If you are new to barbecuing and smoking meats, we will show you the best smoker for beginners, explain what elements to consider, and explain what to look for in your first smoker.
We all love the smell, taste, and tenderness of a well-smoked pork roast or a smoked brisket. Smoked meats captivate all your senses, smell, taste, and touch. Just walking up to your favorite BBQ restaurant puts a big smile on your face.
Now you want to become the next Aaron Franklin and start smoking your own meats at home, but you are entirely new to smoking meat and barbecuing. Smoking meats requires a different type of BBQ grill referred to as a “Smoker Grill.”
What is a smoker grill?
A smoker grill is designed to cook at lower temperatures for long periods, hold water and wood to tenderize, and add smoke flavor to foods. A beginner must pick the right smoker grill to dodge frustrations, learning obstacles, and safety issues.
Finding a good beginner smoker grill involves more than finding the cheapest smoker on the Internet. You need to consider more than just price. For instance, how familiar are you with starting charcoal, controlling temperature, working with wood, or monitoring long cooks?
The good BBQ smokers are not always the cheapest
We will cover later in this article everything you should consider when choosing your new smoker grill, but first, we will go over the best type of smoker for newcomers. The better smokers for beginners are those types of smokers with set it and forget technology and safety features.
Tech in BBQ grills is helpful to beginners; it aids in when learning how to cook in a smoker and adds safety. These features can add to the cost of the smoker.
What type of smoker is best for beginners? Let’s see the popular types of Smokers Grills.
Smoker grills come in different sizes, shapes, and types. The most common type of smoker is the traditional vertical smokers, but there are other kinds available, all with their own attributes and features.
However, vertical cabinet smokers powered by propane, pellets, and charcoal are the top smokers for beginners. All the smokers on this list are excellent smoker grills for beginners.
Propane Smoker Grills work with either natural gas or liquid propane tanks as a fuel source and use some sort of gas burner, similar to what you find on your stove, to burn gas and produce the fire.
Propane smoker grills are usually vertical cabinets. The firebox is located at the bottom of the cabinet; above the firebox, you will have some sort of wood chip tray to hold your favorite wood chip flavor, and a water tray keeps meats moist during the long and slow smoking process.
What makes propane smokers excellent for beginners is their simplicity. First, you can find your propane anywhere. Finding a tank of propane is as easy as driving down to your closest gas station. Propane smokers operate just like your gas stove at home, you set the burner controls to your desired temperature, and that is it.
As a beginner, you should focus on sharpening your food smoking techniques, learning your wood flavors, and improving your recipes. Having a simple dial to set the cooking temperature, so you focus on your cooking and not worry about temperature drops, fire going out, or temperature spikes makes propane smokers great for beginners.
Charcoal Smokers are usually built in a vertical cabinet configuration. Like most propane smokers, the firebox, source of heat, is at the bottom of the cabinet, and right above the firebox, you will have a wood tray and water container. Charcoal smoker grills are my favorite type of smoker, although charcoal smokers might not be the best type of smoker for some beginners.
Charcoal grills require you to have some knowledge of charcoal management, charcoal ignition, and heat control. Lighting charcoal can be challenging for some beginners and can take some time to get temperature control techniques right.
Another reason I caution beginners when buying any charcoal smoker grill as their first smoker is temperature control. Unlike propane, electric, or pellet smokers, charcoal smokers require temperature control knowledge and not just a knob turn.
While propane, electric, and pellet smokers have ignition buttons to start the fire and a dial to set the cooking temperature, charcoal smokers require you to use air vents to control your smoker’s heat.
Using air vents to control the temperature of your smoker can be very difficult for some users. Charcoal smokers have to be monitored as the fire can go out, and during long cooks, you might need to replenish your charcoal. If you are a beginner, dealing with charcoal can be tedious work, especially during long cooks.
However, none, I repeat, none of the other types of smokers on this list will equal the flavor a charcoal smoker can produce. So if you are willing to get your hands a bit dirty and work a little more, a charcoal smoker will be right for you.
Just beware that certain smokers, such as a pit barrel cooker and Kamado Joe, are great grills but require a bit more experience. A pit barrel cooker can be an amazing smoker but can be hard to manage for some.
Pellet Grill Smokers
One of my favorite types of smokers and an excellent option for beginners. In fact, I own a Pit Boss pellet grill, which I absolutely enjoy. Pellet Smokers can be found in a vertical cabinet configuration, offset and grill-smoker combo styles.
Some people argue that Pellet grills can be more expensive than other smokers, but pellet grills have more technology and components than most smokers. You can buy pellet grills with features such as WIFI so you can control your pellet smoker grill with your mobile phone.
