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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
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.
Expense 2: Heat Source
Cost: $ 0.80 – $7.00 Per Cook
Now that we have our smoker, we need to determine the heat source. The four types of heat sources used for smokers are: gas/propane, pellets, charcoal, or wood splits. The quality of your smoker, pit temperature and weather conditions all play a huge role in how efficient your smoker burns.
|Type of Smoker||Fuel Cost||Fuel Used Per Hour||Cost Per Hour||Cost 8-Hr Cook|
|Gas/Propane||$ 0.13 per kWh||0.8 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 inch||192 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 – $4.00 Per Cook
Wood costs are going to vary based on geographical location and type of wood. Wood that is readily available in your area is going to be cheaper than wood from out of your region. Interested in what wood to use? Check out my guide on picking the best wood for smoking.
|Type of Wood||Average Cost Per Cubic Inch||Cubic Inches Used Per Cook||Total Cost Per Cook|
|Chips||$ 0.03||66.67||$ 1.91|
|Chunks||$ 0.04||42||$ 1.52|
|Splits (bought in cords)||$ 0.002||192 (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 Meat||Average Price Per lbs.||Average Weight||Average Cost Per Unit|
|Chicken||$ 1.28||6 lbs.||$ 7.68|
|Ribs||$ 3.50||4 lbs.||$ 14.00|
|Brisket||$ 4.97||15 lbs.||$ 74.55|
|Pork||$ 3.00||5 lbs.||$ 15.00|
|Turkey||$ 1.49||15 lbs.||$ 22.35|
|Sausages||$ 3.00||2 lbs.||$ 6.00|
|Salmon||$ 8.00||2 lbs.||$ 16.00|
|Tri Tip||$ 6.56||2.5 lbs.||$ 16.40|
|Chuck Roast||$ 6.38||4 lbs.||$ 25.52|
Expense 5: Supplies
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.
- 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)
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.
- 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.