The 8 Best Budget Smokers to BBQ Great food without spending a ton

best budget smoker

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Everyone loves smoked meat, and everyone wants to try their own version of pulled pork at home. Good news! Smoking your own meats at home does not have to be expensive.

We’ll show you 8 budget-friendly smokers, as well as what to look for in a cheap selection so it can still get the job done.

Eight Budget Smokers Ranked and Reviewed

1. The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker – Best Overall

The Smokey Mountain cookeer

Specifications:

Dimensions: 21 | 19 | 41 inches ( 18 Inch Model )
Weight: 39 lbs
Fuel: Charcoal
Material: Coated Steel

The Weber Smokey Mountain cooker is an all-time favorite and a best seller. The Weber Smokey Mountain cooker bullet smoker has been around for years, and its design has stayed the same throughout the years. You can say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and this is the case with the Weber Smokey Mountain bullet smoker.

Not only is this smoker inexpensive, but it is also easy to use and can be mastered in a few hours. There aren’t any complex components, high-tech gadgets, or electrical parts, just a charcoal basket, a water pan, and cooking grates. Everything you need for smoked meat!

Due to the Weber Smokey Mountain size and lightweight, this smoker is considered a portable smoker and is ranked by many as one of the best smokers on the market.

What we like:

  • Easy to use and assemble.
  • More of a traditional smoker. ( water smoker )
  • Two smoking ( cooking ) racks offer good cooking capacity.
  • Available in different sizes.
  • Built in thermometer.
  • It is a great portable smoker as it splits in three pieces.

What we don’t like:

  • There isn’t much negative to say about this smoker, and we are not going to write something vague just to fill a gap. This is a good smoker, great for those starting or new to BBQ smoking, but it is a budget pick.

2. The Pit Barrel Cooker Junior – Runner Up

pit barrel cooker junior

Specifications:

Dimensions: 20.87 | 20.87 | 30.71 inches ( Junior model )
Weight: 55 lbs
Fuel: Charcoal
Material: Coated Steel

The Pit Barrel Cooker is our runner-up for multiple reasons, including quality, good warranty, efficiency, and the company behind it. This company is here in the USA and has built an amazing brand. The Pit Barrel Cooker was a family idea that turned into an amazing company and a great product.

But here is why we love the Pit Barrel Cooker. First, these cookers are inexpensive. You get a lot of quality and a lot of cooking space for your dollar.

Second, these cookers are easy to use. There is only one air vent to worry about for temperature control, and Pit Barrel gives you specific instructions on how to set the air vent to achieve the desired temperature.

Lastly, these smokers are designed specifically to cook at low temperatures but can also be used as a charcoal grill. You get a meat hook hanging system and a grill grate to use this smoker in whichever configuration you want.

Read the Full Review of the Pit Barrel Cooker

What we like:

  • Easy to use – comes ready with everything you need to cook except charcoal.
  • Inexpensive but great quality. You get a lot of smoker for your money.
  • SIMPLE to use. Only one air vent to worry about to control temperature.
  • Amazing cooking capacity and square inches of cooking for its size.
  • Use it as a charcoal grill too.
  • Easy to keep a steady temperature and operate at a steady temperature range.
  • Good quality components.
  • Suitable for cold smoking.

What we don’t like:

  • It would be nice if it had an internal temperature gauge, but that is an easy and inexpensive fix. Besides, you already get a lot of smoker for your money.

3. The Z Grills 450B – best budget

z grills 450b

Specifications:

Main Rack: 331 sq. in.
Warming Rack: 128 sq. in.
Hopper Capacity: 15 pounds
Temp Range: 180 to 450 F
Fuel: Wood Pellets
Grates Material: Porcelain coated steel

If you like the concept of a pellet cooker, and many people do, then The Z Grills 450 will catch your attention. Finding an affordable pellet smoker is not easy. Why? Because all the parts and components needed to make these smokers work add to the price of the smoker.

However, you get a super easy-to-use smoker with a digital temperature control system, but unlike an electric smoker, you get a lot of flavor. Pellet grills and smokers burn wood pellets that produce an authentic wood smoke flavor.

