Kettle Smoking largesmall

How Much Does a BBQ Smoker Cost? Charcoal, Electric or Gas

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.

(Last Updated On: January 17, 2024)

I am always interested in all kinds of smokers and how much they cost. I spend too much time in the BBQ stores, that’s for sure. I’ve been to many BBQ conferences, festivals, and events.

I love smokers and the flavors you get from them, with meat but also heaps of dairy and vegetables. The old kettle classics and the latest inventions can all produce sublime BBQ flavor. Through all the meet-ups I have asked what people think and put that information together for you.

I’ve gone through the decision of choosing a kettle or bullet charcoal smoker. Then looked at gas and electric options. Nowadays, I do find the convenience factor of pellet grill smokers to be quite phenomenal.

With over a dozen different types of smokers on the market, it can be very confusing. I wanted to focus on helping you figure out which price range suits what you want to do and what you want to smoke.

How easy a smoker is to use is a big factor for many people looking at smokers. This will be the second criteria after the price I will discuss below to hopefully help.

If you want to read about easy-to-use smokers, please find a post here.

How Much Does a BBQ Smoker Cost?

  • $20 – $50 USD smoking device for existing BBQ grills
  • $100 – $200 USD electric, gas, or charcoal bullet, and barrel smokers
  • $200 – $500 USD large electric, gas or bullet smokers
  • $500 – $1000 USD high-end electric & gas smokers, pellet grills & vertical charcoal smokers
  • $1000+ USD range – ceramic smokers, large charcoal smokers

There are various reasons why smokers range in price so much.

What I have found is the main aspects are around the insulation, size, build material & digital technology.

What is fantastic about the options nowadays, you can obtain either a set & forget low maintenance option or a more hands-on charcoal smoker for a classic smokey taste on many of the price ranges.

Charcoal will need more attention whilst operating, we enthusiasts just love them because it’s very involved (sometimes I just want something simple too).

I will cover each price range, and hopefully, help guide you toward the bracket that best suits your budget.

The Proven Brands

Weber temperature large
Smoking Temp just right on the classic kettle grill

I have focused on proven brands below and several people I know have used the smoker successfully for some time. I can’t help but have long chats at the BBQ store too.

The market is flooded with options if it hasn’t had a decent amount of success you won’t find it recommended by me. results & quality come first in my book.

For the complete beginner, if you really just want to try out some added smoke flavor. You can try out some simple devices to hopefully just make an introduction to BBQ hot smoking. I wrote a post on the various ways you can smoke on a BBQ which may expand on the topic also, please find that post here.

Hot Smoking, Cold Smoking & Grilling Options

Pellet grills and vertical charcoal smokers (bullet & barrel designs) offer the dual purpose of grilling and smoking.

Cold smoking can often easily be added to an electric, gas, or pellet grill smoker. Since it is pretty basic, all you are doing is pumping cold smoke into a smoking area.

It generally involves adding a smoke generator or cold smoking accessory. If you want the simplest device, buy a cheap sieve and pop it in to make a ring, use a blow torch to get it going. Alternatively, I use a pellet tube, which is cheap and really effective for 3-4 hours of smoking in anything from a BBQ to a cardboard box.

Smoke generators are also a decent option to retrofit any good enclosed area. I have a few smoke generators if you want more info click the link above.

Price Ranges for Smokers

These are cold smoking devices or for boosting existing hot smokers using direct heat.

Price Range $20 – $50

If you have an existing grill, then this could be a great option to start off, these simple devices combust and burn slowly. Either from the direct heat source of the grill burner or you can use a propane torch to light and let it burn through the pellets or sawdust.

Pellet Tube Smoker

I prefer a 3 or 4-sided tube, then it doesn’t roll easily from the position you place it on the grill.

How NOT to start pellet tube small

Maze Style Smoker

These are similar in some ways to the pellet tube, you light one end and let the burning follow the path of the maze. It provides enough air, being mesh in design, to smolder and smoke.

Both these options can be used for hot & cold smoking, if you want to know the difference between hot vs. cold smoking, please find a post here.

