Best smoker 2019: charcoal, gas, pellet and electric smoking grills are pleased to meat you

Get the all-American taste of summer over the spring holidays

best american smokers

The best smoker, if you ask a purist, is one that can cook low and slow for hours on end – usually at a very specific 'correct' temperature, and that is no easy thing. For the casual smoker, maybe the best smoker is just one that can impart a smokey taste and hey, that's fine. But come on, let's get serious about this, people.

When it comes to the best barbecue as a lifestyle, four countries head the list: South Africa, Australia, Argentina and the USA. However, when it comes to low and slow grilling and smoking, American barbecue is in a field all of its own. All the best smokers are born in the USA. We’ve scoured two of America’s biggest sources for online products – Walmart and Amazon – and collated this handy guide to the best smokers currently on the US market. Whether you’re preparing a banquet for the local community, the family or just yourself, these are the smokers everyone’s talking about. 

A number of these best smokers are also available in the UK and elsewhere, so don't worry if you don't own a ranch or have Guy Fieri's awful Food Network show playing on an endless loop. Now, let's take a one-way trip to 'Flavor Town'… Out of bounds.

The best smokers to buy, in order of preference

Best american smokers: Weber Smokey Mountain

1. Weber Smokey Mountain

Best smoker on the block

Specifications
Grill size: 14, 18, 22 inches
Type: Charcoal
Reasons to buy
+Small footprint+Stays hot for up to seven hours+Easy to use

• Buy the Weber Smokey Mountain at Amazon.com, from $149

• Buy direct from Weber UK, from £329 if out of stock at Amazon

Available with a 14-, 18- or 22-inch cooking grate, the Weber Smokey Mountain is one of the most popular smokers on the US market, and one of the most favourably reviewed. It’s comprised of four main parts: a lid, a cooking grate section, a charcoal and wood-chips bowl and a decent sized porcelain enamelled water pan to help keep the meat moist throughout the long cooking process. It also features a lid-mounted thermometer and side portal with rubber grommet to accept a meat probe.

You can expect to get about seven hours of low and slow smoking at the optimum 225ºF (107ºC) when using water and up to 11 hours without. For best results, consider using Weber’s own long-burn briquettes. This smoker has received a veritable smorgasbord of high praise from US users who mostly recommend the cheaper, 14-inch model as the best size for most family gatherings – it’s more than capable of providing enough smokey nosh for a party of six to ten.

If you’re after a reliable smoker from arguably the world’s most reputable barbecue brand, then this is the one to stick on the yard of your ranch, or whatever it is you call it over there.

Best american smokers: Char-Broil The Big Easy

2. Char-Broil The Big Easy

Best gas smoker

Specifications
Grill size: 15 inches
Type: Gas
Reasons to buy
+Cavernous interior+Simple to use+Effective gas smoker

• Buy the Char-Broil The Big Easy from Amazon.com

This Dalek-shaped smoker (a Dalek is a robot monster in popular UK television series Dr Who) is available in the U of K as well as the US of A, and comes with a removable basket large enough for a big bird, a leg of lamb or a brisket, four rib hooks to hang on the basket, a smoker box for the obligatory handful of wood chips, an easy-clean drip tray and a removable porcelain-coated cooking grate for conventional grilling.

The Big Easy runs off propane gas and uses Char-Broil’s famed TRU-Infrared tech to evenly roast, smoke or grill whatever you throw at it. Despite its weight and height, its footprint is actually small enough for a balcony or small yard. A top smoker-cum-grill for fuss-free al fresco feasting, although purists may bristle at the minimum temperature of 250ºF.

