Electric smokers are fantastic alternative cooking tools that allow you to cook mouthwatering and flavorful foods you couldn’t otherwise create in any ordinary kitchen. Of course, no two electric smokers are truly made the same, and so, there are a number of factors you should look at consider when shopping for the perfect smoker for your space and culinary needs.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top eight things we recommend you look at when buying an electric smoker to ensure it is the perfect pick. These can range from price to materials to size and more. The goal is to make this purchasing process as easy and informed as possible so you can get right to smoking delicious foods!
We’re going to start this list with a typical factor almost everyone considers before they purchase something: price. More importantly, what you’re willing to spend on an electric smoker versus the quality of the smoker associated with that cost.
Electric smokers can vary widely in cost, from cheap budget-friendly smokers you can purchase for $100 to commercial-sized smokers for $3,000 or more. Before you consider purchasing one of these culinary cookers, you’ll want to know your budget and if that is enough to purchase a quality smoker.
While budget-friendly electric smokers are a great way to get started and understand how to use these tools, most won’t last too long due to their poor build. Therefore, if you’re going to buy an electric smoker, you’ll want one that’s made of high-quality materials and built to last, which will likely cost you a few hundred dollars, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding if you’re finally ready to invest in an electric smoker of your own.
Overall, having a budget range beforehand will help make the purchasing process much easier. When searching for an electric smoker, you should start by listing the features, sizes, and materials you prioritize in your electric smoker to reduce your options, and then you can see which remaining options fit your budget.
This will ensure the electric smoker you choose has everything you want without being an unreasonable financial investment. Of course, a high price tag doesn’t always denote quality, which is why you should use several other factors on this list to make the best decision. Don’t just settle for the expensive, fancy-looking smoker.
Overall Size and Smoker Cook Capacity
Another relatively easy decision about your future electric smoker is its overall size and its total cooking capacity.
In addition to being sold for a wide range of prices, electric cookers come in a wide range of sizes, and it’s important that you know what size suits your cooking needs and the available space best before purchase.
As we mentioned previously, you can purchase electric smokers that are small enough to sit on a counter or large enough to feed hundreds of people. A great way to reduce option overload is to think objectively about how much you will use this smoker and how many people you intend to feed with it.
For example, if you’re a family of two who will only use the electric smoker occasionally, you can find decent options with around 354 square inches of smoking space that can easily be tucked away in any patio corner.
Alternatively, if you’re using this smoker to feed a larger family or for large social gatherings, you’ll probably want one that’s at least 1,513 sq in of cooking area, if not bigger. This is also great for hunters who want to cook all their meat in one place themselves rather than going to a game processor.
Of course, the interior cooking area isn’t the only factor you need to consider. Electric smokers should be stored outdoors on a flat surface about ten feet from your home, so if this means you only have a small patch of patio space to work with, you’ll want to limit your electric smoker’s size to match the ideal storage space.
The Integrity of Materials Used for Build and Insulation
Now that we’ve covered the easier elements to consider when buying an electric smoker, let’s delve into more specific details regarding how these smokers work and what materials you’ll want to look out for to ensure quality and longevity.
One of the most important things you should look for in an electric smoker is the integrity of the materials they use for the exterior build and the insulation.
Both external material and insulation can help ensure your electric smoker cooks well and lasts years. If you have poor insulation or your smoker’s exterior is a weak metal with poor conductivity, your smoker won’t be able to hold the temperature efficiently.
Not only will this mean that whatever you’re trying to cook is going to take significantly longer than intended, but it also means you’ll be wasting energy trying to power the smoker since it is incapable of efficiently retaining heat and maintaining its internal temperature.
When looking at electric smokers, you want one that is made of heavy-gauge stainless steel or aluminum for the materials, as they will aid in temperature control, and they are durable rust and weather-resistant materials that will last.
For the insulation, look for features such as double-walled cooking chambers and doors and a damper that close tightly and seals completely when your smoker is closed. If not, smoke will seep through the cracks in your seal and alter internal temperatures.
Temperature Control Capabilities
The materials used to build your electric smoker can make a world of difference in temperature control, but there are other features that come into play here as well to guarantee you make safe and flavorful foods every time.
The key to smoking food is consistent temperature control, and the more control you have, the better. Most electric smokers are built with features that set and hold the internal cook temperature with little to no input from you, but others give you more freedom with a damper system for more precise alterations.
