Last updated: August 11, 2021

Welcome to our big BBQ Smoker Test 2021. Here we present all the BBQ smokers that we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best BBQ Smoker for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a BBQ Smoker.




The most important information in a nutshell

  • With a BBQ smoker, it is possible to cook your food evenly through the indirect heat of the smoke and give it a unique flavour.
  • A basic distinction is made between a barrel smoker (offset smoker), reverse flow smoker, electric smoker, pellet smoker, water smoker (bullet smoker) and the ugly drum smoker.
  • The most important criteria when choosing your BBQ Smoker are the material and material thickness, workmanship, dimensions and weight, number and size of your grilling and storage surfaces, as well as the extra features and accessories.

BBQ Smoker: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a BBQ Smoker

What is the difference between smocking and conventional grilling methods?

Basically, there are three different cooking methods: grilling, smocking and smoking.

Smoker

The unique flavours of smoked barbecue food are unmistakable not only with meat and fish, but also with a wide variety of vegetables (Image source: unsplash.com / Evan Wise)

When grilling, the food is cooked directly over an open heat source, which is why this method often takes only a few minutes to prepare.

Did you know that you can also bake bread and cakes in the smoker? The cooking chamber of a smoker also offers the function of preparing baked goods. Since the surface is not directly above the fire and you can regulate the temperature and keep it constant, you can prepare bread, cakes and even pizza in it. The smoker not only gives meat a good aroma, but also baked goods.

However, due to the increased heat (approx. 200-300 degrees), it is not uncommon for the food to burn on the outside while it is not yet fully cooked on the inside. In addition, harmful substances are released by the burning of dripping liquids. Unlike grilling, smocking uses indirect heat (approx. 90-130 degrees). The food is cooked evenly by hot smoke flowing around it, which on the one hand creates unique flavours and on the other hand prevents the problems of grilling with direct heat. https://www.grilltiger.de/smoker-test/ On the negative side, it should be noted that the indirect heat and lower temperature require significantly more time for cooking than conventional grilling. In smoking , a distinction is generally made between hot and cold smoking. Here, too, indirect heat is used, which is generated by burning dry wood in a firebox. The decisive advantage of cold smoking (approx. 20-26 degrees) is that the food is preserved by the antibacterial effect of the smoke and thus has a longer shelf life.

What type of BBQ Smoker do I need?

To find the perfect smoker for you, you should be clear in advance about the intended use of your smoker.

Accordingly, you should first ask yourself how many people you want to serve at all, as certain types of smokers are simply not worthwhile for a two-person household, for example. You should also ask yourself to what extent you want your smoker to be technologically supported and automated. If you generally handle a grill, you should also have knowledge about meat. The following section deals with the different cooking stages for meat.

Cooking level Description
Bleu The inside of the meat is still completely raw and has a juicy red colour. Due to the short searing, the steak has a thin crust on the outside.
English As the meat juice is still dark red, the steak is very juicy. If you put pressure on the meat, there is hardly any resistance.
Medium rare Here the meat is cooked to perfection. The meat is pink to red on the inside and has a more intense browning on the outside due to the longer grilling phase.
Medium This is the most popular grilling level for steak. Surrounded by a brown crust, it has a juicy red colour on the inside.
Medium well Only a small core inside the steak is still pink. Otherwise, the meat is completely cooked through.
Well done The steak is completely cooked through and also has a brown colour inside.

How big should my BBQ Smoker be?

The size of your smoker depends not only on the number of people you want to feed, but also on the choice of fuel. If you like to fire your smoker with wood, you should bear in mind that you not only need space for the smoker, but also somewhere to store the wood in a dry place. If you are therefore somewhat limited in terms of space, we would recommend one of the smaller smoker models (water smoker, electric smoker).

What does a BBQ Smoker cost?

Basically, there are hardly any price limits when buying your BBQ Smoker, which is why you should place even more value on a reasonable price-performance ratio.
Type Price range
Barrel-Smoker ca. 50-10.000€
Reverseflow-Smoker ca. 70-10.000€
Electric-Smoker ca. 150-5.000€
Pellet-Smoker ca. 150-7.000€
Water-Smoker ca. 40-4.000€
Ugly-Drum Smoker ca. 50-500€

While inexpensive hobby smokers can be had for as little as €50, professional gastronomy smokers can also be found for several thousand euros. In general, the price range is often reflected in the quality of the workmanship, as well as the thickness of the sheet metal. For beginners who do not attach much importance to technological gimmicks, but certainly to solid quality, some BBQ smokers can nevertheless be found for around 200 euros. Advanced smokers or tasting experts, on the other hand, are more likely to find something for 350-1000 euros.

