Nothing comes close to the taste of smoked meat melting tenderly on your tongue-brisket, wings, ribs. They say smoking meat is like slow cooking, which tenderizes and also gives it an accentuated flavour. If you are a smoking enthusiast, the idea of monitoring the entire process more than likely appeals to you. But then again, some of us might not be as devoted to the process.
If the idea of sitting out constantly tending to a fire for hours does not particularly sound appealing to you, electric smokers will definitely tickle your fancy. Electric smokers do most of the legwork, monitoring and regulating the temperature of the lengthy smoking process. They are more of a "set it and forget it", but you can still lurk around and keep an eye on things.
Here are 5 of the best electric smokers on the market in 2021:
1. Masterbuilt 30" Digital Electric Smoker
- Vertical digital electric smoker with 710 square inches of cooking space
This is arguably the best overall buy for an electric smoker. At its affordable price point, it generally delivers fantastic results, even for a beginner. It's also remarkably easy to use; you simply plug it in and get started with your cooking.
The main cabinet is made from steel, plus a plastic trim, while the interior is made from aluminium. The control panel allows you to adjust internal temperatures between 100 – 275°F, as well as setting cooking times. An internal thermostat takes care of pretty much the rest of the process.
The Masterbuilt 30" Digital Electric Smoker is a well-built electric smoker that heats up relatively fast and consistently maintains the internal temperature. It's available in different variations of size, mainly a 30" option with 4 racks-equating to 730 square inches of cooking surface- and a 40" option, as well as Bluetooth enabled options with a window and a broiler.
- 2. Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
- Insulated, double-wall construction. Wattage-750
- Advanced control panel with easy-read, blue LED display
- Removable food thermometer
- Glass door and stainless steel, dual-tone finish
- Large, stainless steel locking latch for smoke-tight seal
The Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker is another splendid choice to go for. It's just like a Masterbuilt Front Controller Electric Smoker, but with more high-tech features.
This smoker comes with a remote control that allows you to view and regulate its temperature within a decent range. As for the internal temperature and cooking times, you set them from a digital control panel on the unit itself. It has a glass door, through which you can see every rack and keep an eye on how your meat looks as it cooks.
The Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker has a sturdy build. Its exterior is made of stainless steel for solid heat retention. The glass door is just as durable, but it tends to radiate heat to the outside, hence the need for extra caution around it, especially for kids.
You only need to set the desired temperature using a meat temperature probe, and the smoker takes care of the rest. As for its capacity, it should comfortably fit two decently-sized pork butts at the same time.
3. Masterbuilt Bluetooth Smart Digital Electric Smoker 40"
- Bluetooth Smart technology allows you to monitor and control your meat and smoker temperature from...
- One meat probe thermometer included
- Patented side wood chip loading system allows you to add wood chips without opening smoker door
- Four chrome-coated smoking racks
- Interior light illuminates food in low light when door is open
Electric smokers are mainly for people who don't really want to spend a lot of time monitoring cooking. Masterbuilt came up with a nifty idea, building a smoker that connects to a mobile app via Bluetooth, with a range of 12-15 feet in open spaces. You can use the app to power the smoker on and off, as well as regulate its temperature.
This Bluetooth digital electric smoker comes in two sizes, 30" and 40" models,-721 and 975 square inches of cooking surface respectively-which both have four adjustable racks. Its heating element can produce up to 1200 watts, although the highest attainable temperature is 275°F. It also has a wooden chip tray, which is accessible without opening the smoker's door. This is definitely a convenient feature that allows you to retain heat and smoke when reloading chips.
4. Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker
- 544 Square inches of cooking space spread across three chrome-plated cooking grates
- Double-wall insulated construction with dual exhaust ports.Wash cooking grate with warm soapy water,...
- Door-mounted temperature gauge, and dual latches to keep door sealed shut
- Front-access water tray, grease cup and wood chip tray
- Measures 20.7 in W x 33.5 in H x 15 in D. 1, 000 watt electric element
This yet another great smoker option from Char-Boil. The analog electric smoker comes with 3 chrome-plated cooking grates that amount to 544 square inches of cooking space. It has a solid build, a double-wall construction that retains heat and smoke in, as well as dual exhaust ports to regulate how much of each you retain.
Its front door houses a temperature gauge for easy monitoring of the internal temperature. It also comes with a water tray, a grease cup and a wood chip tray, all easily accessible from the front. All these are equally removable, which means the Char-Broil analog electric smoker is fairly easy to clean.
5. Smoke Hollow 30" Electric Smoker
- Exterior: 33.5 in. (H) x 18.2 in. (W) x 18.7 in. (L) Interior: 26.2 in. (H) x 14.8 in. (W) x 12.8...
- Digital panel controls on/off, temperature, and time
- Three chrome-coated smoking racks
- Integrated thermostat temperature control for even, consistent smoking
- Fully-insulated smoker body
If you are looking for a budget buy, the Smoke Hollow 30" electric smoker is probably your best bet. You get pretty much the same primary features you'd get from a Masterbuilt or Char-Broil, but at a much lower price.
