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Best Propane Smokers: Tested for Ease, Quality & Flavor

BEST OVERALL

Camp Chef Smoke Vault
Camp Chef Smoke Vault
4.3/5

BEST AUTO TEMP

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane
Masterbuilt ThermoTemp XL
4.2/5

BEST BUDGET

Best Propane Gas Smoker
Cuisinart COS-244
4.3/5

Propane smokers are an affordable entry-point into the world of smoking. They’re easy to use, can hold quite a lot of food, and are pretty portable with an easy fuel source that doesn’t require electricity.

But, before you go out there and buy one, we’ll be upfront and say that propane smokers aren’t the best type of smoker in terms of performance. The smoked flavor that comes purely from smoldering wood chips won’t be as good as you can get from another type of smoker like a pellet or charcoal.

Most are also pretty average in terms of quality, and don’t automatically regulate the temperature.

That being said, if a propane smoker is what you’re after, here you’ll find the best propane smokers on the market.

These models offer the best in terms of performance, build quality, fuel efficiency, temperature control, and ease of use.

Most of the smokers reviewed below are fairly cheap to buy. But, we’ve included a range of price points so you can find something to suit your budget.

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How We Tested the Best Propane Smokers

In putting together this round up of the best propane smokers on the market, we tested eight of the most popular models.

They were all set up, burnt in, and used for at least ten separate cooks in a range of weather conditions to thoroughly test the performance of each.

The following factors were considered and are discussed in detail in each review below:

Propane smokers aren’t the best quality type of smoker out there. In fact, most are thin, leaky boxes that warrant their cheap price.

So, we sought out to find the best quality options on the market, even if the best still isn’t bulletproof.

We looked for quality materials, parts that fit well together, and also assessed the potential durability of each model because you want it to last.

Propane smokers aren’t set and forget. You have to quite carefully adjust the propane burner dial while watching the temperature dial climb to find the right amount of fuel to give you your required heat levels.

Once your target has been reached, you’ll need to make adjustments throughout the cook to keep a steady temperature as the weather affects their performance considerably.

Because they’re so hands on, you’ll want temperature control to be easy and these models have all been assessed based on this important usability factor.

Propane smokers are known for giving food a lightly smoked flavor.

In relying on smoldering wood chips to provide the good stuff, some are naturally more smoky and some are less.

Some of the propane smokers that we tried had very low smoke levels and as such, didn’t impart much in the way of smoked flavor at all. These did not make the cut for this review.

Propane smokers are naturally impacted by the weather. They’re usually not or minimally insulated, and the flame can be impacted by the wind as it whips through the dampers.

Luckily for you, we live somewhere that gets cold, windy, and rainy. So, we’re in the perfect spot to test out smokers for their all-weather performance and have done so with these.

Table of Contents

The Best Propane Smokers: Our Top Picks

With the convenience of a bottle full of fuel, and what’s reasonably a low effort smoker, grab one of these tested and approved propane smokers.

BEST OVERALL

Camp Chef Smoke Vault

4.3/5

BBQ type: Propane gas

Material: Powder-coated steel

Grates: Chromed wire

Capacity: 903 sq in.

Heat range: 150 – 350°F

Dimensions: 16″D x 24″W x 44″H

Price guide: $$

Model: SMV24SB

Warranty: 1 year

Apart from the gimmicky look that we’re personally not fans of, the Camp Chef Smoke Vault is the best all-round performing propane smoker that’s currently on the market.

This smoker is actually pretty well built. Yes, you’ll need to be careful not to ding up the reasonably thin metal but the door seals well, we like that the water and wood chips trays are porcelain-coated for added durability, and the unit as a whole feels better quality than the alternatives.

There’s three dampers on the Smoke Vault to let you get the temperature and smoke to exactly where you’d like it.

With two dampers on either side of the cabinet, down low, we do find that the wind can whip through causing considerable dips and spikes in the temperature. As such, it’s best set up out of the wind as much as possible although our flame has never actually blown out though.

