One of the questions I get asked most often is, “Which smoker should I buy?”

While I understand asking the question (there are a ton of options, and it can be overwhelming), unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer to that question.  In fact, my typical response is to answer it with some questions of my own:

 

1.) What’s your budget? 

2.) How often are you going to use it?

3.) Do you already own a grill?

4.) What kind of lifestyle do you lead?

The answers to these questions will land you in one of my categories, and will determine which type of smoker, if any, I’ll recommend.  Allow me to clarify:

 

CATEGORY #1:  If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you only plan on using it once in a blue moon, and you already own a grill, you will land solidly in this category.  My advice would be to not bother spending much time researching smokers.  In fact, my recommendation would probably be to not buy a smoker at all.

Did you know you can use your grill as a smoker?  It might not work out quite as well as a dedicated smoker, but trust me, you don’t want to spend the money on a dedicated smoker if you don’t have much money to spend and you’re not going to use it much.

All you need to do to smoke on any grill is to come up with a way to keep your heat source away from the area where the food will go.  It’s basically the same as indirect grilling, just taken to the next level.  You essentially want to keep the food from coming into contact with your heat source, so you can keep the temperatures low and allow the food to cook slowly.  Then all you need to do is find a way to add smoke, which can be as simple as a pie plate with wood chips placed over the heat source.  You can do this on just about any grill.  All you need to do is figure out how to work it out on your specific grill.  There is a ton of information out there on the subject, so I’m not going to get into all of that in this particular guide.  Do some web searches and you’ll find what you need.  Also, check out some of the barbecue message boards.  The folks on those sites are generally super helpful.

 

 

 

 

CATEGORY #2:  You don’t have much money to spend, and the grill you have isn’t suitable to use as a smoker.  How often you’re going to use it doesn’t really matter for this one.  The people in this category don’t have much money and don’t have the option of using their grill.  This could be category #1A, but I don’t want to get into sub-categories.  As I said above, you can smoke on just about any grill.  There are, however, some grills that really won’t work out well as smokers.  If you have a Santa Maria-style grill (or any open-faced grill with no enclosure or lid to hold temperature and smoke), or your grill is too small to be used as a smoker, this is the category for you.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any easy answers here.  If you’re the DIY type, I would suggest building your own smoker.  You really only have a few components to worry about when making a smoker.  You need something to hold the food during smoking, something to hold the fire and generate smoke, and a way to control the temperature (air flow control).  There are almost infinite ways to go about this, so I’m once again going to do as I did above and steer you to web searches and message boards.  I guarantee you will find a design that works perfectly for you and your situation.

I’m not a DIY person for the most part, so I never built my own, although I did research it for a while back in the day.  Rather than build my own cooker, I went the other route I typically recommend for those in this category – the cheap smoker.  There are a lot more options out there now as opposed to when I was researching it, which is awesome.  The only thing you need to keep in mind is that if you go with a cheap smoker, you’re probably going to have to make some modifications to it to make it work well.  You can get great barbecue off any smoker, but the less you spend in dollars, the more you’ll have to put into it as far as effort and modifications.

My first smoker was of the cheap offset variety.  An offset smoker is a horizontal smoker (very much like a standard grill) with a firebox attached to one side.  You place the meat in the covered grill area, and you build your fire in the offset box.  The heat and smoke exit the fire box, work their way through the cooking chamber, and exit the chimney on top of the cooking chamber.

Here is a vintage photograph of my first smoker.  Behold, the Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro!

 

 

 

 

Ain’t she beautiful?  The reason I went with the offset smoker was that it served two purposes.  It was a smoker, and it was also a big-ass grill.  It killed two birds with one stone, and it was cheap.  These go for about $200 now, but I paid around $140 when I got mine.  I was really proud of it at the time, but I grew to hate it.  It didn’t hold heat at all, and it didn’t seal well, so keeping a constant temperature was next to impossible.  There was also an issue with the way the smoke and heat flowed through the cooker.  Basically, the heat and smoke would enter through the hole in the side of the cooking chamber, rise straight to the top of the chamber, go across the lid and out the chimney.  OVER THE FOOD!  I’m no pit maker, but that is really piss-poor design.  I mean, how does that even seem okay?

