Best Charcoal Smoker-Top 7 That Give Authentic BBQ Flavors

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Today, we will talk about the best charcoal smoker with rock soil build quality and durability, temperature control, decent cooking space for more people, and no smoke and heat leakage issues within budget.

We know that charcoal smoking is the purest form of smoking because of the rich and most authentic BBQ flavor caused by charcoal and wood.

Keeping that in mind, we have chosen the top 7 best charcoal smokers for 2021/2022 that are known for their premium build quality, ease of use, burning efficiency, versatility, and authentic flavors during smoking.

  • Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560

    Masterbuilt-MB20040220-Gravity-Series-560-Digital-Charcoal-Grill
    • Digital control panel
    • 560 sq. inches cooking area
    • Control the temperature using Bluetooth or Wifi
  • Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker

    Weber-22-inch-Smokey-Mountain-Cooker,-Charcoal-Smoker
    • Temperature: more than 350 degrees F
    • Built-in lid thermometer
    • Steel cooking grates
  • Kamado Joe Classic 3

    Kamado-Joe-KJ15040921-Classic-III-18-inch-Charcoal-Grill,-Blaze-Red
    • 18†premium ceramic grill
    • Versatile cooking
    • Holds the heat and delivers smoke flavor

How do we select the products?

Not every best smoker grill is good enough for smoking that is why, I and my team have tested over 40 models, talked to more than 33 people, and researched around the internet and on the market to find the best charcoal smoker list according to our expertise.

What is the Best charcoal smoker?

According to our expert opinion, the best charcoal smoker is one which provides authentic wood and charcoal flavors in the BBQ, it must allow us to regulate temperatures at will, it should have a decent cooking space, the build quality should be solid, and there should not be any smoke or heat leakage issues.

Comparison Chart Of The Top Rated Charcoal Smoker

ProductMain FeaturesScore
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1. Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker 22â€

Weber-22-inch-Smokey-Mountain-Cooker,-Charcoal-Smoker

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 68lbs.
  • Dimensions: 24 x 23 x 48.5
  • Cooking area: 725 sq. inches
  • Temperature: more than 350 degrees F
  • Built-in lid thermometer
  • Rust free legs
  • Steel cooking grates

Weber Smokey is one of the most affordable charcoal smokers on the market. It is made of quality, high-grade metal, a nice thermometer on the lid, and overall simplicity to use and cook delicious meat at high temperatures.

Weber Smoker grill is using porcelain in cooking chamber components whose properties are to hold and heat better than metal.

Weber Smoker grill comes in 14†and 18†variants but I can’t squeeze enough in those models, so I preferred the 22†variant. The quality is the same in all variants.

There is one air control port on the lid and three on the base which is extremely important to control the amount of smoke you want to leave the smoker.

Too much smoke, you get tough meat, too little smoke, you get raw meat. So you got to control the amount of heat and smoke.

It is lightweight, you put in the water and charcoal in the bottom sections, the total weight will be 75lbs. so you can carry it around.

It is good on fuel too. It doesn’t burn much charcoal. A 40lbs. of charcoal can last for a month depends on the smoking.

Weber Smokey is durable like an ironman’s suit. This thing is crazy durable, my unit has some scratches on it but the overall engineering and design are too good man. The entire unit is perfectly insulated, the heat won’t leave the unit.

It does come with a thermometer but it is crap like most built-in thermometers. I use my wireless probe to monitor everything.

The lips on the lid and the bottom are pointed upright, so if you leave it outside without a cover in the rain, the water will eventually get inside. I learned it the hard way, the remaining charcoal will be ruined. It does come with a quality cover though.

I don’t like the door either, it doesn’t fit properly and I don’t understand why the engineers were clumsy when they were designing the front door.

The size of this charcoal smoker is good, I can cook a dozen of slabs, or baby backs, turkeys.

The most important aspect of any smoker is the finished Smokey meat, I have smoked all sorts of meat in this Weber Smoker grill and the final product is always super delicious, and that is the most important thing.

