Last updated on February 15th, 2019 at 11:59 am
Do you enjoy smoked meat, but don’t enjoy sitting around outside tending to a fire?
With an electric smoker, you get the perfect balance between delicious smoked meat and an easy “set it up and forget about it” cooking experience.
Electric smokers are usually pretty user friendly, and they are able to maintain a consistent temperature for long periods of time to give you great tasting food.
With an electric smoker, you also don’t have to worry about your fire dying out or the mess that can come with a propane or charcoal smoker. You only have to worry about the great food you want to make. We’ve gathered everything you need to help you find the best one for your next back yard barbecue.
Top 10: Best Electric Smokers
|Rank||The Smoker||Best For||Our Vote|
|1||Masterbuilt Digital Front Controller (View on Amazon)||Overall Value||10.0|
|2||Smoke Hollow 40" Digital (View on Amazon)||Top of the Line Features||9.9|
|3||Char-Broil Delux Digital (View on Amazon)||Excellent Features At A Better Price||9.7|
|4||Masterbuilt 30" Digital (View on Amazon)||Affordable Quality||9.6|
|5||Smoke Hollow 30"|
Digital (View on Amazon)
|Ease of Use||9.1|
|6||Masterbuilt Portable (View on Amazon)||Quality and Portability||9.0|
|7||Smokehouse Products Little Chief (View on Amazon)||Beginners||8.4|
|8||Char-Broil Vertical (View on Amazon)||Price and Simplicity||8.3|
|9||Smoke Hollow 26"|
(View on Amazon)
|Price and Simplicity||8.2|
|10||Masterbuilt Electric Bullet (View on Amazon)||Budget and Portability||7.4|
Should You Go Electric? A Comparison of Meat Smoking Technologies
Clearly we love all things electric here, and when it comes to smokers we feel no different. However, just because we favor electric smokers doesn’t mean that they are the only options out there. Here’s a quick recap of some popular technologies, and some thoughts on why an electric model might be best for you.
Despite the inconveniences involved with using of this type of smoker, some food purists and meat preparation specialists still prefer it to other types even if it will get their hands dirty. A big advantage of a charcoal smoker is affordability – they can be among the least expensive options, and if you have cost constraints they may be your best bet.
The biggest reason some users have stuck to charcoal is because it offers traditional flavor and great natural taste. It is also very portable so it can be used for picnics and for other outdoor events in remote locations. However, charcoal smokers can be quite difficult to clean and the process of preparing the charcoal embers can be a handful. Starting a fire isn’t easy and it is even more difficult to keep it burning evenly. This can be even more difficult for beginners and it may discourage them totally. Another problem with charcoal smokers is that it can take some practice to learn how to control their temperature. If you are inexperienced, this means that you’ll probably need to check your meat frequently as the chances of burning your food can be high.
A ceramic smoker is an unpopular version of charcoal smoker. Although it is much more efficient and it cooks faster, it still uses charcoal and has the same problems as with traditional charcoal smokers. Ceramic smokers are available with temperature settings which can make them very expensive. Unfortunately, poor handling and use can lead to cracks in the ceramic. Also, they are very heavy and difficult to move around.
Wood burning smokers are very similar to a charcoal smokers. The main difference is that a charcoal smoker tends to cook faster. Wood-burning smokers also provide traditional flavors and natural taste. These types of smokers themselves are not usually expensive, but firewood certainly can be. Wood tends to burn faster than charcoal so you may need to feed the fire periodically, and they higher temperatures will require frequent monitoring to prevent your food from burning.
Pellet smokers are quite common for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they offer more consistent temperatures than the two technologies we have discussed above, making them much easier to use. This is because they are usually equipped with a thermostat, which puts you in control of the heat so that you will be able to regulate the temperature depending on the kind of food you are smoking. However, pellet smokers have one big drawback – can in certain occasions they can get jammed while in use. Pellet smokers are also quite expensive when compared to charcoal and wood-burning alternatives.
Gas or propane smokers are very easy to use. You only need to set the temperature and you can go and do other things while your food is being cooked – you won’t have to keep checking it every 5 minutes. Since gas smokers usually have the ability to generate a temperature higher than 450-degrees, they can also be used as ovens. Another advantage of a gas smoker is that it is very portable so it can be taken for picnics, camping, and other outdoor events.
