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Best Barbecue Smokers Under $500

Best Barbecue Smokers Under $500

Smoking is the art of transforming tough cuts of meat into delicious, tender masterpieces, and it is one of the most sought-after types of barbecues. To get this smokey flavor, you'll need the right tools: a good, solid smoker. Luckily, good smokers don't have to be extraordinarily expensive. To learn more about five of the best barbecue smokers under $500, keep reading!

Comparison Table

How to Choose a Smoker

As smoking meat becomes more and more popular, the number of barbecue smokers that are available has become so substantial that choosing a reliable yet well-priced smoker seems to be a near impossibility. With so many options, it can be difficult to know exactly which smoker will give you the kind of cook that you need.

To figure out exactly what you're looking for in a smoker, take a minute to think about what traits you need in a smoker. Do you want a smoker that is mostly automated and can do the work for you? Do you want a large smoker that has the space to feed huge parties of people? Or do you just need a nice family-sized smoker that can go with you on weekend camping trips?

These questions and more can help you sift through the myriad of smoker models that are currently available on the market. Here are some of the most important questions you should consider when getting ready to buy a smoker.

What kind of heat source do you want to work with?

The heat for smokers is generated in three main ways: charcoal, propane gas, and electricity. These heat sources directly affect how easy it is to use a smoker, and they can also affect the flavor of your barbecue.

The most traditional of these heat sources is charcoal, and it is also the one that is the most difficult to work with. Charcoal smokers use a real fire that must be kindled regularly during the smoke session. This fire is important for smoking because it provides a natural smokey flavor to the cook, and you do not necessarily need to use wood chips to have a smokey-flavored barbecue. However, maintaining a constant temperature can be extremely difficult because of how much the temperature of the fire can vary. Overall, you will probably only want to invest in a charcoal smoker if you have previous smoking experience.

For a real-flame heat source that requires a little bit less maintenance during the cook, you can consider using propane gas. Propane smokers work by fueling the flame directly with the propane gas, which can help you to maintain a more constant temperature. While propane smokers do use a real flame as a heat source, this flame is not intended to burn anything directly. Consequently, there is no smoke that is naturally produced as you are smoking. To get this smokey flavor, you will need to use wood chips, which will be slowly burned as they are being heated by the propane flame.

Finally, there are electric smokers that work via an internal heating unit that is entirely electric. These smokers are most appealing for those who live in apartment complexes or who have wooden patios that have the risk of burning if exposed to a direct flame. Like propane smokers, you'll need to use wood ships in order to get the flavor of a smoked barbecue.

What kind of barbecues do you want to do with this smoker?

The next thing to consider when choosing a smoker is what kind of foods you want to smoke. The kind of food you want to smoke can directly affect the size and shape of the smoker you might want to buy. For instance, to smoke large cuts of meat, like brisket or a full-sized turkey, you'll need a smoker that is wide enough to accommodate these more hearty cuts of meat. Conversely, for sausages, you may want to have a smoker that is taller than it is wide so that you can hang the meat rather than drape it across the grates.

On the other hand, if you're interested in smoking seafood, you may be more interested in an electric smoker. This is because some electric smokers are equipped to do cold smoking, which is used to preserve certain types of fish like salmon.

How much meat do you need to be able to cook?

It goes without much say, but the larger your smoker is, the more food you will be able to cook at one time. This is important to consider if you are looking to smoke foods regularly for small family-sized gatherings, or if you are looking to use the smoker more frequently for large parties with as many as thirty people.

For smaller get-togethers with as many as eight people, a smoker that has 350 square inches of cooking space should suffice. Otherwise, for larger parties, you may want to consider a smoker that has 500 or more square inches of smoking, as this will help you to cook everything all at once.

What features does it have to trap the heat inside the chamber to help you achieve a fantastic smoke?

Another extremely important factor to consider about your smoker is its ability to reach and maintain your desired temperature range. Some smokers may feature a locking door mechanism, which will help to keep your smoker tightly closed during the cook. Other smokers might have double-insulated walls that maintain the heat inside the smoker by minimizing the heat that is released to the exterior. These features can be viewed as added insurance that your barbecue will be finished in time for dinner.

What extra features does it have?

Finally, you'll want to consider all of the extra accessories that come with your smoker. If you're looking to have a mobile model that can travel with you for tailgating or camping, you will most likely choose a charcoal or propane smoker that has wheels because these can be used without an electricity source, and the wheels make it much more mobile. Otherwise, you might be looking for a fancy, high-tech smoker with remote control access that you can use to wow your friends at a party. In any case, the bonus features of a smoker are one way to make a smoker feel like it is yours.


Top Five Best Barbecue Smokers Under $500

With all this in mind, you're now ready to take a look at five of the best barbecue smokers under $500.

This smoker has 2 features to help you lock in the heat and smoke during your cook. The first is a double-wall design that will help you insulate your barbecue as it cooks, and therefore helping you maintain a constant cooking temperature. The second feature is an oversized wood chip box that holds more wood chips than its competitor. As a result, you won't need to open this smoker as frequently to replenish its wood chip supply, thereby helping you to trap the smoke in with your barbecue.

