- A summary of our findings
- What is an electric smoker?
- How do electric smokers work?
- Important caveats of Electric Smokers
- What to Consider When Buying an Electric Smoker?
- How We Picked and Tested
- Best Electric Smokers
A summary of our findings
On today’s electric smoker reviews, we were aimed to find the absolute best electric smoker out there. And we did it!
After hours of research, looking through user reviews and smoker features, we have been able to pick the most excellent electric smoker one could find.
We chose the one from 5 models. And before that, we had hundreds of smokers to shortlist those five smokers.
In the end, we think that Bradley BS611 electric smoker is the best one.
Read on to find out!
What is an electric smoker?
An electric smoker is a kind of a smoker that works on electricity rather than wood or charcoal, as evident from its name. Electric smokers have some advantages and disadvantages of traditional wood smokers.
Electric smokers are much easier to use, first of all. They are very easy to set the temperature and smoking time on.
Besides, because they don’t use any wood fuel, even beginners can easily smoke on such a smoker.
And lastly, electric smokers are much easier to clean than wood smokers.
On the other hand, you won’t be getting the same smoky meat flavor from an electric smoker. Many lovers of meat just hate electric smokers because of this, though it certainly makes delicious meat.
There are other, smaller issues in electric smokers as well.
For example, electric smokers have electronic circuitry in them that is prone to malfunction and is difficult to repair. And besides, because they rely on electricity, they can’t be used everywhere.
However, if you value easiness of use more than meat flavor, then an electric smoker would be the better choice.
How do electric smokers work?
Electric smokers essentially work in the same way as any other type of smoker does.
The purpose of any smoker is to trap heat and smoke in a sealed chamber so that the meat is imparted by that delicious smoky flavor. That’s what electric smokers do as well.
They have got the same components as wood, pellet, or gas smokers have like air vents, water & drip trays, and whatnot. However, what differs in an electric smoker is that it cooks the food with the help of electricity.
In particular, the heat in an electric smoker comes from a burner element.
Inexpensive electric smokers come with a device called a rheostat which turns down the flow of electricity to the coil, thus limiting the amount of heat produced. Rheostat-equipped meat smokers usually have low, high, and medium heat settings.
Expensive electric smokers are usually equipped with thermostats and temperature probes. These can maintain the selected smoking temperature automatically by increasing/reducing the amount of produced heat when necessary.
All those electronic devices allow for a degree of control that is just unreachable with other types of smokers. You may have an excellent intuitive feeling of when to increase or reduce the temp in a charcoal smoker, but an electric smoker will always know better how to adjust the heat level.
Essentially, electric smokers require no guesswork from you.
Aside from the burner element, electric smokers come with a wood chip tray: you fill it with smoking wood chips and put above the burner. The chips smolder to produce the smoke and impart a smoky flavor to the meat.
But why do electric smokers have wood chip trays, you may ask?
That’s because the electric burners produce just sweltering air that merely cooks the meat. However, the heater doesn’t provide any smoke, so it isn’t capable of smoking the meat by itself.
That’s why you also need to use wood chips in electric smokers. Without them, you won’t be getting the smoky meat flavor.
There are wood chips with various flavors available out there, so you could play around with the taste of the meat.
There is another kind of a smoker called pellet smoker that we should mention. While pellet smokers technically are electric, they differ in that they use compressed wood pellets to smoke food.
Since the pellets are ignited in pellet cookers, the amount of smoke produced in them is much higher than in a typical electric smoker. And besides, the combustion process is close to that in charcoal smokers.
Thanks to this, pellet smokers deliver smoky flavors that are quite close to what charcoal smokers can do. Some people even think that pellet smokers are as good as charcoal smokers regarding the meat flavor.
Pellet smokers have one downside though: they require wood pellets that are more expensive than other types of fuel.
Important caveats of Electric Smokers
Getting crispy skin on chicken or a crusty bark on pulled pork isn’t a thing that is easily achievable in electric smokers.
