Best BBQ Smokers UK – Expert Buying Guide & Review

The sizzle of the barbeque is one of the most glorious sounds (and smells) of the UK’s warm season.  Meat smokers take this a step further.  They cook meat really slowly, so that it ends up beautifully tender as well as utterly, smokily delicious.

If you know you’re in the market for a BBQ smoker, then you could just head on down to our best BBQ smokers review.  If, however you’d like to know a bit more about meat smokers and what makes a good one, then please keep reading and we’ll give you a buying guide to the best meat smokers.

Best BBQ Smokers UK - Review

Best meat smokers buying guide

Here are the five key points to check when you’re looking for a meat smoker.

Durability and insulation

Build quality is going to vary with price but even an entry-level meat smoker needs to be robust enough to do the job and stand up to at least some wear and tear.  Regardless of how much you pay for your meat smoker, good insulation is a must, otherwise the best you can hope for is that a lot of your heat will be wasted and the worst is that someone will get burned.

Ease of cleaning

Anything you use for cooking needs to be kept thoroughly clean, otherwise you can get all kinds of issues starting with bad smells and moving up to pest infestations and food poisoning.  The easier your meat smoker is to clean, the more likely it is that you’ll clean it properly.

Temperature monitoring

Frankly with budget-level meat smokers, you’re probably going to need to put some of the money you’ve saved on the purchase price towards buying a secondary thermometer.  Ideally, however, you’d like a meat smoker to have a way of keeping track of the temperature.

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Portability

This one is relative, but it’s worth considering.  Some meat smokers are designed to be used on the move and some are designed to be used in one place.  With the latter, portability may not be a very big deal, but even so, you’re probably going to be putting your meat smoker into storage for at least part of the year, so you might want to think about how easy it will be to pack up and move when the cold weather arrives.

Safety

The easiest way to ensure that you get a safe meat smoker is to stick to reputable brands and buy from established retailers.  As long as you do that, then any safety issues will relate to how you use your meat smoker, rather than the meat smoker itself.

In particular, think about good ventilation and about ensuring that people are protected from smoke and heat (although a good meat smoker will not usually give off a lot of external heat).  You’ll also want to think about siting your meat smoker in a place where it’s safe from being grabbed or knocked by pets, children or just people generally wandering around.

Only use wood chips (or powder) intended for cooking and if you make your own then you need to make absolutely sure that you’re using untreated wood.  Using wood which has been sprayed with chemicals (or exposed to excess traffic fumes) could have very unpleasant consequences.

Last but not least, for safety and performance, it’s very much preferable to use good quality charcoal or briquettes.

5 Best BBQ Smokers UK

Best BBQ Smokers Review

Here’s our round-up of what we think are the best BBQ smokers on the UK market right now.  We’ve picked them on a combination of build quality, performance and price, essentially overall value for money.  There are options at every price point, from super-budget to super-high-end, so you’re sure to find a meat smoker which suits you.

ARINO Smoking Gun

ARINO Smoking Gun Infusion Smoker Portable

This isn’t really a proper meat smoker.  To be fair, it isn’t priced like one either.  There is literally no way to cook meat with this device.  If, however, you’re really short on space (or budget) and just want to add a smokey, BBQ taste to cooked meat, then this little smoking gun could do the job nicely.

Overall, we’re very happy with the construction and ease of use.  Our one gripe is that it’s a bit of a pain to insert the batteries.  Basically you need to hold the backplate in place while you’re closing the battery compartment, which we think is a bit fiddly.  Also please note that although this device can use herbs and even tea as well as the standard wood chips, you cannot use wood powder.

In principle, you can use this meat smoker both indoors and outdoors.  In practice, if you’re going to use it indoors, make sure you do so in a well-ventilated area, unless you really are happy to live with the “smokey” smell for quite some time afterwards.  It is, however, very portable so you could easily take it with you on trips to the great outdoors (or just round a friend’s place).

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Callow Retail Outdoor Smoker Oven

Callow Retail Outdoor Smoker Oven

Honestly, this isn’t the most robust meat smoker we’ve ever seen.  Maybe that’s the price you pay for compactness and portability.  To be fair, however, the quality is very decent for this price level and we’re quite happy that it’s safe in use.  At least it is if you use it as intended, namely with the included meth burner.  Do not use it on a standard hob as this will generate far too much heat.  Remember that the whole point of a meat smoker is to go really low and really slow.

