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What’s the Best Smoker for Beginners?

by Burning Brisket
What's the Best Smoker for Beginners?

Thinking it’s time you try your hand at smoking? And, who could blame you? Just thinking of a smouldering hunk of brisket or melt-in-the-mouth fish is enough to get our bellies rumbling. Whilst smoking is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures, if you’re just starting out there are some major pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. And, a lot of that is down to getting yourself the right bit of kit.

Many first-time smokers will buy something cheap to test out the technique before investing. But, it’s often hard to get a good result on a cheaper smoker, which can put a newbie off for life. At the same time, you don’t want to splurge on a unit that requires a more experienced hand for smoking. We all know the guy who buys the hottest looking kit but has no idea what to do with it… Don’t be that guy either.

So, if you’re looking for the best smoker for beginners, our selection has been picked for their winning combination of ease of use, quality, price and longevity. Guaranteeing you a fairly hiccup-free learning curve into backyard, big-league smoking and beyond, you should have enough change to buy a stonking piece of meat to smoke too.

Best Budget Smoker for Beginners

Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker

This best-selling smoker packs A LOT into a bargain price, making it perfect for anyone wanting to get started without spending too much cash.

Offering a huge 1,176 square inches spread across 6 cooking grates, the Dyna-Glo Vertical has enough room to experiment with a bit of everything, or to just pop in a few racks of ribs. Yes, the metal is a little thinner than more expensive models. But, it’s still high-temp, powder-coated steel that’s plenty strong enough to withstand the heat and prevent rust.

The vertical offset design does a great job of creating a fairly even cooking environment throughout while the adjustable smoke stack makes it easy to control the temperature. Heat loss is minimal thanks to the dual door design. And, there’s a charcoal basket included to keep your coals tightly packed and increase burning efficiency.

To make clean-up easy, the grease management system is effective in collecting drippings. Plus, there’s a large steel ash pan that’s easy enough to dump out once the unit’s cooled down.

Despite the lower price, the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker is an awesome option for anyone just getting started with backyard bbq. Large, fairly solidly built and effective in it’s cooking, the DGO1176BDC-D will get you that classic smokehouse flavor you’re craving.

Stats 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.

Model: DGO1176BDC-D

Dimensions: 50.2(H) x 35(W) x 21(D)

Weight: 57lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker:

  • Great price
  • Vertical offset design creates ideal conditions for low and slow cooking
  • Fairly solid, powder-coated construction for durability
  • Easy to use adjustable flue and dampers for accurate temperature control
  • Huge capacity split over 6 racks for flexibility and versatility
  • Small footprint so it won’t take up lots of space in the backyard
  • Includes a charcoal basket to improve fuel efficiency
  • Easy clean up with a large ash pan

Cons of the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker:

Best Electric Smoker for Beginners:

Masterbuilt MES 35B Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are definitely an easy option for beginners to the world of smoking. While some people argue that they’re not ‘true’ smoking because there’s no fire, electric smokers are without a doubt, an easy way to make your own smoked meats at home without the fuss and messy fuel. So, for anyone who dreams of unlimited smoked salmon, pulled pork or barbecued brisket, but wants a plug and play option, the Masterbuilt MES 35B is an excellent model.

Made by Masterbuilt, the biggest name in electric smokers, the MES 35B is one of their more basic units. But, don’t mistake basic for meaning bad! A simple analog design like you’ll get with the MES 35B means you just plug it in, turn the dial to set the temperature and adjust until the gauge says you’ve hit your sweet spot. With fewer components to break, it’s a nice and simple smoker that’ll give you plenty of room to experiment and improve.

In terms of capacity, the MES 35B has 536 square inches of cooking space spread over 3 grates. That’s enough to do 3 whole chickens, pork butts or 3 racks of ribs laying down. There’s a removable water pan to stop meat from drying out, a wood chip tray and a front access drip tray to make cleaning up easy too.

A plus for beginners, the MES 35B is pretty much set and forget. Just check back every now and then and add more wood chips and water when they’re low. It even handles smoking in cooler conditions pretty well too!

Stats for the Masterbuilt MES 35B

Fuel type: Analog electric

Wattage: 1500 watts

Barbecue material: Steel

Grate material: Chrome-coated wire

Cooking capacity: 536 sq. in.

