The Best Electric Smokers for 2021

The best electric smokers

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So you want to smoke meat, but sitting out in the rain tending a fire doesn’t sound like fun to you?

Electric smokers are a perfect choice if you want a set it and forget it, smoker. While pellet grills also run on electricity, for this guide we will be focusing on standard electric smokers that burn wood chips.

We think the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker is the best electric smoker for most people thanks to its excellent insulation, clever wood chip tray system, and low price.

Read on to discover why it is our top pick, and what other electric smokers you should consider.

  • Cooking surface 730 sq in
  • Dimensions 18.1 x 19.4 x 34.9 in
  • Weight 51.54 lb
  • Warranty 90 days
  • Cooking surface 730 sq in
  • Dimensions 18.1 x 19.4 x 34.9 in
  • Weight 51.54 lb
  • Warranty 90 days
  • Cooking surface 725 sq in
  • Dimensions 16.5 x 18.1 x 32.5 in
  • Weight 50.2 lb
  • Warranty 1 year
  • Cooking surface 725 sq in
  • Dimensions 16.5 x 18.1 x 32.5 in
  • Weight 50.2 lb
  • Warranty 1 year
  • Cooking surface 975 sq in
  • Dimensions 18.2 x 24.8 x 42.4 in
  • Weight 77.5 lb
  • Warranty 90 days
  • Cooking surface 975 sq in
  • Dimensions 18.2 x 24.8 x 42.4 in
  • Weight 77.5 lb
  • Warranty 90 days
  • Cooking surface 631 sq in
  • Dimensions 17.5 x 21 x 29 in in
  • Weight 70 lb
  • Warranty 2 years
  • Cooking surface 631 sq in
  • Dimensions 17.5 x 21 x 29 in in
  • Weight 70 lb
  • Warranty 2 years

Here are the Best Electric Smokers Reviewed for 2021

Not everyone has the same needs or budgets, so we’ve selected 6 of the best electric smokers we’ve seen in 2020, plus three honorable mentions. Let’s find the right model for your needs.

Best Overall – 1. Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker

Read our full Masterbuilt 30″ Electric Smoker review.

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Electric Smoker Review

The Masterbuilt digital electric smoker is an extremely easy to use smoker for someone just getting started smoking meat, or for anyone who wants to crank out barbecue without the fuss of a charcoal or offset smoker.

The main cabinet of the smoker is made from steel with plastic trim, while the interior is made from aluminum.

The built-in digital control panel lets you set your internal temperature anywhere between 100 – 275°F. The same panel also lets you control the cook time and also houses the on and off controls.

The integrated thermostat takes control of the rest.

smoking meat in Masterbuilt MB20071117
There’s no built-in meat probe so you will need to buy a third party thermometer

It’s a well-built smoker and the chrome coated stainless steel cleans easily.

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker 30″ Specifications

Cooking surface730 sq in
Dimensions30 x 20 x 20 inches
Weight45.9 pounds
Heating element800 watt

The Masterbuilt heats up quickly and maintains a consistent internal temperature without any fiddling around. You just need to plug it into an electrical outlet and you’re ready to cook.

If you’ve read our guide to the best smokers for beginners then you already know we are big fans of the Masterbuilt electric digital smoker (MES for short).

The Masterbuilt electric smoker is available in a range of different configurations including:

The new Masterbuilt logo

We’ll cover the Bluetooth model in more detail further on in this guide so if controlling your smoker on your phone sounds appealing to you keep reading.

You need to be careful shopping around on Amazon as there are a number of outdated models and they are confusingly labeled. Watch out for the old Masterbuilt logo with the sun coming over some mountains as this will mean the product is an old version.

The front window looks kind of cool until you’ve been smoking about 10 minutes and realize there isn’t really anything to see! It also tends to get dirty which defies the point.

The 30″ model gives you 4 racks and 730 square inches of cooking space, although you may need to cut larger racks of ribs in half and remove a rack if you are cooking extra large items.

For that reason, we would recommend going for the 40″ model if you can afford it.

