Buying an electric smoker can be a big decision.Those things are expensive! But that just makes it all the more critical to make sure that you’re picking the right one.
1) Do You Really Want One?
A lot of people swear by their electric smokers, but others will fervently argue that they produce inferior tastes. You might not have an opinion.
Whether an electric smoker is right for you is going to depend largely on your home situation. Most people agree that using wood or charcoal based fuel is usually the best for flavor, and for ease of use propane can easily meat electric.
Because of this and because electric smokers aren’t really any cheaper than any other smokers on the market, the determining factor for most people will be the space that they’re in.
If you live in an apartment or anywhere else where you might not want to be seen putting a lot of smoke in the air, or if you need a compact indoor smoker an electric is probably what you need.
These are the things that electric smokers do best. They don’t produce a lot of mess while smoking, and they can fit in relatively compact spaces.
The other advantage of an electric smoker is that the only fuel you need is wood chips. This is the big advantage that electric has over propane, as for some people continuously buying more propane for their smoker can feel like a lot of money.
On the other hand, electric smokers aren’t particularly portable. Not only do they need a power source, meaning that you can’t really take them away from civilization, but they can also easily be damaged by bad weather.
Electric smokers are definitely meant for indoor use. That’s something that you are committing to when you choose to buy one.
However, the food they make is still absolutely delicious. Deciding to buy an electric smoker is less settling and more like making a choice based on your own situation.
This is maybe the most obvious thing that you need to give attention to, since it’s the one that will have the most immediate effect on your life even before you get the smoker.
When I was a missionary in Japan, there was an older fellow who’s job it was to distribute funds to missionaries for things like furniture or appliances.
He would always tell us, “Don’t get the most expensive thing, but don’t get the cheapest one either.” I think that applies to electric smokers too. If you try to get the cheapest electric smoker you’ll just be spending a lot of money on trash.
I wouldn’t buy anything that cost less than 200$ when it comes to electric smokers. If you have the budget for more than that then go for it, but I think 200$ is probably the minimum you can spend and still get a quality product.
Size is probably the second most obvious quality you’re looking for. It’s also even more important than you think, because the size of your electric smoker will determine the number of people you can smoke for.
That means that you need to make the decision right now of how this smoker is going to be use. If you’re going to use it for big parties, you’ll need to get a big smoker. If you’re just going to use it for family meals, you probably only need a smaller one.
But what does a big electric smoker look like? Electric smokers tend to differentiate themselves by height rather than volume, but according to the Master built website their 30 inch smoker can fit two turkeys, which is probably enough for about 20 people.
30 inches is on the smaller side, but 30 inches are probably as much space as you could ever want in a domestic setting.
If you want to check the math on that, most electric smokers put their dimensions up with the rest of their stats. You can easily multiply them up to get the volume of the machine as a whole.
If it helps, the average 11 pound Turkey is about 290 square inches. source
If you’re considering buying a smoker for commercial use you might want to get something significantly larger. Even if you don’t expect to be selling a lot of smoked foods now, it’s fairly common for demand to increase for this stuff fairly quickly once word gets around.
Of course, a commercial smoker of the same height as a domestic smoker is going to be a lot more expensive, but the extra price is still probably still worth it.
Once you’ve figured out how much space you need for how much money, it’s time to see what extra little toys you can afford on this thing.
One little extra that can be super helpful for beginners is a window into the cooking space. It’s fairly common for people who are just starting out smoking to want to see what’s happening to their meat.
Unfortunately, if there’s no window in the smoker they might open the smoker up to check once every couple of hours.
This is a bad thing! Opening up your smoker let’s out the heat and smoke that is working on the meat! If you have a window, you won’t need to open the door at all.
Another feature that is increasingly common in smoker’s is WiFi or Bluetooth compatability. This allows you to control your smoker from wherever you happen to be in your house. If this is something that appeals to you then yo might want to look for a smoker that has those features.
Whatever you end up picking, you’ll want to know that it can do what you’re asking of it.
5) Temperature Control
Electric smokers can have two different kinds of temperature control: Digital or analog. If you want your smoker to connect to wifi you’ll need to geta digital one, but many people prefer the familiarity of analog.
