Looking for a smoker on a budget is not as challenging as it used to be, as there is a substantial range of brands and models available.
To get the best value for your smoking money, you need to know what to look for in a smoker regarding fuel, cooking area, material quality, and warranties.
We’ve looked at the best budget smokers under $450 and found these to be the best options across the various categories of smokers:
- Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker
- Cuisinart Vertical Propane Smoker
- Dyna-Glo Vertical Wide Offset Smoker
- Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker
- Pit Barrel Cooker Co’s Classic Pit Barrel Cooker
- Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
- Camp Chef 24″ Smoke Vault
- Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro
- Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker
We will look at these individuals in terms of price and the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision when you decide to purchase.
Before we get into the actual smokers, we need to discuss the various elements to look for when buying a budget smoker, so let’s get to some smokin’!
What To Look For When Buying A Budget Smoker
The word budget implies something cheap and nasty afoot when this is not the case.
However, you need to be careful as some smoking traps await the reckless buyer. Let’s look at the various factors to consider when buying a budget smoker.
Best Budget Smokers- Stick To Your Budget
The smokers we are looking at here are all available for under $450 from Amazon unless otherwise stated.
This is a good budget range for a smoker, especially a beginner.
While many smokers cost more than $450 and can run into the thousands, you don’t need to spend that to get a quality smoker and enjoy the treats of smoked meats and foods with your friends and family.
Stick to your predetermined budget.
Don’t be tempted to spend more than you want to, as there are more than enough good quality smokers out there that will fit into your budget and below it.
Best Budget Smokers – Look For Build And Material Quality
As a concession, you will know that budget smokers will generally be made from lighter steel and won’t have any fancy electronics or top-level insulation.
But that doesn’t mean you can grab a bargain.
Check for online reviews and customer feedback which is easier to do these days than ever before, and use quality websites and social media.
Those reviews alone will give you a good idea of whether the product you are considering is worth the money.
The good news is that while the budget smokers may not last a lifetime, they sure will get the job done.
With some care and maintenance, they can over-deliver on their investment.
Check the materials used in construction.
Most smokers should use stainless steel for the body and grill grates and see whether you have insulation, especially when looking at vertical bullet-type smokers.
Remember that good insulation will mean less fuel and shorter cooking times.
When looking at electric smokers, check the power rating as well. You don’t want to buy something that will cost you a mint to cook with either.
Consider The Fuel Source On A Budget Smoker
When buying a budget smoker, you need to determine what fuel source you would prefer, and this will depend on a few factors.
It will affect your choice of smoker when deciding where you will be cooking, whether you need to consider neighbors, and how many people you’ll be cooking for.
Fuel availability when at outdoor campsites and how much effort you want to expend when cooking and as well as cleaning will all affect your choice of smoker.
If you will be smoking outside without worrying about the volume of smoke and whether your neighbors are likely to complain, coal and wood would be ideal.
Bear in mind that most offset smokers will use coal and wood, and some will use gas, while vertical smokers will use mostly coal or electricity.
The Creosote Factor
If you are going to be using wood, you need to be aware of the creosote factor.
This is a by-product of wood combustion, and it lays a bitter layer of thick oily grime on the meat and the smoker.
Creosote is caused when the combustion conditions of wood are less than ideal.
It comes from the thick white smoke seen when the wood is wet, there is too much fuel, the oxygen mix inside the cooker is too low, or the wood is wet.
Bear this in mind when considering your fuel source.
Creosote can be avoided when the combustion conditions are favorable.
But this may take some time to perfect and meat contaminated with creosote is not fit for consumption.
Consider The Cooking Area Of Your Budget Smoker
If you’re going to be cooking for big family gatherings and will have a lot of food on the go, then coal or wood-based fuel source would be better as it is cheap and plentiful.
Often, the offset smokers that use this will have large cooking areas.
Offset smokers generally have larger cooking areas than vertical smokers.
Still, many vertical smokers like the Weber Smokey Mountain have dual cooking grills to have a fair volume of food on the go at one time.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor Budget Smokers
Suppose you will be mainly doing your cooking when outdoors or at camping sites.
Coal or wood is a better option as you can find this pretty much anywhere, while gas supply or an electrical outlet may not be as freely available.
If you live in an apartment block or proximity to people in a residential estate or compact living, then an electric or gas option may be better as they don’t emit as much smoke.
Budget Smokers –Cooking Effort, Cleaning & Maintenance
Lastly, you need to consider that coal and wood smokers require more attention during cooking to maintain smoke density and temperature.
At the same time, electric and gas cookers don’t need much attention.
If you are content to simply ‘set-and-forget,’ spend time socializing and occasionally check your meat, then an electric smoker would suit you better.
If you want to get into the real nuts and bolts of smoking, managing smoke and temperature using the vents, then an offset wood or coal smoker would be your first choice.
