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Best Budget Smokers: These Cheapies Aren’t Poor Quality

BEST OVERALL

Z Grills 450B Pioneer
Z Grills 450B
4.5/5

AUTO CHARCOAL

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Grill and Smoker
Masterbuilt Gravity 560
4.3/5

BUDGET CHARCOAL

Weber Smokey Mountain 18 Inch
Weber Smokey Mountain
4.8/5

BEST BUDGET

Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker
Char-Griller Akorn
4.4/5

BUDGET OFFSET

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Smoker
Dyna-Glo Wide Body
4.3/5

BUDGET ELECTRIC

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt Digital
4.6/5

Yes, you can spend thousands on a fancy new smoker and it’ll be the real deal. But, you don’t NEED to spend a small fortune to simply get a ‘cue that’ll turn out some impressive smoked meat in your own backyard.

That’s where budget-friendly smokers come into play, offering an accessible entry point into the world of smoking without burning a hole in your pocket.

Whether you’re a novice looking to dip your toes into smoky waters or an experienced griller on a budget, we’ve scoured the market to curate a selection of 11 top-notch smokers that won’t break the bank.

Here you’ll find a wide range of smoker types, catering to different tastes and preferences. From electric smokers offering hassle-free operation to traditional charcoal and offset smokers that promise a more authentic experience, we’ve got you covered.

Now, these barbecues aren’t necessarily the cheapest on the market. Each smoker featured here has been chosen for its balance of affordability, performance, and ease of use. For more info on our basis for selection, read on.

One thing’s for sure though, these smokers are all great value options for smoking enthusiasts who want to keep the cost low.

Oh, and, don’t miss our #1 tip for cooking better barbecue on a budget smoker at the end of this review!

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How We've Defined 'Budget'

Before we dive into the smokers themselves, because everyone’s version of budget is different, we wanted to explain how we’ve selected these ‘budget smokers’.

Obviously, affordability is a key criterion. But, we do understand that value isn’t just determined just by the price tag. It’s also about the quality of smoked meats you can produce, the ease of temperature control, the capacity to accommodate family gatherings, and the longevity of the smoker itself.

So, while most of the smokers on this list are under the $400 mark, they’re not necessarily the dirt cheapest you can find in each category.

If you want to spend as little as possible, just buy the barbecue with the lowest price tag. But, buying from this list should give you the confidence that your new ‘cue will last more than one season. And, it won’t just be sitting in your backyard because it can’t or is just too hard to make good food.

If you want to spend that little bit more to get a smoker that’s even better quality, includes a range of accessories or will simply last a lifetime, check out our best value smokers lineup.

But, if you want cheap but good, you’re in the right place. Keep on reading…

How We Tested the Best Budget Smokers

When it comes to sorting the cheap and nasty from the cheap but really pretty good, you need hands on experience.

These affordable smokers have been carefully tested for the following factors:

Not all cheap smokers are bad quality. In fact, a few of the ones recommended on this list are very well built but smaller versions of some solid pits.

We don’t want you to have to replace your barbecue every summer. So, we’ve done our best to find the most well-built and most durable models out there by opting for quality materials, reliable electronics, and smokers that are well put together.

Whether you’re looking at a pellet grill, a charcoal drum, offset, electric, or any other type of smoker, having a barbecue that keeps or can manually keep a steady temperature goes a long way to making better food, and knowing how to do it the same next time.

In the reviews below, you’ll see comments on how steady the temperature holds so that you know what to expect before you’re faced with a cheap smoker that can’t even hit your target temperature year round.

Some cheap and nasty smokers are really hard to use!

Poor quality dampers that don’t stay in place, thin steel that acts as a heater for your patio area and not your food, and leaky firebox’s don’t make for a fun time.

These recommended best budget smokers are pretty easy to use.

Some are more hands on than others because of their fuel type which is what some people are after anyway. But, even if they do require a bit of babysitting, these are models that work as they should.

On the surface, some smokers look like they’re great value, then you realise that there’s extras you need to buy which all add up.

We have tried to include barbecues that include the necessary ‘extras’. And, if it’s not included, we’ve done our best to highlight what else you’ll need to buy so you know what you’re up for.

