There is something primal about it. Something that makes you want to just put it to fire or smoke it to preserve it for longer. Something that makes you want to put blade to bone and cut through the beautiful tender flesh in all its glory.
Since the early days of mankind, people have been smoking meat, to preserve it as well as for its flavor. While technology has improved, there is still that strong desire to reconnect with our ancestors and their way of cooking. These days modern smokers have come a long way in making great dishes for us to enjoy.
Smoking meat is one of the oldest methods of cooking and preserving meat. It was how man did it well before refrigeration and other methods of preservation. Sure you don’t need to smoke meat in the sense of preservation as much as a way of preparing the meat for consumption. We wouldn’t get to enjoy the delicious barbecue meats we have come to know and love without the process of smoking meat. We’ve come along way over the centuries but that does not mean you cannot enjoy delicious smoked meat. And if you are going to smoke meat with any regularity having a good smoker makes the job better and easier to accomplish.
What is a Smoker?
A smoker is a tool for cooking and smoking meat at a controlled temperature. Smokers work at a low heat to slowly cook, brown, and dry the meat. Smokers come in all shapes and sizes and use a variety of cooking methods from electric, gas, wood fire, charcoal, etc. Smokers are great for making delicious barbecue meals. The most important aspect of the smoker is its ability to maintain a constant cooking temperature as well as its ability to produce or contain smoke (thus the “smoker” part).
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Why an Electric Smoker?
There are lots of tools for smoking meat, whether its charcoal, wood, or gas. There are also many different sizes in terms of smoking meat. We have focused on electric smokers in this guide as they are among the easiest for most households to maintain and manage. Sure if you are wanting to go gas or another method you can check out a different guide. I love electric smokers however as I find that they do a great job and are so easy to maintain heat and consistency wise. For sure easier than charcoal or wood! And with a good electric smoker you can still add in wood chips to give different delicious smokey flavors.
How to use an Electric Smoker
Smoking meat is not crazy difficult thing to do, but it does require some practice and some skill. And without different wood, time, temperature, you can end up with very different tastes and consistency of your meat. Plus cooking different types of meat will require different temperatures and skill in getting the most moist and best tasting smoked meat possible.
Instead of sitting here and trying to explain to you how to use an electric smoker with words, we think this video does a great job of taking you through smoking for the first time. Certainly better than I am able to do. I’m pretty bad at video I think!
What does an Electric Smoker Cost?
You know this is tricky. You can get Electric Smokers for as long as about $125 – $150 and for easily 3 times that amount or more.
So what should you do?
Well that obviously depends a lot on your budget, but in our opinions if you are not spending at least $250 you’ll be hard pressed to get a higher quality smoker and you also won’t get some of the more modern features like remote controls and digital readouts. Some of the newest ones even have Bluetooth!
What to look for in an Electric Smoker
You want to find the best electric smoker for your money right? Well to do that you need to figure out what criteria is most important for you. When examining meat smokers for sale, you are probably thinking…wouldn’t I just want the best of everything? Well in reality if cost wasn’t a factor sure. But cost always is a factor and so we break-down our reviews from among the following criteria.
As with any item. Cost is ALWAYS a factor. We try to find things for different budgets with different features and build qualities. We don’t believe in spending too little where you get terrible quality that won’t last very long and also we know that most of us cannot spend too much either. So cost in these items we look for a balance in the price for electric smokers. You believe you can get great smoked meat without breaking the bank.
Wood Chip Loading
One of the most valuable parts of smoking meat is well the smoke. And getting a smoker that allows you to add in your own wood chips as well as effectively smoke the meat based on wood, temperature, and smoke control. Well these are all important considerations. You don’t want to have a lot of smoke being lost and not getting the best meat you can get right? Some of the cheaper versions of smokers can do a lousy job here with being able to easily add in (and clean out) wood chips for your different smokey flavors.
Size Does Matter. Both from how much meat you can smoke to where you are going to put your smoker. If you have the space and the family size you might want to go for a bigger smoker if you can. I like something somewhere in the middle myself, but for those with limited space, having a small, capable smoker might just be the best for your needs.
Water Reservoir / Pan
This one was tricky, you need to have enough water to keep the meat from drying out during the smoking process. Some of them had a small pan and others had a rather well designed water reservoir. Here price comes hugely into factor in determining how the different manufacturers handle this (although even some of the higher cost ones did this poorly)
You know. I didn’t think this should have been a factor, but some of the smokers had ones that were so poorly designed it was ridiculous and difficult to clean and maintain. You need something that will capture the grease and not leak everywhere. This should have been a no brainer, but as we learned during testing…it was not.
