Last Updated On: April 11, 2021

If you're thinking of making jerky, the last thing you want is the shoe leather variety you get from a dehydrator. A smoker can provide you with juicy and smoky jerky made from home. We’ve tested dozens of smokers and narrowed them down to help you get the best smoker for jerky.

10 Best Smokers For Making Jerky in 2021

1

Masterbuilt Black Electric Digital Smoker

Masterbuilt regularly gets ranked at the top of our lists when testing products due to their durability.

Their Black Electric Smoker is another such case great for people wanting to make tasty and smoky flavored jerky.

It has four chrome-coated cooking racks good for jerky making and smoking other meats.

We like that this is an easy to use model so that users of all experience levels can make venison jerky or other types without much trouble. It also comes with both the original model and a newer one with a window.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 33.5 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: 730 square inches
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Corded Electric
Material: Stainless Steel

Pros
  • Chrome-coated cooking grates
  • Electric digital smoker temperature control
  • Easy to use plug and go setup
  • Good for smokers of all experience levels
Cons
  • Window comes in a more expensive model
  • No side handles for portability
2

Masterbuilt Smoke Hollow SH19079518

Smoke Hollow may be a lesser-known brand, but it shouldn’t be discounted because of it.

We’ve tested numerous Smoke Hollow grills here and found this model to be great for making jerky with ease.

It comes with three chrome-coated smoking racks capable of retaining heat and maintaining temperatures. The inside is fully insulated to help protect against heat loss.

We like the digital thermostat temperature control panel, which makes the smoking process much easier than using only an analog temperature gauge and trying to maintain temperatures manually.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 18.54 x 18.19 x 33.35 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: 730 square inches
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Corded Electric
Material: Metal

Pros
  • Digital control panel for temperature
  • Insulated smoker body
  • 800-watt heating element
  • Easy clean removable drip pan
Cons
  • Grill cover not included
  • Must request warranty from manufacturer
3

Weber Smokey Mountain

The Weber Smokey Mountain is a barrel charcoal smoker capable of giving you a rich traditional smokey flavor when making deer jerky or other jerky recipes for family and friends.

This unit includes a water pan and thermometer and individual vents on the lid and bowl for maintaining temperatures in the cooking chamber.

The Smokey Mountain is made from porcelain-enameled steel, both durable and good at retaining heat. It also comes equipped with two 18 ½ inch nickel-plated cooking grids.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 21 x 19 x 41 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: N/A
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Charcoal
Material: Stainless Steel

Pros
  • Provides authentic smokey flavor
  • Sturdy porcelain-coated steel materials
  • Two nickel-plated cooking grates
  • Built-in lid thermometer
Cons
  • No viewing window
  • Limited cooking area
4

Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

The Excalibur Electric Food Dehydrator is one of the best options for making beef jerky and other types the more traditional way.

This model comes with 9 cooking trays that allow you to turn large batches of beef slices into jerky pieces.

The unit cooks at between 105 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit (40.55 and 165 degrees celsius) using the adjustable thermostat and built-in 26-hour timer.

The unit has a total of 15 square feet of drying space and allows you to make jerky in a wide variety of flavors from brown sugar to onion powder to soy sauce.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 19 x 17 x 12.5 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: 2160 square inches
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Charcoal
Material: Plastic

Pros
  • Over 15 square feet of cooking space
  • Cook jerky made from different ingredients
  • As good as jerky in a smoker
  • Consistent temperature range for beef jerky
Cons
  • Less smoke flavor
  • Less versatile than traditional smokers
5

Bradley Digital 4-Rack Smoker

Bradley digital electric smokers are a bit different than the others on our list.

Instead of using a traditional healing element like other electric smokers, these use wood pucks and operate similarly to a pellet grill.

Finding replacement pucks boils down to a quick search, so there is no worry about running out.

You also get a nice smokey flavor for your beef jerky from the wood pucks. This digital electric smoker is made from polished stainless steel and has four stainless steel cooking grids providing ample cooking.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 14 x 17 x 31 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: N/A
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Corded Electric
Material: Polished Stainless Steel

Pros
  • Fully digital temperature control
  • Traditional smoke flavor
  • Four racks for making jerky
  • Uses wood chip pucks
Cons
  • Wood chips harder to obtain
  • No viewing window
6

Camp Chef SmokePro DLX

The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX is a pellet smoker with easy to use digital controls and a large capacity pellet wood chip box.

Pellet smokers can be great for making jerky as they infuse beef jerky with a traditional smoke flavor yet have a cleaner smoking process than charcoal.

The SmokePro DLX electric digital smoker has an auto pellet auger with a self shutdown capable of holding 18lbs (8.16 kg) of pellets. The total cooking rack surface area 573 sq in.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 45 x 21 x 51 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: 573 square inches
Hopper Capacity: 18 pounds
Fuel Type: Wood Pellets
Material: Steel

Pros
  • Digital controls good for beginner users
  • 573 square inch smoking racks
  • Features a large-capacity pellet hopper
  • Easy to clean cooking chamber
Cons
  • Grill cover sold separately
  • Pellet grill can cost more
7

Camp Chef Smoke Vault

We’re big fans of Camp Chef’s smokers, and their Smoke Vault is no different.

