Have you been planning to start your own smoking empire? Imagine never having to rely on store-bought smoked meats again. You get to create your own perfect meat recipes and never have to look at another preservative.
Okay, so maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get the idea. Curing meat at home means that you’re in control of the process. If you’re looking for a simple, cost-effective way to feed your family, a meat smoker is an excellent place to start.
But what model do you choose? With seemingly endless choices, it’s hard to zero in on a winner. That’s where we come in. In this review, we’ll highlight the best electric smoker under $500. We’ll also give the details of four runners up so that you have a few options to choose from.
How to Pick the Perfect Electric Smoker Under $500 For Your Needs?
You’re sold on getting an electric smoker. We don’t blame you. They’re easier to operate and a lot less messy. Now all that’s left is to find the perfect smoker for your needs. That’s not as easy as it sounds. There are thousands of models out there.
Before you start looking, consider the following points.
How often will you need to smoke meat? How much meat will you smoke at any given time? The answers to these questions will guide you when choosing the capacity you need. The average compact-sized smoker will fit about thirty pounds of meat in it.
To put that in perspective, that’s about one large turkey. Larger smokers can hold more than 100 pounds of meat. Should you buy an average smoker or a larger one?
Only you can answer that question. Most people think that it’s best to get the larger one right off the bat. We recommend that you consider that option carefully. Bigger smokers are a lot more expensive.
Add to that the cost to run a bigger smoker and the smaller ones start looking more economical. As a good rule of thumb, go by what you’ll use most. How often are you going to want to smoke 100 pounds of meat?
If the answer is never, there’s no point in paying for capacity that you won’t use. If you’re not sure, choose a smaller option to start with. They’re not that expensive and can come in handy as a backup if you do upgrade later.
Unless you’re running a commercial operation, it’s not worth blowing your budget here.
Always opt for quality construction over tons of features. Before choosing, consider whether you need those extra features. If they’re more of a novelty, it’s not worth wasting money on them. Instead, spring for a similarly priced model that’s better made.
Did your eyes glaze over when we said features are secondary to quality? We understand that – who doesn’t like having lots of features to play with? The truth is, though, that most of them are unnecessary.
Unless you’re a competitive smoker, you don’t need a state-of-the-art system. If you’re a beginner, the extraneous features might just prove too confusing. There’s nothing that beats practice when it comes to getting the most out of your smoker—and no feature can give you more of that.
What happens if something is wrong with your smoker? No matter how carefully you’ve done your research, you might end up with a faulty smoker. If that’s the case, you need to be able to rely on the company’s warranty.
Do yourself a favor and research what warranty the company offers. The industry standard is at least a year, but the longer, the better obviously. Also, research how well the company honors their guarantee. If you find that other users battle to get issues resolved, keep looking.
Electric smokers are safer than their more conventional counterparts. That doesn’t mean that you can ignore safety concerns, though. Keep the smoker in a sheltered, stable spot with proper ventilation, away from anything that might burn.
And, most importantly, establish strict rules with young kids to steer clear of it. You’ll also want to keep it somewhere pets can’t access—the smell of smoking meat is hard for Fido to resist.
How well the smoker works is also secondary to how easy it is to use and clean. If it’s a mission to clean, you won’t want to use it. Start with the basics:
- Get a model that includes a grease pan or cup. Or, if not, use a disposable aluminum tray to perform the same function.
- How are you going to change the wood chips? Is the door for the wood chips separate from the main door? This becomes important when you have to add more chips during smoking.
- Removable racks will make cleaning infinitely easier for you.
The Climate in Your Area
The type of smoker you need is going to depend on your climate. The temperature inside is affected by the temperature outside. In cold weather, a smoker will generally operate at lower temperatures than average.
So, you might have a smoker with a range of up to 275°F, for example. If the temperature outside is freezing, that range drops unless it has a strong heating element. Choose a smoker that will work well in your home climate.
Top 5 Electric Smoker Under $500 Reviews
- 721 square inches of cooking space overall
- Four repositionable steel racks coated in chrome for easy cleaning
- 800 watts of heating power
- Will heat up to a maximum temperature of 275°F
- Digital controller with a sunshade
- Bluetooth capabilities – control the smoker using an app on your phone
- Built-in window and light make it easy to see what’s going on inside
- Cook up to 80 pounds of food
- Comes with grease pan, water pan, and wood chip tray
- Separate side door to load chips
Why does the Masterbuilt 20072115 Bluetooth Smart Digital Smoker get top marks in this round? For pure functionality and features that add value. This is a simple but powerful smoker. The design is relatively compact, standing at just 34.4 inches tall.
Don’t be fooled, though—you can pack around about 80 pounds of meat in this cooker. What’s even more interesting about this model is the top-mounted digital display. This is a smart design twist by Masterbuilt and makes it easier to check the settings.
Of course, it’s strictly necessary. Just download the Masterbuilt app, and you can control your new smoker as long as its within range.
As with most Masterbuilt products, this smoker is highly efficient. Learning to use it takes hardly any time at all. It’s merely a matter of plugging it in, loading it up, and switching it on. The machine does the rest. Changing out wood chips is easy, thanks to Masterbuilt’s side loading drawer.
You can monitor the progress of the meat on your app. Or you can just switch on the light and check through the window in the door.
- 1,500 watts of heating power
- 3-in-1 tray to house the wood chip container and grease and water pans
- Temperature gauge on the front door
- Detachable variable thermostat
- Three chrome-plated racks
- Full window in the door
- Rear damper
- Side handles to make it easy to transport
- Adjustable feet so that the smoker is always level
- An adjustable latch on the door
The Landmann Smokey Mountain Electric Smoker features a compact design. The company has gone all out to reduce the footprint of this device without decreasing the internal capacity too much.
