If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
If you are ready to up the barbecue ante and take your outdoor cooking from amateur to “Omigod did you actually make that at home?” then it might be time to upgrade to a smoker grill.
Contrary to popular belief “barbecue” is not a catch-all term for any meat cooked on a grill, and grilling, barbecuing, and smoking are three different methods of cooking. Grilling means cooking small quantities of meat over high heat whereas with barbecue, you’re cooking larger pieces of meat over lower heat. Smoking, which requires the most expertise, uses the actual smoke from low-burning peat chips of hickory, mesquite or similar, to cook the meat. As you might imagine, this is a long, patient process that takes several hours — but the distinctive smokey flavor it gives the meat is worth it.
Real, authentic smoked barbecue is a time-honored tradition, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. Some smoker grills, like electric grills, were designed to be set running and forgotten about until the food’s ready, which is a major plus in the convenience department. However, electric smokers often lack an authentic smokey flavor. Other smokers use more traditional fuel types like charcoal or wood, which give food a more authentic flavor but require more babysitting.
Here Are Things You Should Consider Before Buying a Smoker Grill
Smoker grills come in charcoal, pellet, gas, and electric fuel types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Electric: Generally speaking, electric grills are convenient, but lack the authentic flavor of other fuel sources.
Charcoal: The best charcoal smokers will give your barbecue the best, and most authentic flavor, but need to be carefully monitored and maintained.
Pellet: Pellet smokers use electricity to burn wood pellets, which provides the best of both worlds as far as flavor and convenience goes, but need to be maintained and serviced regularly.
Gas: People like gas smokers because they are easy to use and easy to transport, meaning they’re perfect for a camping trip, for instance.
1. Z GRILLS Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
We love all the features that come with this smoker grill, which calls itself an 8-in-1 appliance for its ability to grill, sear, smoke, bake, barbecue, braise, roast, and char-grill.
This unit boasts a huge grill surface, at 19.2 x 26 inches, a wide temperature range of 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 450, and best of all, an automatic electric feed system which maintains the heat and optimal smoke from the pellets, so you can set it and then walk away without babysitting.
It is a little heavier-duty, with a few more bells and whistles than other models on our list, but it does have wheels attached to make it a little more cumbersome to move around.
This set comes with a free grill cover.
Pros: Automatic feed system means hands-off smoke maintenance.
Cons: Not portable.
2. Camp Chef SmokePro XT Wood Pellet Grill Smoker
Another convenient pellet grill with temperature control, there are a few other features to this model that we particularly like, including the ash clean-out cup system (which lets you easily dump the ash out after cooking), the wide temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees, and the smoke technology which evenly distributes smoke.
We also like that it comes with a meat temperature probe included, and that it can be customized with additional accessories. This grill is slightly smaller, which makes it easier to carry around but will limit the grill space. You get roughly 20 x 22 inches of grill space.
Pros: Wide temperature range and ash clean-out system.
Cons: Smaller grill space.
3. Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker
Unlike our other picks, this Royal Gourmet grill is a charcoal smoker instead of a pellet smoker, but still gives meats a classic, smoked flavor.
This is a sizable unit, with a combined 800 square inches of cooking surface and a large-capacity charcoal pan that contains five pounds of charcoal at once. Most people particularly like the combination offset smoker, which provides an additional 183 inches of cooking area.
We also like the swing-away warming rack, the cool touch spring handle that protects your hands from getting burned, and the adjustable charcoal pan that makes it easy to control temperature.
Pros: High-capacity with adjustable features.
Cons: Grill should be cured before using to prevent paint peeling.