Model: MB20070210

Dimensions: 21″ W x 40″ H x 20″ D

Weight: 57lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Masterbuilt MES 35B Analog Smoker:

  • Powerful heating element ensures fairly stable temperature throughout for great results
  • Easy to use temperature dial and regulator eliminate most of the work of smoking
  • Separate wood and water tray for added smokiness and moisture
  • Inexpensive and effective
  • Large enough capacity without going overboard
  • Doesn’t have extra, fancy electrical features that open it up to more faults

Cons of the Masterbuilt MES 35B Analog Smoker:

  • Construction is a bit flimsy as you’d expect from an electric smoker in this price range
  • Analog dial doesn’t show actual degrees so you need to get used to where it needs to be set to reach the exact temperature you’d like

Best Value for Money Smoker for Beginners

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Being new to the game doesn’t mean you’re not in it for the long haul. And, if that’s you, then the Weber Smokey Mountain is worth a serious look. Great quality, easy to use, excellent results and all for a very reasonable price.

The Weber Smokey Mountain (also known as the WSM), has built quite a fan base since Weber modified their classic kettle barbecue into this dedicated smoker. It’s made of the same durable porcelain-enameled steel with an extra middle section of tube to set the cooking grates are set at the right distance for low and slow smoking.

The learning curve on a Weber Smokey Mountain isn’t steep. Just follow the simple steps and you’ll be impressed at your results even on the first try. The WSM is even good enough to see you through to the competitive circuit if that’s where you want to go too.

Because of it’s vertical design, the Weber Smokey Mountain is also one of the most fuel efficient charcoal barbecues on the market.

Available in 3 sizes to match your needs and budget, the WSM is a solid investment for any beginner who wants good results now.

Stats for the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Cooker 22"

Fuel type: Charocal

Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled steel

Grate material: Plated steel

Cooking capacity: 726 sq. in.

Model: 731001

Dimensions: 48.5(H) x 23(W) x 24(D)

Weight: 68lbs

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:

  • High quality smoker that’s backed with a 10 year warranty
  • Easy to use
  • Suitable for beginners to pros
  • Fuel efficient
  • Choice of 3 sizes
  • Vertical design takes up minimal space
  • Separate fuel door makes it easy to add more fuel without moving meat
  • Double layer cooking racks for maximum capacity
  • Duel dampers make it easy to control temperature
  • Portable

Cons of the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker:

  • Can’t be used for grilling although some people do remove the middle tube and balance the lid on the base
  • No hook to hang the hot lid
  • Expect a bit of smoke to leak around the door. IMO doesn’t affect the results but does bother some people

Best Pit Smoker for Beginners

Pit Barrel Co. Cooker

For beginners on a budget, we highly recommend this well-reviewed model from respected old-timers Pit Barrel. The vertical shape of the Pit Barrel Cooker drum gives you a faster smoking experience without needing lots of management during cooking.

Plus, this cooker is built to last and last. They’ve used 18-gauge steel coated with porcelain enamel to keep heat and smoke locked in whilst leaving the unit cool to touch during cooking. It’s well-accessorized, offering two steel hanging rods, eight steel hooks, a grill grate and a wooden hook remover all included in the package price. Once you’ve exhausted those options, top up with the turkey hanger and hanging basket to keep your family on their toes.

Great for smoking beginners, don’t forget to try the all purpose Pit Barrel Co rub. This delicious dry rub takes the guesswork out of flavoring your meat and ensure your end result goes down as the stuff of legend.

