I recall my first smoker like it was just yesterday. I was so happy when I got it, and couldn’t wait to get home so I could smoke my first chicken! Then five months later, I discovered the truth about it – it was junk …junk that sat in my yard and rusted. I made the mistake of buying that piece of junk, because I went out on a whim and made the purchase without even thinking – I didn’t do any research before the purchase, and ended up wasting my money …this is something I’m trying to save others from.
My next smoker was amazing (I’ll tell you more about that later on in this guide) – it was amazing, because I made sure I did my research in order to find the best. During my research, I found other great smokers (both propane and electric) that I will be telling you about in a bit.
- 1 An Introduction to the Electric Smoker
- 2 An Introduction to the Propane Smoker
- 3 Electric vs Propane Smoker how they compare
- 4 Propane & Electric Smoker Reviews
- 5 Ending Note
An Introduction to the Electric Smoker
First, I want to help you decide which type a smoker you are wanting – you want either a propane or an electric smoker – both have their pros and cons.
Can be Used Inside
Unlike those smokers that are charcoal based, with electric smokers, you can use them inside. This is because they don’t release harmful emissions, but don’t worry, because they produce just the correct amount of smoke so your food will be flavored.
Starting out, I’m going to give you a good introduction to an electric smoker and tell you the pros and Cons.
Put Food on and Walk Away
With an electric smoker, you won’t have to worry about constantly catering to it. Personally, I love the idea of putting some ribs on the smoker in the morning time, walking away from it, then coming back to a perfect slab of smoked ribs. I’m going to be honest with you – the manufacturers tell you to never leave an electric smoker unattended due to the risk of an electrical or grease fire, so I’m not saying to leave the house – what I am saying is you don’t have to stand over the electric smoker all day long. This is one of the main reasons why so many choose an electric smoker over a propane one.
I enjoy having the ability to control the temperature on my smoker. With an electric smoker, you will be able to set it at lower temperatures than you could with the propane smoker. If you like the idea of being able to control your temperature, then make sure you get one that can be digitally controlled – this is perfect for smoking summer sausage and jerky – meats that are normally smoked at 150 F and those temps are difficult to achieve with anything other than a high quality electric smoker.
Doesn’t Require Much Room
Some people just don’t have the room required for a traditional smoker, or aren’t allowed to have a fire burning at their home. In this world, you just have to roll with the flow – if this is your current situation, then I recommend an electric smoker, because it doesn’t take up much room and even if you live in an apartment complex, you will still be allowed to smoke your own food.
Great for Beginners
Electric smokers are great for beginners that are just learning to start smoking their meats. With an electric smoker, you can skip the learning curve on building and managing a fire. All you have to do is flip on a switch and you’ll be ready to smoke a delicious slab of ribs.
It is easier to find an affordable electric smoker that isn’t a piece of junk than it is to find a high quality propane smoker. All it takes is some time and research (but I’m covering the research for you in order to save you some time.
With any product, safety should be a concern. In regards to safety, electric smokers just so happen to be the safest type of smoker. Those traditional smokers depend on fire and you will need to leave the fire burning for a long period of time. If something were to knock the smoker over, it can cause the fire to spread. On another note, when it comes to an electric smoker, you don’t have to worry about anything like that.
So, if you have little ones or pets running around, an electric smoker wouldn’t be a bad idea. Most of the electric smokers currently on the shelf are shockproof, and their wires are insulated very well.
While the temperature control is pretty good, the heating elements on electric smokers are only able to put out so much heat and you have to remember, these things are designed for low and slow. If you want an electric smoker to put out high heat, and it’s freezing outside, then you’re not going to be too happy with the outcome.
A cold wind outside will suck the heat right out of an electric smoker, so the climate you live in is definitely something you need to consider. As a solution, if you want to smoke your food and it’s cold outside, you can always bring the electric smoker inside.
