Best Smokers for Beginners (Below $450)

Are you tired of using your grill as a smoker? Honestly, once you cross the “beginner” level of using a grill, your heart craves a smoker. If you have tasted meat prepared in a smoker, you’ll want a smoker in your backyard.

Smokers for Beginners

So what is the best smoker for beginners? You need one that is easy to use and still helpful in mastering the craft of smoking.

Let’s take a look at a list of recommended smokers if you are a newbie!

But If you’re in a hurry, here are the top 5 smokers I recommend:

Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
#1

Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker

Cooking Dimension: 143 Sq. Inches
Warranty: Up to 5 yrs

Char-Broil 17202004 Digital Electric Smoker, Deluxe
#2

Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker

Cooking Dimension: 725 Sq. Inches
Warranty: 1 yr

18-12 in Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
#3

18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

Cooking Dimension: 25” wide
Warranty: N/A

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker
#4

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

Cooking Dimension: 33.26 inches / 4 racks
Warranty: 1 yr

Dyna-Glo 36 Vertical Charcoal Smoker
#5

Dyna-Glo 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Cooking Dimension: 784 Sq. Inches
Warranty: 1 yr

1. Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker

If you are into grilling and smoking, you know that Weber is one of the best starter smoker grill manufacturers. The Smokey Mountain Cooker is a charcoal smoker that fits into your budget – and a small porch.

This smoker comes in three sizes – 22-inch, 18-inch, and 14-inch. The smallest one is perfect for new users who just want to learn smoking, experiment, and serve a small group of guinea pigs.

If you have used similar devices, you will not find it difficult to assemble this cylinder smoker. After all, it comes with interactive assembly instructions to help you – in the form of a free app!

With nothing but just minimal effort, you will be able to get deliciously charred meat with the authentic taste of smoke in it. This small dude uses charcoal to smoke meat, while the water in the tray keeps the device going all day.

The smoker can hit a temperature of 190°F (87°C for non-Americans), and it comes with a thermometer set on the lid. It helps you monitor the happenings inside the lid of the device.

It’s surprisingly easy to use. Just place your meat slabs on the two grates and leave them there – with complete control over the heat, too. The result? You get fall-off-the-bones, succulent meat with the irresistible charred taste of smoke!

Pros
  • Ideal smoker that’s easy to use for new users who have just stepped into the world of smoking
  • No effort required to control heat and get perfectly smoked eat
  • Sturdy legs made of steel that’s resistant against rust – perfect for outdoor settings
  • Vertical smoker with a sleek design to fit into any small space on the porch or deck
  • Uses charcoal as fuel to give you the authentic taste of smoked meat
  • Large water plate to ensure that the meat is soft and moist
  • Lid of the smoker equipped with a thermometer to monitor the cooking conditions inside
  • Comes with a cover to protect the smoker from rain and sun
  • 2 grates to smoke two racks separately at the same time
  • Charcoal chamber with fuel door for simple reloading
Cons
  • Slightly flimsy side access door
  • Assembly may be a little difficult for first-time users
  • 14-inch version may be a bit too small for practical use to serve a large group

2. Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker, Deluxe

Stepping into the world of smoking meat for the first time? Looking for the best smoker to buy for beginners? Perhaps it’s time to check out the Char-Broil 17202004 Digital Electric Smoker.

While smoking enthusiasts always have an eye out for charcoal cookers, electricity-run smokers have their own set of advantages. This device is uniquely devised to make smoking delicious meat a hassle-free process.

One of the main advantages of this smoker is that it is powered by electricity. Does that mean you have to compromise with smoked flavor? Not at all!

The smoker has a chamber that allows you to add 4 cups of wood chips. This means that the device works like an advanced wood smoker for beginners, and the meat you cook in this device will turn out to be perfect every single time, with discernible smokiness.

But that’s not all! The device knows how to lock in all the deliciousness – thanks to double walls with insulation. This construction not only helps to make the meat taste smoky but also traps heat inside while cooking.

So you won’t have to refuel the smoker for seven whole hours – and still get a lot of smoke. Its advanced control panel with LED display – along with a glass door – makes cooking even easier.

