If you’re tempted by the idea of smoking food this summer, you may have absolutely no idea what you’re looking for when comparing smokers.
The most important decision you’ll face concerned the way in which the smoker is powered. Today, our focus is purely on the best propane smokers, but they are by no means your only option.
A BBQ smoker is often fueled with charcoal, and there is no other way of cooking that delivers the trademark taste of a charcoal smoker.
Electric smokers are arguably the most convenient of all smokers, but many purists feel these in no way replicate the experience of cooking with charcoal.
With a propane smoker, then, you’ll get a unit that’s affordable, easy to use, and shouldn’t eat up too much precious space on your patio or decking. Many pitmasters are partial to cooking with gas, something you can’t say about electric.
So, if you’re looking for speed and convenience without spending a fortune, the right propane smoker could be the best investment you make this year.
The most popular propane-fueled smokers are in a cabinet style, and they are commonly called vertical smokers for this reason.
Now for the best news: choosing the best propane smoker is easy. These units are simple in execution and they are all broadly similar. You don’t need to worry about bells and whistles like smart control, and there is not much to differentiate these things. That said, you would benefit from taking the following into consideration on the buying trail:
- Size: You should consider the overall dimensions of the smoker first, along with the weight. Ensure that you have enough space to accommodate it. The width of the smoker comes into play for more than just placement. If you want to avoid cutting racks of ribs in half, look for a 40-inch smoker that makes this possible. Also crucial is the total cooking area available. This is expressed in terms of square inches and we highlight this information for each model we review so you can readily compare these smokers like-for-like
- Stability: A vertical smoker, one of the most common types, tends to be lighter and a little less stable than some other types of smoker. Make sure the legs are splayed and intelligently designed to counteract these stability issues if you opt for a vertical smoker
- Ease of cleaning: Make sure the racks and grease pan are removable and easy to clean. Chrome-plated racks minimize food splatter sticking on. Some of the best propane smokers come with dishwasher-friendly racks and pans
- Dual doors: Make sure you can access the smoke and water pan without needing to open the main door and breach the heating environment
- Adjustable shelving: Make certain you can adjust and remove the shelves to configure the smoking environment you need
OK, with those basics sketched in, you should now be perfectly positioned to choose the best propane smoker for your needs.
Now it’s time for our reviews!
I. The 10 Best Propane Smokers
1. Our #1 Pick: Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 36 inches
- Rack area: 785 square inches
- Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 46 inches
Our pick for the best propane smoker is the Cuisinart COS-444. How does this vertical smoker stack up, then, and what makes it so good?
Perhaps the key selling point here is the combination of a space-saving form factor with a Tardis-like interior offering almost 800 square inches of total rack area. This smoker measures just 36 inches across, though, and the vertical configuration means it occupies a narrow footprint.
The 4 stainless steel shelves are all removable, so you can clean them after every use. They are dishwasher-friendly for hands-free cleanup. The added benefit of the removable nature is the ability to make room for large cuts of meat or whole birds.
Unlike the more complicated charcoal smokers, you’ll find it super-simple to control the temperature when you’re using this model. By adjusting the gas supply, you’ll be able to tweak the amount of heat this smoker generates. Whether you’re a grilling pro or a complete beginner, you’ll be smoking food right out the box.
Monitoring the temperature is simplified thanks to the thermometer baked in. This is mounted in the front door so it’s always clearly visible.
The water and wood chip tray is made from porcelain enamel, giving you everything you need to smoke your favorite meats and fishes, while also simplifying cleanup.
The twist lock on the door handle comes under some heavy fire in users reviews, but the vast bulk of feedback is positive.
You get a 40-inch hose and regulator thrown in, although you’ll need to make provision for a 20-pound propane tank.
Overall, if you’re hunting for one of the best propane smokers that doesn’t dominate the patio or decking, the Cuisinart COS-444 is the perfect sweet spot of space-saving form and impressive cooking area. What’s not to love?
2. Masterbuilt Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 40 inches
- Rack area: 961 square inches
- Dimensions: 22.8 x 28.7 x 53 inches
Next up we have a beefier 40-inch propane smoker from grill specialist Masterbuilt. This brand has a heavy presence in this vertical, and with the quality of this smoker, it’s easy to see why.
Firstly, you’ll need to make sure you have the space to accommodate this beast. Measuring 40 inches across and weighing 92 pounds, this smoker works best in larger outside spaces.
