10-Seconds on the Best Budget Smoker
Buy wisely and you can get decent quality and really good food with a budget smoker.
Our Single Top Budget Smoker Pick - Z Grills 450B
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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Table of Contents
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…
Our Top Picks for the Best Budget Smokers
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.
Z Grills 450B - Best Budget Pellet
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.
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.
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.
Specs for the Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker
Barbecue material: Stainless steel
Grate material: Porcelain-coated iron
Cooking capacity: 459 sq. in.
Pellet hopper capacity: 15 lbs
Heat Range: 180-450°F
Fuel type: Wood pellets
Model: Pioneer ZPG-450B
Assembled size (in): 47”H x 43”W x 24”D
Weight: 75 lbs
Warranty: 3 years
Pros of the Z Grills ZPG-450B
- Precise Temperature Control: The digital control panel and PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) technology help maintain a consistent temperature, ensuring even cooking results.
- 8-in-1 Versatility: Wide temperature range from 180°F (82°C) to 450°F (232°C) lets you smoke, grill, roast, bake, sear, braise, char-grill, and barbecue.
- Ease of Use: Its user-friendly design makes it accessible to both beginners and experienced grillers. The digital control panel simplifies temperature adjustments.
- Affordability: The Z Grills 450B delivers quality without a premium price.
- Sturdy Construction: Durable build with heavy-duty materials should last a long time.
- Large Hopper Capacity: The pellet hopper typically gives around 15 hours of hands-off smoking without needing to refill.
- Manual feed button: Lets you get the temperature up quickly upon start-up or after opening the lid.
- Pellet hopper window and cleanout: You can easily see when the pellets need refilling. And, there’s a handy door to empty them if you want to change flavors.
Cons of the Z Grills ZPG-450B
- Limited Cooking Space: 450 square inches of space is decent. But, is smaller than other more expensive options.
- Price: While the Z Grills 450B is affordable compared to other pellet smokers, it is more expensive than budget charcoal options on this list. some buyers.
Want to compare this budget pellet smoker to higher quality alternatives? Check out our full review of the best pellet grills here.
Z Grills Cruiser 200A - Best Even Cheaper Pellet
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).
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.
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.
Read our full review of the Z Grills Cruiser 200A.
Specs for the Z Grills Cruiser 200A
Barbecue material: Powder-coated steel
Grate material: Porcelain-coated steel
Cooking capacity: 202 sq. in.
Pellet hopper capacity: 8 lbs
Temperature Range: 180°F – 450°F
Fuel type: Wood pellets
Model: ZPG 200A Cruiser
Dimensions: 25 L x 20 W x 13 H
Weight: 40 lbs
Warranty: 3 years
Pros of the Z Grills Cruiser 200A
Affordability: The Z Grills Cruiser offers the benefits of pellet grilling at the most budget-friendly price.
Ease of Use: The digital control panel simplifies temperature settings and adjustments, making it beginner-friendly even for those new to pellet grilling.
Precise Temperature Control: The automatic temperature controller keeps a very consistent heat for reliable results.
Versatility: The Z Grills 200A is capable of smoking, grilling, baking, roasting, and braising, offering a variety of cooking options.
Efficient Pellet Usage: Thanks to its smaller cooking space, the grill is efficient in terms of pellet consumption, helping you save on fuel costs.
Portability: With its lightweight design and handles, it’s easy to move and transport, making it suitable for outdoor adventures and events as well as being used at home.
- Quality Build: The Cruiser has been constructed with durable materials, ensuring it can withstand the rigors of outdoor cooking and provide lasting performance.
Cons of the Z Grills Cruiser 200A
- Not Ideal for Large Cuts: Due to its limited cooking area, the Cruiser isn’t the best choice for large cuts of meat or cooking multiple items at once.
- No meat probe: There’s a port to connect a probe but no probe included. You can buy a generic one to keep it cheap. Or, go for your own wireless setup. Here’s our favorite wireless smoker theremometers.
- Small cooking space: The compact design means your meat is very close to the heat. We flip meat mid-cook to stop it from drying out and/or burning a little.
Masterbuilt Gravity Series® 560 Digital WiFi Charcoal Grill and Smoker - Best Budget Automated Charcoal
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!
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.
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.
Specs for the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker
Barbecue material: Powder coated steel
Grate material: Cast iron
Power required? Yes
Cooking capacity: 560 sq. in.
Pellet hopper capacity: 10 lbs lump charcoal or 16 pounds briquettes
Heat Range: 225°F to 700°F (107°C to 371°C)
Fuel type: Charcoal
Assembled size (in): 53”H x 51”W x 24”D
Weight: 147 lbs
Warranty: 1 year
Pros of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker
Precise Temperature Control: The digital control panel allows you to set and maintain your desired cooking temperature with remarkable accuracy, ensuring consistent results every time.
