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Best Budget Smokers: 7 Top Choices

by Lianne Jones February 22, 2022

Best Budget Smokers: 7 Top Choices

Who doesn't love smoked foods? One taste of smoked meat takes you immediately to a summer barbecue, and now that we can enjoy smoked favorites like pulled pork in restaurants, we don't even have to wait for good weather to enjoy barbecue flavors!

Of course, nothing tastes as good as the real thing. The good news is if you want to try smoking your own meats at home, you can do it without breaking the bank.

Below, we'll show you the best budget smokers and where to buy them, what to look out for when buying a budget grill, and everything else you could possibly want to know about smoking.
Let's get into it!

What Is Smoking?

Smoking is an ancient method of preserving and cooking meats and fish. It involves heating food over a source of smoke. 

The process begins when smoke enters a sealed container called a "smoke box." Smoke boxes come in many shapes and sizes. They can be made from metal, plastic, ceramic, glass, or even concrete.

The smoke box is filled with wood chips, sawdust, or other materials that can contain smoke. These materials are placed inside the smoke box before the food is put inside.

Once the food is put inside, the smoke box is closed tightly. This traps the smoke inside the smoke box. The smoke helps the food to cook slowly. 

The smoke box must be kept at a certain temperature for the food to cook properly. If the temperature drops below 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), the food will spoil.

When the smoke box reaches the correct temperature, you should hear the sound of popping wood. This means the smoke has been trapped inside the smoke box.

When the food is cooked, the smoke box is opened and the food is removed. The food is then ready to serve!

Royal Gourmet SE2801 Electric Smoker With Adjustable Temperature Control

 

 

Easy to use, the Royal Gourmet SE2801 Electric Smoker can be assembled in 20 minutes by following clear, and simple instructions. It is ideal for those who regularly want their food to have a smoky flavor, without having to worry about smoke getting into the house.

The easy-to-control temperature and grease management system puts you in control and provides reliably delicious results every time. If you want a simple way to enjoy outdoor cooking and smoky flavors, you can't go wrong with the Royal Gourmet SE2801 Electric Smoker.

Pros

  • Spacious cooking surface.
  • Grease management system.
  • Versatile.
  • The Latch system ensures a good seal performance.
  • A double-wall construction firebox helps keep things hot.

Cons

  • Some customers struggled to get the cooking temperature above 250 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 121 °C)

Also, Available At

You can also find the Royal Gourmet SE2801 on the official Royal Gourmet website.

Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker

 

 

Calling all carnivores out there! 

The Char-Broil 12201570-A1 smoker is perfect for barbecuing chicken, pork ribs, and turkey breast, as well as steaks and burgers. This smoker takes all the hassle out of smoking. 

There's no need to stand over the grill, so you can mingle with guests at your barbecue, or sit back and relax while the smoker does all the work without having to worry about flare-ups.

Cleaning the smoker is just as easy as cooking with it, as the clean-out door makes quick work of ash removal. Plus, the Char-Broil 12201570-A1 is made right here in the U.S. 

Pros

  • Large cooking surface in the main chamber and firebox chamber.
  • Adjustable height steel fire grate.
  • Clean-out door for easy ash removal.

Cons

  • Some customers found gaps in the lid where the smoke could escape.
  • The smoke box side opening doesn't stay open unless it's opened fully. 

    Also, Available At

    You can also find the Char-Broil at Walmart.

    Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker With 3 Smoking Racks

     

     

    One of the trickiest things about smoking food is making sure heat doesn't escape when trying to check on the temperature of your food. 

    But the built-in temperature gauge of the Masterbuilt MB20070210 makes this problem a thing of the past! The temperature control is also easy to use, and the smoker heats evenly and consistently.

    The chrome-plating on the smoking racks is attractive and adds a nice touch, and the wood chip tray makes cleaning easy. We would recommend this smoker to anyone looking for a quality smoker that is easy to operate.

    Pros

    • Has a built-in temperature gauge.
    • The analog dial makes temperature control easy.
    • The wood chip tray slides out, so you can remove ashes easily.
    • Smoking is consistent and even thanks to the 1,500-watt heating element. 

    Cons

    • Some customers reported that the chips didn't light at low temperatures when cooking things such as ribs or brisket.
    • Some customers also reported the paint on the door started to bubble after a few uses.

    Also, Available At

    You can also find the MB20070210 on the official Masterbuilt website.

    Pit Boss Grills 2 Series Gas Vertical Smoker

     

     

    The two valves of the Pit Boss Grills 2 Series Gas Vertical Smoker make temperature control even easier. The grates are made of stainless steel, which is much more durable than cast iron. 

    As well as having a large cooking surface, the Pit Boss Grills 2 Series Gas Vertical Smoker has a view window that is large enough to check on your food without having to open the lid. There is also a large grease tray underneath the unit, which keeps the smoker nice and clean. 