The grates are not dishwasher friendly, I usually bring soapy water in the backyard to clean the grates.

Pros

  • Premium grade quality
  • Good cooking space
  • Easy to operate
  • Porcelain cooking chamber
  • Good on fuel
  • Affordable and
  • Perfectly insulated

Cons

  • Crappy thermometer
  • Grates are dishwasher friendly

2. Dyna-Glo 36†vertical charcoal smoker

Dyna-Glo-DGX780BDC-D-36-Vertical-Charcoal-Smoker

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 56lbs.
  • Item dimensions: 20.83 x 21.45 x 49.73 inches
  • Cooking space: 784 sq. inches
  • A temperature gauge
  • Porcelain cooking chamber
  • 4 cooking grates
  • The double door design

Dyna-Glo 36†is a premium quality charcoal wood smoker with 4 cooking racks proving the freedom to smoke more than 30lbs. of different types of meat. The cooking space is 784 sq. inches which is awesome for a budget model.

It keeps the temperature very well, the entire unit is perfectly insulated. The smoke doesn’t leak from anywhere which is the main thing when you smoke tough meat.

The temperature goes from 200 to 300 degrees quickly so have to monitor it. I use a wireless temperature gauge anyway because I don’t trust built-in temperature gauges.

It is not built like a grill but I have used it as a grill and works fine for me.

There is a chimney at the top to let the residual smoke out. At first, I thought the chimney is too wide open, it will leak extra smoke out, but after 5 to 6 smoking sessions, I am good with it.

The smoker is lightweight even with the charcoal and water, you can carry it around easily. There are no odd things about the design, if you leave it outside in the rain, I doubt the water will get in if the chimney is closed.

The burning efficiency is excellent like other charcoal wood smokers on this list. It doesn’t let any heat leave the smoking chamber.

Some people have complained about the smoke leakages, I have used the brand new model, and a 2 years old model at a friend’s house, I didn’t notice any smoke leakage neither did my friend. I don’t think the leakage is common among all units, maybe some come faulty by default.

Overall, Dyna-Glo 36†is a beginner-friendly charcoal smoker which is super easy to use, it is durable, traps the heat inside, and delivers flawless smoky flavor.

As a reviewer, it is my job, to tell the truth, because I am not sponsored by these brands, and I am telling DYNA-GLO is a must-have charcoal smoker.

Pros

  • Temperature control by adjusting the dampers
  • Well insulated
  • Enough cooking space
  • Good burning efficiency
  • Affordable
  • Beginner-friendly usage
  • Delivers mouthwatering smoky flavor

Cons

  • Gauge is not accurate
  • The wood box is cheap

3. Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco  Barrel Drum Smoker

Oklahoma-Joe's-19202100-Bronco-Pro-Drum-Smoker

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 174.6 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 40x 28.8 x 48 inches
  • Tightly sealed lid
  • The well-engineered airflow system
  • Heavy grade steel construction
  • Removable ash pan
  • Ultra-durable construction

Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco is the latest edition of drum smokers from the Oklahoma Joe brand and it is pretty efficient and durable.

The unique and solid design with natural airflow intake make sure even distribution of heat and smoke through the cooking chamber.

The entire unit is built of industrial-grade steel, there are no loose ends, the smoke and heat will never escape the cooking chamber.

I have used Bronco about 5 times now and I didn’t notice any smoke leakage like other smokers on this list.

The charcoal smoky flavor at the end is stunning. I guess that is because of the quick temperature rise and fall whenever you want.

You will build your fire at the bottom of the drum. The heat and smoke from the fire will move vertically through natural airflow to cook meat. The airflow in bronco is uniquely designed to maximize smoking.

Bronco’s cooking grate is about 18 inches with a 284 square inches cooking area. It can easily hold about 8lbs. of meat and if you remove the deflector plate, you can cook the meat above the smoldering charcoals.

The thermometer is on the body and it is about 10 degrees off from the original value. I can’t complain about it because I use a wireless probe anyway but I don’t get why analog thermometers are not accurate in most charcoal smokers.

