The myths, the misconceptions, and facts about healthy eating with electric smokers.
With the increasing popularity of electric smokers that’s taking over the culinary scene, you may be wondering ‘are electric smokers healthy?’
Well, we’re here to give you an answer.
The debate has been going on for ages and it has supporters on both sides.
And really; you can’t really blame them; there are pros and cons to everything.
However, our findings will definitely leave you in favor of one side, rather than being on the fence about the issue.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- High Sodium Content
- Lower The Salt
- Risk Of Carcinogens
- Choose Marinades Carefully
- Clean Out Your Smoker
- Use Fresh Herbs
- Have Smaller Cuts
What Are Electric Smokers Anyway?
These outdoor cooking appliances work on the same principles as traditional smokers but allow users much more control over different aspects of the smoking process.
They work well for preparing all kinds of meats and different cuts, making them a great choice for family gatherings.
The smoking process inside an electric smoker is based on convection cooking, which circulates hot air around the meat, cooking it from all directions.
This differs from the direct heat process, which takes place in grilling and to some extent, in baking; you keep food directly over the source of heat or only allow it to cook from a single direction.
The electric aspect of the smoker is all about being able to control the cooking time and temperature of the smoker at the touch of a button.
Another difference between electric smokers and traditional ones is the source of heat that is used in each of them; while traditional smokers use coal; electric smokers have a heating element powered by electricity.
Usually, a 700W heating element is used to help create heat, which lights the wood and spreads smoke around the interior.
Wood chips create the flavored smoke in both types of smokers, so your choice of wood gives that signature woody flavor.
Electric smokers are also energy efficient, which makes them preferable compared to traditional versions and grills.
Before we can debate on whether electric smokers are healthy or not, it’s important that we establish what makes food healthy in the first place.
For starters, no food is completely good for you, but a proper balance of these foods is.
Protein is an important part of a diet, and cooking it can be tough, which is why many people turn to smoke for an oil-free method.
Are Electric Smokers Healthy?
Therefore, aside from the ingredients that you add to the recipe or the nutrients that make up your diet, the way you cook something matters as well.
Even though smoking meats isn’t seen as the best option, it’s still much better when compared to grilling and frying, which can take out nutritional value from the protein.
Another factor to consider is whether you can cook a wide enough variety of meats using an electric smoker, to get a balance of different proteins and amino acids.
And yes, this is entirely possible with an electric smoker, thanks to the different controls and availability of wood chips that add flavor to the meat.
Let’s not forget that traditional smoking and grilling involves the use of charcoal, which can lead to your food having a buildup of carcinogenic particles inside.
In barbecuing over flames especially, fat drips off the meat and falls onto the coals, resulting in flares of coal particles falling back onto the meat.
Using an electric smoker lets you keep that smoked flavor and lowers the risk to your health.
Helping Your Reach That ‘Balance’
You can cook fish, beef, pork chops, full chickens, burgers, sausages, lamb and turkey in an electric smoker.
This gives you add a wider range of meats to your diet, effectively reducing the risks associated with eating fattier foods.
Not to mention, you can add vegetables to the smoker rack for a tasty side of greens that diversifies your plate.
At the bottom of a smoker, you’ll find a water/drip pan. By adding herbs, vegetables, and spices to it, you can get an amazing gravy that slowly forms as juices drip from the meat and into the pan.
You can use this on the side, making your electric smoker an all-rounder at preparing staples for a meal.
For people who need a higher protein intake, smoked food is a better alternative than fried meat since it doesn’t require additional oil to cook all the way through.
Oil increases the overall fat content in food and adds calories too, which isn’t very good for you.
Eating more protein, in general, helps in keeping your appetite at bay and increases your endurance.
They’re Much Safer
Electric smokers aren’t only healthier because of the diverse types of food they prepare, but their design is safer as well.
Despite the warm and homely feeling that smoke from a grill can instill, it’s not particularly good for you.