Table of Contents

The Best Budget Smokers: Our Top Picks

It is possible to cook great barbecue without emptying your wallet. But, with a HUGE range of budget smokers out there, choosing the right one can seem daunting.

If you’ve already got an idea of what type of smoker you’d like, skip to our recommendation for that smoker type in this lineup. But, if you have no idea, we’ll help you narrow down the best fit for your cooking style.

Either way, get ready to elevate your outdoor cooking game, as we guide you through the best budget smokers for barbecue.

BEST OVERALL

Z Grills 450B

4.5/5

BBQ type: Pellet

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Porcelain-coated

Grilling: Indirect heat

Capacity: 459 sq inch

Hopper capacity: 15 lbs

Heat range: 160 – 450°F

Dimensions: 24″D x 43″W x 47″H

WiFi: No

Price guide: $$

Model: 450B

Warranty: 3 years

Z Grills is the bomb when it comes to affordable pellet smokers. In fact, buying a pellet smoker on a budget used to be near impossible until Z-Grills entered the arena!

This right here, the Pioneer 450B, is Z Grills’ entry-level model that makes pellet smoking affordable without skimping on what’s important.

In this 459 square inch, powder-coated steel body, you’re looked after with the most precise PID auto-temperature control to keep within about 5°F of your target at all times. There’s a simple LED panel that gives you real-time temperature updates while the generous 15-pound hopper lets you smoke for about 15 hours, uninterrupted.

Z Grills Pioneer 450B PID Controller

If you want to grill, you can do it on this unit too. With the heat maxing out at 450°F, just be mindful that you can only use the bottom rack for grilling. This will reduce your total grilling space to 324 square inches. But, that’s more than enough to throw on a lot of burger patties.

Smoking ribs on the Z Grills 450B

But, there’s other nice to have features you normally wouldn’t dream of getting in this price range. A manual feed button so you can push the temperature up faster, a hopper window to see how many pellets are left and a hopper cleanout door too.

The Pioneer 450B is a true set and forget smoker that doesn’t feel like you’ve gone budget. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to make really great barbecue while putting in minimal effort.

And, it comes with a generous 3 year warranty for peace of mind too.

Pros
Cons

Want to compare this budget pellet smoker to higher quality alternatives? Check out our full review of the best pellet grills here.

BEST CHEAPER PELLET

Z Grills Cruiser

4.5/5

BBQ type: Pellet

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Porcelain-coated

Grilling: Indirect heat

Capacity: 202 sq in

Hopper capacity: 8 lbs

Heat range: 160 – 450°F

Dimensions: 20″D x 25″W x 13″H

WiFi: No

Price guide: $$

Model: 200A

Warranty: 3 years

If you like the idea of a pellet smoker but want something even more budget-friendly than the Z Grills 450B, check out the Z Grills Cruiser 200A.

And, before you say, “hold on this is a portable grill, I want something to use at home”, don’t immediately rule it out… I used this barbecue to cook for my family of 6 for months just fine.

It’s 202 square inches of cooking space is modest. But, with some clever planning, you can easily accommodate a good number of hungry guests as well (think compact cuts that go far like pulled pork, half a brisket or a lamb shoulder).

Pulled Pork and Pork Ribs Smoking on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A

With a wide temperature range you can smoke, grill, bake, roast, or braise just about anything.

Just be mindful that the reduced cooking space means you’re in closer proximity to the heat source. To counter this, even with the heat deflector in place, we recommend turning the meat during cooking to prevent the underside from overcooking or drying out.

And, although the Cruiser 200A doesn’t have a precise PID temperature controller like some more expensive pellet grills, it manages to maintain impressively consistent heat levels, typically staying within a 10°F range throughout your cooking session.

Measuring Temperature on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A

Furthermore, because you’re dealing with a smaller cooking area compared to larger barbecues, the Cruiser’s pellet consumption efficiency is particularly great. It’s very cheap to run!

With side handles making it a breeze to lift and relocate and a front latch to keep things including a fully loaded pellet hopper in place, you can move this smoker in an out of your garage or leave it permanently set up in the backyard.

