BBQ Smoker Guide

Straight-forward advice, tips, guides, and diagrams

bradley digital 4-rack smoker


Wondering which bbq smoker grill is right for you?

Want to know how to get the most out of the smoker you own?

Enjoy the below collection of guides, tips, and advice for all types of smokers. Once you know the basics, check out the review section for user feedback on specific models. Or, build your own smoker! It’s a fun and affordable way to get started.

Just what is a bbq smoker, anyway?


We're in the process of adding more quality content to this page...keep coming back for frequent updates!


Smoker Types:


Just what is a smoker, anyway?

It’s basically a box that smoke passes through.

First, you need a heat source. Either:

  • Electric
  • Charcoal
  • Gas
  • Wood

Then, you put hardwood on the heat source, causing smoke. (Why hardwood? See the smoke woods section)

This smoke rises through a box filled with food - flavoring, preserving, and cooking the food depending on the temperature. The smoke then exits through an exhaust vent (turns out smoke can get stale if it stays in the box for too long).

Here’s the basic idea. In this example, a hardwood fire is the heat source & smoke source. The smoker box is a metal barrel with a hole in it.

The Basic Idea

basic meat smoker

back to top

Electric Smokers

These time-saving smokers use an electric heating element to smoke wood.

Set it and (almost) forget it! Some even have digital controls – allowing the smoker to maintain a steady temperature without your constant attention.

Just replace the wood chips every now and then.


Vertical Electric Smoker

vertical electric smokerThese are the most popular models – often called a bullet or torpedo smoker. Make great, affordable, easy BBQ!



Electric Smokehouse

electric smokehouseFor more frequent use, makes loading / unloading food easier. These often look like a small fridge or oven and typically can hold more food.



Pellet-Fed Smoker

pellet-fed smokerLiterally set it and forget it! These smokers will automatically add more wood when needed.



Rotisserie Smoker

rotisserie smokerMeat constantly rotates inside the smoker on a rotisserie for added convenience and flavor. This bastes the meat in its own juices and eliminates the need for constant turning.



Electric Stovetop Smoker

stovetop smokerSmoke food from the convenience of your own home! Add great smoky flavor using an electric stovetop smoker.



Electric Oven Smoker

electric oven smokerElectric ovens can be smokers, too! Learn how.




Pressure Smoker

pressure smokerBBQ in a fraction of the normal time and cut your shrinkage in half! Electric pressure smokers combine modern pressure baking with old-fashioned smoke flavor.



back to top

Charcoal Smokers

Ahh, charcoal. One of the most abundant and affordable fuels on the planet. And nothing quite says “BBQ” like the smell of freshly lit coals on a hot summer day.

However, it can take a little practice to get a charcoal smoker running the way you want. Charcoal also needs to be tended more. But hey, that’s what lawn chairs and coolers were made for!

What charcoal’s best for smoking? See the charcoal section.

Charcoal Grill Smoker

charcoal grill smokerUse your existing charcoal grill as a smoker!




Offset Charcoal Smoker

offset charcoal smokerThese charcoal smoker grills have an offset firebox, available at most hardware stores. Read before you buy, as these can be tricky!



Vertical Charcoal Smoker

vertical charcoal smokerThese can make some great BBQ – often called a bullet or torpedo smoker. Popular and easy to use!



Ceramic Smoker

ceramic smokerThe safest, most efficient smokers out there. They can get heavy and expensive - some can also easily be used as a wood-fired pizza oven!



Barrel Smoker

barrel smokerA special kind of vertical smoker, the barrel smoker doesn’t look pretty but is inexpensive and works great!




back to top

Gas Smokers

These are almost as easy to use as an electric smoker, and you don’t need to be tied to an electric outlet.

Gas burners also allow you to control the exact amount of heat under the wood pan. With electric burners, you have to wait for electric elements to heat / cool.

The BBQ also comes out excellent! Even expert judges find it hard to taste the difference between a gas and charcoal source.

Your Gas Grill

gas grill smokerUse your existing gas grill as a smoker!




Vertical Propane Smoker

propane smokehouseFor more frequent use, makes loading / unloading food easier. These often look like a small fridge or oven and typically can hold more food.



Gas Stove / Burner

gas burnerUse your gas stove or burner to make easy, delicious, smoky food.



Gas Oven

gas ovenWho says it's just for baking! Smoke from the convenience of your own kitchen using your gas oven.



Gas Log Lighter

gas log lighterTake some of the effort out of wood smokers – use a gas log lighter system!



back to top

Wood Smokers

These smokers use a wood fire as the only source for heat and smoke. This means you’ve got to build a fire to get it started – either in the smoker firebox or in a separate fire pit.

Tending the fire can be fun, but it also takes constant maintenance and attention. So break out those lawn chairs and coolers!

Logs also vary in size and burning temperature, so each session will need a little fine tuning. However, since it just burns logs, you get lots of smoke…which is exactly what you want.

In short, wood smokers are for those who like the process and are willing to invest lots of time and energy – both to smoking the food and to refining & tuning the technique. Typically, this is not the beginner’s smoker.


BBQ Pit Smoker

wood fireAlthough "BBQ Pit" refers to just about any BBQ device, some smokers come closer to the original pits - just a hole in the ground.



Offset Firebox Smoker

offset smoker

These charcoal smoker grills have an offset firebox which can also burn wood. Read before you buy, as these can be tricky!



Trailer Smoker

trailer smokerTow your smoker to the party, competition, or tailgate! Whether it’s an enormous custom rig or a small pull-behind, smoke amazing BBQ anytime and anywhere.



Brick Smoker

brickIt’s not just a smoker, it’s a piece of your backyard. A quality brick pit has long been considered one of the best ways to smoke BBQ.



back to top


Now that you know the basics…

Try building your own smoker! It’s a fun and affordable way to get started.

Or, check out the review section for tips on specific models.


Return from Smoker Reviews to BBQ Smoker Guide