Big Chief Smoker vs. Little Chief Smoker

Big chief smoker

If you’re an avid hunter or fisherman, it’s more than likely that you’ll have considered smoking your own meat or fish. Though more expensive than a campfire or just using your regular oven, smokers are far more convenient and easier to use. With that in mind, you might want to consider choosing between the Big and Little Chief Smokers.

The Little Chief Smoker and Big Chief Smoker are both great smokers that are very similar in features. However, the Little Chief is smaller and can only smoke up to 25 lbs (11.33 kg) at once, whereas the Big Chief Smoker can do 50 lbs (22.67 kg) at once.

Wondering whether to get the Big Chief or the Little Chief smoker? We’ll go through their main features and operational considerations so that you can pick the one that works for you.

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What’s the Difference Between the Big Chief and the Little Chief Smoker?

The difference between the Big Chief and the Little Chief smoker is that the latter is more portable. The Little Chief front and top loaders have four trays and can hold 165°F consistently with 250 watts. The BigChiefs have five trays but need 450 watts to maintain the same temperature.

Both options come in either front or top loading, but the sizes and specifications remain the same for each.

Check out the table below to see how these models compare:

 GrillsSizeSurface areaCapacityWattage
Big Chief524-1/2″ H x 18″ W x 12″ D (62.23 x 45.72 x 30.48 cm)800 in²50 lbs of meat or fish (22.68 kg)450W
Little Chief524-1/2″ H x 11-1/2″ W x 11-1/2″ D (62.23 x 29.21 x 29.21 cm)500 in²25 lbs of meat or fish (11.34 kg)250W
Both smokers operate at 165°F (73.89°C), on 120 volts

As you can see, the differences sit mainly in width. Although the Big Chief only has one more tray than the Little Chief, it’s half again wider and slightly deeper, allowing for twice as much meat or fish.

Big Chief Smoker Front Load vs. Top Load

The choice of what type of smoker you want will depend heavily on the strength of the cook, use cases, and your preference as to a smoker style.

Top loads can be more convenient but require a certain amount of strength and dexterity, whereas the front load version allows a better vision of the meat. This is going to come down to whatever smoker style you are comfortable with, as well as where you will put the smoker.

Top Loading Smokers

A top load smoker will require a somewhat different process when retrieving the meat after the smoking process is complete.

First, you will need to remove the lid off the top to gain access to the grills. Then, using a heatproof glove, grab the rack and remove it from the smoker by pulling it up.

This means that the rack will have the five grills plus the drip tray attached. Add to that the weight of the meat, and it can get heavy.

It’s best to try and put the smoker on a low surface so that you don’t have to lift your arms above your head to get the rack out or in.

Of course, the benefit is you get to pull everything out at once, which is much more convenient than having to keep track of a whole bunch of different trays.

Another tip to remember is that you want to put the thicker cuts of meat on the bottom of the smoker as it will be closer to the heat source and won’t unbalance the rack. An unbalanced or top-heavy frame will be a lot more challenging to extract from the smoker.

Front Loading Smokers

The front-loading version has a door that can be swung open, revealing the rack and the five grilling trays. This gives you a better view of what all the meat looks like on the separate trays and enables you to remove or add meat without removing the rack.

As the door also gives access to the smoker, you can quickly put the flavor pan directly on the heating element located on the bottom of the unit. The top-loading version only has a small trap door on a hinge to put the pan in.

Are the Front Load and Top Load Models the Same?

The front-load and top-load models are the same but for the access panel. Both the Big Chief and the Little Chief Smokers come with these designs, and the only difference is in how you access the grills.

Essentially, they use the same smoking mechanism and come with the same equipment, except one is loaded through the top or roof of the unit, while the front load version has a door that swings out.

The Big Chief and Little Chief both use an electric element that heats up the wood chip pan for the smoking process.

The top-loading models can be difficult when full, as you need to reach into the smoker to access each tray. Although, you can pull all of the trays out at once.

In contrast, the front loader allows users to access the grills one at a time easily.

The Smokehouse Products Big Chief Electric Smoker can be purchased on and comes with wood chips, a flavor pan, five racks, and a drip pan. This electric smoker weighs 17.5 lbs (7.9 kg), and you can select whether you want it in front load or top load style from the listing when purchasing.

The Benefits of the Little Chief Electric Smoker

The Smokehouse Little Chief Smoker is a great compact smoker that can conveniently fit under a porch or in the backyard to produce a lot of dried meats and jerky.

The Little Chief also comes in front load and top load styles. In addition, it comes with a Smokehouse bag of wood chips and flavor pan, as well as a drip tray and four grills.

As is expected, the Little Chief is smaller in dimensions than the Big Chief.

As these are smokers and not ovens, the size difference does not correspond to drastically different smoking times. Therefore, the Little Chief would suit preparing smoked meats for a smaller group of people, generally two or three adults.

The Little Chief was the first version of the smoker that was released, and its popularity led to the development and release of the Big Chief.

The Verdict

These products are very similar, so it is difficult to say which kind will work for you. First, you should consider capacity. If you plan on smoking small batches, then the Little Chief Smoker may be perfect for you. However, if you plan on smoking a large batch, like two salmon, go with the Big Chief Smoker.

If you want to move all the grills at once, the top load style would be best for you. The front-load models might leak a bit of smoke but are far more manageable when loading one or two trays.

Also, if you’d prefer easy access to the individual trays, you’d be much better off with the front-loading door. This feature can be convenient when smoking sides, different types of meats, of different thicknesses of fish.