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Best Small Smokers: Cook a Little, Save on Fuel

BEST PELLET

Traeger Ranger
Traeger Ranger
4.6/5

BEST CHARCOAL

Weber Smokey Mountain 18 Inch
Weber Smokey Mountain 14"
4.8/5

BEST KAMADO

Kamado Joe Jr
Kamado Joe Jr
4.6/5

BEST ELECTRIC

Smokin-It Model #1
Smokin-It #1
4.6/5

BEST OFFSET

Dyna-Glo Signature Series Barrel and Firebox Smoker
Dyna-Glo Barrel & Firebox
4.1/5

BEST BUDGET

Z Grills Cruiser 200A Portable Pellet Smoker
Z Grills Cruiser
4.5/5

I’ve got a family of six and I regularly cook on the Z Grills Cruiser reviewed below.

I love that I can smoke or grill up the single pork shoulder I’ve got in the fridge without having to fire up a large barbecue and waste a tonne of fuel. I don’t always want to smoke a whole brisket, two racks of ribs, three pork shoulders, and a few sides in order to fill up a larger smoker. And, I’m guessing you’re the same.

Whether you’re cooking for yourself, you and your partner, or even a few more like me, having a small smoker means you’re easily able to smoke just a bit in a very fuel efficient way.

Below you’ll find the best small smokers on the market.

We’ve given you an option for every fuel type that do small plus a couple of extra, compact models that are worth taking a look at.

You can also check out our best portable smokers review for a few more small options that are portable but you could set up as a regular at-home smoker too.

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How We Tested the Best Small Smokers

In setting out to find the best small smokers on the market, we aimed to find a set that were good whether you’re going small because you’re on a budget, you only want to cook a thing or two, or don’t have a lot of space in your backyard.

Instead of choosing an arbitrary square inches of space below which we deemed a smoker to be small, we have aimed for smaller than usual or at the smaller end of the spectrum for each smoker type.

This initially left us with quite a decent list of smokers to test that could fit the bill as one of the best small smokers out there. Then, once we got our hands on them, each model, including the ones that didnt’ make the cut here, was tested on the following aspects:

You might be looking for small but that doesn’t mean you’re okay with poor quality. In fact, the sole reason you might be going small is to get a better quality barbecue for whatever amount of money you’ve decided to spend.

So, in testing the best small smokers, we assessed them all for their build quality.

We looked at what materials each smoker was made from including the outside shell, cooking grates, and any other parts like heat deflectors, fire pots, and electrical controllers.

We also looked at how well put together those parts were. We put together and built all of the smokers considered here just like you would if you buy any of these online. And, doing so gives you a really good idea of exactly how much effort has gone into the manufacturing process and where any potential points of weakness are.

You might be okay with a small smoker that’s more hands on and gives you that real smoking experience. But, you still need it to be able to keep a steady temperature.

So, whether you’re looking for charcoal, wood, electric, or pellet, we assessed how steady the temperature stayed throughout our cooks, as well as how easy it was to maintain that steady temperature.

Of course you want a smoker that does a good job of what it’s meant to do, smoking.

In testing how good of a job each of these models did, we cooked the same cuts of meat with the same technique, the same spice rubs (our favorite Hardcore Carnivore), and cooked them all to the same internal temperature (as measured by our trusty MEATER thermometers).

Following the same process helps us to compare the performance of each smoker against each other fairly to make sure it’s the equipment that’s making the food better or worse, not us.

You’re primarily looking for a smoker but, if it can grill, we also tested it’s grilling abilities. After all, we need to take the whole thing for a test run before we can stand up and recommend it as a solid buy.

As with testing out it’s smoking performance, we grilled the same cuts of meat at the same temperatures and with the same seasonings, if we used any.

After putting a list of our favorite small smokers, we were left with a cooking capacity from about 200 square inches to 450 square inches which you’ll find reviewed in detail below.

Table of Contents

The Best Small Smokers: Our Top Choices

Great things can come out of small packages and that rings true for these more compact smokers. Here you’ll find our favorite choices to cook up one or two things on charcoal, pellet, electric, and offset.