Automatic Charcoal Feeding: This smoker’s unique gravity-fed charcoal system automatically adds briquettes as needed, maintaining a stable cooking temperature without constant monitoring or adjustment.
Versatility: It can be used as both a grill and a smoker, offering the flexibility to cook a wide range of foods, from low-and-slow smoked meats to seared steaks.
WiFi Connectivity: The built-in WiFi feature allows you to control and monitor the grill remotely using the Masterbuilt app on your smartphone, giving you the freedom to socialize while keeping an eye on your cooking progress.
Authentic Charcoal Flavor: Charcoal cooking imparts a delicious smoky flavor to your food, making it perfect for traditional barbecue enthusiasts.
- Multiple Cooking Methods: You can use it for grilling, smoking, roasting, and even baking, making it a versatile addition to your outdoor cooking arsenal.
Cons of the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Smoker
Price: While it’s more affordable than some high-end smokers, the Masterbuilt 560 can still be relatively expensive compared to basic charcoal grills or smokers, which might not fit everyone’s budget.
Power Source Required: To use the digital control panel and automatic charcoal feeding system, you need a power source, which can be inconvenient in locations without easy access to electricity.
WiFi Connectivity Reliability: Some users have reported occasional issues with the WiFi connectivity, including lost connections or delays in response from the app.
- Durability of Electrical Components: Over time, the electrical components such as the control panel and wiring may be susceptible to wear and tear or exposure to the elements, potentially requiring maintenance or replacement.
Weber Smokey Mountain 14" Cooker - Best Budget Vertical Charcoal
Now, the Weber Smokey Mountain 14″ 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.
Taking up just 14″ by 14″ of ground space, this Weber Smokey Mountain gives you 286 square inches of cooking space spread over two racks. That’s enough for 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. But, if you like smoking in bigger batches, simply one up it to the 18 or 22 inch model for even more space.
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.
Specs for the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Cooker 14"
Fuel type: Charocal
Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled steel
Grate material: Plated steel
Cooking capacity: 286 sq. in.
Dimensions: 31.4(H) x 14.7(W) x 14.7(D)
Warranty: 10 years on bowl and lid, 5 years on plastics and cleaning system, 2 years on remaining parts
Pros of the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 14"
- Excellent Build Quality: Great quality smoker for this price bracket. It’s sturdy, durable, rust-resistant and easy to clean.
- Temperature Control: It’s got adjustable dampers at the top and bottom, so you can fine-tune that heat just the way you like it. Smoking low and slow? Cranking up the heat for a quick grill session? No problem.
- Fuel Efficiency: Smaller size makes it surprisingly efficient with charcoal. You won’t be burning through bags of the stuff every time you fire it up. Your wallet will thank you.
- Decent Cooking Space: For its compact size, the WSM 14″ offers a decent amount of cooking space.
- Large removeable fuel door: Add wood and charcoal without having to move the meat and racks.
- Portable Powerhouse: This bad boy is compact and easy to transport, so you can take your barbecue show on the road. Tailgating, camping, or just sharing the barbecue love with friends? You got it.
- Classic Look: Let’s be real, it’s got that classic Weber look. It’s not just a smoker; it’s a statement piece for your backyard.
- Long-Lasting: Weber’s reputation for durability isn’t just for show. You get a 10 year warranty with it.
Cons of the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 14"
- Size Constraints: The WSM 14″ is not exactly a giant. If you’re planning on hosting a massive backyard barbecue bash, you might have to think carefully about which meats you cook.
- No Frills: This smoker is all about the basics. If you’re looking for fancy gadgets and digital doodads, you won’t find them here. It’s just you, your meat, and some good ol’ charcoal.
Temperature Challenges: Getting it to hold low temperatures can sometimes be a bit like trying to tame a wild horse. You’ll need to get to know those dampers and be patient while you figure out the airflow dance.
Want to compare this budget vertical smoker to other alternatives? Check out our full review of the best vertical smokers here.
Pit Barrel Junior - Best Budget Set and Forget Charcoal
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.
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 inside making it perfect for the pitmaster who wants fantastic results with minimal fuss.
And 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.
Built tough with quality materials, this cooker can withstand the elements and is designed to provide years of barbecue joy without breaking the bank.
