Best Propane Smoker

Love BBQ but don’t want to have to deal with the mess that charcoal comes with? The best propane smoker is your top alternative. Gas smokers, or “gassers”, use liquid propane (LP) instead of charcoal for fuel.

As such, they’re burn cleaner and there’s less to clean after. In addition to this, propane smokers make it easier to control temperature. This lets you set the unit and leave it on for hours. No more stoking the fire. Of course, don’t forget to check the fuel gauge first. You don’t want to run out of gas midway through the cooking.

 

Our Picks: Propane Gas Smokers that Let You Make Great BBQ at Home

For more options: View the available gas smokers on Amazon.com.

 

What Is A Propane Smoker?

A propane smoker is a type of gas smoker. As its name implies it uses propane gas, or LPG. The other kind of gas smoker people are familiar with are those that use natural gas. They are less common though as only a few manufacturers make them.

Gas smokers are an alternative to charcoal smokers. They’re more convenient because you don’t need to deal with messy charcoal. These smokers also make controlling temperature simpler. They let you control the heat much like you do on your gas stove.

The combination of good temperature control and ability to produce lot of clean heat is what makes them popular in restaurant use.

Propane smokers cook well and give you good flavor. They’re also very appealing to the budget conscious because they’re relatively cheap compared to charcoal smokers.

Like all smokers, these use indirect heat to cook food. They do this by keeping the fire in a separate chamber from the food. As a result, they cook your food at low temperatures over many hours.

This allow the smoke from the moist wood chips to be infused into the meat, giving your BBQ its unique flavor. In addition, you get very tender and succulent meat.

 

Propane vs. Electric vs. Charcoal vs. Pellet Smokers

Propane Smokers

Propane Smokers run on propane gas. They’re very simple to use. Just ignite them, set to the temperature you want, load the meat and come back when it’s done.

  • This makes them easier to use than charcoal, where you have to light the fire and tend to it throughout the cooking period. With gas smokers, ignition is done via push button. Temperature is likewise easily adjusted using a control knob.
  • They’re almost as easy to use as electric smokers. Their main advantages over electric is that they give you better smoky flavor and allow you to get to your desired temp faster.

Electric Smokers

Electric smokers run on electricity. This means you’ll need to be able to reach an electric outlet. They’re also less portable compared to propane smokers because of this.

They come in analog and digital style. In each case, the smoker lets you easily set and adjust temperature immediately at any time during the cooking process.

Among the different types of smokers, electric offers the most convenience. Like propane, they let you easily control the temperature. Plus, you get very consistent temps.

Many models now come with computer controlled systems. This lets you program the smoker to cook according to your settings. This makes BBQ even simpler.

Their major disadvantage is that they lack that authentic flavor.

Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal and wood smokers are what many people call real smokers. They’re the traditional kind used for BBQ. They give you that authentic smoky flavor that electric and propane don’t.

Charcoal smokers require more work. You’ll need to start the fire, stoke it, watch over it and clean up afterwards.

Unlike gas and electric smokers, these need a lot of practice and learning. Temperature easily fluctuates up and down. And, it’s not always easy to gauge when the meat is ready or if it’s gotten too dry.

They do offer the best flavor. You get the smokiness from the charcoal or wood. Plus, you can also use wood flavoring. This lets you create different tastes and flavors.

Charcoal smokers offer a lot more variability in terms of quality. You’ll see very cheap ones as well as extremely expensive customized charcoal/wood smokers around. In the same way, some are very easy to use, others utterly frustrating.

Pellet Smokers

Pellet smokers or pellet grills are a more recent innovation. They give you the best of both worlds. These devices run on electricity. But, they burn wood pellets to create that smoky flavor.

This gives them the advantage of being easy to use. And, still have the ability to impart that genuine smoky flavor that propane and electricity don’t.

Pellet smokers work similar to electric smokers in that you can easily turn them on and set their temp. From there, the cooker’s computer loads the wood pellet from the hopper to the burner to get the fire to the right temperature. Because it burns wood pellets, you get that smoky flavor similar to charcoal/wood smokers.

 

Pros & Cons of Gas Smokers

In our discussion above, we’ve touched upon some of the advantages and disadvantages of propane smokers. Here’s a more complete breakdown of their pros and cons.

Pros

  • They’re easy to cook with. You can set them and forget them.
  • No dealing with messy charcoal.
  • Less cleaning afterwards.
  • Relatively cheap. Many models cost around $200, with some less than that.
  • Easy push button ignition and temperature control. You can also adjust the heat quickly using the control knob.
  • They cook well and give you flavor. It offers more smoky flavor compared to electric smokers.
  • Much easier to use compared to charcoal.
  • Don’t need electricity.
  • Smaller size and more portable compared to electric, pellet and offset smokers.

