The 10 best smokers under $400 for making true, low and slow barbecue. These smokers offer a wide variety of options from electric to charcoal with many great features. If you are in the market for a smoker these are the units you should be looking at. This list includes smokers that run off of a variety of fuels and offer everything from true pit master smoking to the best "lazy-Q" smokers around.
Weber-Stephen Products Company
It would seem almost insane to change a smoker as popular at Weber's Smokey Mountain (WSM) Smoker, but Weber has listened to the fans and made only slight (requested) changes to this unit. The addition of a lid mounted thermometer and a bottom mounted heat shield doesn't affect how this unit works but gives you a better smoker. In the past you either had to drill a hole and put in your own thermometer or set one inside and lift the lid to check the temperature. Now you can see the cooking temperature easily. The heat shield will protect whatever surface you put your smoker on. All together, a better WSM.
The Napoleon Apollo 3 in 1 takes the simple, vertical water smoker to a whole new level. Also known as the ProQ, this three section smoker can be reduced to a simple charcoal grill, or assembled to a large capacity charcoal smoker. Loaded with features, this unit is capable or smoking up a large amount of food, or small load without wasting lots of extra charcoal. Standard with a bar in the lid for hooks to hang racks of ribs or sausages, eyelets for meat probes, and a good airflow system. All of the body connection points can cause it to leak smoke, but that is typical of this kind of smoker.
Old Smokey Products Company
Simple, basic, but a great smoker for around $180. This electric will give you authentic barbecue without lots of work and without worrying about maintaining temperatures like you do with many of the vertical water smokers. This is a great smoker if you're not sure how serious you are about barbecue, or if you just want a little "Q" once in a while.
Pit Barrel Cooker Company
The Pit Barrel Cooker is a simple, easy to use charcoal unit that can cook up to eight racks of ribs at once. Designed to operate consistently at around 300 degrees F., this cooker needs little attention and can be relied upon to turn out some great food in a relatively short period of time. While there are those that might argue that it isn't a real smoker, it does create smokey flavors and great food.
For smoking large cuts of great barbecue buy a different smoker. For nearly 55 years the Big Chief, and its little brother, the Little Chief, have been designed for smoking all those things that don't traditionally fall into the strict category of barbecue. For smoking fish, jerky, sausage, cheese, this is the perfect smoker. The lower cooking temperatures, that can't be adjusted, and decent smoke production is great for preserving foods and adding smoke flavor to things you might not cook, or might finish off someplace else.
Of all the electric smoker appliances this is the best. This refrigerator style smoker is thermostatically controlled and can hot and cold smoke. You truly get a wide range of smoking abilities out of this unit. Smoke is created by burning wood disks that are added to the unit by a controlled mechanism. You get as much or as little smoke as you want and you don't have to tend to any fire. In fact once it's set you can leave it until you are ready to eat.
The Brinkmann Corporation
Called by many the starter smoker, the Brinkmann Gourmet, is one of the best selling smokers. This small, vertical water smoker has not vents, but is designed to hold a constant smoking temperature. There are several modifications that can make it work better, but if you are new to barbecue and just want a small smoker for the occasional rack of ribs then this relatively inexpensive smoker might just be the right one for you.
The Char-Griller is another classic offset firebox smoker. This design is so popular because it works. The Char-Griller is easy to use and you can even get a rotisserie kit for it. Like all units of this type it also doubles as a charcoal grill. It is also one of the least expensive of this type of smoker.
Outdoor Leisure Products, Inc.
The biggest limitations of gas smokers is the range of temperatures they can hit and the fact that most of them leak smoke and heat through the doors. The Smoke Hollow 44-inch smoker doesn't have these problems. The doors latch closed tightly and the dual burner design gives it a much wider range of temperatures. It is also a very large smoker, standing 5 feet high with five racks and seven cubic feet of capacity. If there is a problem with this smoker you probably won't see it for a few years. The lightweight burners and thinner metals shorten the life expectancy of this smoker. Care should be taken to keep it in good working order.
One of the problems with gas smokers is that the heat output can be limited by a factory who thinks they know best. While smoking is done in a specific temperature range, it should be up to the user if they want to "flash" smoke or do a low temperature smoke. This Camp Chef smoker has a temperature range from 150 to 500 degrees F so it is much more versatile than many gas smokers on the market. However, like many most box style gas smokers, the body isn't insulated and though the door on this one fits better, you still get smoke leakage.