Jerky is one of those classic American snacks that can be found in grocery stores across the country. But, did you know that it’s actually quite straightforward to make it yourself too? You just need a good quality cut of meat, and a smoker to cook it slowly and add that delicious, smoky flavour.
But which smoker should you go for? With so many options available to us, it can be a bit of a minefield trying to figure out which one will not only give you the homemade jerky you’re looking to make, but can also be used to create a variety of other smoked foods.
If you’d like to give making your own jerky a go at home, take a look at our favorite smokers below, as well as our handy guide to what to look for when buying one.
If you’re in a hurry to get on with making your own jerky and want a fantastic smoker to help you achieve it, take a look at our top pick below:
Best Smokers for Jerky - Comparison Table
Best Smokers for Jerky - Our Reviews
This electric smoker from Masterbuilt takes smoking food to the next level and into the 21st century! With Bluetooth smart technology, you can control the temperature, lighting, monitor internal meat temperature and turn your smoker on and off from your smart device without needing to be anywhere near it.
Four chrome-coated smoking racks allow plenty of room to create homemade jerky as well as a variety of other smoked foods, and it’s patented side-loading wood chip tray allows you to add your flavored chips without any chance of losing heat.
This amazing smoker also contains a built-in meat temperature probe, so you can rest assured that your cooking at the correct temperature, and a grill and fish element on the top allow you to give that extra finishing touch to your recipes.
The digital temperature dial gives you full control over the temperature within the smoker, and the handles and wheels make it easy to move to another area - ideal if you’ve got the smoker on whilst entertaining outdoors.
The innovative design of this smoker allows you to smoke meat with both charcoal and your favorite wood chips. The dual door system allows you to add more wood chips without losing any heat from the smoking chamber, and it’s heavy duty steel construction ensures that this smoker is built for durability and a long life.
Constructed vertically to capture maximum smoke flavor, the offset functionality keeps your meat away from the heat source to allow a slower cook, creating a smokier flavor. This smoker from Dyan-Glo also has a unique smoke chamber that stacks the briquettes tightly for a more efficient fuel burn, meaning you’ll not only spend less time refilling the chamber but will also spend less money on charcoal.
Equipped with 6 height adjustable cooking grates, you’ll be able to fit in a variety of foods ranging in size with ease, and you can control the temperature within the smoker by adjusting the smoke stack’s flue.
There is even a temperature gauge on the outside with a useful ‘smoke zone’ thermometer to let you know when you’ve reached the perfect smoking temperature. If you’re looking to make delicious, smoked jerky at home, then this smoker is a great choice.
Capable of both cold and hot smoking, the original smoker from Bradley Smoker uses smoker bisquettes that burn for 20 minutes each ensuring there is no fluctuation in temperature. This also reduces the creation of high temperature gases, acids and resins that can otherwise distort the flavour of your food.
It’s four removable racks are perfect for creating homemade jerky, and they come with a brilliant rack safety support that prevents them from tipping out when adjusting or removing. The extra large front feet also offer added stability whilst in use, and the removable side panel allows for easy cleaning and maintenance.
The simple to control smoke dial on the front of the generator box allows you full control over the temperature, which is generated by an electrical filament meaning no messing around with charcoal or fire lighters, as well as being more environmentally friendly.
Whilst some other smokers require attending to periodically during the cooking process, this smoker automatically produces clean, cool smoke for up to 9 hours without any need for intervention. Ideal if you’re looking for a low maintenance way of smoking, or want to keep it going when you’re out of the house, this model is perfect for entertaining, creating delicious jerky, or simply enjoying the fun of smoking food.
Perfect for beginners to smoking and pros alike, this electric smoker from Masterbuilt takes all the fuss out of cooking with charcoal and gives you the professional results you’re looking for right in your backyard.
It’s generous internal sizing houses three chrome coated smoking racks that can cook 3 chickens, 2 turkeys, 3 pork ribs or 3 pork butts, and the variable temperature controls give you full flexibility over the cooking heat.
This smoker also comes with a removable water bowl which allows you to control the moisture and flavor, whilst the adjustable air damper lets you adjust the smoke level.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, there is also a front access grease tray that will catch any excess food drippings, and the removable wood chip tray makes for an easy way to clean up afterwards. Perfect if you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to smoke your food.
#5. Runner Up
Camp Chef Smoke Vault
Designed with the appearance of an old-fashioned bank safe, this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing smokers available and would make a great talking point at any barbecue. Not only is it nice to look at, but it is also ideal for making homemade jerky thanks to it’s specially designed jerky smoking rack.
Simple to operate with a convenient matchless snap-ignition, this smoker also comes complete with two more adjustable smoking racks, and a heavy gauge steel wood chip tray with a water pan that will infuse your food with moisture as well as the smoky flavor you’re after.