The performance is good. The machine gets to temperature quickly and retains heat well. If you’d like to ramp up its performance in this area, change out the door seal. This is a simple and cheap modification that will help you reap big rewards.
Now for the unique features that make this a winner. To start with, the 3-in-1 tray is unique. If you’re wondering how the wood chips will work if they’re doused in water and grease, don’t stress. That’s the same question that we had.
The answer is that the 3-in-1 here refers to the tray that holds the different pans. This is a nice feature when it comes to cleaning the smoker out.
On the downside, this also means that you have to open the main door when accessing the trays. This is not ideal if you’re in the process of smoking meat.
Another nifty feature is that the legs can be adjusted individually. This makes the smoker more secure even on uneven ground.
- Built from high-grade stainless steel throughout
- 800 watts of heating power
- Fully insulated with fiberglass
- NSF certified for use in restaurants
- 12-foot power cord
- Four repositionable stainless-steel racks
- Heavy-duty casters and rubber wheels
- Side handles for easy transport
- Has a capacity of 35 pounds
- Temperature range of 100°F to 250°F
- Double latch door for extra security
- Drip pan included under the smoker
This is it’s the older and slightly smaller brother of the Smoking-It Model #3 smoker. It’s also priced lower, and that makes it more attractive for the home chef. It’s got less power than the three too. Other than that, it’s very similar.
You’re receiving the same quality construction and materials. This smoker is highly efficient because it’s so well insulated. It’s been made with the commercial user in mind. The extra-long power cord, accessory hooks, and quality build make it an asset to any kitchen. The company has taken a great deal of care in putting out an exceptionally efficient product.
You’re able to change out the element if you’d like something a little stronger. The installed element should suit most people, though. If you’re living in central Alaska, though, you’ll probably want something stronger for the cold winters.
Using this smoker is exceptionally simple. You can set the time and temperature, but that’s about all. This might frustrate a more advanced smoker. It’s a boon for beginners or busy smokers, though.
Cleaning is simple. The stainless-steel wipes down relatively easily. Just be sure to wipe it down after every use and clean the racks at the same time. If you don’t, the grime can build up inside and become more difficult to get rid of.
- Compact with simple operations
- Digital panel to monitor settings – time, temperature and – control functions
- Bluetooth feature allows you to connect up to the smoker using your phone
- Four chrome-plated repositionable racks – one notched so that the Masterbuilt Pan fits perfectly
- The chips are fed in through side door
- Integrated thermometer
- Well-insulated exterior to keep the heat and smoke in
- Includes a meat probe
- Grill and finish element for a crispy crust
This doesn’t look like a very fancy smoker—and it isn’t, but it is a highly practical one with some nice additional features. The grill and finish element makes this something special. If you love a crispy crust on the outside of your meat, you’ll appreciate this feature.
The Bluetooth feature is not absolutely necessary, but it does add value. Control all operations while watching the game in your living room. Now that’s multitasking, that makes sense.
This is a smaller smoker. It’ll hold two turkeys comfortably, though, so it should be fine for most smokers. It is easy to clean and use, too. You’ll learn the ins and outs within a few minutes of setting it up.
On the downside, the temperature gauge can be off by about 20°F. There are two ways to deal with this. You can change out the gauge or adjust your cooking times. We’d go for changing out the gauge. A commercial gauge is inexpensive, and it’s easy to swap them out.
Other than that, this smoker works very well. It gets to temperature fast and retains the heat well.
This smoker is an interesting model. It works using bisquettes that the company makes. These are automatically fed into the system as necessary. The feeder will automatically get rid of the old bisquettes when they’re no longer usable.
That’s a nice feature. The downside is that you’re stuck using the specially designed bisquettes. You can’t substitute them for standard wood chips. The upside is that they last longer than your standard wood chips.
The smoker works well but should be considered more of a cold smoker. It does very well in the lower temperature ranges but doesn’t have the power to create high heat. We don’t recommend this for use in icy weather – it just doesn’t have the power.
If you like, you can replace the element for a more powerful one. We just don’t feel that you should have to do so at this price range. That’s why we’re happy to recommend this as a cold smoker.
It’s essential to get to know the quirks of this machine. The temperature gauge is not as accurate as we’d like. The simple fix is to probe the meat to ensure that it’s done all the way through.
Overall, though, the performance is excellent. The machine is well-built and sturdy. It’s got a brushed stainless-steel exterior that’ll turn some heads.
Is this a good choice for a professional smoker? Probably not. It does very well for the casual enthusiast, though.
Final Verdict: Best Electric Smoker Under $500 For Your Money
All the models we covered here would make an excellent choice, which you should choose really comes down to what you’ll be smoking and your preferences. However, if we had to name one “best”—and we did say we would—it would be the Masterbuilt 20072115 Bluetooth Smart Digital Smoker.
It’s powerful, efficient, and has some smart design features. We particularly like the top-mounted digital display. This is useful if you’re keeping the smoker on the floor or a low surface.
Of course, you don’t have to use the display. If you prefer making your smartphone the control center, that’s fine too. It’s a compact design at just under 35 inches tall. Despite the compact design, you can fit up to 80 pounds of food into it.
Like most of the Masterbuilt smokers, this one features a side door to load wood chips. This side door prevents all the heat and smoke from the main compartment escaping.
Overall, this Masterbuilt model puts in a reliable performance. We have no issues recommending it as our top choice. Just a word to the wise – it’s difficult for Masterbuilt to keep up with the orders. If you see it, grab it before someone else does.
Keep in mind that this is a filtered list. There are also other Great Masterbuilt Electric Smokers that you would just want to know about.