Are Electric Smokers Any Good? The Pros and Cons (Plus 6 Top Models)

Electric smokers have become a popular choice among meat smoking enthusiasts due to their convenience and ease of use. These set-and-forget smokers allow you to smoke meat without the need to manage a fire, making them perfect for beginners and busy people. However, electric smokers also have their share of critics and it’s important to understand both the pros and cons before making a decision on which type of smoker to purchase. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of using an electric smoker, as well as how they work and their best uses.

Electric smokers are convenient, easy to use, and cost-effective, but they may not produce the same level of flavor as meat cooked with real fire. One drawback is the inability to reach high temperatures, which can make it difficult to achieve crispy skin on poultry. However, electric smokers are well-suited for low-and-slow cooking, and their main benefit is their convenience, as they are as easy to use as a conventional oven. These smokers are also one of the few that can be used year-round in all climates. For the novice, electrics are a perfect introduction to smoking meat. Electric smokers allow you to focus on the meat rather than managing a fire, making them a great introduction to smoking meat for beginners. For the experienced pilaster, they can be a useful addition to a lineup of smokers and provide an alternative to charcoal and wood smokers.

Key Points

  • Electric smokers are convenient and easy to use, and produce little mess
  • They can be used year-round in all climates, and are not influenced by weather
  • They are affordable compared to most other types of smokers, and only need electricity and a handful of wood chips to operate
  • They require very little supervision and are a good introduction to smoking meat for beginners
  • They are compact and versatile, and can be used to smoke a variety of different foods
  • However, electric smokers cannot reach high temperatures and cannot produce a smoke ring on the meat
  • The meat smoked in electrics may not have as much flavor as meat cooked with real fire
  • Poor quality electric smokers may be faulty and require replacement parts
  • Electric smokers work by using a heating element and wood chip tray to produce smoke
  • They have a low temperature range and are best suited for smoking meat at low and slow temperatures for long periods of time

Pros and Cons of Electric Smokers

Electric Smoker ProsElectric Smoker Cons
Electric smokers make smoking meat almost as simple as using a conventional oven.Electric smokers cannot reach high temperatures over 300°F, which makes it difficult to get crispy skin on a turkey.
Unlike most other smokers, electrics can smoke meat in cold weather, windy conditions, or during fire bans.Out of all the different types of smokers on the market, electric smokers produce the least amount of flavor. Meat has a much better flavor when cooked with real fire. Electric smokers use a heating element (a metal rod) rather than actual fire, which is why meat on electrics doesn’t taste as good.
You can buy a decent electric smoker for $300-$400, which is affordable compared with most charcoal, pellet and offset smokers.Electric smokers don’t produce enough smoke, and people often end up placing smoke tubes inside their electrics to add more smoke flavor.
Most smokers have ongoing costs such as charcoal, wood chunks, logs, wood pellets, propane tanks. Electric smokers are economical and only need electricity and a handful of wood chips to operate.Electric smokers can’t produce a smoke ring on the meat.
Most other smokers require monitoring, but electric smokers need very little supervision.Poor quality electric smokers are often faulty and need replacement parts.
Electric smokers are the perfect introduction to meat smoking, and allow the beginner to concentrate on the meat, rather than having to manage fire and temperature.

How Do Electric Smokers Work?

  • Electric smokers use an electric heating element to cook food, controlled by a temperature dial or button
  • To produce smoke, electric smokers have a tray for wood chips above the heating element, which smolders and provides a steady stream of smoke
  • Most electric smokers can only reach a maximum temperature of around 275°F, but some high-end models have thermostats for precise temperature control
  • Electric smokers may use a lot of power and can overload outlets, but they are relatively cheap to operate compared to other types of smokers

Electric smokers use an electric heating element to cook food, which is controlled by a temperature dial or button. To produce smoke, electric smokers have a tray for wood chips that is placed above the heating element. The wood smolders and provides a steady stream of smoke during the cooking process. Most electric smokers can only reach a maximum temperature of around 275°F, which may not be high enough for crispy skin on poultry. However, some high-end electric smokers have thermostats for more precise temperature control. While electric smokers do use a lot of power and can overload outlets, they are relatively cheap to operate compared to other types of smokers.

