Devon Ferguson
Published by Devon Ferguson
Last Updated On: January 21, 2023

As someone who’s been a BBQ enthusiast for over ten years, I’m a big fan of Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke. I have several of his books, and I’ve religiously followed Project Smoke to get the ins and outs of the best smokers I could use.

I decided to try out all smokers Steven Raichlen recommends on Project Smoke, including a pellet, gas grill, electric smoker, and others.

Here’s what you should know about each one and which one is my top choice.

Top 9 Smokers Steven Raichlen Recommends

Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers are among Steven’s top recommendations. Here are some models he prefers.

1. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22"

Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22

Weber Original Kettle Premium is a charcoal smoker. Raichlen recommends this smoker if you’re a newbie to smoking and don’t have a huge budget.

You can smoke on Original Kettle using less charcoal than other smokers. I found this to be great for smoking at a low temperature.

But you can also use this smoker for indirect and direct grilling on high heat. Just make sure to have the full amount of charcoal.

I liked the hinged cooking grate, making adding charcoal easy while grilling. The cleanup is easy, thanks to Weber’s One-Touch system. There’s a high-capacity ash catcher, so you don’t have to put in a lot of effort to prepare the smoker for the next cooking session.

Pros
  • Easy cleanup
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl are rustproof
  • A hinged cooking grate makes adding charcoal easy
  • Built-in thermometer
Cons
  • Difficult to remove the ashtray

Weber Kettle Premium stats: 

  • Total cooking space: 363 square inches
  • Dimensions: 39.5 x 22.5 x 27 inches
  • Weight: 37 lbs
  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Material: Steel and aluminum

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 5
  • Durability: 4.5
  • Convenience: 4
  • Price: 5

 

2. 18.5" Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

18.5 Classic Pit Barrel Cooker

Classic Pit Barrel Cooker stands out because of its cylindrical shape, which evenly distributes heat throughout the chamber. Plus, there are eight stainless steel hooks and two steel bars on which you can hang them.

I loved how much space the Pit Barrel Cooker gave me. Another plus is that the meat gets basted in its own juices because it cooks vertically. I didn’t even need a water pan with this smoker.

The Classic Pit Barrel Cooker also has a removable grill grate for when you want to use it as a grill and direct cook meat and veggies.

Pros
  • The hook system increases the cooking capacity
  • Great for beginners
  • Quality construction keeps temperature stable
Cons
  • Limited temperature control

Classic Pit Barrel Cooker stats:

  • Total cooking space: 240 square inches
  • Dimensions: 21 x 21 x 32 inches
  • Weight: 57 lbs
  • Fuel type: charcoal and wood
  • Material: Stainless steel

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 5
  • Durability: 4
  • Convenience: 4
  • Price: 5

 

3. Char-Griller E1224

Char-Griller E1224

Char-Griller E1224 is made of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel, which is durable and rustproof.

This charcoal grill has a double-bottomed cooking barrel which helps heat retention and makes the charcoal grill extra durable.

One of the main drawbacks of a charcoal grill is all the ash you’re left with after the grilling session. Char-griller thought of this, and they installed removable charcoal drawers that let you empty the ashes and add more charcoal as needed.

I liked using all the additional accessories: temperature gauge and storage racks to rest tools and sauces during the smoking.

Pros
  • Heavy-duty steel grill barrel
  • Large cooking space
  • Removable charcoal drawers
Cons
  • Lose lid lets out heat

Char-Griller E1224 rack digital smoker stats:

  • Total cooking space: 830 square inches
  • Dimensions: 62 x 29 x 50 inches
  • Weight: 113 lbs
  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Material: Heavy-gauge steel

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 4.5
  • Durability: 4.5
  • Convenience: 5
  • Price: 4

 

4. Kamado Joe KJ13RH

Kamado Joe KJ13RH

Kamado Joe KJ13RH is a portable ceramic kamado charcoal grill. Like other Kamado-style cookers, you can use this charcoal grill for both grilling and smoking food.

This is a portable charcoal grill, so it makes sense that the cooking area is small — 148 square inches. However, I was impressed with the wide temperature range, considering how small this charcoal grill is.

I could smoke low and slow at 225 degrees or sear at 750 degrees. I could also roast, bake, and grill. Essentially, this Kamado does it all, and you can smoke everything from pulled pork to veggies.