Damper position on the Camp Chef Smoke Vault Propane Smoker

While the propane burner is more than powerful enough to heat the cooking area, we do find it a little touchy. It takes us a while to find that sweet spot at the start of each cook. A very small movement of the dial to the left or the right can have quite a big impact on the temperature. Once it’s dialed in though, we find that you don’t have to do much in the way of temperature management throughout the cook unless the weather’s changed quite a bit.

One other uniquely great thing about the Camp Chelf Smoke Vault is that it’s the only propane smoker that you can convert to natural gas.

Simply grab a natural gas conversion kit and follow Camp Chef’s conversion guide and you can use piped gas in your backyard as a cheaper fuel source if you’re lucky enough to have it.

The Smoke Vault comes in two sizes; the 18″ and 24″. The difference is in the width so the larger is better if you’re going to be smoking racks of ribs or whole briskets because they can be done without having to cut them in half.

Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24 Inch Cooking on 2 racks

Whichever size you go for, the Smoke Vault only comes with two grates and a jerky rack. There’s space to add more if you buy them separately. But, keep in mind that with all the racks in, you don’t have a lot of height between the racks and it’s only good for shorter things like fish fillets, wings, and sausages, etc.

In terms of the smoking performance itself, you can cook some decent food on the Smoke Vault. With good quality chips in a flavor you like, you can get a decent amount of smoke and the moisture retention is good.

We do recommend using wood chips instead of chunks in the Smoke Vault simply because you’ll get a longer smoke time out of them and there’s unfortunately, no other way to add more wood without opening the door which does cause you to lose a lot of that built up heat.

We find that propane smokers do recover faster than electric ones though so the dip shouldn’t extend out your total cook time too much.

Overall though, for a propane smoker, this unit is definitely one step above the rest.

Pros
Cons
BEST TEMP REGULATING

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 wanted a propane smoker with the idea that it’d be set and forget, the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp is the closest you’ll get.

Thanks to the patent-pending ThermoTemp technology, the temperature sensor controls the burner. So, once you’ve set it, you can let the unit do the hard work, while you take all the credit. A heat diffuser allows the warmth to distribute evenly, so we’ve found this to be one of the most even propane smokers in terms of smoke distribution from rack to rack as well.

Our biggest piece of advice with this smoker is to leave the thermostat to do it’s thing. It will fluctuate a bit until it finds a good set point but it will keep the heat within a reasonable range of your set point once it’s there. Opening the main door will temporarily cause a big dip and then spike in the temperature. And, opening the fuel door will cause smaller but similar variations. Both will come right in a bit of time.

There’s only one size available now. The XL model holds a good amount of food with 960 square inches of space split over the four racks. It’s a good size so you can fit racks of ribs and a whole brisket in there.

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp XL Loaded up

Like all propane smokers, because you’re getting the smoke from wood chips and the tray isn’t super large, you will need to replenish the wood chips throughout your cook. It’s not completely set and forget but you can get a little longer before refills by using wood chunks instead of chips.

But, the double door design gives you a practical way to add wood chips without a huge temperature dip that does naturally extend out your cook time.

Overall, the quality of the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp is well, what you’d expect from a Masterbuilt.

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane 330G

It’s a basic box that, although it’s technically insulated, will struggle to maintain a steady temperature in cold weather. The thin metal collects dings and dents easily. And, you’ll want to store it out of the weather to protect it from an early rust-ridden demise.

That being said, for a propane smoker, or a smoker of this price, the food turns out pretty decently. The door seals adequately, the temperature gauge is reasonably accurate, and, the built-in fuel gauge is handy so you know when the fuel is getting low.

It’s not a bad buy!

Pros
Cons
BEST LONG WARRANTY

Pit Boss Vertical Propane

4.4/5

BBQ type: Propane gas

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Chrome coated

Capacity: 880 sq in.

Heat range: 100 – 320°F

Dimensions: 23″D x 22″W x 47″H

Price guide: $$

Model: PBV3G1

Warranty: 5 years

With the backing of the longest warranty from a big brand, the Pit Boss Vertical Propane Smoker gives you good reassurance that this thing is made to last quite a number of years.

