmanship. That is especially true today that even budget-friendly companies like Pit Boss are giving you a longer warranty option of 5 years.
- The flframe deflector plate is bolted in, making it impossible to clean the grease drain.
- The MPS ThermoTemp is an easy-to-use smoker with reliable temperature control (apart from a few inconvenient crevices that may be difficult to clean).
5. Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker
If you want to start smoking meat on a budget, the Masterbuilt digital electric smoker is an excellent option.
Electric smokers are a cheaper alternative to pellet grills, but come at the expense of some taste.
Electric smokers are ideal for cold smoking and jerky manufacturing, and may be used in places where charcoal and even gas are forbidden.
There’s no need to tend charcoal or fire thanks to the digital thermometer that’s integrated right in.
Simply connecting it to a power source makes it ready for use.
There is a wide variety of options for this smoker. Legs and a window are optional extras. Sizes range from 30′′ to 40′′.
Another option is a more costly model with Bluetooth; it comes in 30″ and 40″ sizes.
If you can afford the 40″, do it. Unlike with our 30″, a whole rack of ribs won’t need to be broken up to fit here.
Setup is simple and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes at most.
The Masterbuilt has better insulation than some other low-cost smokers and should function well even in colder climates.
Adding more chips to the smoker is a breeze with the wood chip loader since there’s no need to open the smoker’s door and risk losing heat and smoke. Apple, cherry, hickory, and pecan wood chips, among others, may be purchased at your neighborhood hardware shop or ordered online at Amazon.
What we like:
- 30″ digital model has about as much cooking area as the biggest 22″ Smokey Mountain, at 730 square inches, but at a far more reasonable price.
- Easy-to-use temperature settings allow you to smoke your meat at temperatures ranging from 100 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, making this smoker ideal for a wide range of uses.
- Upgrade your smoker with one of Masterbuilt’s many available add-ons, like as a cold smoking attachment. A must-have for anyone who are interested in trying cold smoking.
What we don’t like:
- Since the 30 inch model is on the narrow side, whole racks of ribs will need to be trimmed or rolled to fit.
- The unreliable temperature sensor will most likely be the source of your problems. Most manufacturers employ low-quality probes, so if your thermometer has any of these problems, you may want to consider purchasing a new one.
It’s more likely that an electric smoker like this will have issues with buttons failing or calibration faults than a charcoal smoker.
There are certain flaws in the Masterbuilt that prevent it from impressing purists. However, if you want BBQ without the hassle, this is a low-cost way to try it out.
6. The Best kamado smoker for beginners- Char-Griller Akorn Kamado
Kamado grills are more flexible than other types of charcoal smokers like the Smokey Mountain since they may be used for a variety of purposes in addition to grilling.
Ceramic makes for pricey models, but there are now decent steel alternatives for less money.
Most beginners won’t have enough money to buy a high-end kamado grill like a Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe.
The Char-Griller Akorn Kamado is also an egg-shaped grill, but it is more reasonably priced because of its different construction.
With the triple wall construction, insulation and heat retention are still top notch. Maintaining low and slow temps for 10+ hours is a breeze.
Using the top and bottom dampers, you may regulate the temperature anywhere from 200°F to 750°F, making it suitable for a wide range of cooking methods.
Primary cooking area is 314 square inches, with an additional 133 square inches provided by a detachable warming rack for a grand total of 447 square inches.
What we like:
- The Akorn Kamado is a great deal for a beginner kamado since it is constructed out of 22 gauge steel, powder coated steel, and porcelain coated steel. It’s not as sturdy as a ceramic version, but it won’t weigh you down nearly as much either.
What we don’t like:
- Minimalist construction — You’ll have to compromise on temperature consistency in exchange for more mobility.
- Invest in a ceramic smoking stone to turn your grill into a smoker, grill, and oven all-in-one.
- The cart might be more stable, but it should be alright if you don’t move it about too much.
- Bad thermometer? No big deal so long as you can get your hands on a good one from somewhere else.
Picking the right beginner smoking device
There are smokers who are more forgiving than others. You may have a lot more fun (and make a good impression on your friends and family) if you take the time to study what makes a great first smoker.
All of the following smokers are good options for a beginner pitmaster.
However, how can you choose which one is best for YOU?
If you’re looking for the conventional solutions, you won’t have to think too hard. If you want to get down to business, all you need is a charcoal Weber Smokey Mountain grill.
