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The Complete Guide to Father’s Day Grilling: Grilling vs. Smoking vs. Barbecuing

The Complete Guide to Father’s Day Grilling: Grilling vs. Smoking vs. Barbecuing

Here’s how to navigate the basic grilling terminology

Summer vegetables are definitely tastiest when grilled.

Whether you’re a first-time grill-buyer, a seasoned backyard-broiler, or are just looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift, look no further than our ultimate guide to grilling. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a new grill, but lucky for you, we’ve done all the legwork to help you get the most bang for your backyard-barbecue buck.

Are you new to grilling? Confused about the difference between a grill and a barbecue? Here’s how to navigate the basic grilling terminology.

Grilling

Grills cook food quickly so that it stays juicy, while adding a smoky, caramelized flavor that can be achieved only by cooking with live fire. Here are a few distinguishing factors of grilling:

  • Cooking over an open gas or charcoal flame with heat higher than 300 degrees F gives food a charred appearance.
  • High temperatures result in shorter cooking times — grilling dinner typically takes less than 20 minutes.
  • Grilling is best for smaller pieces of food such as chicken breasts, wings, burgers, hot dogs, steak, pork chops, and vegetables.

Pro Tip: If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’. An open grill lid lets heat escape and prevents proper cooking, so don’t fiddle with your food and keep the lid closed as much as possible. Using a remote probe thermometer allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of your food without peeking in.

Smoking

Smoked foods are cooked alongside the fire or heat source (usually coal or wood). Here are some things that set smoking apart from grilling:

  • Because temperatures are kept lower than 300 degrees F, smoked foods can cook for a longer time without the exterior burning, while still achieving a signature smoky flavor.
  • The smoking technique typically imparts a brown or red ring around the edges of the meat.
  • Smoking is best for larger pieces of meat such as whole chickens, beef brisket, whole hogs, and fish.
  • Smaller food items are also easily prepared on the smoker: Try smoking peppers, tomatoes, and onions for a tasty salsa unlike anything you’ve had before!

Barbecuing

Although some people call grills “barbecues,” the term more accurately describes a type of cuisine, or an outdoor event, which is similar to a picnic, but has a more grill-centric menu. Different regions of the country boast their own styles of barbecue. The most popular American barbecue styles come from the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City. Here are the differences between these styles:

  • Carolina BBQ: The favorite variety of barbecue in the Carolinas includes pork shoulder or whole hog. The shredded meat is commonly served with cabbage slaw and splashed with a vinegar-based sauce that, depending on the region, will be flavored with mustard.
  • Texas BBQ: A typical Texas barbecue plate is made up of beef, typically chopped or sliced brisket, served with a few links of peppery sausage. A tangy and smoky sauce is served on the side.
  • Memphis BBQ: The favorite Tennessee barbecue is a plate of slow-roasted ribs, dusted with a sweet and savory dry rub, which makes sauce an optional condiment. A few famous places finish their ribs over a charcoal fire for an extra boost of heat and flavor.
  • Kansas City BBQ: Kansas City does everything, meaning that beef and pork are featured equally. The Missouri meat masters rely on a thick and smoky sauce that is sweeter than those of other regions.

Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.


Master the Art of Barbecue with One of These Best Smokers

There are more choices than ever when it comes to smokers, and the options can seem overwhelming. Which type of fuel do you want to run on? Which configuration will best suit your purposes?

&ldquoIf you&rsquore going to smoke, an offset&mdashthe traditional Texas-style smoker&mdashmakes the best food,&rdquo says Jess Pryles, live-fire cooking expert and author of Hardcore Carnivore. &ldquoOffset is the purest way. It forces you to learn how to run the fire. With an offset smoker, the only way to control the temperature is the air intake. So, if you really want to learn barbecue craft, go offset.&rdquo

Well, that&rsquos great, if smoking food is your passion and mastery of the smoker is your goal. But not everyone has the time to spend learning&mdasha lot of folks just want to make some delicious food. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, we&rsquove tested many smokers to select the best options for everyone, from the beginners to the seasoned pros.

Check out quick info here on five of our top picks, then scroll down for more buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.

What You Need to Know About Smokers

The traditional offset Texas-style smoker has been the standard for quite a while, but newer technologies are slowly gaining ground. Electric, propane, and pellet smokers are all capable of producing great results, while digital control systems to manage temperature and airflow help flatten the learning curve to produce excellent smoked foods with little experience. Understanding the effort and knowledge required for each type of smoker and fuel will help narrow down which is right or you.

Types of Fuel

Wood: The traditional fuel, wood is what gives food that smoky flavor everyone is after. Different species of wood produce various degrees or notes of smokiness. Wood fires produce more ash than charcoal.

