The key to making delicious jerky on your own is the right jerky smoker. You have your pick between 2-in-1 models or a dedicated vertical smoker, but which one will not disappoint? It’s not easy to find the best ones in a sea of products, which is why our expert BBQ chefs sorted through the products available to ensure your money isn’t wasted.
The most impressive tool to smoke jerky is the Weber Smokey Mountain 18-inch charcoal smoker. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and can bring that professional smokehouse taste to your backyard. It’s small enough to be energy efficient for beef jerky, but it is also large enough to house an entire turkey or ham (or both!) to add variety to your cooking.
The small but formidable smoker is heavy-duty but still only weighs a reasonable 39 pounds. It’s made from porcelain-enameled steel and has 2 nickel-plated cooking grates.
The jerky smoker also includes a thermometer, water pan, and a heat-resistant nylon handle.
The Dyna-Glo DGSS1382VCS-D is a 2-in-1 unit our professional chefs mentioned. Not only can it serve smoked meat, but it’s also a grill as well. The Dyna-Glo affordable smoker has a total of 1382 square inches of cooking space, enough to house almost anything you can think of!
The brushed black design is heavy-gauge steel, which makes this jerky smoker very durable, and there is even a smoke zone, which will display the best cooking temperature for the best flavors when you cook jerky.
What's great about the seamless design is the handles are still cool to the touch, so you won’t have to worry about injuries when handling food.
If you love eating jerky and also want the benefits of a grill, the Camp Chef PG24MZG is another 2-in-1 model that can smoke, bake, grill, broil, and roast! The wood pellet grill can give you that premium smoked jerky flavor with just one unit. It features a digital control, which is easy to read and recommended for beginners.
The modern device also has a Gen 2 PID controller with a 1 to 10 smoke setting. The cleanup after grilling and smoking meat can be such a hassle, but not with the PG24MZG because of the ash cleanout system.
For that perfect smoky flavor, our expert chefs suggest an electric smoker. An electric smoker is easy to use and this particular one is super lightweight coming in under 20 pounds! This makes it easy to move around and it can either be the focal point or the sidekick to your grill.
The capacity of the small but capable device is 50 pounds of food. You can smoke fish or meat and enjoy the full capabilities of superior ventilation. The smoke circulation is optimized for maximum hydration and flavor.
For your safety, the Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker is UL and CUL certified.
Following the vertical smoker trend, our team’s next choice is another compact option. It has two adjustable racks, one for smoking and one water pan. The wood chip tray is removable for easy cleanup and made from heavy-gauge steel.
There are a total of 3 adjustable damper valves for excellent temperature control and the door-mounted temperature gauge shows you the heat from 50 to 350 degrees.
The Camp Chef Smoke Vault 24" vertical smoker starts up very easily with a matchless snap ignition so you can get the perfect smoke flavor with help from 18,000 BTUs per hour.
The small Char-Broil Analog electric smoker offers 544 square inches of cooking space split into three racks. The electric smoker was built to do the job right with double-wall insulation and dual exhaust ports. Your beef jerky will taste better than ever.
One gripe our experts came across is the trays are not dishwasher friendly, but that’s the case with many other electric smokers. The entire unit is sealed shut without a view window with only a temperature indicator to rely on. It’s like watching magic happen when you close the door and then open it again to delicious venison jerky, beef jerky, and any other jerky.
Our culinary experts round out the list with one more dual design - the Traeger Grills Ironwood 885. Yes, the price is up there, but the Ironwood 885 has to be one of the smartest wood pellet grills with Alexa and WiFire smart home technology. You can use the Traeger app to control everything and even do it hands-free with the help of Alexa.
The Ironwood 885 has next-level temperature control precision that will put many other units to shame. The dual design is capable of providing the utmost versatility with baking, braising, grilling, and roasting abilities to name a few.
The best jerky smokers share certain traits, but what will really set the best one for your needs apart from the rest lies in the details. Follow our team’s guide below to figure out the best one for you.
The best jerky smoker should have enough cooking capacity to feed your family or at least enough to suit its purpose. How long can it last and can it cook enough food for your party?