Pros
  • Powered by electricity to plug the smoker into any power source and start cooking anywhere
  • Ideal device for hassle-free smoking that allows you to “set it and forget it”
  • Perfect outdoor cooking device that is equipped to grill and smoke meat
  • Equipped with a blue LED display and touch-sensitive control panel
  • Double-wall with insulation that seals heat and smoke while cooking
  • Comes with remote control for better control of the device
  • Dedicated grease tray that makes cleaning the device easy
  • Thermometer and detachable temperature gauge to monitor cooking conditions better
  • Special tray to fill with wood chips for a rich smoky flavor in the food
  • Equipped with a “keep warm” option to keep your food warm inside the smoker until it is served
Cons
  • Not powerful enough in the lower range of temperatures, as reported by some users
  • Remote control power range limited to 10 feet
  • Probe may malfunction after rigorous use, according to some buyers

3. 18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

Whether you’re looking for a starter BBQ smoker or a cooker for some advanced level of smoking, Pit Barrel happens to be one of the most reliable brands. The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker of 18-½ inches is one of the best meat smokers for beginners manufactured by this brand.

It is powered by charcoal. So this barrel smoker allows you to cook delicious meat with a decadent charred taste that only comes from charcoal.

The barrel not only gives you an authentic taste but also does so through a traditional style of cooking. Do you want to master the art of controlling the airflow in the smoker to manage the temperature? You just need to follow the instructions.

Sounds intimidating? Don’t worry. What works in favor of newbies is how it cooks for short durations. That way, you don’t have to worry about regulating the heat.

The package comes with all the tools you will need to start grilling. This includes hooks to handle the meat, hanging rods, grill grate, hook remover, and charcoal basket.

The package also comes with a stand on which you can set the actual cooking barrel. A bargain buy that fits the budget of a new smoking enthusiast; this device uses the best techniques for low-and-slow cooking for perfectly smoked meat.

Pros
  • Uses charcoal as fuel to smoke meat and give it authentic smokiness
  • Entire package comes with all the accessories essential for smoking
  • Compact vertical design to fit into small spaces and transported easily
  • Ideal combination of smoking and slow cooking techniques for perfectly cooked meat
  • Easy to operate with minimal effort – perfect for beginner smokers who follow instructions
  • Suitable for cooking restaurant-quality food at an affordable price
  • Shorter cooking durations to eliminate the need to control smoke or temperature
  • Built of steel with porcelain enamel coating to give you a sturdy, long-lasting barrel
  • Perfect for all kinds of outdoor cooking, like grilling and searing
  • Designed to provide you with the traditional experience of smoking and grilling
Cons
  • May be hard to control temperatures on the first attempt if instructions aren’t followed properly
  • Cooking may be affected by extremely low temperatures in cold areas
  • More even distribution of air in the briquette basket would be better

4. Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker

For a hassle-free smoking experience every time, there’s no match for digital electric smokers that are readily available in the market. But which is the best smoker for beginners in this category?

Without a doubt, the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker is one of the most popular and reliable ones. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll enjoy using this smoker to cook meat with the snap of fingers. 

As a 30-inch smoker, this device can accommodate huge volumes of meat for smoking. It can cook as many as six chickens, four ribs or butts, or two turkeys! Now, that’s enough to feed a small troop, isn’t it?

All you have to do is plug the smoker into any power source – and it will start smoking the meat you place inside. You just have to set the meat to cook – and forget all about it until you get delicious meat!

What’s more, it is equipped with a loader on the side with a patented design to add wood chips. It allows you to add the chips without opening the door of the smoker.

So if you have to refuel, you can do it without disturbing the smoking process. This will give you the perfect smoky flavor, without the need to struggle with a charcoal-powered smoker. The digital control panel will surely make everything easier! 

Pros
  • Large smoker of 30 inches to smoke large volumes of meat to serve a big group
  • High-quality cooking for professional and competition-worthy results
  • Technologically advanced smoker with touch-sensitive digital controls at the top of the smoker
  • Powered by electricity and easy to plug into a nearby power source to start cooking
  • Wood chip chamber with a patented design to allow refueling without opening the smoker’s door
  • Easy to use smoker without the hassle of using charcoal or propane as fuel
  • Allows even cooking with consistent heating with the help of a thermostat
  • Walls with insulation to seal heat and smoke for better cooking and delicious smokiness
  • Water bowl to keep the meat moist, and air damper to control smoke
  • Four racks that are chrome-coated to serve you for a long time
Cons
  • May need minor adjustments in the initial stages before you get used to it
  • Digital panel might be difficult to read in the sunlight
  • Low smoke generated at 180-200 degrees

5. Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Charcoal smokers are an object of desire for all smoking enthusiasts. But most smokers who have just started out are never too confident about getting one.

If you belong to that category, the Dyna-Glo 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker might be the ideal charcoal smoker for you. This vertical smoking grill is easy to use and allows you to use your favorite smoking fuel, i.e., charcoal – and wood!