Also if you have a steel wok, you can do some simple smoking in the kitchen, if you want to read more about wok/pot smoking I wrote a post here.

Price Range $100 – $200

Electric & Gas Oven Smoker

Masterbuilt Smoker Food large

There are many options in this range, affordable set & forget for your slow & low can be had really easily.

It amazes me you can find a decent digital smoker in this price range, it will be compact, but able to cater for quite a few. I guess this is the price point that the suppliers are pushing. Many analog options are also in the price bracket in both electric or gas/propane fuel sources.

I take my electrical smoker to the holiday home; it’s light and fits in the truck. Some people see electricity as a downside. But, if I want a portable off-the-grid option, I can use my gas smoker or even the portable smoker for a quick smoking session as well.

Having met dozens of people with the same digital electric smoker, it was great to hear that everyone was having juicy successful smoking success.

If you want a full rundown of the pros vs cons of my electric smoker, you can find a post here.

Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal & wood smoke, many enthusiasts gets excited about this combination, and it’s become classic. It isn’t as convenient as gas or electricity, but some people like to make fire and manage it.

Depending on how many people you plan on creating smoked goods for, this price range will mean a small to medium-sized BBQ smoker.

The Weber Kettle Premium is a classic that provides duel purpose grilling and smoking. Good temperature control and a huge range of accessories still make this a great all-rounder, I have included this in my recommended backyard smoker because so many people have them, you can find further information here.

Pit Barrel Smoker large
Accessories are important, like this bottle opener

Portable Smoker

Simple and direct heat, these smokers are easy and quick and can go straight onto the gas grill or any heat source. I always use it outside on the porch or camping.

Great for small less dense cuts of meat, if you want some easy smoking ideas I wrote a post on what I think are the super simple options here.

Here is a page on portable smokers too.

Portable Smoker on the Gas Grill with a temp probe
Portable Smoker on the Gas Grill with a temp probe

To produce this,

Hot Smoked Fish
Hot Smoked Fish

Price Range $200 – $500

Electric & Gas Oven Smokers – larger

You will tend to find larger units, with some added features at this price point. If you are feeding a crowd and want set & forget operation this is where you will find the tool for the job.

The electric & gas smokers with windows fall into this price bracket, this is purely a visual choice, I can’t see any other purpose for it. I guess if you want to watch your food cooking, it’s for you.

Thermostat Controlled Gas Smoker

Masterbuilt Thermostate Propane Smoker large
Gas Smoker with the convenient thermostat

I have a good friend who raves about the gas smoker flavor, he really thinks it gives the meat a more bacon-type flavor. I think it is noticeable sometimes, and who doesn’t like bacon? I’ve heard a few times that gas smokers produce a more ‘ham’ type flavor.

The big advantage with this is really low smoking maintenance whilst operating, the same as the electric smoker. Gas also means you can be completely off the grid portable, gust bring the gas cylinder. External feeding and a window to mesmerize guests make this an interesting design.

For a rundown on a thermostat-controlled gas smoker I am familiar with, check it out here.

Drum Charcoal Smoker

But there is one drum smoker that really does the job, the Pit Barrel Cooker, it took the inventor many prototypes to get it right since most people just see a repurposed oil drum. Solid build and as close to set & forget with charcoal as possible. (was told the air input is set based on altitude, not sure about that sales pitch!)

Barrel Smoker Ribs large

The vertical style you can obtain in this price bracket does give you the advantage of being able to get this really hot and grill whatever you want as well.

Remembering controlling air in and out is the absolute key to this style of smoking so all the components need to be tightly fitted. It’s a mid-range price point if you want more details I wrote about this Drum Smoker here.

Large Vertical Charcoal Smokers

With a vertical charcoal smoker, they have proven themselves and the design means you have multi-layers or heights where you can put the food. This means, also you can smoke or sear steaks when you take a section out and have the grill plate closer to the heat.

Racks of Ribs on Smoker large
Party time – wrapped ribs in the vertical smoker

The thing about the Weber Smokey Mountain, it’s an awesome smoker but doesn’t allow any grill plate action, so no steaks or chops.