BEST PELLET

Traeger Ranger

4.6/5

BBQ type: Pellet smoker

Material: Powder-coated

Grates: Porcelain-coated

Grilling: Indirect with cast iron griddle

Capacity: 176 sq inch

Hopper capacity: 8 lbs

Heat range: 165°F – 450°F

Dimensions: 20″D x 21″W x 13″H

WiFi: No

Price guide: $$

Model: Ranger

Warranty: 3 years

Small and couldn’t be easier to use is the name of the game with the Traeger Ranger.

This high quality pellet smoker gives you 176 square inches of smoking or grilling space in a tabletop smoker that you can leave set up, or simply lift and pack away. The 8 pound pellet hopper should see you through a minimum of 8 hours of low and slow smoking time. But, because the cooking space is so small, we manage to get more like 10 hours + out of one hopper full, it’s very efficient.

The cooking chamber’s just got enough height to fit a small, whole chicken, or a decently sized pork shoulder too.

Traeger-Ranger-Cooking-Chicken

And, the food cooked on here tastes great! It’s very smoky with minimal smoke leakage. The only thing I’d recommend doing is to flip the meat half way through your cook, even if you’re smoking.

Because it’s so compact, the cooking grate sits quite close to the firepot and even with the heat deflector and the temperature turned down low, we do get some charring and drying out of the meat unless we rotate it part way through the cook.

With a maximum temperature of 450°F, you can grill on the Ranger. It’s indirect heat that’s more like grilling on a very hot oven. But, the meat will sizzle when you throw it on and there are legit grill marks, it’s not bad with a nice, woody flavor to boot.

But, Traeger also give you a cast iron griddle with the Ranger too.

We find that the high level of heat retention you get with the griddle makes the grilling even better. Plus, you can use it to fry an egg to top your steak or roast some vegetables without worry about them falling between the grates. It’s a nice extra.

Grilling on the Traeger RAnger with the griddle plate

What we don’t like so much is that the Ranger has the older non-PID based temperature controller. The temperature will fluctuate as much as 20°F plus or minus where you’ve set the target.

It’s not a deal-breaker. In fact, larger temperature variations do mean more smoke production for more flavorful meat. But, don’t expect a really steady heat levels. It is going to swing all over the place a bit.

Other than that, the quality of the Ranger is really good.

The stainless steel latches lock the lid closed with the hopper in place, even if you lift the smoker on it’s side. The outside shell is strong enough that it doesn’t get dinged up moving it around. And, Traeger do throw in a single wired meat probe that plugs into the temperature controller so you can see exactly when your meat is cooked without needing to buy a separate one.

Solid, simple, and dependable, for a small barbecue that does it all, the Traeger Ranger is a great choice.

Pros
Cons
BEST SMALL CHARCOAL

Weber Smokey Mountain 14"

4.5/5

BBQ type: Charcoal bullet

Material: Enameled steel

Grates: Plated steel

Capacity: 286 sq inch

Heat range: Low to high

Dimensions: 31.4(H) x 14.7(W) x 14.7(D)

Price guide: $$

Model: 731001

The 14″ Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is the smallest of the three sizes that this top rated smoker is available in. And, that makes it perfect for anyone with limited patio space or who wants more efficient fuel usage to cook up a smaller meal.

But, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker in no way compromises on quality or features. Everything that’s on the larger ones is on this too.

With two 14″ grates stacked above each other, you’ve got 286 square inches of cooking space which will do two decently sized hunks of meat, a single rack of ribs cut in half, or a few fillets of fish.

Rack of ribs cut in half on the Weber Smokey Mountain 14 Inch

The vertical design distributes the heat and smoke well with the charcoal basket and water pan sitting at the bottom of the bullet.

Something that can be a plus or minus depending on what you’re after is that this smoker is not a set and forget setup. You’ll need to actively manage the fire, add more fuel and wood when required, and adjust the vents fairly regularly to maintain a steady temperature.

