How To Smoke Like A Pro Using Your Electric Smoker
If you love smoked food, but you’re not that experienced in the world of BBQ, there are hacks that the pros use that will make you look like a pit-master in no time at all.
And some of the best smokers to use are electric smokers, perfect for amateur smokers or BBQ enthusiasts who don’t like all the tinkering about that wood or charcoal smokers require. Crucially, electric smokers are the ideal “set-and-forget” appliance; you don’t have to tend to them or your food for hours, monitoring temperatures, smoke levels, or the doneness of your smoked foods. All that’s required is to set the time and temperature controls, and then leave the electric smoker to work its magic!
This article will give you electric smoker tips to help you prepare fantastic smoked meals that’ll make you look like a pro. With these tips, we’re confident that you’ll get the hang of using your unit. You’ll also earn valuable food smoking tips to avoid the expensive mistake of overcooking premium cuts of meat or delicate fish.
Let’s dive right in!
Preseason Your Electric Smoker Before The First Use
An electric smoker is like any other electrical cooking appliance. It must first be “cured” or “seasoned” for the best performance and to yield maximum flavor from food. This process removes odors, residues, and dust accumulated during the manufacturing process. It also gives your appliance an oil layer that will later protect your food in subsequent smokes.
Rub all the interior surfaces of your electric smoker, including the cooking racks, with cooking oil or non-stick spray. As much as possible, use a “neutral oil” like canola or peanut oil as opposed to the more expensive olive oil. Turn your smoker on and run it at 270-275 Fahrenheit for 2-3 hours. 45 minutes before the curing process ends, add your wood chips.
Once this time is up, turn off your unit, and open the door, and then allow your unit to cool before using it. It’s always important to follow manufacturer instructions during the seasoning process, and you should only have to season your appliance once.
Check out the video below for top tips on how to preseason a new Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.
Learn To Control Smoker Temperatures And Vents
Finding the perfect vent positions can be a challenge, especially for BBQ amateurs, or if you’re using charcoal, pellet, or wood smokers. This process is pretty straightforward, though when it comes to electric smokers. Digital electric smokers especially have a control panel that only needs you to select the “+” or “–” settings to increase or decrease the temperature as needed.
Temperature controllers, probes, and monitors also aid in the process. These devices come either in-built into your electric smoker or separately. Probes help you to measure internal meat temperature especially important to gauge doneness and avoid incidences of food poisoning.
Monitors and controllers monitor internal smoker temperature, gauge temperature accuracy, and have the ability to measure two temperatures at once. Both have wireless access too for the ultimate convenience, but controllers – found in many electric smokers – go one step further by being able to control smoker temperature.
You should note, however, that electric smokers are renowned for ‘swing’ especially at the beginning of a smoke, and this can register up to 20°F above or below the set temperature. Therefore, if you are aiming for an internal temperature of 220°F, try setting your electric smoker to between 205-210°F.
Observe as the temperature rises. Once the internal temperature hits the desired 220°F, above the temperature, you set of 210°F, quickly reset the temperature to 220°F on the temperature controller. Always aim for electric smokers that are well insulated to reduce swing. We have the latest best electric smokers guide to help you make your choice.
One of the best electric smoker tips to apply is to leave vents fully open as you smoke meats to avoid the risk of creosote build-up on your meat. Creosote is a compound found in smoke that gives smoked foods that desirable BBQ flavor, but in large amounts can make the food taste bitter. The only time you should close your vents is when you have finished smoking your meat.
Use The Right Wood Chips In The Right Way
Most electric smokers are built to accommodate wood chips, but some may not, and that’s not a problem because electric smokers do impart excellent flavor on smoked foods. Do not, under any circumstance, be tempted to use scrap wood or treated wood in your unit. These types of wood can produce gases that are harmful to you and your family. Only use specially manufactured bagged wood chips, perfect for the smoking process.
Improvise by placing wood chips in a disposable aluminum pan with holes drilled into it, and then place your wood chips inside this pan. Place this pan just above the heating element to generate the smoke you require.
Wood chips are not the same, and different wood chips impart varying flavors onto smoked foods. Knowing which wood chips to use for which meats, can make all the difference in highlighting the final taste and flavor of your BBQ.
