When it comes to food smoking, do you picture tender, smoked beef or chicken with a wonderful aroma and taste? Or maybe you envision flaky, smoky fish?
That's the picture that most new comers to smoking envision. But, you can use a smoker for a lot of other foods as well.
Like grilling, you can smoke vegetables and other types of foods. In the same way that grilling brings a new flavor profile to those foods, smoking will do the same.
So, pull out the corn, pull out the tomatoes, even pull out your artichokes and put those in the smoker. Dare we say try bananas or even apples?
You can even toss nuts and cheese into your smoker to add that smoky dimension to those two foods as well.
Now that we've got you thinking about all of the fun stuff you can throw in a smoker, let's talk about some of the different models that are on the market.
Best Propane Smokers - Our Ratings
#1: MasterBuilt 20050211
#2: Dyna Glo TGY 784 BDP
#3: Smoke Hollow 44241G2
#4: Landmann 3895 Gwla
#5: Cuisinart COS
How Does a Gas Smoker Work?
The workings of a gas smoker are relatively simple. We start with a gas burner at the bottom, fueled by propane or natural gas, that heats up a steel or iron holder. The holder is filled with wood chips, pellets, or chunks. Some units will have a layer of lava rock over the flames to help distribute the heat evenly.
The wood materials will then start to slowly burn and smoke.
The next level up is a water bath/drip tray. This is used to add moisture and humidity to the smoke as well as to capture the drippings. That humidity helps the smoke more easily permeate the food.
The remaining layers are the racks and meat hooks in the main cooking chamber where you're going to place your food.
Once you’ve got the smoker loaded and the fire on, close and latch the door and away you go.
Now, what other kinds are there?
Gas Smokers Versus Other Types of Smokers
There are four main types of smokers available to you. We covered gas, now we'll just briefly go over the other three.
If you’d like to go directly to our top rated propane smokers reviews though, click this link.
Electric smokers are extremely easy to use. If you’re looking for a set it and forget it type smoking method, an electric unit is probably the easiest way to go.
All you need to do is add some wood, set the temperature on the smoker, program in the length of time that you want it to cook and then just let it go.
When the smoking process is done, the electric model will turn itself off.
They’re very easy to use and you don’t need to check on them like you do the other models. However, they do have some drawbacks.
One is that they don't use real flame to heat up and burn the wood. They use an electric element just like the kind that are used in toasters and ovens. You don’t get a real fire, it just causes the wood to smolder rather than really do any kind of slow burning.
This results in one of the complaints that electric smoker users have. Electric units don't deliver the same flavor that you get out of a wood-burning or a gas burning smoker.
Another downside to the electric smoker is that because they don't burn wood you don't get the crunchy crust on the meat that you would get out of one of the other methods.
But they’re great for smoking fish and any other foods, like vegetables, that need a steady, reliable time and temperature when they're being cooked.
Electric smokers make great home smokers. They’re easy to clean and relatively inexpensive to run. But that's balanced out by the fact that they're fairly expensive to buy.
Which brings us to…
A lot of smoker aficionados consider charcoal smokers to be the best method to use on your food – meats and vegetables.
The advantage is a real fire and real burning wood which is releasing smoke with all of its natural characteristics into your food. They’re generally simpler to use, easier to clean, and don't rely on expensive fuels or electricity.
The disadvantages of charcoal smokers are twofold:
1. The need to learn how to build a good, controllable fire.
2. Getting the practice and skill necessary in controlling the vents to moderate the temperature.
This results in having to keep a fairly constant eye on the wood or charcoal smoker which is a bit more hands-on than is needed with the other units.
And, while they’re easier to clean because there are fewer parts, they can be quite a bit messier to clean.
So, if you want something a little cleaner and more accurate…
Pellet smokers are somewhat like the wood/charcoal smokers in that they use real flame and wood to smoke your food. But, they give you a lot more control and they can be an almost set it and forget it type of operation.
Pellet smokers are a little like a convection oven in that they use a fan to circulate the heat and smoke throughout the unit and around your food.
The main advantages of a pellet smoker are:
· Better temperature and time control.
· Extremely easy to use.