The fully adjustable heat dials allow you to control the temperature between 160°F and 350°F, so you can create a variety of lightly and deeply smoked foods. There are also three adjustable damper valves (one on top and one on each side) that will allow you to control the levels of smoke within the cooking chamber.
Complete with a recipe book, tips and cooking ideas, this smoker is ideal for anybody who wants to try their hand at creating some amazing homemade smoked food.
Best Smokers for Jerky - Buyers Guide
Making jerky in a smoker is a great way to have a stash ready to hand whenever you want, as well as letting you have control over the flavors, but buying a smoker is a pretty big investment so, before jumping straight in, it’s worth doing some research and thinking about what else you might want from it.
The size of your smoker is the first thing to consider. Bear in mind that smokers need to be outdoors, so give some thought to how big your outside space is. If you’ve got a large backyard, then a bigger, sturdier smoker isn’t going to be too much of an issue for you.
However, if you’ve got a small courtyard or even a balcony, a smaller smoker that is easy to move is probably going to be the best choice.
The way you wish to light your smoker is something to give some thought too as well. If you enjoy cooking with charcoal, there are smokers that will let you start a fire within them and get both the smoky flavor from your wood chips as well give your food that classic, barbecue charcoal flavour.
If you’re looking for a cleaner flavor, however, then an electric smoker would be a better choice, as they will only give you the flavor from your chosen wood chips. Electric smokers are also a lot easier to light than a charcoal fire, so that’s something to bear in mind as well.
Depending on how much food you’re planning on smoking at one time, you may want a smoker with a lot of racks that can fit larger quantities of food in them at once.
Smoking racks should ideally be removable to allow you to fit different sized meat joints in them, as well as letting you rotate the food in order to prevent the food on the bottom rack cooking too quickly.
Some smokers include a rack support that will help to keep the racks sturdy whilst you are rearranging things, which is also a fantastic safety feature.
Think about what extra features you’d like as well. If you’re planning on using your smoker purely for making jerky and nothing else, then a basic model is going to be fine for you. But it seems a shame to waste a good cooking opportunity when there are smokers that come with an assortment of accessories!
Some are able to grill dishes to add some extra crispiness to chicken skin or add the finishing touches to your recipes. Others come with removable water bowls that allow you to add moisture and juiciness to your food.
Food safety is something else to bear in mind when purchasing a smoker. You want to ensure that, whatever you’re cooking, it is thoroughly cooked all the way through and won’t make anybody ill.
Most smokers come with a temperature gauge that will inform you of the cooking temperature within the chamber, and some even include a built-in meat probe so you can be certain that the internal temperature of your chicken, beef or pork is hot enough.
Smoking foods can create a lot of mess. Between charcoal and wood chip ashes, and the food getting stuck to the smoking shelves, there can be a bit of cleaning to do afterwards.
Look for a smoker that will make life easier for you, whether it be a removable ash tray that you can easily empty out and rinse, or chrome covered cooking racks that encrusted food will easily wash off. Smoking should be about creating delicious foods after all, not about spending hours cleaning up afterwards.
Once you’ve found your perfect smoker, don’t be afraid to experiment with loads of different foods and meat joints until you’ve found your perfect jerky recipe!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a charcoal or electric smoker best for making jerky?
This is purely down to your own personal preference. Both charcoal and electric smokers will do a fantastic job of creating delicious, homemade jerky. The only thing to bear in mind is if you want that added, barbecued charcoal flavor to your jerky which you’ll get from a charcoal smoker. If you want a cleaner smoke and only want to taste the flavor of your wood chips, go for an electric one.
What temperature does a smoker need to reach to make jerky?
In order to get meat totally bacteria free and safe to eat, it needs to be cooked at a temperature of 145°F - 155°F for at least four hours. Be sure to get a smoke with a reliable temperature gauge and, where possible, find a model with a built in meat thermometer.
How do I clean a smoker?
Smokers are relatively easy to clean, and regular maintenance will also ensure your smoker lasts longer. Try and get a model with a removable ash tray that you can simply empty out, rinse and reinsert. Smoking racks that are chrome coated will make cleaning off any encrusted food easier as well. Please remember to let everything cool off completely first before attempting to clean your smoker though.
How often do I need to attend to my smoker whilst it’s cooking?
This varies depending on the cooking method and the smoker that you have gone for. Charcoal smokers will need to be tended to more frequently in order to make sure the fuel doesn’t run out. Electric smokers will need less checking on as they don’t require fuel to power them. Some smokers use special bisquettes that stack and burn for set periods of time, meaning you leave them unchecked for longer. And some more hi-tech smokers allow you to monitor the temperature and power them on and off through Bluetooth!
What size smoker should I be?
Practicality is key here. If you have a large outdoor area, then a bigger smoker probably won’t be a problem for your space. If you have a smaller area, or a balcony, go for a smaller model that can be easily maneuvered.