    Pros

    • The Dual Valve and Dual Burner System provide a temperature range of 100-350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • The stainless steel burners have a total BTU of 13,500.
    • Provides external access to the wood chip drawer and grease tray.
    • It has a large viewing window, so you can keep an eye on what you're cooking. 

    Cons

    • Some customers reported durability issues after having used the smoker a couple of times. 

    Also, Available At

    You can also find the Pit Boss Grill 2 Series Gas Vertical Smoker at Walmart.

    Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical 18" Charcoal Smoker

     

     

    If you're looking for a smoker that makes a great outdoor addition to your kitchen and can cook large quantities of food, all while being easy to clean and maintain, then look no further than the Cuisinart COS-118 Charcoal Smoker. 

    It is a great investment if you regularly have barbecues and parties, and doesn't break the bank. 

    With the Cuisinart COS-118 Vertical Charcoal Smoker, you can grill chicken breasts, pork chops, ribs, burgers, steaks, and fish, adding a beautiful smoky flavor to them all. 

    Pros

    • The two stainless steel racks give you plenty of cooking space.
    • Has a latching base.
    • The top and bottom vents provide a dual air vent system. 

    Cons

    • Some customers reported issues using the water bowl and being able to access the bottom vent. 

    Also, Available At

    You can also find the Cuisinart COS Vertical Charcoal Smoker on the officialCuisinart website.

    Giantex Outdoor Smoker With Double Doors

     

     

    If you're looking for a budget-friendly upgrade to your smoker then look no further than the Giantex Outdoor Smoker with Double Doors. 

    It heats up quickly and maintains a steady temperature throughout the duration of the cooking time. It's certain to give your food an irresistibly smoky flavor and is easy to clean and maintain too. 

    Pros

    • An easy-to-read thermometer on the door helps you monitor the internal temperature while barbecuing.
    • The two-grill netting provides you with plenty of cooking space.
    • Convenient double doors.
    • The temperature-resistant iron frame makes cooking quicker.
    • The combined smoking and charcoal roasting function make this smoker easy to operate. 

    Cons

    • Some customers found it hard to get the smoker to the temperature they needed.

    Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker

     

     

    From a mighty smoker to a convenient, compact smoker, the Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker is easy to set up in about an hour, and once assembled, can be used straight away. 

    It is ideal for those who regularly smoke their food, as its small, compact size means it won't get in the way of your other patio furniture. 

    Despite its small stature, this smoker has plenty of cooking space, and the dual latch on the door keeps heat right where it needs to be.

    If you're looking for a space-saving grill, then look no further than the Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker. 

    Pros

    • Plenty of cooking space spread across three chrome-plated cooking grates.
    • Easy to clean with warm, soapy water.
    • Has a front-access water tray that is easy to get to.
    • Door-mounted temperature gauges and dual latches keep the heat in. 

    Cons

    • Although there is space for 4 cooking racks, the smoker only comes with three. Although you can purchase another rack separately. 

    Also, Available At

    You can also find the Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker at Walmart. 

    Buyer's Guide

    Choosing the best smoker can be overwhelming if you don't know where to start. 

    There are many types of smokers available today, but which one should you pick? How do you decide which type will work best for your needs?

    Selecting the best smoker depends on several factors. You need to consider your budget, your lifestyle, and your preferences when picking the perfect smoker for your needs.

    Here are some tips to help you pick the best smoker for your needs,  as well as some tips about smoker maintenance, safety tips, and how to make the most out of your smoker. 

    What Is A Smoker Used For?

    A smoker is a device that allows food to be cooked without direct contact with flames or high temperatures. This is useful for foods like meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, and more.

    A smoker works by creating smoke around food while it cooks. 

    It's the chemicals in smoke that give smoked food that delicious flavor, and with some smokers you can even choose what type of smoky flavor you want to infuse into your food. These flavors include sweet, savory, spicy, and even bitter notes.

    When selecting a smoker, look for features such as adjustable temperature settings, automatic controls, and built-in timers. Many models have additional features such as rack systems, rotisseries, and warming drawers.

    Why Use A Smoker?

    There are many reasons why people use a smoker. Some people enjoy smoking meats, poultry, and seafood. But you don't have to be a carnivore to enjoy smoke flavors. 

    You can smoke vegetables, fruit, and herbs, as well as nuts, popcorn, bread, cheeses, and pastries.

    There are many benefits to using a smoker. Here are just a few of them:

    • Smoking helps preserve food. Foods that are smoked tend to stay fresh longer than those that aren't.
    • Food tastes better when smoked. Smoked foods have a richer, fuller flavor.
    • Cooking time is reduced. With a smoker, you'll cook your food faster than you could otherwise.
    • Smoked foods are healthier. They contain fewer calories, less fat, and less cholesterol than non-smoking versions.

