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It takes some time and research to find a great smoker. There are so many models from which to choose that deciding on the right one for your needs can be difficult. You need to find a combination of even heat distribution and an affordable price.
That’s why we took it upon ourselves to identify the five best offset smokers under $500. We scored each model by its affordability, durability, ease of use, and efficiency.
We also considered models that, with small modifications, could really shine. Read on to find out more about our winners.
How to Pick The Best Offset Smoker?
If you’ve seen the dazzling array of offset smokers on the market, you know that it’s easy to get overwhelmed quickly. Part of the problem is that so many models look similar, so you have to look beyond appearance.
When choosing the right smoker for your needs, it’s essential that you not get distracted by flashy features. Instead, consider how much use you’ll get out of each feature. For example, do you really need a grill and smoker that runs on gas, charcoal, wood, and electricity?
Of course not. And trying to get it all in one will cost you far more than $500. So, save yourself some cash by choosing an offset grill with only the features that are worthwhile for your specific smoking needs.
Types of Offset Smokers
There are two main types of offset smokers – traditional and reverse-flow ones. Your chances of finding the latter in this price range are limited, but let’s have a look at the differences anyway:
These are, by far, the most popular smokers today. The advantage is that these models are tried and tested extensively. The disadvantage is that they require a bit more work to smoke meat to perfection. For example, you’ll need to turn over the meat on many models to ensure even cooking because these models rely on direct heat to cook your food.
Reverse Offset Smoker
A reverse-offset smoker works on a slightly different principle – using indirect heat. The advantage is that your food cooks more evenly, so you don’t have to flip it halfway through cooking. The disadvantage is that your food will take longer to prepare.
Is Modification Necessary?
Whether a grill needs modification is a critical consideration in the under-$500 price range. As you read our reviews, pay attention to our recommendations for modifications, where necessary. These recommendations are low-cost and easy to install. The changes might affect the validity of your warranty, though, so pay heed to that.
That said, sending a smoker back to the manufacturer for modifications usually is too expensive to be worthwhile – especially in this price range.
Nine times out of ten, we recommend resealing the seams on your smoker with silicone. It doesn’t take long, and it can make a big difference in terms of efficiency.
Other times, we might suggest changing out the seal altogether. Again, this doesn’t take long and is relatively easy.
Most of the time, we’ll also suggest replacing the factory-standard temperature gauge, as the factory ones often are not highly reliable.
What Should You Look for in the Right Smoker for You?
This is the million-dollar question, for sure. Fortunately, it’s also relatively simple to answer. Let’s go through features that are vital to consider before purchasing a new offset smoker:
Start with heavy-gauge steel, preferably stainless steel, as it lasts well and is highly effective at managing heat.
Paint finishes in this price range are a little tricky. Some manufacturers use paint that chips or scratches easily. While the result is mainly a cosmetic issue, it is necessary to seal the metal beneath the paint to prevent rusting. A cover will help preserve it from further deterioration.
The temperature gauges that you use to monitor cooking temperatures must be dependable. Otherwise, it’s going to be impossible to achieve consistency in your cooking. If your model comes with a cheap gauge, it’s usually worth changing it out or backing it up with an in-meat thermometer.
Purchasing a cover with your smoker is crucial, especially if it will be exposed to the elements. Even if it’s stored in your garage, though, a cover will help to keep it dust-free.
Seals and Dampers
The quality of the cooking results you achieve depends directly on how well the gaps in the exterior of your smoker are sealed and how well the dampers work. Choose high-quality options here because it makes the most difference to your barbeque experience. A good seal means better heat retention and fuel efficiency.
There are many smokers out there that include a range of electronic components. And while these upscale additions have their place, they also add to the price. What’s more, replacing them can be difficult.
In general, it’s better to stick to a simpler model because there’s less to go wrong.
Top 5 Offset Smoker Under $500 Reviews
- Made from heavy-gauge steel
- Powder-coated with porcelain to ensure that the finish lasts
- 15,000 BTU burner comprises heavy-duty cast iron
- Electronic ignition system lights the fuel quickly and easily
- 784 square inches of space in the smoking area
- Holds as much as 100 pounds of food at one time
- Innovative primary and secondary door system makes it possible to add chips without disrupting the airflow in the main chamber
- You get six removable racks, so it’s easy to make space for more significant cuts of meat
- You can order a tailored cover, separately, if you choose
Why is this in the top spot? Let’s take a look.
This model is tops with us, in part because of its door design. When you need to add more wood chips, you don’t have to open the main door. The charcoal chamber is offset and has a separate door, which is a significant benefit because you don’t continuously interrupt your cooking temperature to add charcoal or wood chips.
The burner on this unit comprises heavy-duty cast iron for maximum durability. The electronic ignition system means that you don’t have to deal with matches or lighters.
The Dyna-Glo D Charcoal Offset Smother has more space than most people would ever need – it holds up to 100 pounds of food at once! So, load up the meat, veggies, and other side dishes, if you’d like. If you cook at home for large groups of family and friends, you’ll love the extra capacity you get with this model.
The smoker itself works exceptionally well. It is a little heavier on the coal than others that we’ve reviewed, but that makes sense, given its size.
On the downside, clients have mentioned that it’s not ready to go out-of-the-box. Assembly is reasonably straightforward, but some users suggest changing out the seals. Making this change is not a difficult task if you’re even a little handy, and new seals don’t add substantial cost.
If you consider the low price that you have to fork out for this model, it’s well worth making a few modifications.
