Smoked meat is a treat to the taste buds! It is sure to be a star of the feast when you are hosting a party with family and friends! Nonetheless, while it is indeed delish, it is difficult to make! It is time-consuming and will require quite an effort on your end. An electric smoker is to the rescue!
What is the best electric smoker on the market? Read on and we will list down some of the top options that you should consider.
Our Top Picks for the Best Electric Smoker by Consumer Reports
1. Masterbuilt 20075315 Front Controller Smoker
Our personal favorite, this smoker offers 975 square inches of cooking space, making it ideal for a large household. Inside the smoker, there are four steel racks, which can be adjusted depending on the size of what you are smoking. At its size, it is capable of smoking 48 sausages, 24 burgers, 12 whole chickens, 4 rib racks, 4 pork butts, and 2 whole turkeys.
There is also an internal light, which will allow you to easily monitor the process. Plus, with the transparent window, you do not have to open the door every now and then.
Even if you are a novice, using this electric smoker is pretty much straightforward. It has a digital control panel with an intuitive layout. The buttons are strategically positioned and appropriately labeled. Meanwhile, there is a blue LED display that makes it easy to monitor the process, such as the temperature and the time. You can also use the RF remote to control the smoker at a distance.
Another feature that makes this commendable is the side wood chip loading system, which is a patented technology. This will allow you to add more chips without the need to open the door. This way, smoke and flavor will not be able to escape.
Meanwhile, with the integrated thermostat control, guesswork is eliminated. It maintains the right temperature on its own to ensure consistent smoking.
In terms of its construction, the main material that is used is steel. This is long-lasting, although there are some people who complained of how it can easily rust. To prevent the latter, avoid leaving it outdoors and see to it that it is always covered.
- Easy to use and clean
- Durable construction
- Has a large viewing window
- Can be quite tricky to assemble
- Some parts are prone to rust
2. Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
Made by one of the leading brands in the market of smokers, this model has a cooking area of 725 square inches. There are also four adjustable cooking racks. Whether it is pork butt, turkey, ribs, or chicken, among others, you will have plenty of space in this electric smoker.
The straightforward operation of this model is one thing that captivated our attention. Even as a beginner, you do not need to be in a struggle when using the smoker. You can input the desired time or temperature and leave the smoker on its own. Once the target has been reached, the keep warm function will be activated to maintain the ideal temperature of the meat until you are ready to eat.
The intuitive control panel is also a plus. This simplifies the operation of the smoker. You can choose from two cooking modes – based on temperature or based on time. There is also a LED light for easily monitoring the meat. Plus, the door is equipped with a tight latch to keep the entryway sealed, making sure that the smoke will not be able to escape. This will guarantee a fuller flavor.
Another thing worth mentioning about this model is the 800-watt heating element, which makes it powerful for its size. It is also a good thing that it has double-wall insulation. The body is thick enough to manage the temperature, which also makes it energy-efficient.
There is also a removable temperature gauge for easy monitoring of the heat and to ensure consistency.
When it comes to cleaning, there is a grease tray that can hold up to eight and a half cups, minimizing the mess in the area where you smoke.
- Easy to use
- Excellent ability to maintain heat
- Creates a tight seal
- Prone to having internal leaks
- Heating element can be more durable
3. Masterbuilt 20171117 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker
Masterbuilt is one of the most reliable smoker brands on the market. This is the second product in this guide from the said manufacturer, which speaks of their reputation. At 30 inches, it can cook 64 sausages, 24 burgers, 8 rib racks, 6 whole chickens, 4 pork butts, and 2 whole turkeys at a time.
The plug and play functionality of this digital electric smoker makes it a fool-proof choice for those who are new in smoking. It has a digital panel that controls most of the functions of the unit. You have the option to set the cooking time or the desired temperature and leave the smoker on its own.
Similar to most of its leading competitors, the interior also has four customizable racks.
Meanwhile, as it is made by Masterbuilt, one of the defining features of this electric smoker is the exclusive side wood chip loading system. With this feature, all that you have to do is to slide out a tray and add more wood chips as desired, eliminating the need for opening the door.
The body of the smoker is also fully-insulated, which is beneficial in terms of temperature management. The maximum temperature that it can reach is 275 degrees. This allows it to retain the heat even after smoking. This way, the meat will stay warm while it is inside the smoking cabinet.