Pellet smokers are very simple to use. Pick a bag of your favorite pellet flavor blend, add it to the pellet box, hit the start button, and set your temperature. That is it. The pellet smoker has a digital controller that controls a built-in fan, an igniter and will also feed pellets to a firebox. The digital controller will manage all these components to maintain whatever temperature you set.
Smoker grills with digital controllers add excellent features such as digital temperature displays, meat temperature probe connections, and cooking timers. Easy!
Why isn’t everyone using a pellet grill smoker, you might ask? Well, seasoned users prefer to control every aspect of the meat smoking process, from heat to smoke production and flavors. Pellet grills sort of limit how creative you can get with smoke flavor as you don’t use wood chips, the pellet is both your source of fuel and smoke flavor.
However, these smokers are some of the simplest smokers to use. Pellet grills and smokers also pack some safety features not found in other smoker types. For instance, my Pit Boss smoker will automatically shut off its power if it struggles to reach or keep temperature. This avoids flares ups or other safety issues. Also, this means that it is time to clean your smoker.
Electric smokers look very similar to propane smokers, typically built just like regular smokers, vertical cabinets. However, you guessed it, its source of power is an electrical resistance or “heating element,” which heats up to your set temperature. Like propane and pellet grill smokers, electric smokers have temperature controls built-in.
You can set your desired temperature and walk away ( or grab a beer).
Being able to set your desired cooking temperature and walkway while enjoying a few beers is always a plus and very helpful if you are starting out in the meat smoking business.
However, there are a few things I dislike about electric smokers. The first being they are electric! Something about having a big electric resistance as the heat source below a water tray and wood does not sit well. I am concerned that any damage to the smoker cabinet can put user safety at risk. In fact, many electric smokers do not come with wheels.
They need to be set on a leveled surface and left in place during the entire cook. So if you plan on cooking a Boston pork roast for 12 hours, make sure you check your local weather first!
Electric smokers are great for those who can’t have a charcoal grill or any combustion type grill on their property. Perhaps you are restricted by your apartment complex lease policies and can’t have any combustion-type grills on your balcony. Well, electric smokers are for you.
I never cared for electric smokers as they lack the very own characteristic that makes smoke food so delicious, combustion, good wood burning. Electric smoker grills are almost too clean for smoking meats, and you can taste them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but there is a reason why no award-winning BBQ Pitmaster or restaurant uses these types of grills, they use hot coals!
Offset smokers are traditionally big and are great for large cookouts. If you are trying to feed a church, offsets smokers grills are a great option. I like offset smokers because the meat is never in direct contact with the fire or heat source. Instead, an offset firebox is attached to one side of the smoker, and heat travels to the main cooking chamber.
Offset smokers are available in charcoal and pellets. I would not recommend this type of smoker for novices since you really need to understand a few fundamentals, and heat management is important with Offset smokers.
However, if you get your hands on a pellet offset smoker, you might do just fine, as we explained earlier in this article. Pellet grills are controlled by digital controllers making it easy to set and regulate temperature.
Keep in mind that offset smokers usually are large and take up a lot of space. You will be able to feed many people, but you will also need a large area to use and store this smoker.
Related: The best offset smokers – Ranked
Oh, Kamado Grills! Ok, so Kamados can do all, bake, grill, and yes, smoke foods. I’m adding these grills as one of the smoker types you can find and purchase in the market today but be warned; these are not beginner smokers.
Kamados are one of the best grills you can buy. In fact, I own Big Green Egg, and I have been cooking on that grill for over 5 years. These ceramic grills are built to last, and unless you drop one, they will last forever. Built out of ceramic means there are minimal parts damaged by heat, rust, or even weather.
However, these grills are expensive and can be a handful to learn how to operate. Using a Kamado grill is like driving an electric car; everything is different. However, just like an electric car, kamados are incredibly efficient, and their ceramic build and egg-like shape do a great job at transferring heat evenly through the grill.
These things are amazing and can cook mean racks of ribs.
However, if you are just starting out and are new to grilling, it will take a while to dominate this grill. However, if you have the budget and are not afraid of learning, dive in.
What’s the best type of smoker for beginners?
The best type of smoker for beginners is either a propane smoker or a pellet grill. I’m not saying these are the best types of smokers; this isn’t this article’s purpose. This article aims to help you find the most suitable smoker grill if you are just starting in the meat smoking game.
Consider the following when looking for good smokers for beginners.
Probably the first and most important thing you should consider is cost. There are great smokers in the market but keep an eye on price. Excellent features like digital temperature controllers and wifi gadgets will increase the price of these grills quickly. Entry-level smokers are usually inexpensive, but as you add features such as WIFI, mobile apps, digital controllers, and other accessories, the price will go up.
Some beginner grills start at an excellent price point, but the more features and gadgets the grill has, the higher the price point. 🙁
What fuel you feel comfortable using
Some people are natural charcoal lovers and will not consider any other kind of fuel. However, many beginners prefer propane or electric grills to not deal with lighting charcoal.
