Want to smoke lots of steaks, briskets, ribs, chicken pieces, pork shoulders, hotdogs, burgers, salmon, and oysters? The list goes on but the best vertical smoker is your go-to option.
These smokers feature multiple racks placed on top of each other, giving you lots of cooking options even if you have limited space. They’re suitable for people who love to cook for themselves and others.
A vertical smoker guarantees the juiciest and most tender meat as the hot air rises to give your food this distinctive flavor that everyone will absolutely love. It’s a potent weapon in your BBQing arsenal if smoking in the backyard is your thing.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know to help you pick a good vertical smoker, in addition to my top 5 picks.
What is a Vertical Smoker?
Vertical smokers are also known as bullet smokers. In the bottom, there’s a heat source. On top of it, there’s often a water pan, followed by the cooking chamber which is usually divided into multiple racks.
You need to buy a vertical smoker if you don’t have much space in your backyard or garden because these models are more space-efficient than horizontal smokers. Moreover, they’re more suitable for people who love to cook for big groups.
The heat source heats the water pan which heats and regulates the temperature of the whole unit. Water keeps the meat moist and prevents it from drying out for a juicy and tasty result.
Why Do I Need to Buy a Vertical Smoker
In a horizontal smoker, the heating chamber is mounted next to or slightly below the cooking chamber. As a result, the temperature is slightly lower to guarantee slow cooking for juicy and tasty meat.
Vertical smokers, on the other hand, have the heating chamber installed right under the cooking rack. This is why they offer a different set of benefits.
- You can cook food faster. This is an excellent feature, especially if you’re cooking for lots of guests.
- Vertical smokers are usually less expensive than horizontal smokers. Since they cook faster, they tend to use less fuel.
- They also come with more fuel options than traditional horizontal smokers, offering more versatility for outdoor cooking.
- They’re very easy to set up so they’re suitable for beginners and as well as avid smoking enthusiasts.
How to Choose the Best Vertical Smoker?
Smoking food provides a mouth-watering flavor and taste that you can’t get from any other cooking method, or so I believe. As a result, manufacturers have come a long way to provide smoking enthusiasts with equipment that can make their lives easier and their food tastier.
Here are a few things to consider before buying a vertical smoker.
Vertical smokers are usually divided based on the type of fuel used to get them to work.
Charcoal smokers use charcoal to give meat its distinctive taste and flavor. They’re popular and you also add wood chips to enhance the flavor of your ribs or steaks. Charcoal smokers are more suitable for more experienced users.
Gas smokers are powered by propane and are extremely portable. They’re easy to start up and you can control the temperature gauge to cook your meat to perfection.
Electric smokers are the easiest and safest to operate. They’re clean and very convenient to use in any setting, as long as you have a power source nearby. This might be a little problem when you’re cooking in the outdoors unless you have a generator.
Pellet smokers give you a deeper flavor than electric and gas smokers while providing the convenience of electric smokers. You can easily set the temperature and you can mix different kinds of pellets for a unique flavor and taste. However, the flavor will never be as rich as the one you get from charcoal.
This will affect your overall cooking time. Cooking for multiple guests might require using all the racks on your vertical smoker. You might even need to fill it more than once.
Vertical smokers might provide a bigger cooking capacity than horizontal ones because the cooking racks are stacked on top of each other. Some vertical smokers are too big that they will use lots of fuel to produce the desired smoking effect. Consider your usual smoking conditions and choose a piece of equipment that fits.
Construction and Portability
You’re buying a smoker that is supposed to last for a very long time. Look for smokers that are made of steel and stainless steel or have double walls as they will provide the best heat retention.
Bigger smokers are desirable but are typically heavier to move around. Having wheels on your smoker is a big plus because you can set it up anywhere you like.
Although you’re very passionate about smoking, you might not want to spend the whole time standing next to your smokers. Some smokers come with convenient controls that allow you to set the smoker and forget about it. It will do all the work on your behalf.
Look for safety or control features that guarantee the best smoking experience. The ability to control the temperature is another plus so you can cook multiple food items to perfection.
The Best Vertical Smoker: The Top 5
Here are my top picks.
This compact charcoal smoker comes with four cooking grates, providing a total cooking area of 784 square inches. It’s made of steel and comes with a convenient ash management system with a removable ash pan for easy cleaning.
The Dyna-Glo charcoal smoker is the best choice for the tasty smokehouse flavor. The grates are adjustable so you can use them all or change their position depending on your cooking needs. It comes with a gauge to control the temperature and a double-door design that minimizes the heat loss.
I recommend this for smoking lovers who don’t want to spend lots of cash because it’s convenient and easy to use. However, the side vents aren’t properly sealed, letting some of the hot air escape and accordingly extending your cooking time.
This particular charcoal smoker doesn’t have a water pan. This means that you’ll need to create your own by placing a piece of foil on the bottom rack and fill it with water to keep your ribs and steaks moist. Nevertheless, it’s still a budget-friendly model with decent capacity.
- Affordable model with big cooking capacity.
- Convenient ash management system for cleaning.
- Double door design.
- Temperature gauge.
- Side vents aren’t properly sealed.
- No water pan.
If you prefer pellets, look no further than the Camp Chef XXL. As the name suggests, this one is designed for people who like to cook for big groups with an overall cooking capacity of 1950 square inches.
