Is Smoking Meat Expensive? A Complete Cost Breakdown


I run a pretty tight budget so when I first got into smoking meat, I broke down all the costs. Overkill? Probably! But regardless, I have a fairly good estimate of how much it costs me to smoke my own meat.

Smoking meat is as expensive as you make it. You can buy a smoker for as little as $69.99 or as much as $10,000. After the initial cost of your smoker, meat, wood, fuel, and supplies will cost you anywhere from $14.98 to $95.55 per cook, with most of that cost coming from the price of meat.

Here is a breakdown of the expenses involved with smoking meat and how much you can expect to pay. Because there are SO many factors to consider (geographical location, type of smoker, quality of smoker, weather, smoker temperature, fuel type, etc), these numbers are simply averages and will vary; none the less, it will give you a good idea of the costs of smoking meat.

Expense 1: Smoker

Cost: $ 69.99 – $ 5,000

Pellet Grills

Your smoker is going to be by far the largest investment when getting started smoking meat. After the initial cost of your smoker, the costs drastically decline. Like any hobby, smokers go for a wide range of prices. I found the cheapest smoker coming in at $69.99 and the most expensive smoker coming in at $4,790 (not including industrial smokers or trailers). Generally, smokers are lumped into 3 price ranges.

$100 – $500 Range

These are considered your entry level smokers. Depending on the type of smoker you buy in this price range you are going to get a basic smoker. Charcoal smokers in this price range are well built, quality units. Popular choices include the Weber Smokey Mountain and the Pit Barrel. For your pellet smokers and offset smokers in this price range, you are going to see some quality issues. The metal used to build these is usually thin making it hard for them to hold steady temperatures. They also are not usually sealed the best and have problems leaking smoke and heat. If you are set on a pellet smoker or offset smoker, you are probably going to want to increase your budget.

If you are looking for a smoker in this price range, you are going to get the best bang for you buck with a charcoal smoker.  If you are looking to get into smoking meat without breaking the bank, be sure to check out my article, The Cheapest Way To Start Smoking Meat.

$500 – 1000 Range

This is the price range where you start to get into the better built smokers. Pellet grills in this price range are usually pretty decent. They hold their temperature much better and do not have many issues leaking heat or smoke. You might sacrifice some of the added accessories, but overall, you can grab a decent pellet smoker in this price range. Popular choices are Green Mountain Grills, Pit Boss, Traeger, Z-Grills, Rec Tec, etc.

$1,000 and Up Range

At this price range, you are going to get a quality smoker with many of the added accessories. While the added accessories are not necessary, they do add some convenient options. This is also the price range where you can get a great offset smoker. Prices here vary widely as many people start to build custom smokers. And if you want size, these are also going to be the largest smokers of the bunch.

Minimum I would spend on an offset smoker is $1,000

-Malcom Reed How To BBQ Right

Expense 2: Heat Source

Cost: $ 0.80 – $7.00 Per Cook

Kingsford Original

Now that we have our smoker, we need to determine the heat source. The four types of heat sources used for smokers are: gas/propane, pellets, charcoal, or wood splits. The quality of your smoker, pit temperature and weather conditions all play a huge role in how efficient your smoker burns.

Type of SmokerFuel CostFuel Used Per HourCost Per HourCost 8-Hr Cook
Gas/Propane$ 0.13 per kWh0.8 Kilowatts$0.10$0.80
Pellet$ 0.57 per lbs.1.5 lbs.$0.86$6.88
Charcoal$ 0.68 per lbs.1.0 lbs.$0.68$5.44
Offset$0.34 per cubic inch192 cubic inches$0.35$2.87

How Much Does It Cost To Run An Electric Smoker?

On average, it costs $0.10 cents an hour to run an electric smoker. Most electric smokers run at 800 watts (0.8 kilowatts) an hour. With the average electricity cost at $0.13 cents per kilowatt hour, the cost to run an electric smoker comes in at approximately $0.10 cents an hour. This means a standard 8-hour smoke will cost you roughly $0.80 cents.

How Much Does It Cost To Run A Pellet Smoker?

The average cost to run a pellet smoker is $0.86 cents per hour. Pellet smokers use on average 1.5 pounds of pellets per hour. With the average price of pellets coming in at $0.57 cents per pound, this leaves us with an operating cost of $0.86 cents an hour. This means a standard 8-hour smoke will cost you $6.88.

How Much Does It Cost To Run A Charcoal Smoker?

