Gas-powered smokers are used by barbecuing enthusiasts since they’re more dependable and easier to use compared to a traditional smoker. They’re highly portable, so they can easily be taken anywhere. The biggest drawback is that you’ll now have to purchase propane, which can be a hassle, especially if you don’t plan ahead and you run out of gas in the middle of a cooking session.
But as far as precise temperature control goes, this type of smoker offers a higher range, which is always a plus. Many of these models will also come equipped with a smoking box that’s made out of cast-iron, which works to insulate the coals and wood, preventing any damage to the smoker itself. They also come loaded with adjustable dampers which will ensure proper ventilation. In addition to a dual door or full-sized door design, you’ll also notice that these smokers feature a heavy-duty, durable design that will allow you to use them regularly, year-round.
Of course, since smoking is so popular these days, narrowing down the choices and finding a model that can work with your budget and smoking needs, in addition to size needs, durability, and of course, quality can be a real challenge.
I’ve reviewed many models on the market, some of which featured the flimsy thin metal design that you’ll want to avoid, while others offer a thick, durable, stainless steel design, plenty of cooking space, and a variety of dampers that can ensure precise temperature control. These are the smokers that made it onto my top six list. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that will list some of the most important specs, which can go a long way towards helping you determine which smoker offers the type of features you need, at a price you can afford.
Gas Smokers Comparison Chart
Dyna-Glo DGW1904BDP-D LP Gas Smoker
Dyna-Glo offers the type of results that will make even the dedicated charcoal smoker a believer. This model is big enough to smoke ribs and a brisket. Basically, its larger than average cooking space will allow you to cook the same types of food that you can in a charcoal smoker. This model comes complete with a total of four cooking grates that are highly adjustable, which will allow you to cook a variety of food types and sizes.
Despite the fact that it features a very beginner-friendly design, this is a top of the line model that even the pros will appreciate. This model is a great fit for home and restaurant use. It also comes with a large capacity water pan, which is a huge selling point, especially for those who have had experience using a low-quality model that comes with a water pan that’s too small. The water bowl is also made out of heavy-duty porcelain covered steel, which will ensure tender, juicy meat that comes loaded with a rich smoky flavor.
This smoker is equipped with a powerful fifteen thousand BTU cast iron burner, an electronic ignition for easy and fast lighting, and precise temperature control. The included temperature gauge comes with a smoke zone that indicates the correct temperature needed for infusing that smoky flavor you love. The high capacity wood chip box is also made out of porcelain-enameled steel that’s heavy-duty. Basically, this is a smoker that has it all, and it’s available for a price that’s reasonable and affordable.
Cuisinart COS-244 Vertical Propane Smoker
This is one of the largest models in my lineup, featuring 5.45 square feet of interior space, giving you more than enough room to smoke veggies and a variety of meats. The vertical design also makes it a great choice if you’re short on patio space.
The included fourteen by fourteen-inch stainless steel trays are removable and adjustable. You’ll get a total of four, which you can move or change the height, based on the type of food you’re smoking. These racks are also dishwasher safe, so cleanup is a breeze.
The built-in, easy to read thermometer will allow you to closely monitor the smoker’s internal temperature, while the adjustable gas flow valve will give you more control over the temperature. This model features a two-door design, complete with a rear vent that will help to adjust the internal temperature.
The porcelain-enameled steel trays are designed to hold water and wood chips and feature the type of slick surface that makes them easy to clean once you’re done smoking for the day. Essentially, this is a great buy for anyone looking for a durable, versatile model that comes with a variety of beginner-friendly features.
Camp Chef Smoke Vault
This model features a single, extra-large stainless steel door, comes with a heavy-gauge steel tray for the wood chips, and a large water pan. This model can be used to prepare a wide variety of foods including a whole turkey, pizzas, pies, and more. It also offers precise heat control, via fully adjustable control dials and a few heat damper valves. The built-in thermometer is perfect for the user who wants to keep a close eye on the internal temperature. Heating options can range from one hundred and sixty degrees up to three hundred and fifty. For maximum heat control, this model also comes with a protected burner drum, which also makes this model more beginner-friendly. The matchless ignition button also allows you to easily and quickly fire up the smoker, which will heat up in just a couple of minutes, so there’s no long wait like you would have to endure with an electric model. Basically, this is a great budget buy and a good option if you’re short on space.
