With hoppers that can automatically load fuel into the smoker and thermostats that monitor and automatically maintain the desired temperature inside the cooking chamber, the best vertical pellet smoker options are not only effective in their purpose, but also easy to use.
Continue reading to learn the most important considerations to keep in mind when hunting for a vertical pellet smoker—and don’t miss our roundup of top-favorite smokers and accessories, below!
- BEST OVERALL: Pit Boss Grills 5.5 Pellet Smoker
- BEST UPGRADE: Louisiana Grills Vertical Pellet Smoker
- BEST PORTABLE: ASMOKE Portable Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
- BEST ALTERNATIVE: LIZZQ Premium Pellet Smoker Tube
- BEST PELLET VARIETY PACK: BBQr’s Delight Wood Smoking Pellets
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Vertical Pellet Smoker
Size, temperature controls, and material are just a few of the key factors to consider when looking for a vertical pellet smoker.
Pellet smokers tend to be larger and heavier than their electric and gas cousins. Average-size units measure approximately 26 inches wide, 22 inches deep, and 55 inches high. They can weigh anywhere between 70 and 100 pounds. This heft makes pellet smokers less portable than typical gas or electric models, but it also usually gives them more cooking capacity.
The best vertical pellet smokers have four to six cooking racks for a combined total of up to 2,000 square inches in cooking area. The racks themselves can be adjusted or even removed.
A quality pellet smoker usually has a steel body with thick walls, as well as tight seals around the door to minimize heat loss. The door should have a thick, tempered glass window, allowing you to observe food as it cooks.
Inside, a pellet smoker usually has stainless steel walls and porcelain-coated steel racks. This type of rack tends to be longer-lasting than racks made of rust-prone materials like cast iron. Stainless steel and porcelain-coated steel are also easier to clean after the day’s cooking is done, because they have nonstick coatings that resist grease buildup.
Most vertical smokers have casters on their feet for mobility. To support the considerable weight of the smoker, these casters are usually made of metal or high-quality hard plastic.
One alternative to a vertical smoker is a smoker tube, which turns any grill into a smoker. This device consists of a small metal tube that is filled with pellets and placed in the fuel area of a gas, charcoal, or electric grill.
A smoker’s hopper is a large compartment at the side or back of the smoker that holds the smoker’s supply of pellets. The hopper automatically feeds wood pellets into the smoker’s burner, eliminating the need for the operator to manually feed the fire. A door at the top of the hopper allows the user to add more pellets as needed.
A satisfyingly large hopper can hold around 40 pounds of pellets. This is sufficient fuel for the smoker to burn for 24 hours or more—more than enough time to cover the 10 to 12 hours it takes to smoke most meats. Larger models can hold up to 60 pounds of pellets, which is enough to fuel 36 hours of operation. High-quality hoppers have a clear, tempered-glass window to allow the user to see how many pellets are remaining.
Unlike smokers that use other types of fuel, a pellet smoker starts with an electric ignition, eliminating the need to use accelerants. The area where the fuel burns is separate from the cooking area, minimizing the risk of the user coming into contact with an open flame.
A vertical pellet smoker can cook at a wide range of temperatures, from levels as low as 150 degrees Fahrenheit all the way up to around 450 degrees. The best vertical pellet smokers offer more precise temperature controls than those of other smoker types.
Many models boast digital panels that enable the user to dial in a precise cooking temperature. Also common are built-in thermostats that help automatically maintain the desired temperature inside the smoker. A thermostat can be considered a must-have, because a thermostat eliminates the need to continually monitor the smoker while it’s in operation.
Vertical pellet smokers often come with features that make them easier to operate. Some are programmable with auto-start igniters that turn the smoker on and off automatically.
Many models also have a large window on the door, allowing the user to monitor the status of the food being cooked without having to open the door and cause heat loss.
While most pellet smokers are far too heavy to move easily, many sit on caster wheels, which allow the user to move the smoker to different positions on the deck or patio with relative ease.
Pellets also come in different flavors, ranging from apple to mesquite to hickory, giving the user a variety of flavor options to choose from when smoking meat, vegetables, cheese, or bread.
Our Top Picks
With a design that allows for easy heat control and monitoring, this is an excellent all-around pellet smoker. At 29 inches wide and 28 inches deep, the smoker doesn’t hog space on a deck or patio, yet it provides plenty of cooking area with more than 1,500 square inches of rack space.
Being able to monitor food—without having to sneak peeks by opening the door and releasing heat—is a huge plus with any smoker. This model offers maximum visibility, thanks to a window that spans almost the entire door.
Another notable feature is a programmable digital thermostat that makes setting the cooking temperature easy. A hopper that holds 40 pounds of pellets keeps the smoker fueled for 24 hours of smoking or more.
Its six racks and more than 2,000 square inches of cooking surface give this smoker some of the highest capacity of any pellet smoker. Thanks to a 60-pound hopper that allows for up to 35 continuous hours of cooking, this premium unit comes well equipped for smoking meat.
A large window on the door gives you the ability to view the smoker’s interior throughout the entire cooking process, while digital controls allow for the smoker to be set at a precise temperature between 150 degrees and 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
With its large casters, this smoker can easily roll into position for cooking and then back into a corner for storage.
With pellet smokers weighing as much as 100 pounds, their movement tends to be limited. With a total weight under 50 pounds—and a size of just 25 inches wide, 18 inches wide, and 14 inches high—this pellet smoker-and-grill combo is small enough to take on the road.
Though it doesn’t offer the cooking area of a full-size pellet smoker, it offers a surprising amount of capacity for its size, with 256 square inches of cooking surface on two racks. An LED screen and a programmable meat probe make it easy to set the smoker and eliminate the need for close monitoring.
Pellet smokers can be a significant investment. This smoker tube offers a more affordable alternative. Simply pack the tube with smoker pellets, light it, and put it inside any grill to infuse food with a smoky flavor. Made of stainless steel, the tube is both durable and easy to clean. It also puts off very little heat, which makes it a good option for cold-smoking foods, such as fish, fruit, cheese, and bacon.
If you’re new to smoking meats and vegetables, consider this variety pack for its broad spectrum of flavors. Add cherry or apple for a mild and sweet fruity taste, mesquite for a stronger bite, or pecan for a sweet and nutty effect. Each bag includes 1 pound of pellets that will work in any smoker, and these pellets do not need to be soaked in water.
FAQs About Vertical Pellet Smokers
Read on for the answers to some of the most common questions about using and caring for vertical pellet smokers.
Q. How do pellet smokers work?
Pellet smokers work by heating a chamber to around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is created by burning pellets at the bottom of the smoker’s cooking chamber. The heat then rises to cook the meat or veggies on the above racks. A hopper slowly adds pellets to feed fuel to the fire.
Q. How do I clean my vertical pellet smoker?
Remove all of the grates and clean them separately by scrubbing them with a brush and soapy water. Wipe down the interior of the smoker using a damp rag to remove any grease or ash that has collected inside. If needed, use a small amount of dish soap to cut the grease that has collected on the interior of the smoker.
Q. How do I maintain my pellet smoker?
After each use, run the smoker on high for 10 minutes. This will burn off any grease or food particles left in the smoker. Then brush away any residue or ash from the inside of the smoker. Remove the grease tray, empty it, and clean it. Use a damp rag to wipe any drips of grease from the inside of the smoker. If you spot any peeling paint, repair it immediately to prevent rusting.
Q. How long will my vertical pellet smoker last?
If properly maintained, a pellet smoker can last 10 years or more.