Charcoal and wood fire inside the Weber Smokey Mountain 14

So, if you want small but still want the experience of barbecuing, it’s a great choice that can make some really good food.

The large side door gives you an easy way to tend to the fire without letting all of the heat out of the cooking chamber. It’s not really big enough to give good access to that bottom rack. But, it’s enough to see what’s going on. You can take the top rack out for better access, just make sure you’ve got a pair of high-heat gloves on hand.

Looking at the bottom rack through the door on the 14 Inch Weber smokey Mountain

Quality-wise, our 14″ WSM has been going strong for almost 10 years with fairly regular use. The porcelain-enamelled steel shell is durable and strong although it’s not enough to provide good insulation, the dampers are basic but work well, and the stand is sturdy enough that this smoker feels secure to use.

Although some people do grill on the Weber Smokey Mountain, this smoker isn’t well set up to do so. Weber really designed it to be a dedicated smoker and that is what it does best.

Pros
Cons
BEST SMALL KAMADO

Kamado Joe Jr

4.6/5

BBQ type: Kamado

Material: Glazed ceramic

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 150 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: ‎19.75″ D x 20.75″ W x 27″ H

Price guide: $$

Model: Joe Jr

Warranty: Ceramic lifetime, 5 yrs metals, 1 yr other

We LOVE Kamado Joe! And, if you’re after a smaller smoker but still want quality then you’re about to luck out with this top-notch kamado from one of the most innovative companies in the industry.

The Kamado Joe Jr is a mini and more basic version of the Classic Joe II. Giving you a compact but big enough 150 square inches of space to roast a whole chicken, or smoke a pork shoulder, the thing we love most about this choice is that it’s every bit as good at grilling as it is at smoking.

With the included heat deflector plate in, one load of charcoal will give you enough time to smoke well, anything that fits on the grate. It’s easy to control the temperature with the top and bottom vents. And, simply whip the heat deflector out and you’ve got yourself an easy to use open-flame grill and the taste is phenomenal.

Grilling on the Kamado Joe Jr

It’s perfect for using at home or on the go. And, while the Joe Jr doesn’t give you all the innovative features that it’s big brothers have, the basics do serve you well.

With a 304 gauge stainless steel grate, an accurate temperature gauge, quality ceramics, and a study stand, you’re buying a durable barbecue that’s also backed by a lifetime warranty on the ceramics and decent cover on it’s other parts.

The ceramic sides do a great job of retaining as much heat as possible for efficient fuel usage and good performance in cold weather.

Smoking on the Kamado Joe Jr

Leave it set up permanently in your backyard or use the stand with built-in handles to move and store this smoker away. It’s a solid buy that’ll without a doubt give you a lot of good times smoking, grilling, and doing everything in between.

Pros
Cons
BEST SMALL ELECTRIC

Smokin-It #1

4.6/5

BBQ type: Electric smoker

Material: Stainless steel

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 468 sq in.

Wattage: 800

Dimensions: 17.25″D x 12.5″W x 13.5″H

Price guide: $$

Model: #1

Warranty: 3 years

Electric smokers don’t generally come that small. This one, the Smokin-It Model #1 has a smaller than usual 468 square inches of cooking space housed in a professional quality stainless steel box.

Most people will think this thing doesn’t look that good. And, I’d have to agree, it’s a bit strange if it’s part of your outdoor kitchen setup. But, as a standalone smoker to wheel out when you’ve just been fishing or want to smoke up some ribs mid-week, it’s quality shows and looks as if you mean business.

Sandwiched between the stainless steel sides is fiberglass insulation which is very effective in reducing the outside weather’s influence on what’s inside. The rheostat temperature controller isn’t super steady. It’ll fluctuate between about 35°F either side of your target temperature but, the quality of the food you can cook inside is reliably excellent. My best advice is, don’t stress the temperature.

Rheostat temperature controller on Smokin-It #2

Inside there’s three stainless steel racks with a slot for a fourth.