The temperature reaction time of Oklahoma Joe Bronco is insane, if you open the damper from the chimney, the temperature will immediately shoot, and if you close it halfway, the temperature will immediately drop.

That is crazy if you are a BBQ geek and want to control the temperature according to the type of meat.

The Oklahoma Joe bronco pro is almost double the size of the bronco with twice the charcoal basket and cooking grate, but it expensive and heavy.

The standard bronco is already an amazing smoker so I don’t need to replace it just to have more cooking space.

If you compare it with pit barrel cooker, weber smoky mountain, and highland offset smoker, Oklahoma Joes Bronco is easier to operate, charcoal loading is also easy, and the entire cooking chamber holds the smoke and heat just about perfectly.

According to us experts, Bronco smokers are worth every single penny. I recommend it.

Pros

  • Sealed lid.
  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to load and operate
  • Temperature control is insane
  • No leakage issues
  • Quality, heavy-grade steel construction

Cons

  • The temperature gauge is not accurate
  • Only one cooking grate

4. Char-Griller Akron Kamado Charcoal Grill with Smoker

Char-Griller-E16620-Akorn-Kamado-Charcoal-Grill

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 97lbs.
  • Dimensions: 45 x 31 x 47 inches
  • Cooking area: 447 square inches
  • Temperature range: 200 to 500 degrees F
  • Adjustable dampers to control the heat
  • Triple insulated wall to trap the heat
  • Quality steel construction
  • Locking wheels
  • No leakage issues

Akorn Kamado from char-griller is a portable charcoal smoker with decent cooking space and is super strong built using double-walled steel to trap as much heat as possible for maximum cooking efficiency.

Speaking of its durability, my cousin has dragged its Akorn Kamado through worse situations since he bought it in 2019, and the smoker still looks brand new. The built quality is the next-level man.

In my expertise, on charcoal and wood Akorn Kamado will blow away any pellet smoker or at least do as good as any pellet cooker in terms of versatility. I will even say that Akorn Kamado is the best charcoal smoker in terms of cooking versatility.

As far as accessories are concerned, this thing is pretty limited like you can’t drill holes in it and stuff. You have to use it within the limitations of accessories and it is not a bad thing.

The cast-iron cooking grates are bulletproof, I have cooked a ton of meat on my cousins’ Akorn Kamado over the years, and the cooking grates recover like wolverine.

I don’t recommend using a power draft, you will end up with way more temperature than expected. With two adjustable dampers, these things are pretty simple to control the temperature. You can put the fan on once the temperature comes up on its own.

The way it is insulated, Akorn Kamado doesn’t run super low on heat like 225 degrees and it is a problem for many people. You are gonna have to adapt your cooking style to more like 250 or 275 degrees.

Once again, the temperature gauge is not accurate and it is fine. Use your wireless probe, it is a lifesaver.

The most important aspect of buying any smoker is the flavor at the end, how much value you can get of it. This thing is super affordable compared to any other kamado if we talk about cooking efficiency and performance.

Pros

  • Super compact and easy to transport
  • High temperatures
  • No smoke leakages
  • Super durable and strong cast iron construction
  • Grates are super easy to clean
  • Top and bottom dampers are used to adjust the internal temperature
  • Price to performance ratio is very high

Cons

  • The temperature gauge is not accurate
  • The cooking area is small

5. Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18″ Charcoal Smoker

Cuisinart-COS-118-Vertical-18-Charcoal-Smoker

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 37lbs.
  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 20.5 x 22.8
  • Temperature range: 180 – 475 degrees F
  • Double air vents
  • 512 square inches cooking space
  • Beautiful drum-style design
  • Portable

Cuisinart COS-118 is a very versatile and budget-friendly charcoal wood smoker that can any meat. This thing is almost identical to the weber 18†smoker which is twice the expensive.

It is a pretty heavy-duty smoker with quality steel construction unlike most clumsy smokers out there.

