Best Vertical Smokers

Vertical Smokers: 7 of the Best

When it comes to barbecuing meats, one rule above all others is carved into the heart of every grill master on the planet: Smoke makes flavor.

Smoke makes tenderness too, because usually the smoke gets into your meat through a moist medium.

But there’s a trick that only some grill masters know enough to use. Smoke moves with air currents, and air currents, unless directed otherwise, will rise when heated.

That means the taller your smoker is, the more meat you can smoke with the same amount of resources, because hot air inside the smoker will make the smoke curl up and give the stacked meat a long, slow kiss, like the fairy princess of flavor.

That in turn has led to the development of a whole marketplace of vertical smokers. In some ways, that’s great, as it means there’s a vertical smoker out there to perfectly suit the needs and temperament of every grill master. But it also means you’re left with a practical city of smokers to wade through to find exactly the right one to suit your needs, and frankly, who has the time?

Who has the time to cross-compare all the vertical smokers out there, contrast their pros, their cons, their prices, their headaches and their neatest features to build a short list?

We do. We have. Want a shortcut to the best vertical smokers on the market?

Walk this way.

In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.

OUR TOP PICK

Weber 18-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: 731001
  • Size: 24 x 23 x 48.5 inches
  • Weight: 68 pounds
  • Smoker material: Porcelain enamel
  • Grate material: Plated steel
  • Fuel: Charcoal
  • Smoking space: Comes in three sizes - 14, 18 and 22 inch. 18 inch has enough space for a chicken and a ham at the same time.
  • Wireless: Not the unit. Can be paired with the iGrill 2 probe, will give you updates on your phone.
  • Warranty: 10 years

In many ways, this comes as no surprise to anyone. The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker has nailed itself to the top spot in list after list of the best smokers available, so it makes perfect sense that it would dominate the category in which it most naturally fits – the vertical smokers.

First of all, it’s a Weber. If you’ve been around the barbecuing and smoking world for any length of time, you’ll have heard the name. The company has one of the best and most enduring reputations in the market, and while it’s not out there on its own, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is currently one of the company’s leading products.

The reasons for the success of the Smokey Mountain Cooker come down to a handful of things.

Firstly, it’s built with purpose, durability and versatility front and center. It’s a machine that has great smoking at the forefront of its build, which means for instance, it has a shell of porcelain enamel, for strength, and durability. This is a smoker that’s not going anywhere unless you want it to.

On that note, it’s also more portable than many of the vertical smokers on the market, so whether you want it set as a permanent fixture or whether it will be doing the rounds from event to event, Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cooker has been engineered to please.

It comes with intuitive controls and an easy, removable door to help you top up your smoke-medium without interrupting the meat. And the even temperature and world-class dampers it brings to your smoking game mean you can get impressive results time after time.

The design of the smoker and its two large stacked racks gives the smoke a natural journey upward and into the meat on both racks, so you get consistency of smoke-penetration, no matter where in the smoker the meat is placed.

With an accurate in-built thermometer feeding you readings that let you adjust your smoking time, temperature, and damper action, you can tweak your smoke to perfection.

And while it’s not supplied alongside the smoker itself, if you add a Weber iGrill 2 internal meat probe to your basket as an extra, you can even get details of the smoking time and temperature sent wirelessly to your phone. Because that’s a thing we do these days.

All of this comes together to make the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker most people’s favorite vertical smoker.

The simplicity of the design, the additional tweaks of genius like the removable door, the enameled shell that allows no-one to mess with it, the clever design of the vertical-stack racks, and above all those repeatable, mouth-watering results all come together to ensure that the Smokey Mountain Cooker has to be prised out of people’s arms.

You’re really unlikely to need it, but part of Weber’s determination to stand by its brand means you also get a 10-year warranty with the Smokey Mountain Cooker, so if anything does go wrong with the Smokey Mountain, you’re as covered as you need to be.

If you’re in the market for a vertical smoker, you’re in the market for the Smokey Mountain Cooker. There are others available to you, naturally, and some of them are extremely good at what they do.

But the sheer, repeatable, joy on the faces of people eating meat from the Smokey Mountain is more than enough to earn it the top spot on our list of the best vertical smokers available right now.

Pros:

  • The porcelain enamel shell of the smoker makes it hardwearing and stylish
  • It’s extremely easy and intuitive to use
  • You have precise control of the smoke and temperature control
  • The two large stacked racks allow the smoke to rise and permeate the meat equally
  • It connects to the iGrill 2 heat probe to give you updates on your phone
  • The 10-year warranty gives you peace of mind

Cons:

  • Some people report having some smoke leakage around the door. While this is never enough to change the smoking of your meat, it can be disconcerting to new smokers

EDITORS CHOICE

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: DGO1176BDC-D
  • Size: 20.2 x 34.52 x 47.03 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Smoker material: Porcelain enameled steel
  • Grate material: Steel
  • Fuel: Charcoal
  • Smoking space: 784 square Inch of total smoking area; 1176 square inches of total cooking space with 25-pounds capacity per grate
  • Wireless: None
  • Warranty: 1 year

Want a great vertical smoker, but strapped for Weber-level cash?