Specs for the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior
Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled, 18-gauge steel
Grate material: Stainless steel or regular steel depending on accessory
Cooking capacity: Varies depending on accessories used
Heat Range: Fixed smoking temperature
Fuel type: Charcoal
Model: 14″ Pit Barrel Cooker Junior
Assembled size (in): 21.5″ W x 33″ H x 21.5″ D
Weight: 32 lbs
Warranty: 1 year
Pros of the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior
- Hanging Style Cooking: The unique hanging-style cooking method lets you cook a lot in a small amount of space with even heat distribution and flavor infusion.
- Affordability: It’s great value for the quality you’re getting.
- Portability: The compact and portable design makes it an excellent choice for on-the-go barbecuing, from tailgating to camping trips.
- Durability: Constructed with quality materials, the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior is built to withstand outdoor conditions and provide long-lasting performance.
Beginner-Friendly: Its user-friendly design and straightforward cooking process make it a great choice for those new to smoking and grilling.
Cons of the Pit Barrel Cooker Junior
- Limited Temperature Adjustability: The Pit Barrel Cooker Junior isn’t the best choice if you’re dead set on precise temperature control. It’s a “set it and forget it” deal. This works great for some people, but not if you’re a temperature perfectionist.
- Not Great for Quick Grilling: The Pit Barrel Jr isn’t set up for grilling. It’s a dedicated smoker.
- Charcoal flavor is strong: Not a problem if you like a strong charcoaly flavor. But, if you prefer a more subtle smokiness, this isn’t the right barbecue for you.
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker - Best Budget Kamado
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.
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.
Complete with a tubular steel cart with locking casters and side-tables, the Akorn Kooker is great value for money if you want an inexpensive yet versatile barbecue.
Specs for the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado
Barbecue material: Triple wall steel with a porcelain-coated interior and powder-coated exterior
Grate material: Cast-iron
Cooking capacity: 314 sq. in.
Heat Range: 200°F – 700°F
Fuel type: Charcoal
Assembled size (in): 47(H) x 31(W) x 45(D)
Warranty: 5 years
Pros of the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker
- Affordability: The Akorn offers the benefits of a ceramic kamado grill at a more budget-friendly price point, making it accessible to a wide range of barbecue enthusiasts.
- Insulation and Temperature Control: The insulated steel construction of the Akorn Kamado retains heat well and provides precise temperature control, making it versatile for various cooking styles, including low-and-slow smoking and high-heat grilling.
- Durable design: The steel shell can’t crack like ceramic models can.
- Portability: Despite its sturdy build, the Akorn is relatively lightweight compared to traditional ceramic kamado grills, making it easier to move around your outdoor space.
- Accessories and Add-Ons: Char-Griller offers various accessories and add-ons that enhance the functionality of the Akorn Kamado, such as side tables, smoking stones, and rotisserie kits.
- Great for Beginners: Its user-friendly design and ability to hold temperatures steadily make it suitable for those new to kamado-style grilling and smoking.
Cons of the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker
Durability Compared to Ceramic Kamados: Although the triple-walled steel construction is durable, it doesn’t match the longevity of ceramic kamado grills, which can last for decades with proper care.
Rust Potential: Steel egg and cast iron grates are more susceptible to rust compared to ceramics. Keep it out of the rain.
Poorer heat retention: Even with triple layered steel, the Akorn won’t hold heat as well as ceramic kamados.
- Limited Cooking Space: The primary cooking area, while sufficient for most needs, may feel limiting if you often cook for large gatherings or require extra space for extensive smoking sessions.
Want to compare this budget kamado to higher quality alternatives? Check out our full review of the best kamado grills here.
Dyna-Glo Vertical - Best Budget Offset
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 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 substandard 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 steady temperature as long as you’re not smoking in really cold conditions.
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 Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker is also big enough to give your whole crew the meat sweats. Boasting 784 square inches of cooking space spread across six grates, it’s perfect to cook anything from fresh fish to multiple racks of ribs and larger cuts of meat.
Overall, the Dyna-Glo Vertical has all the basics you need to smoke great meat in your backyard without having to fork out a small fortune.
Specs for the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker
Fuel type: Charcoal
Barbecue material: Heavy-gauge steel
Grate material: Chrome-plated steel
Cooking capacity: 1,176 sq. in.
Dimensions: 50.2(H) x 35(W) x 21(D)
Warranty: 1 year
Pros of the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker
- Spacious Cooking Area: The Dyna-Glo Vertical boasts a whopping 1,176 square inches of cooking space spread across six adjustable cooking grates. You’ll have plenty of room to smoke all your favorite meats and dishes.
Large Wood Chip Box: The sizable wood chip box can hold a significant amount of wood chips or chunks, allowing for longer smoking sessions without frequent refilling.