I put my Cuisinart COS-118 together in about 20 minutes with nothing but a screwdriver but to make sure everything is tightly fit, take your time. We don’t want any smoke leakages.

I initially ran my Cuisinart COS-118 for about 6 hours to test the temperature control and smoke leakages issues at 225 degrees. With 2 dampers the temperature was easy to control and there were no leakages thanks to my tightly fit screws.

Cuisinart COS-118 included a porcelain enameled steel bowl to hold water, but the issue is those little hooks above the water pan. You are gonna have to slightly twist the bowl to take it out and in doing so, some water will surely be spilled.

I don’t know how Cuisinart made such an error in design. They are a big brand in the smoker industry.

Overall, smoking is easy, neat, and clean, it holds the heat, smoke doesn’t leak from anywhere, assembly and disassembly are also easy. Most importantly, the smoky flavor of the meat is delicious without any bad odor.

I have included this model in our list because it delivers a lot of value for the budget.

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Easy to assemble and disassemble
  • Two air vents to regulate the temperature
  • Lightweight. Portable.
  • It produces odorless BBQ with the smoky flavor
  • Steel walls hold the heat.

Cons

  • Water bowl issues. You can take it out cleanly due to extended hooks on the inside

6. Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Digital Charcoal Grill with Smoker

Masterbuilt-MB20040220-Gravity-Series-560-Digital-Charcoal-Grill

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 146.98 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 24.65 x 54.13 x 51. 97
  • Power sources: Electric cord
  • Fuel source: charcoal
  • Temperature: 225 to 700 degrees F in 15 minutes
  • 10 lbs. of the charcoal lump in the gravity-fed hopper
  • Digital control panel
  • 560 sq. inches cooking area
  • Cast iron sear and smoke grates
  • Control the temperature using Bluetooth or Wifi

Masterbuilt gravity series 560 is not for the fainted hearts, it is an absolute beast of a smoker with a digital control panel and a ton of cooking space, it is expensive too.

So Masterbuilt’s goal of charcoal and wood smoke flavor with the convenience of propane or pellet has been achieved using the digital control and variable speed fan.

By using it, we can now set the temperature from 200 to 700 degrees F in a matter of minutes.

 Masterbuilt also claimed that you can achieve 700 degrees F in about 13 minutes. That depends on the ambient temperature too. Where I live, it takes me about 20 minutes to get that 700 degrees.

The digital panel is easy to use with power and navigation buttons. It has room for 4 temperature probes but it only comes with one. The wifi/Bluetooth button is on the bottom through which you can connect your phone.

People are complaining about the app being not good, but once the lid is open, it disconnects. You have to press the Wifi/Bluetooth button again to connect your phone. So keep the lid thing in mind, and the app is not that bad guys.

Moving over to the hopper, it takes lump and charcoal briquettes, and wood. If you use a 10lb. bag of lump charcoal, Masterbuilt 560 would roughly give up to 15 hours of smoking.

I would advise sticking a piece of smoking in the ash pan, when the charcoal burns down it would ignite the piece of wood so you can get smoke from the bottom as well.

I have seen people struggling with getting those tumbleweeds after filling the entire vertical hopper with charcoal. My tip is to pull the tray out, stick your tumbleweed, then load the charcoal and wood and ignite the tumbleweed at the end. That would prevent the mess.

Pull out the damper after igniting the charcoal, the manifold inside the cooking chamber has big and small holes. It would limit the amount of heat and smoking and gives a more uniform cooking temperature.

Inside the grill, we have cast-iron grates that are removable with a smoke side and a sear side. This thing also grills, I have baked cakes and pies, I have also done fish on it. On the up, we got flexible cooking racks (two). You can take one out, but one lower. Just play it around.

The cooking grates are roughly 14+ inches wide and 22+ inches in length.

The drip pan is at the bottom of the cooking chamber beside the variable speed fan. The small wheels on the bottom have a convenient locking mechanism.

On the back, there is an opening that can cause moisture and rainwater dripping problems in you to leave it outside without a cover.

