A lot of smokers claim to be portable, but in reality, their size and weight make them impractical to take anywhere other than across the yard. To solve this problem, we’ve tested dozens of smokers to narrow down the best portable smokers for campers, tailgaters, and everyone in between.
The 10 Best Portable Smokers in 2021
Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker
Weber is one of the oldest smoker and grill manufacturers in the United States, and their Smokey Mountain Cooker reflects this.
This is a convenient and compact unit weighing only 39lbs (17.69 kilograms), significantly less than many heavier offset smokers.
We like that this charcoal grill and smoker is designed to maximize smoke flavor infusion in meats.
It comes with two nickel-plated cooking grids that are easy to clean and provide ample room for cooking everything from burgers to briskets and racks of ribs.
- Two nickel-plated cooking grates
- Light-weight for easier portability
- Rust-resistant metal legs
- Built-in lid thermometer
- Grill cover not included
Masterbuilt Bluetooth Digital Smoker
The Masterbuilt electric smoker can be a good option because it’s portable and easier to use than a charcoal or wood grill.
The unit comes with a clear and simple digital control panel making temperature control simple.
It also has Bluetooth smart technology so that you can monitor the meat temperature from your phone through the included meat probe.
The model has four chrome-coated smoking racks and a side wood chip tray loading system, allowing you to add wood without opening the smoker box to maintain food temperatures.
- Bluetooth monitoring system
- Side loader for wood chips
- Easy to use for a beginner
- Digital temperature gauge
- No side handles
Z Grills Pellet Grill
Z Grill comes with an elegant compact design taking the barbeque experience to a higher level.
Small yet enough to feed an entire family of 5, it’s incredibly flexible for small areas, making it great for camping and tailgating.
This portable grill features a smart temperature management system that automatically adds pellets to the fire while regulating the airflow and maintaining the cooking temperatures.
It's also versatile enough for baking, roasting, and braising your favorite meat recipes.
When it comes to installation, the assembly only takes a few minutes and the pellet grill is ready to cook.
- 8-in-1 features
- Includes a "set and forget" system
- Accurate temperature control
- 180 to 450 °F temperature range
- Not large enough for bigger events
Davy Crockett Pellet Grill
The Davy Crockett Pellet Grill is made especially for tailgating, which means that it’s been designed to be light and portable.
The unit is lightweight, with a total of 219 square inches of cooking space. The tailgating package comes with a grill cover, collapsible storage rack, and magnetic grill lights to make smoking on the road even easier.
The pellet smokers hopper can hold up to 9lbs (4.08 kilograms) of wood pellets and operates through a standard 12 volt DC plugin.
This pellet smokers capable of reaching temperatures between 150 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit (65.55 and 287.77 degrees celsius).
- 219 square inch cooking area
- High-quality stainless steel build
- Good for camping trips or tailgating
- Easy read LED temperature gauge
- Now viewing window
- Limited warranty information
Char-Griller Akorn Jr
Char-Griller is a popular manufacturer of everything from charcoal smoker units to electric smoker and portable propane smoker models.
The Char-Griller Akorn Jr grill and smoker is one of their more portable smoker options weighing in at just 37lbs (16.78 kilograms).
Despite the compact size, the smoker has over 150 square inches of cast-iron grilling space.
The unit is made from highly durable 22-gauge steel with a design that makes it easy to travel with. The Akorn Jr is capable of reaching temperatures between 200 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit (93.33 and 371.11 degrees celsius).
- Highly portable and lightweight design
- 153 square inch cast iron grates
- Triple walled to retain heat
- Made from 22 gauge stainless steel
- Cover sold separately
- No viewing window
Traeger Tailgater Pellet Grill
Traeger has developed a reputation as one of the leading manufacturers of wood pellet grill units and pellet smoker models.
Their Tailgater Pellet Grill is designed to give you the same quality as their large pellet grills with more portability.
The wood pellet grill has easy fold legs, and side handles to make it more portable
You can do everything with this pellet grill from, smoking to baking to grilling. The pellet smoker has a maximum temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232.22 degrees celsius) and over 350 square inches of smoking space.
- 8lb pellet grill hopper capacity
- Included easy to use meat probe
- Heavy-duty metal construction
- Easy fold legs for portability
- No food viewing window
- Weighs over 70lbs (31.75 kilograms)
Broil King Kamado Grill
The Broil King Kamado Grill represents one of the best smoker units on many levels.
We like the compact design that makes carrying it easy compared to a pellet grill or larger smoker grill combo models. The grill is best for those who want something easy to use yet durable.
