Best Charcoal Smokers (Jan. 2018) – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

Many people taste that genuine barbecue flavour and want to recreate it at home. However to achieve this flavour you need a charcoal smoker. Many people enjoy the simplicity of building a fire and not having to worry about any mechanically moving parts to break or fail on you.  Not to mention charcoal smokers also are the first choice for all professional and amateur bbq chefs.

There are three main types charcoals smokers available on the market. Cabinet style smoker, which are high-quality smokers aimed at amateur and professional cooks, off-set smoker and barrel or drum smokers. We have found that one of the best charcoal smokers is the drum. It highly affordable produce the best possible results for your dollar.

Finding the best charcoal smokers isn’t all about the brisket and ribs, it is about bringing friends and family together. To ensure you provide top-notch BBQ you need to get the best charcoal grill suited to you and this guide will help with just that!


The 3 Best Charcoal Smokers of 2018

  1. Pit Barrel Cooker 
  2. Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5
  3. Broil King Keg 



Best Charcoal Smokers for 2018 Comparison

Charcoal Smokers

Dimension/ Weight


 Broil King Keg 5000


47 x 27.5 x 41 inches

128 lbs

Matte Black

Weber Smoky Mountain 18.5


41 x 19 x 21 inches

76 lbs


Pit Barrel Cooker


49 x 40 x 27 inches

105 lbs




Pit Barrel Cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker is a 30 gallon/18-gauge steel drum. It is an upright drum smoker, commonly known as an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS). It’s been hailed as the charcoal smoking hero, it’s has a low price point however it can produce the highest quality smoked meat. It has changed the charcoal smoking game who was previously struggling. The Pit Barrel Cooker Company recently upped the to thick 18 gauge steel with porcelain enamel coating and has now become one of the best charcoal smokers on the market.

Even though cooking with charcoal smokers is notoriously hard work, the Pit Barrel Cooker allows for the set it and forget method of pellet smokers. Its cylindrical shape allows for convection heat to be distributed evenly throughout the chamber for premium results time and again. Cooking vertically allows for more space in the cooker and has gravity lends a hand, basting the meat with its own juices and creating a “smoke fog” that eliminates any need for a water pan. There is also no need for vents or thermostat

The Pit Barrel comes with 17.5-inch chrome plated wire grate, your 2 steel rods, heavy duty charcoal basket with handle

Pit Barrel Cooker Pros

  • Completely self-regulating. No need to fuss over the meat or the fire.
  • Works well in any weather, windy and minus 15 degrees.
  • You can also use it as a grill
  • Easily transportable
  • Requires no expensive thermostat
  • Amazing price point


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Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5

The Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5 does an amazing job of producing quality smoked meals anywhere you want. The Weber 18.5 has a  total cooking area of 481 square inches. This cooking space would allow you to cook for around 20 people maximum, however, if needed there is a larger model the Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5. For such a high-quality product there isn’t much to it, it’s a steel barrel, two grills, a porcelain coated water and drip pan, and a charcoal grate.

Due to the design, the airflow is evenly distributed creating a constant cooking temperature. Weber has designed an airtight smoker, which is very important when cooking with charcoal. This crafty design has ensured they are one of the best charcoal smokers in the market right now

Due to its size and quality, it’s easy to transport. If you’re constantly moving your smoker around with you,  you want a quality product like the Weber 18.5. The Weber Smokey Mountain is made of some quality steel, is built to last with 10-year guarantee.  You’ll find yourself using this smoker for many years because of its durability and dependability.Weber Smokey Mountain

Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5 Pros

  • Individual vents on the bowl and lid increase your control over heat and temperature
  • The design means the airflow is even, creating a perfect cooking temperature
  • it performs just as well as more expensive units
  • The thermometer is built right into the lid of the unit


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Broil King Keg 5000

The Broil King Keg 5000 is another high-quality charcoal smoker for a very decent price. It has 255 square inches of cooking space. It has a unique kamado-style design (which is a traditional Japanese wood or charcoal stove)

The Broil King has two layers of baked enamel steel, with a layer of extremely high-temperature oven grade insulation in between them. The Broil King keg was able to hit very high temperatures and maintain them while staying cool on the outside. Surprisingly, due to the efficiency of this unit you need a very small amount of charcoal to fire the grill. The small amount of fuel required is what makes this one of the best charcoal smokers you can buy right now.

Transporting the Broil King Keg wasn’t a problem but comes standard with a trailer hitch mounting so you take it camping, fishing or to a neighbours cook out.Broil King Keg

Broil King Keg Pros

  • Efficient design means you need small amounts of charcoal
  • Easy to shut down
  • Can achieve very high temperatures and maintain them
  • High-quality enamel construction


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Factors to Consider

Quality Construction

You want to ensure that the charcoal smoker has thick metal, insulation and high-quality seals. Thick steel ensures heat and smoke is distributed evenly. Have high-quality seal ensures you don’t any leaks. If you have leaking heat or smoke it’s extremely hard to maintain a correct temperature.

The grills should sit solidly on the supports. so there is no danger of them falling when loaded with a lot of heavy meat.


Prices for charcoal smokers can vary from $100 to $15,000. Unless you’re looking to compete, a drum or barrel smoker is perfect. There has been cases of people winning professional competitions with them.

Ease of Use

Some features you might want to look for to ensure the ease of use include; the smoke box having an access door so adding more wood or charcoal isn’t a problem. Making sure the water bowls is accessible during cooking as your don’t want your meat to dry out.


A large charcoal smoker should have wheels to make it possible to move it around.


A good thermometer is almost a necessity. Most smoker usually come with a cheap thermometer, which is usually inaccurate. Invest in a really good thermometer and start excelling with your charcoal smoker.






What’s The Best Charcoal to Use In A Smoker?

There are a few options when it comes to picking your charcoal either briquettes or hardwood lump. Some people are very wary of self-starting charcoal as it usually has lighter fluid additives, which will taint your food and is notoriously bad for the environment.

Briquettes generally use a natural, sugar-based binding agent that burns clean. The usually are a combination of charcoal, coal, starch (as a binder), sawdust, and sodium nitrate (to make it burn better) molded into easy-to-light lumps  These are a good choice for your smoker, provided you get the cleanest versions possible

Hardwood lump charcoal is actual pieces of wood that have been fired into charcoal., and there’s large variety of brands. With no fillers to burn, hardwood lump will produce a lot less ash than charcoal briquettes and it burns for about 20 minutes longer. It will also produce a much more flavorful smoke.

Something that is  new is on the market is Coconut Charcoal. This is just charred coconuts shells pressed into cubes or rods. Its has a great almost sweet smell to it. It also produces very little ash and burns very evenly



How a Charcoal Smoker Works