Stats for the Pit Barrel Co. Cooker

Fuel type: Charcoal

Barbecue material: Porcelain-enameled, 18-gauge steel

Grate material: Stainless steel or regular steel depending on accessory

Cooking capacity: Varies depending on accessories used

Model: Pit Barrel Cooker Classic Package

Assembled size (in): 21″ W x 31.1″ H x 21″ D

Weight: 57lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Pit Barrel Cooker:

  • By far, the highest rated smoker on Amazon
  • Easy to use which makes it ideal for beginners
  • Can be used for smoking and grilling
  • Great package price with lots of accessories
  • Vertical design doesn’t take up a lot of space
  • Decent cooking capacity as you can hang meat instead of laying it flat
  • Doesn’t need to be seasoned before first use so you’re ready to go
  • Generally faster cook times than other smokers
  • Can be used as a portable smoker (if you have a truck)

Cons of the Pit Barrel Cooker:

  • Can be a bit tricky to get meat out so we’d recommend using extra long barbecue gloves to keep you safe from burns
  • Doesn’t come with a thermometer which isn’t necessary but may be useful. We love the bestselling ThermoPro

Best Combo Smoker for Beginners:

Pit Boss Memphis Ultimate 4-in-1

This gem might look a bit daunting, but trust us, it’s a dream to use. And, for the beginner smoker who wants versatility, the Pit Boss Memphis is the top choice. Featuring a gas barbecue, a charcoal barbecue and an electric smoker all in one purchase, you really can create it all.

Soon you’ll be experimenting with 2.7 cubic feet of grill space over 3 racks. You’ve also got the option to offset the smoke into one of your grills allowing you to combination grill and smoke.

Offering 2,100 square inches overall, you’ll struggle to fill this grill real estate even if you invite the whole street. Thrown in, you’ve got two drawers, tool hooks, a preparation shelf and a bottle opener, so no need to leave your smoker’s side unless somebody scores. The locking caster wheels mean you won’t think twice about wheeling it out weekend after weekend.

The Pit Boss Memphis 4-in-1 will have you smoking some brisket, grilling some burgers and starting some steaks off on high heat. All at once. While sipping on a cold beer. If that’s not ‘cue heaven we don’t know what is.

Stats for the Pit Boss Memphis Ultimate 4-in-1

Fuel type: Charcoal, gas and electric

Barbecue material: Painted steel

Grate material: Porcelain-coated cast-iron

Cooking capacity: 2,127 sq in

Number of gas burners: 3

Main burners BTU-per-hour-input: 15,000

Wattage electric smoker: 1,500

Model: 75952

Assembled size (in):47.5(H) x 74(W) x 25(D)

Weight: 183lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Pit Boss Memphis Ultimate 4-in-1:

  • Charcoal, gas and electric combo lets you experiment with multiple ways to smoke and grill without having to buy more than one barbecue
  • Option to vent smoke into the gas grill for a quick, wood smoked flavor
  • Great value for money
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Porcelain-coated cast-iron grates clean up well and are long lasting
  • Comes with a built-in cart with plenty of room for storage and side shelves for convenience

Cons of the Pit Boss Memphis Ultimate 4-in-1:

  • Due to all the different components, it takes longer than usual to set up this barbecue together the first time
  • Combo barbecues do it all but don’t do everything exceptionally well. But, if you want the flexibility, the Memphis is definitely capable of creating some great meals

Best Offset Smoker for Beginners:

Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse

We’ll be real with you, if you’re new to smoking, the learning curve on a traditional offset smoker is kinda steep. But, practice is the only way to get good at it and if you want to learn how to smoke the Texas way then you might as well jump in and get yourself this baby.

The Oklahoma Joe Highland Reverse Flow Smoker is a great choice for anyone who’s new to offset smoking because it’s one, solid and two, has a few stand-out features. Made from quality painted steel that’s thick enough to hold a stable temperature, the reverse flow design is perfect for the less experienced because it naturally disperses the heat and smoke throughout the barrel, reducing the need to turn your meat as is a must in a traditional offset smoker. And, Oklahoma Joe’s are the only mainstream smoker manufacturer to produce a reverse flow model for home use.

The Highland Reverse model offers a generous yet not over the top, 619 square inches of cooking space. That’s plenty to smoke a whole brisket, a pork butt and maybe squeeze in a rack of ribs for lunch. But, if you’re wanting larger, there’s also the Longhorn, the Highland’s big brother, offering 751 square inches of smoking space in the main chamber.

Both of these models come with a sturdy cart with wheels, a side table, thermometer and cool-touch handles. Plus, you can grill directly over the coals in the firebox to reverse sear some steaks or quickly cook a burger or two.

Everything you need to get started smoking at a great price, the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse will set you up to earn pit-master status in your own backyard.