The Kamado has a double-walled steel body, which helps retain heat better than many of the best portable smokers.
It has many helpful out of the box features, including two storage shelves and cast iron dampers for easier temperature control.
- 10-year warranty for grill body
- Uses 2x less charcoal than other smokers
- Easy clean removable ash pan
- Positive smoker reviews on Amazon
- Over 120lbs (54.43 kilograms)
- Grill cover not included
Charcoal Companion Stovetop Smoker
This is another stovetop smoker that may be a good choice if you need something extremely compact for grilling and smoking.
The Charcoal Companion Stovetop Smokers is best for people who can’t grill outdoors and need something to smoke and grill indoors.
The smoker is compatible with most stovetops, including portable propane fuel source stoves.
It has heat-safe silicone handles on the lid and base for safe handling and a high-quality thermometer similar to a Camp Chef smoker. The smoker can reach temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius).
- Cooks a wide variety of food
- Heat-safe silicone handles
- Easy clean-up drip pan
- Can be used indoors
- Needs an external fuel source
- Limited cooking space
Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Smoker
The Char-Broil Bullet Charcoal Grill and Smoker boasts a solid 360 square inches of cooking space spread over two porcelain-coated cooking grates.
The grills best for those who want an easy to use smoker. The smoker grill combo features an airflow control system with numbered damper settings for easier temperature control.
The grill has two lift handles to make it more portable and a lid-mounted thermometer for easy temperature reading.
This may be a good choice if you need ample space for cooking food yet still want something portable like a Camp-Chef.
- 370 sq in of grilling space
- Durable porcelain-coated body
- 1-year warranty
- Numbered damper heat control settings
- Smoker cover not included
- Thin smoker door handle
Camerons Large Stovetop Smoker
This large stovetop smoker provides ultra-portability with the ability to be used both indoors and outside.
Whether taking it on a camping trip or using it for a beach cook up, this can be combined with a propane stove for full smoke flavor.
The smoker is capable of smoking everything from beef and vegetables to fish, which is why it is considered as one of the best fish smokers. It can even be used as a steamer, poaching, or roasting pan.
For added convenience, everything can be packed away when not in use. The smoker is made from seamless stainless steel and is dishwasher safe making it easy to clean.
- Easy to move portable design
- Multi-purpose for smoking and steaming
- Seamless stainless steel construction
- Easy to clean dishwasher safe
- Limited cooking space
- Needs external heating source
How To Pick The Right Portable Smoker
While all of the above smokers represent the best in portability, different models have different considerations and impacts on exactly how portable a model is. Fuel type, for example, can play a major role. If you want to learn more about different types of smokers you should read this blog post.
There are a large variety of pellet grills out there, and some of them are more suited to taking you places than others. However, something to consider is that even the best portable pellet smoker will usually weigh more than your average charcoal smoker due to the hopper and wood pellets' weight, though some consider this the healthier option (1).
- Best Vertical Pellet Smokers
- How To Make a Pellet Smoker
- 10 Top-Rated Offset Smokers (Review & Buyer's Guide)
A portable electric smoker is another good option, with many being highly portable. The tradeoff here is that because you need a power outlet to operate them, you are a bit more limited where you can use them unless you have a generator or a car converter. If you want to learn more about electric smokers you can check out this review of our most recommended products.
Charcoal tends to be towards the top of the least when looking at how portable a smoker is. You can find charcoal grill options in all sizes, and these generally weigh less than others. The fuel is also typically lighter in weight and more portable.
Gas grills are often another good option for a portable smoker. The grills best feature is that they can be lightweight. The downside is that you need to also carry a bulk propane tank to heat the grill.
The one downside when it comes to a portable smoker is that some leave a lot to be desired in terms of cooking capacity. You want to make sure that you are striking a nice balance between weight, size, and smoking capacity.
When portability isn’t a factor, we recommend around 500 sq in as optimal cooking space. We find it best for a portable smoker to get as close to that as possible without sacrificing in other areas such as weight and size. Remember, you don’t just want to stuff the grill either, you need room to maneuver your meat when cooking.
“Live-fire cooking creates different heat intensities. Know your hot spots and move your food around (now that you’ve got the room) to avoid burning.”
- Jim Shahin, Barbecue and Grilling Expert Writer at The Washington Post (2)
The key when selecting the best portable grill is obviously that it must be portable. So, you need to find the best balance between a few different factors, which include:
- Cooking Capacity
Each of these factors will play an important role in how portable your grill is. If the size gets too much, the weight may be too much to move around easily.
