The smoker must delivers tender, juicy, flavorful meat quickly and cleanly with ease while taking up minimal space in your kitchen.
Oftentimes, the best smoker under 400 is not the most expensive model on the market.
Under $400 is a great budget for your first smoker; it gets you more of what you need and less of what you don’t.
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There is a lot of research that goes into selecting the best smoker under 400. In this buying guide.
How to choose the best smoker under $400 for your need
There are many choices in size for smokers including full size, half size, mini and portable models. If you can cook for just yourself or family of four or less and want to smoke smaller portions at a time then a mini or small smoker is perfect for you.
Most smokers under 400 have basic temperature control and are not as good at smoking slowly at lower temperatures. There are exceptions; however, most small smokers will require adjustments as they smoke longer and/or at higher temperatures.
The temperature can easily be adjusted on most small smokers with large dials; however, I would look into a more advanced smoker that offers temperature control including a digital display and remote controls for even more versatility and accuracy.
If you are just starting out, this isn’t a major concern. However, as your knowledge and experience grow, you may want to upgrade to a smoker that can be controlled with ease and precision.
Smoke control is probably the most important factor when selecting a smoker. There are a variety of venting options and airflow settings that can be used with some smokers, however, this versatility is limited even by mid-range models due to the design of their small size.
If you have experienced any problems with smoke exiting your smoker or if you have concerns about your meat not being cooked thoroughly, smoke control should be your top priority when buying a smoker under 400. Some smokers will have an additional door or vents on the bottom of the smoker. While these can be convenient they can also limit airflow causing an increase in temperature as well as smoke.
When considering a smoker under 400, temperature control is not overly important as it’s not easy for a small smoker to hold steady low temperatures for a long time without affecting the quality of your meat.
While many options are available there are several models made by Brinkmann that combine top-quality construction with great features and strong performance.
Storage is the most important factor when it comes to determining which smoker to buy. If you want to store your smoker at home, a smaller, electric model that requires less maintenance than a wood-burning smoker will be a more cost-effective option for you.
On the other hand, if storing your smoker is not an option, then you should look for one that can hold its own against high heat and ongoing use without requiring much maintenance.
If you are interested in setting up a smoker for long-term storage, additional shelving may be needed to accommodate the weight.
You will want to make sure that you get a smoker with plenty of vents so that it can maintain proper airflow and temperature throughout; however, if you are only cooking occasionally, this feature may not be as important.
Using an electric smoker requires less maintenance than using a traditional wood-burning machine, which can mean more money invested in your cooker if you plan to store your smoker for long periods of time. Cooking Area
If you are only cooking for a few people, most electric smokers under $400 can handle the job just fine. However, if you want to feed your family or friends, you may want to consider a larger model.
Most electric smokers don’t have enough space for large turkeys and hams; however, there are some larger ones available if you look around on the market. Again, take into consideration your needs when it comes to cooking space.
Conditioning Your Smoker
If you buy the best smoker under 400 that has ever been created, it will deliver the worst possible results if you do not condition it correctly. While there may be differences in design and materials used, all smokers deserve to be seasoned with two simple steps; thorough cleaning and oiling.
Smoke production is crucial to ensuring that your meat gets cooked properly and evenly throughout when using a smoker under 400. Smoking meat at high temperatures for extended periods of time will cause it to dry out unless smoke is circulating nicely throughout all parts of your smoker. I recommend venting fans on most models for ventilation; however, it is possible to control smoke production with an exhaust valve or water tray which I would consider if you have specific needs in this area.
How to care for your smoker?
The best smoker under 400 will only be as good as its owner. In addition to properly preparing and using your smoker, you should also follow a few general guidelines when it comes to clean up and storage.
Storage for a newly purchased smoker is simple; just store it in an area that is dry, level, and away from areas where animals or children can have access to it. After heavy use, you may consider cleaning your smoker using the following steps.
Before Smoke Cleaning, soak the ashtray in a water solution to remove any debris from previous uses. Clean the grates and remove any residue using a wire brush, then wipe them down with warm water. After that, you can use soap and hot water to clean and sanitize the inside of your smoker.
Once your smoker has been cleaned, you must ensure that it is completely dry before inserting fresh wood or starting up the firebox again.
To dry a wet smoker, make sure it is completely dry, and then oil the exterior of your smoker with cooking oil or vegetable spray. Once this has been done, cover up the firebox and store your smoker in a cool, dry place
After every use, clean out all ashtrays and grease traps with hot water and dish soap. After that, wipe down all parts of your equipment using dish soap.
Price and Design
There are many factors that affect price; however, design and overall quality of construction play a very large role in how much money you will spend on your new smoker.
The more maintenance required, the more you will pay. The better the design, the higher the possibility that you can build additional shelves and storage. The fewer parts and accessories a smoker has, the lower its price point will be.
If you’re looking for a great smoker at an affordable price, brand name and quality of construction should play an important role in your decision-making process.
If you are looking for a great smoker at a decent price, then be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each type and brand. You may also want to ask a local expert or visit an outdoor store to get feedback on which smoker will serve your needs best.
What smoker works best in cold weather?
There are many different options for smokers that are designed with cold weather in mind.
If the temperatures are at or below freezing, you can use an electric smoker, although most models that require electricity will need a thermostat and/or an additional option for temperature control.
If the temperatures are low enough, you can use a traditional wood-burning smoker; however, if you live in an area that snows in the winter and/or are planning to store your smoker for long periods of time, then an electric smoker may be a good choice depending on your temperature needs.
What smoker should a beginner buy?
I would suggest that a beginner should have a small smoker under 600 sq. inches (one with an electric heating element) that is made from cabinet-grade plywood or another sturdy material.
In addition, the best smoker for beginners should have an enclosed firebox and adjustable temperature control so that you do not burn your meats as you get used to smoking.
If you have any further trouble deciding between all of the different options, I recommend heading over to your local BBQ store and talking with the employees about what smokers do well for which types of foods, what you will be using it for and whether or not it is possible to adjust the temperature on certain models.
What is the best-rated smoker?
The best-rated smoker is the one that you can afford and that works best for your needs. However, there are many great options available now including electric smokers, charcoal smokers, pellet smokers and water smokers.
How long does smoking meat take?
Most meat takes between 2 to 8 hours to adequately smoke depending on its thickness and the temperature of the smoker. Cooking time can vary widely depending on how hot your smoker gets and how much smoke is circulating throughout its chamber.
How long depends on many factors that vary from person to person; however, I recommend using a digital meter or a remote probe thermometer during the first few cooking sessions until you get a sense of how fast or slow your particular model runs with your cooking styles and tastes.
Hopefully, this list has given you an idea of what to look for when shopping around for your next smoker. No matter what type of food you are cooking and no matter what budget you are on, there are some great options available now.
If the price range is too high for your budget or if you simply do not see something that works for your family and needs, then it may be best to go with a well-known brand name that has long been in business or to look for one of the many options available from smaller manufacturers that produce quality smokers at affordable prices.
I hope this list has given you some ideas as far as what type of smoker is right for your needs and tastes.