This is one of the best smoker units for jerky smoking in terms of durability and construction quality.

It is a gas smoker that gives you a nice balance between smoke flavor and ease of use.

Gas grills are often easier for beginner users who don’t yet know the proper way to light and maintain temperatures with charcoal smokers.

The Smoke Vault has a matchless ignition system with two adjustable smoking racks and a heavy-duty jerky rack for making beef jerky.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 30.25 x 18.75 x 17 inches
BTU Value: 18000
Cooking Area: 573 square inches
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Propane
Material: Steel

Pros
  • Easy to read door thermometer
  • Three adjustable damper valves
  • Dedicated beef jerky smoking rack
  • Includes recipes book
Cons
  • Total weight of 65 lbs (29.48 kilos)
  • No window for viewing
8

Bradley Smoker BS611

As with the Bradley Digital 4-Rack Smoker, the BS611 uses puck-shaped compressed wood chips as a fuel source.

This is an electric smoker with four well-constructed racks best for beef jerky and other meat types.

The primary difference between the BS611 and the above Bradley Digital Electric Smoker is that this unit doesn’t come with a digital remote control panel.

It’s still simple to use with a temperature setting knob and front door thermometer. However, you will need to make sure to check the temperature more often than the above Bradley smoking unit.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 34 x 20 x 18 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: N/A
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Wood Chips
Material: Metal

Pros
  • Uses quality wood chip loading system
  • Four beef jerky smoking racks
  • Over 4-hours of smoking without refill
  • Features easy-clean interior
Cons
  • Now front window for viewing
  • Special wood briquettes needed
9

Cuisinart 30-Inch Electric Smoker

The Cuisinart Electric Smoker is simple but built to be durable.

This electric smoker has the Amazon Editors Choice rating for “best Cuisinart smoker” owing to its quality design and simplicity.

This is a good choice if you’re looking for the best electric smoker for smoking beef jerky and any other meat a buyer might want to add in to the smoker.

We like this 30-inch electric smoker for features such as the easy to read temperature gauge and the more than 500 square inches of internal smoker space.

The wood chip tray and water tray both remove for easy cleaning making this one of the easier to use low maintenance best electric jerky grills on the list.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 22 x 19 x 37.5 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: 548 square inches
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Corded Electric
Material: Steel

Pros
  • Easy to operate electric smoker
  • Cooks beef jerky and other meat types
  • Features easy buyer assembly
  • Front-facing temperature monitor
Cons
  • Cover sold separately
  • No front window for viewing
10

Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker

Char-Broil, like Weber, is a popular and well-established manufacturer of electric smokers, charcoal grill units, gas grill models, and many more different types of smokers.

The Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset is one of their high-quality classics and a great option to make jerky with from your meat cuts.

This Char-Broil charcoal and wood smoker lets you infuse your jerky with a traditional smoky flavor that you can’t get from a propane smoker or electric smoker.

This smoker has a solid 290 square inches of cooking space with 140 square inches in the firebox—a good option for making jerky in a smoker.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 46.25 x 44.75 inches
BTU Value: N/A
Cooking Area: 430 square inches
Hopper Capacity: N/A
Fuel Type: Charcoal
Material: Steel

Pros
  • 430 square inches of cooking space
  • Traditional smoke flavoring
  • Adjustable dampers for heat control
  • Storage rack for cooking accessories
Cons
  • Does not come with a grill cover
  • No window for viewing

Why do you need a jerky smoker?

Regardless of the type of meat that you think is best for jerky, smokers can infuse it with some flavor that you just can’t get from a dehydrator. Smokers also help to keep the meat juicer by sealing in the flavor. This creates more flavorful meat that can be easier to eat.

You have a few different options when making jerky, including using a dehydrator or an oven. However, we’ve found that the best way to make jerky is to use a smoker to give you a more robust smoke flavor.

“Unlike grills, where the heat is more direct, smokers cook the meat (or veggies) with smoke heat and add an unforgettable smoked flavor. Smokers allow for longer cook times when you want to achieve that mouth-watering 'fall off the bone' consistency.”

 

- Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (1)

Best Jerky Smoker Buying Guide

grill smoking jerky meat

Cooking Surface

When it comes to a smoker, the cooking surface you use will likely be some type of grate or rack that the meat sits on. The best cooking grates will usually be made out of one of the following:

  • Porcelain-enameled cast-iron (2)
  • Stainless steel
  • Porcelain-enameled steel

These materials are some of the best for retaining heat, which is important when making jerky and other slow-cooked meat in a gas smoker or other type of smoker (3).

You also want to look at how large the spaces are on the racks and grates. Because jerky is best when cut into smaller pieces, you don’t want a rack with large gaps that the meat can fall through. It’s best to use a jerky rack that has smaller grate holes.

Temperature Control Features

Temperature control will be different depending on the type of smoker you are using. If you are a brand new smoker user, we recommend that you stick to an electric smoker or gas smoker with digital control or an easy turn knob. These are best for inexperienced users who haven’t worked with charcoal and wood before.