The pleasure of good quality lasts longer than that of a low price.

Decision: Which types of BBQ smokers are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, we distinguish between these types of BBQ smokers:

  • Barrel Smoker (Offset Smoker)
  • Reverse Flow Smoker
  • Electric Smoker
  • Pellet Smoker
  • Water Smoker (Bullet Smoker)

In the following, we explain the different types and their respective advantages and disadvantages. In this way, we want to help you find the BBQ Smoker that is best for you.

What distinguishes a barrel smoker and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The barrel or offset smoker is the best-known and most popular type of BBQ smoker. It consists of a cooking chamber and a slightly smaller fire chamber that are connected to each other. The smoke produced in the fire chamber rises directly into the cooking chamber, where the food is placed on one or more grates and smoked. The excess smoke is transported out of the cooking chamber via a chimney.

Advantages
  • Large grilling surface
  • Robust construction
  • Large variety of models
  • Easy to use
Disadvantages
  • Uneven temperature distribution
  • High weight
  • No automatic temperature control
  • Requires a lot of space

To regulate the temperature, there is a manual flap for the gas outlet on the cooking chamber and a flap for the air supply on the fire chamber. The two chambers are normally made of resistant steel pipes with a diameter of 60cm. Dripping liquids are collected in the cooking chamber and drained into a container to prevent the formation of pollutants.

What distinguishes a Reverseflow Smoker and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The reverse-flow smoker is similar in design to the barrel smoker. It also consists of a horizontal cooking chamber, a heating chamber connected to the side and a chimney.

Advantages
  • Even temperature distribution
  • Large grilling surface
  • Robust construction
  • Easy handling
Disadvantages
  • Heavy weight
  • No automatic temperature control
  • Requires a lot of space

However, the cooking chamber of the Reverseflow Smoker has a further subdivision, which initially distributes the incoming smoke from the heating chamber evenly. This ensures that the food is cooked evenly, regardless of its position on the grill. Nevertheless, the temperature in the chambers must be regulated manually, just as with the barrel smoker.

What distinguishes an Electric Smoker and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

As the name suggests, the electric smoker is electronically controlled and has automatic temperature regulation in the cooking chamber. It is built like a small cabinet, with grill grates on top of each other. It also has a container for water and wood chips for smoking the food.

Advantages
  • Automatic temperature regulation
  • Digital control
  • Space-saving construction
  • Transportable
Disadvantages
  • High price
  • Electricity required
  • No classic smoker feeling

So after the containers have been filled and the food placed, all that remains is to digitally set the desired temperature and cooking time.

What distinguishes a pellet smoker and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The pellet smoker is also controlled electronically. It also consists of a cooking chamber, but here the fire chamber is replaced by a power-operated ignition and a storage container for hardwood pellets.

Advantages
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Automatic refilling of fuel
  • Large grilling surface
Disadvantages
  • High price
  • Electricity required
  • Special pellets as fuel required

The pellets are added automatically and the temperature is controlled electronically at the same time. Accordingly, all you have to do at the beginning is set the desired temperature and make sure that there are enough pellets in the storage container.

What distinguishes a Water Smoker and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The water smoker is often called a bullet smoker because of its external shape. It looks like a small barrel on feet and consists of several horizontal levels. The heat source including ventilation openings is located on the lowest level. The Water Smoker is heated with coal or briquettes, although charcoal is often added occasionally for a unique flavour. Above this is a pool of water or sand to stabilise the temperature.

Advantages
  • Space-saving
  • Even temperature distribution
  • Transportable
Disadvantages
  • High cleaning effort
  • Charcoal distorts the unique taste
  • Many accessories needed

The remaining part of the Water Smoker can be individually filled with grill grates due to the design and ring structure, although two grill grates are usually standard.

