Smoking meat is a process which has been defined and redefined over and over again throughout the course of human evolution. It all started with our cavemen ancestors discovering that the meat hanging from the walls engulfed in the smoke coming out of the firepit tastes differently and generally lasts longer. Fast forward a few thousand years and you have a process which is used all over the world to conserve hunted meat throughout the harsh winters and even during long transport periods. Nowadays we don’t have to smoke meat for days and then put it into tons of salt to achieve the needed result. All that thanks to a 20th-century invention – the electric smoker. In this guide you will find which are the current best electric smokers on the market and learn tons of useful information on the subject of smoking.
The process of selecting the right electric smoker can be a hard task for anyone who isn’t already familiar with the matter. That is mainly due to the insane amount of models out there. This is why we’ve handpicked what we think are the best ones and ranked them accordingly into categories. Before we get to the actual products, let’s take a look at the chart between them all.
Top 5 Electric Smokers: Comparison Chart
1. The Best Electric Smoker – Bradley BTDS108P
This smoker made by Bradley is the perfect combination of quality materials and brilliant technology. It can smoke on its own for 8 straight hours and requires no previous knowledge of meat smoking. It has tons of customizable features and is the only smoker out there capable of both hot and cold smoking. With the BTDS108P you will always be on top of your meat smoking game.
2. Best Smoker Under 200 Bucks – Landmann USA Smoky Mountain
Landmann has always been known to produce good quality products. The Smoke Mountain is no exception to this rule, as it covers everything a basic meat smoker should do. It has a relatively good heat insulation, and doesn’t mix up different flavors when cooking fish and chicken meat together, for example. If you don’t want to rip a hole through your pocket, but also want to enjoy a tasteful BBQ, go with this one.
3. The Best Electric Smoker For 300 Bucks Or Lower
This was a rather hard category, as most of the great deals fall into it, so we decided to rank a first and second place here.
First Place – Char-Broil Deluxe
The Char-Broil Deluxe series offers you a great user-friendly experience which will take all the work you have to do away. It has a gorgeous design and is made out of top-quality materials. The smoke and temperatures with which it operates ensure that the meat coming out of it will be nothing but extraordinary. Throw in some BBQ smoking chips and you are all set for the weekend.
Second Place – Masterbuilt 20078715
It is rare to see a product this good, which does almost everything right, but Masterbuilt have seemingly “mastered” this process. The 20078715 has all the bells and whistles a smoker can have, but for a much lower price than its competitors. Sure, it looks kind of dull on the outside, but beneath that shell everything works just to make your life easier and tastier.
And lastly, we tried to pick the model which is the easiest to use and maintain. Also, for a starting smoker it had to have a great price, so here is our choice in that category:
4.The Best Smoker For Beginners – Smoke Hollow 30162E
This smoker isn’t as fancy as all the rest on our list, but the guys over at Smoke Hollow didn’t want it to be. All it has to do is give you the pleasure of a nicely smoked meat, without having a steep learning curve. If you want to get a cheap first meat smoker which will guide you deeper into the world of meat smoking, opt for this one.
Electric Smokers Buyer’s Guide
Before we lay out the criteria you have to follow in order to get the perfect smoker for you, let’s introduce you to the four major types. They are divided by the type of energy/fuel they use to generate heat and are the following:
- Electric with a pellet auger system
Obviously this guide will be concentrated on the electric kind, but we have to mention the others. There is a reason that today the most commonly used smokers are the electric ones, and you will see why in a second.
Even though this kind is considered a cheating one in the smokers world, it is still the most widespread today due to some major reasons.
For starters, they have the easiest temperature control out of all the models, which in meat smoking is the most important aspect. Furthermore, you won’t have to keep adding charcoal into it to keep the fire burning, just plug it in and you’re good to go.
Oh, on that note, yeah… You will need an electric supply. This is the Achilles’ heel of these smokers. With the rest you can go literally anywhere and fire them up (except maybe some propane and pellets models), but here you have to have a power supply. Sure, you can bring an external battery, but it still isn’t as convenient as with the rest. They also tend to be a bit heavier and have more parts that can eventually break.
Anyway, here is a complete list of the advantages you will be enjoying with your new electric model:
Advantages Of Owning An Electric Smoker
- Temperature Control. Charcoal smokers are famous for being hard to maintain at the right temperature. Gas variations are quite better, but still not as good as the electric models. They simply have tons of heat-regulating mechanisms which all do the job for you. There is a proper temperature for each kind of meat and the electric models make sure you maintain that temperature for the perfect result.
