For beginners, you want a smoker that you can find success from, but also learn from. Believe me, the first few times you smoke something it won’t turn out amazingly. But, by practising the art of smoking repeatedly, particularly using the same energy source, type, wood, and smoker, you will start to develop a feel for the process. You will want an easy way to get the smoke going and manage the temperature without the price tag.
Each type of smoker has its own advantages and disadvantages, and will require a few uses to get the hang of how it works best. In that way it is up to your personal preferences, but this guide can highlight the best qualities of each, and recommend the best type of smoker for beginners in each category.
Once you’ve chosen your smoker, check out the complete comprehensive guide to smoking meat for beginners.
Best Type Of Smoker For Beginners
The different features and advantages of each type of smoker lead each to perform better than another depending on what you’re smoking, and how you’re smoking it. In saying that, the processes of smoking that tend to be the most difficult to grasp and master is are:
1) Managing the smoking temperature.
2) Controlling the smokes consistency.
3) Learning the right smoking and finishing temperature of each meat.
Therefore, we think it’s most important that the best type of smoker for beginners to really learn the process is one that practices managing the temperature, and controlling the smoke. This is why we believe the overall best smoker for beginners is a charcoal smoker.
In regards to learning the right smoking and finishing temperature of the meat, this will be mastered over time, but you can always follow a smoking temperature guide.
1) Overall Best Smoker For Beginners
Overall, charcoal is the best type of smokers for beginners for its ability to teach the fundamentals of smoking. It tends to take a bit more attention for beginners, but also delivers the best flavoured and barked meat.
Once you’ve learnt the process of how to smoke meat using a charcoal smoker you will be capable of using any smoker more easily because of the principles behind starting up, managing the temperature, and controlling the smoke. For a full comprehensive guide on how to smoke meat click here.
Pros of Charcoal Smokers
- Traditional and considered to give the best flavour.
- Delivers the best bark to the meat.
- Has a good learning curve and will help improve overall smoking techniques in the long term.
Cons of Charcoal Smokers
- Takes a bit more attention for beginners to control the temperature compared to electric or gas smokers.
- Lighting the charcoal is a harder process than starting an electric, gas, or pellet smoker.
Top Pick: Weber Smokey Mountain 18 Inch Smoker
- Great design for easy temperature control
- Value for top duality
- Designed for the backyard smoker but still used by the pros
- Seal around the door can leak smoke
What Matters The Most:
- Great design for beginners. The inbuilt temperature gauge is accurate, making it easier to monitor, and the water tray placement helps hold a consistent heat. However, it is always recommended to use a wi-fi thermometer, particularly for beginners to remove any guesswork.
- Top quality performance and build. Weber even boasts its 10 year quality and performance guarantee, one the reasons it’s such a trusted brand.
- This smoker is a great choice for any beginner, but because of its performance quality and design it can still contest with some of the much more expensive, and commercial smokers.
- Although the seal on the door can cause it to leak smoke, it doesn’t lose out on temperature and overall is a minor defect.
2) Best Pellet Smoker For Beginners
Pellet smokers have a much easier learning curve. For a true beginner with little to no experience lighting charcoal or controlling smoke this could be a contender for those who want to pick smoking up as a culinary skill.
Pellet smokers are becoming more and more popular due to the real smokey flavours that can be produced with a much simpler design than traditional charcoal or propane smokers. The wooden pellets are made of sawdust that’s compressed together in such a way that they burn easily, but not too quickly either. Perfect for smoking.
Pellet smokers use a thermostatic control, which you can set to your desired smoking temperature and the smoker will automatically feed pellets to the fire which makes temperature control a breeze. Most pellet smokers double as a grill and a smoker, but tend to work better as a smoker than a grill.
Pros of Pellet Smokers:
- Easier to learn and produce great smoked meats due to the temperature and smoke control.
- Seamless and convenient, you can fill up the pellet hopper, put a brisket in, select a temperature, and come back when it’s ready!
- Pellet smokers take away the difficulty of temperature and smoke control, so you can practice other techniques more easily like experimenting with different rubs or woods.
Cons of Pellet Smokers:
- Due to the newer and sophisticated technology, pellet smokers tend to be a bit more pricey.
- As a beginner you won’t learn the skills of temperature and smoke management as it’s more of a set and forget design.
- Smokey flavour isn’t as strong and traditional unless you are investing into a more expensive unit which may not be worth it for a beginner smoker.
Top Pick: Cuisinart Wood Pellet Smoker and Grill
- Very affordable pellet smoker
- Durable construction for extra protection
- Easy temperature control and digital thermostat
- Lengthy assembly
- Grease bucket isn’t reusable
What Matters The Most:
- Usefully you won’t find a quality pellet smoker for under $500, but Cuisinart is one of the only exceptions. It’s not just affordable, but it really performs.
- Doubles as a grill, which is always handy.
