Best electric smoker reviews 2018
Masterbuilt 20075315 Front Controller SmokerThe absolute best
A generous cooking space, glass door and internal light boost up the value of this smoker.
Masterbuilt 20075315 Review
The Masterbuilt 20075315 is no doubt the best electric smoker on the market. Boasting a 975 square inches cooking capacity and four cooking racks, this unit finds its place in a commercial kitchen and is also ideal for the passionate homeowner looking for best-in-class reliability.
Perfect for the backyard, the smoker comes with a digital control panel and convenient remote control. A glass panel and internal light allow you to monitor food without opening the door, while the side wood chip loading prevents heat dissipation.
The smoker is ideal for high-volume cooking and can accommodate two whole turkeys or 12 chickens at a time.
A front access drip pan also ensures a quick and mess-free cleaning. Cooking performance ensured by the 1,200-watt heating element, great capacity, and ease of use is all you need to achieve chef-like results.
Masterbuilt 20071117 30″ Digital Electric SmokerIdeal for home and commercial use
Developed to smoke food to perfection thanks to the adjustable air damper system.
Masterbuilt 20071117 Review
Ideal for the pro and the novice alike, the Masterbuilt 20071117 shares similarities with our best-in-class pick but comes at a more attractive price point.
Perhaps the best feature is the large capacity, ideal for numerous families. The unit can hold up to six whole chickens or eight racks of ribs and is ready to cook any meat to perfection thanks to the integrated thermostat control.
Like our best-in-class pick, this smoker comes with the patented side wood chip loading system, and you can purchase the unit with or without the wood chips.
Furthermore, a digital control panel makes it easy to set the temperature and cooking time, while a convenient drip tray minimizes mess. Intuitive and performing, the Masterbuilt 20071117 is the best electric smoker for the money.
Smoke Hollow 30162E 30-Inch Electric SmokerSmaller and analog
Multiple temperature settings and a decent capacity appeal to the foodie homeowners.
Smoke Hollow 30162E Review
Only slightly smaller than our best-value, the Smoke Hollow 30162E is an outdoor electric smoker ideal for the homeowner who doesn’t mind traditional analog dials. Easy to control from a temperature knob, this unit is perfect for cooking meat and vegetables.
Three cooking grids provide sufficient space for two whole turkeys, and three temperature settings allow you to cook food to perfection.
A slight downside is the magnetic door latching system which is easy to use but less effective in keeping heat where is needed.
Nevertheless, the smoker’s performance is great, and the two side handles add convenience to the design. Very easy to assembly and coming with a comprehensive user manual, the Smoke Hollow 30162E is ideal for the beginners.
Char-Broil 14201677 Vertical Electric SmokerA great budget smoker
Adjustable grates and plenty of cooking space define this affordable electric smoker.
Char-Broil 14201677 Review
The Char-Broil 14201677 is one of the most reliable electric smokers on the market despite being one of the cheapest. Boasting a generous 505 square inches cooking surface divided between three adjustable grates, this unit is perfect for larger families.
An even temperature and smoking performance are ensured by the insulated double wall construction, while a lid-mounted temperature gauge allows you to monitor the cooking parameters.
The simple design incorporates a wood chip and a water pan, while a chrome-plated handle visually enhances the unit.
Featuring a 1,500-watt heating element, a generous cooking capacity and sturdy construction, the Char-Broil 14201677 is ideal for those who don’t want to break the bank.
2. Propane vs. electric smokers
Smokers come in many styles, but perhaps the most popular two are the propane smokers, a type we’ve covered in a previous guide, and the electric smokers. The former run on liquid propane, although some models adapt to the use with natural gas. The latter run on electricity and all they need for power is a standard wall outlet.
- Propane smokers: Blend the benefits of the electric smoker with those of a charcoal smoker. They have larger capacities than the electric, are very easy to use, and produce flavorful food. However, they tend to be more expensive than electric and are not always suitable to use.
- Electric smokers: Are perhaps the easiest to use and save you the hassle of checking fuel levels. The food cooked with an electric smoker is delicious, although it tends to taste slightly less barbecued. Nevertheless, in many instances, an electric smoker is your best bet.
When to buy an electric smoker?