Smoke Hollow 30164G Propane Gas Smoker
This model features one and a half cubic feet of cooking space, three chrome-plated cooking grates, and one large powder-coated wood chip pan that’s made out of steel. The built-in thermometer is large and designed to allow you to easily keep an eye on the internal temperatures, throughout the duration of the cooking process. The powerful burner comes in at ten thousand BTUs, which is pretty impressive. The single door is well insulated and comes with a sure lock latch for added safety. The smoker’s stainless steel, fully welded design ensures that this model can maintain the desired temperature.
Broil King 923617 Natural Gas Smoker
This is a massive, gas-powered smoker that features seven hundred and seventy square inches of feet and a total cooking space of four cubic feet. It also offers fifteen thousand BTUs of power, four adjustable cooking racks that are made out of stainless steel, and a roto-draft cast aluminum damper system. It also features a built-in thermometer, so you can monitor the internal temperature, a larger than average water bowl and smoker tray made out of stainless steel, and built-in meat hooks. The dual door design is equipped with a silicone gasket, complete with a top of the line latch system, so no heat is wasted and you can smoke food at a faster rate, even on cold and windy days.
This model comes loaded with all the bells and whistles the smoking enthusiast could want, however, it also comes with a steep price tag, which can make it a poor choice for the potential buyer on a budget. However, those looking for a top of the line, highly efficient model will find that this smoker is worth every penny.
PIT BOSS 77425 2.5 Gas Smoker
This model features a dual burner and dual valve system, offering a temperature range of one hundred degrees up to three hundred and fifty degrees, which is similar to what you would get from an electric smoker. The four porcelain coated cooking grills measure in at eight hundred and eighty-four square inches, which is better than average cooking space compared to higher-priced models. The stainless steel burner features thirteen thousand, five hundred BTUs.
While this model offers more cooking space and excellent power capabilities, the fact that it’s only able to reach a top temperature of three hundred and fifty degrees can be a deal-breaker for some potential buyers who are opting for a gas-powered model over an electric smoker because of the fact that they’re known to reach higher temperatures. Overall, it’s still a great buy for the family on a tight budget, but it doesn’t offer the type of heating power needed for certain dishes, so this model may be somewhat limiting, depending on the type of food you want to smoke.
Gas Smokers Buyer’s Guide
The best part of smoking meat, or even veggies, is obviously that smoky rich flavor that comes with it. But can a gas-powered model even compare to the same results you’ll get from a charcoal smoker? This is a topic that’s been long debated. But in reality, most smoking enthusiasts can agree that this type of smoker offers comparable, if not better results, but with plenty of extra benefits that you wouldn’t normally get from a charcoal or electric smoker. There are many pros and cons associated with every type of smoker, and the gas-powered model is no different. Yet, you will find that many of these models can easily outperform a charcoal smoker, and offer more convenience and ease of use compared to an electric model. If you’re not sure what to look for in a smoker, how it differs from an electric model aside from how it’s powered, and what type of results you can expect, then you came to the right place. While it does have some limitations, you’ll quickly find that the pros easily outweigh the cons and that this type of smoker will give you more options, versatility, and basically a more convenient way to grill your favorite food.
Set it and Forget it
Smoking is definitely one of the best ways to cook meat, however, it can be a time-consuming process and one that requires you to stick around to ensure the process goes smoothly. However, with a gas smoker, you’ll enjoy a set it and forget it design that will allow you to run errands, focus on cooking other dishes, or get some stuff done around the house or in the yard. Most people don’t know much about how this type of smoker works, and worry that because it’s not fueled by charcoal that they’ll miss out on the smoky flavor, but this simply isn’t the case.
