Best Smokers Under $500 for 2019

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Have you tried a couple of times smoking meat on your backyard and finally decided it is time to upgrade to a real smoker?

Well, you can still get a great model even if you don’t spend a thousand dollars on one. We think that with a budget of $500 or less you can still find a reliable and high-quality smoker which offers the same features and performance as a smoker that cost much more.

After testing more than 30+ models, we finally put together a list with the best smokers under $500. We reviewed their features, performance, and build quality to make sure that you find which one is the best for you.

Note: If you are in a hurry, you can use the quick table of contents below to navigate to the desired section or just click here to jump to our editor’s conclusion.

Table of Contents

In a Rush? Here's Our Editor's Conclusion:

(Best Charcoal Smoker Under $500)

Weber-Smokey-Mountain-Review
  • High-Quality Build
  • Large 481 Sq. In. Cooking Space
  • Front Access Door
  • Good Performance
  • Charcoal Flavor

(Best Electric Smoker Under $500)

Masterbuilt-Front-Controller
  • Nice Design
  • Durable Steel Construction
  • Massive 730 Sq. In. Cooking Space
  • Front Window
  • Digital Control Unit

Quick Comparison Table


Grill Name

Cooking Area (in2)

Type

Price Range

Our Rating


481

Charcoal

$$

730

Electric

$

784

Charcoal Offset

$

730

Electric

$$

219

Pellet

$$

How to Buy a Smoker - 5 Things to Consider

In order for you to make the best choice, you first have to consider a couple of factors which will help you avoid poorly designed and unreliable models and only consider the best option for you.

1. Build Quality, Construction & Design

Since you want your smoker to last for years, you need to find a reliable model, which will not make you buy a new one next year.

Most quality smokers are made of heavy-duty gauge steel and usually have a powder coating or enamel finish for more protection. These type of materials are the best possible solution to protect the unit from rust, rain or other elements.

All products featured in this list are made from one of these materials, so you are good to go.

2. Cooking Space

Next, you should consider the cooking space. If you are going to use it frequently or plan to host barbecue parties with your family or friends, then it is recommended to pick a decent size model.

A smoker with a small cooking space is good only for a family of 3 or 4 members. Anything larger than that, you should consider picking a model with a large cooking space. This way you prevent the wait between cooking rounds and cook all the required food at the same time.

From our list, the model with the largest cooking space is the Dyna-Glo with around 784 square inches, which is followed by the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker with around 730 square inches. Both these models have more than enough space to cook up to 24 burgers, 8 racks of ribs or 6 whole chickens.

3. Cooking Performance

If your smoker cannot provide an even and consistent cooking temperature, then it is not good. In order for you to properly cook most foods, you need a model which produces 225° to 250°F or higher. Please have in mind that to provide an even temperature, a lot of other factors come in play, such as the construction, air intake or proper sealing.

Of our 5 picks, both Masterbuilt’s model, the 30” model, and the 20075315 model have the best sealing and provide the best consistent cooking temperature. The Weber Smokey Mountain also performed well but since it is a fully charcoal model, needs a little bit longer to reach the desired temperature.

4. Price

Probably the most important factor. Since this article is about our reviews to help you find the best smoker under $500, then the price is definitely a factor.

Most of the models on this list are way under our budget and considering their features, construction and performance, we think that the Masterbuilt 20075315 model is the clear winner.

And if you are on a strict budget, then the Dyna-Glo DGO1176 is the absolute budget pick.

5. Features and Results

Another thing we considered when picked the featured products are the features and the final results. All the models on this list are capable of producing juicy and delicious smoked meat.

Since electric smokers are not known for the greatest smoke flavor, we think that the Weber Smokey Mountain is the best option which produces the most flavorful smoked meat.

These are the 5 factors we had in mind when we picked the products featured in this list. We decided to feature a variety of models, including charcoal, electric and pellet smokers for you to pick the best for each category. If you want to read more about the differences between models, you can click here or scroll at the bottom of this article.

