Smoking is a cooking technique that gives meat flavor, tenderness and texture and it’s quite different from grilling. There are various types of smokers out there, with all sorts of features. If you are overwhelmed with all the possible options and also on a tight budget, in this article we will analyze the best smokers under $500.
The Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker
- The Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker
- The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
- The Dyna-Glo DGY784BDP Vertical Gas Smoker
- The Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
- The Weber 14 inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
- The Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
- Best Smokers Under $500 Buying Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
This is one of the most popular and best-selling smokers under $500, and it’s no wonder why: it offers high quality and great features at an affordable price. The company is known to make great products, and they definitely deliver with this model. The size is quite decent, yet it offers 730 sq. in. of cooking space and 4 racks.
It allows you to control the temperature for even cooking and also includes a timer. The wood chips are loaded from the side and it includes an air damper and a drip pan that can be removed for cleaning. It’s quite easy to use, which makes it suited for users of all experience levels, including beginners. The thousands of positive ratings and reviews speak for themselves, and you can buy this awesome smoker at this link.
The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package
The first thing anyone notices about this model is its unique shape that resembles a barrel. It comes with 8 meat hooks made of stainless steel, 2 hanging rods, a grill grate and a hook remover tool that will allow you to get started right away.
It is easy to assemble and easy to use, and most customers were very satisfied with this model. It’s one of the best rated out there, with an overall score of 4.8 out of 5. The coal basket is designed to hold just the right amount, and the only issue might be that it’s placed too low in the barrel. You can buy this awesome smoker for a good price at this link.
The Dyna-Glo DGY784BDP Vertical Gas Smoker
As the name implies, this model has a vertical shape and works with gas. It comes with a generous cooking space of 784 sq. in. and 4 racks that can be adjusted or removed. It’s very easy to operate, having just a button and a large control dial. Of course, it includes the water bowl and a wood chip box that are easy to remove and to clean.
It has 2 doors for more control when cooking, as well as sliding air dampers. Overall it’s a good smoker, but it only comes with one year of warranty. Most clients agree that it’s easy to use and to assemble, but mention the fact of paying close attention where you place it, as it can sometimes leak water or grease. It has an overall rating of 4.2 out of 5 and you can buy it at this link.
The Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
As the name suggests, this model allows for both smoking and grilling, as many people are interested in both features. So you buy a single unit at a decent price and have a combo of both, instead of having to buy a separate grill and a separate smoker. But this is not all, as you can also braise, roast bake or barbeque. So it’s basically a 6 in 1 unit.
Another good thing about this model is that it has rustproof racks and cover, which means that you can leave it outside with no worries, regardless of the weather. This will also save you the money spent on a protection cover. It comes with wheels which allow for easy transport, unlike most of the other budget smokers that don’t have any and require a strong person to carry them around.
The assembly process will take some time, but it shouldn’t be difficult if you follow the instructions. Some users have complaint about the poor customer service of the company, but other than that most reviews are positive. You can buy this grill & smoker for a good price at this link.
The Weber 14 inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
This manufacturer is well known for making good units, and this model is no exception. It has a great price that is well within our budget, yet offers good features and possibilities. The fuel door can be removed completely so that you can easily add wood or charcoal, and it comes with a temperature grommet to keep the internal temperature in check.
It features two racks where you can place the meat, and within a budget of $500 you can choose any of the available sizes (14 inch, 18 inch or 22 inch). This mainly depends on what types of meat you plan on cooking and how large the pieces will be. It can reach temperatures of up to 190 F and it’s a great smoking unit overall.
The only complaints received were related to the delivery process, so be careful from where you get it from and which are the return policies. But ordering it from the Weber store on Amazon should be fine, and you can buy it now at this link.
The Green Mountain Grill Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
This is a complex yet affordable unit that offers great features. It has a decent size that allows for easy transport and stands on collapsing legs that also act as handles. This allows you to move it around more easily or place it in your car or van without taking too much space. But of course, having a compact unit means that there is less space for cooking compared to other smokers. This model offers 219 sq. in. of space to place the meat.
A unique feature that we haven’t found on too many budget smokers is the WiFi connectivity. This means that you can connect to the grill from your phone and control it from a distance. So no need to stay near the grill and constantly check on the meat and the temperature. It’s not just a smoker, but you can also grill and sear with it.