It’s a cheaper version of Traeger’s Ranger (check out our Ranger vs Cruiser comparison). And, for the budget-concious, really can create some truly exceptional food. We’re big fans of it!

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGT AUTO CHARCOAL

Masterbuilt Gravity Series

4.2/5

BBQ type: Digital charcoal

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Cast iron & porcelain-coated

Capacity: 550 sq inch

Heat range: 150 – 700°F

Dimensions: 33.5″D x 57″W x 53″H

Price guide: $$$

Model: MB20041220

Warranty: 1 year

If you like the idea of set and forget smoking but prefer that smokier charcoal flavor, the smallest of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series, the 560 Digital WiFi Charcoal Grill and Smoker is just that.

This bad boy takes charcoal smoking to a whole new level because of one simple thing, automated temperature control.

It’s got a digital control panel that lets you set and monitor the temperature with pinpoint precision.

Yes, you heard me right. It feeds charcoal automatically as needed. No more opening the lid and messing with the coals. No more worrying about flare-ups or burnt burgers. It’s charcoal smoking made a whole lot easier!

Steak waiting to get grilled on the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill

Now, let’s talk about space…

To fit into the budget smoker category, you are going with the smallest of Masterbuilt’s Gravity Series. But, you’ll still get a decent 560 square inches of cooking space. That’s split over two cooking racks, so you can smoke a brisket on one level and grill some veggies on the other.

Steak grilled on Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill

Oh, and did I mention it’s got WiFi? Yep, you can connect this bad boy to your phone with the Masterbuilt app. That means you can monitor and control the temperature from anywhere. You can be chilling on your porch, sipping a cold one, and still be the master of the grill.

Cleaning up is a breeze too. There’s an ash bucket that catches all the charcoal residue, so it’s simple to empty between cooks.

In a nutshell, the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital WiFi Charcoal Grill and Smoker is like having a charcoal barbecue genius as your sous chef. So, if you want budget charcoal smoking without breaking a sweat, this grill is your ticket to barbecue nirvana.

Pros
Cons

Want to compare this to other top rated charcoal smokers? Check out our best charcoal smokers review.

BEST BUDGET VERTICAL

Weber Smokey Mountain 18"

4.5/5

BBQ type: Charcoal bullet

Material: Enameled steel

Grates: Plated steel

Capacity: 481 sq inch

Heat range: Low to high

Dimensions: 19″D x 21″W x 41″H

Price guide: $$

Model: 721001

Warranty: 10 yrs bowl, 5 yrs plastics, 2 yrs other

Now, the Weber Smokey Mountain 18″ isn’t the cheapest vertical charcoal smoker out there. But, the price on these top rated, long-lasting smokers is so good that we simply can’t go past recommending it as the best budget smoker of it’s type.

Solid, reliable and portable, this smoker is covered by an unbeatable in this price bracket, 10 year warranty. And, because it’s Weber, everything from the durable porcelain-coated shell to the easily adjustable dampers, large, removable fuel door and accurate temperature gauge screams quality.

Inside the Weber Smokey Mountain

Taking up just 18″ by 18″ of ground space, this Weber Smokey Mountain gives you 481 square inches of cooking space spread over two racks.

That’s enough for four racks of ribs or two pretty large cuts of meat at a time which is usually more than enough for the average family or having a group of friends over.

Weber Smokey Mountain 1.8 inch

To prove that the Weber Smokey Mountain really is exceptional value for money, this model is known as a long-time competition winning barbecue. Suitable for everyone from the most inexperienced novice to long-time meat smoking addicts, this ‘cue will see you through years and years of incredible meals at home and on the go.

Pros
Cons

Want to compare this budget vertical smoker to other alternatives? Check out our full review of the best vertical smokers here.

BEST SET & FORGET CHARCOAL

Pit Barrel Cooker Jr

4.6/5

BBQ type: Drum smoker

Material: Enameled steel

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 4 hangers

Heat range: Approx 275°F

Dimensions: 21.5″ W x 33″ H x 21.5″ D

Price guide: $

Model: Pit Barrel Junior

Warranty: 1 year

Like the Weber 14″ Smoky Mountain, this charcoal smoker is another really great-quality, budget-friendly smoker. But, the difference between this one and the Weber is that the Pit Barrel Junior gives you the set and forget experience.