Reviews of the Best Smokers Under $500

1. Weber Smokey Mountain - Best Charcoal Smoker Under $500

Weber-Smokey-Mountain-Review-Click

Technical Details:

  • Type:  Charcoal
  • Body Material:  Steel
  • Dimensions (in):  21 x 19 x 41 In
  • Weight:  39.07 lbs
  • Total Cooking Space:  481 Square Inches

The Weber Smokey Mountain is probably the oldest and one of the most well-known smokers on this list.

It is a classic model by Weber and has been available on the market for a few years now.

Build Quality and Design

This model has a very sturdy and well-built body. It is a bullet-style smoker and burns the charcoal in a cylindrical shape. The bullet style and the domed lid help this smoker provide on providing good smoking quality.

A lot of bullet-style smokers, this one included, have a water pan between the hot coals and the food to help regulate the temperature and acting as a barrier to protect the food from the high heat. The water is very useful as it keeps the temperature low, makes the heat go to food indirectly and adding moisture during the cooking.

Water can be added from the top lid or you can reach it using the large door on the front side of the smoker.

Weber-Charcoal-Smoker

Weber Smokey Mountain from Inside

There are in total two dampers, one on the top lid and one at the bottom. The damper on the lid is usually used to let the smoke out and the one in the bottom is used to control the hot fire burn.

The Smokey Mountain has a very solid build. On the outside, it is made of porcelain enamel finish, which will make this smoker last for decades. The legs are made of solid steel and have an aluminum heat shield for protection.

Cooking Space, Performance & Features

This model has an 18” cooking chamber, with two grates for smoking, making a total of 481 square inches of cooking space. If you need more space, you can transfer food like vegetables to smoke on top of the unit.

The cooking grates are made of stainless steel, which makes the cleaning process very easy.

The Smokey Mountain will provide you with low and steady temperatures for hours. It runs at around 225°F and with the right amount of water and charcoal, you can keep that temperature for 12-14 hours without any issue; more than enough to smoke a large chunk of meats or whole turkeys.

Even though the temperature level may seem a bit low, it will just take a couple of minutes more to finish the cooking but it will not impact the food taste and juiciness.

Ease of Use

The Smokey Mountain is very easy to use and setup. When you are ready to cook, just simply add the charcoal at the bottom portion and use a charcoal starter to help it light up faster.

You can add charcoal and water during cooking too, using the front large door for easy access.

Things We Don’t Like

One thing which we don’t like about this model is that the front door doesn’t seal very well, letting some heat and smoke escape.

Also, there is a built-in bi-metal thermometer in the lid but we found it a bit unreliable and not very accurate. There is a silicone grommet on the side for you to put a thermometer probe if you really want some accurate readings.

Overall

Even though the door is a bit loose and makes some smoke escape, the Weber Smokey Mountain has a very sturdy build. It can maintain an even 225°F temperature all day, it has plenty of cooking space, a quick access door and you simply cannot go wrong with the quality of a Weber product. It is also priced much lower than our budget point, making it a very strong option as the best charcoal smoker under $500.

Pros

  • High-Quality Build
  • Large Cooking Space
  • Front Access Door
  • Even Cooking Temperatures

Cons

  • Some Heat and Smoke can Escape from Door
  • The Lid Thermometer isn't as Accurate as it Should

Masterbuilt-Electric-Smoker-Review

Technical Details:

  • Type:  Electric
  • Body Material:  Steel
  • Dimensions (in):  20 x 20.47 x 33.27 In
  • Weight:  39.34 lbs
  • Total Cooking Space:  730 Square Inches

The Masterbuilt 30-Inch electric smoker is a great entry point for anyone who has not a lot of experience in the smoking world.

It is available in different versions, allowing you to choose between 30” and 40” model for more space.

We like this model a lot because electric smokers are always easy to use and provide even cooking temperatures.

Build Quality and Design

On the outside, this Masterbuilt 30” smoker features a rectangle design, made of stainless steel and powder coated in black.

It has a fully insulated smoker body but with a budget smoker like this one, don’t expect the highest quality build but, it is definitely better than most models on this price point. The Masterbuilt has made a couple of enhancements over this model to prevent the heat leakage, but there is still a bit smoke leaking out the front door.

