Traditional smokers make it difficult to control temperatures. Using these, you run the risk of undercooked meat that can make you sick.
With a vertical pellet smoker, you get a more consistent cooking temperature and more evenly cooked meat.
We’ve narrowed down and reviewed the best vertical pellet smokers to help you up your grill game.
Top 10 Vertical Pellet Smokers in 2020
Masterbuilt MES Electric Smoker
The Masterbuilt MES provides a good balance between the smokey flavor you’re looking for from a traditional smoker and the ease of use and consistency of an electric smoker. This is an entirely self-contained unit with an efficient loading system on the side of the smoker.
You can load and refill wood chips without opening the cooking chamber and messing up the temperature range. The MES can hold up to six chickens, two turkeys, four racks of ribs, or four pork butts.
- Digital temperature control unit
- Water bowl to add moisture
- Four chrome-coated cooking racks
- Easy to use pellet loader
- No viewing window
Weber Smokey Mountain Vertical Smoker
Weber is one of the biggest names in the grilling industry. This is one of their most popular charcoal smokers. It’s important to note that wood pellets can be used with charcoal smokers. The pellets can improve the flavor of the meat and cook more consistently.
This is an easy to assemble smoker capable of reaching temperatures up to 190 degrees Fahrenheit (87 degrees Celsius). The total grill has over 700 square inches (4,516 Sq Cm) of cooking space with two smoking grates for cooking meat.
- Cookes with charcoal or wood pellets
- Easy to assemble
- Built-in lid thermometer
- Rust-resistant material
- More difficult to control temperature range
Dyna Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker
The Dyna Glo DGO1 is an offset charcoal smoker. This is similar to the Weber Smokey Mountain in that you can use both charcoal, wood chips, or pellets for cooking meats. The cooking area is quite large, roughly 764 square inches (4,929 Sq Cm).
One thing we liked during testing was the dual door design, which keeps the unit from losing heat when adding more fuel. This can help to prevent massive temperature fluctuations and makes loading fuel much more manageable.
- Built-in easy to read thermometer
- Dual door design for more stable temperatures
- Burns charcoal, wood chips, or pellets
- High-temperature powder coat finish
- No viewing window
Pit Boss Grills Vertical Pellet Smoker
The Pit Boss Grills Smoker has everything you need in a pellet grill, including digital controls and readouts and stable temperature control. It has a sizable door-sized viewing window, which we like as you can monitor the cooking without regularly opening up the unit.
The total cooking space is 1,830 square inches (11,806 Sq Cm), with five porcelain coated cooking racks to work with. Pit Boss Grills smokers can get up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius), which is enough to cook any meats you want. Many reviews pointed out that Pit Boss Grills has easy to reach customer support.
- Pit Boss designed front viewing window
- Large 1,830 square inch cooking capacity
- Temperatures up to 450 degrees
- Pit Boss Smokers customer support
- Hopper can be hard to clean
Masterbuilt MWS 330S
The Masterbuilt MWS 330S is a heavy-duty pellet smoker for serious meat lovers looking to do large amounts of grilling. It has four chrome-plated racks that can cook up to twelve chickens, two turkeys, four racks of ribs, or three kurobuta pork butts.
The cooker comes with numerous accessories designed to help you cook a variety of foods such as asparagus or potatoes. The unit is made from stainless steel and has a side-mounted smoker box with a digital temperature gauge.
- Digital gauge with LED display
- Large smoking space
- Easy to clean pellet hopper
- Temperature probes for exact measurement
- No viewing window
Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker
The Char-Broil Analog is a bit smaller, which can be a good option if you have limited space for your grill. The total cooking area is 544 square inches (3,509 Sq Cm) spread across three cooking grates.
There is an easy to read thermometer installed on the front of the door with dual latches to help keep the grill properly sealed during smoking.
The front access water tray, grease cup, and wood chip tray makes it easy to use and allows you to quickly add water or more chips or pellets while in use.