· An automatic pellet feeding system. So you’re not continually opening a door and letting heat out.
Some of the drawbacks are that they're very expensive and the more features that you want, the higher the price.
Another drawback is that you can only use pellets in them. This means you're limited to that particular fuel and you're not able to use any other types of burning materials that you may want to use.
Okay, So Now What?
When you're deciding on one of these methods, one of the things to consider is just how involved with the smoking process do you want to be?
· Do you really like getting in there, being hands-on with your cooking?
· Do you like to manage and maintain your cooking with a little distance in between?
· Or would you prefer something a little more automatic or even set it and forget it?
With these four different methods, you get a range of how actually hands-on you really want to be.
Can They Be Used All Year Round?
Yes. If you use any propane meat smoker outside, you'll want to cover them for protection from the elements. One thing to bear in mind. As outside temperatures get colder, the temperatures inside of a smoker also get cooler.
You’re going to want to consider some way of covering or protecting the smoker to keep those temperatures inside up. Most vendors have protective covers, but make sure they can keep the heat in too.
Here Are Our Five Top Rated Propane Smoker Reviews
#1: MasterBuilt 20050211 40 Inch Black Propane Smoker
If you’re looking to smoke a ton of food or feed an army, the Master Built GS 40 propane smoker is worth a look. A large internal cooking capacity of 1300 in.² means the GS 40 can cook quite a bit of food to keep your crowd happy.
Its 15,400 BTU stainless steel burner is lit via pushbutton ignition. It comes with four chrome racks but doesn’t have a provision for hanging sausages.
It needs some assembly, but most users say that it's pretty quick and easy to put together. Not only is the Master Built cavernous, it weighs 85 pounds so it isn’t easily moved around. But, according to a suggestion by a user, adding swivel wheels to the legs makes the unit becomes portable.
Like most smokers in this price range, it will leak a lot of smoke. See the end of the article for a bunch of aftermarket upgrades and fixes that are suggested by fellow smoker users.
One downside to the Master Built is that it only has one door. When it comes time to change woodchips or add water, you need to open the entire cabinet. This will cause a loss of cooking heat. A second door or dual drawers would be more efficient by keeping the temperature up in the main cabinet.
It would also make changing water and woodchips a lot easier as well. But there is an upside. Having one large door makes it easy to get those larger pieces of meat or large birds like turkey inside.
Most users say this is a great unit as it comes. By doing some modifications -- that will be listed at the end of this article -- you will get better use and results out of the Master Built GS 40.
The Master Built GS 40 propane smoker is a very popular gas smoker that is available for under $200. The Master Built has a 4.5 star rating with 950 reviews showing on Amazon. It's easy to put together and after the initial seasoning, you'll be ready to go.
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MasterBuilt is the most trusted brand of smokers for a good reason.
They make efficient smokers at an affordable price.
This model comes in 30-in, 40-in and 44-in.
Our #1 choice!
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#2: Dyna Glow TGY 784 BDP 36 Inch Vertical LP Gas Smoker
The Dyna Glow uses a 15,000 BTU cast-iron burner that is lit by an electronic ignition. This heats up the 784 in.² space which has room for four adjustable steel racks.
One of the most notable features of the Dyna Glow is the top-notch customer service. There are many five star ratings that give glowing reviews of the customer service they received when they had problems with this particular unit.
One of the biggest complaints is the woodchip box. Instead of using cast-iron, which resists warpage, a stainless steel box is used and is reported to warp. This makes it difficult to pull out when you need to add woodchips. It's been suggested to buy a cast-iron box and replace the stainless steel box.
It has a lot of thin metal used in its construction. This is normal for units under $200. The unit size is 19.2" x 27" x 46.5" It weighs 54 pounds and it has two carrying handles that are fairly sturdy and make it easy to move.
Both doors use quick release handle latches that stay cool even while the unit is running.
It's a two door design that helps minimize heat loss and is also considered by many users to have the best door seals of any other units in this price range.
The racks are adjustable either up or down and can accommodate up to 25 pounds of meat per rack.
The Dyna Glow smoker also has a system that allows condensation to be recirculated back into the water/drip pan so that you don't have a mess growing on the porch or wherever you have the smoker standing.