Offset Smokers Require More Cleaning And Maintenance
When you compare the effort needed to clean and maintain the condition of a smoker after cooking, vertical electric smokers require the least amount of cleaning and maintenance.
They are often made of particular materials that don’t facilitate the accumulation of grime, grease, and creosote, so cleaning them is less frequent and not as vigorous.
Offset smokers will need to be cleaned after every smoke or every second one and deep cleaned once or twice a year and seasoned.
In contrast, vertical smokers, especially electric ones, are easier to maintain and clean and often don’t require seasoning.
Budget Smokers – Features And Warranties
While these are budget smokers, there are some essential features that you should look to have on yours, and one of those is the lid thermometer.
Knowing your ideal cooking temperature and maintaining it is critical to producing good quality flavor and adequately cooked meats.
Most good manufacturers will offer a warranty even on their budget products, which is a non-negotiable when buying a budget smoker.
If you see an outstanding deal but poor or no warranty, that is best left alone.
Now you know what elements to look for in a budget smoker, let’s get into the best budget smokers available.
Best Overall Smoker–The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker-$419
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker tops just about every list on every quality site out there for sheer value and performance, and it’s not hard to see why.
Firstly, the price.
On Amazon, this bullet-shaped vertical smoker sells for under $420 and ticks every box possible from fuel efficiency, cleaning, food quality, features, and warranty.
Weber is a well-known and globally respected brand for their fantastic kettle grills.
This is their only dedicated smoker in their range, but they have outdone themselves in the process.
They’ve taken their regular kettle, added an extra segment in the middle for the water pan, and placed the firebox at the cooker’s base to utilize natural thermodynamics to make a super-efficient smoker.
The smoker itself is made from enamel-coated steel, and they offer a ten-year warranty on this product, which is exceptional!
This is a coal-fuelled smoker, and while managing and controlling temperature will take a little getting used to, this is a superb smoker and will last forever for a beginner.
The insulated interior means less fuel consumption, and the separate fuel door allows you to add fuel as and when needed.
The water pan adds the humidity to prevent the meat from drying out, and it also has a built-in thermometer.
Two grilling racks and three different models in 14″, 18″ and 22″ offer up to 481 sq inches of cooking space, efficiently feeding 12 people.
These grates can also handle the more significant cuts of meat.
The model size options mean you can choose the right size for you.
These are compact and light and are ideal for urban smoking as they won’t take up a lot of space and are easy to move around and store; plus, they are very stable too.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker is the best overall budget smoker as a first choice that meets every possible spec required.
Best Budget Gas Smoker – Cuisine Art Vertical Propane Smoker -$171
Propane is an excellent fuel source as it requires little management and delivers superbly consistent temperature matched by an electric smoker.
The Cuisine Art Vertical Smoker has a massive cooking area of 784 sq inches which is sufficient to feed a small army.
Compact enough to fit on your balcony and capable of doing ribs, chicken, and more significant cuts of meat easily with little attention required during cooking, this midsize smoker is a top contender.
The four stainless steel cooking racks allow for a multitude of foods like veggies and meats to be cooked simultaneously.
They can be easily removed for cleaning. The assembly of this cooker is straightforward, and the unit itself is sturdy and not overly heavy at just under 70lbs.
Another consideration is the length of the gas cylinder hose.
At 40 inches, it gives you enough space to store the cylinder well away from the unit, as most people don’t enjoy walking around the cylinder to avoid impact with your shins and feet while cooking.
Best Budget Large Capacity Smoker- Dyna-Glo Vertical Wide Offset Smoker – $249
Many of you looking for a budget smoker need one that has a large capacity, and for this, there are few better than the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset smoker.
This is an offset smoker, well built, easy to assemble, and made from powder-coated steel with an enamel-coated wood chip box.
This is a highly durable finish and will last for a good few years if taken care of.
However, the most impressive element of this smoker is the cooking space!
Six different cooking grates allow for adjustable heights so you can cook different thicknesses of foods without an issue.
This all totals up to a phenomenal 1890 sq inches of cooking space, and that is an immense area allowing you to load up to 150lbs of food in one cook!
The sturdy design makes it easy to assemble and move around as required, and the built-in thermometer makes temperature control as easy as pie.
At 83lbs, this is not the heaviest smoker and could be loaded for your outdoor adventure too!
Cleaning is fast, too, with the grease system that collects both the drippings and the water from inside.
With its massive cooking area, stability, ease of use, and very attractive price, the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset smoker is the best large-capacity budget smoker.
Best Budget Smoker For Flavor- Smokehouse Big Chief Electric Smoker – $151
If the quality of the smoked flavor is non-negotiable in your search for a budget smoker, then the Smokehouse Big Chief will be the one you’re ordering!
This highly affordable and lightweight smoker has been around for 55 years.
For that soul-tingling smoked flavor on cheese, fish, and other foods, you can’t go wrong with the Big Chief.
This is a pure smoker, and for more significant meat cuts, this is not the smoker for you.
