If you love authentic barbecue, then you know what a great addition an outdoor smoker is to your cooking arsenal.
Good food smokers give your meat a rich flavor that is deliciously irresistible, not to mention a rich texture and unbeatable tenderness.
When it comes to electric smokers, the biggest advantage is they they let you smoke meat without the usual tending that’s required when using other types of smokers.
This is a huge convenience for cooks who want great results, but don’t want to have to work so hard to get them.
So, what is the best electric smoker to buy?
This is where things get a little tricky. There are numerous manufacturers out there, and while this is a good thing, all of them claim to have the best features, quality and easiest products to use.
In this buying guide, we give you our top 10 carefully selected options so you can find a quality product that you fall in love with every time you use it.
What We Looked for in Reviewing Electric Smokers
With so many different models on the market today, it is not an easy task to come up with a guide to what is best.
Every manufacturer is trying to build a strong brand with the best features for their products and the bar for benchmarking goes higher each day.
However, we come up with criteria that informed our choice of the top 10 electric smokers.
Our decision was informed by the following metrics:
- Material Used and Construction
- Size of Cooking Area
- High Client Ratings and Good Reviews
- Temperature Control
- Ease of Use and Maintenance
Every customer wants an appliance that they can use for more than one purpose.
Most of the smokers that we evaluated can be used for smoking and grilling.
In addition to this, most can also be used for chicken, beef, pork, sausages and for dehydrating fruits and vegetables.
Cooking different types of food at once is one major way of saving time.
Smokers that can also be used for grilling are most preferred by customers because they save on space in the kitchen too.
Material Used and Construction
The material used in constructing one of these products is important as it determines its appeal and durability.
Most of the electric smokers we reviewed are made of stainless steel or aluminized steel with chrome plated cooking rids and racks.
Stainless and aluminized zinc are preferred because they protect the smoker from rusting. Chrome also ensures that the smoker is safe from corrosion.
Some have double walls to enhance the retention of heat inside the smoker for better cooking.
Size of Cooking Area
Many smokers are meant to be used outside the house.
This goes hand in hand with the need to have a large cooking area that can accommodate food for the whole family or host parties and dinners in the garden.
Most of the products that we have reviewed have 2-4 cooking grids which can hold up to 16 servings.
A big cooking area ensures that you can smoke all the food you want at a go no matter the number of people to be served.
Nobody wants an appliance that can only be used at a fixed location.
Most customers who buy smokers use it either over the weekends for entertaining or whenever they are travelling, going for picnics or camping.
Portability is determined by the weight of the appliance.
Most of the smokers we reviewed weigh between 25- 60 pounds. This shows that one can carry them around the compound or to whichever location they want.
Size is also important in determining portability.
Always go for a unit that occupies less space and one that you can comfortably put at your car trunk.
High Client Ratings and Good Reviews
One of the best ways to rate the performance of an appliance is to check how high it is rated and reviewed by the customers.
Clients are a good source of honest feedback since they talk about their real experience with the product.
The products we have reviewed have customer ratings above average and have been reviewed by many customers as good and effective.
With this, we are sure that the testimonials are a good source of feedback to the manufacturers and prospective buyers.
This was a big key factor when coming up with our criteria.
All the products that we reviewed have registered amazing performance with no cases of unexplained failure.
They have excellent temperature and smoke control features that ensure that all is well during cooking.
Some of the features that the smokers in this reviews have for enhanced performance include vents, doors, thermostats, rheostats, water pans, drip pans and extra insulation.
The wood ship loader is also in all the reviewed products to ensure that you get that lovely smoked food.
For one to get quality smoking results, there needs to be a way of controlling the temperature.
The smokers we reviewed have doors that are designed to lock tightly and securely to ensure that very little smoke and next to no heat escapes while cooking.
A good number of the products here has thermostats and a few have rheostats to make sure that you use the right temperature for the food being cooked.
Ease of Maintenance
This solely depends on the customer preferences.
We focused on the ease of assembly, cleaning and availability of replacements for spare parts.
