Propane vs Charcoal Smoker: Which One Is Better?

Propane vs Charcoal Smoker

Are you afraid that it is impossible to find a perfect smoker for your favorite grilled cuisine? There is no denying that the choice will often be between propane vs charcoal smoker, as they both are incredibly popular. The fact is that you can only settle on one. But which one will provide you with more value?

A charcoal smoker gives you better value for your money as they have a cheaper upfront cost than propane smokers by about $100 for a budget model, the meat has a smokier and more tender flavor due to the way the smoke is produced by the charcoal and wood chips, and they leave a smaller carbon footprint on the environment.

From the smoky flavor provided by propane smokers to the tender meat tastes you get from charcoal smokers, it’s a hard decision to make. Fortunately, this article delves into smoker comparisons between gas and charcoal, as this could woo you to the most rewarding choice.

Typically, there is hardly a one-dimensional answer to this question, as many variables go into the distinction. Besides the different tastes they offer and the unrivaled performance they guarantee, it will only be fair to understand what they bring to the table.

Here are a few invaluable insights into these two types of smokers.

Propane Smoker

You can’t overlook the popularity of propane smokers; thanks to their convenience and the flavor they provide. 

One of the things you can’t separate with gas smokers is the fact that it highlights slow cooking and lower temperatures. Through this, they always give exceptional flavors. These smokers use propane to light and maintain a fire.

Most propane smokers come with not only robust construction, but also premium materials. Their design allows the smoker to withstand extensive heat. 

These smokers have a powder-coated exterior and multi-layers, ensuring that they remain effectively insulated. What is more, their construction allows them to work even under severe weather conditions.

You can’t ignore the incredible heat produced by propane smokers. They produce between 10,000 and 20,000 BTUs, with the highest number of BTUs being much better. 

They come properly designed with large doors that assure you of consistent heat. While at it, the desired temperature range produced is between 150F and 400F.

Propane smokers come in different sizes, assuring you of a variety of cooking capacities. Whether you need a small size, standard size, or a large size smoker, you can get the best one for you. 

For instance, a model with 6 cubic feet will comfortably accommodate a large family. If you are cooking for a small family, 3 cubic feet will be enough for you.

Thanks to the accessible controls, using propane smokers is much easier. The temperature controls on the propane smoker ensure that you get the best food in the long run. Whether you are smoking or roasting, enhanced control gives you the versatility that you need.

Did you know that propane smokers are much more straightforward to maintain? All you will need to do is clean the racks and wipe them whenever necessary. This is because gas smokers are not susceptible to blockage and creosote buildup.

Charcoal Smoker

These smokers smoke the food over a long period, with low indirect heat produced by burning charcoal. Charcoal smokers come with four critical sections, including the water pan, the cooking chamber, the lid, and the firebox.

The firebox, which is filled with the charcoal, generates the heat. Adding different kinds of wood chips here is what determines the flavor of your food. 

The cooking chamber is where you put your food, while the lid deters smoke and heat loss. The water pan is usually above the firebox, and it acts as a temperature control tool.

You will love the build quality on a charcoal smoker, thanks to the steel or iron construction. 

Most people advocate for stainless steel charcoal smokers, as they are much easier to maintain and even clean. The toughness allows them to withstand dust, wind, and severe weather conditions.

Charcoal smokers are very versatile as well. From their incredible digital PID controllers, to their reliable temperature-sensitive thermostats, you will love all the gadgets these smokers come with. 

Thanks to the various features they have, you will be free to use charcoal smokers in multiple ways without too much hassle.

It is hard to say how fuel-efficient charcoal smokers are, as they differ with the type. In most cases, the efficiency of your smoker will depend on how big the hopper is. 

The bigger ones will undoubtedly use the most. You might want to check out Kamado-style smokers, as they are more reliable in managing fuel.

Charcoal smokers provide an impressive cooking capacity. On average, vertical charcoal smokers come with up to 100 square inches of cooking space. 

There is no denying that charcoal smokers give you more than enough cooking capacity, allowing you the convenience you need. For this reason, they will be the ideal choice for large families.