The low non-adjustable cooking temperature and impressive smoke creation are perfectly matched for smoking sausage, jerky, and other foods that may not fall into traditional smoking categories.
The electrical element only uses 450W, so it takes over two hours to rack up one kWh on your meter, so an 8 or 10 hours smoker won’t cost you a lot because it’s electric.
You can set it up and forget it.
Cleaning is also pretty effortless, and all in all, if you seek the proper depth of smoky flavor, you can’t go wrong with the Big Chief!
Best Charcoal Budget Smoker – Pit Barrel Co. Classic Pit Barrel Cooker Package-$400
Simplicity meets function in this smoker, and its cooking capacity is impressive for a barrel cooker.
Able to smoke and cook eight racks of ribs at once and maintain a consistent temperature of 300F with little effort, this set-and-forget smoker is compact and fast cooking.
This is a charcoal cooker.
But unlike other cookers, the simple design of the smoker and the fact that this is a complete smoking kit makes it one of the best charcoal smokers to buy on a budget.
Best Budget Electric Smoker -Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker -$215
At first glance, this smoker looks like a refrigerator.
But these designs have made Char-Broil, one of the leading brands in vertical smokers and this one tops the list as the best budget electric smoker.
Using just 750W won’t kill your utility costs if you cook out every weekend, have an impressive cooking area of 725 sq inches, and have easy-to-use features and controls.
This compact smoker is superbly suited to light smoking and effective temperature control.
While this smoker lacks high-heat options, and if you want a greater depth of smoked flavor, then this may not be the right smoker for you.
However, the price of this unit, plus the simple interfaces and steady temperature and smoke density, make it an ideal option for the set-and-forget smoking session.
It is also compact and lightweight, so footprint, portability, and storage aren’t an issue, and neither is cleaning.
Best Versatile Budget Smoker – Camp Chef 24″ Smoke Vault -$400 (Walmart)
As a gas smoker, one of the most significant issues is the lack of versatility regarding temperature controls.
This can limit the capability of the smoker should the cook require higher flash temperatures or opt for lower, slower cooking options.
This compact unit operates between 160F and 400F, so it has an excellent range for various foods.
While some criticisms have been leveled about the door seal and reliability on the temperature dial, overall reviews show a cooker that heats up fast and produces excellent flavor and consistency.
Unlike the insulated Weber, and as is the case with most box-type smokers, there is no insulation.
You will get some smoke leaking out and temperature, but gas is more easily controlled than coal and wood, so a bit of practice will have this aspect covered.
At 75lbs and delivering some 18000 BTU in heat, the Camp Chef is the best option if you need to cook and smoke a range of foods, whether on your patio, balcony, or campsite.
Best Value Budget Smoker -Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro 830-$310
Our next budget smoker is the one that delivers the overall best value and is a mid-priced unit.
This smoker resembles the classic offset smoker configuration with the side firebox set below the cooking chamber.
As one of the heavier units on offer at 146lbs, it won’t be the easiest to move and will take up some space.
So, this would not be an option if you are limited in your cooking area.
The cooking area is a good size at 830 sq inches.
The cooker has the option of a rotisserie; like all offset horizontal smokers.
It can double up as a charcoal griller by making a pit of coals and then using the cast iron grates as the grill surface.
As offset smokers go, this is one of the cheapest available, and with care and regular maintenance, this smoker should last you a good few years.
The heat and smoke distribution are good from the offset firebox, and you will get the temperature and smoke volume right with a bit of practice.
This smoker also comes with removable ashtrays. It is easy to assemble and sturdy on its feet, with a side table and racks to place your spices, sauces, and drinks.
Once created, it’s ready to go, so load the firebox and get smokin’!
Best Budget Pellet Smoker -Z Grills 450B Pellet Smoker -$429 (Zgrills.com)
Finally, no list of smokers is complete without a budget pellet smoker, and this is one of the better value and quality options available.
This wood pellet smoker has a large grilling area of 459 sq inches, enough for a large or small family meal.
The PID temperature control board means super accurate temperatures within 5F, which makes for fantastic precision for optimum temperatures for the different foods.
Made from porcelain-coated steel similar to the Weber Smokey Mountain, with a hop capacity of 15lbs, and it has a temperature range of between 180F and 450F; plus, you can bake, grill, or BBQ with it if you so desire.
It is mobile and compact, and the porcelain coating will make it that much easier to clean and maintain.
The only consideration is that pellets are not always available depending on where you go, but online ordering is pretty easy, so no issues there!
With prices from just $151 to just around the $420 mark, you now have a great range of budget smokers to choose from, a great idea of what you need to look for and consider before committing your dollars.
Starting with a small investment to enjoy this great American pastime is perfect for beginners.
If the smoking bug bites, you can then look to invest in a bigger, more expensive unit.
In the meantime, get out there, get smokin’ and relish that first bite of tender, perfectly smoked meat!