If you’re new to smoking meats, seafood, and veggies and you’re wondering which are the best smokers for beginners, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to give you all the info you need to make the right decision and choose the best smoker for your money.
Learning how to use a smoker will make you the envy of your friends and family. There’s just nothing like the rich and succulent flavor of meat that’s been slowly cooked over charcoal or wood.
In this smoker buying guide you’ll learn:
- The top 5 smokers for beginners
- What to look for when choosing a smoker
- How to choose a smoker that’s best for YOU.
We take a look at the different types of smokers available, the pros and cons of each, and the things you should consider before buying a smoker.
So are you ready to start smoking meats like a pro? Just don’t blame us if your neighbors try to climb the fence to get at your baby back ribs or smoked sausage!
Let’s get started!
5 Best Smokers For Beginners
In a hurry? Here’s a quick list of our top 5 picks for the best smoker for beginners. They all offer an excellent balance between quality, ease of use, and price point.
If you want to learn more about each keep scrolling for full reviews below.
- Weber Smokey Mountain 18 (Best Overall Smoker)
- Traeger Pro Series 22 (Best Pellet Smoker for Beginners)
- Weber Kettle Grill (Best Budget Smoker)
- Pit Barrel Cooker (Best Drum Smoker)
- Masterbuilt MB 2007 (Best Electric Smoker)
Full Reviews Of Our Top 5 Picks For Best Smoker
There are so many smokers out there and choosing the right one can be a challenge. Trust me, I went through the same exact thing just a few years ago when I wanted to get into smoking and started doing research. But I’m going to save you a ton of time and trouble by sharing everything I learned when I was looking for my first smoker.
So without further delay our pick for the best smoker for beginners is…
Weber Smoker Mountain – Best Overall Smoker
You can’t have a conversation about the best smoker for anyone without discussing the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
The Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) was my choice when I first started smoking. I just found the balance between ease of use, flavor, and cost, and overall experience impossible to beat.
First introduced in 1981, the WSM is a masterpiece of BBQ technology. Its sturdy construction and simple design make it a perfect smoker for beginners.
But this baby isn’t just for newbies. You’ll find the Weber smoker competing against $10,000 custom built smoking rigs on the barbecue circuit…and winning.
The WSM comes in three sizes. We find the 14 inch model a little small, and the 22 inch model is just a little too big for most occasions. The 18 inch option offers 481 square inches of cooking surface which is just right for most backyard cooks.
Weber is one of the best-recognized names in the world of barbecue and they make top-quality grilling gear. The WMS is a bullet smoker (yep, it looks like a bullet) with a small footprint that will fit on just about any patio.
The Weber Smokey Mountain has a simple yet brilliant design that has proven itself over almost 40 years. It’s made up of three sections.
The lower section is the firebox. That’s where you light the charcoal and add your favorite wood to produce smoke.
The center section is the cooking chamber. The water pan sits directly over the firebox. It helps you maintain a steady temperature and keeps your meat moist and delicious. Above the water pan sit two removable cooking grates which provide plenty of room to smoke a ton of food.
The center section has a small, removable door which allows easy access to the firebox in case you need to add more wood or charcoal. It also has a small port where you can insert a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the cooking chamber.
The upper section is the lid. The lid does have a built-in thermometer, but we recommend using a good digital thermometer because it offers far more accurate measurements.
It only takes about 10 minutes to unpack your WMS and set it up for smoking. And it breaks down easily for cleaning and storage.
What We Like
- Sturdy build and fine craftsmanship
- Simple to set up and easy to use
- Two racks provide plenty of cooking space
- Vertical smoker takes up limited space
- Lightweight and portable
What We Don’t Like
- Built in thermometer is not perfectly accurate
- The door sometimes leaks smoke
The Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker is just about perfect. Its easy enough for a complete novice to use, but it produces amazing smoked meats that are good enough to win a barbecue competition.
As of this writing, there are over 4,900 customer reviews on Amazon with an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars. It’s widely regarded as the best charcoal smoker and people who use it (including me) absolutely love it.
Buy a Weber Smokey Mountain and you won’t regret it.
Traeger Pro Series 22 – Runner Up
The Traeger Pro Series 22 is a simple to use pellet smoker that will give your food a nice smoky flavor and it’s a great option for newbies who are just getting started in the world of smoking.
The key word that comes to mind with Traeger smoker grills is “easy”.
Easy to assemble, easy to use, easy to clean.
Pellet grills like the Traeger Pro Series offer precise temperature control with no fuss. You don’t have to worry about managing the fire or dealing with charcoal or wood chunks. Just load up the hopper with pellets, set the temperature you want to cook at and walk away.
The digital controller monitors and maintains temperature automatically, so it really is as close as you can get to set it and forget it technology.
