I’m generally a wood pellet guy, although I do have friends who rock gas smokers and to be fair, they work well and the gas control makes temperature regulation a breeze.
In this round up, I’ve picked 4 of the best propane grills out there and tested them all. I’ve deliberately tested grills from the $75 – $150 price range to show that you don’t always need to spend huge amounts to get a decent cook out.
|Product||Smoke Hollow 2 Door Smoker||Masterbuilt GS30D||Char-Broil Vertical||Landmann 3895GWLA||Masterbuilt Portable|
|Pros||A quality smoker with decent customer service support.||Looks good and the two doors idea helps with temperature control.||Decent quality, easy to carry and cooks out well.||A high quality piece of kit and one that should easily cater for larger crowds.||A great package in a small frame.|
|Cons||One of the pricier models featured and not completely portable, although a huge improvement after using the Masterbuilt.||Poor quality and lack of carry handles detract from what could have been a real winner.||None, no seriously I couldn’t find one!||The price is high plus some minor quality niggles (door catches and gas control knob).||Slightly more rough and ready than the other grills we tested. It is cheaper too!|
|Cooking Surface (sq/inch)||325.6||717||595||1576||279|
|Gas Output||20,000 BTUs||15,400 BTUs||16,500 BTUs||16,000 BTUs||5,000 BTUs|
The Best Propane Smokers of 2018
1. Smoke Hollow 38″ Propane Smoker
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
|Push Button Ignition System|
|External Temperature Gauge|
|Gas Output||20,000 BTUs|
Another two-door smoker with a crazy name (what’s with the lengthy product numbers?), the Smoke Hollow promises a capacity of 3.4 cubic feet and vents to help you get your temperatures under control.
Setting It Up
This grill takes a standard Blue Rhino gas cylinder again, and comes with a set of instructions. My only issue here is that the instructions are written by someone for whom English wasn’t a first language. You can read them; however, other manufacturers get this right so I’m unsure why Smoke Hollow needed to economise on this.
A push button ignition system, and easy to use gas control complete the Smoke Hollow, whilst the vents are easy to open and shut – more on those later!
One thing that sets the Smoke Hollow apart, is the huge smoke box that comes with it. You’ll be able to smoke for quite a few hours using this grill and the size of the box allows for quite large pieces of wood.
As for cooking out, the Smoke Hollow easily roasts and Turkey and I also gave it a trial with an 8-pound brisket, which came out succulent and juicy.
Another positive with the Smoke Hollow comes courtesy of its build quality. The enamel finish appears strong and each single part has a reassuring feel out it. Costing $180, it’s one of the more expensive smokers I tested, and you can see where the money was spent.
If only they had given better instructions!
A heavier grill at almost 80 pounds, yet with a solid pair of carry handles. These handles make the Smoke Hollow an easier carry than the Masterbuilt at almost 30 pounds less!
You might have some trouble carrying this grill on camping trips; however, storing it in an outbuilding or shed shouldn’t be an issue at all.
2. Masterbuilt GS30D Gas Smoker
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
|Porcelain Coated Wood Chip Tray|
|Push Button Ignition|
|Cooking Area||717 sq/in|
I know, the name doesn’t exactly trip off the end of your tongue. Yet even though this isn’t called the Big Easy, it shows some promise. It comes with 717 square inches of smoking space and a well-engineered flame system so even cooking shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s 55 pounds in weight, slight more than the Big Easy and doesn’t have carry handles either. This is a smoker that’s probably going to send its days in your garden, rather than in your RV.
On a more positive note, customer service is well up there with the best and it’s an easy rig to use.
Setting It Up
As I said earlier, the Masterbuilt is a pretty easy grill to fire up. As with most propane grills it comes with push button ignition and gets to a steady 250 – 300 degrees in about 10 minutes. The instructions are great and it also comes with a customer service booklet that gives you some reassurance that you can get help when you need it. I’ve heard good things about the staff up at Masterbuilt so support should be easy to find.
My only real beef with the design is the lack of proper carry handles for the smoker. It’s quite light, so not a complete bust; however, it would have been nice to see some handles offered.
One of the cool features of the Masterbuilt, is the fact it has two doors. One for the grill and one for the smoker. This ingenious idea means that you don’t suffer with temperature drops when adding to the smoker section. Having said that, some heat does appear to escape through the doors in use so temperature regulation isn’t quite perfect, it’s okay but not as good as the Big Easy.
I ended up cooking ribs during the test of the Masterbuilt, and to be fair it did a respectable job with an even cook across the grill space and juicy meat at the end.
One thing that needs to be said, the quality of the Masterbuilt isn’t quite up there with the Big Easy. That’s a big surprise because the Masterbuilt costs about $20 more.
It’s lightweight, yet has no carry handles so this grill really isn’t one to be used on your travels. It’s obvious that Masterbuilt are looking towards the light use home market with this model.
3. Char-Broil Vertical Gas Smoker
Our Rating: (3.9/5)
|Porcelain Wood Chip and Water Pan|
|Cooking Area||595 Sq/In|
A smoker with a pretty cool name, the Big Easy is a reasonably sized grill that comes in at just under £150. That’s on the high side of my round up; however, it’s not a bad amount to spend on your first smoker.
This grill comes with Infrared Technology, which helps keep temperatures stable and allow cook your food more evenly. I don’t know about you but some grills have a terrible tendency to shunt heat disproportionately to one side of the grill – this feature could be a good one.
It can hold up to 25 pounds for roasting and comes with 180 square inches of space for grilling. That’s not a bad setup for smaller parties and family gatherings.
