Looking for a simple-to-use, affordable smoker? Electric models will not disappoint. It is the best choice for people who want to set it and forget it until the food is done. One of the best things about electric smokers is that it is very beginner-friendly. If you know how to use your kitchen oven, you’ll be able to use an electric smoker with ease.
Cooking with electricity may not sound that appealing for charcoal purists, but the top electric smoker models can achieve smoky and tender food with less effort compared to other types of smokers. It achieves the smoky flavor from charcoal grills by using wood chips. In this article, we’re going to help you choose from the numerous electric smokers out there. Read on.
Electric Smokers: Things You Need to Know
The electric smoker comes with its pros and cons – there are some things they do very well and some not so much. Electric smokers are indeed very simple to use. However, there are still more things that you should be aware of before investing in one.
Electric smokers are considered to be part of the cabinet smoker category. This means that they will have a front door to open the smoker, a couple of racks inside to place your food on, a tray or bowl for water, a wood chips container, and a heating element located at the bottom. Some models may also have heat-proof glass windows on the door that help you monitor the food while it smokes. Electric smokers also have a digital or analog temperature controller to manage the heat. Below is a list of the various advantages and disadvantages of electric smokers.
- Temperatures tend to be very constant and stable in electronic smokers.
- You don’t need to learn how to light the charcoal, you just need to turn it on and let it do all the hard parts.
- You don’t have to buy and store propane or charcoal whenever you want to do some grilling. You only need to secure a stable source of electricity.
- The maximum temperature for most electric smoker models is fairly small compared to propane or charcoal smokers. Most of them only reach a maximum of 300 degrees F or over.
- Cheaper electric smokers without sealed doors or insulated walls may not hold their temperatures well during cold or windy days.
- As expected with electricity, they won’t create as much natural smoke compared to a charcoal smoker.
Electric Smokers Temperature Controllers
Let’s look at the two electric smoker temperature controllers in an electric smoker: analog and digital.
Analog Temperature Controllers
Analog controllers are those knobs that are connected to a rheostat. The farther you turn the knob, the more power the heating element receives. These are widely used in your common kitchen gas stove. Some electric smoker models may have specific temperatures you can set the knob to while some only have vague labels such as “low”, “medium”, and “high”.
Digital Temperature Controllers
Digital controllers are commonly found in the newest and costliest electric smoker models. These controllers also feature sensors inside the smoker so that they can monitor the internal temperature of the smoker compared to the temperature set by the user. Every time the digital controller checks the internal temperature, it makes the necessary adjustment to how much power is provided to the heating element. This process keeps a more stable temperature inside the smoker. As expected, electric smokers equipped with digital controllers will tend to be a lot more expensive compared to analog.
Factors to Consider When Shopping for Electric Smokers
Electric smokers are widely known for their ease of use, simplicity, and ability to produce smoked meat without the steep learning curve of charcoal or propane smokers. However, being simple and easy to use doesn’t mean that electric smokers don’t have any practical and eye-catching features.
Here are some of the most important factors you should consider when buying an electric smoker.
- Size and Capacity
Most electric smokers are tall and on the thin side. However, you can’t stack meat up to the top, you have to lay it flat. When shopping for models, make sure that it is wide enough to accommodate the types of food you want to smoke. Do you want to smoke some pork ribs? You’ll want at least 16 inches of room. A full brisket will need 18 to 24 inches of space. Size and capacity is easily the most important factor you should look out for.
- Ease of Use
Ease of use is also important if you want to use your electric smoker constantly. You want to look out for products that have clear instructions and features. This is especially important if the smoker needs to be assembled by the user. Other important instructions to have would be how to use the vents, access the wood chip feeders, setting the digital temperature, smoke levels, and timer, etc.
People who prefer convenience overpower tend to go for electric smokers. They want to turn it on and forget it until the food is done; producing those smoky tender flavors with minimal effort. This is why ease of use should be one of your determining factors when buying an electric smoker.
There are plenty of factors that determine the performance of an electric smoker. The most important one is power. How much power it has determines how long the smoker takes to get up to the set temperature. It also dictates how long it can sustain the temperature and how much food it can handle at a time.
The wattage ranges for electric smokers generally fall between 500 to 1500 watts, with the top models being around 800 watts as a sweet spot. This is a compromise between powerful enough while not being too costly to operate.
You should also be aware that the lower the model’s wattage is, the longer it will take to come up to your desired temperature. The standard warm-up time for most electric smokers is around 30 to 45 minutes.
- Temperature Stability
Most electric smokers will come with temperature probes, some also have wireless thermostats included in the package. These convenient features will allow you to monitor the temperature of the smoker and food on your phone. This lets you leave the electric smoker to do its thing while you attend to another business at home.
However, you should note that the stability of the temperature will depend on the model’s construction. Take note of the following:
- Type of Insulation
The type of insulation is important because it governs how well the temperature will hold inside the unit.
- Power Rating (watts)
This rating dictates the unit’s ability to reach and sustain a target temperature. It is also the indicator of how long it needs to recover from losing temperature when the doors are opened.
