Vertical smokers are unlike anything on the market. Some don't fully understand their strengths and often confuse them with pellet smoker grills. Here are a few noteworthy considerations to bear in mind when purchasing a vertical smoker purchase.
Vertical smokers historically will not exceed a certain heat temperature due to the fact that they are most widely used for low and slow smoking. A typical vertical smoker temperature range can be as low as 150°F all the way up to 350°F. If you're looking for giant orange flames kissing your burgers, then these types of smokers are probably not what you're looking for. (See our pellet grills category.) Vertical smokers are good at one thing, and one thing only--low-temperature cooking.
TYPES OF FOOD
As mentioned above, you likely won't be grilling burgers on your vertical smoker. However, you can find numerous cookbooks dedicated specifically to vertical smoker cooking. Try your hand at smoked salmon, ribs, a whole turkey, brisket, and even pies! We know the art of cooking low and slow takes a lot of patience among other things, but if you're on a mission to create some of the best smoked food then you're in the right place.
Price is possibly the most influential detail to a consumer. Price points are set based on bells and whistles, power sources, and unfortunately, even brand. Vertical charcoal and/or water smokers can be as little at $50. If you're unsure of the use you'll get out of the smoker, we suggest starting there. Propane vertical smokers can start around the $100 range, continuing up to $700+. Wood-fueled can be upwards of $500-1,000+. We suggest buying a vertical smoker that fits within both your budget and cooking style.
Vertical smokers can be powered by many different fuel sources. Electric, charcoal, propane tank, etc. This decision is completely up to you and your preferred cooking methods. You can do some of your own diggings, but we think you'll come to find that everyone's opinions are just that--their own opinions. At Camp Chef we have two different sources of power available for purchase.
Our Smoke Vault line is propane powered. If your back patio already has a Weber or Charbroil propane grill or sorts--maybe it makes sense to add another propane-powered cooker for convenience purposes. (Add flavor or moisture later by utilizing the water pan and wood chip tray.)
The 2019 launch of the Vertical XXL Pellet Smoker was a shock to the smoking world. This beauty is plugged into the wall and fueled by hardwood pellets (not wood chips.) If you're bored of the propane scene and are looking to add automatic flavor, you may consider the XXL Vertical Pellet Smoker. Keep patio space in mind when purchasing your smoker. This unit is an absolute tank when comparing the overall footprints of other vertical smokers.
VERTICAL SMOKER VS. PELLET GRILL
Lastly, as stated above, if you're looking for a twofer, meaning a grill that renders both low and slow and directly flame grilling--you may want to change direction and consider a pellet grill. The purchase may cost you a little more upfront, but there are a vast number of cooking profiles available on a pellet grill vs. a vertical smoker. Pellet grills allow you to bake, smoke, and grill, etc. (to name a few) on one unit. Pellet grill temperature ranges are usually between 160°F-500°F. (Add a Sidekick and you'll get upwards of 750°F!)
On the flip side, a standard size pellet grill will take up more space on your back patio. If space is truly an issue there are a few miniatures (so to speak) pellet grills on the market as well.