Cooking food, in slow and in low heat is the best way to create flavor and aroma. In Smokers, food is prepared by indirect heat and smoke from the wood or charcoal fuel. This imparts delicious smoky flavor and aroma.  No doubt, slow cooking takes some time but it is definitely worthwhile. One of the types of barbecue smoker is vertical water smokers.

In the US alone, 7 households out of 10 have barbecue smokers. The market is full of different types of smokers. Vertical water smoker is becoming popular nowadays as they are easy to use and requires less space.

Best vertical water smokers in 2019 

There are hundreds of Vertical Water Smokers today in the market with new innovative technologies. We have reviewed various pros and cons of some of them by their size, easy to use, temperatures range, construction, portability and more over price and warranty period.

What are Vertical Water Smokers?

The vertical water smoker is a cooking device, which is vertical in shape and cooks your food at low temperature and water. The liquid slowly evaporates during the smoking process and keep moisture which adds the flavor of the food.

All Vertical smokers have three main chambers areas.

Most of the vertical smokers are designed (1) on the top there is food cooking chamber area (2) in the middle water (liquid) pan and (3) in the bottom, there is a fuel pan that serves as the heat source.

The heat source can be of gas (propane), charcoal or electricity.

But in some vertical smokers design can differ depending on the type of the vertical smoker. 

Most good quality vertical smokers are portable and have less weight. They are easy to clean with the brush as well as require little space to store and moreover they are affordable. 

How to use Vertical Water Smokers

There are 3 main types of water smokers – gas, electric and charcoal. This classification of vertical water smokers depends on the type of fuel they use for cooking.

As written above Vertical water smoker consists of three chambers. Bottom Chamber provides heat by the fuel source like wood/charcoal, electric or gas to the water pan.

Water chamber

The middle chamber consists of water. With heat water evaporates and creates moisture. Smoke & moisture together goes to the top chamber where you put food for cooking.

This moisture and smoke together get absorbed in the food and gives smoky aroma, flavor while not letting it get dry too much.

The procedure of cooking with vertical water smoker is the same in spite of whether you are using Charcoal, electric heating or propane gas as a fuel. 

Open the front or access door of the smoker, pull out the middle tray which is water pan, fill 80-90% space of it with water or desired liquid and put it back in the smoker.

In place of water, you may use other liquids here like, wine, beer, soda. This water pan is located in the middle between the fuel tray below and the food chamber at the top.

Now come to the bottom tray which is the heat source (electricity, charcoal or gas) for Vertical Water Smoker.

Bottom chamber

  • Now, come to the bottom tray that is the fuel tray. To ignite the charcoal fuel, you put some newspapers below the charcoal for igniting charcoal for the smoker. Some vertical water smokers also have features such as ignition button.
  • In case, if it is Gas fuel smoker, connect a propane tank to the smoker. Extend the gas hose to the bottom of the smoker. Turn the knob for ignition.  Preheat the smoker for ten to fifteen minutes.

 Fill the smoke tray above the burner with wood chips or chunks. Press the ignite button. If you face any problem, check the manual to clear any doubt.

  • For using an Electric Water Smoker, plug the electric vertical water smoker into an outlet by a cord attached to its side. Now, add wood chips or chunks like a gas smoker but do not overfill.

Switch on the electric heater which is just below the smoke/wood tray and get the smoky heat.

In all these three fuels you may add water or wood chips/chunks later if the need arises.

Keep the smoker heated to around 225-250°F (107-121°C) for meat. Check the temperature by using the thermometer on the lid of the smoker.

If the smoker is very hot, put some wet wood chips or you may need to remove some of the charcoal to get the temperature down. If the smoker is cold, add more wood chunks/chips.

Top chamber

Put your meat or other food on the top chamber but do not make it overcrowded.


The advantage of vertical water smokers

  • Vertical water smokers are small & designed in such a way that they take up a little space. These smokers are space-efficient as compare to horizontal smokers.
  • Vertical water smokers’ efficiency increases due to their miniature size than larger smokers.
  • These smokers are portable and weigh less than 50 pounds. You can easily move them around or take it for camping.
  • These smokers need less fuel as compare to other big smokers being small in size.
  • These smokers are less expensive as compare to other water smokers.
  • These smokers are easy to use. They are user-friendly. Thermostat built-in grate makes it easy to monitor the heat of the smoker.
  • Vertical smokers are easy to clean with a brush and require only degreaser and water. A fuel pan is good for an easy collection of ash and can be pulled out easily for cleaning.


The disadvantage of vertical water smokers

  • One of the notable drawbacks of a vertical water smoker is that temperature control is limited. There is heat Thermometer is on the lid. But they are not accurate.
  • While cooking when you open the lid to check, you lose the heat and smoke.
  • Since these are small in size, preparing a huge amount of food is difficult.