If you’re tight on room, an electric smoker is great, but you’ve got to remember that small means you won’t be able to cook a lot of food all at one time. Some of the electric smokers are so little that you won’t even be able to smoke a whole slab of ribs without having to cut them in half. If you’re wanting to smoke a lot of food, then make sure you get one that is at least 40 inches.
Electricity and rain simply do not mix and that is a no brainer, but I have to mention it. Something as slight as a drizzle can throw the breaker.
Some people enjoy tending to their smoker while the meat is smoking and if this is your case, an electric smoker isn’t a good idea. I understand that some want to spend time monitoring the entire smoking process from beginning to end and there’s nothing wrong with this. Those that like the traditional methods of smoking meat feel as if they’re being cheated on when electric gadgets are taking care of their job. However, if you’re the type of person that likes to put your food on and forget about it, then this con should be overlooked.
You see, regardless of the type of smoker you choose, you’re going to have pros and cons. You can make some really delicious food using an electric smoker, but be aware that wind, rain and the outside temperature can make things hard on you. An electric smoker is great for beginners, but if you plan on cooking up a big meal for events, make sure you get one that is large enough and also, make sure it has good digital controls.
An Introduction to the Propane Smoker
Most propane smokers are using the same simple design. If you look at the bottom, you’ll find a gas burner that is connected to a propane tank. Located above the burner, you’ll find a pan for smoking chips, sawdust or wood chunks. Between the smoking chamber and the burner, there’s a water pan that is used in order to keep the inside moist during long smokes. At the top of the unit, there are one or more chimneys that the smoke escapes from.
I just told you about the pros and cons of an electric smoker, and now it’s time for you to learn the pros and cons of a propane smoker and hopefully, when this is all said and done, you will be able to figure out which type of smoker you want to buy.
If you plan on taking your smoker around, then you’re going to benefit more from the propane smoker. This is because with a propane smoker, you will have the ability to use it away from an electric outlet. For example, if you want to go to the lake for the day, you can take the propane smoker with you. You will have the ability to set the propane smoker up wherever you please at your home, without having to worry about an electric outlet.
Ease of Use
A propane smoker is easy to use. There’s normally instructions that come with the unit – just follow those and you will be on your way to smoking delicious food in no time at all.
No Electricity Required
I know I clearly stated this when I told you that it was portable, but I feel the need to make it known that you can literally place these smokers anywhere outside. In areas where power is interrupted due to weather conditions, the propane smoker would come in handy.
The Cooking Time
Unlike with the electric smoker, the propane smoker doesn’t require additional time to warm up before you start cooking, so it will save some time. With the temperature regulation mechanism, you can adjust the heat.
Use as an Oven
Due to the fact that the propane smoker has the ability to reach a higher temperature than most smokers, I have discovered that it can also be used as an oven.
The Fuel – Some don’t like the fact that these type of smokers require fuel and the fuel is propane. However, you can overcome this con by always having a spare tank ready.
Cheaper Units – The cheaper units aren’t very well made. Before you choose your unit, whether it’s propane or electric, I recommend checking into it to make sure it’s good.
Only Used as a Smoker – Unless you’re able to crank the heat up high enough to make it an oven, the propane smoker can only be used as a smoker.
Electric vs Propane Smoker how they compare
Similarities Between the Electric Smoker and Propane Smoker
- Both the electric smoker and propane smoker have temperature controls.
- Both require you to push a button to turn it on.
- Both are easy to clean.
- Both are easy to maintain.
Differences Between the Electric Smoker and Propane Smoker
Obviously, the big difference between an electric smoker and a propane smoker would be the heat source. While one uses electricity, the other uses propane.
Consider the Weather Conditions
When choosing between the two it is important that you consider the weather conditions in your area. If you live somewhere like Florida where it rains a lot, then you may want to go for the propane smoker because electric smokers shouldn’t be used in the rain. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to mix water with electricity, but on the same note, you don’t want to expose the control panel to water. If the control panel hasn’t been completely sealed, the electronics could get wet and cause the smoker to stop working.