Don’t forget that a gas smoker will run out of fuel once in a while, so you’ll need to watch the level while in use. It’s best to keep extra fuel on hand so you don’t end up mid-smoking with no more fuel. The biggest problem with gas smokers is that they can be difficult to maintain. This is because parts can break easily and can be difficult to replace.
Electric smokers are the “latest and greatest” and they come as an improvement on other types of smokers. For a better comparison, here are the features of electric smokers:
• Ease of use
• Total control
• Professional cooking
• Great flavor
• Grilled food remain moist and tender
• Easy to clean up
1. Ease of use
Electric smokers are very easy to use. In fact, they are the easiest type of smokers to use. This is why they are recommended for beginners. You don’t have to keep checking on your food while it is being grilled like you do with charcoal smokers.
Since electricity is in regular supply, you don’t need to be keeping tabs on it like you check burning charcoal and firewood. You just need to plug it to an outlet and it will run for as long as you want. That is nothing but convenience. There is no fuel to monitor.
2. Total control
Electric smokers give you total control with switches, buttons, and dials. You can also control both the time and temperature of smoking. This is why this type of smoker is commonly used in restaurants, hotels, and other commercial entities. To appreciate total control, you need to understand that when you cook for too long, your food may get charred or dry. When the cooking period is too short, your food will be undercooked and when you cook with inconsistent heat, this will lead to uneven cooking.
None of the three situations is pleasant. They can be described as culinary nightmares. Being able to set the time and temperature from the beginning reduces the chances of occurrence of any of the three scenarios described above.
3. Professional cooking
With this equipment, you can still cook like a pro even with little cooking experience. Think of it, unless you’re Francis Mallmann, your preparation of charcoal or firewood is unlikely to be professional. So, you’re less likely to achieve professional results with other kinds of smokers. In addition, it is easier to follow recipes with an electric smoker.
4. Great flavor
Electric smokers give great flavor. Even though a lot of people believe that charcoal smokers offer better taste, this is nothing but a mere belief that has not been proved. In addition, some models of meat smokers now come with a tray-like pan where you can place wood chips to get the feel of charcoal grilling.
5. Smoked food remain moist and tender
Electric smokers are equipped with small vents for smoke to escape. These vents prevent grilled food from losing its temperature so your food will retain its moisture and remain tender. This is why electric smokers are the best type for grilling food like tender meats, brisket, ham, bacon, sausages, fish, etc.
6. Easy to clean up
Unlike charcoal smokers, an electric smoker is very easy to clean up. It is also very easy to set up electric smokers. You can make cleaning even easier by using non-stick spray.
Simply put, electric smoker offer all the attractive features of the other smokers while avoiding many of the drawbacks. Considering all the advantages of electric smokers, it is very clear that they are the best choice – at least in our opinion!
Buying Guide: How to Choose The Right Smoker
Here are some common features that you’ll want to look for in an electric smoker:
Thermostat vs. Rheostat
You will usually find that inexpensive electric smokers have a rheostat that lessens the flow of electricity towards the coil without turning it off. Electric smokers with a thermostat are better for both consumption of electricity and smoking results due to heating the coil and smoking the wood better.
Make sure your electric smoker seals well. As you are smoking your fish, beef, chicken, vegetables, and cheese, you want to make sure that all the smoke stays in the smoker and doesn’t leak out.
Capacity of the Smoking Drawer
Depending on your smoking needs, you may need a very large smoking drawer if you have a family or a small one just for yourself. Look for a smoker with a stainless steel smoking drawer as that is the easiest type to clean.
You can have total power over your smoker with a remote control. A remote control will be able to control the internal light, the smoker’s temperature, and the meat temperature. With a remote control, you can relax a lot more and worry less about inconsistences then you would with a charcoal smoker that you have to closely monitor.
Make sure that the design of the electric smoker is user-friendly and has features like easy to move racks, a wood chip box that is easy to fill, and a temperature that is easy to set. If you plan on setting up your electric smoker in your kitchen, it is also important that the smoker matches the rest of the appliances in your kitchen.
