Selecting a meat smoker isn’t rocket science, but just going out and buying the very cheapest one that you can find might not be the best strategy to pursue if you want a meat smoker that will last.

There are essentially two price ranges for smokers. We’re simplifying a bit, but you basically have smokers under the $400 mark, and smokers over the $400 mark. Under $400 is what you’re probably looking for if you just want to have backyard smoke-outs now and then with your friends and family. Over $400 is what you’re looking for if you’re a serious smoker or if you need it for professional reasons.

There are some great smokers in both price ranges, but there are a lot of things that you need to consider before you start worrying about price, including the following:

Selecting Your Fuel Type

Cheaper smokers usually use charcoal while the pricier smokers will give you an option of anything from charcoal to wood to propane or electric. Each of these have their own advantages, but at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. Whether you like wood or charcoal or pellets is up to you. Propane smokers heat faster than most, and electric smokers are very safe, easy to use and convenient, but often lack an authentic flavor, so there’s definitely a tradeoff.

Choosing a Size of Smoker

The smallest smoker you’re probably going to be looking at will be one just big enough to feed a large family, say a dozen or so people. Larger smokers can cater an entire party with a single load. If you’re strapped for space or if you only plan to host smaller affairs then you definitely don’t want to bother with a huge smoker, but on the other hand, cramming a small smoker with food for fifty can be downright dangerous. Choose your smoker wisely and go with a general rule of 1 pound of raw meat per person.

Looking for a Brand Name

There are a lot of good smokers out there carrying the store brand or no name at all, but you don’t get support from the manufacturer with those, you don’t get service, and you don’t get a phone number to call if you need help. The brand name smokers aren’t necessarily better than those that are made by some small company in Idaho, but they do come with warranties and support.

Checking Out Some Reviews

There are a lot of bad smokers out there that get rave reviews because of some impressive gimmicks or because they pay people to write them, and there are a lot of great smokers that get weak reviews from people who are using them wrong. However, you can generally rely on this simple rule: if it gets mostly bad reviews, it’s probably not worth investing your money into, and if it gets mostly great reviews, it’s probably at least a decent smoker.

There’s really no “perfect” smoker out there waiting for you and sometimes the right one might cost even elss than you think. All you can really do is figure out what you need, what you want, and what you can afford and go from there. Just don’t waste time with worrying too much about price. Set a budget, and then find the very best smoker within that budget, not just the very cheapest.

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