Smoked meat has always been a favorite right from the primitive ages to today. The taste, the aroma, and even the process of making it is happiness-inducing. It Electric smokers divide barbecue lovers. With naysayers denouncing it as it would never give authentic results. And the ones who have used an electric smoker vouching for it.
While the arguments rage on, we do recommend electric smokers as much as a gas or charcoal smoker. And have a buying guide here for you with reviews of the top 6 smokers in the market.
- Top 6 Electric Smokers
- 1. Masterbuilt 20078715 Electric Digital Smoker Front Controller, 30-Inch, Black
- 2. Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker
- 3. Smokehouse Products Little Chief Front Load Smoker
- 4. Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker, 725 Square Inch
- 5. Masterbuilt 20077515 Front Controller Electric Smoker with Window and RF Controller, 30-Inch
- 6. Old Smokey Electric Smoker
- What to look for when buying an electric smoker
- How does an electric smoker work?
- 1. Are electric smokers expensive?
- 2. Can electric smokers attain high temperatures?
- 3. How to ensure the meat doesn’t burn in an electric smoker?
- 4. Can electric smokers cook all kinds of meat?
- 5. How long do electric smokers take to reach desired temperatures?
- 6. Are electric smokers easy to use?
- 7. How durable are electric smokers?
- 8. How much wood is needed?
- 9. Do electric smokers have a high electricity consumption
- 10. Do I need to soak wood before using in the electric smoker?
Top 6 Electric Smokers
A great investment if you are considering buying an electric smoker. It is a great choice for both beginners and barbecue experts. We loved this one for its sturdy design and the ease of use. Some of the top features include a 721sq. inch cooking space, four chrome-plated cooking trays/racks, easy to remove the front-mounted drip tray and a side access wood chip tray.
The digital display works very well, even on bright sunny days. The heating element is 800 watts, and the smoker can reach a temperature of about 275 degrees. You can set-up the timer for a maximum of 24 hours. With its quality design and good insulation, it maintains the temperature well and lets you just set-it and forget-it. There is only one gripe with this one. It was the lack of wheels and the 50 lbs weight. It does not come with an inbuilt meat probe or remote control.
This one is meant for beginners who are looking to buy their first electric smoker. A product from Char-Boil it has 1500 watts heating element and 500 sq.inch of cooking space. The smoker is made porcelain-coated wood and has excellent insulation. You get three chrome-coated cooking trays, water pan, drip cup, and a porcelain wood chip pan.
The smoker weighs around 50 pounds and has an inbuilt temperature gauge for you keep check on the internal temperature. The problem with this one is its magnetic door, and it did swing open for us. You will need a window lock to replace the magnetic one. Another drawback is the small size of the drip pan.
This one comes from a company that’s been giving us good equipment for a long time. It has an aluminum body and a 250-watt heating element. The cooking trays are in combination with five racks with a The smoker loads from the top, and the entire tray is put in one go. It has a front access drip tray.
It only gets to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature is non-adjustable. The top-load racks are also a hassle to use. The biggest drawback is the fact that you can only use it as a smoker and not a cooker.
A popular device from Char-Boil this smoker is a good value for money option. A glass exterior and a capacity of 725 sq.inch of cooking space. You also get a wood chip tray with more than average capacity and an 800-watt heating element. Each of the four racks can handle up to 4 lbs of meat. The dripping is easy to remove and clean. You also get a remote to monitor and control the smoker remotely.
It has an internal temperature probe for you to check the temperature of the meat. A couple of small gripes we have with the smoker are the quality of the remote and the glass front. Not only does it result in heat loss, but the glass also tends to get too hot.
This one is a winner from Masterbuilt. We have always loved the quality of their products and how sturdy they are. The 30-inch variant comes with a cooking space of 730 sq.inch, front wheels for easy portability and an RF remote. This radio frequency remote also lets you control the internal temperature. The 20077515 also has an in-built temperature probe. What we loved about this smoker is the perfect balance between the heating power and the large cooking capacity.
Another great addition is the glass window and the in-built light. With the quality, superior temperature controls, large cooking capacity, and all other cool features make this one a perfect choice for the price point.
Most interesting fact first, this one’s been around since 1953. And with good reason. The smoker has only gotten better with age. It has a can like design and is made of up aluminized steel. The heating element is 1250 watts, with two spacious cooking racks. The racks are placed above the wood chip tray with the dripping tray in between.
You can set the temperature at medium, high or warm and just let the smoker do its work. Another advantage is the portability it is just 25 lbs and has heat resistant handles to carry it around. The only gripe we had was that the wood chip tray is only accessible after you remove the cooking plates.