This smoker also has a number of high-tech accessories. For instance, it has an integrated meat probe that allows you to monitor the internal temperature of your meat without having to open the chamber of the smoker. In addition, this smoker has a remote control monitor that allows you to keep an eye on your barbecue even as you are socializing with your friends.

Finally, this smoker is on the larger end of smokers, coming in at fifty pounds with over 700 square inches of cooking space. This makes it ideal for larger parties.

​Check out our full review of the Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker

Pros

  • Double-wall design and oversized wood chip box helps maintain temperature and smoke.
  • This smoker also has a number of high-tech accessories. 
  • Over 700 square inches of cooking space

Cons

  • Accessories has many electrical accessories which may need to be replaced over time

Check out MrNore14's review of the Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker below:

This is a propane gas smoker, which means that it is a viable option for mobile events including tailgating and camping. In addition, this model is equipped with a push-button ignitor that is designed to make heating this smoker up even easier.

This smoker features a two-door design. This is intended to help you trap the heat around your meat even as you open the small, lower door to add wood chips to the fire box. In addition, it features an inner-liner to insulate the body of the smoker as well as a locking door to help trap the heat inside.

With a vertical cooking space and 717 square inches in the cooking rack, this model is may be used for hanging and smoking sausages as well as for cooking larger cuts of meat.

Check out our full review of the Masterbuilt 30" Vertical Propane Smoker.​

Pros

  • Can be used for tailgaiting and camping
  • Two door design means you won't lose heat when you add wood chips
  • 717 square inches of space has plenty of space for larger cuts of meat

Cons

  • Water pan and wood chip box may need to be replaced over the life of the smoker

With the appropriate attachement, this electric smoker is able to go from hot smoking to cold smoking. The reason that this is possible is that the smoker has two heating units: one unit is to heat the briquettes to their smoking temperature, and the other unit is used to heat your food. By using only the briquette heating unit, you can preserve your food with the smoke in the smoker without any additional heat.

This smoker is almost entirely automated. You can set your desired temperature and cook time, and then you can simply wait until the time is up for your barbecue to be finished. In addition, you can adjust the smoke timer, which means that you can also adjust just how smokey your barbecue is.

The interior of this smoker is lined with stainless steel. This conductive metal helps to insulate the body of the smoker, and it also helps make cleaning the interior of this smoker easier.

Check out our full review of the Bradley Digital 4-Rack Smoker

Pros

  • Can convert to cold smoking with the appropriate attachment
  • Almost entirely automated, just set the temperature and timer
  • Stainless steel helps insulate and makes cleaning easier

Cons

  • Only compatible with Bradley briskets which are only available online

This lightweight, charcoal smoker comes in at roughly thirty-nine pounds, making it one of the most portable smokers on the market. In addition, its compact bullet design can easily fit in the back of your car.

In order to kindle the flame of this charcoal smoker, there is a small fuel door on the back of the smoker. This will help you to maintain the heat and smoke that has built up inside the chamber even as you reach inside to adjust the amount of fuel there is for the fire.

This aluminum smoker is porcelain-enameled, and it also features a porcelain water pan. These are meant to help keep your smoker rust free.

Check out our full review of the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker​

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Small fuel door helps maintain heat 
  • Aluminum and porcelain-enameled parts are easy to clean and resist rust

Cons

  • Double-stacked racks can sometimes result in less smoke reaching the top rack.

This electric smoker is made to be a crowd pleaser. It features an automated wood chip dispenser and a remote control panel in order to give you as much hands-off time as you need to spend time with your friends and family. Additionally, the body of this grill has a huge front window so that you can watch your food as it cooks.

This smoker is large, with a solid body that weighs in at seventy-two pounds.In addition, it features a huge 975 square inches of cooking space, which makes it one of the largest barbecue smokers on the market.

The body of the smoker is well-designed. It is wide enough to accommodate a variety of meats, and with its vertical design, you should also be able to hang sausages to smoke.

Check out our full review of the Masterbuilt 40" Digital Electric Smoker

Pros

  • Automated and mostly hands-off
  • 975 square inches of cooking space is one of the largest on the market
  • Well-designed and wide enough to accommodate many different types of meat

Cons

  • Control panel may go out eventually but can be replaced by Masterbuilt

Conclusion

If you're looking for a nearly automated smoking process, hands down, the best value you can get for a smoker under $500 is the Masterbuilt 40" Digital Electric Smoker. This smoker is incredibly easy to use not only because it is electric, but also because it has many automated features, including a wood chip dispenser and internal temperature control. This is useful for beginners and experts alike who may not want to spend a lot of their time kindling a charcoal fire as you will need to with the Weber Smokey Mountain smoker, or feeing the wood chip box in a propane smoker. This smoker is also great because it can accommodate just about any kind of meat you may want to cook, unlike a smaller electric model like the Char-Broil Deluxe Digital model. Finally, because it is electric, it is the most accessible for people who intend to use this smoker at home,unlike the Masterbuilt 30" Vertical Propane smoker.

That being said, all of the smokers on this list are good values, particularly if you intend to use this smoker while camping, or if you have niche interests like cold smoking.

About the Author David Johnson

Hi there, I'm David and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I have been grilling and smoking for the past 7 years and my goal is to share my knowledge and experience with you.

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