Electric Smoker Buyers Guide

In this ultimate electric smoker buyers guide, I’m going to be giving you everything you need to know for buying the best BBQ electric smoker.

Electric smokers can be a polarizing topic in the BBQ world.

On one side are the purists who insist that building and maintaining a charcoal fire is essential to get that signature smoky flavor — and find all the work involved with the process totally worth it.

On the other side of the fence, we have people who want to be able to smoke their own foods, without the time and the hassle required by traditional wood and charcoal smokers. This especially makes sense for folks who have a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to dedicate to building and maintaining the coals for long cooks.

If you’re on team convenience for whatever reason, but haven’t bought one of these handy cookers for yourself yet, navigating this ever-growing segment of the BBQ market can be a challenge.

But fear not, we’ve got you covered. That’s where our electric smoker buyers guide comes in! After finishing this guide, you should be armed with everything you need to know to make an informed decision for buying the perfect Electric Smoker to meet your needs.

And if you still have questions, simply reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help. We might even add your question to our FAQ section at the bottom of this article.

What you can Expect from this Electric Smoker Buyers Guide

This buyer’s guide will equip you with everything you need to understand electric smokers inside and out and make an educated decision about which smoker is going to grace your back patio.

We’ll cover just what exactly an electric smoker is and how they work their magic. We will discuss the benefits of Electric Smokers and even give a handy comparison to Gas Smokers. Spoiler alert: Both options provide “set it and forget it” convenience and good results.

We will also cover the absolute critical components that should be built into an Electric Smoker when shopping for one and the different classes of Electric Smokers available on the market today.

We also have a section discussing additional things to take into consideration before buying a smoker that you will find helpful and a few final steps we suggest you take before making a purchase and firing up your new smoker.

We’ve also included a helpful list of must-have Smoker Tools & Accessory for when you are ready to start using your new Electric Smoker and answer some frequently asked questions you may have.

Finally, we’ll wrap it all up with a brief roundup of what we covered and a few parting thoughts to send you out into the world fully educated to pick an electric smoker of your own.

Ready to dive in?

What is an Electric Smoker?

An electric smoker is exactly what it sounds like — a smoker that heats up with electricity instead of the traditional charcoal and wood fire. Not unlike your oven, its heat source comes from hot electric rods that are used for heating the cooking chamber.

They come in various designs and sizes and offer many useful features like digital control options, warming racks, Bluetooth connectivity, and remote controls to name a few.

The ultimate benefit is that they create less mess, require less work, and offer the convenience of “set it and forget it” style cooking not unlike your kitchen oven.

The big difference from traditional charcoal and wood smokers is in the depth of flavor Electric Smokers produce, or lack thereof. In other words, you will get less of the deep smokey profile consistent with a wood-fired smoker. Many people prefer a more mildly smoked flavor.

The tradeoff is that these smokers produce a cleaner output and allow you to control the internal conditions required for smoking so precisely that it is simple to create the same conditions every time with minimal effort.

It’s easy to overcook your meat using a traditional smoker if you are not constantly watching and maintaining your fire whereas after setting the temperature on an Electric Smoker it will maintain that desired temperature for the duration of the cook without any intervention from you.

How does an Electric Smoker Work?

Electric smokers work by heating up rods using electricity that then heats the cooking chamber and the air inside of it, which cooks food using convection. They often have an option for wood chunks or chips to burn atop the heating element to give the meat its smoky flavor.

Why Choose an Electric Smoker?

Electric smokers are perfect if you want to try your hand at smoking without the hands-on work of lighting and maintaining a fire. All you need to do is set it and forget it!

Here are some more electric smoker benefits:

  • Offer Lower Start-Up & Operating Costs
  • Are Perfect For Beginners
  • Are Much Easier To Start Up
  • Make It Easy To Maintain A Consistent Temperature
  • Are Versatile Cooking Devices
  • Are Energy Efficient
  • Make It Easier To Cold Smoke Food
  • Are More Eco-Friendly
  • Are Safer To Use
  • Are Easy To Clean
  • You Can Use Them In Areas With Open Fire Restrictions

These are just a highlight of the many benefits when it comes to using Electric Smokers. For more on the benefits of owning an Electric Smoker, check out our guide titled 19 Benefits Of Electric Smokers.

