The 5 Best Electric Smokers: Top Picks of 2017
Mmm, smoked meat. Can’t you just picture Homer Simpson’s tongue hanging out as he drools at the thought of all that delicious flavor? If you’re here reading this it’s likely you already know how amazing it would be to have the luxury of creating succulent smoked ribs or a juicy sausage from the comfort of your own home.
Traditional smokers are usually large and bulky and require a source of fuel, such as charcoal, gas or hardwood. They can be difficult to use as you’ll have to closely monitor the meat and cooking temperatures and it can take lots of time and effort to perfect the art of smoking a good piece of meat. Electric smokers eliminate most of the challenges and learning curve so you can act like you’ve been doing it your whole life. More on the positives of electric smokers in just a moment.
|Cooking Surface||730 Sq Inches||Not specified||520 Sq Inches||725 Sq Inches||171 sq inches|
|Weight||53.35 lbs||12.16 lbs||57.5 lbs||50.2 lbs||34.6 lbs|
|Heating Element||800 Watt||250 Watt||500 Watt||750 Watt||1500 Watt|
The Best Electric Smoker and Why You Should Buy One
Years ago, smoking meat was done primarily for preservation but the advances in technology have eliminated much of the need for this method of preserving meats. These days it’s all about tingling the taste buds in the absolute best of ways. The smoking process generally occurs at a relatively low temperature and over an extended period of time, from a couple of hours all the way up to a day or more for larger cuts.
The long cooking time ensures your meat is as tender as possible and seemingly melts in your mouth. The low temperature helps prevent the meat from drying out and many smokers include a spot to add some water to make sure as much moisture as possible remains inside of your food.
Did you know that you can smoke a whole variety of different things, not just red meat and pork? You’ll never run out of new and interesting things to try when you have your very own smoker. The most obvious alternative is fish which, in my opinion, is the single greatest way to enjoy this treat of the sea.
Some other things include vegetables, cheese, and even… beer?! Now I enjoy a cold beer occasionally but I’ve never had the privilege of trying smoked beer. Apparently, it’s not actually the beer that is smoked, just some ingredients which end up giving the beer a smoky flavor. No matter how it’s made, just the thought of this magical beverage brings visions of angels floating on clouds playing harp music. Or maybe that’s just me floating around my pool on an inflatable with Bon Jovi on the stereo, but close enough. If you end up making smoked beer let me know how it turns out.
1. Masterbuilt 30 Inch Electric Smoker
Our Rating: (4.3/5)
|Heating Element||800 watt|
|Cooking Surface||730 Sq Inches|
After intensive research, this is the top pick for the best electric smoker available on the market right now. Modest in size but mighty in power, this smoker boasts an 800-watt heating element and comes equipped with foam insulation to keep your heat where it matters most, on the inside. An included drip pan helps make cleanup a breeze. Masterbuilt has a variety of smokers, and we reviewed a few of them. This one is our top for their electric line.
Weighing in at just over 50 pounds it’s not the lightest available but still very manageable. For extra maneuverability, it also includes two wheels on the back and a handle for even better agility.
The glass door and internal light make it easy to keep an eye on your food as it cooks, and the included remote control allows you to control the light and turn the heat on and off. You can even use it to keep an eye on the timer and internal temperature of the smoker. The LED display on the outside gives you another option for reading the data and is well visible, even in direct sunlight. If you’re looking for the best electric smoker your search is over.
2. Smokehouse Little Chief Electric Front Load Smoker
Our Rating: (4.2/5)
|Heating Element||250 Watt|
|Cooking Surface||Not specified|
12 pounds? Yes, that’s all this little beast weighs. This is the electric smoker for value-conscious consumers. It’s one of the cheapest you’ll find but don’t let that put you off. It’s made of high-quality aluminum which probably accounts for how light it is, but the best part is being able to easily carry it outside and then back in for storage when you’re finished.
This smoker is perfect for fish, ribs, and especially jerky. You may want to stick to smaller cuts of meat with this model because of the lower wattage heating element but what it does, it does exceptionally well.
It comes with a few extras like a recipe booklet and even a package of hickory wood chips to get you started as quickly as possible, and the chrome-plated racks make cleanup a cinch.
3. Bradley Digital 4-Rack Smoker
Our Rating: (3.9/5)
|Heating Element||500 Watt|
|Cooking Surface||520 Sq Inches|
Bradley Smoker’s is a company known in the electric smokers industry. Unlike other electric smokers, and even pellet grills, this smoker uses wood “Bisquettes” for fuel. Similar to pellets, these wood bisquettes are an energy efficient fuel source. Also similar to pellets, they can infuse a variety of flavors. We noted the average burn time per bisquette to be about 20 minutes.
This smoker is on a bit of the heavier side at 57.5 pounds. That really isn’t a big issue considering you likely aren’t going to move your smoker around when it’s cooking for up to 8 hours. The 500 watt cooking element can achieve a steady heat of up to 280 degrees Fahrenheit. You also have tons of room with a total of 4 adjustable racks featuring 572 square inches of cooking space.
Like others will note, take good care of your heating element. It is the lifeblood of this smoker. As long as you take care of this heating element, the unit will last you a long time. Our team hasn’t used this unit long, but a few others have reported issues related to this, so keep this in mind in terms of longevity.
4. Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
Our Rating: (4.0/5)
|Heating Element||750 Watt|
|Cooking Surface||725 Sq inches|
They seem to like making these things look like safes but that’s OK because it looks so cool. This electric smoker by Char-Broil is no different. Featuring a double-wall construction and easy to use adjustable temperate controls as well as LED display make for a true plug-n-play approach to smoking. Char-broil is known for adding features like window displays and sometimes Bluetooth capabilities. They have decent reputation in this industry, especially for being made in China.
Don’t let the pictures fool you, this albeit small smoker is a great investment. The heating element is 750 watts with 725 square inches of cooking space split across 4 cooking trays makes for a roomy box. The box features a temperature probe inside the unit that regulates the temperature and smoke output. With that being said, the smoke output with this char-broil is somewhat lack-luster. If you are after a heavy smoke flavor, we’d suggest looking at our other options.
One of the biggest issues with smokers in their ability to maintain temperature. Most people don’t really care for the frills like a window display to check out your meat, or a digital read-out LED display. All they want to do is maintain that steady set temperature. This smoker can be hit and miss. Some of reported solid read-outs, while others have reported having issues. We didn’t run into any problems with this.
One last problem we had, and this is just personal. If you have ever worked with any Char-broil products you will notice the issue of branding. While it’s great to do by any brand, Char-broil likes to go overboard. Truth be told it took more time removing the sticker on the glass than taking this out to setup.
5. Smoke hollow Electric Smoker
Our Rating: (4.1/5)
|Heating Element||1500 Watt|
|Cooking Surface||171 sq inches|
First of all, this thing looks incredible. It looks like a safe and that’s only fitting because the contents inside are very precious. This is an electric powered smoker which many people will prefer over other types of “fuel.” All you need to do is plug in the smoker, add your chips, and turn the temperature to what you would like.
The box for your woodchips is a decent size so you’ll know that your food will get plenty of smoke to absorb during the cooking process. It comes with a water pan to keep your food moist which can also be used to add flavoring such as citrus juice.
It weighs about 34.6 pounds and is very sturdy. The external temperature gauge makes it easy to monitor what’s going on inside. Due to it being electric in nature you can maintain the temperature very easily.
The Advantages of Using an Electric Smoker
Easy to Use – One of the best things about an electric smoker is that you’ll feel like the chef of a 5-star restaurant even if you have absolutely no experience. Most are “set and forget” which comes in handy for the aforementioned lack of experience but also if you have things to do and can’t tend to the smoker continuously for hours on end. This isn’t to say that you should leave even an electric smoker unattended for long periods of time, but then again this is true of most cooking devices.
Electric smokers also use your power outlet as a source of fuel so you’ll never have to worry about running out in the middle of a cook. The only thing you’ll need is wood chips to create the smoke and those can be easily added to most models via a convenient removable drawer or bay.
Since they’re electric they also have other built-in features that provide ease of use. Temperature regulation is essential and that is done for you automatically. When you add that to the digital meat thermometer often included it will ensure you achieve a perfect cook each and every time.
Safety – Electric smokers are considerably safer than other traditional smokers and this is because there is no burning of fuel required. They use only a heating coil and the only burning that occurs is a little smoldering of a few wood chips as they release that mouth-watering flavor.
The automation of electric smokers also goes a long way in eliminating human error during operation, and models with an automatic shut-off timer will come in handy on those lazy Sunday afternoons when you might happen to doze off on the couch.
Easy to Clean – A huge reason for this is the lack of fuel required for electric smokers. A charcoal smoker, for example, would be a lot messier to clean because of all the soot left over. The same can be said of smokers that use wood as a fuel source.
Economical – Electric smokers are often cheaper than other types of smokers, allowing you to purchase a decent model for as little as $100 and up to a few hundred for extra bells and whistles. Traditional varieties can come in at much higher than this and also burden you with the extra cost of fuel, which is an additional cost each and every time you use it. With electric, you just need a few wood chips and electricity and they make very efficient use of power.
Great for Smaller Yards and Living Quarters – If you happen to live in an apartment you might not have any other choice. Yes, you’ll need a balcony or a personal area outside of a ground floor unit but many electric smokers are smaller than their counterparts. Just don’t be surprised when half of the building shows up at your door with a fist full of silverware ready to dig in.
Disadvantages of Electric Smokers
There isn’t really much negative to say about them but there are a few nitpicks worth mentioning. First, let me make it clear that electric smokers do an incredible job at infusing a smoky flavor into your food. However, many long-time cookers and eaters of smoky food will tell you that electric models can’t quite get quite to the level of the authentic level of flavor seen from charcoal or wood.
Anything electric is also prone to failure. Some of the best smokers will be listed below but with so much technology in one device it’s inevitable something will fail eventually. Other types of smokers mainly consist of the casing and the racks so this is one area they have the advantage.
Since many electric smokers are small they can lack the capacity to feed a large family. Of course, this won’t be an issue if you only need to feed 3 or 4 people, and as stated above many people will actually consider the small size to be more of a positive feature. There are also larger electric models available but the cost tends to rise along with the size.
Hopefully now you have a better idea of all the options available to you and whether an electric smoker will fulfill all of your needs on your future smoking endeavors. Electric smokers get pretty darn close to the flavor quality of the others and are a blessing to beginners or those who prefer to not have to tinker and just let the machine do the work. The best electric smoker is in the number one spot for a reason and a lot of variables were taken into consideration to put it there. If you’re still reading this I bet your stomach is starting to rumble. There’s no time like the present. Now, go get smoking!