The best gas smokers produce plenty of clean energy, which is why larger models are often utilized in barbecue restaurants. Gas-powered smokers provide the best of both worlds. Not only will you enjoy a smoky rich flavor, but they can also be used to quickly grill up a wide variety of other entrees and sides.
One of the biggest reasons barbecue enthusiasts opt for a gas-powered smoker is the fact that it’s so much easier to control the temperature, compared to wood-fueled smokers or charcoal smokers. Gas models don’t require electricity to use like electric or pellet smokers do. Because of this, they’re considered highly portable.
The only extra cost you’ll need to factor in is the need for a propane tank. You’ll want to keep a spare tank on hand, so you should budget for a couple of them since the last thing you want is to run out of fuel right in the middle of cooking a brisket.
For some, one of the biggest drawbacks is the fact that some models can be too narrow to fit a full slab of ribs. However, you can always cut the ribs in half, so you can still enjoy smoked ribs on your gas grill.
Additionally, you may also notice that there’s a slight difference in how the meat tastes when you use propane compared to a charcoal smoker. Some even claim that the meat tastes better when propane is used. The wood smoke and moisture combined with the combustion gasses tend to produce more flavor and a stronger fragrance.
Some models will come equipped with a water pan. Yet, these pans are often much smaller than what you’ll find on a dedicated smoker, which can be another drawback. However, there are models that come equipped with full-size pans.
This type of grill can have a dual-door design or a refrigerator type door which makes it easier to use when you’re cooking pizza or making bread. Look for a model that comes equipped with a two-door design, which will give you access to the wood chips inside. This design allows you to open the wood chip door without having to disturb the food in the main cooking chamber. Most top of the line models will utilize this design.
Keep a close eye on the total amount of grill space that’s listed on the spec sheet. Most manufacturers will clearly list the smoker’s large square inch surface area, however, the actual size will be much narrower, in terms of width. This will prevent you from being able to cook a large rack of ribs or a brisket on your gas grill. Pay attention to the smoker’s width in order to determine how large the cooking surface really is.
Some smokers are made out of thin, cheap metal. This type of design flaw can make it difficult to control the temperature since the door will be vulnerable to leaks. While a small leak is not usually something to worry about, if the main cooking chamber is leaking a heavy flow of heat, this can make the smoker take longer to cook your food, not to mention you’re simply wasting a ton of fuel in the process.
How it Works
Just like an electric smoker, a gas-powered model features a simple design. Most models will feature a gas burner located at the bottom of the smoker, which is attached directly to the propane tank. These powerful smokers offer plenty of heat and make it much easier for the user to control the temperature, compared to a charcoal model. You can also use the single built-in burner to test out some cheap grilling ideas, for meals that are fast and affordable, or you can slow smoke some of your favorite meats, including turkey, whole chicken, brisket, pork chops, and more.
When you’re smoking meat, you’ll rely on the built-in thermometer to keep an eye on the internal temperature, and adjust the damper system in order to maintain the temperature, depending on what type of food you’re preparing, where it’s fire oven pizza, a pie, a brisket, ribs, or a whole turkey.
You’ll want to keep in mind that some models will be very limiting regarding the types of foods you can prepare. This will depend on the available cooking space, in addition to the maximum temperature. If the smoker doesn’t offer a high max temperature, then you may not be able to prepare certain foods. Before you buy, check out the spec sheet and look for this information. If you can’t find the max temperature, then contact the manufacturer before you hit that buy now button.
The biggest issue some people have with gas-powered models is switching out the tanks or keeping a fresh tank on hand in the event that your tank kicks in the middle of smoking a brisket. But with the proper preparation, you’ll find that these models are actually much easier to use and maintain than both an electric and charcoal smoker.
These smokers aren’t quite as big as electric models, so there won’t be a variety of designs to choose from. Instead, you’ll come across cabinet and vertical style models. Vertical smokers are much smaller, don’t offer as much cooking space, but they’re perfect if you don’t have much space available on your patio.