You already know if you’re one of the people who cares about this. I would recommend that modern facing Pit Master get a digital smoker, since it integrates well with a lot of the aesthetic and conveniet fittings of the 21st century home.
However, there isn’t really a downside to the analog temperature controls. If that’s what you personally want, it will do just as good a job as any digital controller, although they are far more difficult to use for beginners.
6) Temperature Range
The temperature range is important because it will determine what you can safely cook using your electric smoker.
A good temperature range is 100 to 400 degrees. 400 degrees is hot enough to fully cook pretty much anything, while 100 is still cool enough that you can do warm smoking for meats like turkey.
If you can find one, a smoker that can go up to 500 degrees can even be pretty useful. That being said, you want to find the highest temperature range that you can afford to make sure that the machine has the most utility that it could have.
Smokers are a little infamous for having the cheapest worst thermometers. If you don’t want to buy a thermometer to replace the one your device comes with, you’ll want to scour reviews to see if the thermometer on your chosen model is both accurate and readable.
It is a totally viable option to pick up an external meat thermometer though. You’ll probably use it for things other than smoking at some point in your life, plus it will probably last you quite a while.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s important that you have a working thermometer for your smoker so that you can figure out when the food has been fully cooked through.
It can be dangerous to have a thermometer that can’t give an accurate temperature reading, especially when working with pork, chicken, or brisket.
I know I said that these things aren’t portable, and they really aren’t. You can’t really use them outside or on the go (not that it would be a good idea to use any smoker while you were transporting it) because they need electricity.
However, There are situations in which you may want to bring your smoker to a friend’s house or to your church/school. Community events are one of the best parts about smokers!
There are definitely some models a that are better than others when it comes to movability. You probably want a model that at least has wheels so you can move it between your kitchen and dining room if you want to.
Other than that, smaller models tend to be easier to load up into a car, and lighter to boot. If you plan on brining your smoker with you places, you definitely want to look for something that isn’t too heavy.
As was mentioned earlier, electric smokers aren’t really portable. They are pretty easy to damage for a lot of reasons, and for a lot of people this can be a problem.
It’s usually for the best to try and find a smoker that will last you a while. After all, buying a new one is going to be expensive.
This is the part of the process where you have to do a little bit of sleuthing. Check reviews for the smoker you’re looking at on Amazon and check to see if people have complained about it breaking down or sustaining a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
Companies don’t tend to advertise the fragility of their products. You need to be your own consumer activacy organization and discover the truth for yourself.
Or you may live alone and be very careful about yourself, in which case a delicate smoker might work out alright for you. As with every thing else we’ve talked about, the end decision is up to your own tastes.
If you have young children or pets you probably want to make sure that you get an electric smoker that can either lock or be placed high enough that kids can’t reach.
Electric smokers are exactly the right height for little kids to want to open them up and get the delicious (but very hot and also undercooked) meat inside. If they’re gonna be around while you’re cooking, you need to have a plan to keep them safe.
If you can’t find a smoker that lock of its own or fits on your counter, you might want to look at either finding an external lock or putting it in an easily locked closet.
Whatever you do, you should definitely keep the safety of your children in mind.
However, if you don’t have any kids living with you you don’t really need to worry about them so much. As long as you can trust yourself not to do anything stupid you should be fine.
There are all sorts of things that go into making a particular brand of smoker good compared to another. Certain brands have better reputations among Pit Masters than others, and this might be something you want to take into account when making your decision.
Masterbult is the name that gets into lists the most consistently. Masterbult electric smokers tend to be on the higher-tech side, and they come with a lot of useful features that push them over the edge when it comes to quality.
Char Boil has has easily the best analog smokers, and they’re a pretty well trusted name. They’re always a good choice for an old fashioned smoker.
Cuisinart is probably the best budget option. Some of their models cost a little bit less than 200$, which I know goes against my budget statement earlier, but it does have very good reviews and it fits all the other criteria that I can think of. They definitely seem like a fairly trustworthy brand.
As we all know, however, the term “trustworthy brand” is an oxymoron. Ask around, check reviews, figure out if the brand makes good on its warranties. You need to hold them accountable because they probably won’t do it themselves.