A traeger pellet grill, one of the easiest smokers for beginners, stands outdoors on a paved surface next to a stone wall, ready for a barbecue session.

What are the Easiest Smokers to Use? (Simple Rundown for Beginners)

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Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

Here is a handful of easy-to-use smokers that could suit the beginner or someone who wants simplicity and great smoke flavor.

I’ve always been curious about the changes in meat smoker technology and how it is evolving; there are nearly a dozen different smoker types on the market that you can buy.

I get asked a lot what the easiest to operate is, so here is a comparison of what I think are the key features to compare the ‘set & forget’ style smokers.

What are the Easiest Smokers to Use? Pellet grill smokers, electric, gas, gravity-fed, and portable smokers offer the most straightforward process of smoking food. Direct temperature control on these smokers makes the process simple. Most of these smokers can also replenish wood externally.

There are various factors regarding how easy a smoker is to use. You may have different criteria, but I have attempted to list the most logical to make comparing smoker types easy for you.

There are now a variety of designs available. However, I have chosen the four most straightforward to use. Below I have then briefly mentioned why the remaining smoker types are more labor intensive. The focus here is on set & forget smokers.

Five easiest Smokers to use that I will cover in detail; these all generally have easy access to external wood fuel top-up features:

  • Pellet grill smoker
  • Electric smoker
  • Gas smoker
  • Gravity fed smoker
  • Portable Smoker

Also, below, you will find a breakdown of the portable smoker style. You will see these can be easy to use. They are more designed for short, intense, hot smoking. You will find the best use for these when camping or fishing.

Pellet grill smoker large gmg large

Tasty Fish fillets are simple with a portable smoker.

Reasons These Are the 5 Easiest Smokers To Use

Each smoker is set against the same criteria; I hope that helps.

Of course, the brand will mean features vary.

From what I consider the easiest to more involved.

Pellet Grill Smoker

4
FactorRating
Easy to Use / Set & Forget 10/10
Temperature Control 10/10
Smoker Fuel Type Electricity
Size of Smoker Moderate
Weight of Smoker Moderate
Grill Function Yes
Water Pan No
Drip PanYes
Ease of Cleaning
Moderate
Types of Wood Pellet only

Generally, your investing more in the automation and design of a pellet smoker grill. This is the most straightforward set-and-forget design you will come across.

From using a pellet grill, I can say that if you want the lowest amount of work in regards to ‘smoke & heat management, this is it. You externally add the pellets to a hopper, which can run all day or night for ‘low and slow-style cooking.

The digital thermostat certainly does make life simple. Traeger is a brand I am familiar with; it has a good range of pellet smokers. I prefer the high-end models. Another pellet smoker my buddies tested out would be the Camp Chef; these guys have been around for quite a while.

The grill option works well and gives the pellet smoker a new dimension. You can BBQ or bake whatever you want on these.

Since the design will mean a specific direct heat area, it won’t cover the entire grilling area at the same temperature. Any gas/propane grill I have used generally has hotter and cooler spots.

Here are a couple of pellet grills on which I wrote a complete analysis.

Most pellet grills have some table area for prepping food; I find this helpful.

Many pellet grills can be equipped with cold smoke accessories, which allows you to produce some rather particular backyard specialties.

Electric Smokers

FactorRating
Easy to Use / Set & Forget 9/10 – have to add wood
Temperature Control 10/10 (with thermostat)
Smoker Fuel Type Electricity
Size of Smoker Compact-Moderate
Weight of Smoker Light-Moderate
Grill Function No
Water Pan Yes
Drip PanYes
Wood chip, pellet, sawdustEasy
Types of WoodWood chip, pellet, saw dust
Easy electric smoker, thermostat controlled
Easy Electric Smoker, Thermostat controlled

You may want an electric smoker because they are easy to use and quite a reasonably priced starting point.

The thermostat control model I use makes this set & forget. Depending on the price, analog or digital thermostat control types exist.

As with any smoker, insulation is essential, but with a thermostat, it’s not so relevant if it does an excellent job of keeping the temperature in a particular range.

I tend to use the electric smoker more often, I find, because it is so easy to set up and go.