Cons

  • They don’t impart that smoky flavor you get from charcoal.
  • You’ll need an LPG tank to operate it. Preferably, you want to have a spare around.
  • You can run out of gas in the middle of cooking because of the time it takes to BBQ.
  • There are lot of low quality propane smokers. They use thin gauge steel and leak.
  • Narrower cooking area. This makes it difficult to fit an entire rack of ribs or large brisket.

Choosing the Best Propane Smoker: A Buyer’s Guide

Here’s our checklist you can use as a propane smoker buying guide. We go through the different things to consider when choosing your gas smoker.

1. Prefer a Cabinet Style Smoker

Smokers come in many shapes and sizes. With gas smokers, we like the cabinet style. This looks like a small fridge with doors that open. The inside also looks like a refrigerator. It comes with 3 or more adjustable shelves where you can load your meat for smoking.

Below the racks are shelves for your water pan and wood. This sits just above the burner, which is at the bottom of the device.

Cabinet style smokers come with propane tank attachments. And, you’ll find the ignition and temperature controls at the bottom the cooker.

For extra temperature control, they’ll have vents at the top and bottom. This lets you adjust the airflow anytime.

2. Choose One with 2 Doors

Cabinet style smokers often come with one or two doors. We recommend going with those that have 2 doors.

Two door cabinet smokers use separate chambers for cooking and flavor. The top door of the cabinet gives you access to your food. The bottom door lets you check your fire, add water or chips without letting any of the smoke or heat out. This makes for better temperature maintenance and consistency.

As much as possible, you want one that seals in the heat. This makes for better cooking and flavor. But, for the most part, smokers aren’t completely airtight. The good news is that unless your smoker is very poorly made, it doesn’t hurt food quality much. It does use up more fuel though.

3. Construction Quality

How well your smoker is built will determine how much heat is retains and how durable it is. Many cheap products use thin gauge steel. This makes them less able to keep heat in. Heat retention becomes a bigger problem if you plan on cooking during cold weather.

Heavier metal not only retains heat better, it also distributes it well. Because your smoker will be running for hours at a time, the thicker the steel the less likely it is to warp or wear over time.

In addition to the material, you’ll want something that is welded together well. Sharp edges aren’t safe., while big hinges make opening and closing the doors easier.

Cabinet smokers often stand on 4 legs. The more stable and sturdy the device, the better. This is true because you’ll be leaving the smoker outside, which makes it susceptible to strong winds.

4. Temperature Range and Even Heat

Smokers are designed to run at low temperatures. How low or how high can significantly vary.

Some gas smokers let you go up all the way up to 500°F. This lets you cook turkey and roast prime rib. Others can go really low, down to 100°F. Which one you choose will depend on what you plan on cooking.

In addition to the temperature ranges, dampers let you control internal temperature by increasing or decreasing the amount of oxygen supplied to the fire. Often, propane smokers will come with 2 dampers, one on top another near the bottom.

5. Good Thermometer or Install One yourself

One of the most important tools for making good BBQ is the thermometer. Most gas smokers will come with a built-in thermometer on the door.

The quality and reliability of these thermometers will depend on the brand and quality of the smoker you buy. Many cheap models come with inaccurate ones.

You can always install a better thermometer yourself. Or, a simpler, better solution to this is to get a good digital thermometer or two. This gives you a more accurate reading. Plus, you’re able to stick the probe right on the meat in the exact areas you want to check for temperature.

6. Size

Size refers to the inside and the outside of your smoker. Externally, you want something that fits where you want to put it. You’ll want something that you can move as well, just in case.

The bigger the groups you’re cooking for, the bigger the smoker you’ll need. If you need something that’s portable, a smaller, lighter product is a better choice.

In addition to its physical size, you’ll want something that has enough space to cook in. Unlike grilling, you’re not going to be able to do second rounds with BBQ because they take so long.

Many smaller propane smokers are narrow. This means they can’t fit an entire slab of ribs. If this is the case, you’ll need to decide whether it’s okay to cut the slab in half when cooking, or get a bigger unit.

If you plan on cooking turkey, you’ll want to check that there’s enough height to do so as well.

7. Adjustable Shelves

To give you flexibility in what you can cook, we recommend getting a smoker with adjustable shelves. These are like the shelves in your fridge. You can pull them out and insert them in different heights.

