Nothing beats food smoked with charcoal. Who can resist that smoky delicious flavor? That smoke taste you get when you bite into a tender juicy piece of steak is not comparable to using a propane or electric smoking.
The best portable charcoal smokers will give you the freedom to acquire a smoke taste without having to be stuck at the house. Load it up in your truck and smoke all afternoon at your friends house or at the cabin. If you like being at home while smoking, using a portable charcoal smoker will help you find more convenient places to store the unit so that it doesn’t rot during the seasons that produce poor weather.
Charcoal smokers are at the top of the totem pole in regards to outdoor cooking units because they offer the convenience of an easy-to-find and cheap fuel source, but still get delicious flavor. Sure wood provides the best flavor overall, but it can be a pain to manage the temperature and even acquire the right wood in some areas of the country.
Propane is convenient, and electric is…well…a faster start than most, but don’t quite get the same results as wood, charcoal, or pellets. Sure, you might need to wait a while until the smoker gets hots, and you’ll definitely need to wait for your food to be done, but with portable charcoal smokers, you can wait for your food while participating in fun outdoor activities thanks to the superior portability features available to you. With that being said, here is a top 5 list for the best portable charcoal smokers:
Top 5 Portable Charcoal Smokers
- Char-Griller 2-2424 Tabletop Charcoal Smoker Grill
- Char-Broil Tabletop Charcoal Grill & Smoker
- Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker
- Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker
- Cuisinart COS-116 Vertical Charcoal Smoker
1. Char-Griller 2-2424 Tabletop Charcoal Smoker Grill
What’s not to like about this portable charcoal smoker? The Char-Griller 2-2424 table top charcoal smoker has everything you need to have a smoke-like taste wherever you go. With short legs and three handles in total, you can pick this smoker up and move it to your car trunk with room to spare. This versatile grill has two uses: a grill and a smoker. You can use it a traditional tabletop unit or turn it sideways like a vertical charcoal smoker. The heavy duty construction will ensure that this table top smoker lasts a long time. There are also cast iron cooking grates that make up the 250 square inch primary cooking space.
Cleaning charcoal smokers and grills can be redundant after a while. Luckily for those who purchased the Char-Griller table top charcoal smoker, it won’t take much effort to clean up after you’re done cooking outdoors. This smoker comes with a removable ash pan that will easily dump the remaining coals. The Char-Griller 2-2424 is #1 on the list because it offers a lot of value and doesn’t take much out of your wallet. This inexpensive portable charcoal smoker grill can go anywhere and give you the char taste you’ve been looking for.
- Very compact for easy portability
- Easy to clean up
- Can also be used as a traditional grill
- Durable steel construction
- Sliding drawer makes it easy to access coals
- Heat resistant handle
- Doesn’t come with instructions
- Hard to control temperature
2. Char-Broil Tabletop Charcoal Grill & Smoker
This tabletop smoker is basically Char-Broil’s version of the Char-Griller smoker at #1. This portable, compact charcoal smoker is great for camping, picnics, or tailgating as it has the perfect size and cooking capabilities. There is 225 square inches of cooking space to work with. You might think that’s somewhat on the smaller side at first, and you’d be right. But then again, portable smokers in general aren’t expected to have large cooking surfaces because they are smaller by nature. The carrying handles will make it very easy to pick up the unit for efficient portability.
This smoker has a slide-out charcoal drawer that will be a pleasure to empty. Filling up new coals will be just as easy as dumping the old ones. This smoker is versatile, primarily because it can attach to the side of other Char-Broil units as a side smoker. There is also a tube frame which is used for stability. It will keep your smoker still regardless of what type of surface you’re on. Price won’t be an issue with the Char-Broil tabletop grill & smoker. You can find this smoker easily for under $100, which is a true deal. Overall, this smoker comes in as a close #2, strongly resembling #1.
- Easy to clean
- Temperature is inconsistent and hard to control
3. Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker Charcoal Smoker
The Weber brand has been known for their superior grills, and it’s no different when you look at their smokers. Monitoring the temperature can become one’s biggest concern when using a charcoal smoker. The Weber 711001 Smokey Mountain Cooker has a built in thermometer that will help you find the current temperature so you are up to date with what’s going on inside the smoker. This is an important tool to have because extremely high temperatures can dry out your food, whereas lower temperatures will increase the overall cooking time. The Porcelain-enameled water pan will help add steam to the smoking process so your food doesn’t become dry and inedible.
The fuel door is made with a rust-resistant aluminum that will make adding charcoal easy along with air dampers that will help control airflow. Having rust-resistant material applied to your smoker will give you peace of mind knowing that you can use it in inconvenient weather and not worry about the device becoming damaged. The air dampers help tremendously because the amount of air absorbed by the charcoal determines how the temperature fluctuates. While the small frame and weight of this charcoal smoker definitely makes it portable, the lack of handles will make it slightly more difficult to carry. Keep this in mind when making your final decision. The Weber 711001 is on the higher end of the price spectrum compared to the other portable charcoal smokers on the list, you are essentially paying for quality in hopes of a great experience.
- Built in thermometer
- On the pricey side compared to other smokers
4. Cuisinart COS-116 Vertical Charcoal Smoker
Just because Cuisinart excels at making indoor cooking units doesn’t mean that they can’t produce quality smokers. The Cuisinart COS-116 vertical charcoal smoker is a great asset to have if you’re looking for a low priced high quality smoker that you can use anywhere. The COS-116 has arguably the largest cooking space available on the list; measuring at 402 square inches. This surplus of space is occupied with two 16 inch stainless steel racks that will help cook your food to perfection and expedite the cleaning process.
