Best Electric Smoker Buying Guide
Smoked meat is something that everybody loves. It’s not just cuts of meat that are delicious when smoked, it can be just about any food – meat, poultry, fish and even many vegetables. There is a big trend in smoking your own food and an electric smoker makes it as easy as pie. The big advantage to using an electric smoker is that you can use it all year round. No one wants to be outside keeping an eye on the fire during the middle of winter, that won’t be the case with an electric smoker.
Intro | Best Electric Smoker
If you’ve been considering a smoker but the thought of dealing with a fire and keeping things under control seems like a daunting thought, an electric smoker is what you should be looking at. There’s just about no effort involved and you’ll be getting perfect results without any experience needed. An electric smoker is, therefore, the best for beginners. The end result is the same as doing things the old-fashioned way but you have the advantage of an electric system that monitors everything for you.
An electric smoker is the perfect solution for busy modern lifestyles. How many of us have the time to spend hours beside the fire, making sure that our meat is smoking at the right temperature and everything remains as it needs to be? So there can be no doubt that an electric smoker is the easiest, hassle-free way to do things and there’s just about no chance of things going horribly wrong.
If this is just up your street, your next question has to be: which is the best electric smoker? To find the answer, read this review.
Insulated, Double-Wall Design | Char-Broil 725 Deluxe (17402004-A1)
Not everyone has the same idea as to which the best electric smoker might be. For some it’s the size that’s important, perhaps it’s the most convenient and easiest to use electric smoker that floats your boat. In most cases, it is going to boil down to the price. There are those who want the best that money can buy, but the majority of us have a particular budget that we have to stick to. This might not mean getting the cheapest possible option but, rather, getting the best electric smoker that fits into your budget.
For this reason, we’ve looked at a number of options:
- Masterbuilt 20071117 – 30″ – the perfect electric smoker for those with a tight budget.
- Smoke Hollow D4015RS – Exceptional! The ultimate in quality & size for the high-end buyer.
- Char-Broil Deluxe 17402004-A1 – Great features and quality at an affordable price.
- Bradley Smoker BTDS76P – High-end quality and convenience at a reasonable price.
- Masterbuilt 20072115 – A very reasonably priced mid-sized electric smoker with the ultimate in hands-off convenience.
This gives you a basic idea of the models we’ll be reviewing. While some of the bigger electric smokers will be more expensive and perhaps of a higher quality standard, they’re all really great items. Even the cheapest of these products is by no means junk.
To find out more about these excellent appliances, take a look at our detailed review of the best electric smokers. I’ll give you the low down of each one and do my best to provide you with all the information you need to decide which of these electric smokers is going to be the best for you.
30-Inch : Best electric smoker if you’re on a budget.
- Digital panel controls on/off, temperature, and time
- 1.7 cubic feet of interior volume
- 730 sq.in of cooking space spread over four cooking shelves
- Four chrome-coated smoking racks
- Patented side wood chip loading system – add chips without opening the smoker door
- Integrated thermostat temperature control for even, consistent smoking
- Fully-insulated smoker body
- 4-chrome-coated smoking racks
- Patented side wood chip loading system, add wood chips without opening the smoker door
- Thermostat-temperature control for even, consistent smoking
- Fully-insulated smoker body retains heat
- Water bowl adds moisture and flavor
- Air damper for smoke control
- Removable drip pan
- Rear grease tray
If you’re afraid that buying a quality electric smoker might leave you with a maxed out credit card, the Masterbuilt 20071117 is going to come as a pleasant surprise. While this is the cheapest electric smoker we’ll be reviewing, it’s not short on features and is a high-quality, durable appliance. There is, however, room for improvement and I’ll point out where I think the Masterbuilt is not quite up to scratch when reviewing the product. The limitations are few and might not be a big deal for most people, but they should be pointed out as we want you to know what you’re getting for your money. When it comes down to it, the pros outweigh the cons and you won’t find a better deal at this price.