- More affordable than some other options
- Large capacity wood chip box
- Door mounted temperature gauge
- Cooking time up to 24 hours
- Lacks digital readout
Bradley Smoker BTDS76P
This is one of the more technologically advanced smokers on the list. It’s an offset cooker with a powerful digital control panel and smart smoke technology. You can easily control the entire cooking process by quickly setting the cooking temperature range for a more consistent experience.
The unit is made from high caliber materials and designed to be airtight to prevent smoke leakage and provide a more consistent temperature range. The ash cleanout is smooth with a removable ash pan you can wash.
- Stainless steel build
- Four cooking racks
- Large cooking capacity
- Complete digital temperature controls
- Short warranty of only 1-year
Dyna Glo Wide Body Gas Smoker
The Dyna Glo Wide Body is the alternative to their charcoal cooker discussed above. We will always be partial to charcoal or natural burning wood pellets over a propane smoker, but this unit has its place. The total cooking capacity is 1,235 square inches (7,967 Sq Cm), which is plenty to cook large meals and entertain.
There are four adjustable cooking grates with other excellent features such as sausage hooks and vegetable racks. The unit comes with a 15,000 BTU cast iron burner and a built-in front-facing thermometer for more precise slow cooking.
- Dual cast iron burners
- Four cooking racks and large area
- High capacity wood chip and pellet box
- Sausage hangers and rib racks
- No window for monitoring
This is another vertical pellet cooker that has a front panel window, which makes monitoring easy and removes the need to open the door and lower the temperature continually. The grill has a massive 2,059 square inches (13,283 Sq Cm) of total cooking area so you can entertain large groups without trouble.
There are a total of six smoking racks for plenty of cooking options. Overall this is a reliable option, but the one thing that held this back in the rankings is their limited customer service hours.
- 2,059 square inch cooking space
- Strict vertical pellet smoker
- Six large smoking racks
- Large pellet hopper
- Least affordable option
Smoke Hollow Propane Smoker
The Smoke Hollow is a propane-fueled vertical pellet grill with some great features. It has the front window we like to see, which makes it easier to monitor your cooking. This also comes with two standard smoking racks, two jerky racks, and two combo smoker/rib racks to make cooking a variety of meats easier.
The unit is powered by two independently controlled 11,000 BTU heating units. We also like that it’s designed and sealed in such a way as to lower temperature loss for a more consistent cooking experience.
- Three different types of cooking racks
- High caliber heat inductor for better management
- Cooking time up to 24 hours
- Porcelain-coated water container
- No digital controls
7 Important Considerations Before You Buy
1. Vertical Smoker Water Pan Capacity
One of the downsides with pellet cookers is they can dry out the meat more quickly. The solution to this is having a water container that will evaporate the water and help keep the meat moist and tender. You want to look for a water container that has a larger capacity.
Remember that the more often you have to open the door to replace the water, the more spikes and dips you are going to have in the internal temperature. Ideally, you want a pellet cooker that can hold at least three liters of water.
2. Pellet Smoker Hopper Capacity
The hopper is the area where you put your pellets. As with the water container, you want a hopper that will hold enough, so you don’t have to add more pellets continually.
Every time you open the door, you are adding enormous amounts of oxygen into the cooking chamber, which can cause temperature spikes before the temp settles back.
This isn’t an issue as much with offset smokers, which generally have larger hoppers but can be more of a problem with traditional pellet grills.
3. Temperature Control
One of the most significant challenges, when you are smoking meats, is temperature control (1).
Vertical smokers are typically better for maintaining a consistent temperature compared to other types of smokers and grills.
This is especially true for offset cookers as there is a separate fuel door that you open to add fuel and water.
Electric smokers are also better as you digitally set the temperature, and the heating unit will kick in to help regulate the temp.
This is in contrast to gas-powered cookers that use dials or charcoal cookers that you have to work with to maintain the temperature.
4. Pellet Smoker Heating Element
There are various types of heating elements that you can select from (2). When it comes to the best pellet smokers, you will likely be deciding between an electric heating element or a gas heating element. Most traditional pellet smokers use an electric element that can be controlled digitally.
The reality is, however, that you can use pellets with any type of grill. If you’re looking for an easy to use option that will give you the best and most consistent temperature range settings, we recommend a smoker with an electric element.