Some people do not like charcoal, and I get it. I have met people frightened of dealing with fire, and they prefer using an electric grill or smoker. Start with whatever you feel comfortable with. The point here is to get started and learn.
Smokers need fuel to cook for a long time (low and slow)
A smoker needs ample fuel capacity to cook foods low and slow. Be sure that whichever fuel type you choose can handle long cooks and power your smoker for a long time.
Safety is important when dealing with any cooking product but with smokers is paramount. I appreciate smoker manufacturers adding safety features to their smokers and grills.
Some propane smokers grills can detect the flame has gone out and shut off the propane flow. You will not find many safety features in good old charcoal smokers or kamados but expect to see a few of these features in electric, propane, and pellet smokers grills.
If this is your first smoker, safety features are important, and evaluate which safety features will make you feel most comfortable. Safety features can help you enjoy your first smoker
Capacity and Cooking Space
Capacity is important if you have a large family or expect to cook for a large crowd. However, if you are looking to get started and this is will be your first smoker, I would focus on budget, safety, and the type of fuel you feel comfortable cooking with.
Square inches of cooking space is also important as this is one aspect of the grill that cannot be changed after it is purchased. The more square inches of cooking, the larger the smoker will be. Cooking space is important if you intend to cook large cuts of meats like pork shoulders or turkeys.
The number of cooking racks the smoker comes with dictate how much food you can place in your smoker. Cooking racks come in different materials such as cast iron, stainless steel, and a porcelain enamel coated.
Accessories you will need with your Smoker Grill ( and to get started)
Cooking in smoker grills will require wood chips to generate smoke and get that smoky flavor. At the very least, you will need to pick up a bag of smoke flavor wood.
Smokers cook at a low temperature, but water trays and wood chips trays can get hot. Be safe and spend a few bucks on a nice pair of gloves.
BBQ / Smoker Seal
Most smoker grills come with some sort of seal on the main cabinet door, but they can get weaker over time. You will lose heat and smoke!
Meat Temperature Thermometer
Although some smoker grills can display the cooking area’s internal temperature, you still need to know the meat’s temperature. If you want the most tender and flavorful smoke meat. You will need to know its temperature and when it is ready to be served.
Here are our picks and Reviews for the best smokers for beginners
Now that you know more about bbq smoker grills and which type of smoker grill best fits you, we will show you below our top picks for every smoker type we talked about in this article.
1. Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane Smoker With Thermostat Control
The Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane smoker is a great option for beginners. We recently reviewed the top 5 propane smokers in the market, and this smoker grill made it to our list.
The two main reasons why we recommend this smoker grill to beginners is its safety features and simplicity. This smoker has thermostat control, which means all you have to do to get started is set your desired temperature, add wood, water, and you are ready to start cooking.
The other reason is this smoker’s auto-shutoff safety feature. This smoker burner system can detect if the flame has gone out and auto shut off propane flow avoiding accidents. We appreciate this feature.
2. Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker
The Weber Smokey Mountain is one of the most popular smokers in the business. In fact, I owned a Weber Smokey Mountain, and I loved it. This smoker grill is simple, basic, yet built and designed to do its job well, smoke meat.
The Weber Smokey Mountain is easy to assemble, and there aren’t many parts to worry about. Its simplicity makes it a perfect smoker grill for beginners.
The main cooking area of this Smokey Mountain Cooker is about 286 square inches and 14 inches in diameter. You can move this grill around with ease, and bigger size models are available.
We appreciate this smoker grill’s simplicity, which is why we recommend it as a great smoker for novices. Pick up your favorite charcoal and wood chips and get ready to start learning. This smoker is a lot of fun.
Pros of Charcoal Smokers:
- This beginner’s charcoal smoker simple design means fewer parts and easy assembly.
- This smoker size is very portable and easy to move around your backyard.
- Very easy to operate; control the heat and temperature using air vents in the firebox and top lid.
- The built-in thermometer makes it easier for users to know the temperature inside the grill.
- Charcoal smokers will yield the best smoky flavors.
Cons of Charcoal Smokers
- You will have to learn how to control your charcoal, temperatures, and heat, which means you will have to work a little extra.
3. Cuisinart COS-330 Electric Smoker, 30
Pros of Electric Smokers:
The Cuisinart COS 330 is our pick for the best electric smoker for beginners. We recently released an article on the best propane smokers, and the Cuisinart propane smoker also made it to that list. There are a few reasons why we like Cuisinart smokers. First, they are built well and Cuisinart is a well-known brand. Secondly, these smokers are easy to use.
The Cuisinart COS 330 is very easy to manage. A dial thermostat controls the 1500 watts heating element, and a built-in thermometer helps you monitor the internal temperature.
