Best Smokers for Beginners 2020

(July 2020 Review)

Originally Posted June 2, 2020

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Weber Smokey Mountain
9 Reviews
Weber Smokey Mountain
  • Built-in Thermometer in the lid: for temperature control during grilling. Large opening: to pile up Barbecue Wood Smoking Chips or Wood Chunks. 3 separate, adjustable air vents: for optimal heat regulation.
  • Solid Charcoal Barbecue: air circulates evenly around the briquettes. 2 Chrome-plated grill rack with handle.
  • 2 levels for grilling and Smoking: versatile options. Porcelain enamelled water and fat drip tray: the food does not dry out.

Other Great Smokers

Weber Compact Charcoal BBQ
1,440 Reviews
Weber Compact Charcoal BBQ

This Weber BBQ is an incredible smoker, even more so when you consider how cheap it is. This smoker is kettle styled and has an excellent build quality with rust-resistant materials used. However, we do still recommend that you use a cover to make sure that it lasts longer.

One of its great qualities is how heat resistant it is meaning that it can hold a lot of heat, therefore you won't have to repeatedly check your fire. Finally, the design makes cleaning a piece of cake due to its ash cleanout system, which is a removable ashtray that can be easily cleaned.

TecTake BBQ Charcoal Smoker with Heat Indicator
219 Reviews
TecTake BBQ Charcoal Smoker with Heat Indicator

The TecTake charcoal smoker is a barrel-style barbecue grill with an offset smoker compartment. The smoker compartment is big enough to fit a decent-sized piece of meat in it. The built-in heat indicator is a nice addition however we would still recommend purchasing thermometers separately as they are much more reliable.

The smoker that comes with this is extremely good for practicing adjusting airflow to maintain temperature, allowing you to get to grips with smoking for a cheap price. It's nice to have the option of a grill as well if you need it. This is a great quality smoker for the price and perfect for beginners.

Landmann Smoker Tennessee 100
34 Reviews
Landmann Smoker Tennessee 100

The Tennessee is another smoker that also has a grill section which is always a nice addition and provides greater versatility. One major positive about this smoker is how easy it is to set up especially compared to some of the other smokers available.

One issue with this smoker is that it can leak some smoke out of the edges making it harder to keep a constant temperature. This can be fixed using smoke seal strips, once you've done that you will have a really good smoker that flavors your food brilliantly and isn't too hard for beginners to master.

Landmann Taurus 660
277 Reviews
Landmann Taurus 660

This is a drum style barbecue that is capable of cooking for ten people due to its large cooking area. The coal tray is great quality chrome-plated material and there is a removable ashtray that makes cleaning up much easier after you have finished cooking.

The Taurus also comes with the nice bonus feature of a handy side table that can be removed from the main body. This is great as it saves storage space. What's more, you will get a 5-year warranty with this product which will give you peace of mind.

Which Smoker Is Best For Me?

All of the smokers mentioned above would be great choices for any novice smoker as they will be very forgiving and allow you time to get to grips with smoking.

Traditional smoker fans would say go for the Weber Smokey Mountain, but if you don’t care about tradition these steps will help you decide.

Budget:

When looking at the budget for a first smoker you have two main options.

The first option is to opt for a cheap smoker to help you find your feet then you can upgrade once you know what you are doing. However, the problem with this is that cheap smokers are much harder to use and will give you a lot less satisfactory results.

This could put you off smoking before you’ve even tried your hand with a competent smoker.

Your other option is too put a little bit more money into your first smoker. This will be a lot more rewarding and you will thank yourself later when you aren’t constantly adjusting the temperature on a very cheap smoker.

Style of Smoker:

The main difference in a smoker is what fuel they use to cook the food. The different options are electric, charcoal, gas, and pellet.

All of these options will allow you to cook great tasting meat no matter how ‘traditional’ your chosen smoker is. What’s more, there is no specific style that’s best for a novice, they all have positives and negatives.

Charcoal Smokers

Cooking using charcoal smokers tends to be a much more interactive experience. You have to make sure that the oxygen flow is right so that your temperature is controlled which is something you might not be doing with the other smokers.

Pros:

  • On balance, charcoal has the potential to cook the best tasting food.
  • Enjoy being outside.
  • Gives your meat the best smoke ring compared to other smokers.

Cons:

  • Buying charcoal is expensive.
  • You need to concentrate more during the cooking process.
  • Lighting the charcoal at the beginning requires effort.

 

That being said a charcoal smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain will still allow you to relax most of the time due to its great temperature control.

Charcoal smokers are great for beginners to learn about barbecue.

 

Pellet Smokers

Pellet smokers have become a lot more popular recently and it seems like many people have just purchased their first pellet smoker. Pellet smokers require minimal effort and attention which is good or bad depending on what you want.