What we like:

  • Excellent smoker body insulation – The Masterbuilt is better insulated than a lot of other cheap smokers, which helps maintain a consistent internal temperature and keeps operating costs down, especially in cold or windy conditions.
  • Generous size to cost ratio – The 30 inch digital model comes with a generous 730 sq inches of cooking space, almost the same as the largest 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain.
  • Convenient wood chip tray system – The chip tube system is a convenient way to add more chips without opening the door if you want to get more smoke.
Masterbuilt MB20071117 wood tray

What we don’t like:

  • Wood chip tray is on the small side – Will need to refill the chip tray, or you can always add a cheap pellet tube to amp up the smoke.
  • Narrow width – The cooking racks are not quite big enough for the largest slabs of ribs or a big brisket without cutting or rolling them.

We should also point out that there is no built-in meat probe. The only other issue we have with the Masterbuilt electric digital smoker is the stingy 90-day warranty.

With four chrome plated cooking racks and 730 square inches of cooking space, the 30″ model should be a perfect size for most people. That’s enough to fit 8 small racks of ribs or 6 chickens.

Because it’s such a popular electric smoker brand you’ll also find a lot of fantastic resources for it like the Unofficial Masterbuilt Cookbook, and the Masterbuilt owners forum.

At a low price point, the Masterbuilt ticks all the boxes you want for an electric smoker.

Runner Up – 2. Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker

Read our full Char-Broil Deluxe review.

If you’re not sold on the Masterbuilt, this 725″ digital electric smoker from Char-Broil is an excellent alternative.

Virtually identical to the Masterbuilt in size and with 4 cooking racks, the Char-Broil has more “smart” smoker features.

The unit comes with a remote control that lets you view and adjust your temperature from the comfort of your home, as well as turn the smoker off if you need to.

You can also control the internal temperature and cooking time via the digital control panel on the tp of the smoker.

This unit comes with a glass door which lets you see every rack in the smoker. While watching your food smoke isn’t the most exciting past-time, being able to check the appearance without opening the door is a useful feature.

Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Specifications:

Cooking surface725 square in
Dimensions16.5 x 18.1 x 32.5 in
Weight50.2 lbs
Heating element 800 watt

The Char-Broil Deluxe is very sturdy and well constructed. The exterior walls are made of stainless steel and provide decent heat retention. The glass door is durable but you should note that some heat does radiate out so be careful if you have kids around.

What we like:

  • Ease of use and clean up – The digital panel makes it easy to control the temperature. You can easily add wood or water during a smoke, and because every part fits in the dishwasher cleanup is very easy.
  • Flexible setup allows you to fit a lot of food – Because you can adjust each of the 4 15″ x 12.5″ racks, it’s easy to configure the Char-Broil Deluxe to fit whatever you are cooking. If you have something large like a turkey and something smaller like ribs just adjust the racks to accommodate everything.
  • Large digital temperature readout – We like that all of the digital controls are easily accessible and that you can view the temperature at a glance.

What we don’t like

  • Limited remote control range – The remote control functionality is nice, but the distance is a bit limited. It will depend on your individual setup, and how many walls are between you and the smoker.
  • Have to set a temp or time – When you set up to cook you need to set either a target meat temperature or a time. Not a big problem but you can’t just set it up to run indefinitely.

You can use the meat temperature probe included to set your desired temperature, and then leave the smoker running until your food is ready. The unit will even cool down once the done temp is reached.

Capacity wise, the Char-Broil should hold two good sized pork butts at once, or 6-8 slabs of baby back ribs depending on size.

If you’re looking for a smoker that’s easy to run, doesn’t require a lot of clean up, and comes with a few bells and whistles then the Char-Broil is an excellent choice.

Best Bluetooth – Masterbuilt Bluetooth Smart Digital Electric Smoker 40 Inch

Electric smokers are aimed at people who want a set it and forget it cooker.

So Masterbuilt did something really clever and created a smoker that connects to your phone via Bluetooth. You can sit back, relax and control the temperature of your smoker with an app on your phone.

You can power the smoker on or off, as well as adjust and monitor the temperature of your smoker.

While your granddaddy might shake his head in despair at this generation, we think anything that combines barbecue with technology is worth celebrating.