- Digital thermostat and automatic pellet feeder really makes this convenient and easy to use. Particularly useful if you don’t have as much time to give it attention like you would a charcoal or gas smoker.
- Greatly durable build and sturdy. Plus comes with a free weather resistant grill cover for extra protection.
- The reason pellet smokers are number two is because of its ease of use. If you don’t have as much time to commit to learning a charcoal smoker, or you prefer a more convenient option, this is the next best choice.
3) Best Propane Smoker For Beginners
Propane, or gas, smokers fit into the set and forget category, and are easy to use and operate. Usually they come in a vertical design with several grill racks which maximises internal smoking space. The gas burner heads up a tray of wood chips, which is rested under a water pan. The water pan actually helps maintain an even smoking temperature.
For a beginner who just wants a simple but reliable operation they make a great choice.
Pros of Propane Smokers:
- Set and forget style. Great for longer smokes.
- Reliable and easy to get started.
- Tend to have larger capacities.
- Great value for money.
Cons of Propane Smokers:
- Can go through a fair bit of fuel.
- Flavour and bark isn’t as luxurious as charcoal smokers.
- Some models aren’t able to fit a full rack of ribs, or larger meats like a turkey.
Top Pick: Dyna-Glo Vertical LP Gas Smoker
- Large capacity and wide enough to comfortably fit pork shoulder and brisket.
- Very durable cast iron build.
- Double door design to stop smoke leaking.
- Large smoker box
- If using a lot of wood in the smoker box it may leak some smoke
- Temperature dial takes some getting used to
What Matters The Most:
- Great double door design so you can check on the water or wood without interrupting the smoke.
- Comes with a much larger smoker box than other designs which is able to hold more wood chips, or even chunks for those longer smokes. This is great for beginners as you won’t need to monitor the wood as often!
- Built to last with durable cast iron steel for extra protection against the elements.
- One of the larger models, which allows you to comfortably smoke favourites like pork butt and brisket, but not enough space for a large turkey.
- Propane smokers can use a lot of fuel, so for a lengthy smoke like a brisket or pork butt, make sure the tank is full to begin with, and try to have a spare as a back-up.
- Temperature dial doesn’t give indicative temperatures and so takes some getting used to
- Great value for a quality beginner smoker than is made to last for years to come.
4) Best Electric Smoker For Beginners
Electric smokers are really the pinnacle of set and forget. After plugging it in you really just need to add the meat, monitor the wood levels, and set a timer and you can still enjoy delicious and decadent smoked meats from the comfort of your own home. Electric smokers tend to be one of the cheaper options which is also great if you’re on a budget or are just a casual smoker.
When it comes to beginner smokers, although you can find great success with the final result it won’t teach you great barbecue skills because of its simplicity. In saying that, if you want to prioritise convenience but still enjoy and love the flavour of barbecue then this is certainly for you.
Pros of Electric Smokers:
- Easiest and simplest to operate.
- Very convenient if you don’t have a lot of extra time.
- Reliable temperatures.
Cons of Electric Smokers:
- Requires a power outlet and a weatherproof extension cord.
- Electricity doesn’t give off any additional flavour components like charcoal, gas, or pellet smokers do – so naturally the smokiness isn’t as potent.
- You don’t learn the fundamental skills that you can keep for life and use on any smoker.
Top Pick: Cuisinart 30” Electric Smoker
- Greatly affordable
- 3 year warranty
- Simple and accurate thermometer and thermostat
- Very lightweight
- One door, if you want to check on the wood chips or water you will leak smoke
- Not the largest, will struggle fitting a turkey or a full rack of ribs in one slab.
What Matters The Most:
- Greatly affordable smoker which promises performance with great reviews and also a 3 year warranty.
- Simplistic, but reliable, temperature gauge and thermostat control.
- Very lightweight (around 50 pounds) with two side handles for mobility.
- Convenience. This is the perfect beginner smoker for someone who wants to enjoy the end result of barbecue, but doesn’t have the time to learn all the techniques and monitor it every hour! Although the flavor won’t compare to a charcoal smoker, you will still get that same traditional smokiness and succulence we all love.
Overall: What Type of Smoker is Best for Beginners?
Each type of smoker has great advantages to it, and varying levels of skill required to operate and master. Once you’ve chosen your smoker, make sure to get top quality smoking wood.
See our breakdown of the best woods for smoking.
If you’re looking for flavour and want to learn the core skills of smoking meat, charcoal will be the most rewarding choice as the best type of smoker for beginners.
If you’re looking for something in between convenience and skill, a pellet smoker will suit you, and is definitely rising in popularity in recent times!
Gas and electric smokers are geared towards convenience, but aren’t as rewarding if you really love the art of smoking due to the simplistic nature of the experience. In saying that, they really come in clutch when you don’t have the time to give it your full attention!
If you’re passionate like myself, I guarantee that over the course of your smoking journey you will use most types of smokers. But, charcoal smokers will take you further in terms of what you will learn as a beginner, and the smokey flavours you can create.