Adjustable shelves let you decide on the rack configuration. This way you can cook foods of different sizes, including pork butt and turkey.

8. How Much Assembly is Needed

Smokers require some assembly. In general, the instructions and steps are straightforward. But, there are some that are more complicated. The easier they are to put together, the quicker you can get smoking.

9. Get a Gas Gauge

One of the problems with using gas is that you can run out of fuel while making BBQ. This messes up everything.

There are a few accessories that can help you measure how much LP you have left. Often they involve attaching something between your gas tank and hose.

A simpler option is a gas gauge. It lets you know how much fuel you’re working with. These are pretty much like a basic weighing scale. A regular filled tank is 20 pounds. An empty one is 5 pounds. This gives you a quick idea of how much propane is left in the tank.

 

Best Propane Smoker Reviews



Masterbuilt 20051311 GS30D 2-Door Propane Smoker

The GS30D is a cabinet style smoker that lets you easily organize your meats for the results. In case you need something bigger, Masterbuilt also offers 40 and 44 inch versions.

The unit runs on your standard LP tank. All you need to do is plug in the gas adapter.

We like this unit because it is easy to control and use. Plus, it does a great job making BBQ. Controls are located at the bottom of the box. It lets you adjust the temperature much more easily than charcoal or wood smokers.

Another feature we like is its 2 door system. The unit has one door for the meat. Another for the wood chips and water. This lets you add more wood whenever you need to without opening the main door. As such, you let the smoker maintain its temperature better.

The unit’s main area lets you store 4 racks vertically. In total, this gives you 717 square inches of space. That’s a lot of room for arranging brisket, ribs and poultry.

Overall, we like this Masterbuilt propane smoker because it is easy to use. It lets you control and adjust temperatures quickly. And, it offers a lot of room for BBQ. Best of all, it’s affordable.

Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Smoker Roaster & Grill

If you don’t need that much space, Char-Broil’s Big Easy may be a more practical choice.

We like this gas smoker because it’s a space saver. More importantly, it does more than smoke BBQ. This barrel style smoker also lets you grill and roast as well.

The unit has a round grilling surface offering 180 square inches of space. This comes out to around a 15 inch diameter circular surface.

Like the Masterbuilt smoker above, this unit has its control at the bottom of the unit. The controls let you easily adjust between 9,000 BTUs to 18,000 BTUs.

Besides grilling, you can smoke and roast with this cooker as well. It comes with a 2 level basket that you lower into the barrel.

The Big Easy uses Char-Broil’s TRU Infrared technology for cooking the food. This helps keep the food from drying out even when cooked for long periods of time as you would BBQ.

Overall, we like its versatility. This lets you smoke ribs and brisket when you want. It also lets you roast chicken or beef for occasions. And, finally grill steaks and hamburgers during the summer.

Char-Broil Vertical Gas Smoker

This is a slightly more affordable version of the Masterbuilt GS30D above. It is also a bit smaller offering a total of 595 square inches of cooking surface. This is spanned over 3 food racks stacked vertically.

Atop the unit is a warming rack you can use as well.

The unit uses a similar 2 door cabinet design. This separates the loading of the meats from the wood chips and water. This feature lets you add water and wood chips in the middle of smoking without having to open the main door.

We like this propane smoker because it makes controlling the heat much easier. You can knob controls at the bottom of the unit that let you switch the temperature up or down. Of course, this will depend on what kind of meat you’re cooking. And, what stage of cooking you’re in.

Overall, we like this BBQ smoker because it is affordable and does a good job. It lets you easily control and monitor the internal temperature. This is thanks to the knob controls and built in temperature gauge.

Masterbuilt 20050116 Portable Gas Smoker

One of the problems with smokers is that they’re often big. This means it isn’t easy to move them. Sure, you can tug them behind your truck or on your pick-up. But, that’s cumbersome and inconvenient.

Here’s where Masterbuilt’s Portable Gas Smoker comes in. This unit is similar to the GS30D in many ways. But, it is much smaller.

The unit is nearly 24 inches long and 16 inches deep. It stands 23 inches tall. When it isn’t loaded with food, it weighs 22 pounds. These specifications make it easier to bring around with you when you leave home.

This gas smoker runs on a 5,500 BTU burner. Its adapter is designed for 1 pound LP canisters. You may get a separate adapter that lets it connect to the standard 20 pound LP tank.

Its controls let you adjust temperatures as needed. Meanwhile, a removable tray makes it easier to load and replenish wood chips.

Overall, we like this propane BBQ smoker for camping, tailgating and road trips. You can also use it at home if you don’t need to smoke a lot of meats or are tight on space.