The capacity is definitely one of the highlights of this smoker. Available in both 30 inch and 40 inch models, we would recommend the 40″ if you think there’s any chance you’ll use the extra space.

It’s much better to have more space than you need, than not enough.

Both models come with four adjustable racks which should give you plenty of room even when cooking for large groups of people.

The heating element is upgraded to 1,200 watts but your max temperature is still a low 275°F.

The wood chip tray is a nice addition and makes it reloading wood chips simple.

You don’t have to open the smoker to add new wood chips which is convenient and prevents you from losing heat and smoke.

What we like:

  • Huge amount of room – With 4 racks and 975 sq inches of cooking surface you can churn out a lot of food and feed a crowd of people
  • Wheels make it easy to move – For some reason a lot of electric smokers aren’t very portable. That’s not the case with the Bluetooth Masterbuilt as back wheels make moving the smoker easy.

What we don’t like:

  • Range on the Bluetooth app – The range is quite limited, and lots of people have reported issues with the app disconnecting.
  • Problems with the app – I believe a lot of these issues have been fixed in the latest versions of the app, but in the past people have had issues with the app randomly increasing the temperature

So if you are buying this smoker solely for the Bluetooth, you might be disappointed.

Even if you never plan on using the Bluetooth features this is still an excellent electric smoker though.

If you’re not sure what all the fuss is about the Bluetooth features, read on to find out a bit more about how it works.

Also worth noting that with the 40″ Masterbuilt you get 975 sq inches of cooking surface compared to just 721 sq inches with the 30″ model.

You have the option to control your smoker from The Masterbuilt app. If you’ve used a Bluetooth wireless thermometer before then the temperature monitoring won’t be new to you.

What we really liked though was the ability to adjust temperature without leaving the house.

The Bluetooth technology isn’t perfect though.

The actual range is only about 12 – 15 feet, and if you have walls in the way this can decrease even further. If you’ve used Bluetooth before you will understand how frustrating it can be to keep losing connection.

On the other hand, if you can keep your phone relatively close to the smoker it works well.

And this feature is all about not having to leave the comfort of your house, so even if you have to leave your phone close to the door it still beats going outside into cold or wet weather!

4. Best High End – Smokin Tex Pro Series 1400 Residential Electric Smoker

Read our full Smokin Tex Pro Series review.

Smokin Tex Pro 1400

There aren’t many types of smoker where the best high-end choice would come in at well under $1000.

But that’s what we love about electric smokers.

The Smokin Tex Pro Series is built like a tank with double wall insulation and super tight rubber door seals. It’s like something you would find in a commercial kitchen but sized won for the home user.

It’s still a super simple machine to operate though, it just fixes all of our main frustrations with electric smokers (cheap flimsy construction and leaky doors).

We found the cooking process was to be extremely simple. Since the smoker is on the smaller side, it comes to temperature very quickly, so no warm-up period is needed.

All you need to do is add wood to the removable wood chip pan, add your meat, and set the temperature dial.

You’ll want to add more chips about every 90 minutes or so. You can also use wood chunks if you like, but I was plenty pleased with the chips.

Smokin Tex Pro 1400 wood box with wood chunks

To test out this smoker, I also cooked thick pork chops, two racks of baby back ribs (I did need to cut them in half to get them to fit), and a large, 12-pound pork shoulder.

It was nice not not to have to worry about running out of fuel during a long cook like with a pellet or charcoal grill. Even when you run out of wood chips the smoker keeps cooking.

chicken thighs smoking in Smokin Tex Pro 1400

Being able to smoke between 100°F-250°F also makes this an excellent cold smoker.

What we like:

  • Outstanding smoke flavor – Everything is sealed perfectly except for a small exhaust vent, so smoke is drawn through the unit, bathing your food in flavor.
  • Easy to clean – Grease and food debris comes off the materials with little effort and you have easy access to the large drip pan.

What I don’t like:

  • Lack of wood chip feeder: You have to open the door to the smoker in order to add more wood chips. Shame it doesn’t have a chip feeder like the Masterbuilt.
  • Space between shelves – There’s only a 3-inch gap between each rack, so if you are cooking anythign large or need to baste you may need to remove a rack (which is easy enough to do).