It took me all of one cook to figure that out, and I was able to correct the problem(s) with some modifications.  I ended up making a tunnel of sorts with some wire and aluminum foil that ran the length of the bottom of the cooker.  When placed in the cooker, the mouth of the tunnel would butt up against the opening in the firebox, forcing the heat and smoke into the tunnel.  I poked holes throughout the top of the tunnel so that smoke and heat would come out through the top (underneath the food).  I also made another wire/foil tunnel that I ran from the chimney opening in the top of the cooking chamber and ran it down almost to the bottom of the chamber.  By doing all of that, I evened out the flow of heat and smoke and forced it to bathe the food throughout the cooking chamber before entering the chimney opening at the bottom.  I then picked up some some oven door gasket and some high heat food safe adhesive and applied it to the door, which created a much better seal.  Even with all of that, I had to constantly work on keeping the temperature stable….about every half hour or so I was having to make adjustments.  Nonetheless, it was a pretty good cooker for me.  It turned out a lot of really good barbecue.

 

 

 

 

 

An offset smoker is a good option if you want to be able to smoke and grill.  If you have a too-small grill or a grill that has no enclosure, it will also serve as a big upgrade to your current grill.

If you don’t want to go that route, you can also go with a vertical smoker, or even a small electric smoker if you want to get away from dealing with charcoal and such.  Here are some examples of smokers for those on a tighter budget:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note – I haven’t used any of the smokers in the links above, so I can’t really give you a recommendation one way or the other.  I only linked to those that had mostly good reviews, but I have no hands-on experience with any of them.  Just be advised, no matter what you go with, you’re probably going to have to make a bunch of modifications to it and you’re probably going to have to babysit it every time you cook.  If you’re good with that, then that’s a good option for you.

 

 

CATEGORY #3:  This is probably the category most people will fit into.  This is for the people who plan on using the cooker fairly often, don’t want to use their grill, and have some money available to spend…but don’t want to get too crazy.  Let’s say for those with a budget limit of $500 – $600.  In this price range, you still have the above-listed smokers available to you, but it opens the door for some better options as well.

This category also has the wild card of touching on the answer to Question #4 about lifestyle.  Why does your lifestyle matter?  What the hell am I asking that for?

Well, let’s see.  Are you married?  Do you have kids?  Do you work 80 hours a week?  How much free time do you have?  These are important questions to think about when you’re looking for a smoker.  If you read my rant about my first smoker, there was a key point in there that you may or may not have made note of.

 

“… I had to constantly work on keeping the temperature stable….about every half hour or so I was having to make adjustments.”

 

Think about that for a minute.  Every half hour or so I had to go outside and make adjustments to either increase or decrease the temperature of my cooker.  If you’re smoking chickens, you’re looking at probably around a two-hour cook, depending on temps.  That’s not so bad.  If you’re doing baby back ribs (4-5 hours) or spare ribs (5-6 hours), you might be able to deal with it then too.  Do you like brisket?  How about pulled pork?  Brisket can take anywhere from 10-15 hours (or more) depending on how you cook, the size of the brisket, and the temps you use.  Same with pork butt.  Are you willing to babysit a smoker every half hour over the course of a 15 hour cook?  The first time I smoked pork butts, it took a little over 19 hours.  I was a freaking mess by the time they were done.  I had already been up all day, and I spent 19 hours babysitting that cooker.  The pulled pork I made came out great, but that was a soul-crushing cook.  Does that sound like something you’re up for? 

That’s why these are important things to think about.  I don’t want to tell you to run out and buy something that you’re going to end up hating.  If you hate it, you won’t use it.  If you don’t use it, there’s no point to getting it in the first place.

For those who don’t have much money to spend, you likely don’t have better options, which is why I didn’t touch on the lifestyle question for categories #1 and #2.

Although I find that the options in this category are much more limited, they are far superior, in my opinion.  Most notably would be the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) and entry-level pellet smokers.

My overall preference has always been for charcoal smokers.  That is, cookers that use charcoal as the heat source, and you add wood chunks to create the smoke you want.  That’s simply a personal preference.  I just think the end product is better.  My second choice is a pellet smoker.  A pellet smoker is an electric smoker that feeds compressed wood pellets from a hopper into a hot plate which creates heat and smoke, and they have a small fan that circulates the heat and smoke as well as stokes the fire when needed to maintain temperature.  The only knock on these is that you tend to not get as much smoke flavor as you would with a charcoal smoker.  That can be remedied with some accessories, which I’ll address below.  You can get great barbecue off either type.  It just depends on your personal preferences.

 

 

Weber Smokey Mountain

 

If you want to go the charcoal route, I whole-heartedly recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM).  You’ll find that this is one of the most popular smokers out there.  I’ve seen a lot of professional barbecue teams that use these for competitions, so that should tell you all you need to know.  It is available in 14″, 18″, and 22″ models.