Electric or Charcoal Smoker: Which is Better?

Charcoal smokers are known for producing meat with better flavor, as they can reach higher temperatures and use real fire to cook food. However, electric smokers have their own benefits, including convenience, ease of temperature control, and the ability to use them in any climate. In general, most people prefer the flavor of meat cooked in a charcoal smoker, as it can have layers of flavor from the wood, charcoal, and rub used. However, electric smokers do not produce combustible gases, so they produce less flavor on the meat. While charcoal smokers are more time-consuming and expensive to run, electric smokers allow you to smoke meat on days when you may not have the time, or if weather conditions are not suitable for charcoal or wood smokers.

Electric Smokers vs Pellet Smokers: What’s the Difference?

Electric smokers and pellet grills are both popular options for “set-and-forget” smoking. However, they have some key differences. Pellet grills use wood pellets as a heat source, which infuses more smoke flavor into the meat compared to electric smokers, which use a heating element. Pellet grills are generally more expensive, larger, and cost more to run than electric smokers, but they also produce tastier meat. For a more in-depth comparison, you can read my article “Electric vs Pellet Smokers – Which ‘Set-And-Forget’ Is Best?”

The Lack of a Smoke Ring on Electric Smokers

One common criticism of electric smokers is that they do not produce a smoke ring, which is a thick pinkish ring around the outside of the meat. While the smoke ring does not add any flavor to the meat, it is often seen as a symbol that the meat has been smoked.

  • The lack of a smoke ring is a common criticism of electric smokers
  • A smoke ring is a strip of preserved myoglobin created by chemical reactions triggered by the gases from fire coming into contact with the surface of the meat
  • To create a smoke ring, the right combination of temperature and gases is needed, and the fuel used determines these chemical reactions
  • Electric smokers do not produce a smoke ring because they have less oxygen flowing through the fire, causing the wood to smolder at lower temperatures
  • Charcoal smokers, which burn fuel at higher temperatures, can create a deeper smoke ring
  • It is possible to create a smoke ring on an electric smoker by adding a small amount of charcoal to the wood tray, but it will not be as thick as a smoke ring produced on a charcoal, gas, or wood smoker

What is a Smoke Ring?

A smoke ring is the result of chemical reactions that take place on the outer layer of the meat during cooking. Meat contains myoglobin, a pinkish pigment that gives it its pink color. When the meat is cooked, the myoglobin changes color to a grayish brown. The smoke ring is a strip of preserved myoglobin. It is created when the gases from fire come into contact with the surface of the meat, triggering chemical reactions that preserve the pink myoglobin and create a ring around the outer layer of the meat.

Why Electric Smokers Don’t Produce a Smoke Ring

To create a smoke ring, there needs to be the right combination of temperature and gases. The fuel used determines these chemical reactions. If the mix of temperature and gases is not right, a smoke ring will not form. Electric smokers have less oxygen flowing through the fire, so the wood smolders at lower temperatures. This is why electric smokers do not produce a smoke ring, while charcoal smokers, which burn fuel at higher temperatures, can create a deeper smoke ring.

Can a Smoke Ring be Created on an Electric Smoker?

If you are trying to create a smoke ring on an electric smoker, you could try adding a small amount of charcoal to the wood tray to produce some of the necessary gases. However, it is unlikely that you will be able to create a thick smoke ring like you would on a charcoal, gas, or wood smoker. For more information on smoke rings, you can read the article “How To Get A Smoke Ring.”

Smoking Meat in the Cold: The Best Winter Electric Smokers

Electric smokers offer the convenience of smoking meat year-round without having to worry about the weather. Unlike fire-powered smokers, electric smokers maintain a stable temperature and do not require constant monitoring and adjustment of vents. In cold weather, fire-powered smokers can burn through a lot of fuel just to reach cooking temperature, making them expensive to use. On the other hand, electric smokers can easily maintain a consistent temperature in any weather, making them the perfect choice for winter smoking.

Do Electric Smokers Produce Good Meat?