Electric Smoker vs Gas Smoker

Electric and gas smokers share a lot of similar attributes, including their ease of use and the ability to add in wood chips to create a smoky flavor. Where they differ is temperature range, and portability: gas smokers can reach higher temps and are easier to move around than electric smokers since they don’t require an electrical outlet to work.

What to Look for when Buying an Electric Smoker

So you’ve decided an electric smoker is the best choice for you — these are the features you should keep in mind as you start the buying process.

Heavy Gauge Metal Build

Your smoker’s construction will determine how well it holds its temperature and endures over years of use. Look for heavy-gauge stainless steel or aluminum smokers, as these materials are excellent at resisting rust and will last for years.

Trusted Brands & Build Quality

Buying a smoker from a brand you’ve heard of won’t guarantee that it’s the best fit for you but knowing what sets brands apart from each other is a start. Research the different brands on the market to see what reviews they’ve received online, how good their customer support is, and how their smokers are made. You’ll be glad you did!

Choose an Electric Smoker with Great Insulation

How well your smoker is insulated will determine how well it can hold a temperature and continue cooking despite outside factors like wind, rain, and temperature drops. Look for things like double-walled cooking chambers, or a heavy gauge metal build.

Read reviews to see how the insulation on each smoker you’re considering stacks up — bear in mind that cheaper smokers usually come that cheap because they’ve cut corners on insulation.

Check the Seal Integrity of Doors & Dampers

Successfully smoking food isn’t just about creating smoke — you need to keep it inside the smoker. Make sure whatever smoker you buy has doors and dampers that close with a tight seal that doesn’t allow any smoke to escape.

Good Airflow & Temperature Management

Proper airflow is essential to regulating the temperature within your smoker.

With an electric smoker, most of the temperature regulation will be taken care of for you, but some models will feature a damper system that allows you to really nail down the temperature you’re going for.

If that’s the case for your smoker of choice, make sure the dampers are easy to reach and use, and made from high-quality materials that won’t rust shut.

Why the Ability to Use Water Pans are Important

Water pans are an incredible tool to help create humidity inside of your smoker and keep the temperature steady.

While they’re not necessary, they’ll make your smoking session go a lot smoother, so we recommend getting a smoker that gives you the choice of using one. Plus you aren’t limited to just water! Try adding juice, beer, or apple cider vinegar to your pan to add fantastic flavor to your food.

You Need Accurate Temperature Gauges

Knowing the internal temperature of your smoker will help you create flavorful, smoky results — but opening the door or lid of your smoker to grab a temperature reading and let out all that great smoke sure won’t. Instead, look for a smoker with accurate temperature gauges so you can check the temperature while keeping it sealed.

Or better yet, opt for a Remote Wireless Thermometer that can monitor the smoker’s internal temperature as well as the temperature of your meat at the same time for the best accuracy.

Check for Overall Sturdiness

You want your smoker to last a long time, right? Then check reviews or look at the smoker in person and test the sturdiness of its legs, wheels, hinges, and latches. These are the parts of your smoker that will be put under the most stress, so make sure they’re durable!

Ease of Use

People are typically drawn to electric smokers because they’re easy to use. Make sure the model you have your eye on will allow you to “set it and forget it” with straightforward temperature and time controls and a design that isn’t too difficult to clean.

Total Capacity & Size

Electric smokers are usually smaller than their charcoal and wood-burning counterparts. Still, you have some options when it comes to how much you want to cook.

The average electric smoker will have three or four cooking racks and be able to cook two to three medium-sized items, like half-racks of ribs or chickens. If you have your heart set on smoking full racks of ribs, you’re better off with a charcoal smoker that’s long enough to handle them.

The Heating Element Wattage & Temperature Accuracy

The term wattage describes how well a smoker will be able to maintain an optimal, accurate temperature. For example, if your smoker of choice has a 1,500-watt heating element, that will be more effective at holding a steady internal temperature than a smoker with a lower wattage.

Wattage is especially important if you plan on using your smoker in colder weather, where outdoor temperatures can bring down the smoker’s internal temp.

The Temperature Range

A solid smoker should have a temperature range of 100° to 400° F, or even up to 500° F. This range gives you enough versatility to smoke a variety of foods, including meat at its ideal cooking range of 225° to 250° F.