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Another trusted choice, the Dyna Glo is #2 in our selection.
The Dyna Glow TGY 784 BDP 36 Inch Vertical LP Gas Smoker comes with a one-year limited warranty. The Dyna Glow is a very popular smaller unit.
Current users give it 4 out of 5 stars with 227 reviews.
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#3: Smoke Hollow 44241G2 44 Inch Vertical LP Gas Smoker
The Smoke Hollow gas smoker is a huge smoker. If you’ve got a lot of food to smoke or if you like to smoke sausages, this is a model definitely worth looking into.
It uses two in-line stainless steel burners that put out 10,000 BTUs each. The burners are independently controlled with reportedly good accuracy, and if needed, you can turn one burner off for better low temperature control.
The unit has two doors. You can open the lower door to change woodchips, adjust temperature and fill the water as necessary. All without losing heat in the upper compartment.
Sturdy, adjustable clamp fasteners hold the doors shut rather than magnets that are used on some cheaper units.
The Smoke Hollow smoker comes with three cooking racks, two jerky trays and one rib rack. The interior dimensions are 44” by 24” and 16”. So you can tell you have a lot of room to cook in.
This is a pretty heavy LP gas smoker coming in at 100 pounds. The exterior dimensions are 60” by 33” by 24.5”. You're going to want somebody to help move this dude around. You may desire a permanent location for this one.
The unit doesn't come assembled, but assembly seems to be reasonably easy. Most purchasers have been able to get it together in about an hour to an hour and a half.
One thing to be aware of. The Smoke Hollow gas smoker can be shipped to most places in the US except for California. It comes with a one-year limited warranty on parts and the 90 day warranty on paint.
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Smoke Hollow knows how to do smokers. It only comes #3 because the price is higher than the previous two models.
The Smoke Hollow propane smoker gets 4 stars out of five with 137 reviews.
Most of the dings in rating came from the condition of the unit on shipping and the sometimes problem of the left burner not staying lit.
Overall, this was a well-liked smoker for its capacity and better heat control.
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#4: Landman Usa 3895 Gwla Smoky Mountain Vertical Gas Smoker
The Landman USA 3895 GWLA Smoky Mountain vertical gas smoker is another good size smoker. It will be able to handle a good selection of meat, fowl and fish. There are built-in hangers for smoking your sausage and comes with five adjustable chrome plated cooking greats.
The Landman provides 1576 in.² of internal cooking area, so you shouldn't have any problem with getting those big crowds fed quickly.
The Landman smoker has one main door and two drawers below. This helps keep the heat in the main food compartment. Through the drawers, you’re able to access the water tray and the woodchip tray.
For extra long life, the Smoky Mountain smoker uses a cast brass burner which the company says will not rust. They back this up with a 10 year warranty on the unit.
The gas smoker is fired up with a rotating ignition dial. The temperature can be very accurately controlled using the front mounted temperature knob.
The main door uses magnetic catches to hold the door shut. For most owners, this is sufficient. But a couple of users had mentioned that the door pops open too easily in the wind. They either used a bungee cord or installed a mechanical latch to solve the problem.
There is some assembly required and most users have found that takes about 1-1 ½ hours to put together and is relatively painless.
Some users mentioned problems with the woodchip pan either not fitting or warping after a period of time. They suggest placing that with a cast iron.
Easy to clean most users say.
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Another household name, Landmann is one of the best smokers manufacturer in the USA.
We ranked it #4 because we think the price is a bit stiff.
The unit gets a 4.2 stars out of 29 reviews.
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#5: The Cuisinart COS – 244 Vertical 36 Inch Propane Smoker, Black
Being one of the biggest names in kitchen appliances, one doesn't necessarily equate Cuisinart as being particularly big in the grill/smoker/barbecue space.
The COS 244 propane smoker is fired up by turning the combination temperature/ignition front control knob. The smoker runs at 12,000 BTUs. Temperature control is reported to be very precise.
It comes with four 14" x 14" stainless steel shelves. It has two doors. One for easy access to the combination woodchip/water tray as well as the gas burner. The other is for the main food compartment which can then be kept closed to help retain heat.
