How To Use Your Electric Smoker (Without Smoking Your House Down)

How To use an electric smokerMy wife always laughs at me when I am cooking. Mainly because when I’m making a killer smoked beef combo, I tend to fuss over the knobs for hours at a time. At least, until we decided to go for an electric smoker.

Which was great, except for the fact…

I had no clue how to use an electric smoker. Which as you can imagine led to my wife laughing just that much harder as I tried to figure out the intricacies of my new electric smoker.

I spent hours and hours researching, figuring out the manufacturer’s warranty, and trying to make heads or tails out of how the thing worked.

Eventually, after many trial and error test runs, I figured out exactly how my smoker worked. Which is why I decided to make a step-by-step guide for others looking forward to smoking, but having no clue where to start.

Learning How Your Electric Smoker Works

I find that the most important part of figuring out how something works, is to take the time to understand how, and what is responsible for making it function the way that it does.

That is why before I get into a detailed breakdown of exactly how you guys should be using your electric smokers, I wanted to briefly go over the details of what major components your electric smoker has, and why these are so important.

Ready to start?

I believe there are eight main elements in any electrical smoker. These being:

  • Smoker body
  • Digital Controller Pad
  • Water Bowl
  • Wood Chip Bowl W/Lid
  • Drip Tray

The below 3-minute video will quickly walk you through these components on a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. You will find the same parts on every smoker. At the end of this post, we will link to videos for popular electric smoker brands:

Everything You Need To Know About Your Smoker Body

The smoker body of your electric smoker is the heart of the operation. All that heat or smoke is going to want to escape the grips of your juicy meat one way or another. The smoker body should be well-insulated to trap all of this heat, and smoke inside – until you open up the door to the main oven at least.

A poorly designed smoker body will leave the heat burning chips for no reason. The worst part of all – that hard work you put into your meat will be wasted thanks to uneven cooking – I know, trust me – it blows.
If you are still searching for an electric smoker when searching you want to pay particular attention to the body of the unit. Make sure that you can access the wood chip bowl without having to open the access to the main door.

I also made sure to double-check that the label did guarantee a fully insulated, and heat ready unit for my meat.

The Digital Controller Pad

If the body of the electric smoker is the brains behind this operation, then I like to think of this particular component the brains of the operation.

The digital panel, which is mostly designed on the top-side (face-side) of the electric smoker is where the magic happens. This panel is what allows you to set the temperature, manage timers, manage cooking times, and any other nifty features your specific smoker may have.

If you recently purchased an electric smoker, it’s likely that you got either a Masterbuilt, or Char-broil electric smoker. These are the two most popular brands. Although they may differ in terms of the features that they have, the basic functioning still works the same way.

I strongly suggest reading the product instructions as this will give you a detailed guide to help you understand exactly what you need to know when it comes to operating the digital controller pad.


Water Bowl

While you are smoking your food, the moisture in the electric smoker can rapidly diminish – leaving your food dry and juiceless (eww). Which is where the water pan comes into play.

The most important thing about your water bowl is to make sure it is large enough to handle at least a cup or two of water a time. Depending on how much meat you are planning to cook per round, of course.

Not many people realize this, but I discovered it is actually better to use hot water in the water pan while you are cooking. As this will help you keep the smoker running hot, whereas cold water would cool it down – messing with your delicious morsel.

What About The Strange Drip Tray?

Have you ever had a traditional barbeque? Even better with a flame source as heat? You may notice that those juices drip-dripping from the meat causes the flames to roar to life, blistering all the hard work you have put into a delicious meal?

That is where your drip pan becomes important.

Essentially, the purpose of this component is to collect all of the juices that come from the meet, keeping the temperature from fluctuating.

But that’s not all it is good for.

If you want to maximize the flavor of your meat, while simultaneously preparing a smoky gravy to die for, your drip pan will become your best friend. I find adding in some water, wine, herbs, maybe even a few carrots – becomes scrumptious at the end of the day.

If you do decide to use the drip pan this way, it’s important to add more water when necessary to ensure that it does not dry out; leaving your gravy in ruins.

Last But Not Least – The Wooden Chips Bowl

The smoky flavor from an electrical smoker is the main appeal of getting one. At least, it was for me and my wife. Which is why I saved the most important part for last.

This is where the flavor will be made (or broken). The most important thing to keep in mind about the chip bowl is throughout the smoking session you will continuously be adding in a cup or two of wood chips to keep a nice steady stream of smoke going.

Which is why it is important to be able to access the chip bowl, without having to open up the main chamber of the smoker, which will result in a loss of temperature and smoke – tarnishing the flavor of your meat.

When I started out – these are the main components of importance (something I wish somebody told me!)

Now, its time to get into the step by step guide explaining how exactly you use your electric smoker to cook a delicious Sunday lunch.

A Step-By-Step Guide Teaching You How To Use Your Electric Smoker

Step One – Seasoning Your Smoker And Preparing It For Its First Time

When I got my electric smoker, all I wanted to do was get some meat smoking. But, in my anticipation, I had already done a bit of light reading on what you should do with your electric smoker. One of the most important pointers being something called curing/seasoning your smoker.

I had no idea what this meant.

Essentially, it’s the process of cleaning out your smoker before you use it.

I know, I also thought, “Why do I have to worry about cleaning a brand-new electric smoker?”

The problem is nowadays, the factories responsible for manufacturing these electric smokers have to deal with bulk orders, which means there is a high likelihood your electric smoker has not been sanitized.

