Vertical Vs. Horizontal Smoker: The Differences, Pros & Cons

horizontal pellet smoker

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, smoking meat can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable activities you can do.

When buying a pellet smoker, there are two basic types you need to consider: horizontal pellet smokers and vertical pellet smokers.

For years, the debate over vertical vs. horizontal smokers has raged, with both sides claiming their way is superior.

The truth is…

Vertical smokers and horizontal smokers have some differences and similarities.

They both have advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to understand these before deciding which one to buy.

And we are going to show you what those critical elements are to help you decide which one is best for you.

Let’s get started!

Vertical vs. Horizontal Smoker Overview

vertical pellet smoker

Vertical Smoker

Ease of Use:


Temperature range

150°F~ 420°F



Main feature:

Can smoke only

horizontal pellet smoker

Horizontal Smoker

Ease of Use:

Require experience

Temperature range

180°F~ 500°F



Main feature:

Smoke and grill

Vertical and horizontal smokers are two different types of smokers, we can use them both to smoke food, but they each have their own advantages.

Vertical smokers are typically used for cooking large cuts of meat or other food items that require long periods of low heat to finish cooking. They also work well for smoking foods that have been prepped ahead of time—such as jerky and bacon.

A horizontal smoker is a great way to smoke steaks. They will leave an incredible searing mark on the steak, which you can’t get with a vertical smoker.

From the pricing standpoint, horizontal smokers tend to be pricier than vertical ones because they have more parts, and these parts need to be more durable and sturdy. This is why they cost a bit more.

Vertical Vs. Horizontal Smokers: The Differences and Similarities

The similarities between a vertical smoker and a horizontal smoker are that they both use fuel sources for cooking your food indirectly. They both use smoke, which is created when you burn pellets or charcoal. However, there are some differences in how they work.

The main difference between vertical and horizontal smokers is that the former is designed to cook food at a lower temperature while the latter cooks food at a higher temperature.

Horizontal smokers usually have a smaller cooking capacity than vertical ones, meaning they can only hold less food at once.

With a vertical smoker, it has different levels you can smoke on. The lower levels are used for smoking meat or fish, while the higher levels are for smoking vegetables and fruit.

Horizontal smokers are longer and more like regular barbecue smokers in shape.

Vertical smoker: Best for smoking large amounts of food at once

My top pick

vertical pellet smoker

Pit Boss 5-series Vertical Pellet Smoker

This Pit Boss 5-Series Pellet Smoker features digital controls and a meat probe with an LED read-out that makes it easy to see.

Conveniently, this vertical pellet smoker offers 4.6 cu ft of cooking capacity.

The innovative rear hopper with 50+ lbs of pellet capacity allows for 24 hours of smoking without adding pellets.

vertical pellet smoker
(Image Source)

Vertical smokers are a great way to smoke your meat, whether you’re looking for something portable and beginner-friendly or something that can accommodate a lot of meat at once.

Vertical smokers come in various sizes and shapes, but the most common ones have a cabinet-like design with removable cooking racks (drip pans), a flame box, and a water pan.

This design lets the smoke go straight up from the firebox to the drip pans and go around the meat. This helps you give the meat a richer smoked flavor, cook it more evenly, and prevent it from drying.

A vertical smoker can also hold a larger amount of meat than a horizontal one, making it ideal if you’re planning to smoke large quantities of food.

The best part about vertical smoking is that it doesn’t take up much space at all.

So you don’t have to worry about finding enough room in your backyard or outdoor kitchen. Just set up your smoker outside on a patio or porch area and enjoy watching your food turn into delicious flavor bombs!


Vertical smokers are usually cheaper than horizontal smokers.

The price of vertical smokers ranges from $100 to $1,000, depending on their features and size.

The price of vertical smokers can be determined by the quality of materials used in their construction and the type of smoking fuel.

Vertical Smokers: Pros And Cons

You might love it for
  • They are easier to clean than horizontal smokers, thanks to the easy access doors.
  • They are more portable than a horizontal smoker because it is smaller and less bulky.
  • They don’t take up much space, making them an excellent choice for your patio.
  • They have a large cooking capacity so that you can serve a large number of people at the same time.
  • The temperature inside is distributed evenly.
  • The cooking racks inside are easily interchangeable from top to bottom.
  • Capable of smoking food at low temperatures, ideal for making jerky.
  • Use less fuel compared to horizontal smokers.
  • Some models include a built-in light.
You might not love it for
  • They take forever to heat up (almost double the time the horizontal smoker takes).
  • Don’t have sear features.
  • They can only smoke, so you can’t grill hamburgers, steaks, or hot dogs with a vertical smoker.