The design doesn’t have to be heavy-duty thick metal, which is needed for offset charcoal smokers to manage the heat more effectively.

Since there is a delayed effect when fuel is added and the resulting temperature increases.

You do have to have electricity, which shouldn’t be an issue. These can also be run off a generator.

My electric smoker has a wood-burning area; you load more wood from the outside. It’s a slide-in and slide-out feeder. This is a feature you want to make it easier. Here is a summary I wrote about my smoking.

You will need to replenish wood for long smoking sessions. Depending on the model, this may only need to be done every 4-6 hours. When I do smoked salmon, for instance, it’s done in 1/5 to 3 hours with no added wood.

Generally, electric smokers can be considered portable. Many people like to unplug it, put it in a car or truck, and take it away to the holiday home.

Some people even use a lump or 2 of charcoal in the burning area for a specific flavor angle.

Gas or Propane Smoker

FactorRating
Easy to Use / Set & Forget
9/10 – have to add wood
Temperature Control 9/10
Smoker Fuel Type Gas
Size of Smoker Compact – Moderate
Weight of Smoker Light – Moderate
Grill Function No
Water Pan Yes (Generally)
Drip Pan Yes
Ease of Cleaning Easy
Types of WoodPellet, chips, sawdust
Easy theromstat controlled smoking
Easy Thermostat controlled Smoking.

Once the gauge and control are set, they don’t take much operating time. The only thing you need to do is add wood for smoking every 3-5 hours, depending on the type of wood you use.

Like the electric smoker, these are oven-designed with racks. They also tend to be portable. You can take the gas bottle & the smoker anywhere.

If you are looking for the most straightforward gas smoker, I have reviewed a Masterbuilt model with a thermostat-controlled propane system; further details are here.

Some say there is a ham-style taste that comes from gas smokers that some people prefer. I presume this has something to do with the combustion aspects.

Gravity Fed Smoker

FactorRating
Easy to Use / Set & Forget
8/10
Temperature Control 8/10
Smoker Fuel Type Charcoal
Size of Smoker moderate-large
Weight of Smoker Heavy
Grill Function Yes
Water Pan No
Drip Pan Yes
Ease of Cleaning Difficult
Types of WoodAny

These are exciting systems. You fill a chute with charcoal. I have to get it lit. But then, gravity feeds the charcoal into a burning chamber. They are considered offset and can be horizontal or vertical.

I have hung around with a few people who own them, and they are pleased. They come within the thousands of dollars; they are built incredibly robust, heavy, and strong.

The brand I know is Stumps Smokers; check them out here.

Easy but a very decent investment!

Portable Box Smoker

FactorRating
Easy to Use / Set & Forget
7 /10
Temperature Control 8/10
Smoker Fuel Type Gas, Electricity, Open fire
Size of Smoker Compact
Weight of Smoker Light
Grill Function No
Water Pan No
Drip Pan No
Ease of Cleaning Easy
Types of WoodPellet, chips, saw dust
Portable smoker with temperature probe in it.
My Portable Smoker Thin Blue Smoke

This is not indirect low & slow smoking. You have a small grill inside using direct heat from below the smoker. Place the smoking wood in the box, then place the grill on. The meat (fish, generally) goes on the metal grill.

I have used the portable smoker for wild turkey breasts, and they came out fantastic. I also used a wireless thermometer to make temperature control a little easier.

This is a decent option if you want something portable and easy for camping or fishing. Less dense meat works very well.

These are incredibly simple in terms of design. However, they are suitable for short, hot smoking like fish or other less dense meat or food.

This often gets confused with the smokers listed below. I am talking about a portable smoker with food and wood in the same chamber. It is also directly heated from underneath via a BBQ burner or source of heat (i.e., gas & electric)

I have found these work great for camping, especially fishing trips.

Hot smoke fish large
Portable Smoker – Fish done in 15 minutes

Other Portable Easy Smoking Options

BBQ Box Grill Smoker

This is the box grill smoker you use on a gas grill. You place it inside a hooded or kettle BBQ. Direct heat from below starts smoking the wood. It’s an easy way to add some smoker flavor.