This is not the biggest electric smoker and this might be the first area where some may find the Masterbuilt somewhat lacking. That’s not to say it’s too small for most families. A 30” smoker is no baby. You have 1.7 cubic feet of interior volume which provides 730 sq.in of cooking space spread over four cooking shelves. If you’re having trouble picturing what these figures mean, let me simplify it for you. You can fit up to 6 chickens inside, or 2 turkeys. This is quite adequate for most household needs and can even service a small restaurant. One of the big advantages to the compact size of this electric smoker is portability. It’s compact, measuring 20” X 17” X 33.5” and weighs only 52 LBS. This makes it perfect for vacations and for mobile or pop-up restaurants that have become so popular.
Everything is made superbly simple and easy to use. There’s a digital control panel at the top which allows you to set your temperature with perfect accuracy thanks to the electronic thermometer. It also has a 24-hour timer so you can get on with your life while the Masterbuilt takes care of your smoking. All this is wonderfully convenient but there is a slight issue with the electric heater, it’s not all that powerful and you have a limited temperature range. You can adjust your temperature precisely where you want it, but this is only between 100° and 275° F. While this is perfect for red meats, it can make smoking poultry, where you want higher temperatures, a challenge. The fact that the heating element isn’t the most powerful means that it can struggle to maintain higher temperatures when the smoker is packed to capacity.
The materials and build quality cannot be faulted, it’s perfectly insulated and this saves on electricity. It also has a very convenient drawer that allows you to add wood chips whilst the smoker is in use without disrupting the process. It even has a fluid tray so you can use liquid aromatics to enhance the flavor of your smoked meats. Some may have an issue with the fact that you can’t see inside. It has a solid door, which is great for improved insulation. But with no glass, you can’t see how your food is coming along. Personally, I can’t see much of problem in this. You’re going to set your temperature and timer, and then check it once it’s done. There really isn’t much need to inspect the contents too often.
There’s a lot to like when considering the Masterbuilt 30” electric smoker and very little to dislike. If you’re prepared to pay more, you can buy a larger, more powerful electric smoker. But for most people, this smoker is going to do everything you want it to. The limited warranty of only 90-days doesn’t instill much confidence. But, going by the response I’ve seen from existing customers, the Masterbuilt will work perfectly for many years – 10yrs+. I have no doubt that this is a high-quality electric smoker and there’s very little to go wrong.
40-Inch with Bluetooth technology. Best electric smoker for the high-end buyer. Excellent quality.
- 40 in. cabinet provides 4.5 cu. ft. of cooking space
- Smart device remote capability and mobile app controls
- Dual elements for faster, more even cooking, provides capability to hot or cold smoke
- Easy fill water port on side of smoker (pictured)
- Large capacity external fill wood chip box (pictured)
- 4 chrome plated cooking grids with adjustable height settings
- Stand included with wheels
- Sure lock door latch
This electric smoker certainly has the wow factor. Not only is it a beautiful appliance to look at, it has absolutely everything you could possibly want and has an incredibly large cooking area. This makes it perfect for home use and professional catering. Quality like this doesn’t come cheap and this makes the Smoke Hollow D4015RS the most expensive electric smoker in this review. That being said, it’s worth every cent and you could end up paying more for a less impressive product. So, in the high-end of the market, this is easily the best value for money.
“cold smoking” | Smoke fish & cheeses without overcooking.
Once you’ve taken in the good looks of this smoker, you’ll want to head on to the more important stuff – how well does it function? This electric smoker is 99% of the way to reaching absolute perfection. At least in my opinion. I was surprised to see that it got quite a low rating on Amazon, though this seems like a minor issue. From what I can see, the low ratings have been because of the phone app that you can download from Google Play or iOS. Really guys? To give one of the best electric smokers a 1 or 2 star rating because they’ve had some teething problems with the phone app seems to me, to be outrageous.
Sure, having Bluetooth connectivity is all the rage these days and is a very convenient thing to have. Though even without Bluetooth, the actual smoker is far better than most comparable units on the market. I’ve seen many automated appliances that make use of phone apps and, in most cases, they’re not worth much in the beginning. It always seems to take software developers quite a long time before they get things right. It’s only after customer response, that they start to get the idea of what we actually want and how we use it.
I guarantee that, as you’re reading this, they’re already updating the software for the app. So an improved version will be available soon – if not already. The wonderful thing about smart technology is that it will constantly be upgraded and you don’t have to replace the product to get updates, you simply download them. So, personally, I can’t see the app software being a big issue. Certainly not enough to give a 5-star product a low rating.
