Electric smokers are an excellent option for people who love outdoor cooking, minus the hassle of charcoal or offset smokers. They are perfect for beginners since you can set the temperature and wait until the food is done.
You’ll need to decide if you value ease of use over manually monitoring your food. Some folks prefer offset or charcoal smokers, staying close to the heat and keeping an eye on the meat. In contrast, others prefer the convenience of set-and-forget digital controls.
Electric smokers have become very popular in recent years, and there’s a wide variety of models on the market.
What’s Your Budget?
The first thing to consider when buying an electric smoker is your budget. There are many kinds of smokers on the market at different prices, and each one has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Having a clear idea of how much money you want to spend can be a great starting point for finding the perfect smoker.
What Kind of Electric Smoker Are You Looking For?
There are various types of electric smokers, and each one is a little different. For the most part, electric smokers are pretty similar. They are a more modern version of charcoal or offset smokers, and they are designed for optimal convenience, with analog or digital controls.
Usually, they have a vertical, rectangular shape, with a few racks for food and a heating element at the bottom. Right on top of the heating element, there’s a box for placing your favorite flavored wood chips.
Pellet Smoker Vs. Fully Electric Smoker
Something you might want to consider is whether you want a fully electric smoker or a pellet smoker. Both are electric, but the pellet smoker uses wood pellets as fuel, while the electric smoker simply uses an electric heating element to burn wood chips.
They are similar in terms of convenience. Pellet grills have become very popular recently and have easy-to-use digital controls that you can control from your phone. You can set your desired temperature and then let the smoker work its magic. Of course, you’ll still have to manage the wood pellets and toss them into the hopper.
Analog Vs. Digital
Analog electric smokers have more straightforward controls. They usually have an on and off switch and a thermostat to manually control the temperature. These are great for beginners or people who don’t want to worry too much about the controls.
Digital controls let you monitor temperature a bit more accurately. You can set the temperature and step away to chat with guests while having your phone connected through Bluetooth or WiFi so you can adjust the temperature remotely.
With Or Without A Water Bowl
A lot of smokers come with a water bowl or pan that is placed above the heating element. This helps create some moisture, and it prevents the meat from drying out. You can also experiment with adding different flavors and spices to the water.
Some smokers don’t come with water bowls, and many types of smokers, such as pellet smokers or offset smokers, don’t use water. In any case, you should decide whether you want a smoker with or without a water bowl.
Solid vs. Glass Door
There are some minor differences experts usually point out between glass doors and solid doors for a smoker. On the one hand, expert smokers tend to say that solid doors provide better insulation, maintaining the temperature more evenly.
On the other, some people say glass doors are better because they allow you to monitor your food. Glass doors on smokers tend to fog up pretty quickly though, and you regularly have to clean them because of grease and smoke buildup.
What Do You Need The Smoker For?
Another excellent question to ask yourself when buying an electric smoker is what exactly you’re planning to use it for. Think about how many people, on average, you will cook for. People tend to underestimate the capacity they will need on their grill surfaces and smokers. When grilling season comes around, they find that their smoker does not have enough room for all the food they would like to cook.
Also, while you gain convenience on one end with an electric smoker, you lose portability on the other. An electric smoker needs to plug into a power source to function. If you want to do a lot of camping, traveling, or outdoor events, maybe an electric smoker isn’t the best option. Charcoal smokers tend to be more portable.
How Much Space It’s Going To Occupy
Electric smokers come in different shapes and sizes. Entirely electric smokers tend to occupy less space because of their vertical and rectangular shape. Pellet smokers are usually more expansive, similar to an offset smoker or gas grill. The pellet box attached to the side is usually a few inches wide and takes up some space. Depending on the size of your terrace or patio, an electric smoker might be a better fit than a pellet smoker.
The Pros and Cons of Electric Smokers
Ultimately you need to weigh the benefits of an electric smoker against the potential downsides. Here’s a shortlist to help you decide.
- Great for beginners since they are straightforward to use
- Fully electric smokers don’t require an additional source of energy, such as charcoal or pellets
- Cuts down your costs and your time by not buying, replacing, and storing bags of pellets or charcoal
- Convenient since you can set the temperature and leave the food while it cooks
- Electronic smokers’ portability is limited because they need to be plugged in
- Wood chips burn without combustion, so food lacks the intense flavor associated with charcoal smokers
Is an Electric Smoker Right For You?
Take some time to research electric smokers thoroughly before you buy and consider whether the benefits of convenience and ease of use outweigh what you’re giving up. There’s no perfect smoker out there, and it all comes down to what you prefer.
Some hardcore grill enthusiasts invest in multiple types of grills or smokers, accumulating a variety of cooktops over time. In any case, with a bit of research, you can determine if an electric smoker is the right choice for your cooking style and outdoor setup.