There are many types of smokers on the market, and while many people tend to opt for electric units for ease of use, gas-fueled models offer the same level of convenience at more affordable price tags. Additionally, they offer much faster performance, which is why they’re very popular in the majority of barbecue restaurants where time is money.
Gas smokers are available in different sizes and designs, which makes it a bit challenging for a beginner chef to pick one. But no worries, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll reveal our top picks for the best gas smokers available on the market for under $400, so stick around.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Gas Smoker
When you pay for a gas-fueled smoker, you must be sure of its cost-effectiveness, especially if you’re constricted by a tight budget. The following is a bulletproof checklist that will ensure you get the most value for your money.
How Large Do You Want the Gas Smoker to Be?
Like we’ve just mentioned, gas-fueled smokers are available in a wide variety of sizes that can pretty much fit anywhere. When we speak of the size of the smoker, we’re not talking about its capacity just yet, we’re more concerned about space at this point.
Luckily, gas smokers shine when it comes to space-saving because they are mostly featured in vertical designs. This helps them utilize height instead of width, offering you commodious space for cooking without taking too much off the area they’re placed in.
The vertical design of most gas-fueled models also allows for easy storage, as they could fit into a storage shelf very easily if this is how you want to store them. Moreover, gassers don’t need a lot of accessories to run, all they need is a propane tank.
Speaking of propane tanks, most of them tend to come in cylindrical designs, helping you save even more space and won’t eat up any extra space whatsoever. Everything about gas smokers screams compactness and space-saving, so your backyard will remain spacious and attractive.
Does the Unit Offer Ease of Mobility?
Imagine having to call upon a few friends to help you store your smoker after a backyard party, it can be quite a cumbersome task, right? Fortunately, the design of the majority of gassers allows them to be moved around with ease as they’re designed like mini wardrobes.
Most gas-fueled smokers tend to weigh around 40-50 pounds anyway, which adds to their ability to move around easily. Moreover, these models tend to fit well in the back of a truck, so you can actually take it with you to your upcoming tailgate party without a hassle.
How Easy Is the Assembly Process?
Don’t expect your gas smoker to come fully assembled, but don’t be discouraged, most models come with comprehensive manuals that will help you assemble your device in a short amount of time. And unlike heavy-duty smokers, the assembly of a gas smoker is usually pretty simple.
Gas smokers are very much like cabinets when it comes to the design and all they really need is a few screws to tighten them up. Once delivered, all you have to do is set up the dampers, fix its cooking grate, place some wood chips and water in their respective places, and you’re all set for smoking some meat.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t gas smokers that are tricky to assemble. In that case, you’re better off seeking professional help so that you don’t damage the product. But generally, this will less likely be the case with gas-fueled smokers.
Does It Feature a High-Quality Build?
Not all gas smokers are built the same. Some models feature high-quality materials that can last for years to come, while others may not be able to withstand the heat for too long. Moreover, it’s important to check for materials that are able to hold their own in extreme weather conditions.
Ideally, you want to go for a gas smoker that features heavy and thick steel construction. Bear in mind that units made of thin materials will be more prone to warping and heat loss over time. It’s also important to look for a unit that offers great insulation, which also correlates to the choice of materials.
Does It Offer a Wide Temperature Range?
If you plan on buying a smoker that features a temperature range, make sure that you buy a unit that offers temperatures between 50 to 500°F, which will give you plenty of room to pick the right temperature for the meat you’re cooking. We’d highly advise you stay away from units that don’t feature a temperature gauge anyway.
However, if the unit you’re interested in buying doesn’t have a temperature gauge, you can just buy a separate thermometer that you can easily attach its probes to the unit itself or to the meat you’re smoking. If that’s the case, we’d strongly suggest getting a wireless meat thermometer.
How Commodious Is the Cooking Surface?
It’s always better to for a larger-sized smoker because you never know when you’ll be having a lot of guests over at your house. Thoroughly analyze the dimensions of the unit and the area of the cooking surface in order to estimate how much food you can serve.
Does It Have a Front-Loading and Dual-Door Design?
Most smokers nowadays are available in a front-loading design, which makes it easier for users to place and remove food in and out of the unit. It’s also a lot safer than having a top-load model where you need to position the food on the racks.
It’s also advised to go for a dual-door design because it separates the cooking area from the fire areas. It allows you to add water to the pan and wood chips to the smoker without interruptions. Gas smokers are the most well-known amongst all types of smokers when it comes to featuring this design.
This smoker from Char-Boil is one of the largest gassers you can get your hands on, with almost 600 square inches of cooking area. The cooking area is divided into 3 grid shelves, allowing you to smoke several types of meat simultaneously. It features temperature control knobs which you can use to adjust the temperature level to your liking and set fire to the burner almost instantly.
