Have you ever found grilling for lots of people on a big occasion stressful? What if everyone shows up and the meat is overcooked, burnt or just plain inedible? I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I want to worry about when I have guests coming over. Let’s face it:
American Barbecue is difficult to pull off right
My hats off to the hardcore purists, but not everybody has that kind of time and passion to dedicate to smoking a pork butt for 14 hours straight (especially when you’ve got company coming over). Spending the greater part of your day adding charcoal, carefully maintaining the temperature using imprecise methods, checking the meat every 20 mins etc can be a hands-on, inconsistent, greasy affair. It can be a labor of love for sure, but I’m a busy man- and maybe you are too.
Welcome to the 21st Century my friend.
Things have now changed for the better. Through my many years of experience working in both the restaurant industry and doing cookouts for family and friends, I’ve settled on using these modern electric alternatives to take the time and stress out of an uncertain barbecuing process. Cooking with an electric smoker is a breeze- Perfect Ribs every time! I created this site to help others switch to using electric meat smokers and to remove the guesswork into what to buy.
Best Electric Smokers Comparison Table:
To get started on using an electric food smoker, you need to invest in a good, reliable, and efficient model. What should you consider when buying one? What functions do you need? And after all of that, what is the top-rated electric smoker for the money? It can all get a little intimidating. But ultimately, you want a smoker that meets your needs and suits what you like to cook.
|Masterbuilt 40 Inch
|Window, Smartphone Compatible, 4-Racks
|Cuisinart 30 Inch
|Sturdy, 3 Racks, Internal Chip Box
|The Bradley 6-Rack Digital Smoker
|Stainless Steel, Automated Chip Feeder, High Internal Temps
|Old Smokey Electric Smoker
|Easy To Use, Aluminum-Steel, 2-Racks
|Smoke Hollow 26 Inch Electric Smoker
|Adjustable Racks, Powerful for Size, Manual Temp Control
Using An Electric Smoker:
Electric vs Charcoal:
First off, let’s look at the differences between traditional offset smoker grills and electric smoker grills. Old school grills obviously get their cooking heat from wood or charcoal, while electric smokers use an internal heating element. There are of course positives and negatives to both types. But again, I think you’ll find (as I have) that the new wave of electric smokers available on today’s market are going to make your next BBQ a helluva lot easier.
- Unpredictable and imprecise
- More dangerous: kids and pets should never be left unattended around a burning grill.
- Harder to control the internal temperature
- Time-consuming: constantly adjusting vents, adding more charcoal, etc…
- Fire Hazard: grease flare-ups/fires can always occur.
- Greater carcinogens in your food
- Have to be constantly monitored
- Legality: May not be permitted depending on your local laws, or condo complex/homeowners association rules.
- Worse for the environment and more polluting
Electric Smokers Pros:
- Stress-Free: go back to your movie or sports game and relax.
- Zoning Issues & Safety friendly: better if there are kids and pets around, you’re using it on a wooden deck, and less of a fire hazard.
- Easy To Operate/Simple To Use
- Have Consistent Temperature Control: do you really want to wake up at 2 am to check the temperature of a traditional smoker and have to add more chips if you’re doing a 14-hour brisket?
- Have an Internal Thermometer Readout
- Little need to be monitored: Plug it in and leave it alone.
- Less Smokey
- Many are quite compact: about the size of a small refrigerator- and don’t need additional storage for large bags of wood or charcoal.
- Good for Apartment or Condo dwellers
- Good Value for Money: especially when compared to better model gas and wood smokers.
- Good for beginners: you don’t have to be a grizzled pit master to get professional results!
- Easy to ignite: simply plug it in and switch it on. No more messing about with lighter fluid and your coals going out.
- Window Viewing: Some smokers even have tempered glass windows (just like an oven) so you can see how your ribs, corn, and turkeys are looking.
- Easy To Clean: Many models have a removable drip tray that for easy cleaning. Just make sure to use a non-toxic cleaning spray to wipe down areas like the window and walls.
Electric Smoker Cons:
- Smoke Flavor: You cannot get exact same flavor profile as a charcoal smoker. It’ll be good, but just not the same.
- Little smoke ring or crust: due to the lower temperature that they operate on, you won’t be able to get that exact same pink smoke ring or bark that you would use a traditional smoker. However, you’re not entering your local BBQ contest are you?
- Loading Chips: Depending on the model, you are still going to have to add wood chips every few hours. Some higher-end units do this automatically for you though.
- Non-Traditional: and perhaps not for hardcore purists. Old School smoking can be a lot of fun too, so this is really up to you to decide.
- Only Cook at Lower Temperatures: Electric smokers are not for flash searing a steak over high heat.
- More Fragile: Electronic components are more complex than a simple metal smoker, and for this reason are more prone to break over time.
What to Consider When Buying an Electric Smoker:
Wattage: You obviously want a unit with enough power to cook properly. Some models do not have enough juice to thoroughly do what they’re supposed to when filled to capacity with multiple cuts of meat.
Temperature Control & Thermometer: A good electric smoker should always have a temperature readout (preferably a digital thermometer) so you can know what’s going on inside. Different meats will need different temperatures and cooking times. To be able to digitally control the temperature (just like an oven) is what sets electric smokers apart from imprecise charcoal grills.
Capacity/Number of Racks: some smokers can be quite compact. So, depending on the size of your family or how many people you usually cook for, be sure that your smoker has enough internal capacity to accommodate all the food you want to smoke. Likewise, you don’t need a giant smoker if you’re a small family who just wants to smoke chicken for a Thursday night dinner.
Size: Small electric smokers can range in size from compact (like mini-fridge), while larger models can be the size of a large oven. Depending on the size of your home, you’ll want to take into consideration what is going to fit on your deck, balcony, or yard.