Wood and Water Trays

If you do opt for a gas or electric smoker, having wood and water trays are essential if you want to infuse your meat jerky with real smoker flavor. It’s best to look for removable trays as these are much easier to clean once your meat is finished cooking.

Size

When speaking about smokers, size will primarily refer to the cooking area available to use for meat. You are likely going to be making large batches of jerky at one time, so it can be helpful if you search for a larger smoker capable of large batches at one time.

We typically like to see at least 500 square inches of cooking space or more. It’s best to find more than this as that will leave you ample room for other meat types such as ribs or brisket. But, 500 square inches will be plenty for some big batches of meat.

Durability

jerky meat on a grill

The last thing you want is to buy a smoker that only works two or three times before breaking down. There are a few factors you want to look for when buying the best smoker in terms of durability, including:

  • Grate material (cast-iron, steel) (4)
  • Body material (steel)
  • Protective features (grill cover)

The above best smokers we’ve listed all meet the above qualities. One thing to note is that you will often have to purchase a grill cover separately. However, this can significantly improve the longevity of your grill.

Ease of Use

The best smoker in terms of ease of use will often be the one that matches your experience level with making jerky. For newer users, sticking to a gas or electric smoker will often be a better choice.

“A gas grill is simply easier to deal with...It’s great for low and slow grilling,”

 

- Matt Hinckley, Head Chef at Hinckley’s Fancy Meats (5)

A charcoal and wood smoker can provide a more robust smoke flavor. However, in terms of ease of use, these are often more difficult to get started and maintain temperatures, which are especially important for jerky, which needs consistent temperatures for long periods.

Keep in mind that you can also use pellet tube smoker kits if you want a more smoky flavor. Click here and learn which pellet tube smoker model we think is the best.

Ease of Cleaning

Depending on the type of jerky you are making, the meat can be quite messy with sauces and spices dripping everywhere. The best smokers will have easily removable drip pans and water trays and will be simple to wipe out. Try and avoid models that have a lot of small spaces or pieces that can’t be removed and cleaned.

How do you clean a jerky smoker?

There are three steps to properly clean a jerky smoker. You will need a grill brush for the grates and towels for wiping out the inside.

Step 1: Remove the Grates, Trays, and Pans

You want to remove the grates and gently brush off any chunks that are stuck to them. You can use a wet towel to wipe off any fat or other residue still on the grates. For the trays and drip pans, it’s best you wash these in a dishwasher or hand wash in a sink.

Step 2: Clean the Cooking Chamber

First, you should wipe out any large chunks of meat or lose fat that has built up at the bottom of the chamber. After this, use mildly warm and soapy water to wipe out the inside of the chamber. Do not use a metal brush as this can damage your smoker.

Step 3: Clean the Outside

Use a damp cloth to wipe down the outside of the smoker. If your smoker has a window, then use only approved glass cleaner in small quantities.

FAQs

cooked jerky and question marks

Is jerky better in a smoker or dehydrator?

Jerky is better in a smoker than a dehydrator as a smoker will help to lock in the juices so that the jerky remains tender. Jerky made in a dehydrator can often be tough and leathery and may be difficult to eat.

How long do you need to smoke jerky?

The average smoke times for jerky will depend on how thick the meat strips are and what type of fuel you are using. However, average smoke times for the best jerky will usually be in the range of 4 to 5 hours.

Do you use water when smoking jerky?

Using water at the beginning of smoking jerky can help to get the cooking process started and to achieve the best temperature. It’s best to use a water pan for the first hour or two of smoking, after which the tray can be removed.

What temperature do you smoke jerky at?

The best temperature to smoke jerky at is around 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.55 degrees Celsius). You don’t want temperatures to get too hot as jerky needs to be smoked low and slow. Make sure that the temperature stays low, so you don’t get a dry and leathery batch of meat.

How do you know when smoked jerky is done?

You will know that your jerky is done when it can bend and crack easily without breaking. Wait till about hour four or five and then periodically pull a piece of meat out of the smoker. Let it cool and check it by bending it a little.

How do you smoke jerky in a charcoal smoker?

To smoke jerky in a charcoal smoker, it’s best to first get the smoker going and temperature correct before adding the meat. Because jerky needs to be cooked at low temperatures, you should add less charcoal than you would for ribs or other meats.

The Final Verdict

After cooking hundreds of slices of jerky on everything from gas grills to some of the best electric smokers around, our opinion is that the Masterbuilt Black Digital Electric Smoker is the best smoker for jerky making.

Because it has an electric heating element, it’s easier to operate for new users compared to anything charcoal or wood. It was the best smoker we tested in terms of durability and comes with features such as chrome-plated cooking racks and an easy to read temperature monitor.

If you’re looking an electric jerky smoker, check out the Masterbuilt Black Digital today.

What's next? Find out what is the best smoker for fish in our opinion by clicking here.

Masterbuilt Black Electric Digital Smoker

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Chrome-coated cooking grates
  • Electric digital smoker temperature control
  • Easy to use plug and go setup
  • Good for smokers of all experience levels

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