The racks do sit quite close together so you don’t have a lot of height, especially if you bought and added a fourth rack.

Smokin-It Model #1 with door open

For the smoke production, there’s no way to add more wood except for opening the main door. But, the Smokin-It works best with a couple of large wood chunks instead of your regular chips. Two of these will give you a few hours of smoke production without having to add more. Because of this, this smoker is actually fairly set and forget unlike a lot of other electric smokers on the market.

But, this is a very good smoker as far as electric is concerned. It won’t give you the same kind of results as you’d get in one of the other small smokers reviewed here just because there’s no actual fire. But, it’s good quality and easy to use for fuss-free meals any day of the week.

Pros
Cons
BEST SMALL OFFSET

Dyna-Glo Signature Barrel

4.1/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Porcelain-coated

Capacity: 443 sq in

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 52″D x 33.86″W x 59.84″H

Price guide: $$

Model: DGSS730CBO-D

Warranty: 1 year

We’re often asked if there’s a smaller offset smoker that can be used when you just want to smoke one or two things, and this is the best balance of size, quality, and performance that you can buy in an offset at the moment.

It’s not super thick, heavy-gauge steel, the temperature gauge is off, and it does leak smoke although you can fix that by adding some hi-temp gasket tape if you want to. But, the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Barrel and Firebox Smoker gives you a more moderate 443 square inches of cooking space where you can create some mighty fine food.

Meat ready to throw on the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Barrel and Firebox Offset Smoker

Any offset smoker is more difficult to use than other types. But, with good airflow through the firebox and cooking chamber, it’s fairly easy to maintain a steady temperature in this one.

The smaller cooking chamber size reduces the fuel you need overall, and when you’re using it in good weather conditions, it’s suprisingly efficient on fuel usage despite the thinner steel.

In terms of smokiness, there’s no complaints there. I’ve run this smoker off of just charcoal, a mix of charcoal with wood chunks, and wood only and the food turned out well with all of these options. I personally prefer the wood-only results best but, that’s not something that’s unique to this offset only and you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

Smoking chicken on the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Offset smoker

For what you pay, the build quality is not bad. Over time, I’d expect that the grate in the firebox may buckle because it doesn’t look super heavy-duty and is subject to a fair bit of heat. We’ve had a little bit of paint peeling off around the firebox. That’s normal in an offset in this price range and shouldn’t open you up to a heap of rust because you’re naturally seasoning it with every cook.

One thing I don’t like about this offset in particular is that to clean the ash out of the firebox, you’ve got a slide out draw-like feature that pulls out the whole bottom half. I don’t have a good picture but this is what I mean…

Slide out ash drawer on the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Offset Smoker

When it’s out, you’ve still got to awkwardly scoop or brush the ashes out. Having a large door on the side of the firebox is, in my opinion, a much easier way to do it. But, I wouldn’t not buy this model because of that. It’s just something I find a bit annoying that’s worth mentioning so you’re fully informed before you buy.

Other than that, for the price, this offset is really pretty decent. It’s not as good as a much more expensive model. But, for small and cheap, it does a fine job.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET SMALL

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

Coming in significantly cheaper than the Traeger Ranger recommended at the top of this list is the Z Grills Cruiser which rivals it’s more expensive alternative in almost every single way.

The setup is virtually the same although you’ve got a slightly larger 202 square inches of cooking space powered by the same 8 pound pellet hopper, lid latches to hold everything closed, and a regular temperature controller which keeps the heat fairly steady throughout your cook.

Like the Ranger, the Cruiser’s temperature controller isn’t PID so you will see fluctuations up to about 20°F during your cook. But, with a good seal around the lid, all the smokiness is locked in for maximum flavor.

What the Z Grills Cruiser doesn’t come with is the griddle plate for grilling. Instead, you can grill directly on the porcelain-coated grates just like you would on any other barbecue. With a maximum temperature of 450°F, you do get good grill marks and a nice sizzle that seals in the crust well.

