Vertical Smoker Vs. Horizontal Smoker

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Deciding whether to get a vertical or horizontal smoker can be daunting.

If you’re in the market for a smoker and can’t decide which one is best or if they are both worth getting, here is all you need to know about both the horizontal and vertical smoker.

Vertical smokers have more space inside, smoke food much better, are usually cheaper, and do not take up much space.

On the other hand, Horizontal smokers can both smoke and grill food, and they heat up much faster than vertical smokers. Vertical smokers are more suitable for beginners.

Smoking meat is a complex process that, to be honest, isn’t for everyone. That is why it is critical to grasp the distinctions between vertical and horizontal smokers.

All You Need To Know About Vertical Vs. Horizontal Smokers

Is there a short and easy answer to which one you should get? Yes, buy both.

However, that may not be possible depending on your budget, so here is a look at the unique features that each of these has.


How Much Cook Space Do Vertical And Horizontal Smokers Have?

Let’s start with the most essential feature, the cooking space. There is a difference between the cooking space stated and what you actually use.

The amount of space you have to cook on is essential, especially if you have a big family or simply like to host parties where you can show off your smoking skills. 

The square inches of total cooking space play a role in determining which smoker you should go for.

You have a warming rack with the vertical smoker, which is excellent when you need extra space.

Still, the lack of space between the bottom cooking grate and the warming rack makes it harder to turn or flip stuff on the bottom.

With the warming rack out of the way, the amount of space left is significantly smaller.

With a horizontal smoker, the spaces between the various racks are considerably bigger, so you never have to remove a rack to use the entire area.

Usually, you can fit just about anything between the racks, but if not, some brands have racks that are easy to move and switch around. 

The number of racks on a vertical smoker will determine how much meat you can cook all in one go. Vertical smokers are known to have around three to eight racks.

That means there is a whole lot of space available. 

Furthermore, some vertical smokers come with hooks in addition to the three to eight racks.

This means that you will be able to cook more meat all at once as you can simply hang up any extra pieces of meat.

Therefore, if you’re looking to feed many people, then your best option would be the vertical smoker.

However, suppose you’ll only be cooking for yourself or have a small family. In that case, a horizontal smoker is best for you.

How Is Heat Distribution In Vertical And Horizontal Smokers?

Heat distribution is crucial as you want a smoker that will evenly cook your food.

The last thing you want is tough, overcooked meat. Vertical smokers are often referred to as the king of smokers, and with good reason. 

The heat distribution is even as the heat moves up through the sides evenly as the burn pot is at the bottom.

Therefore, even, consistent temperatures are kept throughout the cooking, no matter how long you cook.

On the other hand, Horizontal smokers are the jack of all trades as they can smoke, grill, etc.

The burn pot is in the center, so higher temperatures will be at the center. Therefore, the heat distribution isn’t quite as even across the rack. 

This is why most people don’t recommend horizontal smokers for those new to smoking meat.

Horizontal smokers also can’t get to the low temperatures that vertical smokers reach.

Furthermore, if temperatures in the vertical smoker fluctuate, you can easily swap out the racks from top to bottom. 

Low-heat smoking flavors the meat and breaks down the tissues, making it tender after several hours.

This is where vertical smokers come in handy. For example, you should not smoke a sirloin steak for hours.

It will get dried out and chewy, the polar opposite of what you want in a steak. This is where horizontal smokers would work best. 

However, the problem comes when you have to add more fuel. The uniform temperature in vertical smokers is disturbed.

Unlike a horizontal smoker, where it is easy to keep a uniform temperature because there is no need to open the smoking chamber to add fuel vertical smokers need to be open for more fuel to be added. 

As much as indirect heat inside the chamber of vertical smokers helps to keep the temperature low and stable for an extended period that can easily be disrupted when more fuel needs to be added.

If you prefer not to have that happen, either ensure there is sufficient fuel for the whole cook, or a horizontal smoker will work better for you.

How Long Does It Take For Each Smoker To Heat Up?

Horizontal smokers heat up in half the time it takes vertical smokers to heat up.

That’s definitely the most significant pro that horizontal smokers have going for them.

This is because of the huge chamber that vertical smokers have. 

Therefore, if you plan on doing a quick cook in record time, horizontal smokers beat vertical smokers in that department.

However, although a vertical smoker takes longer to heat up, it cooks food incredibly quickly once it’s up and running due to its efficient design.

It is also a set-and-forget smoker as you don’t have to constantly monitor your food.

Is A Vertical Smoker Easier to Use Than A Horizontal Smoker?

Vertical smokers are easier to use and are often recommended to beginners. This is because they are also available in different varieties.

Horizontal smokers tend to need a bit more experience to operate correctly. 

That is why they are great for more experienced smokers.

Generally, you want a smoker with simple access to all of its parts. This will determine how easy it will be to use, and the easier, the better.