Note – if you have room in your budget, consider upgrading to the Traeger Pro Series 575, which comes with Traeger’s WiFire technology. That’s right, you can actually monitor and adjust the temperature right from your smartphone or Apple watch!
The Traeger Pro Series 22 has a nicely-sized cooking surface of 572 square inches (418 square inches on the main cooking rack and an extra 154 on the top rack). But it weighs over 100 pounds and requires electricity so it’s not easy to take along if you go camping or tailgating.
What We Like
- Super easy to use
- Literally set it and forget it
- Built in dual thermometer probes save you from an additional purchase
- Precise temperature management and consistent results
What We Don’t Like
- Pellet grills can’t get as much smoky flavor as wood or charcoal smokers
- Heavy and difficult to transport or move
- Requires electricity
- You miss out on the “experience” of smoking since it’s so automated
The Traeger Pro Series 22 isn’t the greatest pellet smoker of all time, but it is our top choice for beginners. It’s well made, easy to use, and has lots of great features.
Keep in mind pellet smokers are expensive and if you want all the bells and whistles it will cost you. The Traeger 57 Series will give you much more but it costs significantly more too.
Another option in the same price range as the Traeger 22 smoker is the Green Mountain Daniel Boone smoker. It’s a great pellet smoker but you can’t just buy it online. For some reason they make you go to a local dealer to buy it which I personally find annoying.
Weber Kettle Grill – Best Budget Smoker
There have probably been more briskets and ribs smoked on a Weber Kettle Grill than any other smoker. These things are literally everywhere and there’s a good reason why.
The Weber Kettle Grill is extremely versatile and can be used to grill or slow smoke just about anything. It’s cheaper than the Weber Smokey Mountain and smaller too. It’s very lightweight and portable which makes it a perfect option for tailgating or camping.
But its versatility is also its drawback. The Weber Kettle is just not a dedicated smoker and it’s much easier to get a rich, smoky flavor using the Weber Smoky Mountain. But of course, the Kettle grill is much cheaper so if that’s what you can afford go for it.
What We Like
- Extremely versatile and can be used to grill or smoke
- Lightweight and portable
- Lots of Weber and aftermarket accessories available
- Inexpensive option for beginners on a budget
What We Don’t Like
- Not a dedicated smoker
- Limited cooking space
The Weber Kettle Grill is a great entry-level option if you’re you’re just starting out in the world of smoking meats. It’s versatile and can be used for grilling burgers and hot dogs and also for slowly smoking ribs or a brisket.
But while it’s an adequate smoker, it’s not the best. You’ll get much better results with our top pick which is the Weber Smokey Mountain. Obviously, the WSM is more expensive so even if you start out with the Kettle Grill, you’ll probably upgrade at some point down the road.
Pit Barrel Cooker – Best Drum Smoker
The Pit Barrel Cooker is one of the coolest smokers we’ve ever seen and it’s a great option for beginners too.
It looks like you just stood an old barrel up and used it to start a barbecue, and that’s kind of the point. United States veteran Noah Glanville modeled the Pit Barrel Cooker after the oil drums he saw in Iraq. He built 29 different prototypes until finally finding exactly the right air flow to create the perfect cook.
The Pit Barrel Cooker is incredibly easy to use and there’s no vents to adjust air flow to manage temperature. It has a cooking grate for standard BBQ like burgers, but the really unique feature is the system of hooks and hanging rods that allow you to hang your meat directly over the fire to cook.
You might think hanging meat would cook unevenly (wouldn’t the part closest to the fire be burnt?), but the Pit Barrel is designed specifically to balance air flow so everything cooks evenly.
And as the meat cooks, the fat drips down onto the coals and forms steam which just gives the meat even more flavor.
What We Like
- It looks seriously cool, your friends will be extremely jealous
- Virtually no set up, very easy to use
What We Don’t Like
- Some users report difficulties managing the temperature
- Difficult to add more fuel if using the cooking grate
I have yet to personally cook on the Pit Barrel Cooker, though I would love to give it a whirl (my wife may divorce me if spend more money on a new smoker). Don’t tell her but it’s on my wish list. 🙂
I have spoken to people who have used it and they all love it. And personally I think it would be cool as hell to have a Pit Barrel Cooker in my backyard when friends and family come over for a barbecue.
Masterbuilt MB 2007 – Best Electric Smoker
Electric smokers like the Masterbuilt MB 2007 are popular with first time smokers because they’re extremely easy to use and they don’t require as much clean up as other types of smokers.
This Masterbuilt model is affordable and only about the size of a small mini-fridge, yet it has plenty of cooking area. With its four adjustable shelves, you can fit either four racks or ribs, four pork butts, six whole chickens, or two turkeys. That makes it a great option if you’re having a party and need to cook for a crowd.
The MB 2007 comes with a water bowl to help retain moisture and a removable tray so you can add wood chips without opening the door and losing heat. It does require a reliable power source, so you need access to an outlet. But once you get it going it’s pretty much set and forget with precise temperature control.