Overall it’s a good unit, the warranty is 2 years and the customer support offered is highly appreciated. It has an overall ranking of 4.4 out of 5 stars and you can buy it now at this link.
Best Smokers Under $500 Buying Guide
Buying the right smoker might seem complicated, but if you do some research and get all the needed information, you can make a wise choice. The things to take into consideration when buying a new device are:
The Type of Smoker
The first and most important thing to consider is the type, as there are 4 main categories: electric smokers, pellet smokers, gas smokers and charcoal smokers. No one can give a definite answer on which type is better, as each one has its pros and cons. The best smoker in this case would be the one that better suits your needs and personal preferences.
Electric Smokers – they are fairly new on the market, as our great grandparents were definitely not able to just press some buttons and have the meat ready soon. This is actually their main advantage – the fact that they are user-friendly and easy to use by beginners. While they initially may cost more, you will actually save money on the long term, as they don’t require any extra fuel such as wood, charcoal or gas. The electricity they need is quite cheap. They are also more safe than others, especially if you have children or pets around. However, the main disadvantage of electric smokers is that they don’t give the meat that special smoke flavor that most people love.
Pellet Smokers – they provide a good balance of ease of use, efficiency and good taste. They have an automatic ignition and are also environmental friendly as the pellets used are CO2 neutral. They have a high efficiency and the pellets are easy to find in stores and on the internet. Once you stock up, the pellets will always be ready to use. The main cons of pellet smokers are that they require cleaning and maintenance. You have to vacuum the burn pot regularly and clean the entire thing every 3 months or so. They usually have a built-in ventilator and a motor that can become noisy, and are usually more expensive.
Charcoal Smokers – they provide the best taste and it’s the one that is associated with an “authentic barbecue taste”. What’s even better is that you can experiment with various types of wood and coal in order to get different flavors every time. They are usually easy to maintain and do not have so many small parts as pellet or electrical smokers. Cleaning is quite easy, and the ashes will fall into a can that you can empty when it gets full. Controlling the temperature is easy as well, and you can either add more coal or remove some (but it’s not as accurate as with an electric or a gas smoker). The cons of charcoal smokers are the difficulty of operating them on cold weather and the constant need of attention. You will need to regularly check the flame and the level of oxygen, and it’s quite easy to either burn the meat or undercook it. So they are more suited for experienced users.
Gas Smokers – whether you want to get that authentic barbecue taste at home or when going on a trip, gas smokers can do a good job. The cooking process is simple, and you do not need to check on the meat often or to play around with the settings. Just set the desired temperature and it will be maintained with no effort. And speaking of temperature, this is another advantage of a gas smoker – the fact that it can reach very high temperatures compared to the other types. The main disadvantage is that it always requires fuel, and you need to always be prepared with a spare gas tank. The last thing you want is to have the gas running out right in the middle of a barbeque party with friends and family. Gas smokers also have small parts that break easily and require regular maintenance.
Other things to take into consideration when buying a smoker under $500 are: temperature control, thermometers, temperature range, materials used, durability, price, dampers, accessories, food capacity, warranty and support, ease of use, safety, ease of transport and ease of cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions
For how long does a smoker last?
Most smokers from top manufacturers come with a warranty of 2 years, so you know for sure that you can use it for this long. But the good products out there can last for much longer than that, and we have read reviews about people using them for 6 or even 8 years. It highly depends on how often you use it and how well you take care of it.
Can you grill with a smoker?
Since there are devices made for smoking and devices made for grilling, it’s obvious that the 2 processes are different. With a smoker you have the food away from direct heat or fire, and it cooks slowly at a low and steady temperature. A smoker is not made for grilling and we suggest that you don’t try this (even though it’s technically possible).
What type of smoker should you buy?
This depends on many factors and we discussed about them in a previous section. Each type has its own pros and cons, so you should try to find the best one that suits your needs and experience level. As a simple guidance point, electric and gas smokers are easier to use and more suited for beginners, while pellet and charcoal smokers are better for more experienced users.
So here were our picks for the best smokers under $500. Regardless of the model you decide to choose, make sure to come back to this article and tell us everything about it.