When it comes to using the propane smoker in the rain, there are no safety concerns, but you should be concerned with performance issues. The propane smoker isn’t insulated as well as a high-quality electric smoker. So, if you cook in the cold wind and rain, it could suck the heat out of the smoker, so you’ll need to take time to adjust the fuel usage.
In the Gulf Coast, where they are prone to hurricanes that knock the power out for days, and sometimes even weeks, people like the propane smoker because no electricity is required.
When it comes time to choose between the electric smoker or the propane smoker, this can be a hard decision, because both of them are great and have their own set of benefits. The electric smoker has the ability to achieve low heat, which is great for dehydrating vegetables like tomatoes and smoking salmon. On a propane smoker, it is complicated to reach a low temperature that is required to dehydrate foods. The electric smoker is cheaper and doesn’t require fuel to function, all you have to do is plug it into the electric outlet. On another note, you can use the propane smoker wherever you please without requiring electricity to make it work and it’s capable of reaching high temperatures. Basically, what it boils down to is choosing the best smoker will all depend on your personal taste. They are both great to use for cooking, just make sure you take time to do your research before purchasing one.
Hopefully, by now you have decided which type of smoker you’re wanting to go for – either propane or electric. To give you even more help, I am going to give you some short reviews on the propane and electric smokers that I feel are the best and most fitting for the category.
Propane & Electric Smoker Reviews
The Best Budget Propane
The best budget propane smoker comes to us from Smoke Hollow and it offers over 1.5cu’ of cooking space. This is a 30” gas smoker that features one steel wood chip pan, 3 chrome-plated cooking grinds and a high-quality temperature gauge.
This smoker has a fully-welded 1 piece steel cabinet construction which guarantees a consistent temperature. The burner offers 10,000 BTUs of constant heat that makes it great for smoking meat and fish.
The smoker has a total of 4 shelves, so you could easily fit 2 slabs of ribs on each shelf for a total of 8 ribs smoked all at one time.
The Best Budget Electric Smoker
The best budget electric smoker comes to us from Masterbuilt. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Masterbuilt, they have been around since 1973 and are well known for the indoor and outdoor cooking products. In this case, you have the 30” digital electric smoker that is great for both beginners and pros.
With this smoker, you can easily smoke delicious food. This smoker has a total of four chrome-coated smoking racks and an adjustable air damper for control of smoke. To give you an idea of what this smoker is capable of holding, it can hold any of the following: Six chickens, eight racks of ribs, two turkeys, four pork butts, two dozen hamburgers, or for sausage lovers, sixty four sausages!
The digital control panel makes it easy to set the time and the temperature on the smoker. The digital panel controls on/off, the time, and the temperature. The body is fully insulated, so you’re not going to have any problems there and there’s an integrated thermostat temperature control, which means you’re going to have even consistent smoking.
It has a unique side loading system, so you can easily add wood chips without even having to open the smoker door.
The Top Rated Propane
For the top rated propane smoker, I couldn’t help but choose the Smoke Hollow Pro Series for a variety of reasons. Starting out, this smoker comes with 2 burners made for quality stainless steel, and you can operate them independently.
This smoker also features a total of two wood chip trays which you can load externally – this helps reduce the loss of heat and makes is so that you will be able to provide the needed quantity of smokey flavor.
The Smoke Hollow Pro series has over 6cu.’ of capacity, making it so that you can handle food for large groups. It has more than enough space to accommodate all kinds of food items whether it be meat, vegetables or fish.
It also includes a total of five different cooking grids. Two of them are standard grids, two are for jerky and the last one is a combo cooking grid and rib rack that you can use for all kinds of smoking.
The burners are 11,000 BTUs and can be independently controlled.
Top Rated Electric Smoker
With a lot of smokers out there, you have to worry if you don’t have a whole lot of space. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with this electric smoker – Smokin-It. Smokin-It has a good reputation for building some of the best smokers you can find in the marketplace.