Best smokers: Pit Boss Classic

3. Pit Boss Classic

America's most beloved pellet smoker

Specifications
Grill size: 700 inches sq
Type: Pellets
Reasons to buy
+Uses wood pellets for authentic flavour+Large grilling area+Can sear steaks
Reasons to avoid
-Requires a cover for outdoor storage-Not as well built as a Traeger

• Buy the Pit Boss Classic at Walmart for $396

• In the UK you can buy a smaller (440-inch) Pit Boss for £661

American pit masters love smoking and low & slow using wood pellets. Having tried and tested the excellent Traeger Pro 575 for our Best Large Barbecue guide, this writer wholeheartedly agrees that compressed wood pellets – available in a variety of tree species – are the real deal if you want that authentic smokey flavour.

Pit Boss is arguably America’s most popular manufacturer of pellet grills and this fairly compact model is its most popular at Walmart, where people know about shopping for grills. The Pit Boss Classic has 700 square inches of meal estate under the hood, which is more than enough for the average American family. Its 21lb pellet hopper is ample, too, for several hours of gentle smoking or low and slow roasting.

Like the very similarly-styled but better built Traeger, it uses an electrically-powered auger to deliver pellets to the mini furnace and a digital controller to set the required temperature. Unlike the Traeger, this one also provides the wherewithal to sear steaks by moving one of the deflector panels to the side.

If you’re keen on trying the pellet method, then give this keenly-priced, top-selling contender a whirl.

Best smokers: Masterbuilt MES 130

4. Masterbuilt MES 130

Best electric smoker for serial entertainers

Specifications
Grill size: 730 inches sq
Type: Electric
Reasons to buy
+Uses electricity for endless smoking+Huge cooking area+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Gets very greasy-Looks only a mother could love

• Buy the Masterbuilt MES 130 at Walmart for $170

Yes, yes, it's against the LAWS of The Barbecue to grill electric but there are good reasons to try an e-smoker. Despite the fact it looks like the ugly lovechild of a safe and a drinks cooler, the Masterbuilt is another hugely popular smoker Stateside. At 20 inches square, it has a relatively small footprint so you could feasibly use it on a balcony, neighbours permitting. At $170, it’s also cheap to buy.

Because it's an electric smoker, you’re going to need a secure outdoor power outlet or a high-quality extension lead. The Masterbuilt MES 130 comes with four chrome-plated smoke racks with a combined surface area of 730 square inches – enough smoking space to feed the neighbourhood (or neighborhood as they incorrectly spell it in the US - just sayin').

Given that it’s electric – it uses an 800-watt heating element – this thing will go on smoking till the next blue moon and remain at a constant preset temperature throughout the process. It’s certainly a doddle to use: slap some seasoned meat on one or all of the cooking grates, fill the wood chip tube with your favourite chips, top up the small water reservoir and set the temperature on the digital interface – or the supplied remote controller – to your preferred temperature. Now go watch a box set of your favourite TV series for about eight hours while the Masterbuilt does its low and slow cooking thang.

This very reasonably-priced smoker has garnered a 4.6 out of 5 rating from Walmart buyers so it appears that the majority of users are very contented with their purchase. The others are presumably still stuffing their faces with brisket.

Best american smokers: Oster Smoker Roaster Oven

5. Oster Smoker Roaster Oven

Best portable electric smoker

Specifications
Grill size: 15-litre capacity
Type: Electric
Reasons to buy
+Portable, table-top size+It smokes, roasts and bakes+Big enough for a 20lb turkey

• Buy the Oster portable smoker at Amazon for $75

A hugely popular choice on Amazon, the 23-inch Oster table-top smoker looks like a slow cooker and to some degree it is, because it can can cook slow and low as well as roasting, baking and smoking.

To use as a smoker, simply put a handful of hickory or apple wood chips into the two corner chambers, pour some water into the pan below the wire rack, pop in a bird (up to 20lbs), a slab of brisket or some some baby back ribs, adjust the simple temperature dial and, well, that’s all there is to it. If you want to roast or slow cook anything indoors, just leave the wood chip containers empty.

Those after a small electric smoker for the home, the studio flat, the RV, the campsite or the boat should give this versatile model serious consideration. If the huge swathe of positive user reviews are anything to go by, it’s a doozy.