Choosing the Electric Smoker Class

There are three classes of smokers you can choose from, based on the quality of their builds, features, and performance. Which class is right for you will depend on your lifestyle and budget.

Premium Electric Smokers

Premium smokers feature robust construction from stainless or powder-coated steel, which will stand up to years of use. They’ll also feature warranties for up to 10 years, dependable heating systems, excellent insulation, and electric temperature controls that help with the “set it and forget it” philosophy that comes with many electric smokers.

You can check out a list of some of the top Premium Gas Barbecue Smokers here: Premium Gas Barbecue Smokers Examples

Practical Barbecue Smokers

If you’re shopping with a tighter budget, a practical class smoker will be a great choice. They’re easy to use and are typically built from relatively thick steel that provides good heat retention. Most practical smokers will come with a moderate length warranty and simple analog controls to set the temperature.

You can check out a list of some of the top Practical Gas Barbecue Smokers here: Practical Gas Barbecue Smokers Examples

Entry-Level Electric Smokers

If you’re completely new to the world of smoking and aren’t ready to break the bank on a high-quality smoker just yet, seek out an entry-level model. These typically prioritize affordability over performance and won’t last as long as a more well-constructed model.

While they might also be trickier to use without the benefit of electric controls, they’ll still provide a decent way to cook food and determine if you like smoking enough to upgrade.

You can check out a list of some of the top Entry-Level Gas Barbecue Smokers here: Entry-Level Gas Barbecue Smokers Examples

Additional Things to Consider before Buying an Electric Smoker

Since the goal of this buyers guide is to prepare you as much as possible before you shop for your own smoker, here are a few more things to consider:

Look for Low Fuel Smokers

While you don’t need to light and maintain a fire to heat up your electric smoker, they still require wood chunks or chips to create the delicious smoke you’re after.

Look for smoker models that don’t require much wood fuel to make smoke, or else you may end up having to continually feed the wood tray as your food cooks (which doesn’t sound fun if you’re looking to “set it and forget it!”)

Understand the Internal Layering Structure

The layering structure of your smoker refers to how the trays or grates are arranged within it. Some smokers offer both horizontal and vertical configurations, allowing you to turn the smoker onto its side and smoke larger cuts of meat.

Grates are Often Preferred over Trays

If you’re deciding between two smokers and one has grates, pick that one. Grates help encourage more even cooking and can add that coveted smoke ring to your food.

Look for Easy Mobility

If you don’t want to limit yourself to using your smoker in your own backyard, make sure to check that it’s durably made yet still light enough to move around. Wheels are a must if you plan on moving your smoker a lot, as is a long power cord, so you aren’t limited to where you can set it up.

Ease of Maintenance & Cleaning

Look for a smoker that has removable cooking grids, racks, wood chip trays, panels, grease pans, and water pans, so it’s easy to pop everything out and clean. It’s also a plus if your smoker’s manufacturer offers replacement parts, so you can swap any problem items out without replacing the entire smoker.

Invest in Electric Smokers with Remote Controls

Want to make your electric smoking experience even easier? Look for one that has remote or Bluetooth controls, which lets you monitor your smoker’s temperature, turn it on and off, and check the temperature of your food all from your smartphone.

Look for these Useful Features

Many smokers on the market today come with fun features to enhance your smoking experience. Some smokers have a wood tray that can be accessed from the exterior of the smoker, so you don’t need to open the door and lose smoke or heat when you want to add wood.

A high-quality built-in thermometer and digital controls can also make your life (or at least your smoking) a lot easier.

Ability to Add Wood Chips or Charcoal

If you want the convenience of an electric smoker but the option to add charcoal or wood to infuse more flavor, you can have the best of both worlds! Some smokers will allow you to add wood or charcoal into a tray to create even more delicious smoke.

Weatherproof Electric Smokers

Despite their durable construction, not all electric smokers will be able to handle exposure to elements like rain and wind. If you plan in using your smoker in inclement weather or to store it outside, invest in a cover that can protect it and its electric components.

Cost Considerations

Just because you can’t or aren’t interested in spending a chunk of change on a high-end smoker doesn’t mean the model you buy will underperform! Today’s affordable smokers are still made with long-lasting construction and modern features, even if they may not have all of the bells and whistles as more expensive options.