A good number of the smokers we reviewed have removable cooking grids and racks for easy cleaning.
These grids and racks are also dishwasher safe. There is very little assembly needed and the spare parts are easily available from the manufacturers.
In addition, the electric smokers have handles while some also have wheels for easy transportation and safety while lifting.
10 Best Electric Smokers
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Other Factors to Consider When Buying An Electric Smoker
Ease Of Use
There are tons of choices when it comes to add-on accessories.
If you don’t want to manually mess around with temperature settings and smoke production, then you need to buy a smoker that lets you program these things.
Modern day models come with things like timers and temperature sensors to help you cook up the perfect piece of meat.
If you’re experienced with the smoking process, you might not need a bunch of bells and whistles; you can probably get by with fewer accessories.
Smokers that are listed in the table above all have this ability.
Budget vs Quality
It’s important to find a smoker that cooks your meat well, but you don’t want to spend a fortune getting the quality you need.
If budget plays a role in your decision, then you need to find the best quality smoker for a price that you can afford.
Fortunately, there are tons of decently priced units on the market; you just need to figure out which one will give you the cooking experience you desire.
Electric smokers come in different shapes and sizes, and when you choose a unit, you need to make sure that it’s big enough for the amount of food that you’re going to be preparing.
Always check a smoker’s capacity before buying it.
You don’t want to buy a huge smoker if you only plan on preparing personal meals regularly, and you don’t want to buy a compact smoker if you’re preparing meals for lots of people at once.
Generally speaking, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you have extra space, it can’t hurt to buy a unit with a larger capacity than you think you’ll need.
Advantages of Electric Smokers
When you use an electric smoker, you don’t depend on a flames to produce smoke.
These higher tech plug-in machines use coils to produce heat, and this comes with many advantages that traditional smokers don’t have:
Easy to Use
Conventional smokers take a long time to get going; you need to get the flame going, regulate air flow and make sure that the unit stays at the right temperature.
With that management comes an initial learning curve you you are either up for or not.
Some people simply don’t have the patience for that and just want to cut to the chase of buying food, loading it in with some wood chips and hitting “go”.
With an electric model, you simply plug it in, set the temperature and then cook your meat.
An electric unit levels the playing field between novices and experts. Any novice can use an electric unit to produce a quality piece of meat without any knowledge or skill, and they can do this while leaving the meat completely unattended.
So, say you’re hosting a party at your house. Do you want to be strapped to your smoker during the many hours it takes to create your delicious meat?
The answer in most cases is no, unless you’re more of an introvert and don’t mind being tethered to something that takes you away from entertaining.
Electric smokers are much safer than traditional smokers.
Traditional smokers rely on fire to produce smoke, and this fire needs to be left on for hours at a time.
If something knocks over your traditional unit, the fire can spread. If you have kids or pets, you’re probably better off using an electric unit; it’s just a lot safer.
This type of smoker is perfect for areas where open flames present a danger.
Additionally, with smokers that are powered by propane you have the added concern of leaking gas.
While this is not common, any time you cook with a volatile substance your level of risk increases.
It doesn’t cost a lot of money to run your digital smoker.
If you get a traditional unit, you constantly need to buy charcoal or wood to keep the flame going, and after a couple of hours, the cost of fuel really starts to add up.
With any of the smokers reviewed here, you don’t have this problem; you simply plug them in and let them run.
They don’t draw much power even over time, so they end up costing you less to run.
And you don’t have to buy propane to run your smoker all day either. This truly is the cheapest way to make smoked meat.
Conventional smokers need a lot of babysitting; you need to keep up air flow, temperature and the flame.
With an electric unit, you plug it in and let it run; there’s nothing else that needs to be done.
If you don’t have the time to watch your unit all day, then you need to get the best electric smoker for you and know you’re saving yourself some time and possible stress while cooking.
Disadvantages of Electric Smokers
Many home chefs believe that tending to their smoker is part of the fun when they are smoking meat.