The Z Pellet Grill features an easy-to-use digital controller; all you have to do is add your favorite wood pellets, set the desired temperature, and enjoy a beer.

This grill offers over 400 square inches of cooking space enough for a few racks of ribs or a large pork shoulder.

We did a full review of the Z Grills 450B and found this grill to be extremely easy to use and did a great job at cooking low and slow.

What we like:

  • Easy to use – Set the desired temperature and let the controller feed pellets and manage the temperature.
  • Z Grills are good quality and offer great features often found in more expensive grills.
  • You get great flavor from wood pellets.
  • Very little monitoring is needed.
  • Many bundles and accessories are available.

What we don’t like:

  • Pellet grills tend to be more expensive, but you get more tech and something as easy to use as an electric smoker.

4. The Dyna Glo Vertical Offset Smoker – best budget offset smoker

Dyna Glow offset smoker

Specifications:

Dimensions: 45.5 x 24.9 x 58.8 inches
Cooking chamber: 1,382 square inches
Weight: 124 lbs
Fuel: Charcoal
Material: Coated Steel
Grates: Chrome Plated

Talk about getting a lot for your buck. Well, the Dyna Glo vertical smoker does just that. If you are looking for a large smoker without spending a fortune, this is a good choice. The Dyna Glo is perfect for outdoor cooking and parties and can fit a lot of food in its smoking chamber.

This is one of the best smokers on the market and has made it into many of our articles for a few reasons, but mainly because it is affordable and you get a lot of space for your money. This is an offset smoker, meaning it cooks with indirect heat, cooking meat only with heat, smoke, and steam during the smoking process.

What we like:

  • The Dyna Glo vertical has amazing cooking capacity.
  • Easy to refill the charcoal box using the pull out tray.
  • Large charcoal smoker.
  • Offset smoker means indirect heat cooking.
  • Easy to add charcoal or wood for smoke flavor.

What we don’t like:

This is a big boy, so it is heavy.

5. The Realcook Vertical 17 Inch Charcoal Smoker

RealCook vertical smoker

Specifications:

Dimensions: 22 | 17 | 35 inches ( 17 Inch Model )
Weight: 19 lbs
Fuel: Charcoal
Material: Coated Steel

The Real Cook Vertical smoker is another simple cooker and inexpensive. Don’t expect the highest levels of quality, but you do get a bargain. For your money, you get more than a dedicated smoker. You get a smoker and a grill. This little guy can be used as a grill, but be careful when cooking at high temperatures.

This smoker is very similar to the Smokey Mountain and works with both charcoal and wood chips.

What we like:

  • Inexpensive.
  • Easy to use.
  • Works as a grill or a smoker.

What we don’t like:

  • Lower quality smokers and grills tend to leak heat and smoke.

6. The Royal Gourmet Offset Smoker

The Royal Gourmet

Specifications:

Dimensions: 53.39 | 27.95 | 48.82 inches
Weight: 54 lbs
Fuel: Charcoal
Material: Coated Steel

The Royal Gourmet is another bargain and a good smoker. It is not the highest in quality, but neither is in price. You can expect a simple smoker with good square inches of cooking and simple to use.

This smoker is great for those wanting to get started but do not want to spend too much money on their first smoker.

What we like:

  • Inexpensive.
  • Enough space for pork butts.
  • Light and easy to move around.

What we don’t like:

  • Users report smoke and heat leaks, but this is common in cheaper smokers. You can buy gaskets to reduce the leaks.

7. The Camp Chef Smoker

The Camp Chef Smoker

Specifications:

Dimensions: 53.39 | 27.95 | 48.82 inches
Model: PG20CT
Weight: 88 lbs
Fuel: Wood pellets
Temperature Range: 160 to 500 Degrees F
Material: Coated Steel

The Camp Chef stands out among many gas and pellet grills due to its simplicity and quality build. Sure, nothing beats a wood smoker, but if you want to enjoy the cooking process and have a beer while cooking, you will appreciate this grill’s simplicity.

You do not need a wood chip tray with pellet grills since the smoker produces smoke and flavor by burning wood pellets.