It comes in the same sizes as its biggest competitors, albeit with 3 chrome-coated adjustable racks. These can easily fit 3 pork butts. A digital control panel allows you to set the desired temperature before the internal thermostat takes over the rest of the process.
While the Smoke Hollow 30" electric smoker might not come with all the bells and whistles of the higher-end models, it still gets the job done pretty well. Plus, at its price point, there's very little to fault.
Things to Look for in the Best Electric Smoker
1. Size & Cooking Capacity
Reading from the numbers that come with electric smokers might tempt you into thinking that you get plenty of space "out of the box". While these figures aren't exactly inaccurate, they sometimes don't give a clear picture of cooking capacity, especially in width. We can all agree there'd be no point in having 4 cooking racks if none of them can fit a full rack of ribs.
This seems to be a common limitation with 30" inch electric smokers. If you get yourself one, you might have to get by with folding or cutting up the rack. But if you ultimately want to walk away from this inconvenience, a 40-inch smoker gives you ample space to fit large items, from a full rack of ribs to whole packer briskets.
Like any other modern appliance, you want a wide variety of controls on your electric smoker. Specific features and functionalities should be easily accessible from a control panel and fairly easy to use. For even more convenience, some of the options come with Bluetooth and Wi-FI connectively for remote control.
As far as functionality goes, you'd want an electric smoker that doesn't require you to open the main door when adding chips or chunks. Typically, such electric smokers are engineered for optimal internal temperatures that you can tweak around. More often than not, this also includes a feature for setting cooking times and keeping an eye on meat's doneness using meat probes.
You'll probably store your smoker at a different place from where you use it. Thus, it is important to consider an option that can be easily moved from one point to another. Most portable electric smokers come with wheels and side handles for ease of handling during movement.
Like any other purchase, your budget will probably be the most significant factor in getting the best electric smoker. You don't need to spend a premium to get the best out of an electric smoker, for starters. Of course, you can get one for as low as $100, though we recommend looking at mid-price range options around $200-$300, where you can get a reliable, durable electric smoker that gets the job done remarkably well. If you are looking into newer high-tech models, you can probably expect to spend around $400 for one.
How Does an Electric Smoker Work?
Electric smokers work much like an oven but with smoke. Electricity heats an element at the bottom, which then smoulders the wood chips or chunks above it.
Traditional smokers use charcoal and wood to regulate the temperature, while electric smokers use electricity. The former controls heat by modulating the flow of oxygen. On the other hand, the latter regulates the change of electricity flow, including tiny in-built vents that help monitor the internal temperature.
The standard electric smoker setup entails a heating element built under a wood tray. You then have a water container sat on the side at the bottom. A rheostat controls the flow of electricity. Ultimately, the more temperature control you can get from your set-up, the better the results you can expect.
Some smokers are built for hot smoking, others for cold smoking. Similarly, some electric smokers use chips and others use chunks or biscuits. Whatever the case might be, an electric smoker certainly frees up a huge chunk of the smoking process.
How Do You Get the Best out of an Electric Smoker?
Getting a good electric smoker is only half of the job. The smoking bit is unmistakably the other half and perhaps the hardest. Here a few tips that can edge you closer to a barbecue that almost always brings back all your guests.
- Before you even fire it up, you must ensure that you season the electric smoker appropriately.
- Despite most electric smokers coming with a thermostat, it is important to get an additional dual probe thermometer setup. This helps you to read accurate temperatures for every particular section where the meat is cooking.
- Ensure that you always let your smoker heat up before you have added any food.
- Start with pork butts for the first few smokes to get a clear impression of what your new electric smoker can accomplish.
- Make sure that the electric smoker is always clean, especially the removable parts.
Frequently Asked Questions about Electric Smokers
1. Are electric smokers as good as charcoal?
It really depends on what you define "good" as. For someone looking for a richer flavour in their meat, then they are better off using a charcoal smoker. But you must also be willing to dedicate a substantial amount of time to learn how to use and maximise a charcoal smoker.
However, if you are looking for a smoker that's easy to use and maintain, without the hassle of constantly and closely monitoring the process, then an electric smoker is undoubtedly better for you.
2. How long should wood chips last?
It varies from one model to the other. It also depends on the temperatures you are aiming for, as well as the size of the chips. Generally, a sizeable addition of chips should last through an hour.
It is recommended that you add chips only after the smoker reaches the preferred temperature, which should turn off the heating light.
3. Can you use an electric smoker indoors?
You definitely can, but it comes with additional and somewhat unnecessary costs. Using an electric smoker indoors would require a proper extraction system to channel the smoke outside. Otherwise, you risk a permanent smoky smell in your house. Therefore, unless it is utterly necessary, electric smokers should be preferably used outside.