While a little extra space would be nice, you can easily work around it by moving your cooking racks around.

If you want something a little bigger you could also look at the Smokein-it Model #2 which we cover in a bit more detail below.

5. Best Compact – Smoke Hollow 26-Inch Electric Smoker

The 26″ Electric Smoker from Smoke Hollow is our top pick if you’re looking for a compact smoker.

At full price the 26 inch Smoke Hollow costs around the same as the basic 30″ Masterbuilt. Luckily this unit can often be picked up for much less.

In terms of specs it’s quite similar to the MES. Available in both 26 and 30″ you can choose to save a few bucks if you won’t be cooking large volumes, or pay a tiny bit extra for more space.

The 26 Inch model packs a 1500-watt electric heating element and 1.3 cubic feet of cooking capacity.

The unit comes with two chrome-plated cooking grids that can be adjusted to variable heights. For example, if you are smoking a brisket and ribs at the same time you can modify the racks to fit everything in.

Design is similar to other electric smokers, with a heating element at the bottom, then a wood chip tray and water pan sitting above that.

You get a temperature gauge on the front door instead of controls mounted to the top.

The cabinet style makes operation very simple, and the spring wire handle with the latch door allows you to easily get in and out without burning yourself.

What we like:

  • Excellent heat control – The 1500 watt heating element gives you a temperature range of 175 – 325°F. Nothing crazy but higher than some larger electric smokers.
  • Compact footprint. The 36.5 x 19 x 16.5″ footprint means it doesn’t take up too much space on patio, while the adjustable shelves still let you fit larger items in there.
  • Great for novice smokers – Setup is straight forward and controlling temperature is very easy.

What we don’t like:

  • Short warranty – The 90 day warranty is definitely on the stingy side.
  • Cleaning heater element – You can get some meat juices dripping on the heating element which makes clean up a little bit harder. Would have been nice if the water pan did a better job catching drips. You can easily fix this by adding a wire rack with some foil under the second shelf.

The Smoke Hollow 26″ is a no frills electric smoker with great temperature control that represents excellent value, especially when it goes on special.

The rest of the competition

You can safely pick any model of smoker from the list above and be sure you’re getting a great smoker. But if you’re still not convinced the following might be worth considering. 

6. Smokein-it Model #2 Electric Smoker

Unlike the Masterbuilt & Char-Broil smokers reviewed above, the Smokein-it is a relatively under the radar electric smoker option.

What it lacks in name recognition, the Smokein-it makes up for in quality and size, and earns the top spot for our favorite large electric smoker.

While we were impressed with the insulation on the Masterbuilt, this smoker is built like a tank out of 18-gauge 201 stainless steel. It’s insualted with fiberglass to help reduce heat loss.

Unlike some cheap electric smokers which are built with flimsy, lightweight metal, the Smokein-it comes well insulated and doesn’t require any modifications to hold a steady temperature.

When you first fire this smoker up you should see a 40 to 50°F spike in temperature.  Once the chamber heats up the temperature will level off and will stay at your desired temperature for hours on end.

The build quality to price makes this still an excellent value electric smoker, and if you can spend that little bit extra you’ll be rewarded with far better barbecue.

You get 4 removable stainless steel cooking racks to configure how you like.

What we like:

  • Long power cord – 12 feet long cord is handy if you need to have the smoker a bit back from the house power
  • Good mobility for a smoker of this size – Wheels on the bottom are handy if need to move your smoker around
  • Really efficient wood consumption – Helps you save on wood chips. You should only need 2-5oz of wood depending on what you’re cooking.

While some people have pointed out that the low position of the thermostat means the smoker runs a little colder at the top, we would remind you to always measure the temperature where the meat is actually sitting.

There really isn’t anything bad we have to say about this unit. This is the best combination of size and quality construction out of all electric smokers we’ve seen.

Get the latest price on Amazon. 

7. Smoke Hollow 30″ Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are already the cheapest type of smoker out there. Our top and runner up selection already cost less than the budget pick in some of our other guides.