In return for this bulky footprint, you get almost 1000 square inches of cooking real estate. To put this into perspective, you’ll have room for 6 turkeys, 16 chickens, 8 pork butts, or 8 full racks of ribs. If you like the idea of placing an entire rack inside unfolded, you can accomplish this thanks to the 40-inch width of the Masterbuilt.
The 4 cooking racks are all chrome-plated. This is a feature you’ll find on almost all of the best propane smokers, and it helps to streamline cleaning. As with all smokers, you should remove the racks and clean them with some warm soapy water after every use.
With an ergonomic temperature control, you can very easily adjust the heat in line with what you’re planning to smoke inside. This is perhaps the primary advantage of propane grills when compared to their charcoal-burning equivalent.
In the event of the flame being extinguished, the safety shut-off ensures the burner is turned off.
This burner is rated at 15,750 BTU, so you’ll have all the firepower you need on tap for smoking a variety of dishes consistently and efficiently.
As long as you’re prepared to make a slight sacrifice when it comes to that trademark taste only charcoal delivers, this propane smoker will give you user-friendly smoking even if you’re a complete newcomer to the art.
3. Dyna-Glo Vertical Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 36 inches
- Rack area: 784 square inches
- Dimensions: 27 x 19.2 x 46.7 inches
Dyna-Glo has a small line of grills and smokers, but they are popular the world over for their winning combination of price and performance. How does this unit shape up, then?
Firstly, you can choose from the following models:
This is the Standard model measuring 36 inches across. The vertical layout makes this smoker a smart choice if you have limited space on the patio or deck.
You also need to choose between this propane gas model or a natural gas alternative.
With those options taken care of, you should have the perfect smoker for you in place, so how does it perform?
Well, despite the compact footprint, you’ll benefit from a class-leading 784 square inches of cooking space. This is perfect for large families, or for anyone who frequently hosts big cookouts for many guests.
The wire racks are adjustable and removable. Spread your favorite foods across the 4 racks and then enjoy set-and-forget convenience. A few hours later, you’ll be enjoying lip-smacking delicacies without slaving over a hot grill.
There is a cover available for this model, but it doesn’t come bundled. It’s worth digging deeper to ensure your investment is properly protected.
Thanks to the twin doors, you can access the wood chip pan and water pan without being forced to open the main door and lose the heat inside.
Sliding air dampers allow you to easily and confidently manipulate the temperature. There is almost no learning curve to master, and you should be cooking like a pro in no time.
4. Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker
- Diameter: 15 inches
- Rack area: 180 square inches
- Dimensions: 23.2 x 36.3 x 23.5 inches
Char-Broil’s Big Easy is a smoker, roaster, and grill rolled into one, but is it worth your investment or a waste of money?
Fortunately, you’re buying into one of the most effective and versatile smokers here, so you can place your trust in the Char-Broil brand.
The primary draw is the TRU-Infrared functionality, ensuring you get consistent results every time with far fewer flareups. Don’t worry, though, your food will stay juicy and tender, so you’ll get those trademark smoking results with much less effort and hassle.
This iteration comes with a cover supplied, so you can leave your Char-Broil outside year-round with no concerns about rust or corrosion setting in.
Capacity is excellent. There is enough room inside for up to 25 pounds of meat, fish, and vegetables. Additionally, there is 180 square inches of space for roasting food, too. Whether you have a large family or you frequently entertain for lots of guests, you won’t need to compromise if you bring The Big Easy home.
You can arrange all your food on the removable racks, and you’ll have no snags keeping this smoker clean.
If you want all the benefits of cooking with propane but with the added bonus of TRU-Infrared, we can’t recommend The Big Easy highly enough.
5. Cuisinart Vertical Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 36 inches
- Rack area: 5.45 square feet
- Dimensions: 19.3 x 18.1 x 38.6 inches
Cuisinart is a brand best known for producing kitchenware and appliances, so what does their foray into smokers yield? Well, this model receives mixed reviews but is nevertheless worth a place on your shortlist.
To lead off with the key gripe, you may find maintaining the temperature on this unit is slightly tricky. For more experienced grill artists, this will present no problem, but we would suggest complete beginners consider one of the other smokers we review.
You certainly won’t be disappointed when it comes to capacity. You benefit from a sprawling interior with space for 25 pounds of meats, fish, and veggies, as well as 180 square inches of rack space for roasting your family favorites.
Arrange your food over the 4 stainless steel racks. These are all removable to simplify cleaning.
You moderate the heat by manipulating the propane gas supply, while the rear vent allows you to take control over the amount of smoke being circulated inside.