Pros
  • Thick walls lock in moisture and heat
  • One of the easily portable Kamado grills
  • Drop-in cast iron stand for easy setup
Cons
  • You need two people to transport it

Kamado Joe KJ13RH stats:

  • Total cooking space: 150 square inches
  • Dimensions: 19.75 x 20.75 x 27 inches
  • Weight: 75.85 lbs
  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Material: Ceramic

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 3.5
  • Durability: 4.5
  • Convenience: 4.5
  • Price: 4.5

 

Gas Smokers

Steven Raichlen is also a firm advocate of quality gas smokers.

1. Weber Genesis S-335 Gas Grill

Genesis S-335 Gas Grill

Genesis S-335 is also Weber’s grill, but this smoker runs on gas. It has three burners and a large grilling area of 787 square inches. The burners heat quickly, and this gas grill has 39,000 BTU per hour which allows for a perfect sear.

I liked the heating rack on the Weber Genesis S-335. I placed my hot dogs there while waiting for the burgers to finish cooking, and they were never cold. Speaking of burgers, this grill can hold up to 25 burgers, which is more than enough for a large family.

Finally, there’s a sear station and a side burner. The sear station is a small burner in the main grill that gets hot so you can sear your meat.

Pros
  • Flavorizer bars catch drippings for a delicious smoky flavor
  • Excellent grilling performance
  • Enclosed storage
Cons
  • Difficult assembly

Genesis S-335 stats:

  • Total cooking space: 787 square inches
  • Dimensions: 48.5 x 62 x 27 inches
  • Weight: 178 lbs
  • Fuel type: propane gas
  • Material: Stainless steel

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 5/5
  • Durability: 5/5
  • Convenience: 4.5/5
  • Price: 4.5/5

 

2. Char-Broil Performance TRU-Infrared 3-Burner

Char-Broil 463370719

Char-Broil Performance TRU-Infrared 3-Burner is a mid-range grill that also runs on gas. It has 24,00 BTUs spread across three main burners, and one 10,000 side burner, for a total of 34,000 BTUs.

The cooking area is 450 square inches which is a decent size and is enough for a family cookout. It has a push-to-start electronic ignition, so you’ll never struggle with lighting pellets.

The grill grates are porcelain-coated. I cleaned them easily after every use. I also noticed the grates distribute the heat evenly across the gas grill.

Pros
  • Finally, the temperature gauge on the hood provides accurate temperature control on all burners.
Cons
  • Below average power

Char-Broil 463370719 stats:

  • Total cooking space: 450 square inches
  • Dimensions: 54.1 x 23.4 x 45.5 inches
  • Weight: 85 lbs
  • Fuel type: Gas
  • Material: Stainless steel and porcelain-coated grates

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 5
  • Durability: 4.5
  • Convenience:4.5
  • Price: 4.5

 

Pellet Grills

Raichlen appreciates automation in grills and recommends pellet grills for anyone who is just stepping into the BBQ world.

1. REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill

REC TEC Grills Mini Portable Pellet Grill

REC TEC Mini is a portable pellet grill. Although it has mini in its name, I’d put it in the category of mid-size smokers.

This pellet smoker has a built-in thermostat that can adjust the temperature at 5-degree increments.

The temperature range is from 180 degrees to 550 degrees, which is impressive considering its size. The pellet hopper is a decent-sized 15 lbs, so you can smoke for long periods of time.

I liked the handles on the lid. Even though the material is heavy-duty metal, the handles made the opening easy. I also liked the unique design. This is one of the rare red pellet grills on the market and the only red grill on Project Smoke.

Pros
  • Built-in thermostat for temperature control
  • Foldable legs make it portable
  • Great smoker for beginners
Cons
  • Produces moderate smoke

REC TEC Grills mini portable grill stats:

  • Total cooking space: 341 square inches
  • Dimensions: 33 x 16 x 41 inches
  • Weight: 99 lbs
  • Fuel type: Pellets
  • Material: Stainless steel

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 4
  • Durability: 4.5
  • Convenience: 5
  • Price: 4

“People love pellet grills because of their versatility. You can use it as a smoker, as a convection oven, or use it for direct grilling.”
- Steven Raichlen YouTube Channel


 

2. Kalamazoo Gourmet

Kalamazoo Gourmet

Kalamazoo Gourmet grills get an honorable mention. I first noticed them in Steven’s Project Smoke and had to try these grills.

You can choose between a hybrid fire grill, which uses wood and gas for fuel, Gaucho, which uses wood, a gas grill head, and a Shokynin Kamado grill.

If you like live fire cooking and wood fire, Kalamazoo grills are for you. I tried the hybrid fire grill and immediately understood why Steven recommends them.