Stats for the Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

Fuel type: Charcoal

Barbecue material: Painted steel

Grate material: Porcelain-coated wire

Cooking capacity: 619 sq. in. primary, 281 sq. in. secondary

Model: 17202052

Assembled size (in): 53(H) x 57(W) x 33.5(D)

Weight: 180lbs

Warranty: 2 years

Pros of the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Smoker:

  • Reverse flow design offers superior heat and smoke distribution to the traditional offset smoker design, making it easier to get great results
  • Can also be set up as a regular offset smoker if you’d like
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Firebox doubles as a side grill to use while smoking
  • Use it as a charcoal grill by removing the baffle plate from the main cooking chamber and adding included grill grates
  • Comes with built-in stand, thermometer and front rack
  • Additional bung so you can add another thermometer for an even more precise understanding of your cook
  • Will last a lifetime with proper TLC
  • Great price

Cons of the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Smoker:

  • The offset smoker style takes a bit of practice to master
  • Does leak a bit of smoke (we never worried about fixing it), but you can add a Lavalock gasket for improved seal
  • If the steel gets too hot, the paint will flake off. But, it’s easily fixed by reapplying high-heat barbecue paint

Best Beginner Pellet Smoker:

ZGrills Premium 700E

Beginners can’t really go wrong with any pellet smoker. They’re a true set and forget smoker that will auto regulate both the temperature and smoke levels for perfect and consistent results every time. But, pellet smokers can be pretty pricey and that’s what puts a lot of beginners off this easy to use option.

Enter the Z Grills Premium ZPG-700! This beginner-level smoker is solid and reliable, coming in well under the $1000 price level – an absolute steal if you ask us.

Backed by a 3 year warranty, the ZPG 700 is made from quality, heavy-duty stainless steel. The automated electric feed system holds 20 pounds of pellets and will keep that fire going within 20°F of your target temperature for hours and hours.

Just like more expensive pellet smokers, the versatility this unit offers is impressive. The temperature can be set anywhere between 180 and 450°F. This means you can smoke, bake, roast, braise and even grill although we found it hard to get the temperature hot enough to truly sear.

With 513 square inches of smoking space plus a 187 square inch warming rack, the Z Grills 700 offers plenty of space to feed your crew. It also comes standard with a free cover – a nice little touch when the only thing that’s left to buy is the food!

Stats for the Z Grills ZPG-700E Pellet Smoker

Barbecue material: Heavy-duty stainless steel

Grate material: Stainless steel

Cooking capacity: 513 sq. on main rack, 187 sq. on warming rack

Pellet hopper capacity: 20 lbs

Temperature Range: 180°F – 450°F

Fuel type: Wood pellets

Model: ZPG-700E

Dimensions: 51.2″ W x 48.4″ H x 22.5″ D

Weight: 175lbs

Warranty: 3 years

Pros of the Z Grills ZPG 700 Pellet Smoker:

  • Easy to use
  • Automated electric feed maintains a pretty steady temperature without having to add fuel
  • Large pellet hopper capacity means you can cook for hours without touching a thing
  • Wide temperature range lets you smoke, bake, roast, braise and grill
  • Heavy-duty, stainless steel construction
  • Strong and sturdy construction with built-in storage in the cart
  • FREE waterproof cover
  • 3 year warranty
  • Great value for money

Cons of the Z Grills ZPG 700 Pellet Smoker:

  • A bit hard to remove unused pellets from the hopper which is only an issue if changing wood flavors or if you live somewhere humid and they absorb moisture between cooks
  • Some people have had issues with the temperature gauge being more than 20 degrees out but others report almost perfect performance

Best Kamado for Beginners:

Vision Grills Professional C-Series Kamado

If you’re keen on the idea of taking it back to the old school with a kamado grill, the Vision Grills Kamado is perfect for beginners as it’s packed with features that make it cinch for even a novice to use.

Right from lighting up, Vision Grills have your back with the time saving electric starter that’s included in some packages. Then, controlling the temperature and smoke levels is super easy with the top and bottom vents that are managed by separate and simple to use, control systems.

Because it’s a kamado design, the glazed ceramic body of the Vision Grills Kamado holds temperature and smoke very well to minimize your charcoal usage (costing you less), and making clean-up easy with less ash and a slide-our ash drawer.