However, get something too little, and you will have to worry about not having enough smoking space for your meat. You need to strike a good balance between all three factors so that your grill can easily fit where you need it during transport, it’s not too heavy to lift, and you can cook all the meat you need.
As noted above, weight plays a critical role in how portable your grill can get. Don’t let the size of portable grills fool you into thinking that one is small and lightweight.
The materials they are made out of can easily make a small grill much heavier than a larger one made of lighter materials.
Other factors that can affect weight include the extra parts needed for construction.
For example, an electric smoker will usually weigh more than similarly sized charcoal grills due to the extra parts and circuitry.
If you know that you will be hauling around your grill by yourself, take into consideration how much weight you can easily carry without difficulty.
The materials your grill is made from will play a huge role in things like weight and ease of maintenance. Grills best for portability should ideally be constructed from lightweight, rust-resistant, anti-corrosive, and insulative materials to keep heat in. We find stainless steel to fit all of these properties.
“It [stainless steel] enjoys widespread applications in food, beverage, and chemical plants because of its non-staining properties due mainly to the ability to form a self-healing thin oxide film when abraded.”
- Patricia Popoola, Tshwane University of Technology Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering (3)
Other materials can be used, such as aluminum, but food-grade stainless steel tends to be best. Some materials, such as porcelain or cast iron, meet all of the above requirements but may add too much weight to grills so that they are impractical to try and move.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
The best portable smokers are those that are simple and easy to use and maintain.
All of the world's extra features are largely irrelevant if your grill is too complicated to set up and smoke with or if you have trouble doing basic things like adding wood chips.
In terms of ease of use, we find that an electric smoker with digital controls is generally the best as these are often easier to smoke meat with for beginner users.
However, charcoal is also quite easy to smoke if you use the top-rated charcoal for smoking meat, and if you learn how to control the dampers. Moreover it is quite simple to maintain.
The best charcoal smokers also meet the above guidelines for size and weight and are generally more affordable to buy and maintain and smoke with. For this reason, we usually opt for charcoal when looking for a smoker.
With such a wide variety of grills to choose from, ranging from gas grills to portable electric smokers, the sky’s the limit when it comes to how many features you can find. Everything from top-notch pellet tube smokers for maximum smoky flavor, collapsible shelving space to remote Bluetooth control and monitoring can be found in our modern world.
While extra features are always nice, the main thing to remember is that they will add to your smoker's overall size and weight.
In our own experience, when opting for the best smoke setup, we generally like to keep things simple as the best grills are those that get the job done without weighing too much or being too big.
Direct Heat vs Indirect Heat Smokers
Direct and indirect heat refers to how the heat from the fuel source is distributed around the meat. For indirect heat, the fuel is further away from the meat, whereas direct heat means the meat is right on top.
This is usually used concerning charcoal grilling. You ideally want enough space in your grill that you can have an area of indirect heat that allows you better temperature control. Take this into consideration when looking at smoker size as the best smoker will have plenty of room for both a direct and an indirect heat zone.
What types of wood pellets can be used in portable smokers?
There are a wide variety of wood pellet types that can be used in portable smokers. Some of the best for cooking various kinds of meat include:
- Best for Cooking Pork - Use pecan, cherry, apple, mesquite, or hickory
- Best for Cooking Brisket - Use mesquite or hickory
- Best for Cooking Chicken - Use pecan, apple, or cherry
Do portable smokers have small cooking areas?
Portable smokers will usually have smaller cooking areas, but not always. There are numerous smokers with a large enough capacity to smoke large quantities of meat for large parties and cookouts. Some of the best smokers can cook large batches of chicken, steaks, burgers, and sausage.
Can I cook brisket on a portable smoker?
It is possible to cook brisket on a portable smoker so long as you take the time to build up the temperature and regularly monitor the cooking process. The main thing to remember is that smoking is a long process, so you will need to be patient to make sure everything cooks through.
How long will a portable smoker last?
The typical portable smoker should last around five years if taken care of moderately. If you are the kind of person who takes very good care of things, you will likely be able to extend the life of your smoker up to 10 years.
What’s Our Verdict
After extensive testing of numerous grills, we’ve found that the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker to be the best portable smoker. The model strikes the best balance between cooking space, weight, size, and ease of use.
We like the easily adjustable numbered damper settings that allow you to get the best airflow through the unit. It’s also constructed from durable rust-resistant materials for the best protection possible against the elements.
The total weight is such that one person can easily lift and move the smoker around without much difficulty. Check out the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker today.