Cooking is one of those things that brings friends and family together. And at the heart of the gadget that makes that magic happen is the smoker, and the best smokers under $500 can give meats, vegetables, and breads a rich flavor that only the smoking process can bring out. When it comes to smokers, even the less expensive types of smokers can deliver the same flavor as the food in award-winning fine dining establishments. In other words, price itself is not a determinant of quality.
Owning a smoker allows you to create smoked food with a unique flavor. As you continue to use it, you will discover your own unique flavor and the combination of wood and marinade to achieve it. Entering a barbecue competition begins with owning a smoker. We’ll show you why things like size, materials, maximum temperature, and power source are important, and how they affect your cooking, and how to choose a smoker that gets to the point.
These days, there’s nothing I enjoy more than doing research and experimenting, and eating smoked food. I’ve worked side-by-side with chefs and I have to admit, I’m amazed. With that wisdom in mind, here’s how to choose the right smoker. Check out our comparison chart, in-depth reviews of each smoker, and detailed buying guide to learn how to choose the best smoker under $500.
Also Read: Best Ice Cream Maker For Home
Best Smoker Under $500
Coal vs. gas vs. electricity vs. pellets
Before choosing a type of smoke, you must first know the main advantages and disadvantages of each category.
Here is a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of smoker.
If you want complete control over the fire and the appliance, from filling the charcoal to ignition, control, and temperature regulation, these models are the best choice.
The advantages of charcoal lighters
- They give your meat the best charcoal flavor.
- They produce the best finish and smoke ring of any other type.
- They are more involved and therefore more enjoyable
Disadvantages of charcoal assist
More effort and attention – you can’t just walk away and forget about them.
Takes more effort to light the charcoal.
Gas lighters or propane lighters are known as an easy and reliable solution. They use gas to generate high heat to cook food.
Also Read: Best Toaster Oven for Baking
Advantages of gas lighters
- Can generate more heat faster
- Easier to control the temperature
- More efficient, as one container lasts longer than one bag of charcoal
Disadvantages of gas-assisted heaters
- More expensive than charcoal models
- Does not impart the same flavor to the meat as charcoal
- Inexpensive models do not hold temperature well
Electric models are the easiest to use among the other categories. Just set the temperature and time and you are done.
Advantages of electric smokers
- Easy-to-use “set it and get it” model.
- Ideal for all kinds of foods, including fish, sausage, vegetables, and cheese.
Disadvantages of electric smokers
- Requires a socket nearby
- Not weather or rain resistant
- Costly to repair
- Does not produce the best flavor
Pellet lighters are the latest model to gain popularity. It combines pellet/wood-based and gas/electric systems and offers many advantages.
Advantages of Pellet Lighters
- Automatic pellet control
- Thermostat control – the customer selects the temperature and the main unit manages to add pellets to the fire as needed.
- Set-and-Get-It model
- Pellets are set at the right temperature and the charge can be set when you want to use them
Disadvantages of pellet assist devices
- More expensive than other models
- May increase pellet costs
Best Smoker Under $500 | Comparison Table 2022
Top Quality | 5-Star Pick | Great Prices
|Cuisinart COS-330 Vertical Electric Smoker, Three Removable Smoking Shelves, 30", 548 sq. inches Cooking Space||Cuisinart||Check Price|
|Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30", Black||Masterbuilt||Check Price|
|Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker with 3 Smoking Racks, 30 inch, Black||Masterbuilt||Check Price|
|Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36" Vertical Charcoal Smoker||Dyna-Glo||Check Price|
|Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane Smoker with Thermostat Control, 40 inch, Black||Masterbuilt||Check Price|
|Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker||Weber||Check Price|
|Char-Broil Vertical Liquid Propane Gas Smoker||Char-Broil||Check Price|
|Landmann 3495GLA Smoky Mountain 34-Inch Vertical Gas Smoker||Landmann||Check Price|
|Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker||Oklahoma Joe's||Check Price|
Best Smoker Under $500 | 2022 Products Overview
The Cuisinart COS-330 Vertical Electric Smoker is a spacious and versatile smoking solution for the home chef. With a 548 square inch interior, this electric smoker provides ample room for smoking a variety of meats and vegetables. The three chrome plated steel racks are easily removable for smoking large cuts of meat, and are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
The built-in thermometer on the front door makes monitoring the internal temperature easy, while the 1500-watt heating element provides heat control through a simple dial. The stainless steel trays hold the wood chips and water, and the smoker requires wood chips for grilling. This electric smoker’s vertical footprint makes it a perfect size for patios and barbecue kitchens. The sleek stainless steel construction not only looks great, but also adds durability to this smoking appliance. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a beginner smoker, the Cuisinart COS-330 Vertical Electric Smoker is an excellent choice for your grilling needs.