But if you really want to maximize your budget, the Smoke Hollow 30″ is probably the best budget electric smoker and can be purchased for well under the cost of the Masterbuilt or Char-Broil, but with similar features.

The Smoke Hollow offers a similar size, although with only 3 chrome coated adjustable grill racks.

You should be able to comfortably fit 2 turkeys, 3 pork butts or 3 racks of ribs.

The digital control panel lets you set your temperature, and integrated thermostat controls the temperature for you.

What we like:

  • Impressive insulation for the price – Construction quality is surprisingly good for a budget smoker.
  • Easy to assemble – Comes well packed and mostly assembled so shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to put it together.

What we don’t like:

  • Need to open the main door to reloadthe wood chip tray – It would be nice to have a chip feed system like the Masterbuilt Digital as opening the door too often can cause temperature fluctuation.

Sure it doesn’t have a remote like the Char-Broil, and the insulation won’t be as good as your top of the line smokers (this might not be the best smoker for extreme cold), but at this price hard to fault.

Get the latest price on Amazon.

8. Bradley Digital 6 Rack Smoker

The Bradley Digital is a bit of a weird case. Weird because it’s a hybrid between an electric and pellet smoker.

It’s a front loading cabinet smoker with polished stainless steel exterior like a lot of other smokers in this guide, but rather than using wood chips for flavor like an electric, the Bradley has it’s own proprietary wood “bisquettes”.

Made out of compressed sawdust, these bisquettes are similar to the pellets you use for a pellet grill, but can only be used on the Bradley to produce heat and smoke throughout the cooking process.

The Bradley comes with 6 cooking racks (11″ x 13″ cooking space) and is capable of reaching temperatures up to 280°F.

The 6 rack version has some upgrades over the original, such as upgraded digital control panel with improved heating controls, more precise temperature options and auto-off function.

This smoker does have a lot of fans, and the wood disks it uses seem to work fairly well. I don’t like the idea of being stuck buying one companies product though. With wood chips or pellets you are free to buy any old brand.

9. Old Smokey Electric Smoker

The Old Smokey trashcan style smoker is is a great example of a no-frills affordable smoker that can still get the job done. With 280 square inches of cooking space and a 29 x 17.5 x 17.5 inch foot print this is definitely a compact smoker.

The manufacturer is based out of Houston Texas, and has been in business since 1923 so you’ve got some added peace of mind that if anything goes wrong or you need a replacement part they will be around.

While the Old Smokey has an eye catching design, the actual construction is pretty straight forward. You have a heating element that connects to your electric outlet at the bottom, with a chip tray for adding wood on top of that.
The rest of the smoker is divided between the upper cooking level and grill, and the lower cooking level that has a drip pan to catch meat juices. There’s also no water pan.

The main issues you get when you drop to this price point is poor insulation and temperature control.

Unlike most smokers this unit doesn’t include a temperature gauge, although they do sell them as an optional accessory. This isn’t a deal breaker, as you’ll want to invest in a quality dual probe thermometer setup anyway. 

10 . Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker

Char-Broil already made it on to our list with the 725 Square Inch Deluxe Digital getting the nod as our top rated mid price smoker.

The Vertical has had a lot of the smarts stripped out. And with 505 square inches of cooking surface, it’s also smaller and cheaper.

For a cheap smoker, the insulation is surprisingly good and it’s simple to operate. Like any budget smoker, you’re going to have to deal with some low quality parts. Especially the door which can require a little extra effort to close.

I wouldn’t recommend this smoker for cooking in any kind of extreme conditions as it’s simply not well insulated enough.

However, if you’re looking for a budget smoker to learn on you could do a lot worse. 

Top electric smoker brands

We’ve already covered a range of different brands, but if you want to learn a little more about the company you will be buying from then read on.

1. Masterbuilt

There is no denying that Masterbuilt is the dominant brand in the electric smoker industry.

The company has been around for over 45 years and sells a variety of different types of grill including charcoal, propane, and pellet.

In 2017 Masterbuilt acquired the Smoke Hollow brand from Outdoor Leisure Products, although they continue to sell under their own brand name.

These days all grills are manufactured in China. Masterbuilt is typically a mass-market brand, with low-cost products that appeal to beginners and casual people.