An electric smoker could be a better option – or your only option – in the following situations:
- If you want a very easy to use smoker for enjoying no-frills outdoor cooking;
- If you don’t want to worry about refueling your smoker;
- If you live in a condo where charcoal and propane smokers are forbidden;
- If you have a lower budget; electric smokers are the cheapest models and provide flavorful food;
- Electric smokers are the safest models.
3. Other types of smokers
Besides the propane and electric smokers mentioned above, meat smokers also come in the following types:
- Charcoal smokers
- Wood smokers
- Pellet smokers
4. Electric smoker wattage
The heating power of an electric smoker is expressed in watts, and unlike the common belief, the best electric smokers don’t need a very high wattage. The purpose of a smoker is to slow-cook food, which means the most reliable units offer a restricted temperature range.
Most units have wattage output specifications between 500 and 1,500 watts, with most high-end and commercial electric smokers ranging between 800 and 1,200 watts.
5. Heating elements and temperature
Electric smokers have heating elements similar to electric grills. They can be made of either cast iron or steel, but the best are the infrared heating elements present on the high-end units.
The infrared technology uses radiant or indirect heat which is transferred to the food rather than the air, sealing the meat and locking its natural juices. Furthermore, this technology also reduces flare-ups and provides an even temperature inside the environment.
What cooking temperature do you need?
Electric smokers typically have variable temperatures between 100 and 275°F, which is sufficient for slow-cooking most foods. You’ll typically need:
Brisket, roast, meatloaf, ribs, pork butt
Whole chicken or turkey
Steaks, fish, seafood, burgers, sausages
6. Analog vs. digital controls
Electric smokers can have analog or digital controls.
- Analog controls: Are very easy to use and have standard knobs or dials. Most analog units come with two controls, one for the temperature and a timer. However, you will typically only be able to choose between a low and high or few preset temperature settings.
- Digital controls: Are also very easy to use and give you better control over both temperature and time. Most digital units allow for infinite temperature settings in the unit’s temperature range, and some even have preset cooking functions which automatically set the unit to the optimal temperature and cooking time for the food you want to prepare.
7. Electric smoker heat flow
The way heat circulates inside the smoker influences the cooking time but also the flavor of the food. Heat can flow either from upside to downwards or in the opposite direction, from the bottom of the smoker upwards.
The top to bottom heat flow cooks the food faster, and this type of smoker is typically used in industrial kitchens with high-volume demands. If you want to keep food flavors intact though, it is recommended to invest in a smoker with heat flow from the bottom towardsthe top, despite the longer cooking time.
8. Smoking method
Perhaps the most important feature of a smoker is the smoking method. Electric smokers can use either dry or wet smoking.
- Dry smoking: Uses a low wood fire to generate smoke and indirect heat to slow cook the food while the smoky flavor gets impregnated into it and the juices are sealed.
- Wet smoking: Also uses a low wood fire to smoke the food but the heating element produces direct heat; a water pan is used to keep moisture at constant levels and prevent the dry out of the food.
Dry smoking is ideal if you don’t want to constantly check the water level. Regardless of the method employed, the type of wood chips also influences the flavor of the food.
9. Best wood chips for food smoking
Some woods pair well with most foods while other types are more suitable for a specific type of meat.
- Hickory is ideal for most meats and even for vegetables due to its milder character.
- Mesquite has a stronger flavor and is ideal for beef, veal, and lamb.
- Apple wood goes wonderfully with pork and chicken, but also with rabbit and smaller game.
- Alder wood is a perfect choice for fish and seafood.
10. Other essential features
The best electric smokers must also have the following features:
- Exterior wood chip loading tray: Prevents heat dissipation when loading more wood chips.
- Easy-access drip tray: Makes cleaning the cooking drips easier. If the tray can be accessed from the exterior, that’s even better.
- Adjustable racks: Give you the possibility to customize the configuration of the cabinet and fit larger pieces of meat.
- Glass door: An important advantage as it allows you to check the status of your food without opening the door.
- Preset cooking functions: If you’re not a chef, setting the right temperature and cooking time could be tricky. Pre-programmed functions prevent you from spoiling your food.
- Mobility features: The best electric smokers have carrying handles for easier transport.
- Large water tray: If you like a wet smoking model, pick one with a large water tray to avoid checking the water level too frequently.
- Temperature gauge: Is essential on an analog smoker as it gives you a precise indication of the temperature level. Digital units typically show this information on an LCD display.