There were a lot of factors here that we looked at. From the quality of the heating element, to the quality of the thermometer, and beyond. Some of them were really terrible about keeping a good temperature. Some did not get as hot as we needed or expected them too. And some just burned out rather quickly after a few uses. You can’t really have a good smoker without good heat.
Build quality in all types of devices are a bit all over the place and smokers are no exception. We wanted something that was easy to assemble and managed to keep the smoke in as well as stay in proper shape through continuous use. Doors on a lot of the lower end models (and even some more expensive models) really were not designed to handle the heat or usage. It was awful watching some of the units just leak constantly, especially due to issues that would have been minimal to fix by the manufacturer.
Best Electric Smoker
Choosing the best is always one of the toughest things to do in any sort of review. But when we saw the Masterbuilt 30in Electric Smoker we knew we found our choice for the best of the lot. This smoker does it all and then some. You can easily set the temperature with its remote control (or go for the Bluetooth version to connect to your smart phone). If you need more space you can try the Masterbuilt 40 Electric Smoker. We like the sideloadable wood chip loading system. And the overall great control of temperature and generally easy maintenance and cleaning. Also this Masterbuilt electric smokehouse is so popular that it is easier to find parts and repairs. There are some complaints of the heating elements burning out but we have yet to experience that issue ourselves. And anyone we’ve heard of this issue were able to get them repaired from Masterbuilt (often for free).
We’ve scoured the stores and manufacturers to find you the best electric smokers for your money. We want to help you save time and energy when looking for the best items that are out there that meat your budget (pun intended).
This is one of the best electric smokers we’ve seen for the consumer household. There are certainly cheaper options but for value it’s hard to beat the Masterbuilt 30 inch Electric Smoker. From its easy to control temperatures to its patented woodchip loading system, you’ll see why it’s our choice for the best electric smoker. It doesn’t excel in every category but it does one of the best jobs around. The one thing I’m concerned with is complaints about quality control from readers, some have experienced issues. From our experience though if you get one that’s good, it’s been a great smoker to have at home. If you need more space there is also a Masterbuilt 40 inch Electric Smoker
730 sq. inches of cooking space with
Smoke up to 100 lbs. of food
100-275 temperature control
800W Heating Element
Remote control makes managing and controlling the cooking process easy
Sideload chip system makes it easy to add in wood chips
Good wattage for most people’s needs
Complaints about the durability of the thermostat and heating element
Another option to consider is one of the Bradley Electric Smokers which come in a variety of sizes and performance. Some people love the wood chip “pucks” that the Bradley uses with its only feeder system. However while they are great and let you cook unattended for hours on end, they can be tricky if you don’t have ready access to their particular wood chip type. I do love the look of the machine and while you may not think that matters, style does count for something in the end when it is sitting in your yard. Price is aligned with others with similar features and build quality. There is also a Bradley 6 Rack Electric Smoker if you need more space.
2288 cubic inches of cooking volume
125W Smoking Element
Max temperature 280F
One of the better looking smokers we’ve seen
Higher max temperature than some other options
Individual heating elements
Feeder system is great if you need to leave unattended for awhile
Requires wood chip “bisquettes” for its wood chip feeder system
Controls are easy but not remote as in other options
Char-Broil is another well known and well regarded brand for grills and its smoker line is along the same regard in terms of build and quality. And so we figured items from this company was important to evaluate in any Smoker review post. We do like the smoker and we’ve found it overall does a good job. But it wasn’t our favorite. Also the door seals and gaskets don’t seem built to withstand the heat coming off the unit and look like they may fail earlier than expected. Not our top recommendation for this price point.
Insulated double wall construction
1000 Sq. Inches of cooking space
Up-to 7 hrs of smoking before refill
Included remote control
Larger than many other similar smokers
Window makes for easy viewing
Door seals on some units not as good as they should be
You know they say you get what you pay for. And one of the big selling points of the Smoke Hollow is the price, which is quite a bit lower than many other smokers you may be looking at. It can and often does do the job, but be warned you are going to have to babysit this unit. If you are looking for a budget electric smoker, this one may do the job. But let us warn you that the construction is not as high of quality as we would like in something that needs to reach and maintain such high temperatures. Also we were disappointed with the lack of temperature controls in this unit, too much trial and error for our tastes.