The smoker measures 46x20x20 inches and has an internal cooking capacity of 784 in.².
Some users have complained that it's a little too narrow and they're not able to cook anything larger than a 13 pound turkey. Anything larger would need to be cut it up.
Also note, because you need to refill the water tray so often, you aren’t going to be smoking overnight or leaving the smoker alone for very long.
Assembly takes 30 to 60 minutes for most users. Some complained that the instructions weren’t detailed enough. Cuisinart supplies a three year limited warranty.
It’s pretty solid and it’s moderately heavy, coming in at around 40 to 50 pounds. It’s also a well-built unit, and it should last a long time.
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Cuisinart will have to try harder to compete with the big brands we have seen above. It's a good effort and we like the idea of the Cuisinart quality in our backyard. It comes as our #5 choice.
But, because of some of the shortcomings of the water/woodchip tray and the narrowness of the box, this is probably a better unit for the beginning smoker. Then, graduate later to one of the better units above.
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If you’re looking for a good solid smoker that can do a huge amount of food for a large crowd, we recommend the Master Built 20050211 40 Inch Black Propane Smoker. Even with the shortcoming of a single door, this is an extremely popular and well-liked smoker.
The Smoke Hollow 44241G2 44 Inch Vertical LP Gas Smoker would be our first choice if it weren’t for the the left burner issue. The concern is that the burner would go out when you’re smoking overnight, which could leave you with an unsafe condition with undercooked food.
If you’re looking to just get in to smoking and try it out, then we recommend the The Cuisinart COS – 244 Vertical 36 Inch Propane Smoker, Black. Though it has the limited combo water tray/chip tray, this is a great unit for someone to get their feet wet and try out smoking.
Some Other Things to Think About When You’re Planning On Buying Your Smoker.
How Do I Set Up and Use a Gas Smoker?
It’s pretty easy, just a few steps:
· Connect the propane tank to the smoker and test for gas leaks
· Turn on the burner and test the flame to make sure it’s burning properly (you want a blue flame)
· Fill the fuel box with wood chips or wood chunks
· Fill the water tray
· Put in the racks and load them up with your food
Once you’ve got the racks loaded up with the food that you want to smoke, it's time to close the door and make sure that the vents are open to allow circulation of the air and the smoke.
Here are some helpful tips:
1. You can add flavored juices to the water to infuse the flavor into the meat.
2. You can use different types of wood to add flavor to your meat. You can even add flavored chips to the wood pan.
3. If the wood isn’t burning, you can use a hand torch to get it started.
How Do I Clean the Gas Smoker?
The smoking process will coat the interior of the smoker with residue. Leave the residue in the smoker because it helps seal the surface.
The parts that need cleaning are:
· The water tray
· The food racks
· The base unit
Use an oil or grease dissolving dishsoap with hot water to clean these parts. Do the cleaning while these parts are still a little warm. It makes getting the grease and grime off a lot easier.
Check to see that the vents are clean. Make sure that they’re unblocked and easy to move so that you can easily regulate the temperature on your smoker.
Then, just remember to dump out your wood box and/or clean off the lava rocks.
Now you're all set for the next session.
Where Can I Buy a Gas Smoker?
Propane smokers are available at most patio and hardware stores. Or you can buy them through us at Amazon by clicking this link. When you buy at Amazon, take advantage of their unparalleled customer support as well as great money back guarantee.
Some Helpful Tips
Some useful upgrades suggested by other smoker users for all smokers:
1. Hi temp silicone in any screw holes to prevent smoke leaks.
2. Fireproof seal on the inside of the doors to cut down on smoke release.
3. Need a larger water pan? – use the Weber two pack trays.
4. Use a small frying pan to hold the chips or chunks. Put it on top of the normal chip tray or in its place.
5. Fill the fire grill with lava rock to help distribute the heat.
6. Use an oven thermometer inside the unit to get a better heat reading.
7. Heat too hard to control? Crack the door just a little bit or drill one or two extra vent holes in the top.
A tip by an experienced smoker user:
“Be patient. Smoking meat is not for the impatient. You'll mess it up every time."