Most of us are familiar with the horizontal, rectangular, or a cylindrical shape of a typical grill or smoker. However, when it comes to smokers, there are different and specially planned designs in order to make the smoking process more efficient. In all smokers, the basic principle is the same: to cook the meat, vegetables, or any meal slowly and infuse a smoky flavor into the food. Nevertheless, among many smoker options, vertical smokers stand out with their unique features.
What is a Vertical Smoker?
Basically, a smoker is an outdoor cooking appliance that creates the right environment for meat to cook in low temperatures than grilling and traps more flavor inside the food. Grills are designed to cook the meat in less time, on the other hand, smokers are made to slow the cooking process and enhance the flavor as well as offering a more intense smoky taste than you would get by grilling on charcoal. In contrast to other smokers, a vertical smoker has a bit of a different construction. These smokers are built upon a basic physics principle: the air becomes less dense when it is heated and travels upwards. In addition, you don’t need direct flames for a smoking process, thus, it is safe to say that vertical shape is quite feasible and possibly an effective design. In other words, smokers that are built in a vertical way that allows the air to travel naturally are quite functional ones. Moreover, a vertical design allows the smoker to have less width but more length in shape, thus, the smoker occupies less space on the ground. Overall, when these 3 features are combined, they shape the perfect smoker design: vertical.
Down below, you can find more information about how to use a vertical smoker, what to pay attention to, and some of the best vertical smokers we have picked for you to save you some time.
Our 5 Picks for Top Vertical Smokers
Best of All
#1 Best Capacity - Dyna-Glo Wide Body Charcoal Offset Smoker DGO1890BDC-D
A large smoker packed with many features: Dyno Glo's Offset model is the perfect smoker for any party or crowded family meal.
This vertical smoker of Dyno Glo comes in 2 size options, and the wider option is offering the best capacity. Both versions of the grill come with 6 racks, each one able to carry up to 25 pounds. Moreover, this grill has a chrome-plated rib rack and sausage hooks that bring more space and diversity into your grilling experience. In other words, almost every type of meat and vegetable can be smoked in Dyno Glo’s versatile smoking environment.
The built-in thermometer this smoker has is quite easy to read. The best temperature interval for smoking is indicated on the thermometer with a small smoke symbol and a grey background. The smoker works with charcoal, which can be messy sometimes, but thanks to the ash management system it has, clean up is quite easy. Moreover, since the smoker is offset, the firebox is on the side, simplifying the charcoal loading process and saving you the trouble of opening the door every time you need to add fuel. Besides, the removable ash pan of the smoker is designed with a large capacity to handle hours of cooking without any interruption. Lastly, inside of the charcoal chamber on the bottom right side is porcelain-enameled and it keeps charcoal briquettes piled up tightly for effective smoking.
#2 Best Small - Weber 14-inch Smokey Charcoal Water Smoker
The great portable smoker for any event: Smokey Mountain Cooker designed with Weber quality.
The smallest and compact smoker on this list is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker’s 14* inch option. If you are looking for a smoker that won’t engage a lot of space, or if the smoker you purchase will only serve 2-4 people, a 14-inch diameter smoker will probably be more than enough for you. Inside the tube-like shape of this grill, there are 2 smoking racks, one in the body and one at the top, making a total grilling area of 246 square inches.
Weber is a brand that is known for its revolutionary grills, and they usually come up with quite effective designs. At first glance at this smoker, we notice that the design of it is lovely and unique: It is quite compact, a smoker that you can take anywhere, one that will easily fit your car, but also packed with many useful features. The basic features of the smoker are its 2 plated steel cooking racks, a built-in thermometer, a water pan, and a damper system for better control of the heat and the airflow. Last but not least, Weber offers 2-10 years of warranty on different parts of this smoker.
#3 Best Budget - Masterbuilt 30 inch Digital Electric Smoker MB20071117
Among the most affordable options, one of them stands out. Masterbuilt’s vertical smoker offers the convenience of electricity with a great smoking experience.
This smoker has 4 chrome-coated cooking racks and a cooking space total of 711 square inches. For a more precise measurement, Masterbuilt states that the smoker can fit 2 turkeys, 4 pork Butts, 4 racks of ribs, or 6 chickens inside. Masterbuilt MB20071117 comes as a standard model in one size, and its capacity can easily serve a crowded family meal or any event.
The smoker comes in black color with a steel construction. The built-in thermometer is not on the front door of the smoker, but on the top of it. In addition, the smoker is not that heavy, it approximately weighs 45 pounds, thus, even though it has a large capacity, it is easy to move. The smoker is an electric-powered one, thus, it can be quite convenient than propane or charcoal options in the market since it saves you the trouble of changing gas tanks, or having to add charcoal during your cooking. However, you will also need wood chips that are going to be loaded to the smoker as well as a power source. Thanks to the patented wood-chip adding system of Masterbuilt, you can easily add/control the wood chips without opening the door of the smoker. Moreover, the digital thermometer on the top of this smoker is also a thermostat, so it allows you to both monitor and adjust the temperature inside and the cooking duration you want.