Set the thermostat dial to your desired temperature, add flavor wood and water, and that’s it!
- The dial control is easy to use, which is excellent for beginners.
- Most electric smoker grills require minimal assembly.
Cons of Electric Smokers
- You might not get the same flavor you’ll get from a charcoal smoker.
4. Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30 inches, Black
We like the Masterbuilt electric smoker so much we have to include it in this list. The only reason we didn’t list the Masterbuilt smoker as our top pick in the electric smokers for beginners category is that this smoker grill has a digital controller.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a digital electric smoker; in fact, this Masterbuilt has features we genuinely appreciate.
However, while trying to stay true to this article’s purpose, we show you the top smokers for beginners.
We are factoring simplicity, and nothing gets simpler than turning a dial to start your smoker and set temperatures.
Some users might find digital controllers a bit complicated to operate, but this electric smoker digital controller is easy to use—another option to consider.
6. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
The classic offset smoker shape is a horizontal drum as the main cooking area with a firebox on its side. The Dyna Glo vertical offset smoker is a vertical cabinet smoker with a side burner.
We recommend the Dyna-Glo vertical smoker as it is a good size to get started and simple to use. It is a charcoal smoker, so if you are not comfortable with charcoal grills, you can try an offset pellet smoker grill.
Pros of Offset Smokers
- Usually, these smokers are large and offer great capacity
- Your foods are never in direct contact with the fire, no flare-ups
Cons of Offset Smoker
- These smokers can be hard to move around as they are bigger
7. Pit Boss Grills 77550 5.5 Pellet Smoker, 1548 sq. in Cooking Space
Pellet smokers are great. These smoker grills are great for beginners because they are straightforward to operate. You get the simplicity of an electric smoker, but almost the real BBQ Smokey flavor you get out of charcoal smokers.
Pellet grills burn small wood pellets in a smoke box to generate heat, smoke, and flavor. Pellet smoker grills will not yield the same taste, smoke, and flavor as a charcoal smoker, but they get pretty close.
You will always have more control over a charcoal smoker, but pellet smokers do a great job. New pellet blends are becoming available, and pellet grills are getting better at adding features to control smoke delivery.
I own a Pit Boss Pellet grill, and it has been an excellent smoker and easy to use. I have cooked turkeys, chicken, ribs, and pork butts in this smoker.
I enjoy its simplicity, although sometimes I wish I could add more smoke while cooking but overall is a good smoker.
You can find pellets in all your favorite flavors, and some users even mix pellets to come up with their own blends and flavors.
Pellet smoker grills will give you consistent results as your fuel is also your smoke source. Unlike other grills, you will not add wood to this smoker.
Pros of Pellet Smokers
- Easy to use, just add your favorite pellet blend and hit the start button.
- Excellent features such as WIFI, mobile app controls, and built-in temperature monitoring.
Cons of Pellet Smokers:
- You give up some creative cooking freedoms.
- Not a genuine and authentic BBQ Smokey flavor, but very close.
Kamado Smoker Grills
Kamados are exceptional grills, and if you learn how to use these ceramic grills, your culinary options are endless. These grills can smoke meat, bake, grill, cook pizza, and much more.
As much as I like Kamado Grills, and even though I included this grill on this list, I still believe some beginners might find these grills challenging to operate.
Kamados are designed to be efficient, and their egg-like design is meant to direct all heat upwards. These grills have tight seals and can contain heat very well. However, when you open the lid of these grills, that energy wants to come out, and many users have gotten hurt, opening the lids of these grills.
For instance, in my Green Egg, I always have to “burp” the lid before fully opening it to avoid the rush of oxygen igniting a big flame.
Controlling heat can also be difficult on these grills and requires a bit of knowledge and silks.
Pros of Kamado Grills
- Kamados are very efficient grills.
- These grills can last a long time.
- Kamados can smoke, bake, grill, and more.
- Great heat distribution.
Cons of Kamado Grills
- Kamados can be pricey.
- It can take some time to learn how to cook on Kamados.
- Very heavy grills, challenging to move around.
If you are looking for the best smoker grill to learn BBQ meat smoking, I am glad you are here. Smoking meat is fun and very rewarding. Once you master the fine art of smoking meats, you will not get tired of the foods you’ll cook.
Consider the different types of smokers we discussed in this article and ask yourself, as a beginner, what kind of smoker grill do you feel comfortable using. Are you comfortable with charcoal, propane, electric, palette?
Your budget is also a significant factor when buying a new smoker grill and getting started in this craft.
The bottom line is you are getting started on one of the most rewarding culinary arts in the business. Nothing compares to the flavor of smoked meat.
Here are my two cents, get started, learn, enjoy, create, learn more, and have a good time with your friends and family.
Enjoy Life, Get Grilling