At first glance, the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior might seem unassuming with its simple design, but don’t let that fool you.

The magic of this cooker lies in its simplicity.

You won’t find a bunch of knobs, digital displays, or complicated gadgets here. Instead, you’ve just got the intake damper at the bottom. Adjust this based on your altitude, yes how high above the sea you are, and it’ll keep a steady temperature for you. Just hang your meat inside and wait until it’s done.

Hanging?

Pit Barrel Cooker Junior In Use

This grill is all about the art of hanging-style cooking. It’s how you can cook a lot in a small amount of space.

And, if you’re wondering why the Pit Barrel Junior doesn’t even have a temperature gauge, it’s because this is a fixed temperature smoker. It’ll keep things steady at about the 275°F mark which we’ve confirmed with the MEATER Plus, making it perfect for the pitmaster who wants fantastic results with minimal fuss.

If you’re on the move, no sweat. It’s compact and portable, making it perfect for tailgating, camping, or simply finding that ideal spot in your backyard for the perfect cookout.

Pit Barrel Cooker Portability

Built tough with quality materials, this cooker can withstand the elements and is designed to provide years of barbecue joy without breaking the bank.

Read our full review of the Pit Barrel Cooker.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET KAMADO

Char-Griller Akorn

4.4/5

BBQ type: Kamado

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Cast iron

Capacity: 314 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 45″D x 31″W x 47″H

Price guide: $$

Model: ‎Akorn

Warranty: 5 years

Kamado grills are another type of smoker that’s not exactly budget friendly. But, Char-Griller have an excellent option for the price-conscious buyer who still want to be able to tap into this versatile and efficient type of ‘cue.

Introducing, the Akorn Kamado Kooker!

It’s one of the cheapest kamados on the market. But, don’t expect a heat and smoke leaking box. This barbecue is made from a triple-walled steel design for better heat retention.

And, while the outside layer is powder-coated to protect it against scratches and rust, the inside is a smooth, porcelain-coated surface that makes cleaning easy.

 

Grilling on the Char-Griller Akorn kamado

Now, for a kamado with this price tag, don’t expect it to be as well insulated as more heavy-duty ceramic or stainless steel designs. But, the Akorn Kamado Kooker does do a good job of grilling, braising, smoking and baking while offering a wide heat range from 200°F – 700°F.

The food turns out really delicious with a good amount of smoky flavor, nice smoke rings, and enough moisture.

Ribs smoked in the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado with Smoking Stone

Out biggest complaint about the Akorn is that the heat deflector is quite small in comparison to the grate size. So, as you can see in the picture above, a reasonable amount of direct heat gets through to anything that sits in that outter ring.

But, at a fraction of what it costs to buy a more expensive kamado, the Char-Griller Akorn is a great buy for what’s a versatile barbecue that does perform very decently.

Pros
Cons
BEST OFFSET

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical

4.3/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Chrome-coated

Capacity: 1,890 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke

Dimensions: 21″D x 43.3″W x 50.2″H

Price guide: $$

Model: DGO1890BDC-D

Warranty: 1 year, paint 90 days

If you can’t go past an old-school charcoal and wood smoker but don’t want to spend your paycheck on an expensive but basic seeming model, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Smoker is the answer to your prayers!

This best-selling smoker is yours for a budget price. But, that doesn’t mean you’re getting a totally sub-standard product.

Yes, the metal is a bit thinner than something in the Oklahoma Joe range. But, it’s still heavy-duty and thick enough to maintain a fairly steady temperature as long as you’re not smoking in really cold conditions.

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset Smoker

There’s also an adjustable flue to make temperature control easy while the dual door design means you won’t let the heat and smoke out every time you need to add more fuel.

The cooking capacity is absolutely huge! And, this wide body version means you can easily fit racks of ribs and whole briskets on the grates without ever having a problem.

The Wide Body also comes with a pretty large rib rack and a sausage hanger as well. Together, these really let you customize your setup exactly the way you like it.