This grill has two steel burners, 26,500 BTUs each, which is impressive power. You can run it on gas or wood pellets thanks to the dynamic heat circulation manufactured by the expanded firebox.

Kalamazoo hybrid grill has four times the distance between the burners and the firebox than other gas grills, which means more heat and fewer flare-ups.

Overall, the build quality is top-notch. These are massive, durable grills that have a price tag to match. While I was impressed with them, I wouldn’t recommend them to newbies but more experienced BBQ pitmasters.

Electric Smokers

Steven Raichlen also has a recommendation for an electric smoker.

Bradley 4 Rack Digital Smoker

Bradley 4 Rack Digital Smoker

Bradley 4 Rack Digital Smoker is an electric smoker. Its main feature is that it can create smoke automatically.

There’s a digital controller that you use to set and measure the temperature in the main cooking chamber. The hopper releases a wood bisquette in the burning area at certain time intervals.

Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke says this smoker has an interesting design that works well. You can leave the smoker alone for up to eight hours. Normally, only pellet smokers have this level of automation.

I used the cold smoker accessory to smoke cheese and other food at lower temperatures and always had excellent results with this electric smoker.

Pros
  • A fully automated electric smoker that requires little work from you
  • Accessory for cold smoking
  • Has four racks for optimum space
Cons
  • Unreliable digital controller

Bradley 4 Rack digital smoker stats:

  • Total cooking space: 572 square inches
  • Dimensions: 19 x 22 x 34 inches
  • Weight: 61 lbs
  • Fuel type: Electric
  • Material: Stainless steel

Custom Rating Criteria:

  • Performance: 4
  • Durability: 4.5
  • Convenience: 5
  • Price: 4.5

Buyer’s Guide

A woman browsing in the phone

Although you won’t go wrong by purchasing any of Raichlen’s recommendations, there are things you must keep in mind to get the smoker that will meet your specific needs.

1. Type of Smoker

The first thing you should consider when buying a smoker is what type it is.

Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke recommends charcoal grills, gas, electric, and pellets. Each of these uses different fuel types. Raichlen says his favorite is a charcoal grill because he likes to light, build, and attend to the fire.

Pellet grills use puck-like compressed hardwood pellets in a separate compartment. The smoke circulates through the cooking chamber and cooks the food on the grates [1]. Raichlen recommends these for convenience but says you won’t get the smokey flavor as with stick burners.

Electric smokers use metal heating elements and wood for smoke [2]. Raichlen likes these for convenience, but he says their smoky flavor isn’t as good as charcoal or pellet smokers.

2. Cooking Capacity

Think about what kind of cuts you smoke. For example, do you want to cook pulled pork, cheese, vegetables, ribs, or something else?

Raichlen says you need at least 18 inches if you want to smoke a brisket or 20 inches for a rack of ribs.

According to him, the bigger the size, the better. The larger size gives you more freedom in cooking. Also, give yourself time to grow your smoking skills. Expect that you’ll want to smoke more and more with time, so if you buy a larger smoker, you won’t have to upgrade so soon.

3. Cooking Options

A smoker can smoke. But, there are many smokers that offer more versatility.

Raichlen says it’s better to get a smoker that can grill, bake, and sear. He also says to experiment with the amount of fuel. For example, use more fuel for high temperatures and direct grilling and less for lower heat.

4. Portability

You should also consider the dimensions and weight of the smoker you want to buy. If you mostly grill at home in your backyard, you’ll be fine with a large and heavy smoker.

But, if you plan to take your smoker on camping trips, choose a portable one. Many smokers have portable legs that aren’t heavy, so one or two people can transport them.

Related Articles:

What’s the Best Smoker for You?

Steven Raichlen is a master chef, so you won’t make a mistake with any of the smokers he recommends. But my vote for the best smoker goes to Weber’s Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill.

It’s fuel efficient and gives you direct and indirect grilling options. Plus, it’s easy to add charcoal during cooking thanks to the hinged cooking grate.

This is one of the easiest smokers to clean because it has an ash catcher that takes care of most of the ash.

Finally, it’s on the smaller side, so you can take it with you and still have enough cooking space to prepare food for the whole family. Check it out, and get your smoker today.

Our #1 Recommendation

Weber’s Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

Weber’s Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
Performance
5.0
Durability
4.5
Convenience
4.0
Price
5.0
Overall Score
4.6
Pros
  • Easy cleanup
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl are rustproof
  • A hinged cooking grate makes adding charcoal easy
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Get the BEST PRICE until the end of January
Cons
  • Difficult to remove the ashtray
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