The tray for the wood and water is finished in porcelain enamel, promoting performance and lifespan.
You get the propane hose and regulator you need bundled with this smoker. All you’ll need to get going is a standard 20-pound propane tank, some wood chips, and the food you want to smoke slow and low.
6. Camp Chef Smoke Vault Vertical Smoker
- Diameter: 24 inches
- Rack area: 903 square inches
- Dimensions: 30.5 x 25 x 17 inches
Camp Chef’s classic Smoke Vault is one of the most popular propane smokers out there, and it’s also one of the most effective. How does it shape up, then?
Perhaps the key selling point with this model is the huge interior capacity. One of the biggest smokers in its class, the Smoke Vault provides you with over 900 square inches of cooking real estate so you can get creative cooking low and slow.
There are 3 different dampers to help you regulate the temperature inside this unit. One of these is located on top of the smoker, with another damper on either side. If you’re looking for ease pure and simple, there is no substitute for an electric smoker. For anyone prepared to get more hands-on, though, this model is straightforward to operate when compared to much of the competition.
A thermometer built in lets you monitor the temperature inside the smoker from 50F through 550F.
As with all the best contemporary propane smokers, you’ll enjoy a seamless ignition system, so you won’t need any matches or a lighter to get the party started.
Overall build quality is robust, and the smoker looks sleek and understated in contrasting black and silver.
7. Camp Chef Smoke Vault
- Diameter: 24 inches
- Rack area: 301 square inches
- Dimensions: 30 x 25 x 17 inches
The iconic Smoke Vault from Camp Chef is a strong contender for the best compact propane smoker.
Measuring just 24 inches across, this unit works well if you simply don’t have the room for a larger unit but you still want smoked food on-demand.
As you would expect from such a space-saving smoker, you take a hit when it comes to total cooking area. With just over 300 square inches of space inside, though, you can still rustle up snacks for the whole family or a couple of guests.
Inside, there’s a pair of cooking grids, both fully adjustable. You also get a jerky smoking rack to widen your options.
Use wood chips, pellets, or chunks to impart that trademark smoky taste, and utilize propane gas to power this thing.
Heat control couldn’t be easier. Fully adjustable dials for control and a trio of damper valves let you tweak the temperature from 160F to 350F for all your smoking needs. You can easily monitor the temperature thanks to the gauge baked into the door of this smoker.
While there’s not much to knock about the performance of this propane smoker, we found a number of complaints concerning the flimsy build quality. We feel this is a worthwhile sacrifice if you are shopping for propane grills based mainly on portability and space-saving form.
8. Pit Boss Vertical Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 24 inches
- Rack area: 884 square inches
- Dimensions: 21.5 x 23 x 47 inches
Pit Boss is an industry legend, producing grills and smokers beloved by beginners and pitmasters alike. How does this vertical propane smoker stack up, then?
This unit comes equipped with a dual burner system rated at a commendable 12,500 BTU. This allows you to heat the food inside this thing from 100F through to 350F, giving you ample latitude to create all your favorite smoked delicacies.
Maybe you don’t have any favorites as you’re a newcomer to smoking food. If so, you made the right choice with this vertical propane smoker. You won’t need to wrestle with a steep learning curve like when you’re cooking with charcoal, but you’ll get a better taste than using an electric smoker.
External access to the water pan and wood chip pan means you don’t need to tamper with the heating environment you’ve been building up.
You can keep a close on proceedings through, again without opening the door. The large viewing window lets you check up on the food at a glance, and the thermometer saves you from needing to check the temperature.
The cooking grids are coated with porcelain to prevent food debris from sticking all over. These should be removed and washed with hot soapy water after every use.
As an added kicker, despite the pretty compact form factor, you get a huge cooking area totaling 884 square inches. If you’re still spending more time at home than usual, why not bring the party home to you and host a huge cookout this summer? With the Pit Boss by your side, that should be easier than ever before.
We discovered predominantly positive user reviews for this smoker, but we also encountered a significant number of complaints about the poor quality of customer service this brand delivers. Pack plenty of patience if you need to contact customer care.
9. Masterbuilt Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 30 inches
- Rack area: 800 square inches
- Dimensions: 17.3 x 18.3 x 26.2 inches
Another entry from the inimitable Masterbuilt is up next with this slimline 30-inch smoker powered by propane gas. How does it stand and fall?