Also Read: Best Food Processor for Nut Butters
The Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker is a high-quality appliance designed for the serious home cook who wants to enjoy the taste of smoke-infused food. This 30-inch black smoker has a sleek and stylish design, making it an attractive addition to any outdoor cooking space. With digital panel controls, you can easily set and adjust the temperature and cooking time to ensure that your food is cooked to perfection. The patented side wood chip loading system allows you to add wood chips without opening the door, so you can maintain the temperature and smoke levels inside the smoker.
The Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker is made from high-quality materials, including a stainless-steel interior, to provide a durable and long-lasting appliance. The fully-insulated body retains heat, allowing for consistent and even smoking of your favorite meats, poultry, and fish. With the thermostat-temperature control, you can be confident that your food will be cooked to your desired temperature, without the risk of over- or under-cooking. With a maximum temperature setting of 275°F and an inside capacity of 2 turkeys, 4 pork butts, 4 racks of ribs, or 6 chickens, you can smoke large cuts of meat or multiple items at once. Whether you're a seasoned pit master or just starting out, the Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker is an excellent choice for anyone who loves the taste of smoke-infused food.
The Masterbuilt Analog Electric Smoker is a high-quality, durable and efficient electric smoker designed to provide optimal smoking experience to its users. It is a 30 inch smoker with a black color that is corded electric and comes with 3 chrome-coated smoking racks. The smoker weighs 49.86 pounds and measures 20 x 21.69 x 40.15 inches, making it a perfect fit for outdoor cooking.
One of the standout features of this smoker is its built-in temperature gauge which allows the user to easily monitor the temperature of the smoker. The analog dial makes it easy to control the temperature and the 1,500-watt heating element ensures even and consistent smoking. Additionally, the wood chip tray slides out for easy ash removal, making maintenance and cleaning a breeze. The inner material of the smoker is stainless steel which ensures durability and longevity. This smoker is a must-have for any serious smoker who wants to elevate their smoking game.
Also Read: Best Blender for Protein Shakes with Ice
The Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36" Vertical Charcoal Smoker is a black colored smoker that is made of steel material and weighs 56 pounds. The smoker features a total of 784 square inches of cooking area, with four cooking grates that provide ample space for cooking different kinds of food. It operates with charcoal as the power source and has a charcoal & ash management system, which includes a charcoal chamber, charcoal grate and a removable ash pan, making it easy to manage the fuel and ash during cooking.
This smoker also comes with a stainless temperature gauge with smoke zone, which indicates the ideal temperature for infusing smoke flavor into the food. The gauge helps ensure that the food is cooked to perfection by keeping track of the internal temperature. To protect the smoker from the elements, Dyna-Glo offers a custom-fit premium cover - Model DG784GSC (sold separately) which is designed to fit the smoker perfectly and keep it protected from the weather. The item dimensions of the smoker are 20.83 x 21.45 x 49.73 inches.
The Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane Smoker is a versatile and convenient appliance designed for those who love the taste of slow-cooked and smoke-infused meat. The smoker is made of high-quality stainless steel, both inside and out, making it durable and easy to clean. With a total weight of 92 pounds, it's compact and easy to move, making it ideal for outdoor use.