Having got all that off my chest, I want to explain why I feel that this is such a fantastic electric smoker. Starting with the size, the Smoke Hollow is a real winner. This 40” electric smoker provides an incredible 4.5 cubic feet of cooking space. It also has the power to deal with the large quantities that you can fit into the smoker. The dual heating elements are capable of getting the smoke going in record time, the wood chips will smoking and ready for use within 15-minutes. Once it reaches the desired temperature, it stays there, no matter how full the cooking cabinet is.
The electronic control panel is fantastic and wonderfully easy to use. It also includes an electronic temperature probe, so you can check the temperature into the center of your meat and control the smoker accordingly. This is something I find to be incredibly useful. You have the option of three heat settings at the touch of a button. The cold smoke function is really great, allowing you to smoke delicate foods, like cheese or fish, without any worries. This is something that even experienced chefs can’t always get right, so it’s amazing that the Smoke Hollow does this for you. It also has a fast smoke setting and a hot smoke setting. You can choose to set your temperature exactly where you want it if the pre-programmed settings aren’t what you want. To set or check the smoke chamber temperature, or the probe temperature, is really easy and self-explanatory. Timer settings are also done just as easily.
It has a large glass door and a bright LED light so you can see exactly what’s going on inside at any time. The heat distribution is excellent, so you really can just set the smoker to do what you want it to and leave it to do its thing without any further input from you. The electronic door lock function is also excellent. There are two access drawers that you can open at any time without disturbing the smoking process. One is a woodchip drawer that is enormous, holding enough woodchips to last up to 8-hours at lower temperatures, down to about 5-hours if you set the temperature really high. The second, water drawer, is just as big and this means that you can add liquid flavors at any time during the smoking process.
The strong steel construction is enhanced by a very durable (and attractive) coating that’s going to last for years. It has a sturdy base upon which it stands and, even though it weighs only 51.6-pounds, it has wheels which make it really easy to move.
The Smoke Hollow D4015RS is undoubtedly just about the best electric smoker that money can buy. Admittedly, they’re having problems with the smartphone app, but you can be sure they’ll sort this out in time. In every other aspect, it’s magnificent, well-made, and incredibly user-friendly. Though the price may seem high, it’s very reasonably priced for a product of this class. It’s a high-end electric smoker for the discerning buyer.
Char-Broil Deluxe — 17402004-A1
Best electric smoker if you need a large cooking area.
- 725 square inch capacity across 4 easily adjustable or removable racks.
- Insulated, double-wall construction.
- Removable food thermometer.
- Glass door
- Large, stainless steel locking latch for smoke-tight seal.
- Wheels and integrated handle for easy mobility.
- Stainless steel, dual-tone finish.
The Char-Broil Deluxe 17402004-A1 has the power and practicality to match electric smokers that cost considerably more. It also has some great features that defy its reasonable price. Quality materials and excellent build-quality make this a real bargain. Though in some areas it may be a little basic. For a reasonably large and very well-made electric smoker at this price, I’m prepared to overlook some aspects that aren’t quite as good as the high-end products that cost a good deal more.
When it comes to size, you’re really scoring, compared to others of the same price and general quality. It has four racks that fit into an area of 725 sq.in. This is roughly the same size as the Masterbuilt 20071117, which is a cheaper product. But the Charbroil Deluxe has a lot more going for it. For one thing, it has the power to contend with its size. So you can fill it to capacity and still maintain the temperature, even for hot smoking. The great, super insulated double wall design helps this along, especially in cold weather.
The stainless steel front panel and door look great and are as durable as it gets. The strong stainless steel door latch also ensures a perfect seal and it’s going to last. The rest of the body has a tough powder coating that hardly gets hot at all, thanks to the excellent insulation. It also has an internal light so can see how your meat is faring.
The touch controls are basic and easy to follow. There are no fancy settings. You set your temperature and time, that’s it. The remote control is handy, you don’t have to be at the smoker to control it and it has a very reliable meat probe. You can see if your meat is cooked through by simply checking the internal temperature, this is the best way of doing things. It also has warming feature, which is a really nice convenience to have.