Whether you want to add more fuel or meat, doing both shouldn’t be a hassle.

Do Both Vertical And Horizontal Smokers Have A Sear Plate?

Another big reason people love horizontal smokers is the Sear plate.

Getting some beautiful sear marks on a steak is a huge benefit that horizontal smokers provide.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about vertical smokers. 

Not all smokers are created equal. Some can be used as a grill, while others only smoke.

The slider plate in the horizontal smoker can slide over and allow for direct heat on your meat.

Vertical smokers do not have that feature. This makes horizontal smokers a favorite for those who love to sear their meat in addition to smoking it.

Do Both Smokers Have Aftermarket Modifications?

While horizontal and vertical smokers can be modified, there are generally more aftermarket modification parts that can be ordered for a horizontal smoker than a vertical smoker.

Some more fancy setups may even give you more control over the smoke and temperature, but they are a little pricey.

Useful Features Vertical And Horizontal Smokers Have

There are several great features that vertical smokers have compared to horizontal smokers.

Some great features that vertical smokers have are the front glass doors in some models.

It makes it easy to check on the stuff you are cooking without opening it up and letting the heat escape. 

They also have an inbuilt light for those nighttime cooks.

They aren’t precisely deal-breakers, but they make cooks more convenient than horizontal smokers. You should ask yourself what you will be using your smoker for? 

The vertical smoker is your go-to if it’s for cooking meats low and slow and making beef jerky.

If you plan on doing just about everything, the horizontal smoker is a great option.

Do Vertical And Horizontal Smokers Cost The Same Price?

People with a tight budget should opt for a vertical smoker rather than a horizontal smoker.

Generally, vertical smokers are far less expensive than horizontal smokers.

Despite the perception that cheap items are of inferior quality, you need not worry about that.

However, even if the vertical smoker is less expensive, it doesn’t mean it can’t smoke well.

All in all, vertical smokers are frequently less expensive than horizontal smokers, making them an excellent entry point for a new smoker.

Horizontal smokers are frequently more expensive than vertical smokers since you can literally do more in them than you can in a vertical smoker. 

However, either option has affordable smokers that you can purchase within your budget range.

Is The Vertical Or Horizontal Smoker The Best Smoker?

There is no doubt that horizontal smokers are great grills. However, they are only good smokers.

Whereas vertical smokers are really great smokers even though they cannot grill. Vertical smokers are far superior smokers. 

Therefore, you will have to think about what you want.

If you’re looking for a smoker that can grill and provide a decent amount of smoke, then a horizontal smoker is best.

However, if you’re looking for a great smoker, the vertical smoker is the best option.

How Much Space Do Vertical And Horizontal Smokers Take?

Smokers can be small or large, taking up several feet of space.

Although vertical smokers have a big chamber, horizontal smokers are beasts, and they will take up more space.

This isn’t the best thing if you do not have a big yard. 

Vertical smokers do not take quite as much space because they stand upright, unlike horizontal smokers, stretching out sideways and taking a considerable amount of space.

Although there is undoubtedly an authentic feel and look to horizontal smokers, they are heavy and not portable. 

Vertical smokers are easier to maneuver and move around, whereas horizontal smokers are harder to move around.

However, most smoker models these days come with wheels.

It makes them convenient to move around, so you may not have to worry about that depending on the brand you purchase.

How Much Fuel Do Both Smokers Use?

Because vertical smokers are often compact in construction, they do not require a lot amount of fuel to get the heat going in the smoking chamber.

On the other hand, the horizontal smoker typically has a larger smoke chamber because of how much bigger it is. 

The horizontal design of this smoker means that it will need more fuel because it requires more fuel to heat up.

The reason for this is that heat moves faster upwardly than horizontally.

Although it is not that big of a difference, you will certainly feel it in your pocket when you constantly have to buy more fuel for your horizontal smoker.

With that in mind, if you want a more energy-efficient smoker, look for a vertical smoker rather than a horizontal smoker.

Furthermore, the hopper capacity in horizontal smokers rivals that in vertical smokers in pellet smokers. 

As a hopper is a container that is used to store pellets and feed them to the firepot via an auger, its size is critical in determining how frequently you need to refill it.

Therefore, it only makes sense that a horizontal smoker will have to use more fuel. 

So, depending on your cooking needs, you would select a pellet smoker with sufficient hopper capacity.

Generally speaking, the larger the smoker and firebox, the more fuel will be required to heat it.

One of the most significant drawbacks of the vertical smoker is every time the cover is lifted, practically all of the heat in the smoker is lost.

Although the water pan can hold heat, it takes a while for the temperature to return to normal.


Both vertical and horizontal smokers are great smokers.

However, what you need a smoker for will determine which one you will go for.

Vertical smokers are excellent at smoking food, but horizontal smokers offer you a place to grill should you wish to.