Electric Smoker Reviews
If you love the full flavor of food that has been slow-smoked in an outdoor cookout, the 30-inch Masterbuilt Front Controller Digital Electric Smoker gives you that same smokehouse flavor like you have spent hours outside grilling. Equipped with a blue LED display that you can easily see in the sunlight, the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker gives you more than 700 square inches of complete cooking space that also contains four cooking racks. It also includes a front-access drip pan, a drip deflector, and a locking door that features an inner lining to help keep the heat and smoky flavor inside.
Perfect for a beginner or a professional, the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker allows you to make competition-ready meat in your own yard without propane or charcoal. This easy to use smoker just needs to be plugged in and the digital control set for it to work. It also comes with four smoking racks and an integrated thermostat temperature control that gives you consistent and even smoking.
With Bluetooth capability, the Smoke Hollow Electric smoker can give you an easy and enjoyable smoking experience. The mobile app lets you operate your smoker from any type of smart device. With dual elements, the 40″ cabinet provides faster smoking so you can cook even more.
Smoke Hollow Electric smoker also features the first ever “cold smoking” setting allowing you to smoke cheese and fish without worrying about overcooking. With the “fast smoke” setting, you can have smoking chips within fifteen minutes instead of waiting forever for your chips to start to smolder. The 40” cabinet gives you 4.5 cubic feet of cooking space and includes a light for good visibility as well as an integrated meat probe and a large digital display.
Dual elements let you cook faster and feature three smoking options including hot smoke, cold smoke, and fast smoke. It also features a heavy-duty stand includes wheels for easy mobility and access and an easy fill side water port and large capacity wood chip drawer.
The perfect appliance for outdoor smoking, the Char-Broil Deluxe is a digital electric smoker with 725-square inches of cooking space. It includes four adjustable smoking racks making it versatile enough to cook a wide range of meat. Whether you are cooking for a large or small group, this is a great electric smoker to have in your backyard for entertaining.
The large capacity smoke box lets you get 4 to 7 hours of smoke before you need to refill it. Plus, there is no guesswork when using the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker allowing you to make meat that is perfectly cooked each time you use it.
It also features an integrated meat probe that is removable and washable that is also easy to use. Just place the probe inside the meat and the smoker will let you know when the meat is done. The warming features will also keep your meat warm inside the smoker until you are ready to serve it.
The double wall, premium insulated construction of the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker makes it up to ten times more efficient in comparison to its competition. You can fill the four cup capacity wood chip box and get up to seven hours of smoking. Featuring a full-size glass window, you can easily watch your cooking meat while the side-locking latch makes a smoke-tight seal that guarantees that the smoke and flavor stays inside.
The remote control and removable temperature gauge allow you to monitor your meat while you relax and make simple adjustments using the advanced control panel featuring an easy-to-read blue LED display. Plus, the slide-in water pan is porcelain-coated and is easy to refill.
The 30” Masterbuilt electric smoker is a great option for the professional or beginner allowing you to accomplish competition-ready results at home. You don’t have to worry about propane or charcoal, you plug in the smoker and go. Smoking is simple with the digital panel control featuring an on/off switch, plus time and temperature controls.
The Masterbuilt also includes four smoking racks and a wood chip load system on the side that is patented and allows you to add chips without needing to open the door of the smoker. The thermostat temperature control is integrated for consistent and even smoking. The easy to use digital control panel allows you to easily set the timer and temperature so you can sit back and relax while the smoker does all the work for you.
With two cubic feet of cooking capacity, the 30” Smoke Hollow smoker can give you professional quality backyard BBQ with delicious food for your next cookout. Enhanced features include a huge viewing window that is easy to clean and a large wood chip tray with external-loading to instill that delicious smoke. Plus, the chrome-plated cooking grids are adjustable allowing you the versatility to cook a wide range of food that includes poultry, pork, fish, cheese, and meat, or even vegetables.
The 1500 watt heat source is digitally controlled allowing you to use the preferred smoking temperature for your meat, plus you can smoke in a variety of temperatures all year long. It also features an LED display with Cooking Temperature, Time, and On/Off buttons. This is a meat probe compatible smoker that also features a viewing window with tempered glass that makes it easy to watch the progress of your meat without opening the door, so all you have to do is add water and wood chips and then sit back, relax, and enjoy.