What to look for when buying an electric smoker
- Size or capacity – This is one of the most important things to consider when going for an electric smoker. If you are going to use it for your family or a few occasional guests, it is best to opt for one that is not too large. A large one will cost more, higher electricity consumption and raw food also. On the other hand, if you have large groups coming over a small capacity, the smoker will result in inconsistent cooks in small batches only.
- Portability and storage – To ensure that your electric smoker lasts long and does not break down often make a place for it in the house. The area should be safe from rain, wind and should be covered. In case you do not have an option for such a place go for a smoker that comes with wheels and easy portability.
- Features – Check out the features most important to you. This can range from having an internal temperature probe, a glass window or screen, an RF remote, digital temperature control, wheels, types of cooking trays, or the ease of cleaning. Make a list of features you intend to use the most and then check out the brands and products.
- Price – Well, this one’s obvious but critical. As you will need to balance the features you want and the budget you have. Another consideration is to ensure that the smoker you are going for in your budget not only has the desired features but also has a quality build and is durable as maintenance cost can impact your budget.
Now that you are ready to buy an electric smoker of your choice, here’s a quick round-up of tips to help you get the most out of it.
- Season the smoker before you start using it. Set it to a temperature of above 250 degrees and let it run for about 3-4 hours. Add wood chips during the last hour and let it create smoke. This way, you will have a fair idea on the heat, smoke generation, and how well the smoker maintains the temperature. Once you have done this, let it cool down completely.
- Always the right wood chips. It is imperative that you use hardwood only for smoking. Never use scrap or treated wood as it can create harmful gas or smoke. Using softwood is also not suitable as it can leave a bitter taste on the meat.
- Another tip is to preheat the smoker before using it. Heat it to the desired temperature and only then put the meat in. Another indication to check is to see if the wood chips have turned to ash.
- Refill the wood chips and the water cup. We have seen it work for all kinds of smokers and improve the taste. Just add half a cup of water when the smoke has stopped.
- Show patience with your smoker. Follow the recipes and resist the urge to open and peek. Let the meat probe be your guide and use it to check the temperature of the meat. Controlling the temperature is more straightforward in electrics smokers, but critical. Also, keep in mind that more the merrier is not good news here. That when it comes to smoke more is not always right, and you run the risk of over smoking your meat. It will spoil the meat.
- Keep the smoker clean. Ensure that you clean the trays properly and do not leave any residue. Clean all removable parts and avoid using harsh chemicals. Clean the smoker with a mixture of vinegar and lukewarm water.
How does an electric smoker work?
A trait common to all good machines is the simplicity of use and operation. This is true for electric smokers too. Before we delve into reviews of top electric smokers available in the market, let us understand how these work.
Major components of an electric smoker
- The body
- The digital control panel
- The wood chip tray
- The water bowl
- The drip tray
- The smoker trays
- The heating element
1.The smoker body or smoke chamber
The body of the smoker chamber is the enclosure inside which most other aspects are housed. Most often it is made of stainless steel on the outside and porcelain-coated metal inside. It is imperative that the body or the chamber is well insulated, and it fits well. Any heat loss means bad news for your recipe and the temperature settings.
2. Digital control panel
The digital control panel can be called the brain of the device. It lets you set the desired time, temperature, cooking time, and several other settings based on the model and make of the electric smoker you buy. Product manuals are sufficient to learn all the cool things you can set-up with the digital panel.
3. The wood chip tray
The wood chip tray is what makes an electric smoker magical. It is responsible for the delicious smokey flavor you get. We recommend adding wood at regular intervals to get the best flavor. But to do so, you need to have a wood tray that can be accessed from the outside. This way, you will not have to open the box or the chamber. Thus maintaining consistent heat and temperature.
4. The water bowl
This is a component that is not necessary to the operation but is there to ensure the right texture and enhanced taste of your meat. As the temperature inside the smoker box raises the moisture can diminish rapidly. This can make the meat dry, chewy, and rubbery. This is where the water bowl comes in. The water bowl in the smoker should not be too small and should be able to hold at least 1-2 cups of water.
5. The drip tray
All of us who grill know about the grease and the juices that drip in loads during the cooking. With an electric smoker it can impact temperature but mostly is a cleaning nightmare. The drip tray though not critical to an operation like the water bowl, ensures that the device stays clean. Look for a drip tray that is easily removable and dishwasher safe.
6. The smoker trays
This is where you put the meat to cook. They are similar to your oven racks. Most electric smokers come with 4-5 racks essential racks. Special racks like rib racks and jerky racks are also available. Making it possible to use your electric smoker for cooking ribs and more without cutting the meat into smaller portions. These tray or pans aren’t the only things you can use. You can try using hangers or other types of shelves.