 

 Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22″ Charcoal Smoker

 

 

Weber 731001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 22

 

 

 

Like all things Weber, the construction is second to none.  The WSM is a vertical smoker, where your heat source (charcoal) goes in the bottom of the cooker and the heat and smoke rise through the cooker and exit the vent in the top.  It’s a very simple, yet effective design.  It’s very easy to control air flow, which controls your temperature.  These also include a water pan.  Filling the pan with water serves two functions:

 

1.) It helps stabilize temperature.

2.) It adds moisture to the chamber, which can keep things from drying out.

 

 

Not everyone is a fan of adding water to their smoker, as some feel like they’re steaming more than smoking.  I feel the same way to a degree.  Sometimes I like to add moisture and sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the cook.  However, regardless of how you feel about using water during your cooks, don’t ignore the water pan. 

As I said, one of the main intents is to help stabilize temperature.  The cooker is designed to function with the water pan, not without.  If you don’t want to use water for your cooks, fill the pan with lava rocks or ceramic briquettes like you see in gas grills, and cover the whole thing with foil.  This will do the same thing as far as stabilizing your temperatures.  The foil just keeps the drippings from going into the rocks/briquettes. 

Don’t use it without the water pan in there.  You’re going to have to babysit it way more if you don’t utilize it, and drippings will fall directly into the hot coals which will cause flare-ups if it’s not in there. 

My current smoker is not a WSM, but it is also designed with a water pan.  I use the lava rock trick in mine and it works beautifully.  On longer cooks where I want to add moisture later on in the cook, I add a small pan of water at that point.

Some other things worth mentioning about the WSM are that it has a very small footprint and it’s lightweight.  It also functions very well as a grill.  It won’t take up a lot of room in your yard, and it’s easy to transport if you want to take it to a friend’s house or you want to take it camping, etc.

The only negative I have to say about the WSM is that it is a thin-walled cooker, so if you live in a colder climate, you’re going to have to deal with fighting to keep the temps up.  That being said, there are some third parties that have made insulating blankets for the WSM.  Do some searching and you’ll find them.  Even if you don’t live in a cold climate, an insulating blanket will further help to stabilize temperatures.

 

The more stable the temperature, the less you have to babysit.

 

All that being said, as with all charcoal smokers, you’re going to have to babysit at least some.  Temperature fluctuations will happen.  You can minimize it, but it’s still going to happen.  You’re also going to have to get in there and reload coal and wood, especially for longer cooks.

 

 

Pellet Cookers

 

If you don’t want to deal with charcoal, lighting fires, adding wood, and maintaining temperature control….allow me to introduce you to the other type of cooker I mentioned – the pellet smoker.

Keep in mind, in this price range you’re going to have very limited options.  These are going to be smaller, entry-level options.  If you don’t need a big cooker, these will do in a pinch.  If you’ve asked about these before, I’m sure you’ve heard that these are not “real” smokers and you can’t make good barbecue on one of these. 

I call bullshit on that. 

While I personally don’t think you get quite the same depth of smoke flavor that you get from a charcoal cooker, these work really well.  I own one myself, and I have consistently made some damn good food on it.  There are also some options available for those that would like to add more smoke flavor (like me).  You’re going to find that no matter what you buy, there are going to be some compromises.  In this case you’re going to sacrifice a hardly-noticeable amount of smoke flavor, in exchange for the exceptional convenience that a pellet smoker offers you.

Most pellet smokers look like a typical offset smoker.  Instead of a firebox, there’s a large hopper mounted to the side of the cooker that you fill with wood pellets.  In the bottom of the cooker there is a little hot plate (more like a hot cup).  There is an auger at the bottom of the hopper that runs out to the hot plate.  When you turn the unit on, the hot plate heats up and the auger begins to turn, feeding pellets into the hot plate.  Usually after the first ten minutes or so, the hot plate turns off, but there will already be a fire going in there.  The higher the temperature you set, the faster the auger spins to feed pellets into the hot plate, on top of the hot coals that have been started.  There is also a fan inside the cooker which will turn on and off, keeping the fire going.

All you have to do is fill up the hopper, start up the unit to get the fire started, turn the dial to your desired temperature, add your food to the cooker, and walk away.  That’s it.  Seriously, that’s it.  It’s just like using an oven once you get it started.  I always recommend using your own thermometer so you know what the actual temperatures are inside, but that’s as easy as it gets.  Turn it on, dial it in, and then just let it do its thing.  When I don’t feel like dealing with my big smoker, the pellet smoker is the one I use.