This Masterbuilt Portable Electric Smoker is ideal for use at home or on the go. This large capacity smoker can easily smoke a ham or whole turkey as well as ribs and any of your favorites for tailgating. This is also an easy to use smoker that you can take along on camping and road trips.
With the 1,400-watt heating element, the Masterbuilt is easy to use and features two smoking racks. With simple controls, it is easy to choose either a low, medium, or high setting, plus it features an easy to read temperature gauge, a removable water pan and wood chip tray, and legs that are easy to fold for storage.
This is actually quite a compact smoker when you compare it to other electric smokers on the market which makes it great to travel with. It produces a clean and steady smoke that won’t smoke up your entire house or yard. It is a hardworking and quiet smoker that does its job without requiring a lot of fuss.
Without needing coals or fire, the Little Chief front-loading electric smoker lets you smoke up to 25 pounds of meat or fish. With the electric-powered, self-contained smoker, you have a heating element that is equipped for slow-cook smoking with the ability to hold a steady heat of 165 degrees Fahrenheit providing a consistent temperature that you need to smoke food. The aluminum smoker is durable and features a fuel pan to infuse the maximum amount of smoke flavor into your food.
Vented for the right amount of dehydration, the Little Chief front load electric smoker also features chrome-plated grills are easy to slide and easy to load and unload from the front, similar to a regular oven. You can also easily clean up the dishwasher-safe drip pan found at the smoker’s bottom. The Little Chief comes with complete instructions and a recipe booklet as well as a 1.75-pound bag of Smokehouse natural wood chips to make your next barbeque simple and relaxing.
For a convenient and easy way to smoke all types of food, the vertical Char-Broil Electric Smoker features a huge smoking chamber with three cooking grates that are adjustable and provide over 500 square inches of cooking surface. This is a perfect smoker to maintain a consistent heat with its doubled walled and insulated construction. Plus it has a 1,500-watt heating element that has variable temperatures to heat water and wood chips for smoking.
The Char-Broil Electric Smoker also features a temperature gauge that is front mounted and a wood chip and water pan. It also includes a handy grease cup and porcelain ash pan.
The best feature about this smoker is that it is perfect for an inexperienced cook that wants to try smoking foods at home, With its simple design, it is easy to operate and will not give you any problems as you try smoking meat for the first time. The simple operating process relieves you from having to manage every single detail so you will be able to enjoy delicious smoked foods at home.
With a fully-welded steel cabinet, the Smoke Hollow Electric Smoker features cooking grids that are chrome-plated and adjustable for a variety of cooking heights in the grid track system allowing for lots of versatility in the foods that you can smoke. The Smoke Hollow has a 1.3 cubic foot cooking capacity, and it includes a 1500 watt heating element that includes temperature control that is removable and adjustable. With the full range heat indicator, you can tell whether or not your food is getting enough smoke while it is inside the smoker.
The Smoke Hollow Electric Smoker also contains draft controls that are adjustable and side handles that are cool to the touch. The spring wire handle is also a nice addition allowing you to open up the door without having to put on gloves. This affordable smoker also features a water pan and a chip tray that are both porcelain coated. The Smoke Hollow is also the perfect sized smoker for any yard, and it is easy to travel with.
Without worrying about the hassle of propane or charcoal, you just need to plug in the Masterbuilt Electric Bullet smoker and it will do all the work. With 395 square feet of interior cooking area, you can smoke a turkey, a chicken, or a brisket.
The analog controls allow you to easily choose your preferred settings for the 1,650-watt heating element allowing you cook the meat evenly and consistently. The easy to read temperature gauge in the lid allows you to monitor temperature as you cook. It also includes a drip pan, water bowl, and a removable wood chip tray that is porcelain-coated.
This compact and easy to clean smoker takes up very little counter space and is easy to store.
Smokers don’t have to be very complicated devices. In all honesty, they just need to cook meat well – no frills, no fuss, and no complicated settings needed. While there are plenty of devices on the market that add bells and whistles to this sort of machine, some of the bets – like Smoke Hollow’s 30-Inch Electric Smoker – stick to the basics.