Vertical Design: The vertical design of the smoker helps maximize space efficiency while maintaining a small footprint in your outdoor area.
Smoke Stack with Adjustable Flue: The smoke stack features an adjustable flue, giving you control over the smoke output and flavor infusion.
Affordable: Compared to some other smokers with similar capacity, the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D often offers excellent value for the price.
- Durable Construction: The heavy-gauge steel construction is fairly durable, especially considering this smokers price.
Cons of the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker
Construction Quality: While it’s construction is good for the price, the Dyna-Glo vertical is just not as durable as a more expensive offset smoker.
Temperature Fluctuations: Thinner steel than more expensive models can make maintaining consistent temperatures challenging, especially in extremely cold or windy conditions. You might need to monitor and adjust the smoker more frequently in adverse weather.
Smoke Leakage: Expect smoke leakage from gaps or seams in the smoker’s construction, which can affect temperature control and smoke retention. You can address this by sealing joins with high-heat silicone and an aftermarket gasket tape.
Cooking Space Configuration: The vertical design can be challenging when cooking larger cuts of meat. Racks of ribs don’t fit comfortably unless you go for the wider model.
Want to compare this budget offset smoker to higher quality alternatives? Check out our full review of the best offset smokers here.
Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital - Best Budget Electric
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.
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.
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.
Specs for the Masterbuilt MES 130B
Fuel type: Digital electric
Wattage: 800 watts
Barbecue material: Insulated steel
Grate material: Chrome-coated wire
Cooking capacity: 711 sq. in.
Price guide: $
Dimensions: 20″ W x 33″ H x 19″ D
Warranty: 1 year
Pros of the Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker
Spacious Cooking Area: With 711 square inches of cooking space, this smoker offers ample room to smoke large cuts of meat or multiple dishes simultaneously, making it great for gatherings and parties.
Digital Control Panel: The digital control panel allows you to easily set and adjust the cooking temperature, providing precise, hands-off control over your smoking process.
Side Loading Port: The side loading port allows you to add wood chips without opening the main door, minimizing heat and smoke loss and ensuring a stable cooking environment.
Slow Smoker Attachment Compatibility: You have the option to purchase a Slow Smoker Attachment, which automatically feeds wood chips for extended smoking sessions, including up to 6 hours of “set and forget” smoking. It’s also suitable for cold smoking.
Easy to Use: There’s nothing much to it making it simple for total beginners.
Great Value: It offers a combination of features, performance, and affordability that makes it a super popular choice.
Reliable Brand: Masterbuilt is the biggest brand in the electric smoker industry, known for producing reasonable quality with good customer support.
Cons of the Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker
- Electric smoker flavor: With no real flame, electric smokers produce a milder smoke flavor compared to traditional wood or charcoal smokers. The results are also steamier and won’t really be able to create good bark in an electric smoker. It’s not a problem unique to this electric smoker.
- Possible Electrical Issues: Like any electrical appliance, there is a risk of electrical malfunctions over time, which may require maintenance or repair.
- Limited Temperature Range: Electric smokers typically have a narrower temperature range compared to some other smoker types. If you want to do high heat cooking as well, you can’t do it on this smoker.
Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker - Best Budget for Fish and Jerky
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!
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.
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.
Specs for the Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker
Fuel type: Electric
Barbecue material: Aluminum
Grate material: Chrome-plated wire
Cooking capacity: 576 sq. in.
Wattage: 450 watts
Model: Big Chief
Dimensions: 24.5(H) x 18(W) x 12(D)
Warranty: 2 years
Pros of the Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker
- Top Performing Fish and Jerky Smoker: The Big Chief excels at maintaining a consistent, very low temperature, perfect for slow-smoking and jerky.
- Straightforward Operation: There’s almost nothing to the Big Chief, making it an excellent choice for beginners. Just plug it in, load it up, and let it work its magic.
- Ample Smoking Space: Despite its compact size, you get 576 square inches of smoking space or the ability to load up up to 50 pounds of meat.
- Time-Tested Reliability: This smoker has been a trusted choice for generations, earning a reputation for consistent performance and dependable results.
Cons of the Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker
- Limited Temperature Range: The Big Chief is designed primarily for very low-temperature smoking. If you’re looking to smoke a turkey or a brisket, it’s not be the best choice.
- Limited Cooking Ability: While the Big Chief excels at smoking fish, jerky and sausages, it’s not as versatile as the other smokers on this list. If you want to do larger cuts of meat in here, you can give it a couple of hours in the Big Chief to absorb some smoke then finish in the oven. But, we’d recommend the more versatile Masterbuilt Digital Electric we discuss above instead.