The smoker and grill combo comes with 4 grates, 3 jerky racks, and a hanging rack with 12 sausage hooks. That’s a lot of cooking for its small footprint. Moreover, you’ll receive two temperature ready probes to monitor food. The pellet hopper has a capacity of 18 pounds and there’s a window to monitor consumption.
It’s a versatile cooking system with a temperature range of 150 to 350 degrees. I find this extremely useful as it will cover all your cooking needs from smoking to baking.
The digital controller will maintain the desired temperature to guarantee perfect smoking. It’s designed to provide 33,000 BTUs/hour and comes with a smart smoke technology and an ash cleanout system.
Because it uses pellets, you can use a different kind every time you’re cooking. This is a heavy unit and weighs 145 pounds. However, it comes with sturdy castor wheels so you can still move it around. There’s an internal fan for even heat and smoke distribution.
I recommend this to professional and beginner grillers and smoking lovers who don’t mind spending this amount of cash. It takes a while to put together, but it’s totally worth it.
You might feel that the double stainless steel door is a little difficult to close when the smoker gets really hot. You should do it carefully; otherwise, heat will start to leak.
- Big cooking space with a small footprint.
- Multiple temperature settings for smoking and baking.
- Smart heat controllers.
- Convenient cleaning system.
- Takes time to assemble.
- Closing the door is a bit tricky when the unit is hot.
The Pit Boss gas smoker will cover a temperature range between 100 and 350 degrees. It comes with a large front glass window that allows you to see how your food is cooking without having to open the door. I like this feature because the unit will retain heat.
This compact smoker has an elevated frame, keeping all the grates within reach. After a long day of smoking, you’ll appreciate that you don’t have to bend down. It provides a total cooking area of 884 square inches so it’s more suitable for medium-sized families and gatherings.
All the grates are porcelain-coated so they won’t rust. The unit features an oversized front load wood chip tray to add desirable smoky flavor to your cooked food.
The steel burner provides 3,500 BTUs for the wood chips and there are more 10,000 BTUs for your cabinet temperature. Both burners are controlled by an external knob.
Because this smoker is lightweight, I recommend it to smoking enthusiasts who like to prepare their favorite smoked plates away from home. It features wheels and comes with a handle for easy transportation and storage. All you have to do is to connect it to your gas tank, press the piezo ignition button and you’ll be good to go.
Putting this smoker together isn’t easy. The door doesn’t seal properly, so some of the heat will escape. However, I think it’s a decent product to buy if you don’t want to spend lots of cash.
- Stainless steel smoker with a glass window.
- Portable gas smoker for outdoor cooking.
- External temperature knob.
- Porcelain-coated grates.
- Door doesn’t seal very well.
- Assembly isn’t easy.
If you’re looking for a high-quality pellet smoker, then I recommend that you take a good look at this model from Pit Boss. It offers a convenient cooking capacity of 901 square inches divided to 4 grates, so you can cook for bigger groups.
The grates, water, and heat deflector are porcelain-coated. The smoker has a pellet hopper with a 40 pounds capacity, so you can keep on smoking for more than 24 hours on a single load. I love this slow-cooking feature for overnight smoking.
Thanks to the auto-start 300 watt-igniter, anyone can get this smoker to work. You can easily change the temperature from 150 to 450 degrees and monitor the internal temperature with the digital LED readout and meat probe.
However, you might experience some temperature variation, so close monitoring is required. Also, the temperature doesn’t get very high and the smoker doesn’t retain maximum heat for long.
I recommend this smoker for camping enthusiasts because it’s not that heavy and comes with wheels for better portability. Moreover, cleaning the smoker is very easy, especially if you cover the water pan with foil.
- Big cooking space in a portable smoker.
- Can work on a single load for up to 24 hours.
- Porcelain-coated heat deflector.
- Auto start igniter.
- Temperature variations are expected.
- Doesn’t retain maximum heat for long.
The last product on our list is made by Cuisinart. This is a medium-sized charcoal smoker that you can use to cook for a family of four. It comes with two 18-inch stainless steel racks with a total cooking area of 510 square inches.
I recommend this smoker for beginners and first-time users who don’t know much about grilling and smoking. It’s quite easy to set up and I love this feature so I can focus on my smoking passion. It has an enameled steel bowl for water in addition to a side door that provides convenient access to the fuel and water.
Thanks to the barrel-shaped design and the two vents, you’ll be able to control the internal heat and smoke leaving the chamber. This unit is also very easy to maintain and clean.
Although it’s lightweight, the smoker lacks wheels so transporting it might be a little bit problematic. It has a temperature gauge but it’s not that accurate.
The dripping system allows fats to drip on the wood chips causing ignition issues. Still, I think it’s good value for money because you can’t beat this price given the cooking capacity.
- Barrel design and two vents for even heat and smoke distribution.
- Big cooking space in a lightweight model.
- Easy to set up.
- Enamel-coated racks.
- Doesn’t have wheels.
- No tray to catch the drippings.
I understand that choosing the best vertical smoker isn’t easy. However, I believe that one of my top choices should be on your list.
My top recommendation is the Pit Boss Grills 77435 Vertical Lp Gas Smoker. It’s affordable and offers a remarkable cooking space so you can cook for bigger groups. It features a wide range of temperature for various cooking needs and can be easily transported to your desired location.
Before choosing a product, you should think about the pros and cons of each model and how they can help you cook your favorite recipes. The right cooking equipment can help you improve your skills and facilitate indulging in your cooking passion.