- Seal Quality of Doors
A poor seal on the doors or windows of an electric smoker will severely affect temperature stability.
- External Temperatures
The weather can affect temperature stability. This will entirely depend on the density of the material used by the model and its insulation. You can judge this by the overall weight of the smoker.
- Drip and Water Quality
Most water pans provided by electric smokers can be very inadequate. If you’re a cook that doesn’t mind that, then it may suffice. However, if you want a more reliable pan, we recommend purchasing your roasting pan or using a disposable aluminum baking pan whenever you want to smoke. This will capture all the drippings and reduce the times you have to add more water.
However, you don’t need to worry as all the electric smokers featured in this guide have great water and drip pans already included.
- Easy to Clean
Cleaning your equipment is very important for its longevity and efficiency. This is why you should look for models that are fairly easy to clean up after use. The components of an electric smoker can easily rust if you don’t clean and season it after every use.
- Build Materials
The materials and build quality of an electric smoker will dictate its overall durability and how well it will hold an ideal temperature.
The most commonly used for the body are Aluminum, powdered steel, and stainless steel. Both Aluminum and Stainless Steel have much better rust resistance and will last longer compared to powdered steel.
For grates, the most common materials used are aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome plated. The most durable option for grates is stainless steel, but they tend to be costlier. Chrome-plated grates are a lot more common as they’re fairly long-lasting while also easy to clean.
Portability may not be a concern if you’re planning to use your smoker in the backyard or patio. If not, you’re going to want to be able to move your smoker around with ease. For portable electric smokers, you want to look for sturdy handles. If the model has sturdy wheels, this is even better.
The importance of the warranty will depend on how many features you have on your electric smoker. The more complicated parts it has, such as automated wood chip feeders, the higher the chance that things will break down sooner or later.
The standard warranty for electric smokers is one year but some manufacturers may still go beyond that. Some manufacturers may offer extendable warranty contracts. You should consider these if you’ve invested quite a lot in the model and plan on using it regularly.
Best Electric Smokers for 2021
This is our top list for the best electric smokers in their categories. You can use this list as a great guide on what prices and features you should expect in the different categories of electric smokers. Let’s get right into it!
Best Overall Electric Smoker – Masterbuilt 30-inch Electric Smoker
You can’t go wrong with Masterbuilt, they are well known for premium barbecue equipment and accessories. This is why we chose the Masterbuilt 30-inch Electric Smoker. It features digital controllers for maximum convenience and efficiency. It has four chrome-coated racks with a max capacity of 530 square inches. You can bet this will hold plenty of food for a large party.
This smoker weighs roughly 50-pounds. It has a digital panel at the top that displays all the information you need. Its wattage is 1500 Watts. Our favorite part about this Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is the easy cleanup removable trays. The only downside we see is its fairly short 90-day warranty. However, for its price, it has plenty of features and performance to steal the title of Best Overall Electric Smoker.
Best Digital Electric Smoker – Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
Looking for easy-to-use digital control panels for your electric smoker? The Char-Broil Deluxe has got you covered. It comes with a whopping 725-square-inch cooking area. You’ll be able to hold a mighty feast with this smoker. The selling point for the Char-Broil Deluxe, and why we chose it for this category, is its super user-friendly digital control panel. It allows you to conveniently monitor the cooking temperature and make adjustments as needed in a fly. It has a wattage of 750 Watts.
Unlike other smokers in its category, the Char-Broil deluxe features a sleek glass door that will allow you to check how your food is doing without opening the door; preventing the heat and smoke from escaping.
Best Budget Electric Smoker: Dyna-Glo Vertical Analog Electric Smoker
Have a tight budget for your electric smoker? Look no further than the Dyna-Glo Vertical Analog Electric Smoker. This very convenient 1500-watt smoker will simplify the smoking process, without breaking the bank. It has a 505-square-inch cooking space. It has three chrome-plated cooking gates. The model also has a temperature gauge with its smoke zone that lets you know the best setting to achieve that smoky flavor.
Our favorite thing about this electric smoker is that it is very easy to use with its simplistic design. This can be a great gift for beginner smokers that want to start their delicious journey.
Best Luxury Electric Smoker – Masterbuilt Model 20077515 Electric Smoker
Finally, we have another model from Masterbuilt, 20077515. It has an 800-watt heating element. This is our pick for the best luxury electric smoker currently available in 2021. It has the highest build quality from all the smokers we’ve used and tested over the years. It has plenty of features to justify the price point.
Its selling feature is the RF remote monitoring and control system. This feature lets you control and monitor the smoker and meat’s temperature, switch the internal lights, and even turn the unit on and off with the remote. It also comes with a meat probe. This model also features foam insulation, making sure that the internal temperature doesn’t get affected by outside weather.
This concludes our buying guide for the best electric smokers in 2021. We hope that you’ve learned something new. Make sure to keep in mind the factors you should consider when shopping for your handy, brand-new electric smoker. Also, if you’re like me and enjoy a nice smoked cocktail with your smoked meat, check out this great list of the best cocktail smokers! You’ll be able to make some pretty tasty cocktails once you get your hands on one of these!