As with all the best propane smokers, you’ll find controlling the temperature on this unit couldn’t be easier. The notched grill comes with temperature markings to streamline operation. Even if this is your first attempt at smoking food, you should pull it off first time in this thing. While the temperature is easy to control, we found some blowback from disgruntled consumers concerning the accuracy of temperature maintenance.
The smoking racks are all chrome-plated which gives you the optimum non-stick surface. These should be removed and washed after every use.
The heat diffuser inside this smoker serves to efficiently and evenly distribute the heat generated by the burner for consistent results every time.
This brand also offers a robust range of accessories. Once you start experimenting with this smoker and you realize just how much you can cook in it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t treat yourself to one long before. This is one of the best propane smokers out there and it comes from a brand you can trust.
10. Char-Broil Vertical Propane Smoker
- Diameter: 30 inches
- Rack area: 595 square inches
- Dimensions: 19.5 x 21.5 x 45.7 inches
Char-Broil is a highly reputable brand famous for producing top-tier grills and smokers that are also fairly keenly priced. If you’re looking to snatch yourself a bargain for the summer, read on.
This is a compact unit weighing just 25 pounds and measuring 30 inches across. The vertical configuration helps to further minimize the footprint of this thing. How about the cooking area, though?
Well, fortunately you get almost 600 square inches of space inside this unit, so you can easily cater for a small family and a handful of guests.
3 cooking grates are all chrome-plated to prevent food debris from sticking to the grid. You should remove these grates and wash them in some hot soapy water after every use. Take care of this and you won’t need to worry about too much else by the way of maintenance.
Smoking with propane gas not only ensures that temperature maintenance is straightforward, but also guarantees its consistency.
Once you have your food on the point of serving, you can pop it on the warming rack. This sits on top of the smoker chamber.
The wood chip and water pan is made from porcelain enamel. The double-drawer set-up allows you to deal with the wood chips and water without needing to open the main door or impact the temperature.
Aside from a few isolated issues pertaining to the seal on the door of this smoker, most users reviews praise the accuracy and consistency of this smoker, as well as the ease of use.
1) What is a vertical propane gas smoker?
Vertical propane gas smokers are perhaps the most popular of all styles. These large steel cabinets look like a refrigerator or a gym locker at a glance. Standing vertically, these smokers have single or double doors. Inside, you get wire racks and hooks – often chrome-coated – for smoking your favorite meats, fish, fruits, and veggies. The vertical configuration means these smokers take up much less space on the patio or deck than a horizontal smoker or grill. The layout of the box also helps to ensure that all the ingredients inside are kissed by rising smoke. All of these smokers share a broadly similar design. There is a gas burner at the bottom. Above this comes a wood chip pan. The water pan above helps to stabilize the temperature, and it also adds vital moisture. The racks are positioned above. You can adjust the flow of air and smoke using the onboard vents or dampers.
2) What are the benefits of a propane smoker?
Propane smokers boast several benefits over other styles of smoker. Firstly, propane smokers are normally much less expensive to run and maintain than pellet smokers, charcoal smokers, or electric smokers of similar size. Propane smokers are also typically lightweight and highly portable. You won’t need to stockpile briquettes or logs since you’ll be using propane gas. Resultantly, you won’t get the same buildup of ash as you would with a charcoal or pellet smoker either. Starting these smokers is quick and easy thanks to the electronic ignition featured on most of the best models. The other core benefit of a propane smoker is the ease of use. You can get going almost straight out the box, and once you’re up and running you won’t need to make too many temperature adjustments.
3) What are the drawbacks of using a propane smoker?
The primary disadvantage of propane smokers is the taste. Even the very best models cannot come close to delivering the authentic taste of a wood or charcoal-burning smoker. Even so, the difference is not enormous to the average consumer. The lightweight nature of vertical smokers can be a drawback as well as a benefit. They are more prone to picking up dents and dings during shipping, so check the contents of your delivery closely. Many propane smokers have weak door seals, and the smoke will escape while making it tough to regulate the temperature. Grills less than 40 inches wide will not accommodate a whole rack of ribs.
If you pitched up here at Madiba with no idea of propane smokers were any good, you should now have a much clearer idea of whether this method of smoking suits your needs.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer here. If you feel charcoal makes the only suitable fuel for grilling or smoking, don’t do yourself a disservice by trying a propane gas or electric smoker. You’re highly likely to end up disappointed.
If, on the other hand, you prize ease of use and convenience above all else, there is little substitute for the best propane grill.
For anyone sold on the idea of cooking with gas, we hope today’s guide has given you everything you need to do to choose the right smoker the easy way.
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