I have heard mixed success with pellet grills in the $200 to $500 price range if you feel this is the style of smoker you are after. I would probably invest in a higher price bracket.

Offset smokers are offered in this $200 – $500 price point, the price point means heavier metal cannot be used due to the build cost. So the heat retention may be harder to achieve from what I have seen (please remember this is only my opinion). It can work but will require more effort and input.

Ceramic Smoker

Amazing insulation and many friends swear by them, duel purpose either fast searing or slow smoking. They use small amounts of fuel compared to kettle or drum smokers.

Here is a review I did of an egg smoker I have eyed up and seen running many a time, even had taken command a few times. I will have to sell a smoker before I get a new one I think, but this is the style I really want to try.

Price Range $500-$1000

Pellet Grills – Dual Smoking & Grilling

Pellet Grill Smoker GMG large large

Being both a smoker and a grill. These offer brilliant dual purpose, the smoking aspects can produce competition-level output.

Being new tech on the market, most of the built-in probes, but only some have reverse feeders (useful for cleaning). Max temperature can peak for searing, but using a hot cast iron plate can sort that out.

At this price point, I feel that decent pellet grills become available. Camp Chef has a very popular model that does all the smoking and grilling you could want. Traeger also has proven models in this price bracket.

I have written the pros and cons of a few pellet grill smokers. Flavor and ease of use are excellent, click here to read more.

Price Range $1000+

For the backyard smoker rather than anything for competition or pitmasters.

I have 2 smokers on my wishlist currently.

Ceramic Smokers – Efficient Japanese Design/High End

Firstly, the Japanese have a culture of efficiency. The design of the Kamado Joe is based on an old ceramic traditional design. The grill & smoker is incredibly efficient with coal and wood.

Providing some incredible level of insulation. It’s really interesting that many BBQ store owners & managers I have met, very often have the Kamado as their backyard bbq.

Here is more background information on Wikipedia about the concept of ‘Kamado’ which is Japanese for ‘Stove’, link here. If the price isn’t an issue, this is what I would recommend, the Kamado Joe, This device defines efficiency, and style and smokes or grills exceptional food.

As mentioned above, I can give the budget-conscious ‘egg’, breakdown here.

KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker Pit – Unique Design

If you are technically minded and want the best option on the market, this is it.

This other wish list smoker I have only heard awesome comments on this. It’s completely unique and burns pure wood in an inverted design. The key point is that it is effectively thermostat-controlled.

It holds many patents due to an inverted flame box which creates clean quality smoke. I have seen this device at trade shows and it really does stand out.

This is a set & forget wood smoker that has ticked all the boxes for me. Although, compared to my pellet grill. It would be a dedicated smoker of course. You can find the smoker here.

Universal types of Wood

Just some quick tips about wood, incredible variation in opinions, I believe you can simply hardwood into categories, light/medium on one spectrum. Strong and intense on the other end.

Applewood and many fruitwoods are used across all food types if you want to read more about a simple way to look at smoking wood, here is a post I wrote.

Easy Meat Smoking Options

Many friends have asked about what is the easiest meat to smoke, certain meat options that are less dense and smaller in volume can help the beginner. You can find further information I wrote here.

Fuel Types

When it comes down to the cost of fuel types, the convenience of pellets means they do cost the most in terms of smoking options. However, at around $1 a pound, in larger quantities, this doesn’t seem overly expensive.

If you’re out of town, home supply from your neighbor or backyard can be a huge bonus. You can buy pounds of smoking wood from many online retailers. In chips, chunks, sawdust or sticks – it’s not about strict rules. I have even gotten into smoking grapewood from vines.

Related Questions

Which Smokers Are the Best?

It is all dependent on personal preferences. Price is only one factor, other important factors are quality, size, wood fuel, ease of use, food types, and fuel type. Ranking these factors first will make sure the best smoker is chosen for the circumstances.

What is a Better Smoker Charcoal or Electric?

These are very different operators in terms of time spent during the smoking process. The charcoal smoker needs constant attention, once proficient excellent results can be obtained. The electric smoker involves minimal labor, however, great outcomes can also be created.

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.

Share

Leave a Comment