Buying criteria: Use these criteria to compare and evaluate BBQ smokers

In the following, we will show you which criteria you can use to compare and evaluate BBQ smokers. This will make it easier for you to get an overview and decide on a suitable and effective device. In summary, these are the following criteria:

  • Material and material thickness
  • Processing
  • Dimensions and weight
  • Grill surface
  • Storage area
  • Equipment and accessories

In the following, you can read about the respective criteria and find out why it makes sense for you to purchase a device based on the criteria or not.

Material and material thickness

The thickness of the material is one of the most important purchase criteria. While almost every BBQ Smoker is made of sheet steel and therefore there are hardly any differences, the material thickness can vary from 1.5 millimetres to 10 millimetres.

Räuchern

The material should be particularly thick and particularly dense so that you achieve the perfect smoking result. (Image source: unsplash.com / Arthur Savary)

Since it is difficult to maintain a constant temperature with very thin steel walls, the motto "the thicker the better" generally applies.

But be careful, the thicker the steel walls are, the longer the smoker needs to reach temperatures at all.

Therefore, we would generally recommend a material thickness of 3.5 millimetres to 7 millimetres.

Processing

Even the thickest material is useless if cracks have formed during processing through which heat or smoke can escape from the cooking chamber. Therefore, the weld seams and a gap-free transition should always be checked.

Did you know that smocking is healthier than traditional grilling? In a smoker, the meat is never cooked directly over the flame or embers, but only by the hot smoke. This means that neither fat nor marinade can drip onto the embers and cause harmful fumes. The gentle preparation also makes the meat more tender, but it takes much longer for the meat to be cooked through.

Another crucial factor concerns the quality of the varnish. The varnish should not have any air bubbles and should be evenly applied. Here, too, there should be a necessary thickness so that the lacquer finish does not crumble away under constant heat. Finally, all hinges and other fastenings should always be tight and not wobble or slip.

Dimensions and weight

In terms of dimensions, a distinction can be made between vertical (water smoker/electric smoker) and horizontal (barrel smoker/reverse flow smoker) BBQ smokers. The vertically oriented BBQ smokers are much more space-saving and are therefore also suitable for people who do not have as much space available. But don't worry, despite the space-saving design, variants such as the water smoker offer enough space for grilled food thanks to the efficient arrangement of the grill grates. However, if you absolutely want a barrel smoker with a smoker tower, even though you don't have too much space available, there are also small versions that still offer high quality. The weight of the different types of smokers is similar to the dimensions. The horizontal smokers are usually much heavier due to their thick steel walls and are not as easy to transport. Even though many models have small wheels, it makes sense to find a permanent place for your barrel or reverse flow smoker. Vertical smokers, on the other hand, usually do not have wheels, but they are not nearly as heavy and are therefore easier to transport.

Grill surface

The size of your grill surface should always be adapted to your individual purpose. If you regularly organise small barbecue parties and feed several people, it can be a disadvantage not to be able to prepare the food for the people present at the same time. Accordingly, you might want to opt for a larger smoker. If you estimate your needs to be rather low (2-4 people), a smaller model will probably do.

Storage space

Who hasn't experienced it? The grill grate is full of finished food that needs to come off the grill as quickly as possible, but should be prepared first before serving. Therefore, storage surfaces are definitely needed for the intermediate storage of the grilled food, which should be space-saving in their arrangement on the one hand and space-saving on the other.

Extra equipment and accessories

In this respect, the more money you spend on your BBQ Smoker, the more additional functions and extra equipment you will find. Especially with the almost fully automated smoker variants, such as the electric smoker and the pellet smoker, more and more technological bells and whistles are being added, which can be quite nice and practical, but are definitely not necessary to have a nice barbecue evening with family and friends. Therefore, when buying a BBQ smoker, basically no direct accessories are needed. Nevertheless, there are a few small things worth mentioning that improve or simplify the use:

  • external thermometer
  • Cover
  • Smoker attachment for the smoker without smoker tower

Facts worth knowing about the topic of BBQ smokers

Why should you burn in your BBQ Smoker?

To enjoy your BBQ Smoker for as long as possible, you should burn it in before using it for the first time. In addition, the fireproof varnish with which your smoker has been coated on the outside is properly absorbed and thus makes it weatherproof. To burn in your BBQ smoker properly, it should be heated for about two hours at 120-140 degrees. After it has cooled down completely, the smoker should be completely coated with oil and then fired up again for approx. one hour at 140 degrees. You should make sure that the temperature does not exceed 140 degrees.

Image source: 123rf.com / 31180132

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