Simplicity is probably the biggest selling point for this 30-inch electric smoker. Not only is it very easy to put together, but it’s very easy to use. There’s really no fuss or mess involved with getting the smoker set up, and actually operating the device is easy for even a novice. Not only is it easy to get working, but it’s easy to keep working – there is very little maintenance involved and the smoker is reliable enough that you don’t need to watch it every second of the cooking process. In short, it provides the kind of cooking experience that you’d want from a good smoker.
The most common complaints about this particular model is that it needs to get very hot to actually start smoking. Of course, that’s generally what you’d expect for this kind of product, so it’s hard to really count that against the smoker. More reasonable are the issues with shipping – getting a smoker that arrives with dents in it is never fun. Still, the smoker works quite well and holds up to repeated use – exactly what most people are looking for in this kind product.
Simplicity is an important trait in a smoker. It’s not just it makes it easier to use – which it does – but that it helps to reduce the chance of something going wrong. Smoking your food doesn’t need to be a complex process and it often seems like too many options will quickly spoil your attempts at making something delicious. That’s why it’s important to find something like the Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker when you really want to get to the essence of what a smoker’s all about.
There really is a lot to like in this unit. Perhaps the first thing that will catch the eye of a user is the incredible amount of cooking space available. Even if you’re not looking to cook a lot at once, having the extra space is nice. There are also a few little conveniences scattered here in there, like a thermometer on the door that allows you to read the internal temperature or the high-capacity wood chip box. It’s full of little things that make cooking easier without compromising the simplicity and strength of the overall design.
There really aren’t a lot of faults here, unless you feel like you need a professional-grade product. The lack of bells and whistles will be a plus for most, but those who need very particular settings might be disappointed in the lack of options here. All in all, though, this is an excellent smoker that does its job very well.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a little extra technology on your side. While smokers are about as simple as you can get when it comes to cooking food, that doesn’t mean that a few modern conveniences won’t make the experience better. Masterbuilt’s Bluetooth Smart Digital Electric Smoker combines everything that makes a good smoker work with a handful of technological innovations that really take some of the guesswork out of cooking with a smoker.
The big selling point here is the Bluetooth control, and it should be. This is exactly the kind of technology that makes cooking easier without overwhelming the core conceit. The technology in this smoker allows you to control the unit’s temperature and timer from your phone, giving you a few options when you’re not able to get directly over to the smoker. It doesn’t allow you to make any revolutionary changes to the cooking process, but the smart controls do allow you a greater degree of freedom while your meal is cooking. Combined with a time-tested design, this smoker gives you the best of the past and the future.
As you might expect, the bulk of the problems with this unit also have to do with the Bluetooth technology. It only works in a limited range and the app is a bit too finicky for most users. At the very worst, though, this means you’ll have to use the smoker’s control panel to make changes to your cooking process – something that’s still much easier than using the average controls available on most smokers.
It’s really amazing how little smokers have changed over the years. It’s at a point where any change seems revolutionary, even if those changes are minor. If you take a look at Dyna-Glo’s Digital Electric Smoker, you’ll see a design that wouldn’t have been too out of place a few decades ago. The only real nod towards modernity is the digital control panel, which really does make a huge difference in how the unit works.
While it’s possible to go on about how nice it is to have a digital control panel, there’s actually a fair bit to like with this unit. Its design is simple and sleek, yet provides plenty of space for cooking. The integrated thermometer makes it easier than ever to monitor your food, while the double-insulation really helps to keep the heat where it belongs. Yes, the digital control panel is nice for making sure that you have your settings precisely where you need them, but it’s really just icing on the cake.
There aren’t a lot of negatives to this unit. Some have complained about moisture build-up, but that’s par for the course when it comes to smokers. If that’s the biggest fault you can find with this kind of product, that’s more of an endorsement than almost any positive review can give the device.
There’s not a lot of variation when it comes to smoker design. Just having a color other than metallic seems outrageous, yet changing up styles really helps to define Masterbuilt’s Digital Electric Smoker. It’s certainly got a lot in common with more traditional units when you look under the hood, but the small changes to the traditional design do help it to stand out in a crowded pack.
Beyond being green, this smoker does have a few nice selling points. It’s got an RF remote, which allows users to make changes on the fly. It’s also lifted a fair bit off the ground compared to most other smokers, which is nice for those who don’t want to constantly bend all the way down to check on their food. Beyond that, the major selling points are fairly typical – the design retains heat well while giving space for up to eighty pounds of meat. The extra touches are nice, but it’s the solid design that really helps to sell this unit.
