Read our Best Electric Smoker Guide Before Buying
Looking for help in buying an electric smoker or wondering if an electric smoker is the right smoker for you? You have come to the right place. Top Electric Smoker is a one-stop resource for those looking for information and recommendations for the best electric smoker. We have done the research for you on all types of electric smokers so that you don’t have to – from the budget models to the premium models, smokers that are ideal for novices as well as the more experienced cooks, and we covered all the top brands.
Please note that this site caters mainly to the home user crowd. Therefore when we talk about premium models, we are referring to smokers that cost in the $1000 price range. We do know that electric smokers can sell for thousands of dollars but those are targeted at a very specific market and are not within our scope.
Having said that, electric smokers are not cheap, even the budget ones. Therefore it is important that you pick the right smoker based on your needs for the best results. Before you go ahead with this important purchase, take a look at our top picks and why we recommend them. If you still aren’t convinced if an electric smoker is the right smoker for you, check out our write up and comparison of the electric smoker with gas and charcoal smokers. Just skip to the bottom half of the page.
Top 3 Best Overall Electric Smoker
No product is perfect and this is true for even our picks for the best electric smokers. Each product has its own pros and cons. Furthermore, every user has his or her own unique requirements and priorities. Therefore, we feel that our readers are best served if we pick the 3 smokers that we think are the best and present the pros and cons for each model. We then let you, the reader, make an informed final decision based the information and recommendation presented.
The table below is a summary of the technical specifications of each of our picks for the top 3 electric smokers. There is also a link to a detailed review for each electric smoker.
|Bradley 4 Rack Digital |
|Smokin Tex Pro 1400|
|Cooking capacity||Approx 35 lbs||Approx 35 lbs||Approx 38 lbs|
|Adjustable racks (nos)||4||4||3|
|Temperature Controller Type||Thermostat, digital||Thermostat, digital||Thermostat|
|Cooking Temp Range (°F)||100 to 275||Up to 280||100 to 250|
|Heating Element Power Rating (W)||1200||500||700|
|Timer||Yes, digital||Yes, digital||No|
|External Dimensions (in)||19.6(W) x 25.7(D) x 40(H)||17(W) x 14(D) x 31(H) |
24(W) with Generator
|17.5(W) x 21(D) x 29(H)|
|Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
Top 3 Budget Electric Smoker Under $200
If the best overall electric smoker picks are a little too pricey for you or if you are just a beginner getting into home smoking, you may want to check out our picks for Top 3 Budget Electric Smoker under $200 instead. These smokers may not have all the features of the higher end models but they are all perfectly capable of producing equally flavorful smoked meats at a fraction of the price.
The table below is a summary of the technical specifications of each our budget electric smoker picks. There is also a link to a detailed review for each electric smoker.
|Specification||Little Chief Front Load Smoker||Meco 5030 Electric Combo Water Smoker||Old Smokey Electric Smoker|
|Cooking capacity||Approx 25 lbs||Approx 50 lbs||Approx 40 lbs|
|Racks (nos)||4 adjustable||2 fixed||2 fixed|
|Temperature Control||None||3 fixed settings - Low, Med and Hi||Variable temperature controller|
|Cooking Temp Range (°F)||165||Up to 250||Up to 250|
|Heating Element Power Rating (W)||250||1500||1250|
|External Dimensions (in)||11.5(W) x 11.5(D) x 24.5(H)||17.25(W) x 17.25(D) x 22.6(H)||15.5(W) x 15.5(D) x 29(H)|
|Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
Charcoal, Gas or Electric Smoker?
Besides electric smokers, there are also smokers that run on gas and charcoal. The purists will go for the most traditional method using charcoal or wood. The purists will also tell you that only a charcoal smoker will be able to impart a flavor that cannot be achieved using other smokers.
However, anyone who has ever tried starting and tending a charcoal fire for a BBQ can tell you that it is really challenging. It requires constant monitoring so be prepared to be standing on the patio for a long time with lots of beer on hand. If you have done this successfully, it is like a badge of honor that you can brag about.
For convenience, a gas smoker can be used. Starting a fire is no longer a problem with a gas smoker but you still have to monitor the temperature inside the smoker. While it is easy to start a fire and to keep it going, controlling a constant temperature is a different matter. A gas smoker may require frequent adjustments to the flame and monitoring the temperature depending on how experienced you are as there is no automatic temperature control feature. However, making temperature changes is much easier on a gas smoker compared to a charcoal smoker.
A gas smoker will also require making sure that the gas cylinder has enough gas to last the entire cooking period. This can be a hassle if you plan to smoke overnight. With an electric smoker, you don’t have to be concerned about this.
Some people may consider using an electric smoker as cheating but there is no doubt that the biggest advantage of using one is ease of use. Electric smokers use electrical heating element for producing heat so there is no need for charcoal or wood for fuel.