There are three brands I’m familiar with, and those are the ones that I recommend.  I’ve had the opportunity to get my hands on all three of these brands, and the build quality and end product are all very similar.  These brands are Traeger, Camp Chef, and Pit Boss.

Traeger is the brand that I own and use.  They’ve been around for around thirty years, and they’re arguably the biggest name in pellet smokers.  I love mine, and they make a few entry level models that are available in this price range:

 

 


Traeger Tailgater Portable Wood Pellet Grill – Blue – TFB30LUB

 

Traeger Tailgater Portable Wood Pellet Grill - Blue - TFB30LUB

 

 


Traeger Bronson 20″ Wood Pellet Grill – TFB29PLB

 

Traeger Bronson 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

I only discovered Camp Chef within the past few years, but they’ve been around for thirty years as well.  I don’t own one, but I have some friends that do and I’ve gotten to play on a couple of them.  They also have a couple of entry-level models in this price range:

 

 


Camp Chef Pursuit 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill – PPG20

Camp Chef Pursuit 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill - PPG20

 

 

 


Camp Chef XXL Vertical Pellet Smoker – PGVXXL

 

Camp Chef XXL Vertical Pellet Smoker - PGVXXL

 

 

 

 

Pit Boss is another popular brand on the market.  I didn’t know about them until recently when a friend picked one up.  They’ve been around for twenty years though, so another solid dependable company.  Here’s what they have available in this price range:

 

 


Pit Boss 440 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill – 72440

Pit Boss 440 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill - 72440

 


Pit Boss 700S Wood Pellet Grill – 72700S

 

Pit Boss 700S Wood Pellet Grill - 72700S

 

 

 

There are some other brands floating around out there, but I have no familiarity with them, so I’m not going to talk about or link to them in here.  Do some Google searches or click on any of the above links and look around, and you’ll see there are a fair amount of options out there.

To address the smoke flavor that some (including me) find to be lacking with pellet smokers as opposed to charcoal smokers, there is an accessory that can help with that.  It’s truly a genius idea, and one of those things that people probably kick themselves wondering why they never thought of it.  It’s a metal tube with perforations throughout the length of it.  That’s it.  You fill it with pellets, light the end and get it going, then just place it inside the smoker and let it burn throughout the cook.  It adds a significant amount of smoke/wood flavor, and really makes it so that you’d almost never notice the difference between something smoked on the pellet cooker versus a charcoal cooker.

 

 

 

 

CATEGORY #4:  Okay folks, this is where things get more interesting.  If you’ve come this far, we’ve established that you’re going to use your cooker a lot, and you have the money to get a little crazy, but not so crazy that they’ll need to lock you up.  Let’s go with a budget ceiling of $1000 – $1500.  Do those number make you nauseous?  That’s perfectly understandable, and if it does, I would say go with something from Category #3.  But for those of you that didn’t flinch at those numbers, please read on.

Lifestyle is still important at this point, but you’ll find that as you get into higher end and higher quality smokers, you’re not going to have to babysit anywhere near as much, even with charcoal smokers.  When you get into this price range, you’ll see the cookers are made with thicker steel, better designs, and some even have insulation.  That all equals out to temperature stability, and you’re going to mess around with it less and less.  This is the introduction to the luxury cars of the smoking world.

There are a lot of smokers out there, and there’s no way I can get into every brand and model out there.  This is just an introduction to the cookers that are available to you as you go from category to category.  I’m not recommending any single cooker or type of cooker over another.  I’m just talking about brands that I know and trust and giving you an overview of some brands and features specific to that type of smoker.  If you click on any of the links here and decide you don’t want that particular smoker, search around and see what else is around.  Do your comparison shopping and do your research before buying anything…especially at this price range.

So what are we looking at in this category?

 

Essentially, we’re looking at much the same thing as in category #3 – pellet smokers and charcoal smokers.  Although in this price range, it opens the door to two cookers that haven’t been discussed yet in this post – the Kamado cooker and the Hasty-Bake oven.

 

 

Pellet Smokers

 

Not much new to talk about here.  These are the same as the pellet smokers I talked about in category #3, just higher end.  You want heavier build quality?  You got it.  More cooking space? Ayep.  Wi-Fi controls?  Check.  Well, in most cases anyway. 

