Comparing The Best Electric Smokers
There’s one universal truth no red-blooded food-lover can deny:
Whoever discovered that smoking meat was a good idea deserves a friggin medal of honor!
Now, if you’re looking to start smoking your own, the first thing to think about is what type of smoker you want to get.
For those of you looking for convenience, easy of use, and would like to set-it-and-forget-it, you are definitely in the right place.
Whether you’re a seasoned smoker looking for a new toy, or an absolute beginner looking to wow the neighbours with your culinary skills, a top class electric meat smoker will deliver the results you want, with the minimum of fuss on your end and a beautifully cooked product time after time.
The only problem is this:
With the dizzying array of products on the market, how do you know what to buy?
That’s where this guide comes in. I’ll help you in your research for the best electric meat smoker for the money. Let’s start with my top picks:
|Masterbuilt 40" Electric Smoker||40"x25'x20"||975 sq. in.||/5||Check Price|
|Smokin' It Model #1 Electric Smoker||20.5"x19"x15"||505 sq. in.||/5||Check Price|
|Char-Broil The Big Easy Smoker, Roaster & Grill||36" x 24" x 18"||180 sq. in.||/5||Check Price|
|Old Smokey Electric Smoker||29" x 15.5" x 15.5"||280 sq. in.||/5||Check Price|
n this extensive guide I will help you decide on the best electric smoker for your need. We tested 52 electric smokers and ended up covering 17 of the absolute best smokers on the market divided into 5 price ranges for your convenience.
You can use the menu below to jump right to your budget range and start your research from there. Also, there is a buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page that should answer any questions you might have about electric smokers, what to look for when buying one, and a whole lot more.
Choose Your Budget:
- Cheap Electric Smokers (Under $150)
- Cheap Electric Smokers (Under $200)
- Best Electric Smokers Under $300
- Best Electric Smokers under $500
- Professional Electric Smokers ($500+)
- Electric Smoker Buyer’s Guide
Best Electric Smokers under $500
In this price range you’ll find my favorite electric smokers, along with my top choice, the Masterbuilt 40 inch smoker. At this level, we’re right on the verge of professional quality machines, and anything you look at will give great performance.
All three models we’re looking at are very different, but each one is the best in its area, so let’s check them out.
Best Electric Smokers Under $300
Around $300 is the sweet spot for electric smokers. It really is the perfect balance between quality and affordability.
For the extra dollars, you’re going to be getting a lot of added technology that makes the job of smoking meat so much easier. Internal thermometers, automatic wood chip dispensers and more automate a lot of the grunt work, and mean you can focus more on the things that matter, whether that’s preparing everything else that’s going to be served with what you’re smoking, or spending time with family and friends.
Cheap Electric Smokers (Under $200)
At this level, you’re getting something a bit heavier duty.
In terms of capacity, you’re still only looking at 30-50lbs of meat maximum, but that’s easily more than enough for any normal day to day usage, and with a bit of preparation it’s great for larger events too.
What you will notice is that at this level, it starts to get a bit higher tech. In the range below we’ve got a combined smoker, roaster and grill (my number one choice!) Smokers with built in windows and electronic temperature controls. As well as smokers that let you adjust the flow and buildup of smoke inside the cooking chamber so you can get the exact flavor and finish you want, whether that be a delicate hint with every bite or a full on smokey taste explosion in your mouth.
Cheap Electric Smokers (Under $150)
Everyone loves that delicate, succulent flavor of well smoked meat, and recently the price for home smokers has dropped. Especially when it comes to electric smokers.
Now, you can pick up a budget home smoker for a really reasonable price that will easily cover the needs of your family, and probably a bunch of friends too. Even better, these smaller electric smoking grills are all really simple and easy to use, making them ideal for first time users.
Not only that, they’re tiny, making storage and cleaning effortless, yet deceptively powerful for the size.
Remember, budget doesn’t have to mean low quality. So here’s our best budget electric smoker picks.
Professional Electric Smokers ($500+)
Once you start paying $500 or more for a meat smoker, you’re going to be getting something that could do double duty at a restaurant or professional barbeque joint.
Both of my top picks here are upgrades of other models we love, the Masterbuilt 20077615 and Bradley 6-rack. Both are digitally controlled, with a whole plethora of other options to make using them as painless and error free as possible.
It goes without saying that if you’re spending this much on a meat smoker, you’re most probably planning on using it a whole bunch, and if you’re going to be using it often, you want the best product you can possibly get.
How To Choose The Best Electric Smoker
The Definitive Buyer’s Guide
What Is An Electric Smoker?
Put simply, it’s an electric oven which is designed to cook food for long periods of time at lower temperatures by exposing it to smoke from especially created wood chips, which are also inside the oven with the food.
As part of the process, the food absorbs some of the flavor of the wood, giving it a delicate quality that most people absolutely love.
Food has been smoke cooked and smoke preserved for centuries, first over open fires, then in dedicated smokehouses, which evolved into the propane and charcoal smoking boxes used today. Electric smokers are simply the next evolution in food smoking technology. Easier, cheaper, better.