#4 Best Propane - Dyna-Glo 36" Large Gas Smoker DGW1235BDP-D
Dyna-Glo Vertical Smoker has different size and fuel options that meet all the functional combinations you'd ask for. Large sized liquid propane gas one is our take!
Power and Capacity
Offering 3 different size options for any demand, backed by charcoal and gas fuel types, this grill is rich in several variants staying within the same model. We'll go deeper with the propane gas and large sized variant of this grill, since gas fuel provides a quick and easy usage, and we think that large option ideally pays off for any scale of family or crowd. Besides, if you are in love entertaining larger crowds frequently, Dyna-Glo 43" XL can be a better fit for you.
Each cast iron burner producing 10.000 BTUs of power, dual gas burners deliver a total of 20.000 BTUs heat power to the porcelain enameled steel wood made chip box. Since each burner has its own temperature gauge controls, you don't have to burn two burners at the same time. If you like to keep things warm after smoking process, one burner will do the job.
There is an included thermometer on top of the upper door, but we recommend that you get an additional thermostat, so that you'll know precisely how hot it's next to the food on the racks inside the smoker. Lower shelves are a bit cooler when compared to upper shelves, this makes vegetables work better in the bottom.
The smoker is really huge and spacious inside, so that you can easily customize your smoking by replacing standard grates. Besides, you can place an oven thermometer or even a thermostat with external probs. You can put a lot of ribs, pork, steak and maybe large chickens if you'd like.
We really love the feature that it has got two doors, you can either check the heat source or inspect your food separately, without disturbing the other operation. We don't think you'll have any issues during assembly, instructions are very exactly described to get you quickly into action, you don't walk alone in any tiny step.
#5 Best Design - Char-Broil Deluxe Black, Large Digital Electric Smoker 19202101
If you are a first-time smoker and looking for digital features including a remote control, you'll enjoy watching meat smoke through the transparent window.
Power and Capacity
This electric smoker makes grilling easy with 725 square inches of internal cooking space. It contains four adjustable smoker racks and provides the ability to prepare and grill various food types and in large quantities. However, we don't recommend smoking a turkey more than 10 lbs. Since this is more of a compact model, you'd not want to fill the whole box until there is no room inside.
The built-in digital control panel lets you adjust the temperature from 105°F to 275°F. You'll need to check for the temperature you need according to what you cook. By pushing the meat probe button on the panel, you can see the temperature of the probe. You can actually put the probe in the meat to measure the temperature, but also just leaving it as is, you'll see the exact internal temperature of the smoker at that moment.
This smoker is well insulated and has a double-wall construction that makes you notice its durable structure at first touch. Plus, it has a large stainless steel lock clasp for a smoke-tight seal, which works great saving the heat and smoke inside of the box.
It's packed with some great features like a digital timer, thermostat, remote, and integrated meat probe. That means you nearly get all the additional accessories at once, whereas other smokers may present after a separate sale. The meat probe, in particular, is especially helpful as you can program the smoker to turn off when the meat reaches the desired internal temperature. When internal temperatures are checked with an instant-read thermometer, and the Char-Broil was always accurate.
The Char-Broil can also produce beautifully colored, well-smoked chicken, but both the pork chop and ribs may become a little chewy. We think wrapping them in foil and cooking them longer can be a good workaround to achieve better results.
How We Rank Vertical Smokers
Buying must be the result of a good analysis. There are the factors we focus on when rating vertical smokers in our top list;
Weight is important because a good smoker is heavy. The thick steel retains heat without transmitting it to the outside of the smoker, saving you wood. It is also much easier to control temperatures in a well-built and sealed thick-walled smoker than in a cheap leaky thin-walled smoker. Vertical smokers of poor quality are famous for being thin, leaky, and lacking in durability.
Although it is not the only option available, the stainless steel smoker is one of the most recurring variants. We think it is ideal for less experienced users, especially if it is a heavy gauge because heat is better distributed with this kind of finish, allowing to obtain much better results with less effort.
Just because your smoker is blowing smoke does not mean that it is working properly. You can feel the difference in flavor when a smoker produces clean, blue smoke than when it expels bitter white smoke. For a smoker to function well, build quality is the key. Doors should seal 100% without leaking air for smoker to function properly.
Please also remind that keeping a new product clean is essential to extend its useful life and avoid potential complications, especially when it comes to food.
We especially recommend you look for the correct size and type of smoker according to your needs. You will generally be looking for a larger smoker if you are planning a crowded event and you can't fit all of your meat in a small smoker. Depending on your availability of space, you may need a smaller one.
If you are not very good at preparing smoked salmon or other foods, it is best to opt for a temperature-controlled vertical smoker. In this sense, the best option is the electric or gas smoker. You can set the temperature to cook for the ideal taste, and you do not have to track the temperature every second, which will give you great freedom.
If you are an experienced cook and want to give a real personal touch to your preparations with the oven to smoke meat, you can easily buy a charcoal smoker. Remember that the charcoal smoker is more suitable for outdoor cooking, so you should also assess your intentions when making smoked meat.