The heat in charcoal, gas, and pellet smokers comes from combustion. When mixed with wood, it produces gases that attach the distinctive smoky flavor to the meat.
Because electric smokers don’t produce combustion gases, the flavor in the meat smoked in them is different. Also, no smoke rings form on the meat.
Electric smokers have low airflow: because there is no combustion, no air is needed for heat production. The lack of oxygen tends to reduce the soldering temperature of the wood chips, which directs chemical reactions in the wood in a whole another direction.
As a result, you get no smoke rings and a different meat flavor.
There is one thing you could do to make the meat more authentic with an electric smoker.
You could add 1-2 charcoal briquettes to the chip tray of the electric smoker. They may be able to produce the gases necessary for the distinct smoky flavor. However, this won’t work 100% of the time.
What to Consider When Buying an Electric Smoker?
You’d want an electric smoker that has enough space in it to cook the amount of food you want, right? If so, then you would need to consider the size of the cooking chamber of the desired electric smoker.
Most electric smokers have 500 – 700 square inches of cooking area, which is sufficient for large group meals. For large parties, you may want to go for 700 – 1.000 square inches.
If you will be moving your electric smoker often or if you want to travel with it, you would need to go for a light smoker. Most electric smokers are pretty lightweight anyway since they are designed with lighter materials from the get-go. Some may be pretty heavy though.
If you think that you’ll need to move your smoker around a lot, then look for one that weighs 60 pounds at max.
Electric smokers allow you to change the cooking temperature and time, so you get the desired results every time. Some have control panels that will enable you to monitor the cooking process.
All in all, when looking for controls in an electric smoker, keep in mind what kind of features you would want to control in it.
Temperature controls are one of the most critical features in electric smokers.
You would probably want to go for a smoker that has a thermostat which automatically maintains the cooking temperature that you’ve selected. Besides, the temp controls should be easy to use.
Cheaper smokers tend not to have thermostats. They do allow you to set the cooking temp, but they aren’t able to maintain it throughout the cooking. As a result, you may get under- or overcooked meats.
If you can, avoid those cheaper models.
The smoker’s temperature range is also a thing to take into account. The right range will depend on your needs.
As a general rule, you should go for a smoker that has a wide temperature range as possible. This would allow you to prepare different types of food.
Besides, keep your specific needs in mind. For example, if you want to smoke larger items, you would wish to temps in the 400-500-degree range. Or if you’re going to try cold smoking, get a smoker that gets as low as 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
As we have already mentioned, electric smokers come with chip loaders to hold wood. There is one thing you’d need to look out for: make sure that the smoker’s chip loader can be accessed without having to open the cooking chamber. That way, you won’t lose any heat or smoke when adding wood chips.
Depending on how much food you’ll be smoking, you also need to choose how many racks you want in a smoker. Besides, the headroom of the racks is also essential.
Remote control isn’t an essential feature, but it is very convenient. If a smoker comes with one, you wouldn’t need to go back and forth to adjust its settings.
A window would allow you to check on the food’s condition without opening the cooking chamber and losing heat and smoke. If the smoker has no windows, you would need to open it up to see how the meat is doing.
To avoid that, look for an electric smoker that has a window in its door.
How We Picked and Tested
We have made quite a journey to reach this point.
To begin with, we researched what electric smokers are to be able to differentiate them from other types of smokers. We have pinpointed their advantages and disadvantages, as you already know.
Then, we found the five smokers – our reviews of which you’ll see below – after looking through dozens of other models. Some smokers were too unbalanced, others were just plain useless, but these five seemed like the best out there.
Then we applied our toolset of tests and feature comparisons and combined them with user reviews to try and get a complete image of what those five electric smokers can offer.
In the end, we think we were able to distinguish them from each other well enough so you could choose one from them quickly.
Best Electric Smokers
Masterbuilt proves to be quite a nice smoker to prepare large amounts of food.
First off, it has 975 square inches of cooking capacity that is spread between 4 cooking racks. This would be enough to smoke, for example, two whole turkeys at a time.