Horizontal Smoker: Best For Smoking And Grilling

my top pick

horizontal pellet smoker

Pit Boss Austin XL Wood Pellet Grill

The Pit Boss Austin features two tiers of porcelain-coated grid construction and 1000 square inches of cooking surface.

The convenient flame broiler can always be turned on or off or set with a slide plate and sear once the barbecue has been lit.

With 100% all-natural hardwood pellets, you get an authentic wood flavor every time you grill!

You can read the full review here

Horizontal smokers are more versatile than vertical smokers because they can be used for both smoking and grilling.

They use the indirect heat transfer principle and are also known as “horizontal offset smoker“.

horizontal pellet smoker

A horizontal smoker differs from a vertical smoker in that the smoke is directed toward the meat from the cooking chamber on the side rather than rising from the bottom to the top.

The firebox usually has doors separate from the cooking chamber, so you can add more fuel without disturbing the cooking process.

These types of smokers are commonly used for smoking foods like hot dogs, steaks, burgers, and other meat products.


Horizontal smokers are a bit pricier than vertical ones but are also more versatile.

The price of a horizontal smoker varies from 200$ to 2000$, depending on the type of smoker and the material used.

The Pros And Cons

You might love it for
  • You can create an authentic-tasting steak by leaving a searing mark on it with a sear plate.
  • You can also use them as a grill and smoker combo.
  • They retain heat longer than vertical ones.
  • Heats up quickly.
You might not love it for
  • They have fewer square feet of total cooking space compared to vertical smokers.
  • Can’t get as low temperatures as the vertical smoker.
  • Not really portable.
  • Take up more space.
  • The horizontal smoker requires a lot of fuel, so keeping the temperature even throughout the smoker can be hard.
  • Some say it’s hard to monitor the temperature inside a horizontal smoker.

Vertical And Horizontal Pellet Smokers – Smoking Performance

vertical or horizontal smoker

Vertical smokers use a series of grates that are set on top of the flame and a water pan to hold the food as it cooks.

They’re good for smoking large batches of food, but they tend to heat more slowly than horizontal models and can leave some space between the grate and the meat—which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to get searing marks on your food.

Horizontal smokers use smoke generated from the cooking chamber on the side to produce some of the most flavorful meat.

This is because a horizontal smoker allows direct heat to reach the meat, which results in an authentic classic bbq flavor.

Vertical vs. horizontal smoker: Which is better?

pellet smoker

Vertical smokers and horizontal smokers are both great for smoking, but one is better for what you want to do.

Vertical smokers are great for smoking; they give you a richer, more flavorful smoked flavor to the food. But the thing is… they never grill!

Horizontal smokers, on the other hand, are all-rounders that allow you to grill and smoke your food, which means that they’re much more versatile than vertical smokers.

If you only want a great smoker that gives the meat really great smoked flavor and you don’t need a grill, a vertical smoker will be the best choice!

But if you want to be able to grill as well as smoke with your smoker, you should consider a horizontal smoker.

Horizontal and vertical smokers – FAQs

How do I heat my smoker faster?

The most efficient way to heat your smoker faster is to adjust the width of the vents.

By widening the vent you will allow more oxygen to go in, which means that your food will be able to reach higher temperatures more quickly.

Is the temperature the same everywhere in a vertical smoker?

Yes, the temperature is evenly distributed throughout the vertical smoker.

The vertical smoker heats up from the bottom and stays at the same temperature throughout. So you don’t have to worry about cold spots or hot spots when cooking foods in your vertical smoker.

How often should I clean my smoker?

Cleaning your smoker is a must-do, but it’s not something you have to do every day.

The best way to clean your smoker is to do so after each and every use.

This means that if you’ve just finished cooking a meal, you can leave the food in the smoker for at least an hour before cleaning it. If you’ve used it to smoke some ribs or sausage patties, let them cool for about an hour before cleaning the smoker.

Final Thoughts

Between vertical and horizontal smoker, the type of smoker you choose for your needs is going to be decided by a variety of factors.

If you want something that smokes large amounts of meat at once and doesn’t take up a lot of space in your outdoor kitchen, then the vertical would be the one you want.

If, on the other hand, you want an all-rounder that can smoke and grill, then it may be worth looking into horizontal smokers.

In the end, it will all boil down to what you need and what features you’re looking for.

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