An electric smoker, for example, is usually a single unit geared solely towards smoking. Because it is an independent unit, an electric smoker is typically smaller than a dual model. It’s all about the purpose, but how large the best smoker is can also narrow down your options.
For example, you may have your eye on a perfect gas smoker and grill, but the unit is much too large for your space. Unfortunately, the size incompatibility will require you to opt for something smaller, like a digital electric smoker.
To determine the right size for your needs, our experts urge you to consider the occasion, the size of the party, and what type of jerky you’re smoking, and in what amount.
The size of the unit is different from the cooking space spread. The cooking space is the surface area you can use to actually smoke beef jerky, or whatever jerky you’d like. This feature is depicted in square inches, and the size again depends on the number of people in your party and the meat you’re smoking.
You can consider the cooking space area when you’re thinking about the size of the smoker because the two often go hand in hand.
The cooking surface for a smoker for jerky is usually the grate or the rack the smoker comes with. Our BBQ experts suggest cast iron, porcelain, stainless steel grates, or a combination of any of the above. These materials provide the best heat retention, which is important for the best tasting jerky in a smoker.
There are various types of smokers, which you will have undoubtedly noticed during our reviews. The variety of smokers include a digital electric smoker, pellet smokers, gas smokers, and charcoal smokers.
Let’s start with electric smokers. Electric smokers are the easiest to use and they produce much less of a mess. The simplicity and ease are some of the reasons why some members of our team always keep one in their kitchens.
Also sometimes referred to as an electric digital smoker, this type provides consistency every time with precise controls. They are usually the smallest type of smoker, which makes their compact footprint very desirable for people who have limited space. On top of that, they are also very cost-effective.
An electric digital smoker is low on cost because there is no need to purchase pellets, wood chips, or charcoal every time you want to fire it up. For the eco-conscious, you will also be happy to know that electric smokers are also much more environmentally friendly than the ones with a wood chip loading system.
The one downside to electric models is it doesn’t compare to the authentic smoky flavors you want when making beef jerky with a traditional charcoal option.
For even more temperature precision, our team suggests pellet smokers. This type is also considered eco-friendly, and they are simpler to use with automatic systems for a very authentic flavor. A wood chip smoker is also one that uses wood, and there are plenty of flavors that can complement your meats and really make a difference in the taste.
We have charcoal smokers, which give the most back to basics smoking process when making jerky but also the most authentic smoky flavor. It even provides a smokier flavor than wood chips. They may take a little more time to set up, but you can opt for a propane smoker or a gas smoker instead, which delivers a similar taste but is more user-friendly.
Here are also 2-in-1designs that are made up of a grill and a smoker. There are models that can do more than just smoke and grill, but also braise, broil, bake, roast, and more!
What kind of flavor do you like? Are intuitive functions worth the sacrifice of authentic flavor? You decide!
Of all the smoker features, look for the accuracy of the temperature controls and a built-in thermometer. Without being able to control the heat, and maybe the presence of a smoker cover, there is no way to monitor the jerky rack efficiently for the best results.
Our experts always suggest digital controls. We’re so used to getting information at a glance, which is key to well-cooked meat. It’s also the reason why we prefer digital controls because it makes jerky making easier. You won’t risk over-smoking, which could lead to very hard dehydrated meat.
An integrated meat thermometer will also provide you with more control over the cooking because it directly displays the temperature of the ingredient itself. Jerky smoking is an art, and it does require some trial and error to perfect. However, with the help of these features, you can easily master your outdoor cooking adventures.
One extra tip is to look for a thermometer mounted on the door. It will give you a clearer view of how hot it is without having to open the door to the cooking chamber and affect the temperature.
To understand the importance of insulation for the right smoke flavor, our experts say you must first understand how a smoker works. It doesn’t matter if you have a propane smoker or a charcoal one, the best smoker for jerky will be very well insulated.
A smoker works by keeping all the heat and smoke within the cooking chamber to cook the meat and produce that smoky taste we all love. For jerky specifically, the smoker must be efficient enough to dry out the meat with the heat within, which means the insulation is even more pertinent.
The way you can make sure you have the best smoker for insulation is by looking at the material. Thick and high-quality metal keeps all the heat and smoke inside.