2 cooking grids
3 temperature settings
Misses the controls of temperatures from higher end units
Construction not as high quality as we’d like in a smoker unit
Smoke box and water reservoir too small for our needs
You know, we don’t think of Cuisinart when we think of smokers but for a budget electric smoker we were rather impressed with this unit. Now don’t expect it to have the high end features of the more expensive units but for what it is, it can do the job well. We do like the high-wattage heating element in such a budget unit and the overall quality is actually pretty reasonable. The trays for catching the ash could be a bit better attached, the wood chip loader could be a bit easier without opening the unit. There are always a few minor “nit-picks” but honestly it does a good job for a really low price. If you have the money there are certainly better options but this one is a surprisingly good value for the cost.
1500 Watt Power
Temperature control from 100F to 400F
548 sq. inch of interior space
Very competitive pricing
High wattage and pretty good temperature control for a unit at this price
Water/chip tray placement causes some inefficiencies and issues with smoking
Most of the issues could easily be rectified it seems
This Landmann unit was one I wasn’t familiar with before doing this review. I am a bit annoyed by the name though as I think it’s trying to bonus off the Weber Smoky Mountain Smoker. But I’m not a IP lawyer so what do I know? One of the interesting things with this unit is that the individual legs are adjustable to keep it level on uneven surfaces. It is not useful necessarily for my home but it could be depending on your backyard or where you plan to use it. The price is really competitive, which makes it in the price range of probably anyone looking for a smoker, but also at this price you are not going to get the same features and build quality as a more expensive unit.
4 individually adjustable legs
435 sq. inches of internal space
3 in 1 tray for wood chip, water pan, and grease
Extremely competitively price
adjustable legs are good for uneven surfaces
Latch needs a stronger magnet or well a better latch
Construction quality is average (but good for this price point)
One of my favorite sayings is that “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things” and that is I think an important saying when you are looking for any quality type of product. I do believe that budget does not have to mean bad. And we did a lot of research into our choice for the best budget electric smoker. This was a tough one…really. There are some great choices and a whole lot of really terrible ones too. We settled on the Cuisinart COS-330 Electric Smoker as our favorite of the list. It meets all the requirements of a reasonable smoker with a really competitive price point. We found this beat out another basically similar device from Masterbuilt. The Masterbuilt 30-Inch Black Electric Analog Smoker. Which is basically nearly the same device but without the window of the Cuisinart (which we did like).
This is another spot where we think the Masterbuilt 40 inch Electric Smoker wins out. With just shy of 1000sq inches of internal space it has a good amount of room for most of your meaty needs. It is a bit smaller than some other models we looked at such as the Char-broil, but we think all the additional features wins out in the end for us. Especially since we really loved the 30 inch model as well.
This is sadly somewhere we haven’t had as much time to test out various different models out there. I have had the pleasure to use a few commercial models but in terms of doing an in-depth research I haven’t really taken the time yet to really go through a lot of smokers here. Why? Honestly, if you are looking to smoke for a restaurant you probably already have a lot of experience in this avenue.
If you think there is a need for more commercial reviews, let us know and we’ll look to secure some for testing in the near future.
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Electric Smoker Accessories
Beyond just a smoker, you might actually want a few different accessories to help you with getting more out of your investment or in preserving it as well.
One of the things we’d recommend getting for your smoker is a cover for the times when you are not using it. You’re probably not going to be able to store it away as easily as other things probably and having something to keep it safe from the elements will definitely go a long way in preserving your investment. We have this one ourselves.
For the Masterbuilt, you certainly can’t go wrong with getting one that is built for the device itself. If you have a different smoker you should try to find a cover related to it however. It would be too tedious we think to cover every electric smoker cover out there.
Wood Chips and Pellets
We generally like to get our wood chips from various local retailers in our area. But if you are looking for a sample of various different woods to give various different smokey flavors we do like this particular variety pack.
It’s not the cheapest option, but we do love this thermometer from ThermoPro. We don’t use the remote quality enough with the smoker, but it’s been great for grilling as well. It’s definitely worth the investment for outdoor cooking.
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Thanks for following along here. Let us know if there are any other smokers you want us to cover, your opinions, etc. Be sure to contact us, as we’d love to hear from you!