Contrary to popular belief, electric smokers are capable of producing delicious, high-quality meat. From briskets to cheese and nuts, electric smokers can smoke a variety of items to perfection. To enhance the flavor of the meat, consider using a smoke tube or adding wood chips to the tray of your electric smoker.

Wood Chips For Electric Smokers

Electric smokers have a wood chip tray that holds a few ounces of wood. The amount of wood you use depends on the electric smoker, but some wood chip trays need to be refilled every hour. There are dozens of wood chips available, and some wood blends better with certain meat. You can buy wood chips from the barbecue section of your local hardware store of you can buy online. Amazon sells a variety of wood chips here.

Electric Smokers Still Produce Smokey-Tasting Meat

While it is true that charcoal smokers may add a deeper, more intense smoky flavor to the meat due to the higher temperatures they can reach, electric smokers can still impart a smoky taste to the meat. So despite what the critics say, electric smokers can still produce delicious food. You can smoke anything from briskets to cheese and nuts and will be happy with the results. If you want more smoke, there are ways to make the meat taste better. Many people use smoking tubes in their electric smokers to double the smoke output.

Smoke Tubes in Electric Smokers

A smoke tube is a must-have accessory if you want to get the best out of your electric smoker. Smoke tubes that hold sawdust or wood pellets can produce continuous smoke for hours with little effort. Smoking tubes are affordable and simple to use. All you need to do is fill the tube with wood pellets, light them up and let the tube smolder inside your electric smoker, and you will double the amount of smoke. If you’re interested in a smoking tube, check Amazon for the latest price here.

How to Use a Smoke Tube

  • Place the wood pellets on a plate and microwave for 30-seconds.
  • Place the wood pellets in the smoke tube.
  • Light the wood pellets and set it aside on a paver. Let it burn for three to five minutes.
  • Once the pellets are smoldering, blow them out.
  • Place the smoke tube in the bottom rack of the electric smoker.
  • Oxygen is needed inside the smoker so open the vent. Also, you can remove the chip tray (since it’s not being used) to allow for extra airflow.

Electric Smokers are Energy Efficient

Since electric smokers don’t need fuel, they are cheaper to operate. If you have solar panels on your house, even better. Lump charcoal and briquettes can be expensive, particularly during the colder months where charcoal smokers burn through twice as much fuel.

Inside or Outside?

Electric smokers are no different from any other electrical appliance, and need to be kept in a dry area. You can leave your electric smoker on a patio or deck, as long as it is undercover and protected from the rain. Always make sure there is sufficient airflow in the area so harmful gases can escape. Smokers should always be outside because they produce carbon monoxide, which is harmful if inhaled. Place your smoker in an open area so that the harmful gases can escape.

Are Electric Smokers Safe?

There are countless stories of electric smokers catching fire, but that is no different from any other electrical appliance. There are horror stories about charcoal smokers. No matter what smoker you use, take care whenever you are dealing with fire and electricity. In the event of fire, the first thing you need to do is turn off the electricity and deprive the smoker of oxygen. Clean electric smokers regularly to avoid grease build-up. Grease fires are the most common type of fires while smoking meat.

Shape and Design

Most electric smokers are compact and take up hardly any space which makes them perfect for people with a small outdoor space. Electric smokers come in different shapes and sizes, but the most common type is the vertical box with a door and several racks. Glass doors are common with electric smokers, however glass doors serve no purpose other than to look good. It’s not necessary to see your meat while your smoking, and the glass will be black after a few smokes, and it’s difficult to clean.

What Can Electric Smokers Cook?

Electric smokers are versatile and cook anything from brisket to nuts and cheese. Some people cold smoke with their electric and make bacon and smoked sausage. Critics will say that electric smokers aren’t suited for turkey or chicken because you can’t get a crispy skin. There is truth to that claim, however, any user of an electric smoker will tell you that all you need to do for a crispy turkey skin is finish it off in a conventional oven. Electric smokers can cook just about anything, including:

ItemEstimated Cooking Time (hours)
Pork butt8-10

You also might be interested in another article that I’ve written How To Smoke Bacon in an Electric Smoker.

