Backyard BBQ pits

Marshall Cooper fires up his two main backyard pits, a Jambo J-3, front, and a custom oversize Pitts & Spits smoker. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

You have visited plenty of stops on the Texas BBQ trail and know what good barbecue is. You’ve experimented on the grill in the backyard, but need to buy the proper equipment to take the next step of becoming a serious backyard smoker and pit master.

Here are a few simple tips and options to help you make the right choice of backyard smoker.

Determine how many people you want to cook for at one time, how often you will be cooking and  how much you want to spend.

Slow smoking meats in the backyard is a considerable time commitment so consider the cost of a smoker as an investment that will help cook higher quality BBQ.

A good backyard smoker is well-built with plenty of airflow, good draw and maintains steady & even temperatures at the grate. It also needs to be large enough to cook on while minimizing radiant heat from burning the meats.

Insulated smokers will tremendously help produce steady temperatures and heat over long periods of time, which is crucial for making good BBQ. Selecting a functional smoker to cook backyard BBQ to meet your criteria can be overwhelming due to the hundreds of choices out there.

There are many different pit designs to choose from: bullet, off-set, aka log burner/stick burner (which is an indirect type design with the firebox off set to one side), gravity fed charcoal, Kamado ceramic cookers and pellet cookers.

Electric and gas oven smokers have been purposely omitted by the author.

Below is a short list of some backyard smokers that vary in design, size, results, and price. Again it gets down to the level of commitment you are prepared to pursue.

1. Old Smokey Charcoal Grill #22

These date back to 1923 and are widely used by backyard cookers. The build is not very durable, but for the money, who cares, it cooks really well. Good airflow and will maintain temps reasonably well. This pit is very versatile, as a smoker and a grill. It burns best with charcoal for heat and wood chunks for smoke flavor. Keep the fires small and it will treat you good!.  Average price: $65

2. Pit Barrel Cooker Co. 18.5” Classic Pit Package

These are a low cost entry and are a fantastic smoker favored by many. These cook really well, hot and fast. Briskets cook at 300+ F in 5-6 hours or less, producing great flavors. Is a great pit for the money.  Average price: $300

3. Weber Smokey Mountain 

Widely used by backyard cooks and professional competition pit masters, good build quality, cooks very well, excellent economical smoker.  Average price: $300 (18.5") & $400 (22.5")

4. Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

A better built & more expensive smoker for entry-level for backyard use, light gauge construction, maintaining even temps for long periods could be challenging.   Average price: $500

5. Traeger Grills Lil Tex Elite Wood Pellet Smoker

Good entry-level pellet smoker, Widely used by backyard cooks this is a popular member of the Traeger family of smokers. Average price: $630

6. Big Green Egg 18.25" Kamando Ceramic Smoker

Widely used by backyard cooks and professional competition pit masters, good build quality, cooks very well, excellent smoker. Extremely insulated that will maintain temps over a long period without much effort. Like any pit these will overheat if the fire is too large and can be difficult to bring the temp down due to the excellent insulation. Not a lot of airflow. Average price: $660 (15") & $850 (18.25")

7. Gateway 55 Gallon Drum Smoker

These are excellent smokers with excellent build quality, used by many professional competition cook teams.. They come ready to cook on and cook really well. Hot and fast. Briskets cook at 300+ F in 5-6 hours or less, producing great flavors. A great pit for the money.  Average price: $1080

8. Lang 36″ Smoker Cooker Model Offset

Smaller models are widely used by backyard cooks and the larger models used by competition pitmasters.  Average price: $1295+

9. MAK 1 Star General Pellet Smoker

Widely used by backyard cooks, good build quality, cooks very well, excellent smoker. Just load the hopper with wood pellets, set the thermostat and it will maintain the same temperature for as long as you need with a very clean fire. Average price: $1600

10. Pitts & Spitts Ultimate Smoker Offset Pit

Widely used by backyard cooks, and competition cooks. Okay on the build quality, Cooks very well, excellent smoker. Will produce good backyard BBQ. Average price: $2000

11. Stumps Baby Gravity Fed Smoker

Widely used by backyard cooks and competition pit masters, this versatile vertical charcoal smoker comes in a variety of sizes and is made with heavy-duty, durable materials.. Average price: $2200

12. Jambo Pits Backyard Offset Smoker

Excellent build quality, Widely used by backyard cooks, and competition cooks. cooks very well, holds heat and temperatures steady due to the insulated firebox and design. Average price: $2450

Editors note: Do you have a favorite smoker or any advice to share? Please leave a comment below to share with our readers. Thanks

Nelson Mateo

6 years ago

What about Myron Mixon Smokers??? Have several and they are top quality

Lloyd Bonafide

6 years ago

Myron Mixon put his name on a bunch of below average WATER cookers at far above premium prices built unp north by Yankees! They are overpriced and well below the quality of Jambo pits at lower prices built in TEXAS!

Beau Smith

6 years ago

Since this is a Texas BBQ post let's give Texas some respect. God Bless Jaime and Jambo but everything else is made in a lesser BBQ state or in China.
Big Hat Smokers and Grills is made right in the heart of Mansfield, Texas just South of Fort Worth. We build traditional offset custon crafted Smokers and Grills which come standard with a list of options. This is a great list and some good smokers but if you're Texan support small Texas business owners.

Mark condiff

6 years ago

I have a trailer mounted smoker my son made and need to sell it. Any suggestions on where or how to sell it?

Karen Adler

6 years ago

Thanks for sharing "tips for choosing the backyard smoker", this infomations very useful to me.

Lucy Tuazon

6 years ago

Thank you for sharing this different types of barbeque grills! This is fantastic, my husband and I loves having barbeques on the weekends together with our kids. I personally like the "Old Smokey Charcoal Grill", I like that it has a good airflow and can maintain temps reasonably well.

Wayne Carson

5 years ago

gatorpit of texas is a great quality smoker and grill. make backyard pits to trailer pits, excellent product!!

Austin Top 5 plus Snow's

Texas BBQ Posse eBook Let the Meat Speak for Itself

Texas BBQ Posse eBook CTA 336x280

Texas BBQ Posse eBook Let the Meat Speak for Itself

Copyright 2023 © All Rights Reserved