 

Pros:

  • Using a thermostat you set the temperature and the smoker does the rest for you.
  • No need to worry about temperature control as the correct amount of pellets will be fed in automatically. 
  • You can put some meat on, go to bed, come back and it will be perfectly cooked.

Cons:

  • As they are so easy to use they are more expensive than even the best charcoal smokers.
  • You will have to spend a lot to get meat as tasty as you’d get from a charcoal smoker.

 

If you opt for a pellet smoker some people may tease you as it is seen as the ‘lazy mans’ barbecue. But, if you don’t mind and would rather just have your smoker cook some great tasty meat for you then this is the smoker for you!

Gas or Propane Smoker

Just like pellet smokers, gas smokers require minimal attention and minimal effort. They use propane tanks as fuel to cook the meat.

 

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • Only one tank of propane will last roughly 15 hours.
  • Greater temperature control.

Cons:

  • Sacrifice the smoke ring for ease of use.
  • Cheaper smokers tend to leak smoke.
  • Some smokers will be too narrow for certain cuts.

 

One thing to make sure is that you have a full tank before each smoke because running out halfway through is not fun!

Electric Smokers

These smokers making cooking meat a piece of cake. They are great for longer smokes as they are able to maintain stable temperatures over long periods of time.

 

Pros:

  • They are versatile and can smoke fish, sausages, and bacon.
  • They come under the ‘set and forget’ bracket, could be a pro or a con depending on you?
  • Great for longer smokes when you don’t want to keep checking the temperature.

Cons:

  • It can be expensive to repair due to electronic parts.
  • Lose out on the smoke ring which adds flavor.
  • Although your food will still taste great, not as much so as with a charcoal smoker.

 

These smokers are just a bit boring. If you are in it just for the end product then go ahead but if you enjoy all of the tinkering and adjusting then these may not be for you.

Offset Smokers

These smokers really aren’t suited to beginners, many people have tried smoking using these and after just one season have given up permanently. Therefore we really wouldn’t recommend these for your first smoker.

 

Do I want a Dedicated Smoker or a Grill Smoker Combo?

We understand that it is a big commitment to buy a dedicated smoker for your first smoker as there are lots of benefits to having the flexibility that comes with a grill smoker combo. 

However, if you really want to get into smoking then dedicated may be the way to go as they will give you more features and hold a low temperature better.

If you opt for a dedicated smoker then the Weber Smokey Mountain is probably your best option but if you would prefer a combo then the Landmann Smoker Tennessee is great.

 

What am I Looking for in a Smoker?

Above we have covered the most important things to think about but here are some other features to look for.

What foods do you want to cook?

If you are smoking larger foods such as rack of ribs or turkeys then you may find that electric and gas smokers are too narrow for these.

How many people are you cooking for?

It’s better to be safe than sorry which is why if you are not sure we’d always opt for one size up. Think about your typical usage than add a bit for if you have family or friends around.

Are you cold smoking?

Some smokers need a lot of work to convert them to cold smokers and some have one built-in. If you want to cold smoke salmon or cheese then this might be something to think about.

Smoking Basics

One thing that people always ask is the difference between smoking and grilling. The answer is that smoking is lower temperature and longer cooking time. Grilling is the opposite, you’ll be working with shorter time periods but higher temperatures.

Smoking works using fuel like charcoal, gas, etc that heat wood chips that produce smoke and add flavor to the food. You control the flow of oxygen to make sure that the temperature stays low.

Essential Accessories

  • The built-in thermometers are very unreliable so you’ll need a dual probe thermometer set up.
  • You also need fuel if you are cooking with charcoal, gas, or pellets.
  • Barbecue gloves will be needed in order to move hot racks or charcoal.
  • Wood chips are required as they provide the smoke and the flavor. There are many different types, apple and cherry work well with everything.

 

Last Minute Advice

Don’t feel disheartened if you make mistakes, then end result will still taste amazing. Smoking is all about experimenting and learning as you go so your first smoke will be by no means perfect.

The best meat to use at first is pork butt as it is both easy and forgiving if you make mistakes. Rubs and BBQ sauces are great for adding the finishing touches and make the meat taste even better!

 

To Conclude

One of the main joys of barbecue is the company, its great to spend a nice day in the sun with family and friends. You don’t need an expensive smoker or lots of gadgets for that.

Hopefully, we have helped to guide you in the tricky conundrum of picking your first smoker, and hopefully, it will bring you a lot of enjoyment! 

Last update on 2020-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Adam Brown

Adam Brown

Growing up it was very much a beige oven based meal which pushed me into learning how to cook more exotic dishes. I have a love for most food especially Thai and BBQ which led me to create the Smoke Guys website. I hope you find my reviews and guides helpful and I'm always open to hearing any suggestions you may have.
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