Quality seems to be on the rise in recent years, and there has been a steady stream of new product releases and updates lately so you can often get a good deal on an older model.

Our favorite Masterbuilt electric smoker

Masterbuilt 30-Inch Digital Electric Smoker
  • Budget friendly and easy to use
  • Easy to reload wood chips
  • Minimal temperature swings
  • Build quality feels cheap
  • Timer feature can be annoying
Check latest price on Amazon

2. Char-Broil

Char-Broil is probably better known in the gas grill space where they sell a range of popular, affordable models.

Their grills were originally made in the USA way back in 1948 but today they are owned by W.C Bradley and manufacture in China.

Generally, folks seem to prefer Char-Broil more, but this could just be due to the overabundance of Masterbuilt grills.

Or top Char-Broil electric smoker

3. Bradley Technologies

Based out of Canada, Bradley is most well known for producing an electric smoker that burns their own proprietary discs or “bisquettes” to create heat and smoke.

Top Bradley smoker

What to look for when buying an electric smoker

We like to consider a pretty standard list of items before purchasing any new smoker.

Size & capacity

While most electric smokers appear to have plenty of space when you look at the numbers, you need to consider the width of the smoker.

There’s no point in having four cooking racks if you can’t fit a full rack of ribs on them.

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Electric Smoker Assembled

This is a common problem with the smaller 30″ sized smokers, although you can always get around it by folding or cutting.

But if you want to fit large items like whole packer briskets and full racks of ribs, consider a 40″ model.


We prefer smokers like the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker that let you access the wood chip tray without opening the main door and allowing heat and smoke to escape.

Masterbuilt MB20071117 wood tray

You’ll want to check what kind of temperature and meat probes are included so that you can keep an eye on the internal temperature as well as your meat doneness.

No probe isn’t a deal-breaker, you can invest in a much better quality third party thermometer that can measure your food and your smoker temp at the same time.

Also, pay attention to the digital control panel and what options are included. Most models will let you set the internal temperature, while some let you also choose a cooking time.

The other main feature to look out for is Bluetooth or any level of remote control.

It’s a nice feature to have to be sure, however, the last few generations of smokers suffered from very poor Bluetooth range and disconnection issues.

The landscape keeps changing though, so I suggest checking out the manufacturer’s app in the app store and looking over some of the latest reviews.


With their reliance on mains electricity, electric smokers aren’t really designed to be portable.

Even though pellet grills need to be plugged in, they seem to have received all the innovation when it comes to portability.


While you can pick up an electric smoker for just under $100, we would recommend looking in the $200-$300 range as that seems to be the sweet spot.

For the latest Bluetooth models expect to pay up to $500.

Pros and cons of buying an electric smoker

So you’ve read all about the best electric smokers available and you’re almost ready to buy, but maybe you’ve read some bad things about them.

If you buy an electric one thing is certain. You’ll need to get used to hearing silly comments from your friends about how much better charcoal tastes (unless your friends don’t smoke meat in which case they will rave about your food and say it’s the best thing they’ve ever eaten).

We agree that food cooked in a charcoal smoker by a skilled pitmaster will have a better flavor.

But 95% of people won’t be able to tell the difference, and the small bit of flavor you’re giving up is more than made up for by the ease of use.

And if going electric means you can barbecue every weekend instead of twice a year, then it’s a no brainer

Rather than just telling you which is the best electric smoker to buy, we’ve also included a detailed look at the pros and cons of going electric:

Electric smoker pros:

  • Electric smokers are “set it and forget it”. This could be a pro or a con depending on what you enjoy and what you hate about barbecuing
  • If you plan on smoking a variety of food types like fish or sausage then electrics excel. You can also easily convert them into a cold smoker for making bacon and cheese
  • If you live in an apartment or unit that doesn’t allow cooking with charcoal then electric might be your only smoker option
  • Electricity is less harmful to the environment than burning charcoal. Studies like the ones done by Iowa State University have shown the harmful effects of CO and CO2 emissions from burning charcoal.