The dust and leftover chemicals from the manufacturing process and shipping will not only leave your first meal tasting funny. But It can also have a poor impact on your health.

The good news is that you do not need to worry about seasoning/curing often. Besides when you first invest in an electric smoker, you only really need to worry about seasoning your masterbuilt electric smoker when you are changing the type of meat you are smoking.

Here is an in-depth guide to seasoning your electric smoker:

  1. Make sure your wood chip box and water pain are in place (be sure that there is no water in the pan).
  2. Ensure your electric smoker is plugged in (oops), and press the power button to turn it on.
  3. Raise the temperature to a minimum of 275 degrees F.
  4. Set the timer for 3-hours.
  5. During the last hour of the process, add 1-2 cups of wood chips.
  6. Buzz! The time goes off, turn off the electric smoker to let it cool down.
  7. Tada, it’s as simple as that – your smoke is now ready to cook tantalizing treats.

Step Two – Preparing Your Smoker To Cook Tantalizing Treats

How To Use Wood Chips In Your Electric Smoker: Here Is What You Need To Know

One of the nifty benefits of an electric smoker is you can still get that smoky wooden flavor from wood chips. But it can be confusing if you are new to the concept of smoking your food with wood chips.

The good news is picking up wood chips is as easy as going to your local grocery store, hardware shop – or you can even get them online.

You may be wondering, “Well, what wood is good for smoking with?”

Personally, I prefer using cedar, or hickory chips. But Adler, Cherry, or Plum chips will work just fine. The average smoker will go through roughly 4 cups of wood chips every 3-5 hours in use. It is important to make sure you have enough before you start cooking.

Trust me, I have run out of wood chips before – the food was more than just a bit disappointing.

Most electric smokers come with a chip tray specifically for your wooden chips. But if you already own an electric smoker without a wood chip tray, here is how you can cook using wood chips.

Preheating Your Smoker For The Cooking Process

On average, electric smokers take roughly 30-45 minutes to heat up from cold. Well, at least to heat up to a cooking temperature for your meat.

The first thing you want to do is add roughly a cup of wood chips into your chip tray before turning the smoker on. From here, turn it on and set the smoker to preheat.

If you notice that your smoker is no longer producing smoke, feel free to add more chips to keep a nice consistent smoke over your meat, which will make a huge difference for the overall flavor of the food.

I find that I add roughly a cup every hour when using my electric smoker. Once your electric smoker is nice and toasty, you want to adjust the temperature on the digital pad to roughly 225 degrees F. This is the ideal temperature to smoke out the majority of meats.

The Myth “How Do You Soak Your Wood Chips For An Electric Smoker

I actually found this particular point rather amusing. You see there has been a long-running debate between using wet wood vs dry wood when using wood chips in your electric smoker.
The entire point of using wood chips in your electric smoker is to give a nice, steady smoke that gives your food that smoky flavor you are looking for.

Some believe that using wet wood in the smoker provides this steady stream of smoke. But I won’t get into the debate.

If you do want to try soaking your wood, it is recommended to leave it In water for at least an hour or two prior to use. From there, you can use the wood chippings as normal.

Step 3: Take The Time To Add More Wood Chips And Water To The Pan

I know how tempting it is to throw your meat into the electric smoker as soon as it is ready to start smoking. But I find this is the best time to add water to your water bowl. You want to add roughly ½ a cup of water once the smoke has died down a bit.

In case you didn’t know, this water serves as a moisturizer for your meet during the smoking process. Making sure it doesn’t try up and crisp out (been there done that, really uncool!)

If you need to add more chips to stoke the smoke (quite literally), personally I feel this is the best time. Generally, I add at least another cup of wood chips around this point.

Here’s an important tip.

When you add more chips into the chip pan – the last thing you want to do is adjust the controls. I cannot tell you how many meals I ruined until I figured out this one crucial aspect.

Simply adding chips in will cause an increase in temperature, which will even out rather quickly.

Preparing That Entre That Would Make My Wife Fall In Love All Over Again

This is it! My first-time was nerve-wracking. I was finally getting the opportunity to see if everything I read about an electric smoker was true!

It was…

So, during the pre-heat session, I said that you want to get your electric smoker to around 225 degrees F. Once it is at this temperature, your smoker might beep, it may ding, or let out some other strange noise – it all depends on the model you have.


It’s time to get your marinated meat out of the fridge and into the smoker.

All you need to do is place the meat into the smoker body (smoke rack), and smoke it out until it is nice and tender. This could take anywhere between 3-8 hours.

Through the process you want to keep an eye out on the smoke, make sure it is nice and consistent – if you do notice it spluttering about, be sure to add more wood chips in – I really enjoy that nice even taste, and I am sure you feel the same way.

Step 4: Time To Cool, Clean, And Eat!

Well, that’s all there is to it. Personally, I prefer getting the electric smoker cooled down and cleaned out ASAP as this reduces the chance of difficult build-ups that are harder to clean. (Who wants to spend their Sunday afternoon scraping out their smoker.)

Which is why I recommend cooling off your electric smoker while you eat, after which it’s time to clean the smoker up to prepare it for its next cookout.

Cleaning your cooker not only protects it from wear and tear. But it also reduces the chance of leftovers, dust, or other dirt and debris circulating around your meat during the next cookout. Which as you can imagine is terrible for your health. Not to mention the taste of your food.

Here is an in-depth guide to help you clean your electric smoker.

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