Best Electric Smoker in 2020

How to choose the best electric smoker for your needs
Mark Orwig

What if I told you it’s possible to smoke meat without the hassle of checking it all the time? An electric smoker allows you to do just that. 

If you’re thinking of purchasing an electric smoker, this article is for you. I will share with you the ins and outs of electric smokers. That way, you can find one that’s best suited to fit your needs.

Buyers guide to electric smokers

There are many different aspects to consider when purchasing a smoker. A few of those aspects are:

  • How large of a smoker do you want?
  • What is your budget for buying a smoker?
  • How does an electric smoker differ from other types? 

While I can’t answer most of these questions for you, I will provide you with the information you need. That way, you can figure out the answers to your questions. 

Some of the other information I will provide in this guide is:

  • A basic overview
  • The type of person this smoker best fits
  • Basics of operation
  • Specific features you should look for when shopping for the best electric smoker
  • Budget considerations
  • Anything else I think you should know, including accessories you may need

Now that you know what to expect, let’s get started.

What is an electric smoker?

I’m sure you’re already familiar with electric smokers. However, I will give you a brief explanation just in case.

An electric smoker uses hot electric rods for its source of heat, rather than charcoal or gas. While I believe charcoal smokers produce better flavor, electric smokers have a better ease-of-use. 

You can program different settings, and let the smoker do its work. However, this does not mean that the meat will automatically taste delicious. You still have to have basic knowledge of meat smoking.

Who is an electric smoker for?

If you are new to the world of meat smoking, an electric smoker is for you. These smokers provide a pretty straight forward process. Not to mention, the electricity does most of the work for you. 

One of the great benefits of these smokers is the ability to set and forget. If you have a tight schedule, an electric smoker would be great for you.

Advantages

There are many excellent advantages. While they do not produce the same flavor as an offset smoker, they make up for it in other ways such as:

  • Certain models are portable
  • Easy maintenance 
  • Heat is distributed evenly
  • Very affordable options
  • Inside use is permitted 
  • Easy temperature management 
  • Less time needed to cook your meat
  • Some models are Bluetooth capable.

As you can see, there are many benefits to owning an electric smoker. However, the advantages don’t come without disadvantages.

Disadvantages

I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Although this is something, you will have to decide for yourself.

Some of the disadvantages are:

  • Sometimes these particular smokers can be very expensive. Then again, it all depends on the model you choose.
  • They can be challenging to put together.
  • It’s a corded smoker, so if you have no outlets available outside, that can be a problem.
  • You run the risk of it catching fire if you are not careful in how you maintain it. The grease needs to be cleaned after each smoking session.
  • May only last 5 to 10 years.

The negative aspects of electric smokers are minimal in comparison to the positive aspects. As long as you find a decent spot, and maintain the smoker, you’ll be golden!

When and why you should use electric smokers vs. other types

These smokers are all about convenience. It’s no lie that you’re risking the delightful taste of charcoal and wood-smoked meat. However, due to our busy schedules, convenience is everything.

I’m amazed at the difference of process when operating my offset, versus working my electric. When I’m using my offset smoker, I can’t venture out too far. I have to be present to:

  • Feed the fuel
  • Manage the fire
  • Check the meats
  • Control the temperature

Now with my electric smoker, I can set it and leave. I’ve smoked meat while I went to work.

In comparison to a propane smoker, I still prefer the electric smoker. While gas smokers are great for anyone who has frequent power outages, you still have to babysit the process.

So, at a glance, electric smokers are preferred over other types for several reasons:

  • Portability and easy to move
  • Multiple programmable settings
  • Coil heating element rather than fire
  • They are accepted by most housing management or apartment complexes unless stated otherwise.

There are a couple of situations where I’d recommend the use of another type of smoker. If you have:

  • Frequent power outages in your area
  • Limited outlet space
  • Or, in the extreme case that you live off the grid with no power.

In these three cases, an electric smoker would not be feasible. 

Although you can have multiple smokers and switch them out accordingly, which is what most of us meat smoking enthusiasts do.

How to use

Now that you know a bit more about electric smokers, I’ll take you through the general instructions on operating one.

Step1: Setting it up

One of the most important steps you will take during setup is seasoning your smoker. 

Seasoning is used to help clear your smoker of dust and solvent residue before the first use.

  • Using a paper towel and cooking oil, wipe down the racks of your smoker
  • Wipe the rest of the interior areas down with cooking oil as well.
  • Turn it on at 250 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Let your smoker run empty for 2 to 3 hours.
  • After the time is up, open your door or hood to let it cool completely.

You should only need to season it one time when it is brand new. As you use your smoker, it will preserve the oil layer to protect your machine’s interior.

Make sure you read your manual so that if you want to connect it to Bluetooth, you can.

Step 2: Turn it on

Now that your smoker is seasoned and ready, it’s time to use it.