One of the significant features of the device is the vertical design, which is a fantastic way to infuse the maximum smokiness into the meat. The smoker has four cooking grates with adjustable heights to change the space you need for the meat, especially “taller” cuts like chops.

But do you know how much space this 36-inch smoker provides you? You get a total of 784 square inches of cooking space in this device!

Equipped with double doors, this smoker retains maximum heat. In addition, the charcoal chamber has a porcelain enamel coating to improve the burn efficiency of the briquettes that remain tightly stacked.

The smoker is also devised with a steel ash pan to collect ash for several hours. It is easily removable, making maintenance really easy. It comes with a temperature gauge that has a smoke zone for better control.

Pros
  • Designed with four grates that can be adjusted to accommodate different sizes of meat
  • 46-inch smoker with 784 square inches of cooking area for large amounts of meat
  • Uses charcoal and wood for authentic smoky flavor through traditional smoking
  • Unique removable ash chamber to collect ash make maintenance easier
  • Special gauge that helps you figure out the right temperature for adding smoke flavor
  • Vertical design to infuse meat with the maximum amount of smokiness
  • Dual door design for minimum heat loss while smoking
  • Charcoal chamber designed to maximize the efficiency of burning fuel
  • Sturdy smoker made of steel that guarantees long-lasting service
  • Affordable and easy-to-use – hence, ideal for beginner-level smoking enthusiasts
Cons
  • Difficult to maintain a stable temperature at a lower range
  • Must keep a tray in the lowest rack to prevent drippings in the fuel box
  • Thermometer may not be completely reliable

Things to Know About Buying a Smoker as a Beginner

Now you’re equipped with a list of the great smokers for newbies. But is that enough to get a new smoker for your backyard?

Probably not. It’s time to learn a little more about smoker grills!

Types of Grills:

Let’s start from the basics, i.e., types of smokers. The primary basis of the categorization of smokers depends on the fuel it uses to cook the food.

This fuel source will help to determine how the smoker will function and cook your food. Take a look at the different types of grills available in the market.

1. Charcoal Smokers

Cooking Meat in Charcoal Smoker

The earliest form of smokers is those that use charcoal and wood to smoke meat. Puritans prefer working the pit before enjoying the meat with an exceptional charred taste.  

2. Propane Smokers

Cookout in the Backyard Using Propane Smoker

Propane or gas smokers usually incorporate a large number of features, many of which you will ignore. They have a burner connected to a gas tank – and a wood pan for flavor.

3. Electric Smokers

Powered by electricity, these smokers offer easy temperature control and a wood chip box for flavorings. You won’t need to refuel it, as electricity will do the trick as long as the power source is nearby.

4. Pellet Smokers

Backyard Party with Pellet Smoker

These cookers, powered by hardwood pellets, combine some features of electric and charcoal smokers. Maintaining temperature is more manageable, and they often double as a grill.

5. Offset Smokers

Smoking Food Using An Offset Smoker

A classic smoker that’s noted for its design, this cooking device has horizontal chambers to place the meat. At the same time, there’s a firebox for wood and charcoal. These offer maximum flavor infusion.

What is the Ideal Type of Smoker for a Newbie?

The smokers mentioned above represent the basic categories. There are different types of each, with advanced features to give you anything from camping trip style cooking to professional smoking.

Cooking Chicken During Backyard Cookout

The latest ones even combine different fuel sources and are designed with digital control. Do these unique features make them easier to control? Not necessarily.

Sometimes, too many features add to the complexity of the device. But if you have absolutely zero experience with grills, offset smokers can be challenging, also.

As a beginner, you can go for an electric or a pellet smoker as they are easy to use and maintain consistent temperature control. Most people imagine that charcoal grills are expensive and difficult to control. But you’ll get plenty of budget-friendly charcoal smokers that get easier to use.

If you are not a total novice in smoking, you can go for an offset smoker, too. As a beginner, it’s best to steer clear gas smokers as they are more difficult and expensive.

Helpful Accessories for First-Time Smokers

It’s not enough to own a smoker. You also need a couple of other accessories to help you while smoking. These will keep you safe and optimize cooking conditions in the smoker.

