Update Summer 2023: Vertical Pellet Smokers are losing favor with manufacturers. Finding quality pellet smokers in this style has become increasingly difficult. We removed several vertical pellet smoker reviews from our top picks as they are just no longer available.
Finding the best vertical pellet smoker is both simple yet slightly challenging. There are relatively limited producers of this style of vertical smoker for sale. Most of the vertical bbq smoker industry is dominated by electric smokers that use wood chips. Traditional electric smokers use heating elements to control the heat while slowly burning off the wood chips.
Pellet smokers on the other hand use 100% hardwood pellets to heat and smoke your food. They require much less electricity as it is only pulling enough power for the digital readout and to turn the auger to feed the smoker. The best vertical pellet smoker will have a digital control board, a large hopper capacity, and a higher temperature threshold.
Related Article: Best Pellet Grills Under $500: Flavor-Filled Cooking on a Budget
Vertical Smoker vs Pellet Grill
If you’re looking to upgrade your outdoor cooking options, you may be debating between a vertical smoker and a pellet grill. With a vertical smoker, you get the taste of classic slow cooked barbecue with the added bonus of having the direct flame benefit. The wood chips smolder slowly, meaning that low and slow is the name of the game.
On the other hand, a pellet grill can give you a larger variance in temperature and timing. A pellet grill operates like an oven, fueled by small pieces of compressed hardwood pellets which are burned for heat and flavor.
If grilling speed is important to you, a pellet grill is probably your best bet as it can reach higher temperatures faster than a vertical smoker. If low and slow is your game plan then keep reading. Check out my recommendations on The Best Pellet Grills Under 500.
This is not a good place to look if you are interested in a vertical charcoal smoker. If Charcoal smoker which use wood chips to smolder on top of the hot coals is your thing then look no further than the classic Weber Smokey Mountain. The Smokey Mountain 18 is probably the best smoker under 500 dollars if you prefer the charcoal/wood style.
- Material Type: Steel
- The Weber Smokey Mountain charcoal smoker helps you achieve an authentic smokehouse flavor at home
- It can accommodate a whole turkey and an entire ham at the same time. Item weight- 39.1 pounds
- Made of porcelain-enameled steel, this smoker comes with 2 nickel-plated 18-1/2-inch-wide cooking grates
- Includes a water pan, thermometer, individual vents on bowl and lid, and heat-resistant nylon handle
When it comes to smoking, temperature control is the most important factor. When shopping for the best vertical pellet smoker, ensure you are getting a digital control panel rather than the basic setup that is nothing more than a dial that goes from low to high.
The second factor is the temperature range. Having a vertical smoker that can reach over 400º may not be necessary for everyone but it is a great feature to have to finish some smoked dishes like chicken wings. Think of this as a second or even third oven you can use during the holidays.
On the opposite side of this is the low end. These are not true cold smokers as that requires temperatures under 100º. At 150º you can slow smoke a side of salmon to perfection but be careful of going too long at temperatures under 180º. Under this temperature, you have a higher chance of developing creosote oils which are not an enjoyable experience.
All but one of the vertical pellet smokers listed here are double-insulated stainless steel. This is important as you want stable internal temperatures throughout your smoking process. Unlike a horizontal pellet smoker, vertical smokers are usually running at lower temperatures for longer periods.
It is not uncommon to also hang your proteins like racks of ribs and sausage in vertical smokers which is not something you can do even on the best pellet smokers.
You will not find any vertical smokers made with heavy gauge steel either. This heavy guage steel build is reserved for custom pits. Because these can attain high temperatures as well as sustained heat over time the finish of the smoker is important. Some are powder coated which will not peel but can be damaged while others have decorative stainless fronts.
Vertical Pellet Smokers Overview
The best vertical pellet smoker is determined by ease of use, basic features, and cooking area compared to the price.
As much as we like the top rated vertical pellet smoker Louisiana 4 series vertical smoker it is hard for us to recommend it to everyone. It fits into the luxury line out of price point alone. Plus you can find all the same features in other vertical smokers for several hundred dollars less.
The other factor is the large pellet hoppers most of these vertical smokers offer. As appealing as a 98 lb. hopper may seem it is pretty overkill. Especially if you use multiple types of wood pellets for different cooks.
Even though the wood pellets are the main heat source you still do not need that many pounds of wood pellets in the hopper at once.
How Vertical Smokers Work
The upright smokers vertical design feeds the fuel source into the bottom of the smoker and then slowly rises until it escapes through the vent stack. This is why most people will hang their meats in vertical smokers as it is the best way to take advantage of the natural flow of heat and smoke.
Racks of Ribs, Whole Pork Bellies, and Sausage Links are ideal for this type of smoker. Pork Butts and Briskets will have great results as well but be aware of where they are in the chamber as the internal temperature on the bottom will naturally be hotter.
Take a look at this article for inspiration. Best Meats to Smoke in Electric Smoker for Beginners
What is a PID Controller?
In its simplest of terms, this is a digital controller for your smoker. It measures the temperature from multiple sources and then translates it into Fahrenheit or Celsius. If you have a smoker that you are plugging a probe into it will be a PID controller.
For me, the best vertical pellet smokers are those that integrate technology with easy access to ash and grease trays. The amount of square inches of the total cooking area is not as big of a factor but still warrants a great deal of thought. What do you, or do you plan, to smoke often? How much space do you need?
The different models offer some variety in size but with all the same advanced features you would normally get in a wood pellet grill. If you are looking for the best pellet smoker under $500 then try your hand at pellet grill instead.