The porcelain-enameled water bowl will contribute high amounts of steam that will ensure the cuts of meat stay hydrated throughout the entirety of the cooking process. The dual air vent system will also help control the temperature so that your cuts of meat can cook to the fullest. Any type of fire needs some form of oxygen to survive, so having a reliable oxygen vent is important. If there are every situations where you question yourself regarding the temperature, you can sit back knowing there is a tool on the smoker that you can refer to. There is a temperature gauge right on the lid, so the exact temperature will always be displayed. Take the Cuisinart COS-116 anywhere thanks to the two side handles. These handles will help you comfortably pick up the lightweight vertical smoker without any difficulty.
- High amount of cooking space
- Dual air vent system
- Doesn’t hold a lot of charcoal
5. Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker
Last but not least on the top 5 list of portable charcoal smokers is the Char-Broil Offset Smoker. This serves as an offset smoker, a charcoal grill, and barbecue for those who embrace variety. There is about 290 square inches of cooking surface in the main chamber, as well as 140 square inches in the firebox chamber, totaling to 430 square inches. People with large families and groups of friends can make great use of this surplus of cooking space. Charcoal grills and smokers have been known to be difficult to clean, but with the Char-Broil offset smoker, cleaning won’t be a chore. The clean-out door allows easy ash removal with an adjustable built in damper.
The Char-Broil Offset smoker also has an adjustable height steel fire grate that will put you in control when it comes to how close your cuts of meat will come in contact with the heat source. When looking at this unit initially, you must be questioning how this large device is considered portable. There are two large wheels on the bottom of the Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset smoker, so you can put it on an angle and wheel it easily to storage. The tread on these wheels are very thick, so you’ll be able to drag this smoker grill combo where it needs to go without a hassle.
- Very cheap
- Easy to clean
- Can be used as grill and smoker
- Big size won’t be good for storage or transportation
Buying Guide for Portable Charcoal Smokers
With portable charcoal smokers, price is never an accurate reflection of quality, and the prices are typically low, so get ready for bargains across the board.
The first thing we’re going to consider is size. Believe it or not, portable charcoal smokers come in different shapes and sizes. Some are very lightweight and small, some are vertical, and some are bigger than most and have wheels to move around because you won’t be able to pick them up on your own. Before even looking at a portable charcoal smoker, figure out what you’re going to use it for. Cooking for a family reunion or outdoor birthday party? Need something to bring to the big game, but you’d rather use a smoker? These are important, yet subtle things to think about before following through with your purchase.
If you’re going to the big game, stick with the portable tabletop smokers. The Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset smoker is already eliminated because of its large size, so essentially you’re considering four smokers. The first two are ideal for tailgating because they are very small, so they won’t take up a lot of space in the trunk. This will allow you to bring more beer and snacks with you! Vertical smokers are also possibilities for tailgating.
The two tabletop smokers from Char-Griller and Char-Broil at #1 and #2 are arguably the ideal portable charcoal smoker. They are small, affordable, and cook meat to the fullest. Prices generally range from under $100 to over a few hundred dollars depending on the brand, so you know these portable smokers will offer the best value for the price.
Temperature control is very important, especially for charcoal fueled grills. Finding a charcoal smoker with a thermostat or temperature gauge will definitely help you in the cooking process. Smokers that are made with a heavy steel are likely to do the best job at insulation; keeping heat from leaking. These smokers will overwhelm meat with a high smoked temperature.
When using a charcoal smoker, you’re on top of the outdoor cooking chain. People love cooking units that use fuel as a heat source because they create an uncomparable smoke taste. Portable charcoal smokers will allow you to gain this taste basically anywhere.
About Portable Charcoal Smokers
Grilling enthusiasts thrive off of the flavor that charcoal applies to their food. That’s why having a charcoal smoker on the go is one of the more popular options when it comes to smokers. Smokers that are fueled by charcoal are typically at the top of the list for desired smokers. While they might need much more attention compared to other smokers that use propane, pellet, or electric, it will be worth it when you see the final result. The reason you’ll need to monitor the unit closely is because the temperature can fluctuate; making a big difference in the texture of your food. If the temperature is too low, it’ll take forever to cook, and your food might not be cooked even. If you cook your food with the temperature being too high, it will dry out and taste like rubber.
Smokers generally work like an oven. They surround your food with an overwhelming heat that provides flavor and just the right temperature to keep the juices intact. Getting your heat directly from charcoal will help enhance the smoke flavor that most desire. By using a portable charcoal smoker, you’ll feel independent; as you are on your own cooking your own food. Unlike electric smokers where you need to be near a source of power, you can use portable charcoal smokers, anywhere, especially in the woods or the park. Just make sure you can properly light the smoker, and you will be in the right position to eat well cooked food.
A plus about portable charcoal smokers is that they don’t break the bank. You won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on an efficient charcoal smoker. While there are some exceptions, portable charcoal smokers are very affordable, which will be great news for those who don’t want to spend too much money.
The term ‘portable’ may be different for charcoal smokers compared to grills and other vertical smokers. When you think of a portable cooking device, you’re probably thinking about a small unit that you can throw your food in. While this image holds true for a select few charcoal smokers, there are others that don’t align with this claim. Larger units are also considered portable if they have the features needed to move around. Smokers that have wheels on the bottom of the unit are usually labeled as portable because they can be wheeled conveniently to the next destination.
Seems like paradise right? Don’t get too excited just yet. There are some things you have to take care of afterwards. One thing about any type of charcoal unit, particularly smokers, it that they need to be cleaned thoroughly. No matter what brand you decide to go with, you’re going to have to clean up ash, food residue, and other buildup if you want your portable charcoal smoker to last a long time. While the cleaning process isn’t the highlight of your smoker experience, it shouldn’t be frowned upon if you have to clean up every now and again to preserve the health of your smoker.