In fact, you’d be better off if the smoke involved remains mainly sealed away, like in an electric smoker. This ensures that you’re not breathing in any irritants that can exacerbate breathing conditions.
On a similar note, electric smokers are much safer because of their sealed ovens that keep in smoke, which makes them suitable for indoor use as well.
Although it’s true that not all electric smokers are suitable for use indoors, certain models are certified for it.
There is no doubt that using a regular grill or stove to prepare food for long periods can be dangerous, especially if you share a home with curious children.
Electric smokers have advanced insulation that keeps heat from escaping through the surface, making it safer to touch than a piping hot grill or oven.
The child-friendly design also keeps dangerous fumes from escaping and the door is locked to prevent accidental opening.
Are Electric Smokers Unhealthy? How to Reduce Risks?
Just like everything has some drawbacks, so does an electric smoker.
Despite being healthier than frying and grilling, it’s not magic.
Therefore, smoking your food more often than necessary can do more harm than good.
In addition, your smoking practices have a lot to do with whether it’s healthy or not. So just to keep you on the right track, we’ll teach you about smoking foods in a healthy way.
High Sodium Content
For starters, there is the problem of smoked food containing too much sodium because most of the time, meat is rubbed with salt to prep it for smoking.
Therefore, when you eat large quantities of it, it can result in health concerns like high blood pressure.
Soaking meat in solutions like brine can also lead to the meat having higher sodium content.
Lower the Salt
You’re probably not going to want to hear this, especially if you are like me and love a good dry salt brine when preparing your meat to smoke.
But it stands to reason that you can effectively lower the sodium content by using other kinds of seasoning instead of salt.
There are a number of spice and herb blends available on the market, which intensifies the flavor of the meat, without increasing the risk associated with high sodium levels.
Opt for seasonings that have plenty of flavor with lower salt contents.
Dizzy Pig Seasonings has a huge variety of food seasonings and they do a great job of creating healthier options without sacrificing flavor.
Risk Of Carcinogens
Despite having a lower risk of carrying carcinogens, smoked foods have a risk nonetheless.
This is because of the wood chips used in the smoking process to give that nice flavor.
Luckily, there are ways that you can minimize the dangers of carcinogens in smoked food.
Choose Marinades Carefully
You can effectively reduce the risk by marinating your food in alcohols or acids before cooking them.
Our solution? You can use acidic mediums like vinegar or lemon juice, or alcohols like beer or wine, to marinate the meat prior to smoking.
All wet marinades act like a shield of sorts that effectively block these bad chemicals from entering and absorbing into your food.
Clean Out Your Smoker
The whole point of getting an electric smoker is it has set it and forget it features and that it’s easier to clean than a traditional version, or a grill.
Pieces of charred meat that are left behind on grates or pans tend to burn over time and eventually become carcinogenic.
When the temperature inside a smoker rises, particles of these leftovers are added to the food.
Fortunately, electric smokers have a design that’s easy to clean; the outer and interior only require a wipe down, and you can clean the drip tray, and smoking racks with water and mild dish soap.
Because clean up with an Electric smoker is much easier, we tend to overlook it and clean it less. It pays to clean it regularly if you are concerned about your health.
Use Fresh Herbs
Adding fresh herbs to your recipe reduces the effect of carcinogens due to their antioxidant properties.
Fresh herbs like basil, rosemary, and thyme can eliminate free-roaming radicals from your food.
Conversely, sugar-based marinades can increase the effect of carcinogens, so you should make sure to add such a seasoning later on towards the end.
Have Smaller Cuts
Another way that you can reduce the risk of carcinogens from your food is to reduce the cooking time to as minimal that is possible for each particular cut of meat.
I get that cooking low and slow is what smoking is all about, and that this may go against everything we love about smoking meat.
So to be clear, I am talking about overcooking your meat and leaving it on the fire longer than is necessary.
Certain carcinogenic chemicals in proteins are activated because of high cooking temperatures due to longer cooking times. Once you reduce the cooking time, these chemicals remain inactive, posing less of a threat.