Rib rack and sausage hanger in Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset

On the cons side, we do find that the Dyna-Glo Vertical’s ash tray can clog up a little during really long cooks. This affects the temperature and you’ll notice the fire dying down. We simply open the door and, using high-heat bbq gloves, give the charcoal box a bit of a shake around and it’s usually good to go for a while longer.

The charcoal box itself is really good quality, being porcelain-coated for durability. But, do expect the firebox’s paint to flake off fairly early in this smokers life. This doesn’t actually affect it’s performance, it’s visual only, and, most other cheaper offsets will do this too.

A lot of people like to add a gasket to both doors on the Dyna-Glo as well. Out of the box, they do leak a bit of smoke. We don’t think it’s significant enough to say this is a must. But, you can do it down the track if you want to.

Even with it’s flaws though, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset is a decent smoker that can produce a lot of really good, authentically smoked food. It’s a sweet buy!

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET ELECTRIC

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

4.5/5

BBQ type: Electric smoker

Material: Insulated steel

Grates: Chromed wire

Capacity: 711 sq in.

Wattage: 800

Dimensions: 20″ W x 33″ H x 19″ D

Price guide: $

Model: MB20071117

Warranty: 1 year

When it comes to budget smokers of all types, this one is POP-U-LAR!!

First off, this bad boy offers a generous 711 square inches of smoking space. That’s plenty of room for all your favorite meats, from ribs to brisket and everything in between.

Racks Loaded Up on the Masterbuilt 40 Inch Digital Electric Smoker

With digital controls maintaining your set temperature, it’s pretty much like an outdoor oven that you can add wood chips too.

And, while adding wood chips to an electric smoker means you’re typically letting all that precious heat out when opening the door, Masterbuilt has it sussed with a sweet side-loading wood chip port.

Simply pull the tube out, load your chips, insert and twist and you’ve got more smoke without having to wait for your unit to get up to temperature again.

Adding Wood Chips to the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

The Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker is also insulated for improved heat retention. Now, at this budget price point, the insulation’s not great. We found the unit struggled quite a bit in cold conditions. But, having any sort of insulation does help out. It can get the job done in winter too. Just expect smoking to take a little longer.

If you want a fully set and forget electric smoker, there’s a Slow Smoker Attachment you can buy. This feeds the wood chips automatically for up to 6 hours.

Because this gives you an external, offset element, you’re working with an even lower temperature for true cold smoking too.

With its generous space, digital controls, and very low price, the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker has earned its popularity for a reason.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET FISH & JERKY

Smokehouse Big Chief

4/5

BBQ type: Electric smoker

Material: Aluminum

Grates: Chromed wire

Capacity: 576 sq in.

Wattage: 450

Dimensions: 24.5 H x 18 W x 12 D

Price guide: $

Model: Big Chief

Warranty: 2 years

This one’s a bit of a specialty smoker and because of that, we debated whether it should take a place on the best budget smokers list. But, if you’re looking for a smoker to do fish, jerky, or smoked sausage, the Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker is a cheap, top performing option.

First off, it’s basic.

This smoker is pretty much an aluminum box with a heating element at the bottom, space for wood chips and a perforated top to let the smoke out. Don’t expect anything more!

Smoke production from Big Chief electric smoker

There’s no temperature dial because it’s a fixed temperature smoker. It runs at a maximum of 165°F which is even hard to hit when the weather’s a bit cooler.

And, although you can use it for meat, we don’t recommend using it to cook heavier things like ribs, chicken or brisket. The super low temperature means you can’t get these larger cuts up to a safe eating temperature in the Big Chief alone. Instead, you’re using the smoker to add flavor and will have to finish them off in a regular oven to bring them up to temp.

But, if you fish and want to smoke up your weekends catch. The fixed, very low temperature of the Smokehouse Big Chief means you don’t need to worry about overheating and burning your food.

It’s also properly set up for dehydration so if up to 50 pounds of homemade jerky is what you’re looking for, this budget-friendly box will do a mighty fine job.

To add wood chips, you don’t have to open the main door. There’s a flap and a small frying pan like tray that simply slides in down the bottom.