You could do a lot worse than check out the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker.

Now, being reasonable, for a much lower price-point, you’re not getting the whole porcelain enamel gig of the Weber, but you’d be surprised at the sturdiness and steel content in the build of the Dyna-Glo.

That makes for a solid, highly durable offset vertical smoker. It’s going to give you the best results in warmer conditions – summer smoking all the way! – but if you want to use it in colder climates or more wintry conditions, you can do that too. You just have to make sure to stoke the fire a little hotter.

The joy of a vertical smoker of course is in the potential size of the racks you can use, and the number you can stack for batch smoking. The Dyna-Glo gives you 784 square inches of smoking space across no fewer than six grates.

We’ve done the math on this. It means that if you want to or need to, you can smoke around 100 pounds of meat at one time. So if you suddenly get a band of wandering boy scouts or girl scouts coming by, you can pretty much feed the troop without batting an eyelid.

There’s a neat dual door here, which will minimize your chance of losing heat while you smoke, and the combination of a temperature gauge and an adjustable flue means you get precise control of your smoke flow.

A large ash pan also means you won’t be dealing with the bane of some smoker’s lives – the infamous mid-smoke clean-up that scatters all your heat and smoke to the four winds.

Bottom line, the Dyna-Glo gives you a lot of vertical smoker for nothing like as much cash as some of the more high-end models you can get.

Easy, reliable controls and intelligent engineering give you a solid smoking performance, and the six racks of smoking space mean you can cater for larger events without any worries about time or quantity.

You don’t get the 10-year warranty of a Weber with this smoker, but you do get a 1-year version so you can really put the smoker through its paces in that first 12 months with no fear of damage or breakage.

The Dyna-Glo is a great option if you’re relatively new to smoking meat, and can take you all the way through from humble beginnings to big backyard barbecues without losing any sleep.

Pros:

  • The price-point of the Dyna-Glo makes it attractive to newcomers to the smoking world
  • The offset factor gives you a traditional charcoal smoky taste
  • Six racks give you the opportunity to smoke up to 100 pounds of meat at a batch
  • The heavy-duty steel construction makes for a sturdy smoker that should last you years unless you actively throw it down some stairs
  • The combination of an in-built thermometer and an adjustable flue gives you control over your smoke flow
  • No mid-smoking clean-ups are necessary in this model

Cons:

  • You may get some smoke loss with this model, which might affect the consistency of your smoking, and which would need fixing with high-heat silicone

BEST VALUE

Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker with 3 Smoking Racks, 30 inch, Black

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: MES 35B
  • Size: 20 x 21.69 x 40.15 inches
  • Weight: 48.96 pounds
  • Smoker material: Cast iron
  • Grate material: Steel
  • Fuel: Electricity
  • Smoking space: Three racks, big enough to take a chicken each
  • Wireless: No
  • Warranty: 1 year

Masterbuilt is one of a few companies leading the charge when it comes to the renaissance of the electric smoker.

There’s no doubt that electric is a smart way to go both in terms of fuel consumption and the green dollar, but electric smokers have been out of mainstream style for a while in America.

The MES 35B makes a good case for going back to the electric ways of some of our forefathers, with three smoking racks letting you smoke at least three chickens at a time, or two turkeys.

The MES 35B has easily removable grease trays – you simply pull them out from the front – so you can keep smoking without necessarily imparting the tang of grease back into your meat.

An easy temperature gauge makes the smoking you want to do into a breeze, because usefully, smoking as a process depends on knowing details like the temperature in the smokers.

These extra little design features make smoking on electric just as controllable and straightforward as some of the other fuel options, so there’s little to stop you enjoying great smoking with an electric heat source anymore.

You also have control over the dampers, so if you’re concerned that your meat might be getting over-smoked, you can just release some of the smoke and move on with your perfectly smoky life.

As an electric smoker, the MES 35B feels like it joins the competition with a lot to prove. But by delivering reliable results time after time, it does the job it has to do, which is why it earns its place on our list.