- Uses charcoal
- Barrel and iron grates are non-stick and easy to clean
- Charcoal drawer is removable, so you can easily add charcoal or clear out the ashes. The bottom has two layers of steel for maximum durability
- You get 580 square inches of cooking space, plus 250 square inches of rack space in the side box
- Delivers a total of 830 square inches of space for cooking and smoking
- Comes with a temperature gauge and storage rack
- Wheels make it easy to move the grill around your backyard
This is another terrific smoker for the price. You’ll get plenty of room to work with, and it’s easy to add coals and remove ashes.
The cast-iron grates are super-durable and allow for even heating of the meat. We also like the non-stick surface of the grate.
So, how well does this model smoke meat? Very well! Meat comes out heated evenly and tasting fantastic!
We do, however, suggest the following modifications to maximize your results:
- Change the factory thermometer. It works OK, but it’s not of the highest quality.
- Consider resealing the seams with silicone. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it’s an excellent way to improve the efficiency of virtually any smoker.
We have no significant durability issues with this model. The steel is of a decent thickness and should last well, though the powder coating tends to chip off reasonably quickly. As a result, we don’t recommend putting it in a high-traffic area.
If paint chipping off is going to bother you, it’s better to look for a different model. We’re more interested in the results rather than aesthetics, so we don’t think peeling paint is a dealbreaker.
- Easy assembly
- Flake-proof coating
- Overall cooking surface is 800 square inches
- Grilling surface is 438 square inches
- Warming rack is made from chrome and gives you 179 square inches of warming space
- Offset smoker provides an additional 183 square inches of space
- Racks are made from steel coated with porcelain for maximum durability
- Smoker has two doors – the main one and a side one for charcoal
- Storage shelf beneath the cooking area
- Adjustable damper makes it easy to control the airflow
Considering that this model comes in under $150, it gets our best value for the money award. Let’s see why.
To be completely honest, a more advanced smoker aficionado probably would want something a little better. This model is quite plain and certainly not competition-ready. That said, it’s perfect for beginners or casual meat smokers.
It’s quite easy to assemble and learn to operate.
One thing about this model that we really appreciate is its side door. When you open this, you’re not going to lose much smoke. And this smoker is reasonably efficient, with more than enough space for most users.
You can load up five pounds of charcoal at a time and can adjust the height of the coal easily.
The meat comes out with a real steakhouse flavor. If you’d like to change things up, use different types of charcoal.
Now let’s look at the downside: Considering the low price tag, you can’t expect too much, but you’ll get all the basics you need. To improve efficiency, though, we recommend:
- Replacing the thermometer
- Lining the seams with silicone
Neither of these steps is critical, but these modifications will enhance the smoker’s performance and durability. Finally, we do suggest getting a cover for when you aren’t using this grill.
- Overall cooking area of 730 square inches
- Primary cooking area gives you 443 square inches of space, and the smoking area adds 287 square inches
- Body is made from heavy-gauge steel
- Racks are made from steel coated with porcelain
- Handle is spring-loaded and stays cool to the touch
- Wheels are large and steel for maximum durability
- Temperature gauge included
Dyna-Glo makes a series of high-quality grills at reasonable prices. That’s why this one made our list of the top five smokers under $500.
This grill-smoker combo offers a lot of value for the money, and the wheels make it easy to push it over uneven terrain.
It performs pretty well, but we didn’t give it top spot because you might need to make modifications. It’s not a big deal, but sealing the seams will help you get the perfect seal.
The temperature gauge makes it easy to ensure that your food cooks with even heat. The high-gauge steel will last well, and the unit is easy to use and clean.
This combo performs well, too. The heat is distributed evenly, without hotspots. This unit also provides a hefty grilling space – more than enough room for the average family.
Cleaning requires a simple wipe-down, including the grates, thanks to their porcelain coating.
Overall, you’re getting great value for money here. Could this smoker be better? Sure, but you can quite easily make it better by resealing the seams.
If you’re just starting with smoking, you’ll find this model easy to learn to use. If you’re a competition-level smoker, you might want to look for something else.
- 477 square inches of cooking space
- Smoking chamber is made up of three sections to keep smoke in and retain even temperatures
- Cooking grates are steel, powder-coated with porcelain for maximum durability
- Firebox is easy to clean
- A shelf on the side of the firebox holds cooking utensils, spices, and the like
- Easy to assemble
- Easy to clean
Considering the price point, this smoker performs well. The three chambers make it easy to prepare various types of food at the same time once. And you get more than enough capacity for the average family. It does require some practice to get the temperatures right, though.
We like the side shelf on the outside of this unit. It has a fair amount of space and is convenient for holding meat while you get the smoker going.
The chimney with damper makes it easy to adjust internal temperatures without opening the lid.
On the downside, you’re probably going to need a bottle of silicone sealant here. Some clients complain that some of the holes are too big, but lining these and the seams fixes this issue quickly.
We also heard complaints of the unit’s paint bubbling up when things get heated inside. That’s disappointing, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
If you purchase a cover for this grill, the paint bubbling is no more than a cosmetic issue. And it’s probably worth it, considering the terrific price for this smoker.
In the end, the issues we found are relatively minor and easy to fix. This griller-smoker is a good budget buy that should last for a long time. It’s an excellent option for beginners and casual smokers.
Professional or competition-level smokers should look for something else.
Often when we do these types of reviews, it becomes difficult to choose a clear winner. That was not the case here, though. The Dyna-Glo D Charcoal offset smoker was the easy winner. It produces that mouthwatering smoky flavor and offers even heating.
Its capacity is excellent, as is the price. But the deciding factor on this one is the convenient side door for changing out coals in the smoker. It makes refilling and emptying a breeze, and you don’t have to open the whole barrel, which would allow smoke and heat to escape.
Overall, the Dyna-Glo D Charcoal delivers a sturdy, efficient smoker. That said, it is a trendy model, so if you find one, get it quickly, because it sells out fast!