For these purists, a set it and forget it system just doesn’t work; they feel like they are cheating when electronic equipment takes care of the smoker’s temperature and smoke production.
This is the same phenomenon that happens with instant pot multicookers; they cook by themselves for periods of time without any intervention by the cook. This is something a real chef would never sign up for.
If you really want to tend to your unit to make sure that it’s running, then an electric unit probably isn’t for you.
But if you don’t mind leaving it unattended, then you should be fine with an electric model.
Digital smokers are a little more complicated than traditional ones when it comes to their components; there are more electronic elements inside of them, so you have a bigger chance of malfunction.
Some users have reported erratic behavior with either their remote control or the “brain” on their unit itself.
Like any electronic device with a computer running it, things can go wrong.
It’s best to stick to reputable brands like Masterbuilt where a quality track record is in place along with proven customer support should anything go wrong.
When you use a traditional smoker, it’s just a piece of metal, so there is nothing inside of it that can break.
Electric smokers have programmable timers, thermostats and heating elements that can malfunction.
The manufacturers make the electronic elements easy to replace, but it takes some time to figure out how to do it.
It takes a little longer for foods to cook in an inexpensive model; this happens because cheaper units can’t always reach the high temperatures that traditional smokers can.
Cheap electric smokers teach people the value of patience when it comes to smoking meats; if you use an inexpensive electric smoker, you might need to wait a little longer for your meat to finish.
How to Use an Electric Smoker
Here’s a great demo video so you can really get to know how easy it is to use this wonderful cooking appliance.
Gas vs Electric Smokers
Smoking is one of the popular methods of cooking foods such as meat, fish, seafood, sausages, and others.
People are usually attracted to smoked foods due to some characteristic attributes they possess.
Some of these attributes include browning, unique taste and aroma, soft interior and hard exterior, amongst others.
There are different types of smokers in the market today but I will be comparing two in this post. The Gas and Electric smokers.
They both do the job perfectly well but for related reasons, one may be preferred over the other.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the reasons below.
Ease of Operation
In the ancient days, smoking simply involved getting the raw meat or fish and rotating it over burning woods until it is cooked.
Quite easy right?
These days, things have changed and there are various appliances you can use to smoke your food.
The easiest to operate is an electric smoker and the reason is because most of them come with electronic controls and sensors.
All you need to do is place the food in the oven and set your heat level just as you would with a microwave.
In fact, recent models are equipped with wireless connectivity allowing you control the oven from your mobile device.
Gas smokers on the other hand are also easy to operate but nearly as much as its electronic counterpart.
If you have never used one before, you will need to have a basic idea on how it works.
Unlike electric versions that don’t need any special procedure to operate, you need to take some procedures as well as precautions into account when using gas smokers.
You have to decide on the type of smoker to buy depending on where you intend using it.
Both can be used for outdoor events, probably for commercial purposes, but only the electric gas cooker should be used indoors.
Electric smokers are designed with heating elements that radiate high intensity waves across the interior of the oven.
You can use the controls on the oven to increase or reduce the intensity of the heat as required. Most models on the market use thermostats to ensure that the heat within the oven never goes beyond a set level.
The possible downside of electric smokers however is the fact that they can begin to develop faults after few years of usage.
The main source of heat for gas smokers is propane or natural gas. Just as I pointed out above, using them requires that you learn the technique.
Unlike plug-in types, thermostats are absent in gas smokers. You will therefore need to control the heat manually throughout the smoking session to achieve best results.
The good part is that gas smokers are flexible.
They can provide you with extremely high temperatures which may be useful in smoking some foods or achieving certain results.
You will hardly get these fine-tuned ability with the smoker reviewed on this page. And maybe that’s okay.
Size and Price
There are various sizes of electric and gas smokers ranging from small countertop types to medium sizes and to smokehouses.
Electric varieties are usually more expensive than gas smokers for all sizes due to the electrical components in them.
Various electric models of similar sizes could also have varying prizes depending on their level of sophistication.