7. The heating element
This is what produces the heat and is the power source of the smoker. Most heating elements are placed at the bottom of the smoker. Some electric smokers also come with the heating element placed all along the sides. The strength of the heating element is based on the size of the smoker. Where smaller ones can have a heating element to 250 watts to larger ones going up to 1500 watts.
Now to make the smoker work and see these components create magic for you. All you need to do is start the smoker with the push of a button. Set the temperatures depending on what are you planning to cook. Fill up the wood chip tray and the water bowl. On average, the smoker will take about 45 minutes to get to the desired temperature. And while you preheat the smoker, you can prepare the meat.
Once the smoker is ready, you can place the meat inside the smoker. Take care while doing so, and use tongs or barbecuing gloves for heavy or more significant meats. Ensure that the smoker door is open for the least amount of time. You might want to refill the water pan with about 1/2 a cup of water. Now set the temperature based on your recipe and the meat you are cooking.
Depending on the meat and the recipe, it will take anything from 3-8 hours or more. For refilling the wood chips do not do so if you see the wood tray empty, only refill based on the amount of smoke being generated. Too much smoke can cause the meat to taste burnt.
Once done let your meat rest for 15-20 minutes, you can also choose to wrap it in foil.
The liquids collected in the dripping tray can be used for making gravy. You can use it as a cooking liquid and thrown in your choice of veggies like carrots to make a great tasting gravy. We found that to make it usable. You need to add a bit of water.
First, let us take on the naysayers and the barbecue snobs and purists. Here are some of the most common questions you may have about an electric smoker and its ability to deliver delicious results.
1. Are electric smokers expensive?
Electric smokers have come a long way in terms of both quality and technology. And technological advances have only made them all the more affordable. Just like any other product, there are electric smokers available at various price points. With some high-end ones while others being affordable. Several good quality electric smokers are available from reputed brands all within the same price range as an entry-level grill or charcoal smoker.
2. Can electric smokers attain high temperatures?
Electric smokers not attaining high enough temperatures is a thing of the past. Electric smokers these days can achieve temperatures between 100-275 degrees Fahrenheit. This entirely depends on the model and make of the smoker. Some models go as high as 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, they do not reach temperatures as high as a charcoal one but enough to give you desired results.
3. How to ensure the meat doesn’t burn in an electric smoker?
Well, this is best achieved with an electric smoker. These smokers meat is never in direct contact of heat and is cooked with the heat circulating inside the smoker body. Most electric smokers come with an inbuilt thermostat that ensures that intended temperatures are maintained.
4. Can electric smokers cook all kinds of meat?
Yes is this another common myth that electric smokers are suitable only for one type of meat. You can cook everything from beef, pork loin, salmon, chicken, veggies and more.
5. How long do electric smokers take to reach desired temperatures?
Electric smokers take considerably less time to reach desired temperatures compared to charcoal ones. Some models can reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit in 15-20 minutes.
6. Are electric smokers easy to use?
Electric smokers are the easiest to handle and are an ideal choice for beginners. All product manuals come with easy guides, and operating the smokers is as easy as it gets. Think about this electric smokers let you control the temperature with a push of a button. Whereas control the heat in any other form of smoker takes time and requires a lot of warm and trial. For cooking related queries with a particular product, you can always check out online forums
7. How durable are electric smokers?
This entirely depends on the quality of the electric smoker you are buying. Getting all the info and checking out reliable reviews can help you pick the right product. Choosing the proper manufacturer is crucial as it determines how durable the product is and how long does it last for you. Most good quality electric smokers can work as new even after five years.
8. How much wood is needed?
An electric smoker does not need the wood for creating heat. Wood is not the fuel here and is only required to create smoke. The heating element generated the. So a standard 4-5 hour operation can run on about 4 cups of wood chips.
9. Do electric smokers have a high electricity consumption
No, this is a myth. If you run your electric smoker for about 7-8 warm hours, it will end up consuming 6.4KW which is not high at all. And this has to do with how these smokers are designed. These devices are highly insulated, and heat once generated gets trapped. With the desired temperatures achieved the thermostat kicks in and the smoker does not run. If the temperature drops, the heating element is reignited.
10. Do I need to soak wood before using in the electric smoker?
This is entirely dependent on personal preferences. We did not find any difference in the taste or flavor with the soaked wood chips. If you prefer to soak the wood chips, just put them in the liquid 30 minutes to an hour before you use them.
Keep aside those apprehensions and get yourself the electric smoker you have been planning. It is a great device and yes, gives delicious results. Pick one up from the best seven listed above and start cooking.