It's not unusual for backyard chefs to stretch the capabilities of their cookers to handle both smoking and grilling, often with ingenious tactics. Nonetheless, we used the following criteria to define what belongs in the category of Combo Cookers: the cooker must perform with ease and produce excellent results as both a dedicated smoker and a dedicated grill, and the design must integrate both functions effectively right out of the box without the need for optional accessories.
We generally don't recommend any unit that is essentially a cheap smoker bolted to a cheap gas grill, but we know that these units that are popular in hardware stores, and a couple of high quality side by side models managed to rise above the rabble and make it onto our list. This year, we add Camp Chef's new Woodwind to our Best Combo Cookers list. Woodwind attaches a super hot sear box to an excellent, thermostatically controlled wood pellet smoker, enabling buyers to run the gamut of outdoor cooking in a single cooker.
With rare exception, the dial thermometers attached to the hoods of these cookers are of poor quality. It is not unusual for them to be off by 50°F. We strongly recommend that you include in your budget a good digital thermometer with a probe that can be placed on the cooking surface.
Meadow Creek PR36 $755 - 5th Year On Our List!
This is one versatile cooker. It can smoke, roast and grill burgers, ribs, and turkeys. And it can even handle a small whole pig! It features a deep trough and a tall lid with a solid strong hinge. A tray for charcoal hangs inside the trough 6" below the grate. Load it up, and you can bring coal very close to the food for a quick hot sear. Or, if you wish, coals can be placed right on the bottom of the trough. You can then place the empty coal tray above the coals for indirect cooking, or even fill the tray with water for adding steam and humidity to the cooker. Push the coals to one side, and you have a fine 2-zone setup, or put wood on the coals, and you can smoke as well as any offset smoker. The coal tray lifts out easily so ash disposal is a snap. Made in the USA.
Primo Oval Junior $870 - 6th Year On Our List!
Smokers based on an ancient Japanese "kamado" design are all the rage. Most are made from ceramics that hold heat very well and are very efficient, using very little charcoal. They can also be used as grills, but the cone shape of most kamados doesn't make them ideal for 2-zone cooking, a technique we consider vital. The two Primo models, which are oval shaped and can be easily set up with two heat zones, are great for 2-zone grilling. They come with split cooking grates that can be set up high for indirect cooking or flipped over to position foods down low to the fire for searing. The split half-moon shaped grates allow you to accentuate the difference between a direct and indirect zone by piling charcoal on one side and positioning one grate over it down low for a direct zone, with the other grate up high away from the fire for an indirect zone. Primo makes an even larger model, the XL. We like these kamados better than the Big Green Egg, the model that has been around the longest. Made in the USA.
Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Smoker With Sear Box $899 - New To Our List!
Camp Chef's Woodwind Pellet Smoker is a quality smoker and super searing grill wrapped up in one. Though often referred to as pellet grills, most of these units are smokers with limited grilling capability at best. In 2017, Camp Chef introduced their optional LP gas Sear Box, which can be added to all of their current SmokePro Pellet Smokers to deliver on the promise of the name "pellet grill." Woodwind is actually package deal that comes standard with the Sear Box and sells for about $50 less than a SmokePro with the optional Sear Box, a nice little savings.
The Good-One Open Range $1,099 - 5th Year On Our List!
The Good-One Open Range is a charcoal grill with a smoke chamber attached. It is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. The grill sits low in front and doubles as a firebox for the smoke chamber, which is spliced onto the unit above and behind so it can work like a horizontal offset smoker, only better. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces an even temperatures from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset smoker. The Open Range has 360 square inches of primary cooking surface in the lower chamber and another 360 square inches in the rear chamber. Made in the USA.
Hasty-Bake Gourmet 256 Dual Finish Charcoal Grill $1,399 - 5th Year On Our List!
Since 1948, Hasty Bake has made charcoal cookers with a unique design that specifically enables owners to easily and effectively smoke, grill and super-sear with one unmodified cooker and no optional add-on devices. The adjustable coal tray moves up and down with a crank on the left side. A large door on the right side gives complete access to the charcoal tray to easily add coal and move it around for 2-zone cooking. There is a removable heat deflector above the coal grate to improve indirect cooking. In addition to the 522 square inches of main cooking surface, this cooker has an upper rack and a glass window to keep an eye on the food inside. Hasty-Bake is made to last and many families hold onto them for generations. The company even offers restoration on old models. Our president, Meathead, says it is his favorite grill. Period. Made in the USA.
Lang 36" Hybrid Patio Model $1,595 - 2nd Year On Our List!
Lang's 36" Hybrid Patio Smoker combines their popular 36" residential smoker with a 30" charcoal grill. Most hybrids you see in big box stores consist of a cheap gas grill bolted to a cheap charcoal grill, and neither side performs well. You can almost always get better equipment by purchasing two separate cookers. Not so with Lang's Hybrid. You get a full version of Lang's competition quality, reverse flow residential offset smoker with a 17" x 17" firebox on the right and a double rack charcoal grill extension on the left. Here's another thing that burns our bacon about those cheapo dual cookers: What do you do when one side of the cooker inevitably dies? Now you have a crumby cooker with a useless piece of junk stuck onto it. No worries with Lang. This baby will last for generations. Made in the USA.
Weber Summit Charcoal Grill $1,699 - 3rd Year On Our List!
Introduced in 2016, the Weber Summit Charcoal Grill is a radical departure from George Stephen's original Weber Kettle and the company's first major upgrade to the kettle in decades. Although prices are in line with Summit gassers and premium quality kamados on carts, they're a big leap up from the simple charcoal kettle grills we know and love. Many who already smoke and grill on their kettles will shrug and wonder why they should spend more. At the end of the day, it's true that a regular classic Weber kettle can grill and smoke, but the new Summits are just plain bigger and better in every way. You get more capacity, ease of use, and more versatility. It actually is a dedicated charcoal smoker by design and reminiscent of a kamado. We love the adjustable coal grate that burns directly under the cook surface for better searing. So is it a kamettle? Kettlelado? No doubt these new Charcoal Summits will shake up the backyard cooker market, and you can bet kamado makers are winding up their counter punches. Made in the USA.
M Grill M1 Charcoal Grill and Smoker $1,995 - 3rd Year On Our List!
M Grill is a newcomer, putting a fresh face on a classic residential charcoal grill design that predates the Weber Kettle. That classic design can be seen in the Hasty-Bake charcoal grill listed above. M Grill's M1 has a similar charcoal grate that can be raised or lowered with a crank just like the Hasty-Bake. Crank the fire up high for searing or down low for steady temperature control. But there are notable differences between the two. For $600 more than the Hasty-Bake Gourmet 256, you get a dedicated firebox with a heavy 1/4" steel door and slide out basket that burns either charcoal or logs, and inside you'll find reverse flow ducting for gentle even smoking. Stainless steel rod grates are a step up from Hasty-Bake's nickel plated grates and overall construction is beefed up with thick 10 gauge welded steel, gaskets on the lid, and big locking casters. The heavy steel M1 holds and retains heat better, giving it an edge for low and slow smoking, and we love the firebox that makes it a bona fide stick burner. Made in the USA.