Like anything you choose, there will always be a drawback. The Achilles heel of the charcoal smoker is they are not easy to use. It is not only hard to light but also to maintain the fire. 

Holding a constant temperature is not as straightforward as you may think, and intense cleaning is a must.

Propane vs Charcoal Smoker: Pros and Cons

Various pros and cons come with the use of charcoal and gas smokers. Looking at these two options shows you what a tough call it would be when choosing between them. 

If you want something that offers both reliability and great performance, propane smokers are the way to go. From how versatile they are, to how durable and robust their construction is, you will be sure of getting value for your money. 

As if that is not enough, you can use propane smokers regardless of the weather conditions. Indeed, with propane smokers, there will hardly be a night of displeasure. 

A highlight of these benefits will help in making logical decisions in the long run. Here is what you should know about each option you have.

Propane Smoker Pros

Propane smokers are ideal for those looking for smoky flavors on their meat. This type of smoker assures you of the following advantages.

Impressive Control

You can’t beat the value that comes with the temperature controls in propane smokers. Thanks to these controls, it is a lot easier for you to get the flavor and tenderness you desire. It also makes it simpler for you to operate the device.

Low Maintenance Costs

You don’t need to worry about accumulated debris. The cleaning process on a gas smoker is much simpler than a charcoal smoker. 

All you need to do use us mild soap on a washcloth and wipe down the inside of the smoker as well as the grates.  Rinse and then let dry. 

For a charcoal smoker you will need the scrape the bottom of the smoker to remove the buildup caused by the charcoal.

Ease of Use

Right from the onset, you will appreciate how straightforward using gas smokers are. The ignition and operation are easy to work. Also, there will be no need to worry about burning food, as control knobs are at your disposal.

Performance Under Weather Conditions

Whether it is raining or snowing, these smokers will comfortably provide you with the performance you need. 

There reliability under poor weather conditions will give you the convenience you need whenever you are outdoors. Since the heat is kept going by the propane tank, as long as the lid is closed, t will still function properly.

Propane Smoker Cons

  • The initial cost is relatively high
  • The intensity of the smoke produced is not the best
  • You will have to continually keep checking whether there are any leaks, as any leakage could expose you to safety issues

Charcoal Smoker Pros

The decision to purchase a charcoal smoker is one that you won’t regret, thanks to the value for money that you get. Most often, you will be sure of enjoying the following benefits.

Versatility and Portability

Modern charcoal smokers boast of various incredible features, allowing you to use them in different ways. 

The additional features make charcoal smokers not only functional but also aesthetically appealing. 

The thermostats and PID controllers in these smokers make them more attractive to consumers. Did you know that it is much easier to take these smokers on the road?

Robust Build Quality

Charcoal smokers often come with iron or steel construction, which gives you durability and longevity. It is much easier for the smoker to last long and withstand severe weather conditions with these materials. 

For instance, your charcoal smokers are less susceptible to rust and other destructive elements. For this reason, you will find it reliable in outdoor spaces.


There is not a lot of things that can go wrong with charcoal smokers because there are not a lot of moving parts. As long as you clean them regularly, they should last a long time. 

Besides, there are no burners or fuel connections that could expose you to safety issues. It is worth mentioning that enhanced insulation assures you of impressive safety levels in the long run.

Impressive Cooking Capacity

Charcoal smokers will comfortably accommodate a lot of food. Whether you are cooking for a small family or large group, this smoker can accommodate the amount of food you need. 

A charcoal cooking capacity can be anywhere from 200 square inches all the way up to 800 square inches.


The initial cost of charcoal smokers is relatively affordable. Depending on your budget, there are many good quality options to choose from. 

A budget option will start around $100 and the price can go up to $800 or even $1,000 depending on the brand and size smoker you want.  

The bigger the size and more features it has, will impact the price. A quality vertical smoker will run between $150 to $300. 

Pellet smokers are a little more expensive being around $400 to $500.

Charcoal Smoker Cons

Weather Conditions

Charcoal smokers are vulnerable to wind and other weather conditions. Since the heat source is dependent on charcoal, if it rains it could put out the smoke.