It is a single door design, but the patented side wood chip loading system by Masterbuilt will allow you to add chips without having to open the main smoker door. Masterbuilt is adding this design to every high-end model from its product line, so it is a major advantage.

Cooking Space, Performance & Features

The Masterbuilt 30”, just like most of the electric smoker models, is very good at providing and maintaining an even cooking temperature.

It has an integrated thermostat temperature controller for even and consistent smoking. Thanks to its simple temperature digital control panel, you only have to set the time and the temperature, and the smoker will do the work for you. It is capable of providing temperatures from 100 to 275°F, making it useful for smoking most of the meat cuts.

Digital Control Unit

On top of that, it has four chrome-coated smoking racks, which are removable to adjust the height for larger cuts. In total, the racks made around 730 square inches of cooking space, making it one of the biggest models on this list.

Ease of Use

As I mentioned in the upper paragraphs, using this smoker is very easy. Simply put the meat on the grill, select the temperature and the time on the digital controller and you are ready to go.

During the cooking, it is very easy to do adjustments, load or unload the meat and change settings. Everyone, even the beginners, can pick this smoker and not have any difficulties figuring out how to use it.

Another factor which increases the ease of use for this model is the side load patented design for the wood chips.

It is very easy to access and gives you a smooth and efficient way to load chips without opening the main smoker door and leaving the heat escape.

Things We Don’t Like

Multiple users have reported the built-in temperature probe is not as accurate as it should. It seems like a common problem among affordable smokers, with several models having this issue. To solve this issue, you can pick an external smoker meat thermometer instead.

Also, we recommend you to purchase a cover for this model. Even though the built is decent, weather conditions and rain may shorten the lifespan of the unit.

Overall

The Masterbuilt 30” smoker is one of the best electric smokers under $500. It has a decent build quality, a massive cooking space, patented side loading chip wood tray, and a digital temperature controller.

Pros

  • Massive Cooking Space
  • Patented Side Loading Chip Wood Tray
  • Digital Temperature Controller

Cons

  • The Built-In Thermometer isn't as Accurate as It Should

3. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker

DynaGlo-DGO1176BDC-CLick

Technical Details:

  • Type:  Offset Charcoal
  • Body Material:  Steel
  • Dimensions (in):  20 x 35 x 47 In
  • Weight:  57 lbs
  • Total Cooking Space:  784 Square Inches

Next, we have the Dyna Glo DGO1176BDC-D. It is a charcoal offset smoker, with an affordable price and lots of good reviews from the previous customers.

Dyna-Glo is a well-known brand when it comes to smokers so you can expect a good product for your money.

Build Quality and Design

Being an offset smoker gives this model a two-box design, one being the main cooking chamber and the second one is the wood chip box. The boxes are connected together and the smoke goes from the wood chip box to the food through a small connection hole between them. You can check out our full offset smokers buying guide if you want to know more how do these models work.

As for construction, on the outside, this unit features a heavy-duty steel body with high heat temp powder coat for durability and increased life span. The wood chip box is made of heavy gauge porcelain enameled steel, which also increases its durability and protects it from the high temperatures.

One major benefit of the two-door design is that it minimizes the heat loss while you are adding wood chips during the cooking session.

Cooking Space, Performance & Features

The main cooking chamber has six adjustable cooking racks which provide you with a total of 784 square inches of cooking space. It is more than enough to smoker 100 lbs of food at the same time.

The charcoal box is lighted up by a 15,000 BTU heavy duty cast iron burner which is startup by an electronic pulse ignition system, for quick and reliable ignition. So, you won’t have any difficulties lighting up this unit too.

The built-in smoke stack allows you to adjust the temperature and smoke output, to produce delicious charcoal flavored food.

Another worth mentioning feature is the built-in thermometer in the door which is a nice addition to measure and check the cooking temperature, even though it is not the most accurate one.

Things We Don’t Like

One thing which is a drawback for this model is that it doesn’t come with wheels. It is a static version and you have to carry it if you want to move somewhere. Considering the two box design of an offset smoker, it is not the easiest way to move around.