- User-friendly control panel
- Durable construction
- Easy loading of wood chips
- Temperature gauge is easily prone to problems
- Smoker box can swell
4. Smokehouse Products Little Chief Front Load Smoker
This is one of the best options to consider if you are looking for a budget-friendly alternative. Nonetheless, because of its price, do not expect anything fancy in this electric smoker. It has a no-frills feature, but it gets the job done right! At its price, it is even made better by the fact that it is already inclusive of a 1.75-pound of hickory wood chips.
With a compact body, this smoker can handle up to 50 pounds of meat or fish at a time. Inside, there are five chrome-plated grills that can be removed if you need to have a bigger space.
In terms of its performance, the smoker is pretty much decent for its price. It has a 250-watt heating element.
For the body, it has embossed aluminum construction. This makes it lightweight and easy to transport compared to those that are made of steel. However, the problem with aluminum is that it can easily get hot on the outside and the durability may not be as impressive.
The smoker operates at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Users will not have the option to adjust the level of heat. Based on the experiences of some people, in places that are cold or windy, the smoker may be unable to retain the anticipated temperature.
As a bonus, there is a recipe booklet that is included, allowing beginners to make the most out of this smoker.
Lastly, the smoker comes with a two-year warranty from the manufacturer.
- Basic, user-friendly features
- Compact design
- May not maintain the right temperature
- Can be quite flimsy
5. Bradley Smoker BTDS76P 990216 4-rack Electric Smoker
Too lazy to smoke meat? There is no excuse when you have this electric smoker. Designed with the needs of users in mind, it has user-friendly controls that take away guesswork on your end. It is almost ready to be used right out of the box. The manufacturer also provides comprehensive instructions that will be easy to understand even for beginners.
Everything in this smoker is digitally controlled. From the time to the temperature, you can set it and forget. Leave it on its own after inputting the desired smoking. When it is done smoking, it automatically converts into the keep warm function.
There is also no need to worry about the power of this unit. It comes with a 500-watt element, which allows it to reach the desired temperature in no time. Take note, however, that since smoking is a slow process, you will have to pack a lot of patience.
The temperature is controllable and reaches a maximum of 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike in the case of the model that has been mentioned above, users of this smoker will have the freedom to control the heat level.
The exterior is made of polished stainless steel, which provides the electric smoker an elegant appeal. More than aesthetics, the steel construction is also great when it comes to durability. The material is also easy to clean and maintain.
However, this is quite an expensive product. Nonetheless, the price can be justified by its awesome features and excellent performance.
- Tough construction
- Temperature is easy to control
- Has programmable settings
- No transparent window
6. Smoke Hollow 3016DEWS Digital Electric Smoker with Window
With a total cooking capacity of two cubic feet, this is one of the best options to consider if you are looking for a large electric smoker. Meanwhile, inside, there are three chrome-plated racks that offer multiple adjustments.
In terms of its performance, the unit delivers a 1,500-watt heating element. This may not be the highest in the product category, but this is decent enough for most users. Meanwhile, with the double-walled construction, the outside of the unit does not easily get hot. Plus, it also provides an assurance that the internal temperature is maintained. This will also be great when it comes to energy-efficiency.
Outside the smoker, there is a wood chip box that can be refilled without the need to open the main door. There were some people, however, who were unhappy with the small size of the wood chip tray.
The door has a window made of tempered glass. This allows you to easily monitor the process. The glass is not only durable but also easy to clean.
In terms of operation, you do not need to exert a lot of effort. In the front of the unit, there is a control panel with buttons in strategic positions. There is a push-button start and a LED control panel that shows the time and the temperature.
There are four metal legs that keep the unit stable and leveled on the ground.
- Sturdy body
- Easy to monitor the smoking process
- Large cooking capacity
- Small wood chip tray
- Assembly can be tricky
7. Smoke Hollow 3616DEW Digital Electric Smoker with Window
This is from the same manufacturer as the electric smoker above and they share almost the same features. One of the biggest differences, however, would be with regards to their cooking capacity. This model has a maximum capacity of 3 cubic feet. This is as against to the previously mentioned model, which can only smoke 2 cubic feet at a time. Since it is larger, it also has four adjustable grills as against the other one with just three.
Another feature that is shared with the model above is the external wood chip tray. In the case of some smokers, you need to open the main door to load wood chips. This is a bad thing because smoke is able to escape and will also cause a fluctuation in temperature. Thankfully, you do not have to do so with this model. You can load the wood chips externally, making the process easier.