One of the key features of the Masterbuilt Propane Smoker is its patented ThermoTemp technology, which automatically controls the temperature of the smoker. This means that you can set the desired temperature and the smoker will maintain it throughout the cooking process, eliminating the need to constantly monitor or adjust the temperature. Additionally, the safety shut-off valve ensures that the smoker will automatically turn off if the flame is extinguished, providing a safe and worry-free cooking experience. The tank fuel level gauge allows you to easily keep track of the amount of propane in the tank, ensuring that you'll never run out of fuel unexpectedly. With four chrome-coated smoking racks, you'll have plenty of room to smoke up to 16 chickens, 6 turkeys, 8 racks of ribs, or 8 pork butts. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner, the Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane Smoker is sure to help you master the art of smoking.
Also Read: Best Milk Steamer for Home Use
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is a 18-inch charcoal smoker designed for outdoor cooking and smoking. Made of durable steel with a black finish, the smoker has a total weight of 39.1 pounds and measures 21 x 19 x 41 inches. The inner cooking area features two nickel-plated grates that are 18.5 inches wide, providing ample space for cooking a whole turkey or ham.
This smoker also includes a water pan to help regulate the temperature and moisten the cooking environment, as well as a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. Individual vents on the bowl and lid allow for precise temperature control, and the heat-resistant nylon handle ensures safe and comfortable handling. The porcelain-enameled steel construction provides durability and resistance to rust, making this smoker a reliable choice for outdoor cooking enthusiasts. Whether you're looking to achieve an authentic smokehouse flavor or simply want to add some smoky depth to your grilled foods, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is a great choice.
Also Read: Best Pizzelle Makers
The Char-Broil Vertical Liquid Propane Gas Smoker is a high-quality, versatile smoking device designed for those who love to smoke meats, fish, and vegetables. This black smoker is constructed of durable stainless steel and has a total cooking space of 7,566 cubic inches, making it ideal for large cuts of meat. The 595 square inch cooking surface is split into three chrome-plated cooking grates, allowing you to smoke multiple items at the same time. The smoker also features a warming rack on top of the smoker chamber, which is perfect for keeping smaller items warm while larger cuts are smoking.
The propane gas fuel source of this smoker ensures consistent heat for a better smoking experience. The porcelain wood chip and water pan allow you to infuse your food with delicious, smoky flavors. The Char-Broil Vertical Liquid Propane Gas Smoker is also lightweight, making it easy to move and store when not in use. At 19.5 x 21.5 x 45.5 inches, it takes up minimal space and is perfect for outdoor kitchens and patios. Whether you are a seasoned smoker or just starting out, the Char-Broil Vertical Liquid Propane Gas Smoker is an excellent investment for those who enjoy smoking their food to perfection.
The Landmann 3495GLA Smoky Mountain 34-Inch Vertical Gas Smoker is a versatile and durable smoker designed for serious barbecue enthusiasts. This smoker is fueled by natural gas and features a black chrome outer material, making it both functional and stylish. With an item weight of 52.8 pounds and dimensions of 18 x 21 x 43.25 inches, it provides ample space for smoking large cuts of meat.
The interior of the smoker is made of high-quality stainless steel, which helps to prevent rust and makes cleaning easy. The smoker has a 13,500 BTU burner with fully adjustable heat control, allowing you to precisely control the temperature during the smoking process. The front door temperature gauge allows you to monitor the temperature inside the smoker, so you can ensure that your food is being cooked at the correct temperature. The smoker also features 4 adjustable chrome plated cooking grates and a meat hanger, providing ample space for multiple cuts of meat. The square, wide-stance legs of the smoker ensure stability, and the rotary igniter and cast brass burner provide long-lasting performance. Finally, the smoker is backed by a 10-year warranty, ensuring that it will be a valuable addition to your outdoor cooking setup for years to come.
The Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker is a fuel-powered outdoor cooking appliance designed for grilling and smoking. It features a black color and a stainless steel outer material for durability and easy maintenance. With a weight of 226 pounds, the smoker has dimensions of 35.5 x 64.25 x 55.5 inches.
