The 10 Best Propane Smokers
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in April of 2016. If you want to take your culinary abilities to the next level of complexity, consider one of these propane smokers. They cook your food gently using a time-honored technique known as "low and slow" that results in tender, mouthwatering meals. These gas-powered models heat up significantly faster than their electric or charcoal counterparts, and most use propane in a cost-effective way. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 10, 2020:
Our list is holding fairly steady, and we have simply replaced a previous Smoke Hollow option with the updated and impressive Smoke Hollow PS40B, which is a great middle-of-the-road model appropriate for beginners or more experienced smokers. We kept our unconventional options; the Char-Broil Big Easy remains, as it's versatile and can roast as well as smoke, and the R&V Works Cajun Express is a pressure smoker that has a learning curve, but lets you cook delicious meats in a fraction of the time as in traditional boxes.
For a smoker that's just plain solid and dependable, you can't go wrong with the Pit Boss 3 Series. In addition to its excellent construction, it can hold steady at very low temperatures, a difficult trick for many models.
June 21, 2019:
Smoking meat using propane is quicker and more reliable than electricity, and far less of a hassle than keeping a hawk's eye on a stack of coals for 6 hours. A good vertical smoker should heat up quickly, hold heat and smoke decently well, have an accessible drip pan and pellet box, and last for a good while. Few models fit that bill like the Pit Boss and Landmann do. If you're a home cook with a small family, the Pit Boss is awfully hard to beat. Once it's set up it is ready to rock -- it even includes the gasket needed to prevent smoke leakage. If you're going for volume, the Landmann we highlighted here is one of the largest. It's also one of the thickest and most resilient, as evidenced by its incredible 10-year warranty. You can't discount either Smoke Hollow, though; the smaller one is great for beginners, and the larger one is ideal for pros, though you may have to fiddle with a pin in the left burner that tends to get stuck under high gas pressure.
The Cuisinart, Camp Chef, and Dyna-Glow are also great entry-level models, though they aren't quite as well put together as the Pit Boss right out of the box. With a little care, though, they can be great smokers. The Char-Broil is not like the others in that its cooking area is a closed system, so you can, if you want, fill it with grease and deep-fry to your heart's content. It's also not going to get you that low-and-slow for which barbecue is famous, but it can add a smoky flavor to anything that you'd normally use a standard grill for. And, incidentally, the Masterbuilt Patio 2 is the only Masterbuilt we'd recommend; they tend to be made from less-than-stellar materials, but in a portable unit isn't going to last as long as a tank like the Landmann, anyhow, so that's not too big of a problem.
Now, if you can afford it, the Cajun Express is a serious beast that imparts exceptional flavor in a fraction of the time it takes the rest. It does not, however, leave you with a thick, crunchy, salty, sweet bark on the outside of the cut, which comes specifically from the dry heat of a vertical smoker. What it does do is provide ultra-tender and juicy meat on a level that the others simply cannot.
And if you're really, really, REALLY into smoking meat, we've listed a few of the best options for truly professional-grade smokers in the Special Honors section. Don't say we didn't warn you, they cost a whole lot, but when it comes to smoking meat, some chefs will spare no expense. If you're one of those people, we don't blame you.
Yoder Smokers' Forkin Good If you're asking yourself if you should get a new truck or smoke a bunch of meat, stop wondering and invest in the Forkin Good. Then again, first make sure that your current truck will be able to pull, as it's a custom-built trailer designed to turn massive quantities of raw meat into salty, smoky goodness. How much does it cost? Well, it doesn't actually have a list price, but if you have to ask, you probably don't need it. yodersmokers.com
The Sausage Maker If you're interested in commercial meat preparation but don't want to take out a second mortgage, The Sausage Maker can create the smokehouse you want. Their made-to-order meat shacks come in 100- and 150-pound capacities, and at about $5,000, they're about as affordable as a commercial smoker gets. sausagemaker.com
K-Rigg Pressure Smoker Imagine a magical device where you can seal off multiple large, prepped fowl for about 30 minutes and transform them into succulent, complex culinary delights. Now imagine 5 of those stacked and welded together on a steel frame with a gas generator and pressure pump attached underneath. That's the K-Rigg Pressure Smoker and state-of-the-art 5K Smoker. It uses pressurized steam and smoke to make shorter work on ribs, turkeys, and really anything, than pretty much any device currently available. k-rigg.com
Southern Pride BBQ Pits So you've perfected your secret recipe and are ready to introduce the world to your restaurant's world-class ribs and chicken. In that case, it's time to call up Southern Pride. Their stainless-steel appliances would not look out of place in a high-end establishment, and their excellent craftsmanship all but guarantees an effective and high-volume operation. They have several to choose from, and they're all incredibly expensive. southernpride.com
Savory Foods Made Easy: The Propane Smoker
Many propane smokers have smaller doors that allow access to these two critical features.