This electric smoker also has adjustable temp controls, as well as comes with a remote to allow adjustment of the smoker’s settings from afar. This is a lovely bonus, albeit not necessary.
Masterbuilt made sure that you don’t need to open the door of the smoker to add wood chips. To do that, you need to pull out the chip tray from the side of the smoker and add the fuel.
Lastly, this electric smoker also has a large door window, so you’d be able to keep an eye on the cooking.
If you like this smoker but feel that its capacity is overkill for you, there is a smaller 30-inch version of it, but it has no door windows.
- 975 square inches of cooking capacity.
- Has a large door window.
- Has quality issues.
While Bradley BS611 smoker – our top pick – is technically an electric smoker, it differs from one quite a bit.
BS611 relates to the category of pellet smokers that use compressed wood pellets to generate heat and smoke. And we explained what the benefits of pellet smokers are above.
First of all, BS611 will be able to deliver better smoky flavor than a typical electric smoker would.
Another advantage of BS611 is that it feeds the pellets during the cooking automatically. You insert the pellets into the side box and wait until the meat is done. Well, that’s ideally.
BS611’s pellet feeder tends to jam sometimes, forcing you to either feed the pellets manually or to repair the feeder mechanism, so you may need to deal with that.
And, as we mentioned earlier, wood pellets tend to cost more than other types of wood, so keep that in mind.
- Delivers great smoky flavor.
- Feeds the pellets in automatically.
- Requires pricey smoke pellets.
- The pellet feeding mechanism tends to jam.
Smokehouse Little Chief electric smoker is quite an inexpensive smoker, which makes it a suitable choice for those on a tight budget.
This smoker certainly can’t compare with the more expensive models we reviewed, but it still does have a couple of features to offer.
Not the most massive smoker on the list, the Little Chief sure can smoke right amounts of food: it is designed to burn 25 pounds of meat at once.
It also has just one smoking temperature – 165 F – which is not necessarily a downside. If you like smoking with cooler temps and if you don’t need a broad temperature range in your smoker, then this won’t be a problem for you.
- Can take in 25 pounds of meat.
- Comes with 1.75 lbs. of hickory-flavored wood chips.
- Only cooks at 165 F.
- The vents aren’t adjustable.
Char-Broil is a little more expensive than Smokehouse Little Chef smoker, so it has a bit more to offer.
First of all, it has an adjustable temperature, albeit you can only choose between the present low, medium, and high settings that go from 100 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, that’s more than Little Chef had, and it’s what you would expect at this price point.
The cooking capacity of the Char-Broil electric smoker is quite nice: it has 505 square inches of cooking surface spread between 3 cooking grates.
Char-Broil also equipped the door of their smoker with a thermometer, which, to be fair, isn’t the instrument you’d want to rely on. It has been off the actual temps most of the time, so you’d want to get yourself a separate thermometer.
- 505 square inches of cooking area.
- Rather cheap.
- The onboard thermometer isn’t very accurate.
- The vents can’t be adjusted.
Char-Broil Deluxe – the last smoker on the reviews – drastically differs from the cheaper Char-Broil smoker we’ve just reviewed.
This smoker is very close to the Masterbuilt smoker we reviewed in the beginning, albeit the Deluxe’s cooking capacity is less. This smoker has 725 square inches of surface area on its four cooking racks.
And besides, Deluxe doesn’t have adjustable vents, and it requires you to open the smoking compartment to add wood chips, unlike how it was in the Masterbuilt cooker.
On the other hand, like the Masterbuilt smoker, Deluxe smoker has a large door window, as well as digital controls to allow flexible adjustment of the cooking temp.
Char-Broil includes a removable food probe with this smoker, which could be a nice addition for you if you don’t have one. It could be okay as long as you don’t have an alternative, but you should probably switch to something better since the probe is not very durable.
- 725 square inch capacity.
- Has a windowed door.
- Comes with a removable food temp probe.
- You have to open the door to add wood chips into the smoker.
- The air vents aren’t adjustable.