Underneath it, there is a grease trap which can cause the same problems if left uncovered. So use a quality grill cover.

Overall, for the built quality and all of its features, I believe the Masterbuilt gravity series 560 is spot on. It is about what you would expect from an expensive smoker.

Charcoal smokers are badass, but electric grill smokers are also preferred in many areas. Check them out as well.

Pros

  • 100% value for the money
  • The digital temperature panel is accurate and super helpful
  • Gives 15 hours of smoking from a 10-pound bag lump of coal
  • Even temperature and smoke distribution in the cooking chamber
  • You can grill, sear, bake cakes, or smoke meat.
  • Built quality is spot on.

Cons

  • A bit expensive

7. Kamado Joe Classic 3 Charcoal Grill Smoker

Kamado-Joe-KJ15040921-Classic-III-18-inch-Charcoal-Grill,-Blaze-Red

Highlighted Features

  • Item weight: 286 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 30 x 46.5 x 50.5 inches
  • Temperature range: 250 – 750 inches
  • 18†premium ceramic grill
  • Sloroller hyperbolic smoke chamber
  • Whole ceramic body
  • Airlift hinge that reduces 96% weight
  • Versatile cooking
  • Holds the heat and delivers smoke flavor
  • Folding aluminum side shelves
  • Kontrol tower top air vent
  • Holds the heat and smoke perfectly

First of all, the ceramic construction of classic 3 brings the perfect insulation into play that Kamado Joe models are known for. It is about 1.5 inches thick and traps the heat for more efficient cooking.

Kamado Joe classic 3 uses a fiberglass mesh gas kit that provides almost a perfect seal to trap everything inside.

Because kamado Joe classic 3 is a charcoal smoker, it will 100% deliver a smoky flavor that we know and love.

This model comes with an 18†diameter grill with divide and conquer three-tier system. It provides over 586 square inches of grill and capacity. That much space is good enough for a large family.

Heat deflectors are included, you can go half and half or both at the same time for indirect heating to bake cakes or pies. Play with it.

I usually do a high heat steak setup on the one side right over the coals, and bake some stuff on the right using heat deflectors. Kamado Joe classic 3 is super versatile in terms of cooking.

With the help of some researcher folks at the Harvard University, manufacturers have developed and included a Sloroller hyperbolic smoker chamber whose job is to create 20 times more smoke and distribute it evenly throughout the cooking chamber.

It sits right over the firebox creating more smoke with the same amount of fuel.

I think it is an amazing accessory. It is just an example of the Kamado Joe manufacturer’s commitment. Well, they are charging us a whopping amount so one would expect such great features.

The charcoal basket inside the firebox is made of 304 stainless steel which can be divided into two for times you want to put more coals on one side.

The charcoal basket easily lifts out which is convenient in case you want to shake off remaining ashes before relighting the leftover charcoal.

A patented ash collector is also included beneath the charcoal basket. It is easy to remove and insert. No ash falls off inside the chamber.

Kamado Joe classic 3 has an airlift hinge system. You can lift the entire lid with just one finger. I think it was a necessary feature considering how heavy ceramic is.

So for controlling the temps, you got two vents. One sliding stainless steel door at the bottom, and the Kontrol tower top vent.

The top tower is designed to stay precisely set even when the lid is open. You can completely kick it to the side for wide airflow. It is corrosion free and its design will not let the rainwater inside.

The bottom section is made with heavy-duty galvanized steel to support all that weight.

The temperature is somewhat accurate o Kamado Joe but I use my wireless probe anyway. I like to monitor the temperature on my couch, not in the backyard.

It takes a long time from 225 to get to that ripping hot temp. For an expensive unit like Kamado Joe, it is a drawback.

Overall, Kamado Joe classic 3 is an incredibly built smoker. The sheer quality and design of each accessory are admirable. It is expensive but the features, versatility, ease of use, and overall convenience make it worth every single penny. A must-have item for BBQ nerds in my opinion.  