Electric smoker cons:

  • The name probably gives this one away, but you’ll need a readily available power outlet or weatherproof extension cord
  • Because electric smokers can contain a more parts than more traditional smokers, you’re more likely to run into problems that can result in expensive repairs. Not as big a problem as on pellet smokers but still something to think about.
  • You won’t get a smoke ring (more on this below)
  • Electric should only be used as a dedicated smoker. Unlike other types of smoker which can work OK in a pinch, an electric smoker cannot achieve the higher heats needed to get crisp skin roasting a chicken or grilling meat.

Electric is all about compromise. You give up a little bit in the way of flavor, but you gain in the ease of use. While perfectly capable of making delicious food, other types of smokers can get an even better result.

If you’re OK with making a small sacrifice in flavor (to be honest most people won’t be able to tell the difference) then electric could be the right choice for you.

And if you’re like us and collect smokers like some people collect shoes then you can always try your hand at charcoal or pellet in the future…

How do electric smokers work

If you’ve never smoked on a electric smoker before you’re probably wondering how these contraptions actually work.

Unlike your traditional Weber smokers where you just fire up some charcoal and add wood, electric smokers have a lot more technology involved.

Instead of controlling the heat by limiting the flow of oxygen, electric smokers have controls to change the flow of electricity (for you nitpickers they also have very tiny vents to help control internal temperature).

Think the oven in your kitchen, but with smoke (if your indoor oven is smoking a lot you should probably get it looked at by a professional).

This close up of the inside of the Masterbuilt 40-Inch Smoker shows a common electric setup with the heating element sitting under the wood tray. You then have the water container off to the side.

With el’cheapo electric smokers you will probably get less control (e.g. low, medium, high). This is due to the rheostat which controls the flow of electricity.

With the higher end models you’re more likely to get an internal temperature probe inside which connects to the thermostat to give you greater temperature control.

Obviously with smoking the better temperature control you have, the better results you are likely to get.

Meathead explains how this different method of smoking causes you to miss out on the smoke ring.

ribs readyMeathead Goldwyn, Electric Smokers: Buying Guide?

“The heat in gas, pellet, and charcoal cookers comes from combustion which, when mixed with wood, produces gases that impart a distinct flavor.

The heat in an electric comes from a glowing metal rod. Smoke is created by putting wood above the heating element and letting it smolder.

But electrics don’t usually produce the needed combustion gases, so the flavor is different and there is no smoke ring, the pink layer of meat on the outside that says “Southern barbecue”.

The ring doesn’t add flavor, but it adds authenticity and creates visual expectations. 

What about Pellet Grills?

You also might be asking yourself why we haven’t recommended any pellet grills in this guide.

While pellet grills do run on electricity and are much better suited for smoking than grilling, they don’t share much in common with the electric smokers we’ve looked at in this article.

In recent years pellet grills have become far more popular than pure electric. Their design allows you to store enough wood pellets to last for many hours in a hopper so you don’t need to reload every 45 minutes like you do with an electric.

For many people, the advantages of pellet grills outweigh any cons. You are going to pay a premium for the convenience though, and there are a lot more parts to break.

You can read more about them in our guide to the best pellet grills.

Is electric or propane better for smoking?

We’ve already covered the pros and cons of going electric. But you’re probably wondering what the main differences are between a gas or an electric smoker.

If you’re stuck deciding between gas and electric we have a detailed guide that compares the pros and cons of both.

Both types of smoker share a lot of similarities:

  • They both fall into the ‘set it and forget it’ style
  • There’s no need to manage a fire or light charcoal
  • Smoke is created by adding chips to a wood chip tray

There are a few important differences to consider. Like a pellet or charcoal smoker, gas smokers produce heat through combustion.

Camp Chef Smoke Vault Review
The Camp Chef Smoke Vault is a popular gas smoker

This process produces gases that give your food it’s smokey flavor and distinctive smoke ring (more on that below).

Meanwhile electric smokers produce heat from a glowing element.

This won’t matter for 90% of amateur pitmasters. If you want to really hone your craft you might want to consider another type of smoker though.

For the rest of us, electric smokers still produce delicious barbecue.