Pit Boss Copperhead 7 Sportsman
The copperhead 7 is the top tier of the copperhead series. It has a large cooking area and a hopper for extended cooks. The copperhead 7 has the second most cooking surface of any of the vertical smokers listed here and nearly twice the amount of cooking surface you would find in traditional grills. If you find yourself regularly smoking for a group then this is the best option for you. The large viewing window in all the pit boss grills pellet smokers is a nice feature, especially for those that always need to take a quick peek.
- All-natural hardwood pellet fuel
- 150°F to 420°F temperature range
- 1,853 sq.in of cooking capacity
- Great for smoking, roasting, baking, braising, and barbecuing
- 6 adjustable cooking racks
Pit Boss Copperhead 5
If the 3 series seems too small for you but the 7 series feels like overkill then this pit boss grills smoker is for you. Ample room for smoking a variety of meats, digital controls, integrated meat probe, and 5 porcelain coated cast iron cooking racks. Great for starting long smoke sessions before the party and then using it either to store the food hot or turn it up to finish cooking your smoked chicken wings to perfection. This is my pick for the best Pitboss to buy.
- Monitor internal temperatures with digital LED readout and meat probe
- Five porcelain coated cooking grids, 1548 sq in. Includes porcelain coated water pan and heat Deflector
- 40+ lb hopper capacity with pellet Purge. 24+ hours of use.
- Fully programmable 150 - 450 temperature range
- Auto-start 300 watt igniter with auto shut-off
Pit Boss Platinum Brunswich Vertical
Pit Boss Grills has gone after the vertical wood pellet smoker market. They have more offerings than the rest of the competition combined. Depending on the features and aesthetics you are looking for they have something for you. The Platinum Brunswich is exclusive to retailers like Wal-Mart.
This heavy-duty steel construction is pretty solid. The doors swing out from the center for a commercial kitchen look and feel. The platinum model also includes lighting inside the cooking chamber which I have not seen on any other vertical smoker before.
The massive 98-pound hopper will not only ensure you will not run out of wood pellets during your smoke but you will not have to refill very often. Just make sure to keep the lid tightly sealed and this unit away from sprinklers. Sprinklers shoot water upward to cover distance and this can, and will, cause the pellets to swell and lock up the auger.
The Louisiana Series 4 Vertical Smoker tops the list with its price tag. This unit fits into the luxury brand of vertical smokers. Boasting premium technology upgrades in an upscale design. This smoker comes with the SmokeiT phone app so you can control the smoker remotely through WiFi.
- PID Digital controls
- 1077 sq in cooking area
- Smoke iT app for Wi-Fi Control
- 4 racks
- 2 programable meat probes
Bradley Smoker 4 Rack
The Bradley uses Wood Bisquettes rather than pellets which burn for about 20 minutes each and leave no ash. This is the smaller smoker on the list coming in at only 572 square inches of cooking space. That is half the size of most gas grills. When it comes to temperature ranges this is more of a traditional smoker in that the temperature does not exceed 320º
- Large Capacity Smoker: Our digital smoker is specially designed to accommodate the 4 included racks; This meat smoker allows you to feed a couple or a crowd when smoking turkey, chicken, ribs or...
- Professional-Grade Design: Perfect for professional chefs and food smoking fans, our fully automatic electric smokers allow you to simply load in your bisquettes and smoke for up to 9 hours
- Dimensions: Our digital outdoor smokers measure 19 by 22 by 35 inches and 24 inches wide with the generator is attached; Feature a 4 by 11 by 13 inch cooking area
- Easy To Clean: Our electric grill features an easy-to-clean stainless steel interior that will not rust; Smoke diffuser system keeps the smoke flowing, eliminating dirty smoke and preventing "black...
- Master Smokers: We developed Bradley Smoker products to produce the best smoke flavor possible; As we say, "It's all about the flavor," so enhance your dining experience and enjoy delicious smoked...
Best Vertical Offset Smoker
First and foremost, you will not find this style of smoker that uses wood pellets as its fuel source. The concept of the offset is to control the smoking process through indirect heat. Not something that is an issue with pellet smokers. But if this is what you are looking for then look into the Dyna-Glo Signature Series. I do not personally own this smoker but I have used offsets before at my bbq restaurant. If you don’t mind spending the time tending to them then they will produce a fantastic smoked meat. Better than any pellet smoker to be honest, but a little less convenience. If I had the space in my backyard I would probably own one of these.
- Features five chrome-plated cooking grates and a total cooking space of 1382 square inches
- Heavy-Gauge Steel Body Construction. The temperature gauge features a smoke zone which indicates the ideal temperatures for infusing the perfect amount for smoking flavor. Also, the cool to touch...
- Cool-touch spring lid grip provides safer access to food
- Stainless temperature gauge with "Smoke Zone" indicates the ideal temperature for infusing smoke flavor
- Oversized steel wheels for mobility before and after use
If you are looking to upgrade to a vertical pellet BBQ smoker from your old Weber smokey mountain you have some good options in front of you. Transitioning from electric or even charcoal smokers is going to have some learning but the results will be worth it.
I transitioned to pellet grills, not because I was being lazy but because it gave me time back to do other things. Not having to babysit your smoker for hours on end is priceless in my world as that is what is important to me. I invested in a Memphis Grills Elite Series as it was the only pellet smoker, at the time, that qualified as the best built in pellet smoker.
The type of smoker you choose should reflect what is important to you as well. Thank you for taking the time to read my vertical pellet smoker review and I wish you a happy cooking.
Take a look at these related articles, they may help you with your decision making process.