But, if you’re hesitant about committing to a kamado-style barbecue because they do require a while to get going, you can even get an interchangeable gas insert for the Vision Grills Pro to convert it into a gas grill.

Built to be enjoyed for many cookouts to come, this solid unit will do you proud every single time. And, it’s a great price for a true ceramic kamado too.

Stats for the Vision Grills Professional C-Series Kamado

Fuel type: Charocal

Barbecue material: Glazed ceramic

Grate material: Stainless steel dual flip grates with handles

Cooking capacity: 596 sq. in.

Temperature range: 200-700°F

Model: CF1F1

Dimensions: 47(H) x 22.5(W) x 28.8(D)

Weight: 252lbs

Warranty: Lifetime on ceramics, 5 years on metal, 90 days on shelves and temperature gauge

Pros of the Vision Grills Kamado Professional C-Series:

  • Electric starter makes it so easy and fast to light charcoal
  • Calibrated ProZone temperature settings are simple to use
  • Handles on stainless steel grates make it easy to add charcoal (just wear high heat gloves)
  • Multi-level grate arrangement significantly improves the capacity of this kamado vs others
  • Cart with lockable wheels makes it easy and safe to move around
  • Removable ash draw allows for easy cleaning
  • Can be turned into a gas grill by using the Vision Grills gas insert sold separately
  • Pro package comes with everything you need to get started including electric starter, cover, heat deflector plate, and more
  • Covered by a great warranty

Cons of the Vision Grills Kamado Professional C-Series:

  • Some reports of smoke leaking around the ash drawer, but, we didn’t find this to be an issue

Best Top of the Line Smoker for Beginners:

Memphis Grills Pro Pellet Smoker

If you’re just starting out but want to invest in a premium smoker that does everything and will last you for years to come, the Memphis Grills Pro Pellet Smoker is it.

Constructed from high-quality stainless steel with a double walled design and oven-grade gasket for superior insulation, this smoker could almost replace (and outshine) your regular kitchen oven. With two, large automatic pellet feeders and two fans to circulate heat, the Memphis Grills Pro can smoke for 62 hours without you needing to touch a thing.

But, it also comes with a perforated insert that enables you to grill with high-heat directly over the pellet fire so you can quickly whip up some smoky flavored steaks without having to fork out for a separate gas barbecue as well.

And, as you’d expect on a smoker of this quality, the Memphis Grills Pro Pellet Smoker is also WiFi enabled. Hook it up to your smart phone and take total control of your cook from anywhere you want to be. There’s even an upgraded #304 stainless steel version available for superior rust resistance, especially important if you live in a coastal area.

Read our full review of the Memphis Grills Pro and Elite Pellet Smokers.

Stats for the Memphis Grills Pro Pellet Smoker

Fuel type: Wood pellets

Barbecue material: Double walled stainless steel (#430 model available or #340 upgrade for coastal areas)

Grate material: #340 stainless steel

Cooking capacity: 4,230 cubic inches

Pellet hopper capacity: 18 lbs

Heat range: Up to 600°F

Model: VG0001S4 (#430 stainless steel) and VG000S2 (#340 stainless steel)

Assembled size (in): 47(H) x 57(W) x 29(D)

Weight: 213lbs

Warranty: 30 days on meat probe, 3 years on electronics, 7 years on remaining parts

Pros of the Memphis Pro Pellet Grill and Smoker:

  • High quality #430 stainless steel or #304 upgrade for superior strength and rust-resistance in coastal areas
  • Double walled design for superior heat retention
  • Oven-quality gasket for a leak-proof seal
  • Dual fans to circulate heat for an even cooking environment
  • Perforated insert to allow you to grill directly over the pellet fire
  • One of the cheapest pellet grills to run due to it’s efficiency in retaining heat and smoke
  • Dual pellet hoppers which allows you to mix different flavored pellets for even more smoking options
  • WiFi control from your smart phone
  • Comes with a meat probe and cart with side shelves
  • Also available in a built-in version for integration with an outdoor kitchen
  • Long warranty

Cons of the Memphis Grills Pro Pellet Smoker:

  • Nothing – we can’t get enough of this smoker!

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