Smoking and grilling the meat the traditional way can be messy and time-consuming. Find out about the best propane smokers and get it all done much faster!
Making delicious smoked ribs or other treats can be incredibly time consuming and tedious. I used to do it overnight, to ensure it’s ready for lunch.
However, getting up at 3am to check the fire is not a luxury I have these days, even though I’m single. Barbequing has also become a luxury for me these days, even though I love it – it simply takes too much time.
What I do have is money – so I invested in a propane-fueled smoker and it saved me a lot of time while allowing me to get the delicious smoked barbeque meat that I crave! 🙂
I didn’t settle for just any old smoker, though – here’s how I was able to find the best propane smoker available.
What’s a Propane Smoker?
Since smokers like these are not often talked about (and some barbeque purists even loathe them, preferring traditional charcoal grills) I feel a need to explain exactly what they are.
- On the outside, most of these propane-fueled vertical smokers will look a bit like an old-fashioned safe, or a classic school or gym locker. But that’s just the exterior.
- At the bottom is a gas burner that you can connect to a propane tank or a natural gas line if you have access to one.
- The burner is connected to a tray directly above it where you put your charcoal, sawdust, wood or whatever else you’re burning.
- Directly above that is a pan that you fill with water to ensure that your meat stays nice and moist during cooking.
- Then, there’s the main part – the smoking chamber itself. It takes up the majority of the smoker and contains different pans, trays, grills, hooks, spits or whatever other accessories come with it. That’s where your meat will be grilled and smoked.
- Finally, at the top, you’ll find a chimney or two for venting the smoke. Most of them are adjustable so you can determine how much smoke will be vented and how smoky your meat will be.
How to Use a Propane Smoker
They might look intimidating at first, but using these babies is quite easy. It’s certainly much easier – and faster than doing things the old-fashioned way, let me tell you that!
Keep in mind that these instructions I’m going to give you are general ones. Each smoker has its own unique kinks so always read the manual before you do anything.
So, without further ado, here’s how to start smoking some meat!
- Fill up the water tank with water. You can also fill it up with something more extravagant if you want your meat to soak up some other flavors. Beer is a popular choice, though I prefer cider. Don’t forget to line the tank with some foil so there’s less hassle when you have to clean it.
- Connect your propane tank with the gas burner.
- Open the door and light the burner. If it doesn’t light up straight away, turn it off immediately and cut the gas supply. Wait for the gas to clear before trying again.
- When the flame lights up, set the temperature to what you want and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, to preheat. Adjust your chimney or vent as necessary.
- Once the smoker is sufficiently heated, add your fuel to the tray – it could be wood chunks, sawdust, charcoal or whatever else you like. Continue to preheat the smoker until thick smoke starts coming out of the chimney.
- Place the food in the smoking chamber.
- At this point, you only need to refill the smoker with water and solid fuel as needed and monitor the gas flame so it doesn’t go out.
- When the food is done you can turn off the flame and the gas, then disconnect the propane tank and clean the smoker when it cools.
That’s about it – nothing too hard or complicated at all.
Tips for Finding the Best Propane Smoker
When you’re new to this sort of thing, finding the right appliance can be difficult – there are a ton of them out there and most are bad. Here’s how to spot the good ones:
1. Check the Materials
First, you need to check out are the materials used to make the smoker. The obvious reason this is important is the durability – if the materials are shoddy, it won’t last for long. However, it’s important for a few other reasons as well.
Firstly, the materials should be able to keep the heat inside. If your heater is well-insulated, you will need to burn less propane and solid fuel to maintain the temperature you want.
Next, the materials need to be safe – nothing that can leak into the food or easily catch on fire.
Finally, it should all be durable enough overall.
Further Reading:Top-Rated Smoker Thermometers
2. Make Sure to Get the Right Size
Propane smokers come in many different shapes and sizes – some are tall and lean, some are short and stocky and some are somewhere in-between.
Conventional wisdom says that you want the largest one you can get, simply because it will allow you to grill as much meat as possible at once.
However, you have to consider how much space you have before you buy a smoker that just won’t fit in your garage when you’re not using it.
3. Take a Good Look at the Cooking Surfaces
The cooking surfaces inside the smoker are where your meat will reside and they need to be top-notch to ensure that everything goes smoothly and you get the perfect meal.
For starters, you want the trays or grills to be large enough to accommodate the pieces of meat that you want to grill in them.
Next, you should check if the surfaces are non-stick – meat sticking to them can produce a bad taste and lead to a messy clean up.
Trays that allow the excess grease to flow away instead of building up are always a plus. There’s more to it, but you get the idea.
You want larger cooking surfaces and prefer more traditional grilling? Then check out our reviews for the best offset smokers you can find!
4. Adjustability and Versatility
Having as many options as possible is always great in products like this. You want your meat to be just how you like it and with the right equipment, you can achieve that.
The first thing you should check out is the temperature range. Better smokers will have a lot of options, while lower-end ones will probably only have a dial with a “low/medium/high” setting.
The next items on the menu are the shelves – they should be spacious, removable and adjustable. Having the ability to replace them with other accessories – including hooks, spits, grills and more – is always a plus.
Some smokers even have two separate smoking chambers, allowing for different settings on both of them. That way, you can cook two different meals at once. There’s more, but you get the point. The more options you have, the better the smoker.