In case you need more clarification, we’ve outlined the processes below for you.
As a first step, you should establish a financial plan.
Given that this is your first time buying a smoker, cost is probably a major consideration for you. Many of you probably have a ballpark figure in mind.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to how much money you should set aside for your first smoker.
Possible Choice 1: Obtain a Low-Quality Smoker and Upgrade Later
For about $50-$100, you can get a decent smoker from your neighborhood hardware shop. After a season of use, if you’re still having fun with it, then it’s time to upgrade to a higher quality smoker.
Unfortunately, low-cost smokes are often very terrible, so this isn’t the best option.
Poor heat retention means you’ll be spending more time tweaking the temperature of a cheap smoker.
Consider it in this way. Is it worth it to invest in the cheapest guitar available if not even Santana could make it sound decent?
Not in our opinion. Due to this, we haven’t suggested any low-cost smokers.
The good news is that you can still acquire a high-quality Weber Kettle and use it as a hybrid smoker / grill even if your budget just won’t allow for anything more.
Alternative 2: Put out a little more money up front
The possibilities for a decent first smoker greatly expand if your budget rises over $200. You can purchase a smoker that can hold its own in a competition for this money.
If you really need something but can’t afford it, you may want to check online classifieds like Craigslist or online auction sites like eBay. After a good cleaning, even old smokers perform admirably.
Now that you’ve figured out your finances, you can start researching different types of smokers to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Choosing the right kind of cigarette smoker is the second step.
We’ve used terms like “gas,” “charcoal,” “pellet,” and “electric” smokers throughout this tutorial.
Each of them generates smoke and heat in a unique way.
The various sorts of smokers each have their own advantages and disadvantages, as well as distinct skill sets.
Perhaps it’s because the barbecue community tends to draw traditionalists, but there are certain misconceptions about what constitutes “true barbecue” that persist even today.
Third, decide whether you have the time and space for a dedicated smoker, or if you’d be better served by a grill and smoker combination.
For those just beginning into the hobby, investing in a dedicated smoker might seem like a significant financial and time commitment. Flexible items that can also be used as grills are always in demand, and we can certainly appreciate that.
But if you’re just starting off, we recommend looking into a specialized smoker.
Smokers may sometimes double as grills, but a specialist smoker is better at maintaining a low temperature, has superior insulation, and offers additional cooking options.
Therefore, we have compiled a list of the top grills that may also be used as smokers.
To test the waters of meat smoking, the original Weber Kettle is your best bet. For such a low price, you may acquire a high-quality grill from one of the industry leaders in the grilling industry.
If you’re interested in cooking with a Kettle, you can join the site’s sizable online community and get plenty of helpful tips and tasty recipes.
In addition, we provide instructions on how to prepare your Kettle for smoking.
You can also purchase a number of add-ons that will allow you to use your Kettle as a smoker in a variety of different ways.
How to recognize a new smoker
There are several elements to think about when selecting your first smoker, the most important being your budget, the fuel you want to use, and whether you want a dedicated smoker or a combination.
Were you planning on making what kind of meals?
Most smokers specialize in pork, ribs, brisket, and sometimes even poultry and turkey. Take a look at our list of the top smoked meats for some inspiration.
Make sure the smoker you choose can accommodate the quantity and size of the food you want to smoke.
Full racks of ribs and packer briskets may not fit on certain brands of electric and gas smokers.
Don’t make a purchase based just on the square footage or quantity of racks, since this might be misleading.
When you cook, around how many people do you usually feed?
Some of the smokers we suggest, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, are available in a variety of sizes, so it’s important to consider not just how often you want to use the smoker but also how many people you could invite over.
More often than not, you’ll be kicking yourself for not getting the bigger size.
Larger smokers only have a few drawbacks, like greater fuel prices and somewhat more room requirements.
Want a portable smoking device?
You need a portable smoker if you plan on taking it camping or tailgating.
It’s crucial to look for a smoker that can be easily set up specifically for this reason.
Some manufacturers of pellet smokers, like as Green Mountain Grills’ Davy Crockett, also have portable models that are reasonably priced.
Masterbuilt offers both electric and propane gas-powered portable smokers.
Is cold smoking on your agenda?
It takes a lot of labor to turn certain smokers into cold smokers, while others, like the Masterbuilt, come with cold smoking accessories already installed.
You’ll need a smoker that can operate at low temperatures if you want to cold smoke cheese or produce your own smoked salmon.