The tempered glass viewing window is also a plus. Similar to the wood tray, this eliminates the need to frequently open and close the door while it is in the process of smoking.
- Large viewing window
- Durable construction
- Large capacity
- Not as popular as the other models
- Controller can be problematic
8. Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker
The mere fact that it is made by Char-Broil should already be a compelling reason to have it chosen over its competitors. This model has a total of 504 square inches of cooking space, which is more than enough for most people, unless you need an electric smoker that is designed for commercial operations. Inside, there are three adjustable cooking grates that are chrome-plated.
The insulated and double-wall construction of this unit is also worth noting. The latter contributes to its durability and the ability to maintain the right temperature.
Nonetheless, there are also some significant complaints with regards to the heat stability of this product. Among others, one of the culprits for this is perhaps the fact that you need to open the main door if you need to check the wood chips. This is unlike in the case of other models wherein this can be done outside.
The unit comes with a lid mounted temperature gauge, which makes it look like a vault.
- High-quality construction
- Made by a trusted brand
- Insulated body
- No viewing window
- Can have problems with the heating element
Benefits of Using an Electric Smoker
Not convinced that an electric smoker will make an excellent investment? Below are some of the benefits that might make you change your mind:
Ideal for Beginners: You do not have to worry even if you are a novice. It is less complicated to use compared to the other types of smokers that are available.
No Need for Constant Supervision: You do not need to be near the unit all the time. You can set the desired temperature or time and leave it on its own. In the case of most smokers, the keep warm feature is automatically activated once it is done smoking.
Consumes Minimal Energy: You also need not worry about electric consumption. Most of the models are not power-hungry, making it easy on the wallet.
Clean Energy: As against gas smokers, it is eco-friendly since the source of power is electricity. This also means that there will be fewer contaminants in the smoked food as against to propane and charcoal.
Easy to Clean: Generally speaking, most of the models will require minimal effort on your end when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.
Ideal for Indoor Use: If you do not have a patio, such as if you are living in an apartment, there is no need to worry about using the smoker even when you are indoors.
Safety: Again, unlike their gas and charcoal counterparts, there are no emissions and there is minimal risk associated with its use.
How to Choose the Best Electric Smoker
To narrow down the possibilities, below are some of the most important factors to take into consideration:
Construction: Most of the smokers recommended above have a body made of stainless steel. This is a great material of choice because it is durable and not prone to rusting. There are other options often made of aluminum. They are lightweight but not as durable compared to their steel counterparts.
Capacity: The cooking area is often expressed in square feet, square inches, or cubic feet. For most people, a smoker with a capacity of 700 square inches will already be large enough. If you are going to cook for a large group or for commercial purposes, at least choose one that has a maximum cooking capacity of 50 pounds.
Racks: Most of the models available have three to five racks. More than the actual number of the racks present, the more important thing is that they are removable. This will make the interior adjustable, allowing you to cook larger items with ease, such as a whole turkey.
Portability: A lightweight smoker will be great if you intend to have it frequently moved from one place to another. Some are even designed with wheels, which will be excellent in terms of portability.
Insulation: A good option is a model that comes with double-wall insulation. The walls should be thick enough to manage the temperature. Otherwise, the exterior can easily get hot and the temperature inside the smoker won’t be stable.
Window: The best smokers are those that are equipped with a transparent window in its door. This is usually made of tempered glass. This makes it easy to monitor smoking without the need to open the door. It seals in the flavor and avoids the temperature fluctuations.
Seal: The window should have an airtight seal, making sure that smoke won’t come out of the sides. This is important for maintaining the right temperature and the robust smoked flavor in your meat.
Versatility: If you want to be provided the best value for the money, you should choose a product that can be used beyond smoking. Some models are multipurpose, which can be used even for roasting and grilling, among others.
Remote: This is a fancy feature that might make the unit more expensive, but it will come handy. This makes the unit easier to use because you will be able to control its functions even at a distance.
Control Panel: The control panel should have buttons that are strategically-positioned, which will make it easy to use. There should also be LED, making it easy to monitor the time and temperature.
Temperature Gauge: A built-in temperature gauge will also come handy. Often, this can be found in the front part of the unit. This ensures the precise temperature and eliminates the need for guesswork. This also means that you do not have to open the door if you want to check the temperature of the meat or fish.
Wood Chip Tray: The best option for an electric smoker is one that comes with an external tray for the wood chips. This makes it easier to refill and monitor. In the case of others, you will need to open the door, which can negatively affect the temperature.