The smoker has two cooking spaces, including a primary cooking space of 751 square inches and a secondary cooking space of 309 square inches. This provides ample space for cooking different dishes simultaneously. The smoker also offers the option to choose between reverse flow smoking and traditional offset smoking with its adjustable smokestack locations. The professional temperature gauge helps monitor the cooking temperature accurately, ensuring your food is cooked to perfection.
The Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker is designed with heavy-gauge steel construction, which ensures that it is durable and can withstand the outdoor cooking elements. It also features a stainless steel inner material for easy cleaning and maintenance. This smoker is powered by charcoal, which allows you to cook at high heat or low and slow, giving you the ability to smoke and grill your food to your desired taste. The 2-year warranty on all parts gives you peace of mind and guarantees that you have made a smart investment in your outdoor cooking setup.
Also Read: Best Meat Slicers for Home Use
How To Choose The Best Smoker Under $500 | Ultimate Guide 2022
Size and Capacity
The size of the smoker determines the amount of food that can be cooked at one time. A large smoker can hold up to 12 whole roasted chickens, 2 turkeys, and 4 large vegetable sticks. A small smoker may be able to smoke a whole turkey, so you can smoke 5-6 whole turkeys. A large smoker can easily accommodate four rib racks.
When choosing a smoker size, look at your smoking needs. If you need to smoke a lot of food frequently, you may want to choose a smoker with a larger capacity. Most smokers have adjustable racks so you can move them around to make room for larger cuts or whole meats, such as chicken or turkey. Some smokers may also have hanging racks for sausages, freeing up racks for other foods.
Also Read: Best Electric Tea Kettle for Hard Water
Most home smokers are lightweight and can be easily moved from place to place. However, be aware that some are quite bulky and are not very suitable as portable smokers. Be sure to check the weight before purchasing. You do not want to end up with a smoker that can only be set up in one location because it is impossible to move.
The fuel box is where you will put wood chips, pellets, and charcoal.
The best smokers are built so that wood and water can be placed in the water dish without opening the cooking chamber, so heat does not leak out.
A water pot is placed between the heat source and the cooking chamber and is usually filled with water. It acts as a spacer that absorbs heat when there is too much heat (so that all the heat gets into the food and does not burn it) and maintains the optimum temperature when the heat from the heat source is reduced. It also helps retain the moisture in the food. The better the kettle, the more efficient it is.
An air vent is necessary to constantly control the amount of air entering and exiting the smoker. The best smokers have at least three vents at the bottom and one at the top. The bottom vents allow air to flow into the smoker, ventilating the fire and maintaining heat. When heat builds up, the top vent can be opened to allow hot air to escape and regulate the smoker's internal temperature.
Choose a smoker with a thermostat. Many smokers have a built-in thermostat that lets you know the temperature of the smoker while it is cooking. Some also have a thermometer attached to the hatch. Thermometers may not be accurate. We recommend using a thermometer from another manufacturer only to verify the correct temperature range during cooking.
Ease of Use
The Smoky Mountain is easy to set up and maintain while cooking. Ignition is the same as the PBC, just put charcoal in the lower section before cooking and start it with the charcoal pipe.
However, the large hatch in the front makes adding charcoal and water very easy. Also, all grilling grids are made of stainless steel, so cleaning is quick and easy.
Large Cooking Area
The 18-inch Smoky Mountain has two grids for a total of 481 square inches of cooking space. To smoke vegetables, place them on top.
It is important to purchase appliances that have a warranty. Most of these warranties are for three months or less, but the shortness can be a lifeline if, for example, the heater does not work properly or the rack warps and twists.
Construction quality and design
A good smoker should be heavy, sturdy, and well-sealed to keep heat and air inside. Most good smokers are made of steel and are powder-coated or enameled to resist rust, rain, and heat. Pit barrel cookers and Weber Smokey Mountains, in particular, are enameled, making the steel very durable.
A smoker that cannot maintain a low and even smoking temperature is no good. For the beginner smoker, it is important to maintain an even temperature of 225-250°F and keep it constant throughout the day. The design of the smoker, choice of fuel, construction, sealing, and air intake will affect the smoker's ability to maintain a constant temperature. For example, drum and burette smokers cook more evenly than offset smokers.