What I don’t like is the fact that you have to open the door to add wood-chips or fluid to the water tray. While both are reasonably large, you’ll probably have to add either wood-chips or water before your meat is completely smoked. By opening the door to do this, smoke and heat escape and this not what you want.
The Char-Broil Deluxe looks great and is built solid, yet it weighs just over 50 LBS so it’s very portable. In addition the low weight it has wheels for even easier mobility. For an electric smoker at the lower end of the price range, this one offers a lot. It’s ultra-durable, reliable and has the power that you want.
4-Rack — Best Electric Smoker
- Bradley automatic smoke generator enables you to smoke up to 9 hours.
- Fully automatic smoke and controlled heat.
- Digital timer and temperature display.
- Uses Bradley Flavor Bisquettes, available in 12 different flavors.
- Ideal for all meats, fish, even vegetables, nuts and cheeses.
- Available in 4-Rack and 6-Rack (BTDS108P)
The Bradley BTDS76P is one of the more expensive electric smokers on the market. It’s not quite as pricey as the Smoke Hollow D4015RS but it doesn’t quite match the Smoke Hollow in terms of power and doesn’t have as many user-friendly functions. The Bradley does have something that none of the others have, that’s the automated “Bisquette” feeder. I’ll look at this unique feature in some detail when reviewing the product.
In terms of size, the Bradley BTDS76P is up there with the best of them. So it can cater for large parties and will service most restaurants with ease. It’s a little disappointing to see that they’ve only used a 500W heating element for such a large electric smoker. An inability to reach high temperatures in cold climates seems to the only real complaint about this product. Even with the optional cover that helps to keep the heat inside, it hasn’t performed too when the ambient temperature is too low.
Now onto the big Bradley selling point – the “Bisquette” smoking system. Instead of placing wood chips into a metal holder, the Bradley feeds wood discs, which they call Bisquettes into the smoker. They look a lot like hockey pucks and most people call them wood pucks. This means that you can stack the pucks into a large chute and set the smoke intensity that you want by means of the digital control panel. Not only can you decide on the smoke intensity, you never need to check if the woodchip tray has been exhausted.
There’s a huge range of masterfully blended Bisquettes. You can stick to traditional smoking woods or choose any of the blends that have perfected by leading chefs. These blended flavors mean that you don’t need to worry about a water pan to add your additional flavors. It’s all been done for you and the flavors have been perfectly selected and perfected by experts. People really love this feature, but I’ve seen some complaints about the price of Briquettes. I’ve seen some sites mentioning cheaper imitations, but I’m not sure if they’re any good. What few seem to realize is that Bradley sell large boxes that contain 120 Bisquettes and this works out much cheaper than the standard boxes of 48. So you can buy in bulk and save.
The smoker also has a cold smoke attachment that is sold separately but is one of the best for cold smoking. It’s a chiller that you install between the smoker unit and the actual smoking chamber or oven. This allows you to create as much smoke as you want to for the intended flavor and have it cool enough for delicate smoking.
The controls are logical and easy to follow. You can adjust the time, temperature and smoke intensity by selecting either and then toggling up or down with the arrow buttons. An LCD display will give you all the relevant information. The smoker and oven have separate timers and you can set the oven to low and keep the food warm without smoking it. In fact, you can use just the oven without the smoker if you want to have a conventional oven that use on your patio.
It doesn’t have meat probe, which is something I’d expect in this price range. It also doesn’t have a remote control or phone app, like most of the high-end smoker do. Though with a fully automated system that controls the smoke intensity, time, and temperature, you don’t really need a remote control.
Bradley smokers are known to be reliable products of a high quality standard. The BTDS76P is not top of the range product, the bigger BS916 has six racks and a smartphone app, though it considerably more expensive. The BTDS76P does share the same high standards as the more expensive models from the brand. This means an all stainless steel interior and a very elegant brushed stainless steel exterior. It has all the makings of a high-end electric smoker without a very big price tag. The only area where this smoker doesn’t excel is in the lower power of its heating element.