Intense Maintenance

Did you know that charcoal burners tend to accumulate a lot of debris? That means that you will have to keep cleaning your smoker from time to time. This task can be daunting and time consuming to complete.

Charcoal Is Expensive

As time goes by, charcoal gets expensive. That means that maintenance and operation costs are much higher in the long run. 

Bags of charcoal can run anywhere from $4, all the way up to $10 for a more premium brand. Depending on how often you use the smoker, you will need to consistently buy new bags.

Charcoal Smoker Taste vs Propane Smoker Taste

One of the reasons you will want to choose charcoal smokers over propane smokers is the taste they provide. 

Charcoal smokers will always give you of excellent quality of finished food, including incredible taste. Thanks to the intense smokiness, you will have your taste buds dripping. The smoked meat is also more tender. 

In contrast, propane smokers produce enough smoke, but the flavor is not as authentic as charcoal smokers.

Charcoal vs Propane Cost

If you are on a budget, your ultimate choice would be charcoal smokers. This type of smoker has multiple affordable entry-level units you can get. That is because they are much simpler, and the technology used is cheaper.

However, the running costs of propane smokers tend to be much more affordable. Usually, while you will spend an average of $0.40/hr on propane smokers, it will cost $0.50-$1.00/hr when operating charcoal smokers.

Charcoal vs Gas Grill Environment

With everyone getting more conscious of the environment, it will be wise to understand which option suits the environment.

Usually, propane smokers tend to leave a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal smokers. In contrast, charcoal smokers will leave up to 105 times of carbon footprint. 

With the carbon output of propane smokers being much lower, this is an option you will want to choose. While the smoke produced by charcoal smokers has the best flavor, its source could significantly affect your environment in the long run.

While at it, propane smokers could expose you to safety issues. Remember, they use gas, and this could cause fires if not checked. Any small leakage could end up bad.

Therefore, the battle for which option is ideal for the environment depends on what your objectives are. If you intend to enhance safety, your choice will be charcoal. On the other hand, propane smokers will be the ultimate choice for you to cut down on carbon footprint.

What’s The Best Type of Smoker: Propane or Charcoal

Thanks to the flavor produced by charcoal smokers, this is my favorite option. I recommend the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker. Here are a few insights into the device.

From its six stainless steel shelves to the ability to hold up to 25 pounds of food, you won’t regret this choice. It assures you of longevity and unmatched performance. 

The cooking area is relatively large, ensuring that you do not struggle a lot when cooking for larger groups.

This smoker comes with a multifunctional grill, as you will be free to rely on it as a traditional barbecue as well. That means that you can rely on this incredible smoker for smoking and grilling, giving you unrivaled convenience in the long run. 

As if that is not enough, it boasts astonishing temperature levels that will guarantee you the best food.

Besides its efficient ash management system, thermometer, and smoke zone indicator, you will find it affordable. Its ash management system comes with a removable steel ash pan, allowing you to enjoy enhanced convenience. 

The smoker indicator will ensure that you have an easier time when cooking, as there will be no need for guesswork. This is the best charcoal smoker for the money.

Tips To know Which Is Better Between Propane And Charcoal Smokers

The decision between propane and charcoal smokers is often a tough one to make. However, a few aspects could make this process much simpler for you in the long run. They include the following.

  • Confirm how reliable the product will be to you. Does it have all the necessary parts you need? How well is it constructed? Can it withstand severe weather?
  • Check how much you are willing to spend upfront and in the long run. If your budget is small in the beginning, charcoal smokers will be an ideal choice.
  • How easy is it to use? If you want a straightforward operation, propane smokers will be the best.
  • Flavor is the ultimate decider. For the best flavor and taste, charcoal smokers are all you can ever need

Final Thoughts

Having the best food will be a big factor in your decision-making process between propane or charcoal smokers. As you decide between these two options, the insights provided above will come in handy in guiding you accordingly. 

From the upfront cost to how functional the smoker is, make sure you choose carefully. This way, you will be confident in getting the ultimate return on investment at the end of the day.

Drew Thomas

My name is Drew Thomas and I’m the creator of Fun In the Yard, your one stop site for all your outdoor games, sports, party activities, outdoor gear, and lawn & gardening tips.

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