When using powerful forces such as smoke and fire, one can’t be too careful, which is why safety features are next on our list. One very important one is stay-cool handles. You have to make sure that no matter how hot your smoker gets, and it will get hot, the handles remain cool.
Cool handles mean you won’t have to worry about burning your hand when opening the smoker lid or handling the meats. You definitely want a removable drip pan, which is the part that captures all the grease because cleaning it will be very difficult, and keeping grease in the tray over a long time can be unsanitary.
Since you’re most definitely going to smoke your delicious jerky outdoors, you have to also make sure your device has proper protection against the elements, such as safety certification or waterproof components.
Following on from the safety point above, the material and durability of the product will also impact the safety. Not only that, the brand, quality, and build will as well. Just like with anything else you would buy, the best jerky smoker should be built to last.
Our expert BBQ chefs made a quick checklist of what to look for to ensure a long-lasting unit. Look for thick and sturdy materials that are built to withstand the elements. It should not rust, corrode or stain over time. A good coating will also make sure your smoker stays in tip-top shape.
Most of the components should be easily washable and maybe even dishwasher safe. For example, chrome-plated cooking racks, or chrome-plated cooking grids as they are sometimes referred to, are very sturdy and can be scrubbed vigorously without risking any damage.
The water trays and wood chip loading system should also be easily removable for cleaning. It can also be easier when the tray is removable when you’re loading wood chips. The brand will not only affect the durability but also the price of the unit, but you don’t want to go for cheap models that won’t be up to the task.
Speaking of the price, the brand, as well as the features of a smoker, can really push the number up. For example, having two adjustable smoking racks, many square inches of cooking space, a well-insulated cooking chamber, will all make making jerky easier, but also pricier.
The warranty for something that you will rely on very heavily when making jerky should also cover things such as faulty components upon delivery and small repairs. The length of the warranty is also important. The most common length brands offer is 1 year, which is standard, but if you can find companies that offer even longer, then that’s even better.
There is one other cooking appliance that can also make jerky, and that is a food dehydrator. It essentially dries out the moisture in the food to become semi non-perishable. Dehydrators are pretty easy to use, so why should we choose smokers?
One irreplaceable and extremely valuable advantage a smoker gives is infusing the food with some authentic flavors. Not only that, you won’t be left with a dry piece of meat, but rather, some juicy and more flavorful results.
Our experts are familiar with smokers and dehydrators, and they say the difference in texture when you’re chewing the meat is also glaringly obvious. Dehydrators make the meat more difficult to eat and tougher.
The best methods to clean a jerky smoker involve a brush and soft towels. Even if the grates are dishwasher-friendly, there’s nothing that says clean like getting in there with your hands to remove every grease mark and every bit of food.
The first step is to remove all the removable parts, such as the trays, water pans, and such, and remove the obvious bits of food from them. You can also choose to scrub them down with mild soap to remove all the grease and then wipe them dry with the towels.
Make sure you also wipe down the cooking chamber and wood chip loading system if you have that type of smoker, but do not use the brush as you could damage the interior. If you have large chunks of fat or meat, you should remove them first. You can do so with paper towels, but make sure to wait until everything is cool to the touch.
The last step is to clean the outside. Give your smoker a good wipe. There is no real need to scrub the exterior, but make sure you keep the interior clean. Having a clean cooking appliance is much more sanitary.
Some smokers benefit from accessories: read all about the best smoker stands here.
Jerky is better in a smoker. A smoker can mimic the smoky flavors people look for and helps the meat retain a bit of moisture to be juicier than a dehydrator. You will also notice the texture of the meat is easier to chew if you go with a smoker.
Beef is the best meat to smoke for jerky. More specifically, it’s beef top and bottom rounds as well as the eye of round. The beef you choose should also have as little fat as possible as lean meat will last the longest and produce the best flavors.
Among the best jerky smokers we tested,our culinary team agreed that there is no match for the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker. Making jerky has never been easier with the small, lightweight, and compact smoker. You can achieve professional standards with the help of an inbuilt thermometer. This very easy-to-use model has enough space to house a whole turkey and comes with all the components such as a water pan and a heat-resistant handle.
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