This unit features a very well-built damper, which you can open to achieve more heat or partially close it in order to cool down the unit. There’s also a grate on top that will allow you to warm up the sauces when preparing food. The dual-door design helps seal the smoke inside, intensifying the smokey flavor. The Char-Boil smoker delivers consistent heat throughout, making it an ideal option for beginners.
- Remarkably spacious and easy to use
- A rugged and well-supported design
- Very economical gas consumption
- Features independent control knobs
- The setup process is time-consuming
- The temperature gauge isn’t that accurate
If you’re used to hosting large barbecue parties in your backyard and you’re looking for sizeable cooking space, the Masterbuilt 20050614 will offer you all the room in the world to cook anything you want. This workhorse of a machine features 2,000 square inches of cooking surface divided into four chrome racks for your convenience. If you intend on taking this unit places, we’d highly suggest investing in a high-quality set of swivel wheels.
You can easily add moisture to the meat by removing the water camp. The thermostat on the lid is easy to read and fairly accurate compared to the temperature gauging devices that come with other units on the market. The Masterbuilt unit features a viewing window that allows you to see the food as it cooks to ensure its doneness. This unit is arguably one of the easiest smokers to use on the market. Simply push the ignition button and start grilling
- Offers extremely large cooking space
- Features a convenient dual-door design
- Very responsive push-button ignition
- Rugged construction that’s built to last
- The construction isn’t properly sealed
- Temperature fluctuations happen a lot
While the 20050614 falls short when it comes to maintaining consistent cooking temperatures at all time, the 20051316 takes the Masterbuilt name to the next level by eliminating fluctuations of temperature using a thermostat-controlled system. The thermostat features built-in sensors that help control the burner’s intensity automatically. If the burner gets extremely hot, the system will shut itself down, ensuring the user’s safety.
This unit also features a fuel-level gauge for your convenience. The temperature gauge features a display that shows just how much propane is left in the tank, so you no longer have to shake it in order to figure out if there’s still enough propane left. The 20051316 has a dual-door design that allows you to add water and wood chips without interrupting the cooking process or losing heat. It also ensures that the smoke isn’t tampered with.
- Thermostat-controlled temperature system
- It’s equipped with a propane fuel gauge
- An extremely effective valve system
- Built with rugged, high-quality materials
- The setup process takes a lot of time
- The instructions manual is poorly written
Yet another entry from Masterbuilt, the RA49214 comes with an extensive array of features that will win you over instantly. This unit is equipped with a built-in thermostat-controlled temperature system that helps it reach the ideal smoking temperature and maintain it automatically with zero manual gas adjustments. Just fire this bad boy and let it smoke the food while you sip on a drink until it’s done with cooking.
The Masterbuilt RA49214 also comes with a safety valve system that helps cut off the supply of propane once the flame is extinguished, allowing for no propane leakage whatsoever. Further, it comes equipped with a built-in fuel gauge that estimates how much propane you have left in the tank. The unit features a dual-door design that allows you to add water and wood chips without having to tamper with the smoke or heat.
- Very sturdy construction that’s built to last
- The temperature is controlled by a thermostat
- The dual-door design helps maintain heat
- Equipped with a built-in fuel level gauge
- Flame ups tend to happen occasionally
- The water pan isn’t the most durable
The 30164G from Smoke Hollow is a small-sized, budget-friendly smoker that’s ideal for smaller families. The unit is very nicely built, its high-quality steel frame makes it feel sturdy and gives it a very premium look. The legs are designed in such a way that grants this unit ideal stability and support. Moreover, it comes with a spring-wire door handle that’s safe to touch even if you don’t have your gloves on, which we don’t recommend while using a smoker.
Despite being a very affordable and small-sized unit, it doesn’t fail to impress with the incredible array of features that it has to offer. For instance, it features a 10,000 BTUs steel burner which is ideal for great temperature control, especially when coupled with the smoker’s control knob. The smoker also comes with a built-in thermometer that keeps you aware of the internal temperature of the unit. Overall, a highly recommended unit if you’re running on a tight budget.
- One of the most affordable units on the market
- Features 3 chrome-coated cooking grids
- Controlling the temperature is very easy
- Comes with a built-in temperature gauge
- Lacks the convenience of a dual-door design
- Doesn’t have very spacious cooking area
While all of the above-mentioned products are extremely effective and will get the job done with ease, one unit seems to stand out the most due to its incredible cooking space. You’ve guessed it, the Masterbuilt 20050614 Propane Smoker reigns supreme. Apart from its capacious cooking surface, the unit offers a wide range of features that makes the smoking experience a lot easier and more enjoyable. Which unit do you think is the best?