Pros:

  • It gives you succulent smoky flavor, time after time
  • The electric heat source is more environmentally friendly than most others
  • There’s a precision to the MES 45B that makes low, slow smoking a speciality
  • It’s easy to set up and easy to clean
  • The price point is probably good enough to convince some hardcore smokeheads over to the electric side

Cons:

  • While the dial is great to have, it comes without labelled numbers, so you may take a while getting to know your machine before you can use it easily

RUNNER UP

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: Deepa
  • Size: 23.1 x 23.4 x 36.2 inches
  • Weight: 22.68 pounds
  • Smoker material: Stainless steel
  • Grate material: Steel
  • Fuel: Propane
  • Smoking space: 1200 square inches
  • Wireless: None
  • Warranty: 1 year

If you ever owned and loved a Swiss army knife, you’re going to own and love a Char-Broil Big Easy, because the ultimate ethos is the same. You can use it as a smoker and it will smoke right up there with the best of them.

But you also have the option to roast and grill with eh Big Easy too, so rather than separating out the processes and using sometimes two or three machines, here you have a one-stop shop machine that doesn’t particularly let the side down on doing any of them.

Scalewise, it’s by no means shabby – there’s a basket that can fit anything up to a 21-pound turkey. Want to have a smoky Thanksgiving this year? Boom, job done, no hassle.

Apart from the basket though, there’s 180 square inches of grill space to fill with all the other meats your colon can cope with.

As a propane grill, you obviously have an extra level of hassle in the preparation of the smoker, in that you have to go and buy the propane that will make the infrared grill do its magic.

But there’s a good deal to be had here – propane is one of the more energy efficient options for heating a grill or smoker, because it’s usually priced lower than gasoline, and it stays viable on shelves longer, so it works as a more energy- and cost-efficient option for your smoker.

And by combining all three functions in one machine, the Big Easy lives up to both parts of its name, giving you a vertical smoker that has the space for lots of meat to get an even smoking, and an ease that lets you  use that one machine to take the meat from raw to smoked to grilled or roasted.

Pros:

  • The triple action of this smoker improves an already-good price proposition
  • With a large bird basket and lots of other space, you can smoke for larger family groupings
  • It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and easy to clean

Cons:

  • Unusually, you get no warranty coverage on the parts for this smoker

RUNNER UP

18-1/2 in. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: B00BQMDZYY
  • Size: 21 x 21 x 31.1 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Smoker material: Porcelain enamel
  • Grate material: Stainless steel
  • Fuel: Charcoal
  • Smoking space: Inexact, but hooks and racks combine to give you more smoking space
  • Wireless: No
  • Warranty: No information immediately available

We’re going to make no bones about this. If you’re looking for a smoker that has the sleek looks of some sci-fi, Star Trek, computerized machine… the Pit Barrel Smoker is not gonna be for you.

It looks pretty much like it claims to look – like a pit and a barrel got together and had some smoky fun.

But the Pit Barrel has skills way beyond its looks, and it will see you chowing down on succulent charcoal-smoked meats before you know what hit you. This, in case there’s any confusion on the point, is a really good thing.

Sharing a touch of inspiration with the Weber, there’s a porcelain-enameled steel drum here, and the vertical design means you get faster smoking by virtue of a shaft of smoke.

There’s less of the precision-temp tweaking and phone updates of some higher-tech models with the Pit Barrel, but on the other hand, it frees you up to do other things because its design is simplistic to the point of perfection.

You load up the meat on the racks, fire up the heat and go chill out while the smoker does all the work.

The package comes with all the racks and hooks you need, too, and some dry rubs to get you started, so all you need is the fuel, the meat and some hunger.

While it’s not as generous as some on the market, there’s a handy 1-year warranty with the Pit Barrel too, in the event of something, somehow, managing to go wrong.

But the lack of moving parts and over-complication means that the great likelihood is that you’ll just have years of joyous, simple, charcoal-tasty smoked meats ahead of you.

Pros:

  • It’s almost ridiculously simple to set the Pit Barrel up, and equally simple to use, time after time
  • The racks and hooks let you smoke a lot more meat than at first you might suspect in a small space
  • The porcelain enamel body means it’s a very durable smoker that should serve you for years

Cons:

  • Because of the way the smoker is constructed, you might need to invest in a set of extra long tongs and gloves to get some of the meat out

RUNNER UP

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: BTDS76P 990216
  • Size: 14 x 17 x 31 inches
  • Weight: 57.5 pounds
  • Smoker material: Stainless steel
  • Grate material: Stainless steel
  • Fuel: Electricity
  • Smoking Space: 4 cooking racks
  • Wireless: Yes, including a smartphone app
  • Warranty: 1 year

Along with Masterbuilt, Bradley is dedicatedly bringing the electric smoker back to public consciousness in America. The Bradley 4-Rack Digital Smoker has – you’ll be surprised to learn – 4 full racks on which to arrange your meat for smoking.

Where the Pit Barrel was a fix-and-leave-it solution based on minimal technological overcomplication, the Bradley more or less achieves the same results, but with a much more high-tech approach.

The chamber of the smoker is stainless steel, with an epoxy-coated outer wall to hold in heat and prevent damage. But beyond the sleek looks of the smoker, there’s some impressive technology at play to make sure you get perfect smoked meat with minimum fuss.