Pros

  • High-quality construction including ceramic body to trap the heat
  • The hyperbolic smoke chamber gives out 20 times more smoke on the same fuel
  • Dividable stainless steel charcoal basket
  • Incredibly designed air vents including top Kontrol tower
  • It is a multipurpose bbq item that is used for smoking, grilling, and baking
  • The airlift seal reduces the weight of the top lid
  • Super easy to use and clean
  • 100% value for the money

Cons

  • Very expensive

Best Charcoal Smoker Buying Guide

Charcoal smokers have always been a choice of real BBQ nerds because of that aromatic smoke and wood flavor. I and my team have kept that in mind while writing this buying.

We have considered types of charcoal smokers, temperature control, and price, built quality, cooking capacity and size, and overall ease of use in this best charcoal smoker buying guide.

Type of charcoal smokers:

There are four basic types of smokers.

  • Water (bullet) smokers
  • Kamado smokers
  • Offset smokers
  • Vertical smokers

Water (bullet) smokers like Weber Smoky mountain water pan above the charcoal smokers. The best bullet smoker allows you to cook between moderate temperatures of 225 – 250 degrees. However, you can go higher if you leave the pan empty. These types are common, inexpensive, and good.

Kamado-style smokers are a bit expensive and they are a combination of grills and smokers. They are usually made of ceramic which is excellent for insulation. They are a bit heavy and less portable.

You can grill, sear, smoker, and bake anything in the same cooker while the basic principle of charcoal firing is the same.

Offset Smokers have two compartments. A primary cooking chamber and a secondary chamber where combustion occurs. The heat and smoke move to the second chamber through convection. It is preferred for slow cooking.

Offset smokers produce supreme charcoal flavor due to slow smoking over time.

Vertical smokers utilized vertical design with multiple chambers. Cooking space ranges from 400 – 1200 square inches in these types.

Vertical charcoal smokers are pretty rare. However, these are very versatile smokers that allow a wide variety of meat to be cooked in the same smoker.

Temperature range of the charcoal smoker:

Most charcoal smokers can go from 225 to 700 degrees with ease because of the fuel we are using, but it is quite difficult to control the temperature for the type of meat or other we are smoking or baking.

That is we have only listed only 7 smokers whose temperature is easy to regulate with dedicated dampers (air vents).

Kamado Joes’ classic 3, Masterbuilt gravity 560, and Dyna-Glo 36†can be easier to operate among the rest. I strongly advise you to only choose those models whose temperature is easier to control.

Cooking capacity and size:

That largely depends on you. If you want to smoke a lot of meat then I would recommend vertical smokers.

If you are a person who likes to cook multiple items at the same time, then Kamado smokers are ideal for you especially Kamado Joe classic 3.

You can bake something on the one side using a heat deflector plate, and grill something directly on the charcoals on the other side.

Ideally, for a normal family, a cooking space between 450 – 600 square inches is a standard.

Build quality:

A low-budget low-quality smoker will leak smoke and oil everywhere. The quality of the construction is extremely important not only for the heat and smoke but for the price point as well.

Smokers like Masterbuilt 560 gravity series, Kamado Joe classic 3, Weber smoky, and Char-griller Kamado are solidly built from top to bottom. The seal on the lid/door is will never leak smoke.

Look for 304 stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic. These materials are not only super strong and durable, but reliable and easy to clean as well.

Kamado Joe classic 3 in particular among the rest is a beast in terms of build quality. Even the tiniest part of this smoker is superbly designed to last for years.

Price:

The best smoker grill or best charcoal smoker is not necessarily the one which is super price, instead, it can be a normally ranged smoker with magnificent wood and smoker flavor which is the most important thing.

However, most charcoal smokers are around 150 – 700 dollars range. I would advise looking for a model in the 300 – 1000+ dollars range. All the smoker on our list is of different prices but the same premium quality.

Some units on our list are under 200 dollars but you can count on them because those are the rare budget models that are good in terms of cooking performance and durability.

Lightupbbq was started by Freddy Zeus, an environmental engineer and a professional chef who has been around the world learning the craft of cooking.

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