The biggest complaint against this smoker is that it isn’t weather resistant. While that’s not something you should expect from an electric smoker, it is still fairly easily remedied with a good cover. Otherwise, you’re looking at a smoker that works well, will retain heat with relatively little babysitting, and has enough new features that you’ll find it hard to go back to a more traditional smoker.
How to Cook With An Electric Smoker
Once you have your electric smoker picked out and set up, it’s time to conquer your first barbecue. To avoid common mistakes we figured put together a primer to get you up and running with success as soon as possible.
Understand The Technique
Smoking is the use of smoke to cook and flavor meat with either wood or gas, with newer smokers allowing for vegetables and nuts. Modernization has brought about the electric smoker which doesn’t require charcoal, wood, or propane and doesn’t require you to break a sweat. What follows are some things that can be done in order to get the best results from cooking with an electric smoker.
The first thing that you need to do is decide which smoker you would like to purchase to meet your needs – hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve already read through our reviews and buying guide and found a perfect fit. To recap, options include vertical water electric smokers, which are better for the warm seasons. Refrigerator-shaped cabinet smokers which have gauges for controlling core temperature are also an option. The most basic and important thing is to read the directions to ensure that you use your electric smoker correctly.
Reading the manufacturer’s directions will not only help you understand the way your smoker functions, it will also teach you how to correctly season your smoker. Seasoning an electric smoker is done to remove dust, odors and solvents so it is prepared for use. Cooking oil is usually used to coat the racks and other surfaces before turning the smoker on for two hours, then turning it off and opening the hood to aid in cooling.
Season the Meat, Heat the Smoker
Your meats will show the best results if you prepare and season them the way you want, then allow them to sit overnight to absorb the flavor. Heating an electric smoker to the temperature required for the meat before placing it on the rack is important, then you want to cook the meat until a thermometer tells you that has reached the correct internal temperature. Meat thermometers need to be inserted directly into the meat as close to the center of the thickest parts in order to read the temperature correctly.
It is not advisable to use an extension cord with your electric smoker because of the dangers they present. Ensure that you have a convenient outlet outside or the ability to add an additional outlet. If you have no choice but to resort to an extension cord make sure that it is heavily insulated and rated for the electricity that the smoker will draw.
Ensure that an extension cord has heavy wiring such as twelve gauge that allow it to provide adequate power. Do not use a long cord and ensure that it is placed so that you will not trip over it. Place the electric smoker so that you will not come in contact with the cord, and where there is nothing that could short it out.
The Cooking Process
Do not place the meat directly over the source of heat to avoid uneven cooking. It is best to give the meat about six to eight hours to cook thoroughly – though cooking times will vary depending on the type of meat that you have chosen as well as the cut. Meat takes time to smoke, so leaving yourself adequate time will ensure that it turns out how you would like. Things like brisket can take up to twenty-two hours to smoke with certain techniques – just do some research and keep in mind that the times will vary for the different meats that you smoke.
Baste and Cover
Basting throughout the smoking process ensures that the meat remains moist once all is said and done. The recipe that you choose will determine the amount basting required. Whether or not a covering is required would also depend on the recipe that you are using. It is far less risky to use a recipe when you first begin smoking meat in an electric smoker, so we highly recommend that you seek one out before you start.
It is of utmost importance to monitor the temperature of the meat while it smokes. Remove the meat when the meat reaches the correct temperature. Then you’ll want to cut into an inconspicuous piece of meat to check for perfection. If done correctly, there will be a pink ring under the crust when you cut the meat. This is called a smoker ring. If you see a smoke ring you can rest assured that your meat was smoked correctly.
Tips and Cautions
Instructions: Read the manual and instructions for the electric smoker before you start cooking.
Start Slow: Begin by following recipes. You can experiment as your skills develop to a higher level.
Plan Carefully: It takes a long time to properly smoke meat. Plan ahead and set aside ample time to smoke the meat until it is completely done according to the internal temperature when measured by a meat thermometer.
Safety: Consuming raw or undercooked can be dangerous for your health. Make sure that you monitor the meat while you smoke it and that the meat reaches sufficient internal temperatures prior to consumption.