As with most propane smokers, it comes with a dedicated smoker box that you can use to pack in that smoked flavour everyone loves.
Setting It Up
Nice an easy is the watchword here, the propane tank is easy to attach and as with most propane models, it’s easy to get up to temperature. As far as propane tank size, it’s a standard 15-pound model you’ll be able to pick up from Blue Rhino.
It takes about half an hour to setup the Big Easy; instructions are easy to read and contain easy to follow pictures if you get stuck along the way. What I would say is that the grill is standard in its construction, so regular grill users shouldn’t really need them.
If you get stuck, invite a friend over who already uses grills, they’ll figure it out in no time – you can pay them back in brisket!
This is where the Big Easy lives up to its name. It’s easy to get good results with this grill and I would say it’s “newbie friendly”. I tried the grill with a whole chicken, smoking it for several hours. The results were very good and probably easier than using a wood pellet smoker.
Another positive, is that the insides of the chicken were moist, yet not watery as can sometimes happen with gas grills.
I also used it to cook ribs, which came out tender and juicy.
52 pounds and two carry handles make this easy to carry about. That’s not including the gas canister of course but a standard Blue Rhino model is an easy carry too.
Pros: Decent quality, easy to carry and cooks out well.
Cons: None, no seriously I couldn’t find one!
4. Landmann USA Vertical Propane Smoker
Our Rating: (3.9/5)
|Porcelain Coated Steel Water Pan|
|Total Cooking Area||1576 Sq/In|
|Cast Brass Burner|
Another 38-inch smoker and also similar in construction to the Smoke Hollow. The Landmann boasts 1576 square inches of cooking space and for my money a better temperature control system that the others featured.
The caps and controls on this model are also made of brass, which does away with the issue of rust!
Setting It Up
Easy ignition, a warm up time of about 5 minutes and instructions that are a joy to read. In the first 10 minutes of use I got the feeling that Landmann are all about quality.
It was quite easy to put together, I would say 45 minutes to an hour are needed in total but again, the instruction booklet was an easy read and informative. The smoke box and pan are really well made, so should last the life of the smoke with ease, in fact, the quality of the entire grill is superb.
The Landmann unit is heavy! It weighs an impressive 90 pounds so you’re unlikely to want to move this one in a hurry. Having said that, the fit and finish of the grill is good, so you’ll be able to keep using this outside without too many worries about rust.
I managed to fit an entire brisket inside, which were cooked perfectly. Ribs were also cooked well too and the instructions made cooking easy.
The only negative I found whilst cooking, is that the magnetic catches for the door are a bit weak. You need to ensure the door is properly closed to avoid it letting the heat out. I also found that the gas adjustment from very severe, you could easily adjust the temperature about 30 degrees with a small turn of the knob.
Just like the door, being careful was the order of the day!
Nope, you won’t be carrying this grill around much. It does have 2 decent carry handles; however, it’s not a million miles away from 100 pounds which puts it firmly outside of “fully portable”.
You should be able to carry out a 2 person lift to get it back into a shed or outbuilding.
Pros: A high quality piece of kit and one that should easily cater for larger crowds.
Cons: The price is high at about $350 plus some minor quality niggles (door catches and gas control knob)
Our Rating: (3.9/5)
Finally, a gas smoker on test that’s touted as truly portable. For those of you who read my reviews you’ll know I’m a traveler at heart, so any grill I can take on the road is one that’s speaking to me personally!
This Masterbuilt serves up 5000 BTU of heat, plus an easy to read temperature gauge and equally easy to use gas control knob. It also has a pair of folding legs that look suited to a life on uneven ground.
Setting It Up
Easy as pie! Part of the bonus of a portable grill/smoker is the fact the features tend to be paired down version of full size grills. That means there’s less to go wrong and less to setup in the first place.
I went from fully boxed up, to fired up in about 20 minutes. The proper heating up time is probably on the 10 – 15 minutes’ mark, a little slow but perfectly fine. Instructions were present and just as the earlier Masterbuilt model featured, customer service is at the heart of the way Masterbuilt do business.
My only gripe, and probably understandable considering the portable nature of the grill, is the small smoke box size. You’ll need to keep a close eye on it to avoid running low.
You can maintain quite low temperatures with the portable Masterbuilt. I could hold a steady 190 degrees with ease, making this a true smoker. Temperature stability was decent, allow it could easily run 10 degrees higher or lower at any given time.
My other slight gripe, is that the temperature isn’t completely even over the cooking area. You’ll need to shield some foods from the heat with foil to get the best out of it.
Other than that, the small Masterbuilt is a fine smoker for travelling and camping use. Its folding feet are lovely and skinny, great for using on sandy surfaces as you can sink them in. They’re also made of stainless steel which will help the grills longevity.
It’s lightweight and easy to carry, just as you’d expect.
Pros: A great package in a small frame.
Cons: Slightly more rough and ready than the other grills we tested. It is cheaper too!
Final thoughts on Which Gas/Propane Smoker to Buy
My overall favourite must be the Big Easy grill. It’s reasonably priced, great quality and is backed up by some solid customer service. It has a better system for temperature control than the rest and I found so real quality niggles.
My second choice is probably the Landmann; however, it comes with a rather high price tag so you’ll need to carefully consider it before buying.
If you need something a bit more portable, then Masterbuilts 20050116 has your back. It’s cheap price and solid performance outweighs minor quality issues. The same can’t be said about its bigger brother, choose the Big Easy instead.