Few foods match the savory and sumptuous flavor delivered by smoked meats. The process of slowly smoking a meat renders it both tender in texture and rich in taste. Great smoked meals start with the selection of high quality meats and vegetables, but are truly made thanks to a good smoker controlled by a skilled chef.
Traditionally, smoking foods involved a hands-on cooking process. It started with the management of the internal temperature of a barbecue smoker, which was heated by coals or a wood fire. This meant constant monitoring of the thermometer and feeding of charcoal and/or hardwood when the temperature would drop too low. Stoking and breaking up the coals would also become necessary when the heat would rise too high. With a propane smoker, much of the work is already being handled for you. A good propane smoker will maintain a precise heat setting needed to prepare full, flavorful foods. In many cases, all you need to do is set the desired heat, periodically check on the unit, and feed both its wood and water pans to keep your smoking session under control.
When it comes to choosing the right propane smoker, size is the main factor. Some propane smokers offer relatively little cooking surface, between 550 and 600 square inches of cooking space available, while larger units may boast as much as three times that area. With more size comes a bigger price tag, of course, so balance your budget against the amount of food you want to prepare at one time.
Any good propane smoker will share a few similar features, and it's worth mentioning those as a baseline before discussing differences you will find between units. Unlike the process of igniting the coals or hardwood that fuel a traditional smoker, lighting a propane smoker should be as easy as pushing a button or turning a dial. Look for a propane smoker with an easy ignition system; you should never have to worry about using a match or lighter.
Also, make sure any propane smoker you are considering has at least two damper valves/vents, ideally with one located on a side and another on the unit's top. Should you need to reduce the heat or vent smoke from the unit without opening the smoking chamber -- thereby dramatically reducing the temperature and smokiness -- these features are essential. Look for a unit with separate access to the wood chip and water trays. Many propane smokers have smaller doors that allow access to these two critical features. However, some necessitate the opening of the main chamber. If you plan on smoking sessions that will last several hours, separate doors are key; if you smoke foods for shorter periods of time, you can get by without them.
Finally, make sure the propane smoke you consider has a prominent and reliable thermometer on its face. While you won't need to do much to change the temperature you have set for your smoker, you still owe it to your foodstuffs to monitor the heat and make sure the unit is working properly.
Smoked Foods: Beyond The Meat
When most people think of smoked foods, they think of meat, and for good reason. Smoked meat is delectable. But if you already own a propane smoker, or if you're in the market for one but you want an idea of what you could use in it besides meat, there are plenty of great smoked eats that are decidedly vegetarian friendly.
So too can you enjoy other slowly-smoked nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and more.
One of the first categories of "other smoked foods" will seem obvious after a moment's thought: nuts. Think of the classic lyrics "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" from The Christmas Song for credence. There's no need to roast those chestnuts over a fire when you have a smoker. So too can you enjoy other slowly-smoked nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and more. Try smoking walnuts over pecan wood or pecans over hickory for a subtle, savory blend of flavors.
Many vegetables are commonly grilled but less commonly smoked. Try smoking tomatoes, peppers, onions, and more for ten or 15 minutes at moderate temperatures (around 200 degrees Fahrenheit) to add a hint of smokey flavor to salads, soups, and other dishes in which you use these and other veggies.
Some fruits can unleash new and complex flavors when smoked as well. Stone fruits, such as peaches and nectarines are particularly tasty when prepared with smoke. Just cut the fruit into pitted halves or quarters and smoke them for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees, flipping the fruit once during the process. Then, enjoy them as-is with cream, or bake the fruit into an amazing, savory pie.
A Word Or Two On Woods For Smoking
Just as the whiskey aficionado will proclaim that making fine Scotch or bourbon depends as much on the water used as on the grains or aging barrels, so too will the devotee of smoked meats tell you that the chosen wood plays an essential role in the making of a great smoked food.
Mesquite is a great smoking wood on its own, as it imparts flavor quickly.
For a basic smoky flavor that adds plenty of character to a meat, try oak chips as your wood of choice. Oak is a great choice for extra long, slow smoking sessions where a more pungent wood could overpower the meat's taste.
On the other hand, if a big, bold smoked scent and taste is called for, choose mesquite wood, the standard bearer wood for many recipes and chefs. Mesquite is a great smoking wood on its own, as it imparts flavor quickly. It can also be blended with other woods to create a subtle complexity of taste.
The wood from various fruiting trees, such as cherry wood, apple, and even plum trees can impart a flavor too subtle for some bold meats (such as many extra salty bacon cuts), but perfect for often milder foods like fish, turkey, or pork chops.
And then of course, the classics like hickory and pecan woods impart that rich nuttiness you will savor in red meats like brisket and beef ribs. They also go well with pulled pork and non-white fish.