Grilling Sausages on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A

When it’s down low for slow smoking, the only thing we do differently on this small smoker compared to full sized models is that we flip the meat half way.

Because the cooking grate is so close to the heat deflector and fire in the compact space, we found that anything we smoked dried out and got a little charred on the underside. Flipping it over when it’s time to wrap is an easy solution and the meat stays nice and moist so long as you do that.

Z Grills Cruiser 200A Smoking Ribs

Quality-wise, the Cruiser is really good for it’s price.

The smoker body itself is reasonably thick. Ours doesn’t have any dents yet after being regularly moved in an out of the shed, even though it’s been knocked a time or two. The parts fit together nicely as well, and after a solid 2 years of use, our firepot and heat deflector are still in good knick with no signs of rust.

Overall, the Z Grills Cruiser performs really well and doesn’t look or feel budget in any way. We’ve really enjoyed smoking and grilling on this barbecue and appreciate that it’s very fuel efficient and easy to use.

Pros
Cons

What to Look for in the Best Small Smoker

Size isn’t everything. In going small, think about these things before you hit the buy now button:

You’re thinking small so you’ve probably already got a good idea of how much you want to cook on it regularly.

Just make sure that the grate configuration works for what you want to cook. For example, a whole rack of ribs won’t fit on a single rack inside the Weber Smokey Mountain 14″. Similarly, cooking really tall cuts or something large like even a small turkey, isn’t possible on small, tabletop pellet smokers like the Traeger Ranger or Z Grills Cruiser.

You might only want to smoke a single chicken for the family. But, if you want to be able to use your small smoker when you’re entertaining, think about what you can and would like to cook for those times too.

Carefully selecting cuts of meat like a pork butt or hunk of brisket can be cooked on a small smoker then pulled or sliced up to serve a lot of people. Or, if it grills as well, you could grill up burger patties, sausages, or steaks in batches without taking too much time.

When you’re buying any smoker, make sure you know what to expect in terms of how hands on that type of barbecue is and what the flavor will be like.

Charcoal barbecues are usually more involved and have a stronger flavor. Pellet smokers are the easiest to use while still giving you that real wood flavor but, are generally a little milder. Meat smoked in an electric smoker can never be quite as good as smokers with a real fire but are easy to use. And, offsets require the most time and dedication to master.

For more info and help in deciding which type of smoker is right for you, check out our guide on the best types of smokers.

Smoking is awesome but you can’t smoke a steak.

If you want to be able to grill something up quickly and don’t want to have to buy a separate grill, look for a smoker that can do hot and fast as well as low and slow. There’s some great options above but think pellet smoker, kamado, or offset.

We never like pressuring people to spend more money than they’re comfortable with.

Yes, a higher price can get you a better barbecue. But, you can cook some really good food on a budget model. For real!

Included in our recommendations for the best small smokers are a range of price points. Hopefully you’ll find something that’s lower than you were planning on spending or at least on-par with it.

FAQs About the Best Small Smokers

Going small has a few advantages including the fact that they’re cheaper to buy, the use less fuel to heat a smaller space, they’re well suited so tighter backyards, and don’t take up as much space if you want to store them in the garage.

Additionally, small smokers often make great portable barbecues that you can take to the beach, camping, or tailgating.

It depends on which model of small smoker you’re looking at. But, by carefully selecting what cut of meat you cook, you can actually cater to quite a few people on a small smoker alone.

Think a pork shoulder, half of a brisket, or a roast. These options can all be pulled or sliced then served beside other food to go further while not taking up a lot of room on your barbecue.

Yes. A well-designed small smoker can work just as well as their larger counterparts.

The small smokers recommended in this article have all been tested by us and put forward because of their good performance. You shouldn’t need to compromise on performance just because you want to go small.

All of the small smokers recommended here could be picked up and put in the trunk of a vehicle (along with a portable power solution) to be used as a portable smoker if you wanted to.

We’ve also got a review dedicated to the best portable smokers, and the best portable pellet grills to see a wider selection. Both of those reviews include some larger models that can be folded down.

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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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