Press the power button on your smoker. Turning your smoker on will set it into standby mode. It will preheat when you set it to the temperature and settings that you prefer on the control panel. 

Step 3: Set the fuel

Check your particular model for the recommended amount of wood chips. Although, a general amount is 4 cups of chips for every 3 – 5 hours of smoking. 

There is a chip tray typically on the front of your smoker, in the lower right corner. Fill this tray, insert it, and then turn the handle to drop the chips onto the heating element.

Step 4: Preheat

Now you’re ready to start smoking your meat. 

Set your desired temperature. If you’re new at this, 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit is a good place to start generally. This depends on the type of meat you’re smoking, though.

Check your smoker’s manual to see what it says about temperature range. The recommended temperatures can change with each model.

After 30 to 45 minutes, your smoker will finish preheating. You will want to place a full water pan on the floor chamber. Your smoker provides this container for you. Make sure it is hot water, as cold will affect your temperatures.

What features to look for and why

Bluetooth compatible

Modern models allow for Bluetooth capability. As long as you are in Bluetooth range, you can control the temperature from a smart device. 

Bluetooth will also allow you to shut your smoker off, or turn it on.

Let’s be real, who has the time to sit around smoking meat all day? I wish I did. Bluetooth lets you preheat your smoker while you’re taking care of other responsibilities. You can also shut it off if your meat is one, but you can’t get to it right away.

Wood chip tray

Having a wood chip tray lets you add your wood chips without opening the door. Sometimes you’ll see that you don’t have enough smoke and need to add more wood.

If your fuel loading system is inside, you will have to open the door to reach it. Opening the door will let your smoke out, as well as decrease temperature. These are two things you don’t want while smoking your meat.

Lightweight

Look for a lightweight model. A smoker that is 45 pounds is a lot easier to move than one that is 75 pounds. There are many reasons you may need to move it, including:

  • Weather-related issues and the need to bring it inside
  • Outlet space
  • Letting a friend borrow it

Having a lightweight model will make the process much more comfortable.

Insulation

Having a smoker with adequate insulation will help keep the temperature stable. A stable temperature means a quicker smoking time.

Not to mention, a well-insulated smoker will produce the best-smoked flavor that an electric smoker can produce. After all, that’s what we’re aiming for, aren’t we?

Warranty

Having a warranty is essential. This will save you from potential out-of-pocket costs if something is wrong with your smoker due to a manufacturing malfunction. 

Some smokers allow you to purchase additional warranty clauses. This means if something is of your fault, the warranty may cover half of the expenses. 

Things to consider when buying an electric smoker

A few things you need to consider when buying an electric smoker are:

  • Are you using it at home, or will you bring it around with you often?
  • Capacity for your smoker
  • Most competitions do not allow electric smokers to enter
  • How much cooking space do you have?
  • What is your cooking style?

It is essential to understand the capabilities of these smokers. If you are purchasing an electric smoker expecting it to produce crispy, smoked meats, you will be disappointed. Be realistic with your expectations. 

Budget considerations

I realize that everyone may not have $1,000 to spend on an electric smoker. That’s okay; there are still good smokers available within the $400 range. 

However, be careful of where you purchase this. You want to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable website such as Amazon or BBQGuys as an example.

Cheaper models can be just as great. You may have to give up a couple of conveniences, but it doesn’t mean the meat won’t taste good.

Figure out how much money you have to spend on a smoker. When you find a reasonable budget for you, start researching and comparing different models. That is the best way to find the best one for you.

Other things you may need

In addition to your new electric smoker, there may be a few additional things you need:

  • Smoker cover
  • Smoker stand
  • Sausage hooks
  • Tongs
  • Meat thermometer
  • Wood chips
  • An extension cord that can hold the capacity of your smoker
  • Six pack of your favorite beer

These additional supplies will come in handy when using your electric smoker.

Frequently asked questions

Are electric smokers any good compared to other types of smokers?

Yes. Although if you’re looking for the same taste an offset gives, it won’t be the same. 

They will still do the job, though, and the meat will still taste great.

Do you use wood chips in an electric smoker?

Yes, you do use wood chips in an electric smoker. 

In addition to your wood chips, you use a cup of water at the bottom. In that cup, you can also put apple juice, or another flavor to infuse your meats.

How long does it take to smoke with an electric smoker?

This depends on the type and size of the meat you are smoking.

  • Prime rib- 15 minutes/lb
  • Rump Roast- 30 minutes/lb
  • Tenderloin- 2 ½ to 3 hours
  • Whole trout- 1 hour
  • Belly Bacon- 6 hours

As you can see, the time is drastically less than other types of smokers.

The ‘best’ smoker is what’s best for you.

I can’t tell you the best electric smoker for you. I have, however, provided details so that you can figure it out according to your preferences. Take the time to research, read customer reviews, and remember that a great smoker compliments a great cook.