Pit Boss’s slogan is Bigger, Hotter, Heavier. And, while the size is quite normal for a propane smoker, and the temperature range is no hotter because you wouldn’t want it to be, this smoker does stand by it’s heavier philosophy.

It’s still reasonably lightweight because all propane smokers are. But, the Pit Boss Vertical Propane does have a stronger and sturdier feel to it than some of the competition. The burners are porcelain-coated stainless steel for added durability where you need it. And, we appreciate the two rear wheels making it easy to move this unit in and out of the garage.

Stainless steel burner on Pit Boss Vertical Propane Smoker

One of the main points of difference for this propane smoker is that it’s got two burners. The larger one heats the cooking space while the smaller one is dedicated to the wood chips. While it’s a great idea on the surface that lets you dial in the heat and smoke separately for more control over the cooking process, it does make this smoker more hands on with two things that need regular adjustments.

That being said, the flavor in the meat from this smoker is good.

We like that there’s a separate, pull-out wood chip tray so you’re not even opening a door to replenish the chips. And, we do kind of like the glass door even though it does get smoky and needs more cleaning than a solid version.

In terms of cooking capacity, Pit Boss make this Vertical Propane smoker in two sizes, the 2-Series and 3-Series.

Smoking on the Pit Boss 3-Series Vertical Propane Smoker

The 2-Series is very small. I’d only recommend it if you want something that’s more portable. Otherwise, the 3-Series gives you a pretty normal 880 square inch capacity split over four racks. Unfortunately, it’s not wide enough to fit a rack of ribs or whole brisket across a single grate easily. But, if those aren’t meats you cook all the time though, the width of this smoker shouldn’t bother you.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp Propane

4.3/5

BBQ type: Propane gas

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 784 sq in.

Heat range: Up to 375°F

Dimensions: 18.1″D x 19.3″W x 38.6″H

Price guide: $

Model: COS-244

Warranty: 3 years

They’re not the first brand you think of when you think smoker. But, Cuisinart make pretty good stuff, and their affordable COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker is no exception.

It’s basic, and, at 14 inches across, it’s not wide enough to fit a whole rack of ribs unless you go sideways, or a full packer of brisket. But, Cuisinart actually give you a little bit better quality for the price with stainless steel racks and combo porcelain-coated water and wood chip tray with a longer than normal three year warranty.

Smoking a rack of ribs in the Cuisinart Vertical Propane Smoker

We found the temperature easy to adjust. There’s a single, sliding damper at the back of the smoker which drags the heat and smoke through the cooking chamber well. In good weather, the temperature stays fairly steady and the separate wood chip door means you’re not tanking all the heat when you need to add more smoke.

There’s one significant hot spot to the rear of the bottom grate. But, as we always say, just know your smoker and work with the temperature variances. It’s not make or break.

As with most propane smokers, the door doesn’t seal that well. A gasket would sort it out if it bothers you. I’d recommend getting the smoker first and running it yourself for a while before you decide if you want to add a gasket. Something self-sticking will only take a few moments to install and will tighten things up nicely.

One thing we’re not a particular fan of is the combination water and wood chip tray. It’s just a bit awkward to have to manage although the quality of it means it handles the heat and should last for years. Just make sure you pour some water in there instead of filling it up and trying to walk across the backyard.

Combined wood and water tray in Cuisinart Vertical Propane Smoker

Everything we’ve smoked in the Cuisinart has turned out pretty well. There’s plenty of flavor and it’s nice and tender.

We really appreciate that the racks and trays are better quality than most. The biggest drawback for us is the width. But, a worthwhile compromise for a cheap but works well smoker? You decide.

Pros
Cons

What is a Propane Smoker?

A propane smoker is a type of vertical smoker that burns propane to create a fire needed to heat the cooking chamber to low and slow cook food.

By placing wood chips or chunks in a tray over the fire inside a propane smoker, the propane fire also heats the wood which then produces smoke to flavor the food inside.

How Do Propane Smokers Work?