With an electric smoker, you’re almost guaranteed not to run out of fuel (unless you have a power cut or forget to pay the electricity bill). They’re also cheaper to run than propane.

Most people need to use an extension cord to power their smoker. It’s up to you if this is more annoying than running out of propane mid cook. 

Getting the most out of your new electric smoker

So you’ve got a shiny new electric smoker and now you’re ready to fire it up. Before you do, here are a few simple tips to help you produce some fantastic barbecue on your first time.

  • Make sure you season your new smoker before attempting to cook any food in it. We have a guide you can follow for seasoning your electric smoker.
  • Even if your smoker comes with a dial in thermostat, we strongly recommend investing in a dual probe thermometer setup. The temperature can vary a lot at different places in the smoker, so you need to measure the air temperature right where the meat is cooking. Check out our guide to the best smoker theromometers
  • Make sure you allow your smoker enough time to get up to temperature first, before adding any food.
  • We always recommend starting off with a pork butt or two for your first smoke. This more forgiving cut of meat will still taste good even if you make some mistakes while you are learning the kinks of your new smoker.
  • You’ll want to keep your new smoker clean. The best way to do this is to take out any of the removable parts (racks, water pan etc) and give them spay with a good oven cleaner.

Other than that it’s all about practice practice practice. You should find temperature control a breeze, leaving you to experiment with different cuts of meat, rubs, injections and all that other fun stuff. 

Electric Smoker frequently asked questions

1) Are electric smokers as good as charcoal?

The answer to this question all depends on your definition of “good”. If you’re one and only priority is flavor, and you have the time and dedication to learn how to operate a charcoal smoker, then you can get better flavor with a charcoal barbecue.

But if you want a smoker you don’t have to maintain, that’s easy to fire up then an electric smoker can be much better for YOU.

2) How do electric smokers make smoke?

Electricity heats up an element at the bottom of the smoker. Wood chips are placed above the heating element where they can smolder. 

3) How long should wood chips last?

The amount of wood you need to add to your electric smoker will verify depending on a few factors such as the model you’re cooking on, how hot you are cooking and the size of chips you use.

According to Masterbuilt you should only add chips once and they should last for around an hour:

We recommend that you only put your smoking wood into the chip holder after the smoker has reached temperature and the heating light has turned off.

You only need to add wood chips once in most cases in the first 20 minutes or so, it should last for around 1 hour or so.

You will find that once the meat has started to cook it will seal in the juices and the smoke flavour that will continue to be absorbed into your meat. If you keep on adding smoke after that point it will build up on the outside of the meat and will make it very strong.

You will need to experiment. Just remember to start with less wood than you think, and slowly increase. 

4) Can you use an electric smoker in the house?

I suppose I understand the temptation. Being outside you get rained on, snowed on, and it can be generally miserable.

But I still laugh when I see this question come up from time to time. Unless you are prepared to install some serious, restaurant grade extraction system, keep your smoker outside.

Your significant other probably doesn’t want the smell to be permanently in your house anyway.

5) Do you have to soak wood chips before using them?

This is a total myth.

For some reason the debate about soaking wood chips rages on though.

At best soaking wood does nothing, at worst it can change the type of smoke that is produced. We have a full break down on the weird wood controversies people obsess over in our guide to smoke wood

6) How do you clean an electric smoker?

It’s important to keep your smoker clean and dry after each use. Avoid using any strong cleaners or large amounts of water though.

All you need to do is wipe the surface after each use and remove any burnt food or creosote that might have built up.

Keeping everything dry inside will help you avoid mold.
If you’re smoker came with a window you can follow this simple video to get it clean.

Lots of people use magic eraser pads from Mr Clean that clean with no chemicals. Another good trick is to use a home made mix of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. You could also use alcohol, but why waste it? 

To wrap it up

Hopefully this guide has helped you decide what model of smoker is best, and if an electric smoker is even right for you.

For most people we are happy to recommend the basic Masterbuilt Digital Electric smoker in either 30 or 40″ depending on your requirements.

It’s true that electric smokers get a fair bit of flack for being “too easy”. But if you don’t want to deal with charcoal or shell out for an expensive log burning smoker, electric can be a great choice.

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