The digital timer in particular makes the business of smoking relatively effortless. Simply set the timer, add your briquettes and your meat, and then, like the Pit Barrel owner, you walk away and persuade yourself that heck, you’re making food, it’s probably fine to have a beverage of your choice…

The real fun is that the Bradley has not one heating element but two – one to deliver even temperature, the other to create and regulate the smoke. That’s a unique little feature that gives you unparalleled control of what’s going on inside your smoker.

That in turn means you can get the precise degree of smokiness you want, whether you want the attack of hard smoke done long and slow, or the more subtle flavor you can get by applying a lower degree of smoke.

As if to underline the appliance of science in this smoker, it also has an auto-feed system, so the briquettes don’t even need you to refill the smoke chamber until the hopper is nearly, or actually, empty.

Naturally in the 21st century, the Bradley wouldn’t qualify as a high-tech smoker without its own smartphone app, giving you complete remote control (Perhaps there’s even time for a second beverage…).

And with a cooking or smoking capacity of 520 square inches, it’s unlikely you’ll need to run it a second time except for significantly large gatherings.

A standard 1-year warranty means you should be able to put the Bradley through its paces without any particular fear. But one thing it’s worth noting is that unlike several other smokers on our list, this is only a smoker.

It is dedicated to the one process, and can’t muster the energy draw to also grill the meat it smokes. So be aware of what you’re buying if you go for the Bradley.

Pros:

  • The high-tech elements of the Bradley more or less guarantee good smoking with minimal fuss or effort
  • Two heating elements allow you precise control over both the temperature and the degree of smoke
  • The smartphone app gives you remote control over the smoking
  • A capacity of 520 square inches means you can smoke a good amount of meat in one batch

Cons:

  • This is a dedicated smoker – it has no capacity to grill

RUNNER UP

Masterbuilt MB20051316 Propane Smoker with Thermostat Control, 40 inch, Black

Stats - At A Glance

  • Model: MB20051316
  • Size: 24 x 23 x 48.5 inches
  • Weight: 92 pounds
  • Smoker material: Stainless steel
  • Grate material: Chrome-coated steel
  • Fuel: Propane
  • Smoking space: 961 square inches
  • Wireless: None
  • Warranty: 1 year

If you enjoyed the idea of the Mastergrill, but aren’t quite ready to go electric in your smoker, Masterbuilt has you covered with the ThermoTemp Propane Smoker.

Why go propane? Apart from the potential fuel efficiency, it allows for some serious temperature control. With the “ThermoTemp” technology, you can control the burner, so you don’t have to interfere with the propane bottle.

A heat diffuser helps to distribute the heat evenly throughout the smoker, giving you regular smoking. And in particular, the Masterbuilt has a safety valve to automatically shut off the propane if the flame goes out.

What are we looking at in terms of smoking space? Plenty – four racks give you a total of 961 square inches to smoke on. That’s enough for most families, including all the cousins.

As with most of the smokers, the Masterbuilt comes with a 1-year warranty to give you confidence as you break it in.

Pros:

  • The heat diffuser helps give you even heat and smoke distribution every time you smoke
  • A safety valve turns off the propane if the flame goes out
  • 961 square inches of smoking space is plenty for most families
  • A 1-year warranty lets you get used to the benefits of propane

Cons:

  • There are issues with the glass door, which can fog up during the smoking

Best Vertical Smokers Buying Guide

When you’re buying a vertical smoker, there are things to keep in mind.

Best Vertical Smokers

Smoking space

It’s worth spending some time assessing the amount of meat you’ll be smoking on a regular basis – just a family feast? A neighbourhood cookout? A Scout troop? That directly impacts on the size of available smoking space you need in your smoker.

Technological level

Do you want to go techno-free and just fix-and-forget your meat? Or do you want smartphone updates and remote control? Ideally, only pay for technological enhancement you actually want, and that will serve the needs you have from your smoker.

Fuel factors

Choose a smoker that uses the fuel you’re most comfortable or familiar with. That said, there’s a resurgence of electric smokers in the 21st century, and propane is pretty cost efficient, so make a fuel choice based on comfort by all means, but also bring convenience and economic factors into the equation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I choose a vertical smoker?

Space, above all. A vertical smoker gives you lots of rack space compared to flat smokers, as you can layer the racks and get the smoke into all the meat in a batch. That also cuts down the time factor when you’re smoking a lot of meat.

Which fuel is best for vertical smokers?

There’s no objectively best fuel for vertical smokers. The only reason to choose one fuel over another is because the fuel works better for you than others.

Are vertical smokers more efficient than offset smokers?

You could say so, yes. They use significantly less fuel than offset smokers, and have a much more compact footprint, so yes, you could say they’re more efficient.