According to the instructions, this meat smoker runs on wood powder, but we’ve heard a lot of people just use standard wood chips.  This seems to be especially popular for people who take this meat smoker out into the wild.  You just wrap the wood chips in tin foil to transport them and then poke a few holes in the foil before use.  This also helps to supplement the drip tray (or it can work instead of a drip tray if you lose it).

The dual-burner system works very nicely and there’s good control over the level of heat, partly thanks to the regulator valve in the lid.  Basically, if you’re only cooking small amounts, then this is a very nice little option, especially if you want to smoke in the great outdoors.

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Deuba BBQ Smoker Upright

Deuba BBQ Smoker

We’re including this BBQ smoker because it offers a decent performance and great value for money.  It has its limitations, but it could be a great choice if you’re on a tight budget, or if you just want a starter kit to see if meat smoking is for you before you start thinking about spending a chunk of money on a serious meat smoker.  It could be a great addition to outdoor get-togethers and it’s affordable enough that you probably won’t be too bothered if it’s only used occasionally.

Overall build quality is decent.  We’re totally fine with it from the point of view of safety, although we wouldn’t recommend trying to move it while it’s in use as the advertising says you can do.  To be fair, we doubt you’d actually burn yourself, since the heat output is minimal.  You’re not going to be using this meat smoker to replace (or double up as) a proper outdoor heater.  We just think moving it while in use would be an accident waiting to happen.

Our issue is more that it’s a bit of a pain to put together and you need to take the time to get everything right for it to work properly, otherwise you’ll have issues with the flow of air, which could impact your results.  Get it right, however, and all you’ll need is a chimney starter and an extra thermometer since the supplied one seems to be consistently useless.  It also seems to have been designed with the U.S. market in mind as the markings for Fahrenheit are noticeably larger and clearer than the marks for celsius.

Overall, we’d say that if you want to smoke large joints of meat, then you’d probably be best to cook them the regular way first and then use this meat smoker to add extra flavour.  If you want to smoke smaller pieces of meat or fish, then you could cook them ahead, but we think they’d be fine cooking just in this meat smoker.

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Callow Premium Charcoal Smoker BBQ Grill

Premium Charcoal Smoker BBQ Grill

This is the very big brother of the other option from Callow, but it has more in common with the Deuba meat smoker reviewed above.  In fact, it’s essentially an improved version of the Deuba and priced to match.  It still has its issues, but we suspect that, for the price, most people will happily live with them.

The main issues are that this BBQ smoker is a pain in the teeth to put together and it also has a useless thermometer (this seems to be a common issue) but this is easy enough to fix.  You’re probably going to need a bit of practice to get used to it, but then that’s probably true of any meat smoker.

On the plus side, the construction quality is really good, especially for the price, so you can expect it to stand up to a lot of use.  We’ve heard some people complaining that the temperature doesn’t go very high, but we don’t understand why as the whole point of meat smokers is to go low and slow and this BBQ meat smoker is more than up to the task.  In fact, unlike the Deuba, we think it’s more than capable of handling big joints like pork shoulder without pre-cooking.

In short, we think this BBQ smoker is a great option if you have the budget to go premium rather than super-high-end.

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CosmoGrill Outdoor XL Smoker Barbecue

CosmoGrill Outdoor XL Smoker

If you do have the budget and want the biggest and best (at least for home use), then this is it.  Build quality is great and it’s very easy together, provided, of course, that you follow the instructions.  In particular, you really want to get the panels in the right places the first time around.  The CosmoGrill works beautifully as both a BBQ and a meat smoker and really we’ve nothing but praise for it.

Best BBQ smokers conclusion

Objectively, the CosmoGrill is the best BBQ smoker by far, but it’s also priced to match.  If you’re on a tighter budget and/or just aren’t going to use a meat smoker that much, then we’d say that each of the meat smokers on this list is the best BBQ smoker at its price point.

Jeff Ellis

If it builds, screws or fixes, Jeff knows all about it. Former Joiner and handyman with over 25 years in the business, Jeff is our 'hands-on' tools, garden and hardware expert. Our in house heavy lifter, you certainly know when he’s around. BIG guy with a big heart, super warm and friendly guy. Always eating and always active, Jeff literally never stops, always has a smile on his face but more importantly for our readers, is an expert reviewer

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