If you're going to smoke meat all day, you'll need to smoke a lot. Especially when the whole family is coming over. A small cooking area will ruin these plans, so unless you plan to travel often, your first charcoal or wood smoker should be one with plenty of space.
Best Smoker Under $500 | Infographic
Best Smoker Under $500 | Video Explanation
Is there any advantage to having a window in the smoker?
Honestly, no. The window is there to check on the cooking progress, but when the inside of the smoker reaches smoking temperatures, the window (usually made of glass) will fog up quickly and you will not be able to see through it. Unless it is aesthetically necessary, the window should not be a deciding factor in choosing a smoker (especially if it is expensive).
Is it safe to use the smoker during inclement weather?
Yes, you can use your smoker in inclement weather. However, you will likely need more fuel to heat it and to maintain heat throughout the cooking time.
Please be careful. Just as you would not turn on your outdoor grill during heavy snowfall, it is unwise to do so with your smoker. If you must use your smoker during inclement weather, make sure it is not outdoors. Protect it from rain and wind.
How does a meat smoker work?
At the bottom of the smoker (or on the side for offset grills) is a container containing water, wood pellets, and an ignition source. At the top of the meat smoker is a vent.
Because of the nature of warm air to rise and escape, the meat smoker is designed to draw heated air into the chamber.
Like a slow cooker, the action of the heat slowly cooks the meat. As a result, meat is now cooked over several hours instead of the one to two hours required in conventional fast ovens.
How to use a smoker with wood chips?
When using a smoker with wood chips, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, many wood chips are pre-seasoned or soaked to reduce burning. You may think of them as regular wood chips, but this is very different than putting a log on the fire.
Check to see if your smoker recommends soaking the wood chips before burning.
Second, not all smokers use wood chips. Many use charcoal, pellets, or gas. Some smokers have wood chip tanks, but these usually do not require soaking because of the small space required.
Many do not require wood chips, so make your decision based on whether you want to add wood flavor to your food.
How much wood chips to smoke?
Most smokers require about two handfuls of wood chips to be added every hour to keep the fire going. However, on smaller burners, this may need to be done more quickly due to the smaller heating space. Please check the instruction manual for details.
Do not check the food during this time. The key to successful smoking is to evenly contain the heat from the smoker.
How do I use the Smoker Grill Combination?
Smoking grill combinations have a feeder on the left or right side. The idea is to fill the feeder until the fill line in the feeder is reached. If there is no fill line, it should be a few inches below the top of the feeder.
Often this combination setup will clog, in which case you will need to mix it with something inside. If the feeder is not running when you mix, you may break the feeder or the tool used to start the chips.
Before leaving the grill, make sure the exhaust pipe is 3/4 covered. It may be mentioned separately in the instruction manual, but this will ensure that the smoker retains heat.
Adjust the heat according to your cooking needs. Refer to online recipes to determine what is needed.
How do I use the offset smoker?
Much of what has already been explained still applies.
- Keep 3/4 of the exhaust pipe closed.
- Be aware of the position of the cargo tank.
- Regular is generally not suitable for situations where wood chips are needed.
- Offset smokers and grills usually use a combination of charcoal and larger pieces of wood. This is because larger pieces of wood tend to last longer than wood chips, and charcoal has a pleasant natural flavor.
In this case, logs may be used. Make sure you have something that enhances the flavor.
How long will a propane tank last?
It depends on the size of the propane tank. A typical grill will have a smaller tank, such as a 20-pound tank; a 20-pound propane tank will last about 18 to 20 hours when grilling on a medium-sized grill.
For larger grills, a 20-pound tank will last about 10 hours or less. To learn more about propane tanks, read my guide.
If you plan on having a few people over, I recommend having an extra tank on hand.
HOPE YOU LIKE OUR GUIDE!
Hi, I’m Jennifer Lawrence, Went to Calhoun High School (Georgia) my goal is to make the kitchen fun by providing a mathematical and logical component to our approach to cooking good food. I look not only at delicious recipes but also at kitchen tools and gadgets to give you the tips and tricks we hope you will find useful. Read More Here