Be careful not to dent the bit flimsy aluminum shell when you’re getting this smoker out and packing it away.

But, stick to what this smoker was made for and it’s a great budget-friendly option that we like to have alongside a larger, regular smoker.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET GAS

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane

4.2/5

BBQ type: Propane gas

Material: Powder-coated steel

Grates: Chromed wire

Capacity: 960 sq in.

Heat range: Up to 375°F

Dimensions: 22.8″D x 28.7″W x 53″H

Price guide: $$

Model: MB20051316

Warranty: 1 year

If you want to go propane for a clean burning and easy smoking experience, the self-regulating ThermoTemp Propane Smoker by Masterbuilt is our top choice in the budget category.

Thanks to Masterbuilt’s patented ThermoTemp technology, a clever temperature sensor takes the reins on burner control that you don’t normally get with propane smoking.

Once you’ve set your desired temperature, it’s like having a sous chef that handles the nitty-gritty while you bask in the glory.

The added bonus? A heat diffuser ensures that the warmth spreads evenly, so you won’t find yourself with a brisket that’s both overdone and underdone.

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane 330G

With four smoking racks giving you a generous 960 square inches of cooking room, you’ve got plenty of space for the family and guests.

Feeling extra hungry? Opt for the 40-inch model, and you’ll have the capacity to cook up a feast – think 12 chickens, 2 turkeys, 4 racks of ribs, or 4 pork butts.

One other thing that we love about this propane smoker is that your wood chip tray is cleverly tucked behind a second door. This lets you add more chips without letting all your heat out, wasting fuel and slowing your cook.

As expected, Masterbuilt’s got an automatic gas shutoff if the burner flame flickers out. A fuel level gauge also makes managing gas a breeze so you’ll never run out mid-cook, leaving you with a half-cooked dish and a hungry crowd.

In a nutshell, the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane Smoker is the total package for making gas smoking a walk in the park.

Pros
Cons

Want to compare this to other top rated gas smokers? Check out our best propane smokers review.

BEST BUDGET COMBO

Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart

4.6/5

BBQ type: Pellet

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Porcelain-coated

Grilling: Direct heat

Capacity: 2,136 sq in

Hopper capacity: 40 lbs

Heat range: 180 – 500°F+

Dimensions: 55″ W x 67″ H x 31″ D

WiFi: Yes

Price guide: $$$

Model: PB2180LK

Warranty: 5 years

This one’s more expensive than your typical budget smoker. But, this bad boy isn’t your average smoker – it’s a triple trouble pitmaster. And, it’s the best budget smoker combo out there.

With a total of 2,136 square inches of cooking space, you’ve got Pit Boss’s Bigger, Hotter, Heavier wood pellet grill on the bottom, a double door cabinet smoker on top, AND, a slide-plate flame broiler so you can grill over direct flame as well.

Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart Pellet Grill

They’re all powered by pellets through the 40 pound hopper. So, you’re looking at a clean burning but milder woody flavor than charcoal. And, while some people have questioned why they didn’t mix up the fuel types, there’s really no need to. 100% hardwood pellets are great to cook with and it’s handy to only have to have one type of fuel on hand.

Like all Pit Boss’s, the Lockhart Platinum is built like a tank. Heavy-gauge steel construction and a porcelain-coated cooking surface mean it’s ready to take on the elements and last for many grilling seasons to come.

Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart Cabinet Smoker

The precise PID-style digital control panel does a great job at keeping the temperature steady. There’s two meat probes included take the guess work out of smoking. And, you’re also getting integrated Bluetooth wireless technology and Wi-Fi control for a completely hands-off control.

The iPhone Pit Boss app is a bit more average than we’d expect. But, we’ve heard good things about the android version. We haven’t used it ourselves though.

Because it’s such a complicated smoker, it takes a lot longer to put together than your average barbecue…. You’ve only got to do it once though…

The ash cleanout system works well, there’s 6 sausage hooks included, a built-in light, and handy storage cabinet. For the price, you do get a lot. The Pit Boss Lockhart truly is a jack-of-all-trades with everything you need, all rolled into one.

Pros
Cons

Want to compare this to other top rated combo smokers? Check out our best combo smokers review.