As far as brands go, you’re still looking at the big 3 I listed above, but Louisiana-Grills enters the conversation here.  These smokers are bigger and heavier, with better seals and more bells and whistles.  You really can’t go wrong with any of these.

 

Traeger Pro Series 22″ (Gen 1) Wood Pellet Grill W/ Cold Smoke Cabinet – TFB57PZB + BAC253
Traeger Pro Series 22

 


Traeger Pro 780 Wi-Fi Controlled Wood Pellet Grill W/ WiFIRE – Black – TFB78GLE

Traeger Pro 780 Wi-Fi Controlled Wood Pellet Grill W/ WiFIRE - Black - TFB78GLE

 

 


Traeger Pro Series 34″ (Gen 1) Wood Pellet Grill W/ Front Shelf, Bottom Shelf & Grill Cover – Bronze – TFB88PZB – TFB88PZB + BAC380 + BAC363 + BAC364

Traeger Pro Series 34

 

 

 

Camp Chef



Camp Chef SmokePro SG Wood Pellet Grill – Black – PG24SG

Camp Chef SmokePro SG Wood Pellet Grill - Black - PG24SG

 

 


Camp Chef SmokePro SGX Wood Pellet Grill – Black – PG36SGX

Camp Chef SmokePro SGX Wood Pellet Grill - Black - PG36SGX

 

 


Camp Chef Woodwind Wood Pellet Grill With Propane Sear Box -PG24WWSS

Camp Chef Woodwind Wood Pellet Grill With Propane Sear Box - PG24WWSS

 

 

 

 

Pit Boss


Pit Boss 700SC Wood Pellet Grill – 72700SC

Pit Boss 700SC Wood Pellet Grill - 72700SC

 

 

 

Louisiana-Grills

 

 


Louisiana Grills LG900 Wood Pellet Grill – 60900

Louisiana Grills LG900 Wood Pellet Grill - 60900

 

 


Louisiana Grills LG1100 Wood Pellet Grill – 61100

Louisiana Grills LG1100 Wood Pellet Grill - 61100

 

 


Louisiana Grills LG900C1 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker – 60901

Louisiana Grills LG900C1 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker - 60901

 


Louisiana Grills LG800E Elite Wood Pellet Grill – 60815

Louisiana Grills LG800E Elite Wood Pellet Grill - 60815

 


Louisiana Grills LG800 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill – 60801

Louisiana Grills LG800 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill - 60801

 

 

 

Charcoal Smokers

 

This is where we’re going to see some new items.  You still have offset smokers in this category, albeit much better build quality than the cheap offsets I talked about in category #1.  I’m still not a huge fan of offset smokers, but that’s just my personal opinion.  Plenty to look at here if that’s what you’re after, but I think there are just too many better options in this price range.

While these are all charcoal cookers, they’re going to be different from anything I’ve touched on here so far.  One is a more “traditional” charcoal smoker, and the other two are new types of cookers that I haven’t touched on yet.

The first one I’m going to talk about is the Backwoods smoker.  The Backwoods is a vertical reverse-flow water smoker.  I own and use a Backwoods smoker, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever spent money on.  Like the WSM, the meat goes in the top cooking chamber and the charcoal goes in the bottom in the firebox.  Unlike the WSM, the cooking chamber and the fire box are in separate compartments, although still connected.  There is a heat deflector as well as a water pan that separate the two compartments.  Each compartment has a heavy-duty door with slam latches, and they seal with high-heat oven gasket.  The whole smoker has a full 1″ of insulation, including the doors.

Air flow/temperature control is very easy.  There are two intake vents on either side of the fire box, and then the exit point is the chimney.  That’s it.  Three openings to adjust.  The rest of the cooker is sealed up tight, so you’re in complete control.  Once you get your temperature locked in, it’s not moving unless you want it to.  Okay, that’s a lie.  Or at least an exaggeration.  There will always be some fluctuations any time you’re cooking with fire, especially if it’s windy out, but the build design and insulation minimize it significantly. 

I mentioned above that Backwoods are reverse-flow smokers.  What does that mean exactly?  What that means is the smoke and heat don’t just rise up and out the top.  The design of the Backwoods forces the heat and smoke over the food in the cooking chamber so that none of it gets wasted.

How does it work?  It’s a really cool design.  It might be hard to really describe it in text, but I’ll give it a go.  The left and right walls of the cooking chamber have hollow channels in them that run to the fire box.  The heat and smoke come up from the fire box and through those channels.  There are openings at the ends of the channels at the very top of the cooking chamber.