Overall

Overall, this Dyna Glo offset smoker has a massive cooking space unit, with heavy duty construction, made to resist strong weather conditions, even though a cover is always recommended. It is easy to use and the offset smoke flow will give your food the unique charcoal flavor without much effort by your side.

Pros

  • Massive 784 Square Inches of Cooking Space
  • Heavy Gauge Steel Construction
  • Powerful Burner & Electric Ignition

Cons

  • It doesn't have wheels to move around

4. Masterbuilt 20075315 - Best Electric Smoker Under $500

Technical Details:

  • Type:  Electric
  • Body Material:  Steel
  • Dimensions (in):  20 x 25 x 40 In
  • Weight:  72.97 lbs
  • Total Cooking Space:  730 Square Inches

Next, we have another Masterbuilt product, the 20075315 Electric Smoker.

It is one of the best selling electric smokers from Masterbuilt, and that’s for a reason.
This particular model is the 40” Front Controller version but at the buying page, you have the options to choose the 30” model and change the style to top controller.

Build Quality and Design

One thing which stands out from this model is the shiny stainless color on the outside. There are two other color options to choose from; The stainless steel and the black colors. The body is made of high-quality steel, so expect for this unit to last for years.

As for design, this model features a big viewing window on the front for you to take a look at the food without having to open the door.

Even though it is a single door model, you don’t have to open the main door to add chips, thanks to Masterbuilt’s patented side loading system. It is located on the right side of the unit and makes the adding wood chips process much easier and smoother, without letting the heat escape.

Cooking Space, Performance & Features

As for cooking space, this product has four chrome-coated smoking racks inside, which can be removed to let more space for a huge chunk of meats.

In total, it has around 730 square inches of cooking space among its racks, which is more than enough to cook 24 burgers, 2 whole turkeys, 12 whole chickens, or 4 racks of ribs.

What's Included

It has a 1200 Watt heating element which is controlled by the integrated thermostat temperature control unit, giving a consistent and even smoking temperature.

The digital panel on top is very easy to use and you simply have to choose the temperature and the time and are ready to go. It can even be controlled with the included RF remote control to make additional adjustments.

Things We Don’t Like

Even though we couldn’t find a major drawback for this model, it is worth mentioning that it doesn’t have wheels to move around. You have to carry it to move from one place to another.

Also, it is a bit expensive when compared to the other models on this list, but still it is under our price target of $500.

Overall

The Masterbuilt 20075315 Front Controller Smoker is a great option for all experience levels. It can fulfill your smoking needs, no matter if you are a beginner smoker or experienced.

It has great performance, large cooking space, front window, and side loading wood chips system.

Pros

  • Good Looking
  • Large Cooking Space
  • Digital Control Unit
  • Large Front Window

Cons

  • It doesn't have wheels to move around

Technical Details:

  • Type:  Pellet
  • Body Material:  Steel
  • Dimensions (in):  30 x 14 x 20 In
  • Weight:  68 lbs
  • Total Cooking Space:  291 Square Inches

The last but not least product we think deserves a spot in the best smokers under $500 list is the Green Mountain Davy Crockett.

It is a compact, WiFi capable pellet grill smoker, full of features and under our price point.

Build Quality and Design

This model has a compact design and weighing about 68 pounds, making it very suitable for moving around and for using outside the house. The foldable legs, which can be turned into handles, making it a good option to move it around or to take it camping.

The lightweight is thanks to the combination of steel and stainless-steel parts.

Cooking Space, Performance & Features

With this model, you get a compact design smoker but you lose cooking space. It has only 219 square inches of cooking space, enough for 2 racks of ribs or 4-6 steaks.

It is a pellet smoker which means that uses pellets to produce heat. The pellets are located in the automatic hopper, which works with the auto temperature control unit to feed pellets into firebox when needed, to maintain even cooking temperature. The pellet hopper only holds 9 pounds, which also may be a drawback if you plan to cook for a long time.

