What is a Vertical Charcoal Smoker?

Vertical charcoal smokers are a catch-all term for other vertical smokers on the market. This includes drum smokers, charcoal cabinet smokers and bullet smokers.

In addition to electric and propane smokers that have a vertical design, there are also these more basic vertical charcoal smokers that offer a true open fired smoking experience in a convenient upright design.

But, whatever the outside looks like, what’s going on inside any of these barbecues is pretty much the same. At the bottom of the pit, there’s space for a charcoal fire. Get this going and hang or set your meat out above it on racks. Some vertical charcoal smokers have a water tray and/or tray for wood chips as well. Others don’t.

Regardless, they’re well designed smokers that are usually very affordable and do a good job at turning out delicious smoked meat.

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Grilling on a Vertical Charcoal Smoker

You could technically grill on a vertical charcoal smoker. After all, it is just a fire with a grate over it. But, because of their vertical design and placement of the fire well below the cooking racks to create that indirect heat needed for smoking, it is a bit tricky.

Basically, we wouldn’t recommend it, but you could if you were desperate. Buying a simple kettle barbecue in addition to your dedicated vertical charcoal smoker would be a better solution for those who want to smoke and grill.

Pros of using a Vertical Smoker

  • Inexpensive

  • Simple to use

  • Small footprint

  • Decent cooking capacity

  • Technically portable although this will depend on how big your vertical smoker is and what you’re transporting it on

  • Capable of producing competition-quality meats

  • Long-lasting

Cons of using a Vertical


  • If your vertical smoker doesn’t have a separate fuel door, it can be hard to add coals mid-smoker

  • You might need to clear ash mid-cook as it can pile up and cause the temperature to drop

  • Depending on your meat arrangement, you might benefit from investing in some long sleeved high-heat gloves, so you don’t burn yourself getting meat out

  • Can be prone to smoke leakages

Who Should Buy a Vertical Smoker?

If you’re looking for a dedicated smoker that’s not going to break the budget, don’t mind that they’re a little more hands on and don’t want any fancy features then a vertical charcoal smoker is an excellent addition to your backyard. Check out the Oklahoma Joe’s® Bronco Drum Smoker or Charmate Stack Drum  Below