Here’s where the reverse-flow idea comes in.  Once the heat and smoke enter the cooking chamber from the tops of the hollow channels in the walls, there’s no place for it to go.  The interior top of the smoker is sealed.  There is a chimney for the heat and smoke to escape, but the opening for the chimney is in the bottom of the cooker.  What?!  Yes..the back wall of the cooking chamber also has a hollow channel.  There are holes in the back wall at the bottom of the cooking chamber.  The heat and smoke are driven down to those holes as the air cools and more hot air and smoke enter through the top.  The heat and smoke are then forced down through the cooker into those holes where they travel up the hollow chamber in the back and out the chimney.  Make sense?  Here are some photos of mine.  Maybe the visual will help:

 


 

 

 

The model I own is the Backwoods Party.  The Backwoods Chubby is the model that I’m linking to here.  They’re exactly the same aside from the fact that the Party is bigger (and more expensive).  The Chubby is the one model that fits into this price range at around $800.  It’s smaller than the Party, but it still holds a ton of food and will be more than enough for most people.  The Party is overkill for me, but I got a great deal on it…and I plan on getting into competitive barbecue when I retire, so for me it was worth it.  I’ve had mine for almost ten years now, and it’s still as good as the day I bought it.  I cannot recommend this high enough.

 


Backwoods Smoker Chubby 3400 Vertical Charcoal Smoker – LVPBSCH3400

Backwoods Smoker Chubby 3400 Vertical Charcoal Smoker - LVPBSCH3400

 

 

 

The next smoker I’m going to talk about is the Kamado cooker.  I don’t own one of these myself, because after what I spent on the Backwoods, I really can’t justify another big purchase for another outdoor cooker.  Plus I don’t have room for it.  How much would I really use it, anyway?  It’s not helping…I still want one.  These are really badass cookers.  They’re smokers, ovens, and grills…all in one unit.  The best ones are made of ceramic.  You can find other Kamado style cookers that are made of steel.  These are cheaper and more lightweight, but you get what you pay for.  I don’t recommend them.  If you’re going to go this route, go with ceramic.  It’s going to have better temperature control, and it won’t corrode over time.  It’s also going to be heavy, so be prepared for that.  Kamado grills are capable of achieving and retaining temperatures ranging anywhere from 220 degrees up to 750 degrees!  Really awesome units.

Design-wise, it’s similar to some of the others listed above.  It’s a vertical cooker, and the charcoal/wood goes in the bottom while the food is on a grate up above.  These cookers have excellent seals and heavy lids, with precise air flow control through the top vent.  Once it’s heated up, it will hold temps seemingly forever.  When it comes to brands, there are three that I recommend – Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, and Primo.  There are other brands and models, but these are the ones I know.  Unfortunately, you’re not going to have a ton of cooking space on these.  They make bigger models, but the price rises quickly.  Here are the models available to you in this range.

If you do some research, you’ll find that Kamado Joe is the king here.  Best of the best in quality of materials, durability, and features.  They are pricey, but everything in this category is, and everything here is a long-term investment.  Be sure you know what you want before you pull the trigger on anything.  They only have one model in this price range that I found and it’s the Kamado Joe Classic II 18-inch grill.

 


Kamado Joe Classic II 18″ Ceramic Grill – KJ23RHC

Kamado Joe Classic II 18

 

 

 

 

Next up is Primo.  I’m not quite as familiar with Primo as I am with Kamado Joe, but I’ve messed around with a couple, and it’s definitely a high-quality product.  Primo is very proud of its oval-shaped cooker and they claim that it makes a huge difference versus a typical round cooking area.  I really can’t speak to any real benefits to the shape of the cooker, aside from being able to fit different sizes/shapes of meat on the grates.  You be the judge.


Primo All-In-One Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves – 773

Primo All-In-One Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves - 773

 


Primo All-In-One Oval Junior 200 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves – 7400

Primo All-In-One Oval Junior 200 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves - 7400

 

 

 

If you wanna go $62 over your $1500 budget, you can get this model as well:

 


Primo All-In-One Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves – 7500

Primo All-In-One Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves - 7500

 

Last up is Big Green Egg.  I don’t have any statistics or anything, but Big Green Egg seems to be the most popular of these.  I just seem to see many more of these around than any other Kamado cooker.  Maybe they’re just that good…I don’t know.  I’ve handled more than a few of these, and they’re definitely quality cookers.  They don’t sell their cookers online, so if you want to buy one of these, you’ll have to find a local dealer.  This is their main site, if you want to check them out:

 

biggreenegg.com

 

 

The last cooker I’m going to talk about here is the Hasty-Bake oven.  This is also a versatile cooker that works as a grill, an oven, and a smoker.  It has a good amount of cooking space, an adjustable charcoal rack that cranks from the outside, and a side door that allows access to the charcoal tray without opening the lid to the cooking chamber.  I’ve never had the chance to cook on one of these, but I have always loved the design.  They’ve been around since 1948, and you don’t get to be around for that long without doing something right.  There are people that hand these things down to their kids, so that tells you all you need to know about durability.  No firsthand knowledge on these, but worth a look in my opinion.