Electric smokers are able to provide accurate and constant temperature control through the use of temperature controllers that regulate the heating element temperature. Wood chips are added to the smoker for producing smoke for the smoking process so only a tiny amount is required. You do need to add wood chips and water (if you are going for wet-heat) occasionally but generally the electric smoker is a fire and forget smoker. If you plan to invite friends over for a party and all you want to do is set the smoker up and forget about it while you watch the game, the electric smoker is ideal for you.
Another big reason why users go for an electric smoker is that if you live in an apartment, a gas or charcoal smoker may not be allowed. In this case, an electric smoker is your only choice.
If you hate cleaning up after, the electric smoker is the way to go. Electric smokers do not produce any ash or soot. The only real cleaning you have to do are the trays and drip pan.
Electric smokers do cost more compared to similar sized gas or charcoal smokers. If you are inexperienced at smoking, an electric smoker will most likely save you from ruining your meats on your first few tries. For those who are more experienced, it is mainly a matter of cost versus convenience.
What to consider when buying an Electric Smoker?
Not all electrical smokers are built the same and prices range from under $100 to more than $10,000. The budget models have limited capacity and missing features while the top-end smokers can cook for an entire restaurant and have all the bells and whistles. Knowing exactly what you plan to do with your electrical smoker and your top priorities can save you from spending on unnecessary features. We have listed below the important features that you should look out for when buying an electric smoker. Some of these points are a must have for any electric smoker while others are nice to have options that you may want to consider.
When selecting smoker capacity, you need to decide on the number of people you plan to cook for on a regular basis. Most smokers will list how much meat you can smoke at one time. The rule of thumb is roughly 1 pound of raw meat per person. You also have to consider the fact that you cannot stuff every square inch of the smoker as there need to be enough space for proper air circulation or you will end up with uneven cooking. Since smoking is a slow process, doing multiple rounds on a smaller smoker is not really a viable option.
You may also want to check out on the number of wire shelves that the smoker comes with and make sure that they are removable and adjustable. The more shelves that the unit has, the more efficiently you can make use of all that space in the smoker by adjusting shelf height and the number of shelves used. Removable shelves also make cleaning easy.
The larger capacity units will of course require more space to set up. The smaller bullet shaped smokers take up the least space but also offer much smaller capacity.
There are 2 types of temperature control on the electric heater. Cheap electric smokers have rheostat controls. Rheostats control the amount of electrical power that goes into the heating element and thus control the temperature of the heating element. Rheostat controls have no temperature feedback and thus are poor at controlling the actual temperature inside the smoker.
Better electric smokers have thermostat controllers. Thermostat controllers have temperature feedback that allows it to regulate the temperature inside the smoker. However, not all thermostats are built the same. Poor thermostats have poor temperature sensors that give the wrong temperature reading and thus the smoker holds the wrong temperature. Another consequence of a poor thermostat is fluctuating temperatures.
Most electric smokers have very little air flow as it does not depend on combustion to produce the heat and too much air flow actually makes it difficult for the smoker to maintain a constant temperature. However, the presence of vents to allow for slight adjustment to the air flow is beneficial to the smoking process.
Maximum temperature and grilling
Some smokers have grilling functions as well. While it seems like a good idea to have both functions built into a single device, smoking and grilling are two very different methods of cooking. Smoking is a low and slow heat cooking method.
You don’t need very high temperatures for smoking but you do need a lot of time. Grilling requires relatively high temperatures for quick cooking and especially for searing.
Most electric smokers do not have very high temperature ranges with many topping out at about 300 degrees. This is fine for smoking but may not be that well suited for grilling. Opponents of electric smokers often complain about the low maximum temperatures but it is actually a non-issue.
Our advice is to just concentrate on the smoking function. A smoker that can hold a constant temperature is more useful than one that is capable of very high temperatures.
Protection from the elements
Smokers are outdoor equipment and need to be protected from the elements when not in use. Does the smoker come with a good protective cover or is there an option to buy one? If you need to buy one, remember to factor in the cost.
Alternatively, if you have covered or storage space available, you can store the smoker provided it has attached castor wheels. Make sure that the wheels are large and sturdy enough for you to push the smoker over uneven surface like your deck, pavers or even your lawn.
A good electric smoker should have good insulation around the smoking compartment. A well insulated smoker prevents excessive heat loss which is important in maintaining temperature as well as reducing power consumption. If you plan to use the smoker in the winter months, good insulation is critical as otherwise the smoker will not be able to maintain a high enough temperature for proper smoking.
Viewing window and meat probe
If you are a beginner, you will likely be tempted to open the smoker constantly to check on how your meat is turning out. This is a bad move as the smoker will lose heat and smoke. Some of the electric smoker models have viewing windows and even an internal light to let you see inside.
However, seeing actually doesn’t help much. What is more important is probably the use of an meat probe to allow you to check on the temperature of the meat that you are smoking. You want to make sure that the insides are properly cook. To use a meat probe, the smoker has to come with one or is designed to allow you to use one.
You should not open the smoker unnecessarily to maintain the heat and smoke but what if you need to add wood chips or water to the water pan? This is where a door access feature comes in handy. It allows you to minimize heat and smoke loss by only opening a small door for you to top up the wood chips or water.