Charcoal: Lump charcoal is made by burning wood in a very low-oxygen environment where most of the volatile compounds like water, hydrogen, and methane are released, leaving almost pure carbon. The charcoal produces nearly no smoke and burns without flames and at a higher temperature than the wood it was made from. Charcoal also produces less ash than wood. Charcoal grillers will typically add wood chips to get the desired amount of smokiness.

Charcoal briquettes are generally made from sawdust and other wood byproducts that have been processed into charcoal, mixed with binders, and compressed into the shape we&rsquore all familiar with. Briquettes may contain chemicals to bind them or make them easier to light. It&rsquos common to add wood chips with these too to get that smoke.

Propane: Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as propane, is a gas that&rsquos compressed and stored as a liquid. As it&rsquos released from its storage tank, it turns back to a gas. Wood chips need to be placed near enough to the propane burner to burn slowly and provide the desired amount of smoke. A lot of people choose propane because it makes the heat easier to manage and it&rsquos cleaner, with only the ash from the wood chips to clean up.

Pellets: Wood pellets are made by processing wood waste down to a uniform sawdust-like consistency and then forcing it through dies at high pressure. Since pellets are made from wood, there&rsquos no need to add wood chips to produce smoke. Bonus: Pellets produce very little ash.

Electric: Electric smokers have a heating element much like an electric oven. This element provides the heat to both cook the food and slowly burn wood chips that provide the smoke. Electric smokers leave very little to clean up without much ash from the wood chips.

Types of Smokers

Offset: Offset smokers have two compartments, a smaller one usually to the right or left of a larger one. The fire is stoked in the smaller compartment, and the grill vents the smoke and heat from it into the larger compartment containing the food. Offset smokers typically burn wood, or charcoal with wood chips added. This type of smoker requires more attention to the fire, and it helps to have some experience for getting everything perfect. Per Pryles&rsquos sentiment above, experts regard offset smokers as one of the best ways to smoke food.

Vertical or Bullet: Vertical smokers are tall, narrow, and sometimes called bullet smokers because of their shape. The bottom of the unit houses a charcoal fire, a propane burner, or an electric element, and the heat from that travels up to the top and the racks holding the food. Generally, these grills open at the top for loading food inside, although some have doors on the side. Wood chips usually go on or directly above the fire or heat source. Sometimes vertical smokers are also called water smokers because they have a bowl or pan filled with water between the heat source and the food. Similar to an offset smoker, this helps shield the food from direct heat so that it cooks more slowly. The size of the fire (or heat setting on an electric element) controls the heat and the smoke, limiting airflow at the bottom and exhaust at the top. This type of smoker also requires attention and experience.

Box or Cabinet: Box smokers function similarly to vertical smokers, except they typically have front-load doors for both the food and the fire box. From bottom to top, they have the fire or heat source, something to hold wood chips, a water pan or bowl, and then racks for food. Managing the fire, airflow to it, and exhaust out the top is essential to controlling heat, much like with a vertical smoker. Note that pellet-fueled box smokers, which include smokers that look like traditional grills, typically have a hopper to the side and an electric control system.

Control Systems

Due to the rising popularity of pellet grills and smokers, control systems are becoming more common. These typically have a digital thermostat and a fan to manage the fire and temperatures. In the case of pellet-fueled devices, they also have an auger to feed the pellets to the fire. Some units may also have Wi-Fi connectivity and apps that pair with the system for remote monitoring or control. These systems can handle a lot of the work associated with smoking and long, slow cooking by keeping temperatures and smoke levels consistent.

Digital Thermometers

We regard digital thermometers as required equipment, especially when getting started smoking food. Temperature is critical to getting the results you want and being sure that meat is cooked enough to safely consume. If your smoker doesn&rsquot come with probes to monitor the internal temp, we recommend getting a digital thermometer. There are many options out there, but you don&rsquot need anything fancy. Throughout our testing, we used a TP-20 model from ThermoPro. It&rsquos wireless, with two probes and multiple settings for different types of meats. Wireless units will give you some freedom from being tied to the smoker. Some of the briskets we smoked took over six hours, so it was great to be able work on other tests we had going at the same time. More importantly, it helped us avoid serving overcooked or undercooked meats.

How We Tested

Every smoker on this list has been thoroughly researched, evaluated, and used by our team of test editors. Additionally, we survey user reviews and speak with product managers and designers. To test the smokers below, we prepared the same Texas-style smoked brisket and beef jerky in each one, then, over a two-week period, used all of them to smoke a wide range of things. We evaluated them based on ease of use, how well they allowed us to control heat and smoke, how easy they were to clean up, and how reliably we could produce a delicious result. If you&rsquore interested in a new smoker, chances are there&rsquos one here that&rsquos right for you.