The stainless steel racks on this smoker are durable and I can see them lasting for many years to come. The overall construction of this smoker is top of the line, so you don’t have to worry about it turning into a bucket of rust in your yard.
This just so happens to be one of the most spacious electric smokers currently on the market. There’s a total of 2911 cubic inches of cooking space, which means you can cook up to 22 pounds of meat, without having to worry about limited space.
Powering the smoker, you have a 120 volt, 8 amp unit that can take you all the way from 100 to 250 degrees in no time at all. The smoker measures 20.4 inches high, 19 inches wide, and 15 inches deep – for most, this is a decent size.
While many smokers out there weigh 500+ pounds, this one weighs 57 pounds and is attached to 4 castors, so it’ll be easy to move it wherever you want.
Also, take note that this smoker is NSF certified. This means that you are allowed to use it for commercial use in your restaurant. However, due to the size of the oven, you may want to avoid commercial use, especially if it’s a large restaurant.
This is one of the most portable electric smokers you’re going to find. It’s compact, but don’t let that fool you, because it’s designed with a whole lot of interior space. If you have a family that is small in size and you’re wanting an electric smoker that is portable, then this should definitely be on your list of options.
The Best Selling Electric Smoker
This smoker right here would be great, regardless of who you are – whether you’re a beginner or a pro smoker, this is something that you should look into. After a large amount of research, I discovered that this Digital Electric Smoker from Masterbuilt is at the top of the best selling list, and for a good reason.
The body is fully insulated, so you don’t have to worry about it losing heat while you’re smoking your meats. For even consistent smoking, it has an integrated thermostat, and trust me, this does come in handy.
I really like the unique side loading system – this means that you can add wood chips, and don’t even have to open the door (opening the smoker door lets heat out).
This smoker consists of a total of 4 chrome coated smoking racks, and an adjustable air damper, which is perfect for controlling smoke.
The Best Selling Gas Smoker
If an electric smoker isn’t for you, but you still want something that is at the top of the list, then the Smoke Hollow 38-Inch gas smoker might just be a suitable option for you. It includes a total of 4 chrome-plated cooking grids and even has multiple adjustment levels, as well as a sausage hanger, which is really neat.
I personally like the two-door system, because it makes it easier to control the heat and moisture inside. This means that you can put wood chips and water in the pan, without having to open up the top door.
With the gas control system, you will have full control and can even increase or decrease the temperatures.
If you’re the type of person that enjoys smoking food without any limitations, then this is a good choice. A lot of the smokers currently on the market don’t give much space that will fit all of your food, and that is obviously something that the manufacturers of this smoker thought about when they created the unit. To give you an idea, this smoker has a cabinet capacity of 3.4 cubic feet, so you’re not going to have any problems if you want to smoke multiple racks of ribs, turkeys or pork shoulders at one time.
This smoker is capable of handling meals for a large group of people, so if you have a large family, or plan on cooking for special events, I would highly recommend the 38-inch Smoke Hollow smoker.
Propane vs Electric Smoker
Smoke Hollow is one of the top brands for propane smokers, while Masterbuilt is one of the top brands for electric smokers – whichever you decide on, if you go with one from this list, then you can rest with the satisfaction of knowing you’re on the right track.
Let me leave you off with a little tip on wood chips (this is something you’ll be needing with your smoker). If you want smoked food that has a stroke flavor (this is great for beef), then I highly recommend Mesquite. If you’re looking for something that has a mild flavor and goes well with almost all meats, then hickory chips are what you’ll want. If you plan on smoking fish, then I recommend Alder. For when you’re smoking pork and chicken, go for Applewood.
.....With a love of the great outdoors be it in the backyard, hiking or fishing
Steve loves to share his tips on how to get the best from your patio, yard or
garden, rain or shine. Researching the best products from garden furniture to smokers and Generators. Steve will keep you up to date with the latest gear to make your outdoor space the best it can be.