What is a Budget Smoker?

A budget smoker is any smoker that’s cheaper than most.

Although budget can be defined differently by each person, and naturally varies between the different types of smokers as some are more expensive than others, for the purpose of this review, we have tried to limit ‘budget’ to $400 and under.

This budget range does give you a decent smoker under each category, and, as you can see above, you’ve still got a fair amount of choice.

What to Look for When Buying a Budget Smoker

To try to get the best budget smoker, think about these important factors:

Generally, you can buy a better quality smoker if you go smaller.

How much do you want to cook? Are you prepared to go for a smaller size so you can buy better quality? Or, do you need big?

We’ve included a range of different smoker sizes on this list so you’ll hopefully find something that fits the bill.

When you’re buying any smoker, have a think about what sort of flavor and intensity of smoke you like.

Charcoal gives a distinct and stronger flavor, wood pellets generally burn cleaner and have a more mild, wood smoked taste, electric has the most mild flavor, and wood smoked can be cheap if you’ve got access to free wood.

If you like big brand names, the customer service, and reliable warranties they provide, you’ll find some well-known names in this best budget smokers list.

But, if you’re alright with a brand that’s not so mainstream, you can pick up some good barbecues at a really great price.

How much do you want to spend on a barbecue?

Usually investing a little more now can save you in the long run as you’ll have a smoker that will be more durable and longer-lasting than just buying the very cheapest barbecue.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to spend top dollar to get a smoker that will last.

You should get a decent life out of all of the best budget smokers we’ve recommended here.

Tips to Save Money When Buying a Smoker

If you look at all the smoking stuff out there, you can easily spend a small fortune getting setup.

But, if all you want is to cook some good barbecue on a budget, follow these simple tricks to save your cash for the meat:

Some smokers are great value for money. Others will actually fall apart during their first season of use. Choose something from this list and you should be good for a long while.

  1. The big names out there might make good barbecues. But, they’re not the only smokers that are capable of making great meat. There’s so many different brands on the market these days and some are better value than others. Don’t be afraid to go for a ‘cheaper’ brand, especially if we’ve recommended it here (Z Grills is less expensive than most pellet smokers but is legit, one of our favorites ever).

Keep an eye out for special deals, promotions, and discounts from retailers. This might include holiday sales, special events or clearance items. Click on multiple links for the same smoker in this review to see where it’s cheapest.

Some brands will ship for free, others will charge quite a bit for a large and heavy barbecue. Remember to check the shipping costs when comparing the price of your new smoker.

Yes, you can buy a lot of accessories for your new budget smoker. But, do you NEED them to make good meat? Generally, no.

We do recommend grabbing a meat thermometer to take the guesswork out of smoking (read below). And, you’ll need basics like tongs and/or a knife and cutting board. But, save those nice to have extras for your Christmas wish-list.

Our #1 Suggestion to Cook Better Barbecue on a Budget Smoker

A lot of people buy a cheap barbecue, make some average food and blame it on the gear.

YOU DON’T NEED THE MOST EXPENSIVE BARBECUE TO MAKE GOOD FOOD!!!

Our biggest tip and trick for making great smoked meats is simply using a meat thermometer.

Testing the Z Grills probe against the MEATER probe on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A

Yes, the pros use them too. No, it’s not cheating. You’re simply getting the most exact info on how well cooked your meat is.

No amount of looking, checking the time, poking or prodding will tell you exactly when your brisket has hit ‘will slice perfectly’ level or when your pork shoulder will effortlessly fall apart.

Using a meat thermometer takes all of the guesswork out of making great barbecue and lets you focus on your favorite seasonings, sauces and sides instead of do those ribs look quite done yet?…

So, choose an inexpensive barbecue from this best budget smoker list. And, if you can, grab yourself one of our best rated meat thermometers too.

If you don’t have the cash for it right now, there’s always Christmas or your next birthday. But, that one simple piece of gear will make a world of difference in how your next smokeup turns out.

FAQs on the Best Budget Smokers

If you’ve got a question about how to find the right one out of these best budget smokers, you should find the answer here. If not, flick us an email and we’ll do our best to guide you down the right path.