5. Additional Features
While propane smokers are not complicated at their core, they were improved a lot over the years and these days they are a lot more convenient than they used to be.
There are propane smokers that track the temperature of the meat and alert you when it goes to high, so you avoid scorching it. Others have vents that automatically control the levels of smoke inside it.
There’s a lot that you can get out of a propane smoker and some extra features can be incredibly useful.
Most Recommended Propane Smokers in 2020- Reviewed in Detail
For starters, it has space for days! The interior features 4 stainless steel shelves, each 14 by 14 inches in size. You can easily fit enough food for 4 to 5 people in there.
The construction is also solid, and it’s easy to assemble once you get it. It is sure to last for quite a long time.
You also don’t need to preheat it too much – it’s ready for the meat in a matter of minutes and heats up faster than most.
The main hiccup with this smoker is the capacity of the water tank and the solid fuel tray. You’ll need to make constant refills while smoking the meat so you can’t just “set it and forget it”.
The walls also get too hot, since they are made out of regular metal, thus losing lots of heat and making the tabletop space on the top of the smoker somewhat pointless.
- Solid, durable construction
- Great price
- Has lots of shelf space
- Heats up quickly
- Loses too much heat
- Needs to be refilled too often
The main upside is the quickness – it reaches the temperature you want fast and maintains it well. It also has two independent burners that you can use to better control the temperature and the searing of the meat.
The inside is spacious, and it comes with lots of good cooking surfaces – two regular grids, two for cooking jerky and a combination rib rack. You can make food for a large gathering with ease.
Overall, this 44-inch smoker is impressive for the price range.
Here’s the thing though – if you want to slow cook something on a lower temperature, you’re going to have a hard time.
This smoker isn’t that great at maintaining low temperatures consistently, so you’re probably going to end up with poorly cooked meat or vegetables.
The grates for cooking meat are not made of stainless steel, sadly. It’s questionable how long they will last, but that remains to be seen – so far they hold up well, but I prefer the safety of stainless steel.
- Plenty of internal space
- Two separate burners
- Lots of good accessories
- Quickly reaches the desired temperature
- Doesn’t maintain low temperatures well
- Grates are made out of cheap materials
The first thing you might notice about this smoker is the look – it’s been designed to resemble an old-fashioned safe. I get a kick out of such things for sure.
However, the looks aren’t the only good thing about it. It doesn’t just look like a vault – it’s also built like one. The material used to make it is sheet steel and it’s incredibly thick.
There’s a ton of space inside on two adjustable smoking racks, so you can smoke enough meat for the whole family.
The smoke also doesn’t leak through the cracks like with many other smokers – it stays inside, and you can easily control it.
However, there is an issue with that – the smoke vent can’t be closed all the way. If you want to keep all the smoke in, that’s not possible unless you do some tampering of your own, which I wouldn’t recommend.
The smoker also lacks proper insulation, so it gets incredibly hot when it’s turned on. Be careful not to let anyone touch it.
- Thick and sturdy
- Has a great look
- The price is right
- The smoke doesn’t leak
- Has plenty of space
- The vents can’t be closed all the way
- Not well insulated at all
The best thing about it is probably the size – it has tons and tons of cooking space. There are three chrome-plated cooking racks inside of it, and it has a total of 7,566 cubic inches of cooking space.
There’s even a warming rack on top of it if you want to cook something extra without wasting time or using additional cooking appliances.
Despite all that space, its slim and tall frame allows for easy storage when it’s not in use.
So, what’s not to like?
Well, the water pan, for starters. It’s meant to be a combo pan for both water and wood chips, but it’s poorly positioned, and the water might get on the chips. Also, the water is too close to the flame and evaporates too quickly, so it constantly needs to be refilled.
The assembly is also difficult, but that’s a onetime thing.
- Doesn’t take up a lot of space
- Has plenty of smoking room
- There’s a warming rack on the top
- Extremely affordable price
- The water pan is poorly designed
- Difficult to assemble
What I liked the best was the thermostat control burner, allowing it to maintain the temperature you set as easy as pie. It also reaches that temperature fairly quickly once it’s turned on, so there’s not a lot of preheating needed.
It’s definitely sturdy and well-built too and the insulation is decent, so it doesn’t get too hot on the outside.
The main problem with it is the size – there’s not a lot of cooking space inside it. It’s also heavy and a bit difficult to store due to the shape.
Besides those problems, it’s a decent smoker overall, but not incredible.
- Sturdy and well-built
- Decently insulated
- Easily maintains the correct temperature
- Heavy and difficult to store
- Lacks cooking space
The Final Word
I’ve gone through multiple propane smokers over the years, and I have learned that it’s difficult to tell which ones are good without trying them out a few times.
That’s why I wanted to spare you all that hassle and picked only the proven ones to showcase here. However, there is always one that’s the best of the best, and in this case, it’s the Smoke Hollow PS4415 Propane Smoker.
I love how versatile it is, and it comes at a more than decent price. The size is also a huge plus in my eyes.
Whether you agree with my choice or not, I hope I was able to help you! If you have any questions or anything to add, please feel free to comment – I’m always open to suggestions.
Last update on 2020-08-13 at 17:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API