When smoking on a BBQ, there are generally lots of air holes & exhaust areas so the BBQ doesn’t overheat. With a smoker, it is a much more enclosed and hopefully insulated environment. These are essential factors for long, slow smoking sessions.

I can smoke a trout or salmon in about 10-30 minutes with a portable smoker.

Tip: You want to go easy on the wood you put in a portable smoker; it doesn’t need much since everything is packed together tightly in the box.

It can provide a light smoke flavor of food inside the BBQ. A hinge helps a lot since you can use metal tongs to open it easily.

Here are a few I have near the gas grill – portable smokers.

Pellet Tube & Maze Smokers

Pellet tube & maze smokers are another simple tool you can use on a BBQ to add smoke flavor. Technically, they can be used for BBQ hot smoking and cold smoking.

These can produce plenty of smoke, and the pellet tube can generally take more smoke management. The Maze smokers need to be lit and smolder away happily. I do find that you have to keep an eye on these; they are great inventions.

Please find further details here if you want to read more.

What are the Easiest Foods to Smoke?

Plate of smoked chicken
A plate of Smoked Chicken

Here is a list of meats I found easy to smoke. It is mainly based on the shorter time to smoke them.

  • Sausage
  • Pork chops
  • Fish fillets
  • Steak – thick cut (1 inch+)
  • Turkey – breast
  • Chicken – breast or thigh

If you are following the above advice, then you should be able to follow a decent recipe and conjure up beautiful smoked flavors. If you want more information on one easy smoking option, please click here.

Smoking Wood that Works for Most Food

Again, there is a lot of controversy and chatter about different woods. I completely agree there is a big difference between mesquite and cherry wood. Generally, hardwoods are on a spectrum from light to vigorous.

Like those listed below, you can’t go wrong with nearly all fruitwood. You can make these work with just about any meat. They are generally lighter and sweet, while mesquite is a strong wood that is often better mixed. Sometimes, adding heavier timber and having a base of light fruitwood means you don’t risk over smoking.

Here is the list of light & medium wood I used from my full post on smoking wood:

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Apricot
  • Pear
  • Pecan
  • Alder
  • Maple
  • Oak

If you want more information on universal wood and the wood sizes that fit many smoking projects, please find the link here.

Easy Pellicle Formation

Pellicle formation when hot smoking meat is essential; it allows the smoke flavor to adhere to the meat.

If you want an easy guide on pellicle formation, please find it here.

Tools to Make it Easier

Thermometers

The built-in thermometer with a smoker is reasonably accurate but can vary considerably.

When I started smoking meat, I had one cheap thermometer probe; I used it to get consistency using a portable smoker or anything I had that didn’t read temperature very well.

I would insert it into the meat and wait until it reached the target internal temperature, while also using it to check the smoker’s temperature.

If a thermometer is inserted into the meat at the center, knowing when it’s cooked becomes straightforward.

If you want some thermometer reviews, looked at the budget options, and got something special for a Christmas present, find more info here.

Other Styles of Charcoal Smokers

These below are the opposite of easy smokers, and if you want easy, then managing fire and smoke is a whole other story.

I realize some people find charcoal smokers easy, too; however, regarding the attention you need to give them, they all require input regularly. Sometimes, I love them, and sometimes, I prefer to set them and forget them.

Purists of BBQ smoking have issues with non-charcoal sometimes. Pellet grills win a lot of competitions.

  • Different Vertical Charcoal Smokers
    • Weber Grill
    • Bullet Smokers
    • Barrel Smokers
    • Komodo Grill / Smoker
  • Horizontal Offset Smokers
  • Cabinet Smokers

Related Questions

What is the Best Smoker for the Money?

An introduction pellet grill or electrical smoker will be a cost-effective option for smoking. For less convenience, vertical charcoal barrel smokers will also be a cost-effective option. Barrel smokers will be involved in more fire and wood smoke management.

Do you Soak Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker?

It has been proven that it slightly decreases the time until combustion starts. This does not serve as a benefit when smoking food. The wood will steam for some time and then create the smoke.

How To Use a Smoker

It depends on the style of the smoker. The target temperature of the smoker needs to be reached, and smoke generation has commenced. The food can then be placed in the smoker. The time will vary significantly based on what food is being smoked.


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