Final Steps before Making an Electric Smoker Purchase

Once you’ve made your choice of which smoker to purchase, there are just a few things to take care of before handing over your credit card.

Check Current Owners Feedback & Opinions

There’s no better resource for learning how a model of smoker performs than the people who currently own and use one! Do some research on social media, online stores, and forums to see what current owners like and dislike about their smokers, and any additional tips they have.

Good Customer Support Matters

If something goes wrong or you have a question about your smoker, you’ll want to know the manufacturer’s support team will be there for you. Look up reviews and feedback of their customer support before you buy, so you know the kind of reputation they have and what you can expect.

Get to Know the Warranty Options before you Buy

If you plan on using your smoker regularly, you should also plan to protect your investment with a solid warranty. We recommend looking for a 10-year warranty.

That should be plenty of cover for heavy usage and provide you with replacement parts should any wear out before that.

Electric Smoker Tools & Accessory must haves

So you’ve purchased your electric smoker — now it’s time to stock up on the accessories that will make using it a breeze.

Heat-Resistant Gloves

Your smoker and everything inside of it will get hot! Protect yourself with a solid pair of heat-resistant gloves. They’ll help protect your hands and make it easier to open the door and make any adjustments you need during cooking.

You check out my recommended Heat-Resistant Glove here: Best Heat Resistant Gloves For Grilling

Thermometers

Knowing the exact temperature inside your smoker and meat is key to achieving flavorful, juicy results without overcooking.

Even if your smoker has a built-in thermometer, an instant read thermometer can give you extra insurance and confidence in your temperature readers.

Check out my recommended Instant Read Thermometers here: 10 Best Instant Read Thermometers

Check out my recommended Digital, Dual-Probe Smoker And Grill Thermometers here: 10 Best Digital Meat Thermometers

Smoker Grilling Tongs

To safely (and confidently) remove your food from the smoker, you’ll want to buy a set of smoker grilling tongs. These long tongs will help you keep your distance from the hot metal components of your smoker while ensuring that nothing gets dropped!

Here are some great Grilling Tool options: Grilling Toolsets

A Good Grill Brush

Your smoker will need cleaning, so grab a tool that will get the job done right: a bristle-free grill brush. This will help you clean up after smoking without the risk of a wire bristle ending up in your food the next time you cook.

You can see our recommendations for the Best Bristle-Free Grill Brushes Here: 10 Best Bristle Free Grill Brushes

A Basting Brush/Mop

If you plan on basting your meat with a marinade while it smokes, get a dedicated mop or brush to use. Look for one with a long handle and a durable head — typical kitchen brushes most likely won’t hold up to the heat of the smoker.

I recommend one like this: Basting Brush/Mop

A Quality Butcher’s Block

Cutting into your final product calls for something more stylish than a usual kitchen cutting board. Buy a quality wood butcher’s block that can easily fit large cuts of meat.

Wood will also help keep your knives sharp as you cut — it’s a win-win!

Here is a highly recommended Butcher’s Block: Quality Butcher’s Block

Smoker Insulation Blanket

If you’re using your electric smoker in cold weather, an insulation blanket will help keep the heat inside. You’ll need to buy one that fits perfectly over your smoker for it to be effective, so your best bet is searching for one made specifically for your model of smoker.

Here are a few quality options: Smoker Insulation Blankets

Electric Smoker Cover

An electric smoker cover will help ensure your smoker works better for longer by protecting it from inclement weather, moisture, dirt, and other debris. Again, you’ll want to look for one that is tailor-made for the type of smoker you have so it fits like a glove.

You can check some great options here: Electric Smoker Covers

Electric Smoker FAQ

If you still have questions, we’re here to help. Our goal is to arm you with enough information to not only buy the best Electric Smoker for you but to also provide you with everything you need to know to be successful in using and maintaining your smoker for years to come.

If you don’t know much about electric smokers but are in the market for one of these convenient cookers, we’ve got you covered!

These popular smokers offer convenient features that standard wood and charcoal smokers don’t and are perfect for outdoor chefs who want to kick back and relax while their food cooks.