- Basic Design: If you’re someone who loves gadgets and advanced controls, the Big Chief’s simplicity might leave you wanting more.
- No Insulation: There’s no insulation, which can result in temperature fluctuations in colder weather.
Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane - Best Budget Gas
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.
Specs for the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane Smoker 30"
Fuel type: Propane gas
Barbecue material: Powder-coated steel
Grate material: Chrome-plated wire
Cooking capacity: 713 sq. in.
Number of burners: 1
Total burner BTU-per-hour-input: 15,750
Model: MPS 340|G
Assembled size (in): 43.11 (H) x 23.42 (W) x 20.03 (D)
Warranty: 1 year
Pros of the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane Smoker
Precise Temperature Control: With the ThermoTemp technology, this smoker provides accurate temperature control, ensuring your dishes are cooked to perfection without constant adjustments.
Set-and-Forget Convenience: Once you’ve set your desired temperature, the smoker takes care of the rest, allowing you to relax while it maintains the cooking conditions.
Even Heat Distribution: The inclusion of a heat diffuser ensures that heat is evenly distributed throughout the cooking chamber, preventing uneven cooking and overdone/underdone portions of your food.
Large Cooking Capacity: The 330g model provides 700 square inches of cooking space, while the 40-inch model offers even more capacity, allowing you to cook substantial amounts of food in one go.
Separate Wood Chip Tray Door: The wood chip tray is conveniently located behind a separate door, allowing you to add wood chips without losing heat or smoke from the main cooking chamber.
Regulator and Fuel Gauge: Comes with a fuel level gauge so you can easily see how much fuel you’ve got left.
Cons of the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane Smoker
- Mild Smoke Flavor: Propane smokers produce a milder smoke flavor compared to charcoal or wood smokers, which may not appeal to those seeking a strong smoky taste.
- Limited High-Temperature Cooking: This smoker isn’t suitable for high-heat grilling or searing.
Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart - Best Budget Combo
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.
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.
Precise PID-style, digital control panels, and two included meat probes take the guess work out of smoking. But, you’re also getting integrated Bluetooth wireless technology and Wi-Fi control for a completely hands-off control.
The Pit Boss Lockhart truly is a jack-of-all-trades.
With a huge 40 pound pellet hopper, a built-in light for night time smoking, and a storage cabinet, this barbecue gives you everything you need, all rolled into one.
Specs for the Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart Smoker
Fuel type: Wood pellets
Barbecue material: Powder-coated steel and stainless steel
Grate material: Porcelain-coated wire
Electricity required? Yes
Cooking capacity: 718 sq. in. pellet grill, 1,418 sq. in. cabinet
Pellet hopper capacity: 40 lbs
Temperature range: 180° to 500° F + open flame grilling
Dimensions: 55″ W x 67″ H x 31″ D
Weight: 269 lbs
Warranty: 5 years
Pros of the Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart Combo
- Smokes and Grills: With the Lockhart, you get real open flame grilling instead of trying to grill over indirect high heat.
- Endless Cooking Space: Hosting a backyard BBQ blowout? No sweat! You’ve got more than 2,000 square inches of cooking space. Say hello to room for racks of ribs, briskets, and a whole flock of chickens.
- Steady Automated Temperature Conrol: PID temperature controls keep within a tight range of your target.
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Accessibility: Monitor exactly how your cook is progressing with Pit Boss’s app and included meat probes.
- Built to Last: Crafted with heavy-duty steel and a porcelain-coated cooking surface, the Lockhart is built tough to last.
- Easy Cleanup and Flavor Changes: Switching wood pellet flavors or giving your grill a clean slate is a breeze thanks to the pellet hopper cleanout. No fuss, no mess.
Cons of the Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart Combo
- Price Tag: While it’s a versatile and high-quality smoker, the Lockhart does come with a higher price tag than the other best budget smokers on this list. It does replace the need for a grill though.
- Complex Assembly Required: Assembling this smoker is more in-depth than most. It might take some time and patience to put it all together before you can start grilling and smoking.
Want to compare the Pit Boss Platinum Lockhart to other alternatives? Check out our full review of the best smoker grill combo barbecues.
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.
How much should I pay for a smoker?
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.
What's the cheapest type of smoker to run?
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.
How much does it cost to run a pellet smoker?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Is buying a budget smoker worth it?
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.
How long will a budget smoker last?
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.
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:
- Choose Wisely: 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.
- Avoid being sucked in by big brands: 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).
- Shop for sales: 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.
- Check shipping costs: 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.
- Save on accessories: 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.
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.
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.