External Wood Chips Tray: Every time you open the door or lid of a smoker, you’re letting heat out. So, to maintain consistent internal heat, it’s better to have a removable tray where you can add wood chips or pellets. A good model should have a tray that you can easily slide out without losing precious cooking heat inside.
Price vs Quality: As our Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” If you are a newbie at smoking or barbequing, you may be hesitant to spend on the more expensive model. However, it’s not only the price of the smoker that you should consider but the cost of the unit over time. The more expensive smokers are generally of higher quality, they last longer and require fewer maintenance expenses.
Pellets or Wood Chips for Electric Smokers? Whether you want to use wood chips or smoke flavoring pellets is up to you. They can both be used safely inside an electric BBQ smoker. Personally, I prefer wood chips (such as hickory, Mesquite, or Oak) as I think they last longer and I know where they come from. Smoker pellets can have great flavor, but are primarily made of sawdust, and can low-quality pellets can be pressed together with glue or treated with other toxic chemicals. Many manufacturer’s owner’s manuals do not recommend using pellets.
Ease of Cleaning: Look for a model that has a removable drip tray (the pan where the meat juices drop during the cooking process). Also, you want a neat, simple interior layout. All in all, it shouldn’t have to take you too long to spray and wipe down your smoker after its turned off and cooled down.
Can You use Electric Smokers Indoors? No, nor do most manufacturers’ handbooks recommend this. As great as the idea might be (especially during the winter with snow on your deck), electric smokers should only be used outdoors as they still generate significant amounts of smoke and aroma. Although it might make your house smell delicious, smoke is smoke, and besides your fire alarms going off, your furniture and carpets are gonna start smelling funky and your wife won’t be too happy with you either.
And don’t forget: Electric Smokers are for vegetarians too! You can smoke bell peppers, onions, eggplants, cheeses, well, anything you can think of…
My Picks For The Best Electric Smokers 2023:
Masterbuilt Smoker 40-Inch
This is one of the best digital electric smokers for sale on the market today. Relatively simple to use, with a digital control panel on top managing the temperature, thermostat, and cooking timer. There is also a separate remote control included. It has four internal shelves, as well as an externally-loaded wood chip tray. This smoker will cook up to 4 big racks of ribs, 2 turkeys or 12 chickens- up to 30lbs of meats of your choice. You will have to keep adding wood chips periodically depending on how long you’ll be cooking your food. But I particularly like this model as an “all-rounder” smoker that should suit the needs of any household, big or small.
Cuisinart 30 Inch Electric Smoker
The Cuisinart 30″ Electric Smoker is a fantastic product that can be used for cooking, smoking, and roasting all types of meats and veggies. This new model is highly rated, very reasonably priced, and a consistent top-seller on Amazon. It can smoke a wide variety of food and features 548 square inches of interior cooking space spread out over 3 adjustable racks. This unit from the trusted Cuisinart brand comes with a built-in water pan and an internal chip smokebox giving you 45-60 mins of delicious smoke before it needs to be recharged. I like this model because its compact, easy to maneuver around, and packs a punch for its size. It’s a serious rival to the Smoke Hollow 26″, being similar in size, with many of the same awesome features.
Bradley 6-Rack Digital Smoker:
This is one of the highest-rated electric smokers on Amazon right now. A little more pricey, but its large size, stainless steel, fully insulated construction- as well as its almost completely automated system makes this a really great model. Internally, there are six racks to hold your meats and an internal thermometer makes sure you know how they’re doing. What I think is really unique about the Bradley line is its wood “bisquettes” that are digitally fed by automatic columns into the cooker. It can also reach an internal temperature of up to 320 degrees, making it one of the hotter smokers on the market. In contrast to other cheap electric smokers, this one is probably the most hands-off you can find. This is quite a large electric smoker, so if you want to go all out and buy yourself a “Cadillac” model, then be ready to treat yourself.
Old Smokey Electric Smoker:
If want a quality, yet cheap electric smoker, then I think the Old Smokey line is a great buy. Unlike some newer more sophisticated models, Old Smokey is a small electric smoker with a vertical build and a flat top lid. It’s of aluminum-steel construction but is smaller and less impressive looking than some of the other smokers out there on the market. Nevertheless, don’t let its size and “low-tech” appearance put you off: it will still produce some lick-smacking ribs, chicken, and hot links. It has two internal racks and a wood chip pan a the bottom on top of the heating element. So it doesn’t have all those newfangled, digital doohickeys- for me that’s OK. Its simplicity of use and low price more than make up for a lack of modern bells and whistles. Just an outside thermostat and adjustable gauge to set your desired cooking temps.
Smoke Hollow 26-Inch Electric Smoker:
With its magnetic door-latching system, steel construction, internally loaded wood chip tray, and outer handles, Smoke Hollow is probably the best lower-priced electric smoker on the market today. An easy-to-use adjustable dial lets you control your temps and the built-in door thermometer gauges how things are going on inside. It has three fully adjustable chrome racks inside and a surprisingly large capacity to accommodate multiple cuts of ribs, fish, turkey, etc. It’s pretty powerful too, getting up to 300 degrees. So, for its design, ease of use, and price, I’d say you’ve found yourself a great budget buy- especially for those who are just getting their feet wet using the types of devices.
At the end of the day, the right smoker for you is one which you want to use again and again and one which meets the needs of your family and lifestyle. What works great for someone else may not be enough for you. And a model that you prefer may seem too complicated for others.
I hope this guide has proven useful to you and you’re now better able to choose what kind of electric smoker is the best fit for you, click here to check out my best electric smoker reviews.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.