Electrics Are Boring

Electric smokers are about as exciting to operate as a conventional oven. Charcoal smoking is a labor of love that requires constant attention. You’re always tending to the fire, adding wood or charcoal, monitoring temperature fluctuations, opening and closing vents, wrapping, mopping and so on.

For most of us who smoke meat, it’s the process that is the most appealing part. It’s the process that makes it an enjoyable hobby. With electric smokers, the process is boring. You put the meat in, then get on with your life. You come back later on, and you take the meat out. It’s no more exciting than using an oven. But as mentioned before, the smoking process isn’t the point of an electric smoker.Electric smokers are more about convenience and enjoying tasty smoked meat on days when you wouldn’t normally have smoked meat.

Are Electric Smokers Easy to Clean?

Clean electric smokers, every three to four cooks. Every smoker will be slightly different. Here are a few quick tips on how to clean your smoker. 

  1. Locate the grease trap. They usually place these at the bottom of the smoker. Slide out the trap and clean it in the kitchen sink. 
  2. Remove all the cooking racks, probes and drip trays. Clean these items in the kitchen. 
  3. Remove the wood box and scrape out ash and wood. 
  4. The bottom of the smoker will probably have a lot of gunk from meat drippings. Use a metal scraper to loosen as much as possible and wipe with a wet paper towel. You should always avoid using chemicals. You don’t want to introduce chemicals to your meat. 
  5. Locate the grease hole at the bottom of the smoker. If the grease hole gets blocked, it can start a grease fire. 
  6. If your smoker has a glass window, it will turn black after a few smokes. Again, avoid using chemicals. I’ve seen a YouTube video where a guy scraped off all the black gunk with a razor blade. 

What To Look For When Buying An Electric Smoker?

If you’re in the market for an electric smoker, here’s a few things I suggest you consider:

  1. Size: Think about how much meat you want to cook at a time. Do you need a small smoker for a few people, or a larger one for big gatherings?
  2. Capacity: Make sure the smoker has enough room to hold all the food you want to cook. You don’t want to run out of space!
  3. Temperature control: Look for a smoker that has good temperature control, so you can set the right temperature for the type of food you are cooking.
  4. Ease of use: Consider how easy it is to use the smoker. Some models have digital controls, while others have manual dials.
  5. Price: Think about how much money you want to spend on a smoker. There are models at a variety of price points, so you should be able to find something that fits your budget.
  6. Durability: Look for a smoker that is well-made and will last for a long time.
  7. Brand reputation: Research the brand and read reviews from other customers to get a sense of the quality and reliability of the smoker.

The 6 Best Electric Smokers (For All Budgets)

There are many manufacturers, but here are a few of the most popular electric smokers:

  • Masterbuilt
  • Cookshack
  • Smokin-it
  • SmokinTex
  • Landmann
  • Old Smokey

Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (MES)- The Most Popular

Masterbuilt Electric Smokers, also known as MES, are very popular among smokers and have a large online following. These smokers are mostly known for their affordability and availability. MES have several models that range in price from around $300 to $400. These models can be purchased on Amazon. One popular model is the MES Smokehouse, which comes in different variations such as a version with a glass door or different types of controllers. You can find the latest prices for MES electric smokers on Amazon here. If you want to know more about this smoker, check out this review: “Masterbuilt Electric Smoker: The MES 30″ Buyer’s Guide”

People who use Masterbuilt electric smokers usually have good things to say about them. They like how easy they are to use, with simple controls that let you set the temperature and timer and then let the oven do the rest. They also like how consistent the ovens are, cooking the food evenly and giving it a good smoky flavor. Some people have had problems with their Masterbuilt electric smokers breaking down or not working correctly. However, these problems seem to be rare, and most people are happy with their ovens and use them for a long time.

Smokin-it – Quality Electric Smoker

Smokin-it is a brand of high-quality electric smokers that are known for their ability to hold temperature very well. They have a large, insulated steel box that helps to maintain a consistent cooking temperature, allowing you to “set-and-forget” the smoker while the meat cooks. Smokin-it smokers are compact in size, making them easy to fit in any space. However, they are also large enough to smoke a variety of meats, from briskets to pork shoulders to ribs.