What we like:

  • Simple to use, as easy as an electric smoker or kitchen oven.
  • It includes a grease bucket and an ash cup.
  • Pellet grills offer that “set it and forget it” convenience.

What we don’t like:

  • It is hard to find something we don’t like about this Camp Chef. However, several users agree with our findings, indicating that the shape of the pellet hopper bottom metal plate might be improved to allow the pellets to flow more freely to the auger.

8. Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker

The Char Broil smoker

Specifications:

Dimensions: 16.5 | 18.1 | 32.5 inches
Model: 17202004
Weight: 50 lbs
Fuel: electric
Temp Range: 750 Watts
Material: Stainless Steel

Although and electric smoker may not offer the most authentic barbecue flavor, they are easy to operate, inexpensive, and may yield excellent results. The absence of wood, charcoal, or pellets means that the meats are not adequately infused with smoke, not as much.

However, using a good smoker box and excellent wood chips may still offer more flavor to meat than conventional non-bbq cooking.

The digital LED controller of this electric smoker makes it simple to choose the correct cooking temperature, after which the smoker takes care of the rest. This electric smoker is also designed so that everything, including the grease pan, slides easily within the cabin and is simple to maintain.

This electric smoker is affordably priced, yet this budget smoker has innovative features like as double wall construction for enhanced heat retention and insulation, as well as a meat probe thermometer for monitoring the internal temperature of the meat.

Certainly, an electric smoker will not produce the same results as a charcoal smoker, but if convenience and affordability are a priority, this electric smoker can be an excellent choice.

What we like

  • Easy to use
  • LED controller
  • Meat temperature probe
  • Push a few buttons and start smoking meat.

What we don’t like:

  • I wish that this grill had wheels. During our testing, I had some difficulties picking up the smoker and moving it around.

Here are a few pros and cons of each smoker fuel type

Here is a quick comparison of the main pros and cons of all smoker fuel types. You can find affordable smokers in all fuel types.

Gas Smokers and LP Smokers

Gas or LP smokers are known for their ease of use, short learning curve, and simple temperature control. To enhance flavor, a propane smoker will require the help of wood chips. Without them, there is no flavor. We are talking about smoked meat here! However, gas smokers are incredibly simple to operate and let you to regulate the temperature without having to bother with air flow vents.

Pros

  • Gas smokers are easy to use and great for beginners.
  • Easy to control the temperature. In gas smokers, temperature is handled by a dial that controls the propane burner.
  • Propane is easy to find. Which is one reason gas smokers are popular and portable.

Cons

  • Not the same flavor you get with other smokers.
  • More parts than a charcoal smoker, meaning more things that can go bad.

Pellet Smokers

Pros

z grills 700
  • Easy to use and love the automation.
  • Pellets are available in many flavors.

Cons

  • These smokers have a lot of components, including electrical components.
  • They can be more expensive because of all the technology.
  • Need electricity to operate.

Charcoal Smokers

Pros

lump charcoal sizes
  • Charcoal is an inexpensive fuel.
  • You get the most authentic BBQ flavor and consistent smoke ring.
  • Charcoal grills can work anywhere and, in most conditions, no electricity is needed.
  • A charcoal grill can reach temperatures other grills can’t.

Cons

  • You will need to learn how to handle charcoal.
  • You will need to learn how to use your smoker air vents to manage temperature control. No temperature dials or buttons here amigo!

Electric smokers

Electric smokers can be compared to your kitchen oven. An electric smoker uses a heating element to generate heat and cook food. Electric smokers heat the cooking chamber with an electric heating element. Due to the absence of wood or charcoal combustion, electric smokers lack the ” wood-fired” taste found in other types of smokers. Despite this, they are really simple to operate.

Pros

  • Electric smokers are easy to use.

Cons

  • Least amount of flavor of any smoker.
  • Need a reliable power source.

Buyer’s Guide: What Should You Look For in a Budget BBQ Smoker.

Price – Cost – Dinero!

This article talks about budget friendly smokers, and price is at the top of our buying list. We usually do not give price too much importance because we look for quality. But since we went looking for an affordable smoker, we know cost is a significant factor. I mean, a thousand-dollar smoker is not an low-cost smoker.

The good news is that you can find, and we did, great smokers at great prices.