The accessories that you need for smoking include the following:

  1. Wireless Meat Thermometer – A high-quality meat thermometer allows you to check the internal temperature of the meat you’re smoking. 
  2. Heat Resistant Gloves – You already know that handing a smoking device involves a lot of heat and high temperatures. Gloves are a must for personal safety.
  3. Charcoal Chimney Fire Starter – An item with a self-explanatory name, this is a fire starter that is used to light a charcoal smoker.
  4. BBQ Grill Brush – Once you start smoking meat regularly on a device, there will be grease and burnt pieces on the grate. A brush will help clean those.
  5. Tongs – The only way to handle freshly smoked meat or flip a piece of meat that’s in the middle of the smoking process is with the help of sturdy tongs.
  6. Basting Brush – It’s a good idea to apply marinade on the meat while cooking, especially in the last hour. For that, you need a basting brush.
  7. Butcher’s Block – This accessory comes in handy while marinating, resting, or cutting a piece of meat before or after the process of smoking.
  8. Boning Knife – Have you been handling meat for a while now? Then you already know the importance of a sharp knife. It is useful for all cutting and trimming jobs.
  9. Rib Rack – This one hardly needs any explanation. This will be useful when you cook ribs, as you can load the pieces of meat on it.
  10. Thermometer Gauge – This device will help to monitor the heat and control the temperature inside the smoker during the cooking process.

There are a couple of other accessories that you might need while smoking, especially in a charcoal smoker. But most smokers come in packages that include these. You should also invest in a good cover, especially if you are planning to keep the smoker outside at all times.

Features to Look for When Buying Your First Smoker

It is not enough to just know the names of the brands that sell the best smokers. You also need to understand what features to look for when you are out there to buy the best smoker for beginners.

Based on your requirements, budget, and capabilities of handling a smoker, the definition of “best” will change. So, let’s take a look at the factors to consider while buying a starter meat smoker.

Price

Beginners often get lured by several features at the time of buying the first smoker. But they forget that they might not ever use most of these features – but end up paying a fortune for them anyway. 

Ideally, you should fix a budget and then go shopping for a smoker. They can cost you less than $200, or go as high as $10,000. So, choose a unit with a price tag that fits your budget.

Temperature Control

Temperature control is an essential feature in smokers. While electric smokers give you complete control over temperature, charcoal smokers, on the other hand, need you to control the airflow inside them.

Of course, there are modern charcoal smokers with less complicated temperature control. You can even add a third-party thermostat. It all depends on how rustic and old-school you are willing to go.

Fuel

We have already listed out the different types of fuel sources used to power a smoker. Fuel type influences the cooking time, process, and taste of the meat.

Charcoal and wood smokers are known to give the most authentic flavors, and so do offset smokers that use the same fuel source. Other smokers using electricity or gas offer easy temperature control, but the taste is slightly mellower.

Insulation and Material Thickness

Smokers with thick and insulated walls are capable of sealing the heat and smoke. High-quality smokers will ensure better heat retention.

As a result of these qualities, the cooking process becomes more consistent. These qualities also help with a better infusion of the smoky flavor in the meat.

Material

Irrespective of how much you spend on a smoker, you would want it to last long, right? So look for rust-resistant, steel smokers and grates with proper enamel coating for protection.

Thermometer 

It is essential to monitor the temperature inside the smoker when you set the meat to cook. Many smokers come with an in-built thermometer or detachable temperature gauge for that. 

Temperature Range

Different meat types need different treatments. The temperature required varies accordingly, too. So check the range of temperature your smoker can give you, and if it can generate smoke in the lower range. 

Dampers

When you’re cooking on a charcoal smoker, the only way to control the temperature is by managing the supply of oxygen. Dampers are required on the chimney and firebox to help you with the process. 

Space

Depending on how many people you are planning to feed, the cooking area of the smoker should influence your purchase. Also, check for storage areas to rest the meat before serving it.

Access

How do you access the fuel box when cooking? Is it possible to refuel the smoker without disrupting the smoking process? Is it a front-loading or top-loading smoker? Check these features carefully.

Size

The design and size of the smoker are essential factors to consider, especially if you have a small area or want to move the smoker frequently. Make sure to match this with the actual cooking area.

Accessories

Many smokers come with several accessories or add-ons. While some packages are complete with tongs, hooks, grates, stand, and more; others come with a cover to protect the device. Make sure to check these – and see if you’re paying unnecessarily for useless accessories, though the latter is unlikely.

Support and Warranty

Every device declines in quality, and eventually, you will need support if it malfunctions. So, find out about the warranty. As a new user, you may need help in the initial phase, too. So ensure that the brand offers good customer care.  

It’s essential to weigh all these features to ensure that you pick a smoker that is ideal for you as a beginner.

Final Words

Buying a smoker may seem like an intimidating venture. But luckily for you, your job just got a lot easier.

Once you have a budget and have determined how you want to use your smoker, it will be a lot easier to pick the best smoker for beginners from the list provided for you!

TYLER LACHANCE

Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled. Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.