Vertical Smoker vs. Horizontal Smoker

Vertical smokers are designed in such a way that they stand in an upright position or vertical position and occupy less amount of space as the comparison to the horizontal smoker.  Hence they are more space-efficient as compare to Horizontal smoker.

In the vertical water smoker, all the three chambers are one below to another. The fuel tray or smoke chamber is below the cooking surface whereas, in a horizontal smoker, the smoke chamber is usually mounted on the side.

When it comes to capacity, horizontal smokers have a larger capacity and can cook a large amount of food at once.

Vertical water smokers are portable since vertical smokers are in small size and less in weight as compared to the horizontal smoker.

Vertical smokers require less fuel as compare to horizontal smokers which are in larger size.

Moreover, vertical smokers are less expensive in cost and maintenance as compare to horizontal smokers.

Vertical smokers are easy to clean with brush, degreaser, and water.  All the three chambers trays are detachable and trays can be put out easily for cleaning.  

The flavor of the food or meat which is prepared in a slow way is better of vertical smokers and cannot be beaten by any type of smokers even by horizontal smokers.

Features to take care when choosing the Vertical water Smokers

Chalk out your plan to which type of vertical smoker you intend to purchase according to need, space availability and your budget. Here are the important factors for your consideration:

Select the size according to your home space where you wish to put the smoker. Also, if you usually cook a small amount of food then there is no need to buy large capacity barbecue smoker.

Buy smoker which is user-friendly.  A built-in good quality thermometer in the smoker will help to monitor the temperature of the food chamber.

Since good vertical smoker needs a wide and accurate range of heat, a temperature range 100 – 400 degree Fahrenheit is good enough.

Push ignition system in the fuel tray is also a good feature to consider.

Cleaning and maintenance should be easy.

Design and material

Smokers with premium solid materials and double wall construction are considered better quality smokers as they last for ages and have great heat retention capacity. 

Premium insulated double wall smokers lock the heat and smoke inside for a longer period. This can save fuel as well as give a more efficient result.  


 Buy vertical smoker which is lightweight and wheeled constructed so that it can be easily moved. Side handles on the small vertical water smokers make it easy to carry them.


 Buy a vertical water smoker that has designed for other functions, such as smoking, roasting, and braising.


Try to choose that smoker which has extended warranty coverage so that any defects and problems can be taken care of by the manufacturer.

The vertical smoker must be child and pet safe. You must check whether electrical parts are at safe distance from water. Prefer stainless steel handles because they disperse heat easily and remain cool. Moreover, they are strong and stud.

Easy access to all the chambers of the vertical water smoker is preferable.  Prefer to front-loading, cabinet-style smokers which gives easier access to all shelves.

Checklist for buying vertical water smokers

As earlier, explained, vertical smoker cooks your food at low temperature and with smoke and moisture. The liquid slowly evaporates during the smoking process and keep moisture which adds the flavor of the food.

  • Use: Cooking in vertical water smokers needs time. So choose the size in which you can accommodate all the required food at once. Also, consider the available space you will need to keep it after using,
  • Cost: Price of vertical water smokers depends on the features, quality, and size of the smoker. The good quality smoker may cost you more in starting but will go for ages.
  • Poor heat regulation affects the taste and flavor of the meat, so buy a good quality heat control system and the better thermostat.

Care and Maintenance for Vertical Smokers

After every use of the vertical smoker, it is recommended to clean before storing it. For regular cleaning follow the steps below.

  • Take a soft cloth or duster to remove any debris or dirt from the smoker.
  • Pull out the fire tray and remove the ashes and clean it.
  • Clean all the grease using a cleaning cloth and degreaser spray.

Additional tips for maintenance

  • Look out for any rusted area, clean it and pain it using heat resistant paint.
  • Keep the smoker covered properly after every use to prevent dust and corrosion because of humidity. It is recommended to store it in the shaded area or inside the garage.
  • Before every use, first check the ventilation system, electricity connection and vents properly.
  • Coat the grate with cooking oil and heat the smoker without putting any food for 10 minutes. This helps in preventing corrosion.

Tips to Cook Tasty Meat In vertical water smoker

  • The right choice of meat is very important. Always buy fresh meat. The fatty cut of meat like beef brisket, pork ribs, and pork shoulders gives juicy and tasty meat.
  • Cook the meat in the low and slow heat. This gives you tasty juicy meat as it doesn’t get dry in low heat.
  • Fill 80-90% water pan with water or desired liquid for producing moist and juicy meat.
  • Spices and herbs make the meat tastier. So before putting the meat inside the smoker, marinate the meat to enhance the flavor and aroma.

Vertical water smokers also known as bullet smokers are a great way to infuse aroma or flavor to food. Water is used to control temperature and moistness in food.

Check out our post on The Complete guide on BBQ Smoker 

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