Propane smokers have a propane burner in the bottom of the cooking chamber that provides heat to warm the cooking chamber.

Above the burner there’s a tray to place wood chips. As the wood chips are heated by the fire, they produce smoke that then circulates inside the smoker, flavoring the food.

But, you’ll also find a water tray in a similar position to the wood chip tray too. This can be filled with water or another liquid of your choice and helps to stabilize the cooking temperature while providing an additional source of moisture with the idea that this will stop the meat from drying out during a long cook.

Adding water to the water tray in a propane smoker is optional. If it’s not used, the water tray also acts as a drip tray, protecting the burner from the juices and drippings that will come off the food on the racks above.

Masterbuilt ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker with the door open

The temperature on a propane smoker is adjusted by the simple analog dial that looks just like it does on a propane grill. A higher position will allow more gas through for a larger fire while cranking it down will reduce the fuel for a lower temperature.

But, smaller adjustments to the temperature can also be made by adjusting the dampers on the side or the rear of a propane smoker. This will adjust the air flow and influence how long the heat and smoke stay inside of the cooking chamber doing its thing.

Advantages of Using a Propane Smoker

Using a propane smoker gives you these advantages:

A tank of liquid propane gas is easy and clean to handle. There’s no messy charcoal, no dusty wood pellets, and no wood to split and store.

But, burning propane also doesn’t produce any ash. So, while you will get a little ash from wood chips placed in the tray above the burner, the amount is very small compared to a different type of smoker, making the cleanup very minimal.

Propane smokers are generally very easy to use.

Just like starting a propane grill, all you need to do is press and turn the knob to light it. Then, adjusting the temperature is as easy as turning the dial until the preferred temperature is reached.

When the smoking’s done, there’s no fire to try to damper out. You simply turn the knob to the off position and grab your meat out.

The small propane gas fire in a propane smoker doesn’t use that much fuel to run making it quite an efficient fuel source even over long smokes.

And, because you can simply turn it off once you’re done there’s no wasted fuel as there would be if charcoal or wood needs to keep burning through.

Most propane smokers can hold a decent amount of food giving them one of the highest square inch of usable space versus the ground space that they take up.

Propane smokers are one of the cheapest types of smokers you can buy.

With no electricity needed and only a single gas bottle to pick up and take with you, propane smokers are often preferred because they are portable.

Even though the cooking chamber is quite large, the vertical design means they can be loaded onto the back of a pickup truck, or even a large trunk and taken with you camping, tailgating, or anywhere you wish.

Disadvantages of Using a Propane Smoker

While propane smokers can be the best type of smoker for you, like anything, they also come with a few disadvantages including:

Propane smokers rely on wood chips to smoulder and provide smoke to flavor the food inside.

And, while it does do the job, smoldering wood chips don’t produce as much smoke as wood, wood pellets, or charcoal that’s actually burning. Because of this, propane smokers, like electric, produce a light smoky flavor.

This might be an advantage if you prefer a less noticeably smoked taste and can be great for more delicate foods like fish. But, is usually thought of to be a con because heavier cuts of meat simply don’t have the same depth of flavor that they do when cooked on a different type of smoker.

Using propane tanks can be very convenient. But, without a gauge, it can be hard to know exactly how much fuel you’ve got left so that you can make sure you’ve got enough to do a whole smoke.

 With the exception of the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp self-regulating propane smoker, propane smokers require manual setting and maintenance of the temperature.

This makes them more hands on than some other smokers, and although they seem like they’d be set and forget, a propane smoker is really not.

You’ll also need to add more wood chips frequently throughout the cook.

Propane smokers generally aren’t built too well.

The steel is thin, insulation is simple or non-excitant, and the racks and trays are usually made from cheaper materials.

This means that propane smokers generally leak smoke, don’t perform very steadily in cold weather, and often don’t last that long.

The vertical design of a propane smoke with the burner at the bottom means that they can’t be used for grilling. They’re a dedicated smoker only and although you could use the same propane bottle on a gas grill, they’re not an all-in-one barbecue.