If you have the budget, Smokin-it is a great choice for an electric smoker. They offer a range of models that cost anywhere from $380 to $800 or more, depending on the specific features and size. You can find Smokin-it electric smokers on the Smokin-it website here.

Users on forums and review sites generally have positive things to say about Smokin-it electric smokers. Many users appreciate the high-quality construction and good performance of these smokers, as well as their ease of use. Some users have reported issues with durability or malfunction, but these seem to be relatively rare.

Experts at also have positive things to say about Smokin-it electric smokers. They praise the consistent cooking temperatures and smoke levels achieved by these smokers, as well as their durability and ease of use. One expert notes that the price of Smokin-it smokers may be higher than some other brands, but they feel that the quality and performance make them a worthwhile investment.

Old Smokey – Budget Electric Smoker

Old Smokey may not be the best electric smoker, but it’s the cheapest. Old Smokey is an electric drum smoker that has been around since the 1950s. It has a simple design, but is much better than any of the cheap smokers in the same price range. The best thing about Old Smokey is the price. You can pick one up on Amazon for just over a hundred bucks.

Don’t expect too much from Old Smokey, you will not get a nice bark, but you can still make some nice quick and easy meat. Old Smokey is well insulated and can keep heat. It’s shaped like a drum smoker and has two racks so you can fit plenty of meat. This is a great introduction to meat smoking or an affordable electric for those days where you can’t be bothered managing a charcoal fire. Check the latest price on Amazon here.

Both users and experts seem to agree that Old Smokey electric smokers are a good choice for those looking for a budget-friendly option for smoking a variety of meats at home. While there may be occasional issues with temperature control or function, most users and experts are satisfied with their purchase and feel that the performance and value of an Old Smokey electric smoker make it a good choice.

Cookshack – Best High-End Smoker

Cookshack is a brand of electric smokers that is known for its high-quality, commercial-grade products. Their smokers are designed to be durable and easy to use, with digital controls and a variety of features to make the smoking process as straightforward as possible.

One of the key differences between Cookshack smokers and some other brands is their use of a convection system to circulate hot air around the meat as it cooks. This helps to ensure even cooking and can also reduce cooking times compared to other electric smokers.

Cookshack offers a range of electric smokers, including models designed for home use and others that are more suitable for commercial operations. Their prices range from around $600 to over $1,000, depending on the specific model and features.

The price of Cookshack smokers may be higher than some other brands, but most experts feel that the quality and performance make them a worthwhile investment.

Smokin-Tex – Good Mid-Range Smoker

The Smoking Tex is a good mid-range electric smoker that is basically an imitation of the original Cookshack model except made in China and half the price. Smokin-Tex is made of stainless steel and very well insulated. It has five cooking racks so it can smoke a lot of meat. Smokin-Tex has a lot of satisfied users. I spent a while reading comments on Reddit, social media and meat smoking forums. Smoking-Tex sell models that range between $400 and $1700. Check the latest prices on the Smoking-Tex website here.

One of the key features of SmokinTex smokers is their use of stainless steel construction, which makes them more durable and easier to clean than some other brands. Like other high-end electrics, Smokin-Tex also offer a variety of sizes and models, ranging from smaller smokers to large commercial-grade smokers.

SmokinTex may be on the pricier side, but their quality construction and performance make them a worthwhile purchase.

Landmann Smokers – No Frills Electric

The Landmann Smokey Mountain is a good electric smoker in the bottom price range. This no frills smoker can defiantly get the job done and is perfect for the beginner. The Smokey Mountain 40 inch is Landmann’s top of the line electric smoker. This model holds a lot more meat and has a glass window on the door and an interior light. You can buy a Landmann between $150 to $250. Check latest price on Amazon here.


Electric vs Pellet Smokers: Which Set-And-Forget is Better?

How to Smoke Bacon in an Electric Smoker

Pork Butt In An Electric Smoker – Pro Tips

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.


Author and founder at Meat Smoking HQ

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