As a rule, BBQ pitmasters recommend using the following wood chips for the following smoked foods:
- Oak and pecan both have a medium-strong, nutty flavor to smoke sausages, beef, brisket or lamb, and roasts
- Maple has a light, mild smokiness to smoke poultry, fowl, and pork
- Mesquite has an intense and hardy flavor to smoke all red meats
- Hickory has a sweet-savory flavor to smoke a pork butt, pork shoulder, and almost all red meats and poultry
- Apple wood is mild and sweet to smoke pork, poultry, bacon, and wildfowl
- Cherry wood is fruity and mild to smoke chicken, ham or turkey
- Alder wood is sweet and mild to smoke all types of fish including salmon, and other North Pacific fishes
Most BBQ guides recommend that you soak your wood chips for at least a 30 minutes to a couple of hours before smoking to help draw out the maximum amount of smoke from the wood.
Other pit masters recommend not soaking your wood chips before smoking. They say that the white smoke that first comes out of the wood chips is not smoke at all but steam. This steam only serves to delay the actual combustion stage of the wood chips, which produces the flavor-inducing smoke. Furthermore, they argue, white smoke doesn’t add any flavor to the smoked food and also takes away from the natural flavor qualities in the wood.
The jury is out on this one, and we would say stick to your personal preference.
Master The Correct Temperature Settings For Smoking Different Types of Meats
For most meats, 200–225°F is an ideal smoking temperature range. However, the type of meat you’re smoking can greatly influence temperature settings. These low temperatures give the smoke enough time to tenderize and penetrate the meat. Besides, slow smoking offers natural connective fibers in tough cuts of meat like brisket and chuck, time to break down and caramelize, giving the meat that characteristic sweet BBQ flavor.
Not all meats, however, benefit from low-n-slow-smoking. Poultry yields best results when smoked for at most two hours at a higher temperature of 275°F. Smoked fish excels when smoked at below 150°F for the first two hours of smoking, with the heat cranked right up to 200°F to finish it off.
Of utmost importance is knowing the safe internal temperatures for different types of meats to determine whether they are ready to serve. Serve poultry and fowl at between 165-175°F, and fish and pork at 145°F. For smoked lamb, serve at 135°F for rare, 160°F for medium, 165°F for well-done, and for smoked beef 145°F for rare, 160°F for medium, 170°F for well-done.
Brine Pork or Poultry Before Smoking
Using a brine solution to soak meats such as turkey, chicken, and pork gives these meats tons of flavor. Mix salt and sugar in cold water, and add seasonings like celery salt, whole white or black peppercorns, fresh parsley, bay leaves, carrots, clove-studded whole onions, and citrus-fruit slices, and then soak overnight or preferably for 24 hours.
Brining tenderizes and moisturizes the meat while adding a lot of flavor and giving your meat a delicious taste. This tip might be the one tip that differentiates your BBQ from a run-of-the-mill BBQ.
Line Cooking Racks With Foil For Easy Post-smoking Clean Up
Just as you would do for your oven, it is advisable to line your cooking racks with aluminum foil before smoking. This action will reduce the amount of clean up needed after you have smoked your food. Aluminum foil also helps protect your drip and deflector pans. Pros adopt a “clean-as-you-go” attitude and do all they can to make every step of the cooking process efficient, clean, and safe. Besides, your smoker is in effect an electric oven, so the same maintenance tips apply.
Cooking and grill racks free of residual oil and grease also yield better tasting food. When leftover grease, which may be rancid gets into direct contact with fresh foods ready to be smoked, that food will likely taste bad once done. This grease may also stick to your food and cause the food to produce excess, bitter-tasting smoke.
And do make sure to regularly deep-clean your electric smoker. The longer you leave it in between these cleans, the harder it will be to maintain your unit. Excessive build-up of grease and burned bits also affects the performance of your smoker.
Use only non-abrasive cleaning agents like mild detergents, coupled with a cleaning cloth and warm water. Gently scrub the interior with a plastic bristle brush or soap sponge, and physically remove any water pans, drip trays, wood chip pans, and cooking racks. Soak them in warm soapy water for some time before scrubbing clean, rinsing, and drying.
The exterior of your smoker is pretty simple to keep clean. Wipe both the surface and the door seal with a damp cloth soaked in warm soapy water to get rid of dust and excessive grease. If your electric smoker has a door equipped with a window, use only window and ceramic-approved cleaners to clean both the exterior and the interior.
The more you use your electric smoker, your BBQ skills will develop. These electric smoker tips are just the beginning, to get you smoking meat and other foods like a pro. Following these tips when using your electric smoker, will guarantee a difference in the quality and flavor of your BBQ, and mark you out as more than a beginner.
We hope you found these electric smoker tips and tricks useful. Check out some grilling recipes to try out at your next BBQ, and be sure to read our electric smokers guide to ensure that you get the perfect electric smoker. We would love to hear all about how these tips helped you to up your grilling game. Happy smoking!