Branded units could cost as much as $300 and beyond while propane smokers of the same size could cost about half or less.
When calculating average expenses that could incur from purchasing and using these machines over time, don’t forget to include cost of electricity bills.
Take note of the smoker’s power consumption capacity before purchasing it.
Propane smokers are relatively easy to construct and as such are not too expensive to purchase.
Various sizes are available for you to choose from depending on whether you want to use if for a commercial or private purpose.
1 gallon of propane is equivalent to 27kWh of electricity.
It is a good idea to compare the cost of using gas smokers with that of electricity in your vicinity before deciding on the most economical to purchase.
A lot of people fret at the thought of using gas cookers probably because of the many gas explosions they have seen in movies.
As long as you follow the right procedures when using gas burners, you have nothing to be scared of.
One of the most important safety precautions that you must always be conscious of is the presence of fire on the burner at all times when in use.
If you are using your gas smoker outdoors then wind can easily put off the fire without your knowledge.
This could result into a dangerous buildup of gas within the cabinet.
In all reality, there is absolutely not much you can do in terms of safety.
Some may argue that the heating element within the smoker could malfunction leading to shocks.
But again, these hazards are well accounted for and properly taken care of. Like any electronic kitchen appliance, rigorous tests and certifications must be passed before they can be made widely available to the public.
The smokers of today come with sophisticated features that promote safety and ease of operation.
With such brands, you can basically place your food in the oven, go back to your movie or whatever you are doing, and check back at time intervals.
The appliance will use its sensors, thermostats, and other technology installed in it to ensure that your food achieves your desired texture.
The right type of electric smoker to buy depends on a lot of considerations.
We have covered the most important ones above. If you intend on using your smoker indoors, then it’s best to purchase an electric model.
Electricity is readily available indoors of course, so there is an added convenience there.
And of course, the smoke from gas smokers would be way to strong to be used inside.
As a general rule, gas smokers are cheaper than electric ones.
If you care less about technology, sophistication, and above all, you are on a tight budget, then a gas smoker should be your preferred choice.
If on the other hand, you don’t want to be tied down to your cooking activity, you should consider purchasing one with a cord like we’re covering here.
Do I need to wet the wood chips?
No. This creates additional moisture inside the smoker.
Can my smoker be left outside the house for long?
Yes, you can leave it but you’d be wise to buy a cover from the manufacturer to protect it from rain and dirt.
Most recipes I find fro smoking food recommend non-iodized salt. Why is it so?
Iodized salt gives the food a bitter taste.
Does the food from an electric smoker have an authentic taste?
Yes and No, While the smoked taste is authentic, it is not noticeably different from food smoked in other types of smokers.
What is the best thing to do should I ever need to replace a part?
It is always advisable to contact the manufacturer for original spare parts.
What is the purpose of a water pan that used in a smoker?
A water pan is meant to retain moisture in the food while its being cooked. It’s not a must for you to use it but most people do.
It’s advisable to fill it with at least one cup of liquid before you start cooking. The liquid can be water, beer or a juice of your choice.
Most water pans are coated with porcelain. Do not leave any acidic liquids in the water pan for extended periods of time to prevent corrosion.
What is the drip pan for?
The drip pan is primarily meant to hold any moisture that drips past the water pan during cooking.
It’s usually located at the bottom of the smoker.
To ensure that all moisture condensation is trapped, ensure that the smoker is tilted back slightly off level when in use. Lining the bottom with foil also helps to simplify cleaning.
Is it possible to use the smoker without smoke?
Yes. Just do not put any wood chips in the loader, and you will be able to use it for home brews, as a slow cooker or for proving bread.
How do I pre-season the electric smoker for the first time after assembling?
First, ensure that the water pan is in place but without water. Plug in power and set your smoker to 275F.
Run it for 3 hours and put in the wood chips during the last 45 minutes.
How do I control moisture in my electric smoker?
The vent is the one that controls moisture in the smoker. Leaving it more closed allows more moisture to be retained inside and vice versa.