Having enhanced temperature controls will allow you to adjust the internal cook temperature and smoking time with ease and know more accurately what temperature your meats and other foods are cooking.
This can make a significant difference in food quality, especially if your smoker starts cooking at a dangerously low temperature that could risk ruining your food. It also allows you to increase the temperature when you need to speed up the smoking process.
For tech-savvy owners, you can even purchase electric smokers with SMART technology that allows you to connect your phone or other SMART device to your smoker to alter and maintain its temperature from a distance.
This factor probably shouldn’t be the first thing you consider when looking for an electric smoker, but it can help you find a high-quality option faster.
Buying a budget-friendly off-brand electric smoker is rarely worth the investment. Instead, we recommend you only buy electric smokers from highly reputable brands that are known for creating exceptional smokers using durable materials and exceptional design. Some of the top brands include:
- Smokin Tex
Although we recognize that there are a number of quality electric smokers you can buy from other brands, these are the ones that receive the most praise regularly for their products.
Choosing one of the brands above will allow you to quickly pick a reliable product out of the numerous options. You also have the security these more established brands provide in terms of warranties and replacement pieces should your smoker ever need repairs or maintenance.
Appropriate Trays, Grates, and Pans
Trays and pans are features within electric smokers that new consumers rarely consider beforehand but can have a significant effect on how you cook anything inside the smoker and how effectively the smoker functions.
Ideally, you should purchase an electric smoker that comes with water to help promote internal humidity and opt for those built with grates over trays where your meat and other food rest, as grates will allow a more even cook.
Most electric smokers are made with grates, and users have the choice of either placing their food directly on the grate or placing it in a pan on top. However, some smokers are made with trays to create multiple levels instead of grates.
When possible, it is always recommended to opt for grates, as they will aid in more even heat distribution and retention, resulting in an even cook on all levels and reducing the risk of burning your food.
You’ll also want to consider how these grates or trays are set up. Most are horizontal, but you can also buy smokers with inclined grates/trays, which will alter how your food is cooked.
Typically, anyone who intends to use their smoker mostly for meats should opt for horizontal grates/trays, and those who prefer to smoke fish should purchase one with inclined grates/trays. Alternatively, you could find a smoker with vertical and horizontal grates/trays, allowing you to cook upright or turn the smoker on its side. This increases the tool’s versatility and what you can place inside.
While a water pan isn’t essential to a smoker, and finding one with this feature can be difficult, it is something we recommend prioritizing if you want the best cook and flavor for your smoker-cooked foods. Not only will the pan help with humidity levels, preventing your food from drying out, but you can also swap out the water for other culinary liquids like broth or beer to add variety and flavor.
Cleaning and Maintenance Requirements
Electric smokers can be hefty machines that are left on for hours or even days to create the most mouthwatering foods, but the last thing you want after consuming these delicacies is to be left scrubbing your machine for hours because it’s a pain to clean.
Cleaning and maintenance requirements should always be considered when buying an electric smoker. You want a machine that is as easy to clean as it is to use. To ensure this, make sure you buy an electric smoker made of easy-to-clean materials like stainless steel and designed to come apart with ease.
Some electric smokers can be particularly tricky to take apart, making your basic clean-up an unpleasant process. Before purchasing any smoker, try removing its trays, grates, pans, and other components to see how easily they come out. If you have trouble removing them in pristine condition, it will only get harder with use.
You’ll also want to pay particular attention to the materials these components are made of. We stated one reason for this previously you’ll want materials that are easy to clean, but you also want resistant materials that won’t rust and lock in place over time. This will make them difficult to remove and potentially cause additional damage to your smoker.
This is another factor that may or may not be essential to your decision, depending on your intended use for your electric smoker.
Because electric smokers can be extremely large pieces of equipment, you might want to consider how often you’re going to move it so you can determine if you need to prioritize mobility features, such as wheels.
Considering electric smokers are usually placed outdoors when cooking, it’s important to think about whether this will be a permanent place for it or if you need to be able to move it indoors when not in use.
If you live in a region where your smoker will be exposed to significant amounts of snow and rain throughout the year, you’ll either want to invest in a cover to protect it from the elements or purchase one with wheels so you can easily move these heavy machines undercover.
Another factor to consider is if you intend to take your electric smoker with you anywhere. While most people tend to keep these machines at home, you can purchase smaller electric smokers to bring on camping or hunting trips. Of course, in order to do that, you’ll need to make sure it’s an appropriate size and is relatively easy to move from place to place.