Get great barbecue flavor from all kinds of grills—charcoal, kamado, pellet, and yes, even gas
By Paul Hope
You don’t need to buy a separate smoker to make mouthwatering barbecue. A great grill that’s great at indirect cooking can perform double-duty—grilling brats and burgers and slow-smoking a beef brisket or pork shoulder.
Some grills are inherently better-suited to the task of smoking, though.
With charcoal and kamado grills, you can add wood chips or chunks into the charcoal at any point to create plumes of flavorful wood smoke. And pellet grills impart smoke almost by default because the wood pellets they use for fuel also add flavor. Gas models don’t have an advantage here, but they can still get the job done.
“Grill manufacturers have noted that over the past decade, there’s been a lot of interest in smoking foods in the backyard, so they’ve added features like smoker boxes for wood chips to their gas grills to make them more adept at smoking,” says Mark Allwood, CR’s market analyst for grills. At the same time, they’re also branching out by adding pellet, charcoal, and kamado grills to their lineups in order to capture more of the barbecue market.
Here, we’ve highlighted five of the best grills from our tests for smoking, including gas, charcoal, kamado, and pellet grills. For gas and pellet grills, that means the model earns top scores for indirect cooking and temperature range—so it’s capable of holding the low, steady temperature needed for smoking. For charcoal and kamado grills, it means the grill has thoughtful features that make it easy to control the temperatures or add wood.
In CR’s grill tests, we assess five styles of grills from brands including Big Green Egg, Char-Broil, Napoleon, Nexgrill, Traeger, and Weber. CR members can jump right to our ratings of grills. You can also learn more about different types of grills in our grill buying guide.
Best Gas Grills for Smoking
Weber Summit S-470
CR’s take: This top-of-the-line midsized Weber gas grill might give you sticker shock from the price, but you get an enormous amount for the money. It has a built-in thermometer, an infrared burner for searing, and even a retractable rotisserie. It’s perfectly suited for smoking, too, with a built-in smoke tray (so you don’t need to buy a separate smoker box) and ratings of Very Good for both indirect cooking and temperature range—so you can slow-cook ribs, brisket, and whatever else you have in mind.
Nexgrill Deluxe 720-0896B (Home Depot)
CR’s take: For a lot less money, this midsized Nexgrill really delivers. No, it doesn’t have a dedicated smoker box, but you can achieve similar results with an aftermarket wood chip box, which costs about $10, or by simply placing wood chunks above the burners, below the grates. It earns ratings of Very Good in both indirect cooking and temperature range—it excels at cooking foods low and slow without scorching the exterior, which is just what you need for smoking. (It can get hot enough to sear, too.)
Best Charcoal Grill for Smoking
CR’s take: This barrel-style Dyna-Glo charcoal grill makes smoking a cinch. Sure, you can add smoke to any charcoal grill by tossing wood onto the lit coals. But this model has a dedicated door for accessing the coal bed during cooking. That means if you want more smoke midcook, like when you’re making multiple batches of the same thing, you can simply open the flap and add wood chips or chunks. It also has an adjustable coal bed, so you can keep whatever you’re smoking far from the heat by lowering the coals. These two unique attributes help this model earn a rating of Excellent for convenience.
Best Kamado Grill for Smoking
Kamado Joe Classic II 18" KJ23RHC
CR’s take: The Kamado Joe Classic is our top-rated ceramic kamado and comes packed with features, including a few that make it a stellar smoker. It has an elevated rack and comes with a heat deflector for smoking meats, both of which allow you to easily slow-cook, say, a brisket, without drying it out. It also has adjustable dampers and a locking lid, which help control the flow of air so that you can maintain a low and slow smoke for hours on end. It excelled at slow-cooking a pork shoulder in our tests, as well as at cooking a thin-crust pizza over high heat, helping it earn a rating of Excellent for cooking performance.
Best Pellet Grill for Smoking
Traeger Ironwood 650 TFB65BLE
CR’s take: Any pellet grill is great for smoking because pellet grills burn wood pellets for heat and flavor. But this Traeger pellet grill is unique in that it’s the only model in our tests to earn a rating of Very Good for temperature range, meaning it’s adept at holding low temperatures required for smoking. A nice plus: You can change up the smoke by using different pellet varieties, like mesquite and hickory if you want more smoky flavor, and oak or pecan if you want less.
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