The average cost of operating a charcoal smoker is $0.68 per hour meaning a standard 8-hour smoke will cost you roughly $5.44. Charcoal burns at about a pound per hour in a smoker and the average price per pound of charcoal is $0.68 giving us a operating cost of $0.68 per hour.

How Much Wood Does An Offset Use?

On average, an offset smoker will use 2-3 medium sized wood splits an hour to maintain a temperature of 225° Fahrenheit. Smoker size, weather, type of wood, smoker temperature, are all factors that will determine how fast your offset smoker will burn wood.

As far as the cost to operate an offset smoker, there are too many variables to give an accurate average; however, as a general ballpark estimate, you can expect a standard 8-hour cook to cost $2-4.

Expense 3: Wood

Cost: $1.50 – $4.00 Per Cook

Wood Chunks

Wood costs are going to vary based on geographical location and type of wood. Wood that is readily available in your area is going to be cheaper than wood from out of your region. Interested in what wood to use? Check out my guide on picking the best wood for smoking.

Type of WoodAverage Cost Per Cubic InchCubic Inches Used Per CookTotal Cost Per Cook
Chips$ 0.0366.67$ 1.91
Chunks$ 0.0442$ 1.52
Splits (bought in cords)$ 0.002192 (per hour)$ 2.87 (8hrs)

Expense 4: Meat

Cost: $7.68 – $ 660.00

Again, these prices are going to vary based on geographical location. I think it goes without saying, but California meat prices are going to be more expensive than meat prices in Idaho. The cut of meat is also going to affect the overall cost. Prime cuts are going to be more expensive than choice. Oh, and Wagyu cuts, be ready to open your wallet as you are going to pay a premium for them.

Type of MeatAverage Price Per lbs.Average WeightAverage Cost Per Unit
Chicken$ 1.286 lbs.$ 7.68
Ribs$ 3.504 lbs.$ 14.00
Brisket$ 4.9715 lbs.$ 74.55
Pork$ 3.005 lbs.$ 15.00
Turkey$ 1.4915 lbs.$ 22.35
Sausages$ 3.002 lbs.$ 6.00
Salmon$ 8.002 lbs.$ 16.00
Tri Tip$ 6.562.5 lbs.$ 16.40
Chuck Roast$ 6.384 lbs.$ 25.52

Expense 5: Supplies

Cost: $5-$10

While not a significant cost when smoking meat, here is a list of common supplies needed. All of these items will last you for many smokes and they are common items you most likely already have around the household. This is just here to give you an idea of some of the small miscellaneous costs.

  • Rub/Seasoning
  • Mustard or cooking oil (used as a binder)
  • Tin foil/ Tin foil pans
  • Butcher paper
  • BBQ sauce
  • Apple juice/ Apple cider vinegar (or whatever liquid you use for spritzing)
  • Injections

Expense 6: Accessories.

While these things are not necessary for you to get started with when smoking meat, these are all accessories that will make your smoking experience better. This is a list of my most commonly used accessories and something I think anyone getting into the hobby should have.

Chugod Wireless Meat thermometer
  • Bluetooth meat thermometer: If .you grab only one item on this list it should be this. Meat thermometers allow you to monitor temperatures easily so you know you can make great BBQ. It takes the guessing out of it. Amazon link here.
  • Heat resistant gloves: These allow you to transfer meat, manage your fire, touch your grates, and, and more all the while keeping your hands protected from the heat. Amazon link here.
  • Chimney Starter: This paired with some fire starters will make getting your fire going incredibly easy. Amazon link here.
  • Fire Starter Cubes: Amazon link here.
  • Bear claws: Makes pulling meat simple and easy. Amazon link here.

Total Cost: As little as $100

There is plenty of money to be spent in the hobby. There are many accessories and the smokers can get expensive. But if you are on a budget, you can get into smoking meat for as little as $100. This hobby like most others, is as expensive as you make it to be.

Michael W.

Half of my family lives in Texas and we would visit them often. As a food lover, naturally I fell in love with smoked meat. Smoked brisket and peach cobbler is a staple around where my family grew up and quickly became a favorite of mine. Unfortunately we didn't have good BBQ where I grew up. After enough years, I finally decided to get a smoker so I didn't have to wait for good BBQ until I went to Texas. Getting into a new hobby can be overwhelming. When I first started smoking meat, there was so much conflicting information and so many different styles and techniques that I didn't know where to start. I started this website to help people BBQ better and learn the ropes by sharing my knowledge and experiences.

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