Further reading at Wikipedia.
How Does An Electric Smoker Work?
Electric smokers are actually deceptively simple.
Inside the insulated frame is an electric heating element, similar to what you might find in an electric grill or oven.
Nearby, there will be a small pile of specially treated and dampened wood chips. As these heat up, they emit smoke.
The meat to be cured is placed on racks above the heating element and wood chips and slowly cooks under a combination of the heat from the heating element and the heated smoke slowly rising over and curing the meat.
Cooking meat by smoking takes a lot longer than other cooking methods, but the results are always worth it!
For information about how electric smokers work, see WikiHow.
Why Would I Choose An Electric Smoker Over Gas, Propane Or Charcoal?
In one word, convenience. Using an electric smoker, especially a top end model, is generally as easy as switching it on, making sure it’s topped up with wood chips, setting the temperature and pressing start.
More expensive models automate absolutely everything for you as well, meaning that it’s literally possible to set up a batch of ribs, say, first thing in the morning, then come back six hours later to find them perfectly cooked through and ready to serve.
It’s much easier to get a consistent temperature as well, especially for beginners. No slaving over charcoal briquettes or adjusting gas flow valves halfway through the smoking process, trying to keep your meat cooking properly. Electric heating elements can be kept at a much more stable temperature than any other method, and the heat produced is also stable, rather than the asymmetric heat you can sometimes get from other methods that overcooks one side of your meat and not the other.
Not only that, but electric smokers are much easier in terms of logistics. Only do they produce less smoke, fueling them is as easy as plugging them into the mains. The only real consumables are wood chips, meaning no lugging sacks of charcoal into the pickup or worrying about recycling old propane tanks. They’re also damn easy to clean, with no charcoal residue, no ash, no real carbonising on the grill or internals.
Things To Consider When Choosing Your Electric Smoker.
There are multiple things to consider when you’re looking for an electric smoker. I’ve broken these down into three easy headings. Cooking efficiency. Size and cooking space, and Automation.
The more powerful the cooking element in your new electric smoker, the better the results you’re going to get. Whilst you don’t need a high maximum temperature to smoke most meats, having the option to crank it up is always preferable, and a lot of smokers these days can do double duty as BBQs and grills with enough power. If in doubt, look for something with around 6-800W as a good ballpark.
Size and cooking space
Internal space varies massively in electric smokers, with smaller bullet style smokers having as little as 300 square inches over a couple of racks and larger, heavier duty smokers having over three times that.
In general, you should be shooting for around 300 square inches of cooking space per ten people you’re planning on cooking for, or if it’s done by weight, 1-2 lbs of meat per person.
In newer, higher end models, damn near everything is automated. Now, I like to be in control, but I have to admit that there is something satisfying about pressing a couple of buttons and just knowing that what you’re cooking is going to come out perfect. Even better, a lot of the more expensive smokers even come with remote controls that not only allow you to control your smoker from a distance, but even tell you exactly what’s going on inside.
If in doubt, more automation is good. Smoking meat is an exact science, and can take a bit of getting used to, and until you’re at that level, any help is great. Hell, you don’t have to tell everyone that the smoker does all the work for you, right?
Can Electric Smokers Be Used Indoors?
No. Electric smokers still need venting, and unless you can provide a dedicated exhaust vent for your electric smoker, using it indoors is a very bad idea.
A possible byproduct of the cooking process is a small amount of carbon monoxide. This can build up over time and could potentially prove lethal. Please don’t use your electric smoker indoors.
Can Electric Smokers Be Left Outside?
Yes, they can be, but it’s obviously recommended to leave your electric smoker under cover where it isn’t exposed to the elements. If you can put it away, for example in a garage, it’s going to be far better for the life of the machine.
If you do need to leave your smoker outside, a lot of manufacturers do have water and wind resistant covers available, that will keep your smoker protected and safe.
Can Electric Smokers Be Used In The Rain?
Short answer. No.
As they are complicated pieces of electronic machinery and generally metal framed, leaving your electric smoker exposed to rainfall will cause irreparable damage, and most probably invalidate the warranty as well.
Are Electric Smokers Healthy?
First off, smoked meat doesn’t use any extra oil, making it far healthier than deep frying or even roasting.
Second, because of the smoking process, meat cooked by smoking is juicier than meat cooked by other methods, retaining more fluid and more of the nutritional value.
Lastly, it’s completely safe. After all, its simply cooking the meat with the same sort of electric heating element you’d find in an electric oven.
How To Clean My New Electric Smoker?
In general, electric smokers are pretty easy to clean. Most manufacturers guides that come with your new smoker will have cleaning instructions, but for the vast majority of electric smokers it’s as simple as removing any internal racks and wiping the inside of your smoker out.
A lot of higher end models even have internal parts that are 100% dishwasher safe, making cleaning meat racks and dishes as simple as possible.