5. Cooking Grate
It may not be the most apparent aspect of grilling, but the material of the actual cooking surface can affect how your meat turns out. Cooking grates can be made from a variety of materials, including porcelain, stainless steel, and cast iron.
Some of the differences between cooking grate materials include:
- Porcelain-Enameled steel - this is easier to clean than cast iron and, because of the porcelain, retains heat better than traditional stainless steel.
- Stainless Steel - the main benefit of stainless steel grates is that they can last for a long time if properly maintained. These may be a good option if you don’t want to replace parts regularly.
- Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron - because of the combination between porcelain and cast iron, this grate type retains the heat level for much longer than others. This also makes it ideal for achieving sear marks in steaks.
6. Ease of Use
If you’re new to smoking meats, these smokers can be a great place to start. The main draw for many people is the electric components, which make it a more straightforward process to set the temperature.
This also makes it much easier to keep temperatures regulated throughout the cooking process for a more consistent cooking experience.
That being said, not all units will be easy to control.
The more complicated the electronics are, and the more options you have, the more difficult it will be the first few times you grill. If you’ve never used a pellet smoker before, you should opt for one with easy to set up controls.
7. Setting Options & Accesories
One of the significant benefits of these smokers is the wide variety of extra features and accessories you can get. This ranges from numerous different types of racks for cooking vegetables, fish, carnivore jerky, or ribs, to various attachments for monitoring the temperature of your meat.
Some of the extra features you should look for in a pellet smoker include:
- Jerky racks
- Vegetable racks
- Rib racks
- Tube smokers
- Bluetooth monitoring
- Sausage hangers
Some of the best vertical pellet smoker units include all of these things. Other units will have some of these features with the option for you to add the rest as you need them. Before purchasing a grill, you should think about which features will be most helpful.
“Pellet grills are gaining prestige among professional grillers. Two of the top five teams in the Kansas City Barbecue Society competitions this year exclusively used pellet grills.”
-Candy Weaver, President of the Kansas City Barbecue Society
If you regularly cook sausage, for example, having built-in sausage hangers can help make sure the meat is more evenly cooked and doesn’t burn. Likewise, if you know you want to cook multiple racks of ribs at one time, then having a rib rack can be helpful.
Are vertical or horizontal smokers better?
Vertical smokers are better than horizontal smokers if you are looking to smoke or roast different types of meats. These types of smokers cannot grill due to the heat source being further away. If you want to grill different meats, then a horizontal smoker may be a better choice.
Can you get a smoke ring with a pellet smoker?
Yes, you can get a smoke ring with a vertical pellet smoker. The smoke ring occurs when the compound myoglobin mixes with the nitric oxide dissolved in the tissues of the meat. Nitric oxide is a byproduct of nitrogen dioxide, the product of burnt wood, mixing with hydrogen in the meat.
Is a vertical pellet smoker better than an electric smoker?
A vertical pellet smoker is better than an electric smoker if you are looking to get the smoky flavor in the meats. Pellet smokers are a good mix of traditional smokers and electric smokers. You get the ease of use of an electric smoker with the flavor of a traditional smoker.
Do you need a water pan in a vertical pellet smoker?
You need a water pan in a vertical pellet smoker if you plan on slow cooking meat at lower temperatures. The water container serves as a barrier between the heat source and the meat. It also helps to catch any drippings from the meat to prevent flare-ups.
How do you offset a vertical smoker?
You offset a vertical smoker by adding a smokebox to the side of the smoker. An offset smoker is one where the smokebox is to the side of the cooking chamber with smoke entering from the side. A vertical smoker has smoke going from the bottom up to the cooking chamber.
And the Best Vertical Pellet Smoker is ...
All of the smokers on this list are good, but the Masterbuilt MES Electric Smoker gets our vote for the best vertical smoker you can buy right now. It has everything you could want, including digital control for consistent cooking.
One of the main selling points was that the pellet loader can easily be pulled out and reloaded without the need to open the smoke zone door. This is in contrast to the Pit Boss and similar smokers that have an internal box that needs to be loaded. Overall, this is a reliable option that comes in at an affordable price when compared to similar smokers.