Cabinet style smokers are by far the most popular. These models will feature racks that are designed to hold food that’s stacked up above a gas burner or wood pan. The burner is made out of aluminum or brass and is considered durable. Right above the burner, you’ll find a shelf for a wood pan, and an additional shelf up above for the water. There may be more shelves located above the water pan, which you can use to cook more food.
At the top of the grill, there should be a couple of dampers, however, some models may have a chimney instead. Make sure you leave the vent located at the very top, open at all times. This will prevent any soot from covering your food.
Ease of Use
Equipped with functional dual insulated doors, these models are packing some serious smoking power. The innovative design provides easier access to water pans and food, in addition to the adjustable vents. The integrated ignition can be used to quickly fire up a burner, so you can grill up some side dishes such as asparagus, potatoes, and more. If you purchase a model with a large cooking space, then you can cook for a large group of people at once, which will make your next backyard barbecue a huge hit. Additionally, many models feature a more compact design compared to a dedicated smoker, so you’ll also save on space.
As you can see, these grills are very convenient to use, can save on space in the garage or on the patio, and are much easier to use, adjust, and control, compared to conventional smokers.
Many of these models feature the type of set it and forget it design that most smoker users are looking for. Just like an electric smoker, these models are very low maintenance and don’t require you to hover when the meat is cooking.
Improved Temperature Control
As I mentioned earlier, temperature control is much easier with this style of smoker compared to a traditional model. Most models will come equipped with a basic push-button ignition and temperature controls that will allow you to adjust them precisely, for perfect results.
Many smokers will also offer an impressive temperature range, allowing you to maintain temperatures from one hundred and fifty degrees up to five hundred degrees.
You won’t have to worry about overcooking or undercooking food, since these smokers are very reliable. You also won’t have to worry about relying on electricity, or fluctuating temperatures. Although, during a longer cook you may need to switch out the propane tank, which is why I recommend always having an extra one on hand.
Some models will allow you to convert the smoker to natural gas. This will help to save on fuel costs and the hassle that comes with having to run out and buy another propane tank. But hooking the grill up to natural gas does take away from the grill’s portability.
Most models are fairly easy to assemble, however, the more bells and whistles the smoker has, the longer the assembly time. On average you can expect to spend at least thirty to sixty minutes putting a one of these models together.
When it comes to smoking, a gas-powered model allows you to try a different way of preparing your favorite cuts of meat, using the best meats you can smoke, you can try out a wide variety of foods ranging from roasts to fresh-caught fish. Using this type of smoker, you can also add new flavors to your meat, infusing them with flavors such as applewood, hickory, mesquite, and more.
- While it may sound difficult to smoke your own meats, with this style of smoker it’s actually incredibly easy, much more so than a charcoal smoker or pellet model. All you have to do is add water, set the smoker to the appropriate temperature, and let the cooking begin.
- You’ll also have the ability to make a wider range of cuisines and side dishes. Some models can be converted into a grill, which will allow you to cook up burgers, grill some corn, or even make a fire-baked pizza for the whole family.
- Smoked meat is packed with flavor and natural juices, which not only makes it healthier to cook this way, but it’s also more delicious, even if you use cheaper cuts of meat.
- If you normally hunt and pay the butcher to smoke your venison or salmon, then you can also save a lot of cash every fishing and hunting season. Any meat you catch, you can now process on your own, which is a huge selling point for the outdoorsman on a tight budget.
- With grates that are made out of heavy-gauge steel, coated with chrome, and the porcelain or chrome coated water pans, you’re looking at a durable grill that can last year after year.
Electric Smokers Versus Propane
Both types of smokers are easy to use. Obviously, one type of smoker relies on gas, while the other style relies on electricity.
Just like gas-powered models, an electric smoker offers top of the line temperature control, is beginner-friendly, and reliable. Of course, since they must be plugged into an outlet, they’re not as portable as a gas-powered model. Additionally, if there’s a power outage, you can rely on a gas-powered model for all of your cooking needs, while the electric model will be totally useless unless you also have a generator.