Hasty-Bake Legacy Black Powder Coated Charcoal Grill – 131

Hasty-Bake Legacy Black Powder Coated Charcoal Grill - 131

 

 


Hasty-Bake Gourmet Dual Finish Charcoal Grill – 256

Hasty-Bake Gourmet Dual Finish Charcoal Grill - 256

 

 

 

CATEGORY #5:  If you’ve read through this whole thing, this category will probably be disappointing.  This category is for the money is no object crowd, or those who run catering businesses, etc.  With this site being geared mostly towards those newer to smoking, I’m surprised you’re even here!  Nonetheless, I didn’t want to leave you out if you fit into this group. 

The reason this will probably disappoint is that it’s mostly the same as above, with a couple of exceptions.  You still have pellet grills and charcoal smokers, just bigger, badder, and more expensive.  Being in this price range – everything over $1500, it opens the door to more manufacturers.  It also leads you to custom fabricators who will build you whatever you’d like.  If you have the money, the sky’s the limit. 

This is mostly going to be a list of manufacturers who I’m recommending on reputation alone.  This category is too rich for my blood, and I don’t have any experience with any of them. I have few links, if any, to share because most of the manufacturers here are dealt with directly.  They mostly don’t sell through dealers.  The ones I’ll list here are the ones that I’ve drooled over through the years.  The dream grills.

There is one on this list, however…one that I’ll leave for last….that will be mine someday.  My ultimate dream cooker.  But, that will come later.  Let’s get this thing started. 

 

 

Charcoal Smokers

Since I’ve already talked about them above, I’ll start here…with Backwoods.  Same as the Chubby model from the previous category, but now an unlimited budget brings the rest of their line into play.  If you want to cook a whole hog, or you want enough room to cook for an army, these are a great way to go:

 

https://shop.backwoods-smoker.com/collections/frontpage

 

 

 

Kamado Cookers

 

You also have more Kamado cookers once you go up over $1500.  Same brands, just bigger models.

 

 

Kamado Joe

 


Kamado Joe Classic III 18″ Ceramic Kamado Grill – KJ23NRHCI – KJ23NRHCI + KJ-MC3

Kamado Joe Classic III 18

 

 


Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24″ Ceramic Grill – BJ24RHC

Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24

 

 


Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24″ Ceramic Kamado Grill – BJ24NRHCI – BJ24NRHCI + BJ-MC3

Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24

 

 

 

Primo


Primo All-In-One Oval XL 400 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves – 7800

Primo All-In-One Oval XL 400 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle & Side Shelves - 7800

 

 

 


Primo Oval XL 400 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart With 2-Piece Island Side Shelves – 778 – 778 + 368 + 311

Primo Oval XL 400 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart With 2-Piece Island Side Shelves - 778 - 778 + 368 + 311

 

 

Pellet Cookers

 

Again, more of the same.  Same brands, just bigger and badder models.  With one exception.  If I were to decide to upgrade my pellet grill at some point, the only one I would consider is made by Yoder.  This is truly the Cadillac of pellet grills: 

https://www.yodersmokers.com/ys640-pellet-grill.html

 

Yoder also makes high-end offset smokers and custom rigs.  If I was forced to buy an offset smoker, it would be a Yoder.