- Safety. These smokers are the safest out of all the types, as there is no possibility of burning wood jumping out and setting things on fire (especially if you are indoors). Even if something happens to the thermostat and the temperature goes beyond its set point, there are prevention mechanisms that kick in and shut it off.
- Not Having To Start A Fire. All you need to do here is plug in the cooker into a power outlet and that’s pretty much it. With the charcoal cookers you will have to actually make a fire and maintain it properly.
- Not Having To Supervise It. Electric cookers require minimal to no supervision. If you can’t have your whole day wasted in maintaining the smoker, this is the right choice for you. You just set up the ideal temperature or program for you and go do whatever you were doing in the first place. One thing, though – since the temperature in the electric models goes from the bottom of the unit towards the top, the whole process might be a bit slower, but even then, as experienced smokers say, “the longer the smoking is, the better the taste”.
- Heat Spreading. Electric cookers are a unanimous champion in that category. Most units cannot distribute their heat properly (especially when outside), and usually cook only one side of the meat. Electric models have an excellent heat spreading capabilities which results in a nicely cooked and smoked meat.
A variation of the electric smoker is the pellet one. It still uses electricity but maintains its temperature by burning compressed wood. They are great as they tend to add a bit more flavor but they are far more expensive.
All that aside, electric smokers are what smoking should be all about. You place the meat inside and go prepare the rest of the dinner and enjoy your family-time. Nothing to maintain, nor there is anything to worry about. The propane gets rather close to that, but we’d suggest always keeping an eye on your propane smoker just in case.
Other Types Of Smokers
Pellets smokers seemingly are on the rise lately, but are nowhere near as popular as their pure electric competition. Even so, they can maintain temperatures rather well too. The pellet smoker is basically a modified electric smoker. Most of them have an auger system which has a thermostat attached to it. That way, whenever the temperature drops, the auger system places a few more pellets into the fire. If you want that system in your smoker, though, you will need electricity. Those models are made for people who want their meat to be smoked over true wood (not that there is any difference in the taste).
The pellet smokers don’t have any cheap models, so honestly, if you are now starting with smoking, pure electric models are the way to go.
Speaking of flavor, charcoal smokers produce quite the unique combination of tastes embedded into your meat but the whole process of starting them up and later on maintaining their temperature is a huge deal-breaker. Instead of being with your friends, you will have to sit next to the smoker constantly in order to produce the same result an electric model would do all on its own. Some BBQ “experts” will say that charcoal is the only true way of smoking, but we’d strongly and respectfully disagree, as the meat which we tasted out of some of the higher specced electric cookers was brilliantly tasteful.
What Defines A Good Electric Smoker
There are a lot of boxes that have to be checked when searching for the perfect smoker for you. That’s why we’ve arranged and listed them all in one place. Make sure you go through all of these when making your purchase.
- Total Capacity
This is one of the most important aspects of an electric cooker. Always check this first. Even if the smoker has tons of other amazing features, if it is not big enough for your needs it just won’t be useful. If you often cook for big crowds or parties, make sure you get a big enough smoker to fit all the food inside.
- Ease Of Use
Make sure that the model you choose is user-friendly and a breeze to operate. Make sure the control panel gives you enough options and lets you monitor the situation inside the cooker. Extra points if there is a Bluetooth interface or even a remote control.
- Build Quality
What you want is a durable cooker which will be by your side for years to come. Avoid smokers that have bad reviews or proven short longevity.
- Temperature Range
Make sure the smoker goes from around 100 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This range consists of all the right temperatures when smoking all sorts of meat.
This seems like a weird thing to point out but trust us, if you want to use it at different places there are two things you need out of your smoker – to be lightweight and to have wheels.
Make sure you get a good warranty on your product. Most smokers have a warranty between 1 to 5 years, but we suggest getting the longest possible one. After all it’s an electric unit and everything can go wrong within its circuits.
Some Final Words
The best electric smoker is subjective title as everybody has different requirements out of their cooker but we hope that the points laid out here will help you choose the right one for you. Even so, the models we presented are the current market leaders and we vouch for them, as they’ve been tested thoroughly in all sorts of conditions, and have passed every test with flying colors.