Below we provide answers to a few frequently asked Electric Smoker questions to get you started. For a much more comprehensive Electric Smoker FAQ guide, check out this article: The Ultimate Electric Smoker FAQ

Be sure to check back on this guide, as we often add questions and update the answers with new articles!

Let’s dive into a few electric smoker FAQs!

Can you Leave an Electric Smoker on Overnight?

You should be very careful if you plan on leaving an electric smoker on overnight. There is always a risk when leaving any type of grill unattended for long periods of time. But with that said, here are some tips to minimize the dangers involved.

 

  • Make sure you start with a clean grill to minimize grease fires.
  • Make sure your smoker is at least 4-6 feet away from any flammable structure, like your house.
  • Never cook hot and fast while the cooker is unattended.
  • Check the weather report before starting your cook. Electricity and rain do not play nice together.

How do I Get More Smoke from my Electric Smoker?

You can produce more smoke or smoky flavor when using an electric smoker by following any or all of the 5 tips below.

 

  1. Don’t Soak Your Wood Chips as this will make it harder to control the temperature and produce more steam than smoke.
  2. Don’t be shy in the amount and frequency of wood chips you add during a cook.
  3. Use wood that produces a stronger smokey flavor like hickory or mesquite.
  4. Add a smoking tube into the cooking chamber. Smoking tubes are designed to produce and release a continuous flow of smoke to your cook.
  5. Leave the door closed as much as possible. Every time you open the door, precious heat and smoke are escaping.

How Often do you Add Wood Chips to an Electric Smoker?

You should add a cup or two of wood chips every 4-5 hours to an electric smoker on average until the cook is finished. A good rule of thumb is to monitor the smoke levels while cooking and adjust your times accordingly.

When smoke starts to decrease or becomes heavy and dark, it’s time to check on your wood chips.

Do you Light the Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker?

You do not need to light the wood chips in an electric smoker. When using an electric smoker, wood chips are not meant to flame up and burn, but rather they should stay at a constant smolder. The purpose of wood chips when using an electric smoker is not for adding heat, but for adding smoke to the cook.

There is no need to light the wood chips as the built in heating element will induce the smoldering effect on its own.

What does the Vent do on an Electric Smoker?

The vents in an electric smoker are there for creating combustion and smoke. Can you guess what the key element for creating combustion and smoke is? If you answered air, then you would be correct. Airflow from the vents is what helps create that smokey flavored magic.

The vents in an electric smoker are not for controlling the heat as in a traditional charcoal or wood smoker, but to provide airflow to the combustible material for smoke.

Even though the digital controller and heating element are controlling the temperature, air is still needed to produce and circulate the heat and smoke from your wood chips. And both a top and bottom vent are needed for this to happen.

Final Thoughts on our Electric Smoker Buyers Guide

If you’re interested in trying out smoking for yourself but aren’t sure about the work and skill required to use a traditional charcoal and wood smoker, an electric smoker can give you the best of both worlds. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door and if you decide you want to try traditional meat smoking in the future, you’ll be ahead of the game.

They’re easy to use, and with a few wood chips and some creativity, can produce just as delicious, smoky barbecue as a standard smoker.

Remember whatever class of smoker you choose, you’ll want to invest in one with a durable, solid construction, portability, and outstanding customer support and warranty options. These key features will ensure your smoker is ready to use, wherever you want to use it, for years to come.

Of course, you should protect your investment even more with a smoker blanket and cover. And pick up accessories like gloves and long tongs to help protect your hands as well.

We hope this buyer’s guide helped spark some ideas as you begin shopping for your own electric smoker. With how easy to use these handy smokers are, once you purchase yours, you’ll be cooking in no time!

Next Steps:

19 Benefits Of Electric Smokers

19 Benefits Of Electric Smokers

The Ultimate Electric Smoker FAQ - The Grilling Life

The Ultimate Electric Smoker FAQ

The 10 Best Electric Smokers

Top 10 Best Electric Smokers

Now It’s Your Turn

I want to hear from you. Which outdoor smoker have you used before?

Have you used a charcoal smoker and have any tips to share?

What features do you typically like to see in a charcoal smoker?

Are you going to be purchasing a smoker in the future?  Or do you plan on looking at a Pellet GrillBuilt-In Gas Grill, or Charcoal Model? How about a Pizza Oven?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.

Cheers,

Patrick

Disclosure At The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.



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