    Types Of Smokers

    There are two main types of smokers: gas and electric. Electric smokers are usually smaller and lighter than gas smokers. However, they're still able to produce delicious results.

    Gas smokers are typically larger and heavier than electric ones. They often come equipped with wheels, making them easier to move from place to place. Gas smokers require fuel, such as propane or natural gas.

    Electric smokers are powered by electricity. They also require fuel, such as charcoal briquettes or wood chips.

    What Type Of Smoker Should I Buy?

    The choice between a gas and an electric smoker largely depends on your personal preference. If you prefer to grill outdoors, then you might want to go with a gas model.

    If you'd rather keep your smoker inside, then you may prefer an electric model. Either way, both types of smokers are easy to operate.

    How To Choose The Best Smoker For Your Needs

    To choose the best smoker for your needs, consider the following factors:

    Size - Size matters. Smaller units can fit easily into tight spaces. Larger models are generally easier to maneuver.

    Weight - Weight affects how much space a unit takes up. You don't need to be concerned about weight if you plan to use your smoker only occasionally.

    Features -Look for features like adjustable temperature settings, automatic control, and timer.

    Price - Don't pay more than you should. You won't regret buying a quality smoker at a fair price.

    Safety Features -Make sure your smoker has safety features like auto shutoff and ventilation fans.

    Ease Of Use -Ease of use will determine whether you'll actually use your smoker. A simple design makes it easier to use.

    Smoking Times - How long do you plan to smoke food? Do you want to smoke your food every day or just once per week? Consider this factor before choosing a smoker.

    Storage - Keep your smoker out of direct sunlight and away from extreme temperatures. Also, make sure the storage area is clean.

    Smoking Tips And Tricks

    Here are some tips and tricks to make the smoking experience easier, more enjoyable, and safe. 

    •  Always read the manual. It contains important information about using your smoker.
    •  Smoke meats slowly. This helps prevent them from drying out too quickly.
    • Add flavorings to your smoked meats. Try adding spices, herbs, or sauces.
    • Rotate your foods frequently. This prevents them from getting stuck in the same spot.
    • When smoking, always keep the lid open. This allows moisture to escape.
    • Never leave your smoker unattended when smoking.
    • Turn off the gas valve while not using the stove.
    • Be careful around hot surfaces. Avoid touching metal parts or handles.
    • Keep your smoker away from children and pets.
    • Always wash your hands after handling food.
    • Keep your home safe. Keep flammable objects away from your smoker.
    • Keep your kitchen clean.
    • Keep your tools organized.
    • Wash dishes immediately after using your smoker.

    Things Not To Do While Smoking

    There are also things you should avoid when smoking. Let’s take a look at some of them. 

    • Don't put raw meat directly over the flame. Cooking meat this way could cause it to burn.
    • Don't let your meat sit in the smoker for longer than 2 hours.
    • Don't use a smoker as an oven. If you want to bake something, use a conventional oven instead.
    • Don't cook on top of the stove. This may damage your stove.
    • Don't overload your smoker. Too many items in the firebox can cause the heat to build up.
    • Don't turn down the heat. Lowering the temperature reduces the amount of smoke produced.
    • Don't forget to ventilate your smoker. If there isn't enough air circulation, smoke can build up inside the unit.
    • Don't smoke near anything that can catch fire. This includes curtains, furniture, carpet, and other combustible materials.
    • Don't store your smoker where it's exposed to extreme cold or heat. Heat can warp the wood used to construct the smoker.
    • Don't try smoking with charcoal briquettes. They're not designed for this purpose.
    • Don't place hot coals directly into your smoker. The heat can crack the glass door.
    • Don't leave your smoker unattended while smoking. Someone could get hurt if they touch the hot surface.
    • Don't throw away your ashes. Place them in a container and dispose of them properly.

    How To Clean Your Smoker

    Cleaning your smoker is easy, but so important to the longevity and performance of your smoker. Here's how to clean it:

    • Remove any debris from the bottom of your cooker.
    • Rinse the cooker thoroughly.
    • Drain excess water.
    • Wipe down the outside of your cooker.
    • Dry all parts of your cooker.