You can achieve this by smoking smaller cuts of meat at a time or by keeping a close eye on cooking times and not letting meat stay in the heat any longer than needed.
Larger portions like briskets and ham can be harmful if overcooked, but lean steaks and burgers aren’t.
When you limit your choices and preferences as to the meat you’re cooking, you’re able to minimize the risks that come with using an electric smoker to prepare your food.
Again, this doesn’t mean you have to stop smoking a brisket or pork shoulder, it just means maybe do it less often and make sure you get it off the heat as soon as possible.
Risk of Heart Disease
The risk of heart disease remains the same no matter which way you opt to cook meat, but it only increases when you choose to smoke meats that have a higher fat content.
This includes meat such as ham, ribs, brisket, pork, duck, and liver.
So what are some of the ways to lower the risks?
Cut Down on Fatty Meat
Some cuts have very high concentrations of fat, so it’s best that you eat them in fewer quantities.
On the other hand, proteins like chicken, fish and lean cuts of beef are much healthier alternatives to fatty meat.
To make your meal a healthier one, you can opt for vegetable-based sides instead of carbohydrate-filled bread.
This will help in attaining a better balance when it comes to your diet, and you’ll make a better nutritional choice as well.
It’s important to learn Heart-Healthy Grilling techniques if you are a frequently smoking and grilling meats.
This is the most important factor that can help in reducing the effects of smoked food.
Proper exercise can greatly benefit your body, and allow you a greater protein intake as well.
The good news is, once you set your desired temperature on an electric smoker, you are free to walk away and trust in the process while the smoker does all the rest.
This is especially true if you include a wireless remote thermometer to the mix. Most of them come with free apps that you can load onto any smart device (think your phone) and monitor your meat from just about anywhere.
This is the perfect opportunity to play with the kids, do a little yard work, or even hit the gym. In other words, Exercise!
The Importance Of Regulated Intake
The one thing you’ll hear any nutritionist say is that ‘Moderation is key’.
Unfortunately, this applies to smoked meat as well.
Although protein should be a part of your daily food intake, it’s probably a good idea that you don’t eat it smoked on a daily basis. I know, this hurts me too!
But the good news is, eating smoked meat thrice a week is probably fine too, as long as you leave a day in between to properly digest it.
In fact, even your taste for smoked meat is as high as mine is, it’s usually hard to eat it more often than a few times a week.
It requires good preparation, wood chips and a lot of effort; something that most people aren’t willing to put in at just any time of the week. Real life happens!
Our Final Findings
So what does it all mean? Are electric smokers healthy or not Patrick!
The short answer is yes, electric smokers are no riskier than other smoking methods and actually do a better job of limiting many of the bad chemicals a charcoal version produces.
I’ve made it clear that there are plenty of benefits associated with getting an electric smoker, which also covers the fact that their healthier and safer.
So putting the dangers into perspective, anything can be unhealthy if you overdo it. Using your microwave is touted as being dangerous, but I have yet to die from chowing down on a hot pocket yet. I’ve burned my mouth many times, but that is a whole other issue.
And fried food, forget about it. But that hasn’t stopped my love affair with French Fries either.
BUT…smoke and carcinogens are genuinely dangerous in large quantities.
Even the most dedicated pit masters get that cooking meats at high heat and wood smoke both come with certain risks.
Needless to say, as with anything, moderation is key.
So next time you’re presented with the question ‘are electric smokers healthy?’ or are worried about the dangers of eating smoked foods, just know that they are healthier and with the right techniques, you can reduce certain risks as well.
If your interested in learning whether a pellet grill is a healthy smoking option, you may want to check out my article Are Pellet Grills Healthy? What You Need To Know Before You Buy
Now It’s Your Turn
Now I want to hear from you:
Which outdoor smoker have you used before?
Have you used an electric smoker and have any healthy cooking tips to share?
Have a healthy smoking recipe to share?
What features do you typically like to see in a smoker?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
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