The Davy Crockett has a digital temperature control unit, and an integrated thermal sensor called Sense-Mate. This sensor monitors the cooking chamber temperature and adjusts it from 150°F to 550°F to match the desired temperature set from you. Also, there is an included meat probe to monitor your food temperature.

One thing which makes this model stand out from the competitors is the WiFi capability. You can monitor and adjust the temperature from your phone, making the smoking process much easier.

Another major advantage of pellet smokers is versatility. It gives you the ability to choose the grilling or smoking options without any problem.

Things We Don’t Like

As for all pellet grills, you need to plug into an outlet to run. The good thing is that this model can also work with the 12V accessory socket found in any car, so you are good even when you are camping.

Overall

Even though it is a small grill smoker, the Davy Crockett comes at an affordable price, has WiFi capability and compact design, making it ideal for camping or for everyday use.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • WiFi Capability
  • Foldable Legs
  • Versatility

Cons

  • Small Cooking Space
  • Needs a 12V or 120AC Outlet to Run 

Final Thoughts

In a Rush? Here's Our Editor's Conclusion:

(Best Charcoal Smoker Under $500)

Weber-Smokey-Mountain-Review
  • High-Quality Build
  • Large 481 Sq. In. Cooking Space
  • Front Access Door
  • Good Performance
  • Charcoal Flavor

(Best Electric Smoker Under $500)

Masterbuilt-Front-Controller
  • Nice Design
  • Durable Steel Construction
  • Massive 730 Sq. In. Cooking Space
  • Front Window
  • Digital Control Unit

After reviewing all the models on this list, we think that the best smoker under $500 is the Masterbuilt 20075315. It is an electric smoker, with massive cooking space, high-quality construction and great performance.

As a runner-up, we would go with the Weber Smokey Mountain as the best charcoal smoker under 500 dollars. It is priced way lower than our budget but still offers great performance, durable construction and tons of features.

Charcoal vs Gas vs Electric vs Pellet

Before you pick a smoker type, first you have to know what are the main advantages and disadvantages of each category.

Here is a short list of advantages and disadvantages for each smoker type.

Charcoal Smokers

These models are the best if you want to have total control over the fire and the machine, from filling up with charcoal to lighting it up, managing and adjusting the temperature.

Pros of Charcoal Smokers:

  • They give the best charcoal flavor to the meat
  • Can produce the best results and smoke ring out of any other type
  • More fun as you are more involved

Cons of Charcoal Smokers

  • More effort and attention - You cannot leave and forget them
  • Require effort to light up the charcoal

Gas Smokers

Gas or propane smokers are known as a fast and reliable solution. They use gas to produce high heat and cook your food.

Pros of Gas Smokers:

  • They are faster and produce more heat
  • You can easily control the temperature
  • Efficient as one tank can last longer than one bag of charcoal

Cons of Gas Smokers

  • More expensive than charcoal models
  • They don’t give the charcoal flavor to the meat
  • Cheap models don’t hold the temperature well

Electric Smokers

Electric models are the easiest to use out of all other categories. You just put the temperature and the time and you are good to go.

Pros of Electric Smokers:

  • Easy to Use - ‘Set and Forget’ model
  • Great for every food - fish, sausage, vegetables, cheese, etc.
  • Easy Temperature Control

Cons of Electric Smokers

  • You need a power outlet near
  • Not durable to weather and rain
  • Are more expensive to repair
  • They don’t produce the best flavor

Pellet Smokers

Pellet smokers are the newest models which have recently become very popular. They are a combination of pellet/wood and gas/electric type, which gives them a lot of benefits.

You can read our best pellet smokers guide to learn more.

Pros of Pellet Smokers:

  • Automatic Pellet Control
  • Thermostatically Controlled - You select the temperature and the unit handles adding the pellets into the fire when needed.
  • Set and Forget Model
  • Charcoal/Wood Flavor

Cons of Pellet Smokers

  • More expensive than other models
  • Pellet costs can add up

About Kendrick

Just a passionate man about cooking, living in Kansas who loves to share his knowledge about cooking and grilling with everyone.

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