    Using A Smoker Safely

    Always follow these safety guidelines when using your smoker:

    • Read and understand the owner's manual before operating your smoker, and use only approved fuel. 
    • Keep your smoker at least 3 feet away from anything that can catch fire (such as curtains).
    • Make sure the area around your smoker is clear of obstructions.
    • Keep flammables such as matches, lighters, and cigarettes out of reach.
    • Store your smoker in a well-ventilated area.
    • Keep children and animals away from your smoker.
    • Never operate your smoker without first turning off the gas valve.
    • Keep your smoke detector within hearing distance of your smoker.
    • Follow the manufacturer's instructions when cleaning your smoker.
    • Never use abrasive cleaners to clean your smoker.
    • Keep your cooker dry.
    • Keep your lid closed during cooking.
    • Allow your food to rest before serving.
    • Always keep your smoker clean.
    • Never use a smoker as an alternative to a conventional oven.
    • Never use a smoker for baking.
    • Never use your smoker to grill vegetables, fish, or meats.
    • Do not use a smoker as an outdoor oven.
    • Do not allow grease to accumulate in the bottom of your smoker. It will make cleanup difficult.
    • Do not store your smoker in direct sunlight.
    • Do not expose your smoker to extreme temperatures.
    • Do not smoke near anything that can burn.
    • Do not attempt repairs yourself. Contact a qualified technician who has experience working with smokers.
    • Do not overfill your smoker.
    • Do not add additional ingredients until the meat is done.
    • Do not cook on a full load.
    • Do not let the temperature exceed 200 °F (ca. 93 °C).
    • Do not leave the lid open longer than necessary.
    • Do not overload your smoker.
    • Do not smoke more than one type of meat at once.
    • Do not put metal utensils in the smoker.

    Smoking Tips

    While smoking food does wonders to the flavor, it's not enough to just throw some ingredients into the smoker and hope for the best. 

    There are tips and tricks you can employ that take your smoked foods from good to great. Let's take a look at some tips to help you enjoy smoking foods:

    • If you're new to smoking, start small. Try smoking a few pieces of chicken breast or pork loin.
    • Start with a low-temperature setting. This will prevent flare-ups.
    • When smoking, always maintain a consistent temperature.
    • Smoking times vary depending upon the size of your piece of meat. Smaller cuts like chicken breasts should take about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Larger cuts like ribs should take 2 hours to 4 hours.
    • For best results, do not move the meat while it smokes.
    • To avoid burning, never place hot coals directly on top of the food being smoked.
    • The most common mistake people make when smoking is adding too much wood. While this may seem like a good idea, it actually causes the meat to taste bitter.
    • After smoking, remove any remaining ash by scraping it up with a spoon.
    • Before serving, brush the surface of the meat with melted butter or barbecue sauce.
    • Be careful when removing the meat from the smoker. Use tongs or a fork to carefully lift the meat.
    • Serve immediately after smoking.
    • Remove all bones from poultry.
    • Remove skin from pork chops and tenderloins.
    • Remove fat from beef.
    • Remove excess fat from lamb.
    • Cut large pieces of meat into smaller ones.
    • Brush meat with oil.
    • Add spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder.
    • Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally.
    • Cook slowly over indirect heat.
    • Baste frequently.

    Now the food you smoke is sure to taste gorgeous! 

    How To Build A Smoker

    Yes, you can build a smoker yourself in a few easy steps and with a couple of items!

    You'll need a firebox, a water pan, a drip tray, a charcoal chimney, a fuel supply (wood chips, sawdust, etc.), and a lid. Here's how to build a smoker:

    1. Place the firebox on level ground so that there is no slope for the smoke to travel down.
    2. Fill the firebox with charcoal.
    3. Light the charcoal using a match or lighter.
    4. Lay out the wood chips or sawdust on the floor of the firebox.
    5. Pour water into the water pan.
    6. Cover the firebox with the lid.
    7. Let the fire burn for 15 to 20 minutes.
    8. Open the door to allow air to enter.
    9. Close the door again.
    10. Check the temperature of the smoker every 5 minutes.
    11. Once the desired temperature is reached, close the door and continue cooking until done.
    12. When finished, remove the meat from the smoker and serve.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What Is The Easiest Smoker To Use?

    The easiest smoker to use is a smoker that has an electric fan to control the temperature settings like an electric or pellet smoker.

    How Much Do Smokers Usually Cost?

    A smoker can cost as little as $50 and as much as $10,000. Factors that affect the cost of a smoker are the materials used, quality of the build, brand name, and features.

    What Is The Difference Between Smoking and Grilling?

    Smoking is all about low and slow. Think temperatures between 225 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 135 °C) for long periods of time. You can smoke food for 3 hours to over 15 hours. 

    Usually, smoking involves burning wood chips, chunks, or pellets to impart smokey flavors.

    Grilling involves cooking food at higher temperatures for a shorter amount of time. It may or may not include wood smoke depending on what you're doing.

    Final Thoughts

    We hope that our above picks have shown you that you don't need to break the bank to enjoy tasty, smoked flavors at home. 

    There are many benefits to smoking food and with our budget-friendly picks you can reap those benefits every day!

    Lianne Jones
    Lianne Jones


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