Warranty and Replacement Parts
Check out if the manufacturer offers support when smoker parts are damaged or broken and you need a replacement. Warranty periods may change between one to ten years from different sellers. Longer the warranty period is, more trustworthy product lifetime would be because the manufacturer stands by the product.
What to Pay Attention When Using a Vertical Smoker
Cooking methods such as grilling and smoking are not usually recommended inside a house or a closed space. Grilling might be done on a gas griddle in your kitchen, restaurants, garages, and so on. However, smoking should never be done in a closed environment without proper ventilation systems. We should note that grilling and smoking are more complex methods to cook and they need to be paid special attention to. Even if your smoker is electric or gas, make sure to use it in outdoor locations only in order to avoid any smoke and its possible harms and cook with extra caution.
Just like any other kitchen appliance, you have to pay attention to the cleaning processes. Meat touches the smoker directly, so hygiene is beyond important. When purchasing your smoker, try to pick rust-resistant materials, and don’t forget to cure your smoker before the first use. Also, always clean your smoker properly after you are done smoking. Lighting your smoker, in other words, curing the smoker to get ready for first use at a high temperature and this is good for 2 reasons: extending life by rust prevention and removing any possible manufacturing residues that possibly stay on or after the production phase in the factory.
Curing the Smoker
Curing, seasoning, or pre-seasoning all refer to the same thing: cleaning up the smoker and making it ready for your initial use. The 4 basic steps of curing are:
- 1Cleaning your smoker thoroughly
- 2Coating the smoker completely with oil
- 3Heating the smoker up to a slightly higher temperature (approximately 300 F) and waiting for 2-4 hours.
- 4After the curing process, letting your smoker cool down completely.
This is a very basic explanation of the curing process, and your purchase might require some alterations or different steps. Make sure to check your smoker’s website or manual on how to cure your smoker.
The curing process can be repeated frequently, and if you do so, it will prevent rust from forming quickly.
Different Fuel Options
Vertical smokers come in mainly 3 fuel options: electric, charcoal, and propane gas. There are also horizontal smokers combined with grills, which work with wood or pellets as fuel sources.
Charcoal as a fuel is known for its great flavor. Even though it isn't exactly a green fuel, it is the most common fuel in both grills and smokers. Without any extra assist, charcoal is sufficient enough itself when creating the desired temperature and smoky flavor for a perfectly cooked meal.
Gas options, on the other hand, are known to be greener fuel options but lack the smoky flavor we pursue in the slow cooking processes. Therefore, if you own a gas smoker, there will probably be a special drawer-like part of your smoker that will allow you to add wood chips in order to infuse the significant smoke scent and flavor in the meat.
Another alternative fuel for smokers can be electricity. Even though defining electricity as a fuel is not accurate; in these types of smokers, electricity is the source of power for the heating unit. Thus, just like gas smokers, the fuel itself is responsible for heating and retaining the desired temperature, but it cannot give the smoke flavor without the help of wood chips.
As mentioned before, for smoking in your electric or gas smokers, you are going to need wood chips. Wood chips are commonly used as fragrance providers; they are basically scented timbers that are collected from various tree species and cut into small portions.
Chips or Chunks?
As we mention chips, we should also state that there is a slightly different type of wood for smoking too, wood chunks. A chunk is a larger piece of wood, about a fist size, that is used for smoking larger cuts of meat such as brisket and ribs. Moreover, chips are usually preferred for shorter periods of smoking such as cooking fish or chicken, whereas chunks are usually used for longer durations. However, note that some electric and gas grills are made to work with WOOD CHIPS ONLY, thus, you should not be adding wood chunks, logs, or pellets. Make sure to double-check this part of the manual of the smoker/the website of your purchase.
Pellets are not primarily made to be used as a fragrance source in smokers. They do not function the same as wood chips, thus, do not load your smoker with pellets unless you have a pellet smoker. Pellets, at first, are a fuel type of their own, but still may be a choice together with gas and charcoal for milder tastes. You'd also want to try pellet smoker tubes and result in extra flavor even with your grill, put it in any position and release smoke .
Soaking Wood Chips
The wood chips you choose don’t have to be used dry, in fact, most of the time, users prefer soaking them in water for a 30-minute duration before smoking. The purpose of soaking the wood chips is to make them last longer and burn slower. If you prefer using dry wood chips, they will produce a more intense smoke flavor, and they will do it quickly but you will also have to load the smoker with chips more often, approximately every 45 minutes - 1 hour for the first couple hours of smoking duration.
We kindly intended to review the best vertical smokers on the market, and we hope we could help you get some ideas. Whether it is an electric smoker or any other type, vertical smokers allow you to enjoy foods low in fat and a much more intense flavor.
Ups and Downs of Vertical Smokers
What We Like:
What We Don't Like:
Please feel free to get back to us if you have any further questions or want to share your considerations. We wish your smoker brings you the best delicacy full of flavor and juice.