Using an Electric Smoker Correctly
Take note of the steps mentioned below to make the most out of your electric smoker at home:
If you have a brand new smoker, start by having it seasoned. Simply put, you need to operate the smoker while it is empty. This will eliminate the solvent residue and the foul odor, making sure that it won’t cling to anything that will be smoked.
After the seasoning, you are now ready to use the smoker. Turn the unit on. Before you do this, make sure that the meat has already been seasoned and flavored. More of this will be discussed in the next part of this post.
Fill the tray with your choice of wood chips, which will depend on whatever it is being smoked and the flavor that you would like to achieve. Ideally, you should use four cups of wood chips if you plan to smoke for three to five hours. Hardwood chips are preferred because of their enhanced flavor. Some of the best choices include birch, pecan, hickory, apple, and mesquite.
Preheat the smoker before adding the meat. Consult with the manual from the manufacturer or the recipe you are following. Generally, you can preheat it at 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the bottom of the smoking chamber, fill the provided container with water. Hot water is recommended for maintaining the ideal temperature.
After this, you can now put the meat inside the smoker. Set the desired temperature and time. Wait until it is done.
Tips for Flavorful Smoked Meats
While different recipes will require different steps, below are some of the general tips that will ensure a flavorful smoked meat:
Start with the right meat. It will be best to source it directly from your neighborhood butcher to ensure freshness. As much as possible, look for meat that is organic and grass-fed, which will make it more flavorful.
Go low and slow. Take note that smoking is a slow process that requires your patience. This is actually the reason why there is a distinct flavor compared to those that are grilled or smoked.
Rubbing the meat is one of the old-age techniques that would often work for adding flavor. Meat rubs will depend on the flavor profile that you expect. You can use salt, pepper, butter, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and lemon, among others.
Add water in a pan and make sure that it does not dry out throughout the process of smoking. The water will be effective in adding humidity in the meat. Otherwise, it will end up dry. Misting the meat will also be an excellent way to retain its moisture.
It is also important that you know your wood chips. They should perfectly complement the meat that you will be smoking. If you want a mild sweet or fruity flavor, apple and cherry will be great choices. Mesquite, on the other hand, will have a stronger flavor.
Watch out for the color of smoke that comes out of the unit. If it is white smoke, you are good. If the smoke is black, you need to worry. This means that there is a lack of ventilation and the meat will end up being burnt.
Refrain from opening the door of the smoker every now and then. If you do, the smoke will come out, which can result in weaker flavor. This can also cause fluctuations in temperature as earlier mentioned.
Allow the meat to rest for a while after smoking. It might be tempting to eat it right there and then, but this should be avoided. Letting it sit for a while will allow the juices to flow and redistribute.
Care and Maintenance of Electric Smokers
Even if you choose the best option available, it can be prone to wear through the years. To keep it in its peak condition, below are some important things to keep in mind:
Before cleaning the smoker, allow it to rest after use.
Start by cleaning the chamber. Take out the removable parts, including the racks, water pan, and wood tray. Brush any residue that you can see on the surface. Use warm water and dishwashing soap to clean these parts. Rinse and dry.
To clean the external chamber, all that you need is a cloth soaked in soapy water. Squeeze water out of the cloth and wipe the body. Be careful to not wet the electronic components of the smoker.
Safety Tips when Using an Electric Smoker
While electric smokers are generally safe, take note of the following:
Read the instruction manual provided by the manufacturer and make sure that it is religiously followed.
Before using the smoker, make sure that it is leveled. Put the smoker on top of an even surface to make sure that it won’t end up being wobbly during the operation.
Put the smoker in a place that is covered. Remember, it runs on electricity. There will be safety repercussions when it becomes wet.
Perform a regular inspection of the different parts of the electric smoker to make sure that they are working in perfect condition.
Unplug the smoker when it is not used.
Always have a fire extinguisher on standby so that you will be ready for an emergency.
Do not operate the smoker near or around anything that could easily start a fire.
Be careful when using an extension cord. Use only a cord that passes the safety standards. If you are using an extension cord that is too long, the smoker can be easily prone to loss of power.
Keep kids and pets away from the smoker.
With the best electric smokers mentioned above, you can be a gourmet chef at home even without being trained! These smokers are built with your needs in mind, making sure that they are user-friendly while guaranteeing the best outcomes.