The trend you will see is that charcoal BBQ smokers tend to be less expensive, and understandably so. Charcoal smokers are simple cookers with fewer parts.

On the other hand, pellet grills tend to be more expensive since they have many components, electronics, and even high-tech features like WIFI enabled controllers and temperature monitoring systems.

Inches of cooking space/capacity

Smaller smokers tend to be cheaper than larger offset smokers and high-end smokers. However, unless you are looking for a portable smoker, you need to pay attention to the inches of cooking space offered in cheap smokers.

The primary reason is that you can come across a fantastic deal on a smoker at a meager price, only to discover it is far too small.

Smaller smokers require less metal to build, which is why they are less expensive. However, be sure that the smoker you choose is not only within your budget but also large enough to accommodate a rack of ribs, a whole brisket, or at the very least, a small pork shoulder. In other words, useful!

Quality – Oh Quality!

Whether you are buying a propane smoker, a pellet smoker, or an offset or “stick” wood smoker, you need to pay attention to the quality of these smokers.

There are a lot of poor-quality grills on the market, and all it takes is a search of consumer reviews and feedback to find the bad ones. This is why, in addition to our own testing, we value user feedback.

Cheap smokers can never match the quality of a Kamado grill or a Meadow Creek smoker, but that does not rule out the possibility of finding a decent deal among the options available.

Sure, cheap smokers will leak, are built of thinner metal, and might not last a lifetime, but if you are looking for a budget pick, then you know there will be compromises.

However, with appropriate care and maintenance, you can still get cheap smokers that will perform and do the job well, plus last a few years.

Warranty

A good manufacturer will stand behind their product. Grills and smokers with a good warranty are a plus and needed when buying an inexpensive smoker. If you come across a good deal, but it has a poor warranty, run!

Metal Thickness

Even the best low cost smokers will be built using lesser quality materials and thinner metals. However, if the walls of the smoker are too thin, it will have a hard time retaining heat, and the walls can even warp during preheating or accidental flare-ups.

We look for a fine balance between price and quality materials.

Necessary Features

It is OK to watch your dollars and look for a good bargain but to smoke good food and get good results; you will need at least a few features to help you during the cook.

A temperature gauge is one of the things that you should have in your smoker, at the very least. Smoking meats is all about low and slow plus cooking at constant temperatures to get the best results.

Type of fuel

Consider what fuel type you are most comfortable with, and then go from there. Why? Not everyone likes to use charcoal, and some dislike propane. There are pros and cons to everything, and that includes smokers and the different fuel types.

For example, charcoal yields great flavor, and with some experience, you can have absolute control over your smoker. On the other hand, propane smokers are easy to use but do not yield flavor. To get the smokey flavor, you need to use wood chips, but propane alone will not yield a great authentic BBQ flavor.

Then you have pellet grill smokers, which combine the convenience of propane smokers with the flavor of cooking with wood and coal. Since pellet smokers burn wood pellets, you get a good BBQ flavor.

budget smokers affordability guide

The following guide will assist you in grasping the price structures of various smokers. Some smokes are actually more expensive than others; features like as electronics and components can increase the price.

Type of SmokerAffordability
Large Offsets$$$$$ -Expensive ( larger high quality ones)
Charcoal Smokers$$ – Lower cost
Electric Smokers $$$ – Moderate cost
Gas Smokers$$$ – Moderate cost
Pellet Smokers$$$$$ – Moderate to expensive

Conclusion: Which is Our top pick for an Affordable Smoker?

The goal of this article is to help you find a good quality smoker without breaking the bank. All the smokers on this list are excellent options and will do the job.

However, our pick for a budget smoker is the Weber Smokey, followed by the Pit Barrel Cooker. The Pit Barrel cooker is the easiest to use, and you get a LOT smoker for your money.

The only downside to the Pit Barrel Cooker smoker is also what makes it so efficient; it is a steel drum, so if you need to add charcoal, you will need to do it through the top opening. You might even need to move the food out of the way.

The Smokey Mountain is more of a traditional smoker and is a good choice. It is our top choice since it is of good quality and will do the job well. In fact, some people use the Smokey in competitions.

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