What We Like
- Affordable option for beginner smokers
- Easy to set up and clean
- Precise and accurate temperature control
- Able to add wood chips without opening the chamber door
- Compact design lets it fit in small spaces
What We Don’t Like
- Requires a steady power source so needs to be close to an outlet
- Electric heating element doesn’t provide as much smoke as other types of smoker
Electric smokers are a great way for first timers to get their feet wet at a comfortable price point, and the Masterbuilt MB 2007 will give you the solid results you’re looking for. It’s well made and easy to use.
If you’re the type who wants to enjoy smoked foods without a lot of hassle and you don’t care so much about the smoking “experience” then the MB 2007 might be a good fit for you.
Note – we did hear about a negative review on YouTube from a user who mentioned he had lots of flare ups and runaway temperatures which ended up damaging the unit. But in his video he actually mentions that he wrapped the removable cooking grates in foil.
The screenshot below is from the actual owner’s manual and it specifically mentions to NOT do what he did because heat won’t circulate properly. His problems weren’t a fault of the Masterbuilt smoker itself, but rather that he didn’t follow instructions and the foil trapped all the heat and ruined his unit.
What About Offset Smokers Or The Kamado Joe?
So remember this guide is about the best smokers for beginners, and that means we had to leave some very good smokers out of the conversation.
The Kamado Joe is an excellent grill and they’re extremely versatile. You can grill, smoke, sear, roast, or even bake in them. But it’s not a dedicated smoker and the price is just out of reach for most beginners.
Similarly, a top quality offset smoker will probably give you the best results overall with a rich smokiness that other types of smokers can’t match. But they do come with a steep learning curve and you’ll have to pay a lot for a good model. Cheaper offset smokers have thinner steel which means you’ll have a harder time working with them and managing the fire.
Don’t get me wrong. Offset smokers and the Kamado Joe are both awesome, we just don’t recommend them for beginners. We don’t want you to just buy anything, we want to help you find the best possible fit for YOU.
Smoker Buying Guide For Beginners
There are many different types of smoker to choose from and when you’re just starting out you can easily get overwhelmed. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you.
There are a few key things to consider when choosing a smoker. So let’s talk about type, budget, and capacity.
Which Type Of Smoker Fits Your Style?
The first step to narrowing down your search for the right smoker is to decide what type is right for YOU. Think about how you’ll use it and what you want to get out of it.
Are you looking for convenience and the flavor of smoked food but not all the hassle and mess? Consider electric or gas smokers or a pellet grill where you can pretty much set and forget them.
Do you enjoy the process as much as the results? If you want to fully embrace the smoking process of building and maintaining the fire, adjusting vents, and watching over the process, you might prefer an offset smoker or a water smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Is versatility important? If you want to do more than just smoke, consider the Weber Kettle Grill, the Kamado Joe, or a good pellet grill.
If you’re just starting out you want a smoker that’s affordable, effective, and easy to use. Look for a water smoker or an upright barrel smoker.
Once you’ve narrowed down which type of smoker you want, you can ask yourself…
What’s My Budget?
Smokers can vary wildly in price depending on the type, brand, and features you want. You can get a dirt cheap smoker for as little as $100 (just don’t expect it to last long) or Weber Kettle Grill for just a little more.
Or you can drop thousands of dollars on a custom built offset smoker with all the bells and whistles.
Most of us choose something in the middle.
I don’t know what your budget looks or how much you can afford, so I can’t tell you exactly how much to spend. The best advice I can give you is to buy the best quality smoker you can comfortably afford. If you buy an inexpensive piece of junk that rusts out in a few months you’ll regret it.
Stick with any of the top smokers listed on this page and you can’t go wrong.
How Much Cooking Capacity Do You Need?
Think about how much cooking you expect to do on your smoker. Will it just be for you and your immediate family? Or do you plan on hosting big parties with enough pulled pork and ribs to feed the whole neighborhood.
You’ll want to make sure the cooking area of your smoker is more than you expect to need. I always recommend going up a bit in size (as long as you can afford it and have space for it) because once you start smoking you’ll likely end up doing it a lot more than you thought.
And if you do have more company than you expected, you’ll be glad you have the extra cooking space to feed them all.
When discussing the best smokers for beginners, it’s important to consider a few key questions:
- Do you want your smoker to be labor intensive or hands free?
- How much can you afford and what price point should you look at?
- How many people do you need to feed and how much cooking space will it take?
Once you answer these questions you’ll be able to zero in on the perfect smoker that fits your needs. Any of the smokers mentioned on this page would be perfect for beginners.
Remember, have fun! Barbecue is all about good food and good times. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.
Have you tried any of the smokers we recommend above? We’d love to hear your feedback on whether you liked them or not and why. And if there’s a good smoker for beginners that we left off our list please let us know!