Electric-powered models simply aren’t as versatile as their gas counterparts, since they have a much lower temperature range.
The gas variety is able to reach a much higher temperature, offers more precise temperature control, and is far more portable. However, they also have to be watched more closely than an electric model since it’s easier for the temperature to fluctuate. But this is often due to a poorly insulated design. if you have a top of the line model, then this shouldn’t even be an issue.
Electric models work by smoking food using heat that’s produced by electricity. They also come equipped with vents that can help to control the temperature, yet the bulk of the work is often done via the heating elements. Keep in mind, you’ll need to allow some time for this type of smoker to heat up before you’re able to get cooking. Basically, they’re like a conventional oven in the sense that they’re slow to heat up, they just come equipped with the added advantage of being able to use wood chips to provide a nice smoky flavor to your favorite cuts of meat.
Why Gas-Powered Models Win
So, are there any real advantages to owning an electric smoker over a gas-powered model? Well, to start, temperature control is equally as easy, especially if you fork over the cash for a higher-priced model. All you have to do is adjust a dial to control the temperature. Low-end models come equipped with basic settings that include low, medium, and high, so you won’t be able to adjust them to an exact temperature.
But they do offer that set it and forget it experience that allows the cook to walk away and get stuff done around the home without having to babysit the smoker. Additionally, if you live in an apartment, most apartment buildings will allow an electric smoker, but will not allow a gas or charcoal smoker. However, if you’re expecting to get high heat from this type of smoker, you’ll be very disappointed. You will also need to have a power outlet conveniently located, or you’ll have to break out the extension cords. Getting a smoke ring using an electric model is also not the easiest, however, you can use the wood box for the smoky flavor.
Additionally, repairing an electric model can be expensive and complicated, due to the high-tech design.
So, how does the propane smoker measure up? Most models of propane smokers will use gas tanks as their heat source, however, there are some that can be hooked up to natural gas. Using gas, you’ll have more control over the heat, which will allow you to really crank up the heat in order to achieve a higher temperature. They can also reach a higher temperature much faster than an electric model and will not take nearly as long to heat up. You’ll also get a gas burner located at the bottom of the of smoker, in addition to a wood chip box that provides the type of smoky flavor you’re looking for. These models are able to closely replicate a charcoal smoker in terms of taste, compared to an electric smoker.
It can also be placed anywhere outdoors, so you won’t have to worry about placing it close to an outlet or using several extension cords. They’re also more beginner-friendly and very easy and affordable to repair. Even if there’s a power outage, you’ll still be able to smoke and grill up your food. This is a huge incentive if you live in a part of the country where you experience harsh winters and a power outage is a real possibility. The fact that the smoking results are very similar to what you can achieve with a charcoal model will also give any smoking enthusiast every reason to buy. So, what are the real drawbacks to using this type of smoker over charcoal over electric?
Lower-priced models will struggle with maintaining a certain temperature. These smokers also tend to run hot. If you get a budget-friendly model, you can also expect poor insulation, so if it’s cold or windy outside, this can significantly impact the cooking time. Compared to an electric model, these smokers are very low-tech, so you won’t get many of the same fancy features that you will with an electric smoker.
Bottom line, while a gas-powered model may not have all the bells and whistles that an electric-powered model does, it’s more affordable, more convenient, and easier to use and repair. It’s not without its limitations, but for the lower price, ease of use, and general versatility, it’s a much better option for the cook who is looking for a smoker that offers optimal temperature control and a model that’s very low-maintenance.
The best gas smokers will allow you to set it and forget it, are very low maintenance and offer the type of temperature control and smoky flavor that you can’t get from a charcoal or electric smoker. There are many designs to choose from and some great models out there if you know what to look for and how to determine a high-quality model from a poor-quality smoker. I hope my guide has given you the knowledge you need to make the best choice for you, your smoking needs, the available space on your patio, and your budget. Considering all the research I’ve done, I’m confident that you’ll be able to find your next model in my top six lineup, and one that will meet all of your smoking needs, for a price that won’t break the bank.