 

 

 

Here are a couple of models available from Traeger to note:

 

 

 


Traeger XL Wood Pellet Grill – Bronze – BBQ150.01

Traeger XL Wood Pellet Grill - Bronze - BBQ150.01

 

 


Traeger Timberline 1300 Wi-Fi Controlled Wood Pellet Grill W/ WiFIRE – TFB01WLE

Traeger Timberline 1300 Wi-Fi Controlled Wood Pellet Grill W/ WiFIRE - TFB01WLE

 

 

 

 

And one model from Louisiana-Grills:

 


Louisiana Grills Estate Series 860 sq in 304 Stainless Steel Pellet Grill w/ Full Lower Cabinet- LG ESTATE 860C

Louisiana Grills Estate Series 860 sq in 304 Stainless Steel Pellet Grill w/ Full Lower Cabinet- LG ESTATE 860C

 

 

 

The rest of the pellet smokers in this price range are brands I’ve never even heard of.  The lone exception being Fast Eddys, which I know are used by many restaurants.  Smoker porn, if nothing else:

 


Cookshack Fast Eddys 32″ Wood Pellet Grill – PG1000

Cookshack Fast Eddys 32

 


Cookshack Fast Eddys By FEC100 Pellet Smoker Oven

Cookshack Fast Eddys By FEC100 Pellet Smoker Oven

 

 

 

 

 


Memphis Grills Pro Wi-Fi Controlled 28″ 304 Stainless Steel Pellet Grill – VG0001S

Memphis Grills Pro Wi-Fi Controlled 28

 

 

 

 

 


Memphis Grills Elite Wi-Fi Controlled 39″ 304 Stainless Steel Pellet Grill – VG0002S

Memphis Grills Elite Wi-Fi Controlled 39

 

 

 

 


Twin Eagles Wi-Fi Controlled 36″ Stainless Steel Pellet Grill and Smoker On Deluxe Cart – TEPG36G + TEPGB36

Twin Eagles Wi-Fi Controlled 36

 

 

How’d you like to have one of those bad boys out on the patio?  Ha!  If only…

 

 

 

 

Custom Cookers

Next up are your high-end, pro-grade, mostly or all custom cookers.  There are so many manufacturers out there, I don’t even know where to begin.  Here are the ones that I’ve researched and am at least familiar with.

 

 

Stump’s Smokers

https://stumpssmokers.com/

 

 

Pitmaker

https://pitmakerbbq.com/

 

 

Lone Star Grillz

https://lonestargrillz.com/

 

 

Gator Pit

http://www.gatorpit.net/

 

 

Assassin Smokers

https://www.assassin-smokers.com/

 

 

Shirley Fabrication

https://www.shirleyfabrication.com/

 

 

 

 

Stick Burners

 

I only have two to talk about here, because I’ve only ever researched two of them.  Since I haven’t talked about these at any other point in the post….a stick burner is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a smoker that runs on wood, and wood alone.  No charcoal, no pellets, no nuthin’.  Just wood.  The barbecue purists, the old-school of the old-school…this is what they use.  Some say there is no better flavor than food cooked on a stick burner.  I don’t know about that, but I have eaten food cooked on a stick burner, and it was indeed some of the best I’ve ever had.  I think it has more to do with the cook than the cooker, but if you want to check them out, here are the two I know about…including my DREAM COOKER!

 

 

First up, we have Lang BBQ Smokers.  Lang is a custom, hand-built smoker manufacturer that only sells direct.  They are widely recognized as the standard when it comes to stick burners.  If you want a stick burner and you have the money, you absolutely cannot go wrong here.

 

https://www.langbbqsmokers.com/

 

 

 

 

The last cooker I’m going to list here today is the one I’ve been drooling over for a while now.  This is the smoker that will be mine someday.  This is one of the sexiest, most badass cookers I’ve come across.  Allow me to introduce you to MGril

 

https://mgrills.com/

 

 

More specifically, the M36:

 

https://mgrills.com/collections/pro-grade/products/m36-grill-smoker?variant=52183964373

 

 

That right there is the stuff that barbecue dreams are made of.  It’s another versatile cooker that grills and smokes, and is a bona-fide stick burner.  If you checked out the other smokers above, you’ll notice that this has a lot in common with the Hasty-Bake Oven that I’ve also drooled over in the past.  This is a Hasty-Bake on steroids, made of much thicker steel…with the added bonus of being designed to use as a stick burner, although you can also use it with charcoal.

This is the cooker that I can’t get out of my head.  I almost wish I’d never seen it.  It will be mine someday.  It will be mine!

Okay, enough of that.  That completes my guide to smokers, and I hope it was helpful for you.  Thanks for checking it out, and good luck picking out your cooker!

 

 

Okay, I lied.  I just wanted to add one last thing here.  If you’re really broke (or just really cheap), and none of these options work for you, at least from retail…remember you can always look at used cookers.  You can find them locally or on auction sites, and most message boards have a For Sale section.

Going used can also allow you to move up a bit in the categories.  If you fall into category #1 or #2, going used can get you into a category #2 or #3…or maybe even a #4 smoker, so look around.  Happy hunting!