Smokers vary hugely in cost from a couple of hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

So, when it comes to how much you should spend, the answer to that is very much going to depend on how much you WANT to spend.

But, if you want to know how much you NEED to spend to get a decent smoker, in 2023, expect to spend a minimum of $200 for an electric smoker, $400-$500 for a pellet smoker, $300 for a basic charcoal smoker including offset, and, more for a kamado because they’re expensive.

That amount should give you a good performing smoker without the bells and whistles. Scroll up to see our actual recommendations if you want to keep the cost down but still get something decent.

The cheapest type of smoker to run in terms of ongoing costs is typically an electric smoker.

Electric smokers are fairly energy-efficient and don’t require charcoal, propane, or wood pellets, which can add up in cost over time.

So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that won’t break the bank in the long run, an electric smoker is a solid choice.

Note, you will have to buy wood chips as that’s the only way you get a smoky flavor in an electric smoker. But, one pack usually lasts a long time, especially if you’re only adding chips for the first few hours when the most smoke is absorbed by your meat.

Another thing to note is that if you want to keep running costs low, buy a smoker that you think you can fill every time you smoke.

A larger smoker costs more to heat so you don’t want wasted space in there.

The cost of running a pellet smoker varies depending on several factors, including the size of the smoker, the brand and model, the temperature settings, and the cost of wood pellets you’re using.

But, here are some general considerations:

  1. Two Sources of Running Costs: A pellet smoker uses electricity to power the auger and fan. Plus, it burns pellets. So, you’ve got electricity and wood pellets to pay for.
  2. Temperature Settings: The amount of pellets consumed during a smoking session depends on the temperature you set and the duration of the cook. Higher temperatures and longer cooks will use more pellets.
  3. Pellet Prices: The cost of wood pellets can vary significantly depending on which brand you buy. High-quality pellets tend to be more expensive, but they can also result in better flavor and higher burn efficiency. Check out our recommendations for the best wood pellets for smoking to get an idea of cost.
  4. Smoker Size: Larger pellet smokers will cost more in both electricity and pellets to run. However, they also provide more cooking space. Filling a larger smoker and only running it once will be cheaper than running a smaller smoker more frequently.

If you’re looking for a personal response more than the technicality behind it, we find that running a pellet smoker is quite an efficient way to smoke meat.

The highest electricity usage is during the startup phase. After that, running the auger and fans don’t cost much. And, with a decent quality pellet being burnt at a low and slow temperature, most pellet smokers are quite efficient.

The cost of running a pellet smoker increases quickly though once you bump up the temperature. Pellet grills, in our opinion, aren’t really made to be run at high heat and they chop through to pellets to do so.

You can buy a budget piece of junk and be totally wasting your money. And, you can buy a budget smoker that’s decent enough to cook good barbecue easily and last a few seasons while you’re at it.

The best budget smokers that have made this list have all been tried and tested.

They’re not THE most inexpensive things on the market. But, if you wanted the dirt cheapest, you wouldn’t need to read a review.

You’re here because you want cheap and good. There are even big brands in this list of the best budget smokers. These aren’t a waste of your hard earned cash.

There’s a lot of things that will affect how long a budget smoker lasts… it’s build quality, if it’s got electric components to break, how often you’re using it, where you’re storing it, etc.

But, to make a completely generalized statement, I’d expect to get at least 5 years of every weekend usage out of any of the smokers listed here.

The very best thing you can do to help your smoker last longer is to store it out of the rain!

Smokers, and particularly budget ones, seem to rust faster these days, even if they’ve got stainless steel components.

So, keep it dry, clean your grates after every cook (this is our favorite tool to make this easy), and throw out those ashes once they’re cold.

Kate Brown, the founder and voice behind Burning Brisket, is not your typical pitmaster or restaurateur. Her expertise in barbecue grew from a humble desire to cook exceptional meals for her family. From overcoming burnt brisket mishaps to establishing her boutique cattle ranch, Kate shares her passion to help 'ordinary' individuals cook extraordinary barbecue, believing that simplicity often yields the best flavors. Kate is commited to making great barbecue accessible to all with the right resources and some tasty practice.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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