What to Look for When Buying a Propane Smoker

When you’re choosing from one of our tried and recommended best propane smokers, think about these things before selecting the best model for you:

How involved in the smoking process do you want to be?

If you enjoy checking on your smoker and making adjustments as is needed, you’ve got more choice when it comes to which model to buy.

But, if you wanted something that’s more hands off and only needs the wood to be topped up every now and then, go for the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp. It’s the only propane smoker that’s got the technology needed to regulate the temperature for you throughout your cook.

All of the propane smokers recommended here have a decent cooking capacity that will suit most people.

But, if you do want to smoke long pieces of meat like rib racks, whole fish fillets, or a full brisket, look at a wider model that has enough space to handle these cuts easily. This includes the Masterbuilt ThermoTemp and the Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24″.

On any propane smoker, you’ll need to replenish the wood chips every hour or so to keep smoke production up. And, how you add wood chips to the smoker is an important consideration.

Some models only have a single door that requires you to open it to top the wood up. But, in opening the main door, you’re also letting all that valuable heat out, causing a significant dip in the temperature that will take a while to recover from and extend out your cooking time.

All but one of the propane smokers we’ve recommended here have a way to add wood chips that means you can keep that door closed, minimizing fluctuations from having to add more wood.

Alternatively, you can use larger wood chunks for an increased smoking time.

Propane smokers are generally less well-built than other types of smokers and as such, shorter warranty periods are common.

Check how long after purchase you’re covered for and what exactly will be replaced if you do run into any problems.

The Pit Boss Vertical Propane has the longest warranty period of any other propane smoker on the market which is nice if you want some guarantee that what you’re buying is going to last.

FAQs About the Best Propane Smokers

How much burn time you’ll get out of a standard sized propane gas tank on any propane smoker will vary a lot.

The size of the propane burner, how hot you’re running it, and what the weather is doing will all change how far your fuel bottle goes.

That being said, most propane smokers are fairly efficient. You shouldn’t be going through an entire bottle per cook. Instead, you’re typically looking at between 48 and 72 hours of cook time out of a 20 pound bottle.

Electric and propane smokers are definitely similar but, there’s a few notable differences that will sway you one way or the other.

Unlike electric smokers, the temperature isn’t automatically regulated on most propane smokers. They don’t require any electricity so are more portable. And, most have a little more power for better performance in colder weather.

We go into all the details in our electric vs propane smoker comparison. Check that out if you’re still on the fence about which way to go. Or, jump straight to our best electric smokers review.

Charcoal smokers produce a much stronger, smokier flavor than propane smokers. But, they generally require more involvement in the cooking process and are a messier fuel to handle.

If you want an easier type of smoker with a lighter smoke profile, go propane. And, if you don’t mind a more involved process and want the stronger flavor, go charcoal.

In our best charcoal smokers review you’ll even find a digital model that regulates the temperature for you, taking a lot of the work out of this generally more hands-on type of smoker.

Some people prefer to soak their wood chips before placing them in a propane smoker. But, wood actually needs to be dry to produce flavorful smoke. You will see more stuff coming off of wet chips but, it’s mainly water vapor as the heat evaporates any wetness that’s there.

Propane smokers are convenient.

Propane is a clean to handle fuel source that doesn’t produce any ash, minimizing cleanup. It also doesn’t require any electricity so is portable and works when there’s a power outage.

On top of that, propane smokers are quite fuel efficient on long smokes.

While they’re not set and forget, they’re quite easy to use and are often used by beginners looking for a cheap and simple smoker.

Propane smokers are fairly easy to use in that there’s no struggle to light fuel, you simply press a button, and that to adjust the temperature, you simply turn the dial.

Propane smokers aren’t no work though.

Without digital controls, they do require you to manually dial in the temperature and will require frequent adjustments to be made to the propane output during the cook as the weather impacts the amount of fuel needed to maintain a steady temperature.

In a propane smokers you’ll need to add more wood chips every hour or so during your cook.

The exact frequency will depend on how large a chip or chunk you’re using, how hot you’re running your smoker, and whether you’re using them wet or dry.

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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 committed 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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