Tech Specs (Bradley Smoker BTDS76P):
- Exterior Dimensions : 17″W x 14″D x 31″HT – 24″W with Generator on side
- Interior Dimensions : 15″W x 11.5″D x 25.5″HT
- Smoking Area : 19″ HT usable smoking area above drip tray
- Rack Area : 572sq” (4 x 11 x 13)
- Interior Construction : Polished Stainless Steel
- Exterior Construction : Powder Epoxy Steel
- Internal Cooking Volume : 2288 sq. inches
- Cooking Element Watts : 500
- Smoking Element Watts : 125
- Power : 120 V 50 – 60 Hz, 5.5 Amps (European: 240 Volt – 50 Hz) ETL & CE Listed
- Maximum Temperature : 280ºF
- Minimum Temperature : Subject to ambient temperature
- Digital Controls : Temperature, Time, Smoke
- Adjustable Racks : 4 racks (11″ X 13″ cooking space each)
30” Bluetooth Smart Technology : Best Digital Electric Smoker
- 721 sq. in. of cooking space with four chrome-coated smoking racks
- Digital panel controls on/off, temperature, time, and light; monitors internal meat temperature
- Blue LED digital control panel display with removable sun shade
- Handheld device becomes a remote control for the smoker with integrated Bluetooth Smart technology
This model is quite a step up from the Masterbuilt 20071117 that I wrote about at the start of this review. It has the functions and features that you would find on the most expensive electric smokers, but doesn’t cost nearly as much. It’s a great bargain and is available in either 30” or 40”, so you can get a large model if you prefer.
I like the stainless steel and other durable materials used to construct this product. I’m surprised to see such good quality at this price. The 800W heating element gives it great power, so it won’t have the same issues at higher temperature settings as the cheaper Masterbuilt option. It does need some extra power because this model has a glass window in the door, whereas the 2007117 has a solid metal door. Glass is great to see what’s happening inside, but it doesn’t insulate as well, so you end up using a little more electricity and need a more powerful element.
VIDEO | Learn more about the Masterbuilt 20072115
It also has a meat probe, LED interior light and Bluetooth connectivity for remote control via a smart device. So it has a full-house when it comes to high-end user functions. Naturally, you get programmable temperature control and a timer as well. The woodchip box and water tray are situated inside the smoking chamber and there’s a side opening that allows you to add more woodchips whilst the smoker is in operation. To fill the water tray, you need to open the door, but it’s very large and you’ll probably only need to fill it before you start and then leave it.
Masterbuilt electric smokers seem to be a big favorite amongst home smokers. I suppose it’s because of the high level of quality, good spec level and lower than average price that makes these appliances so attractive. For an electric smoker with all the modern conveniences at a very reasonable price, I can see why the Masterbuilt 20071115 is so popular.
How to use an Electric Smoker
Using an electric smoker is really easy and is the most trouble-free way to get perfectly smoked meat, fish, vegetables, and even cheese. If you can operate a microwave or standard convection oven, you’re almost there. There are, however, a few important things to know about your electric smoker before you begin. These aren’t difficult to master and I’ll guide you through the process.
Get to know Your Electric Smoker
Each electric smoker is different and they all have their own little quirks. So it’s important to study your instruction manual before you start using your electric smoker for the first time. Be sure to take note of the manufacturer’s recommendations and tips. You may have owned one of these appliances before but each model is unique and some seemingly insignificant detail, might make a big difference in how your electric smoker performs and how long it will remain in top condition.
I’ll also provide some tips on getting the best out of your electric smoker.
Cure Your New Electric Smoker
When you receive your new electric smoker, you may be really excited about getting cracking and will want to put it to use. Though before you use it for the first time, your electric smoker needs to be cured or seasoned.
When it leaves the factory, your electric smoker will have solvents and possibly metal dust and other contaminants left over from the manufacturing process. You want to get rid of any toxic elements before you put any food into your electric smoker. Your instruction booklet will most definitely advise you on this. But I’m going to give you a quick rundown of the procedure because this is of vital importance.
It really isn’t difficult. You need to coat the inside of the smoker with vegetable oil and then switch it on. Leave the smoker on for 2-hours and then switch it off. Then cover it and leave it to cool down completely. You only need to do this once, when the appliance is brand new.
Maintaining Your Electric Smoker
There will always be fat that drips down the sides of the smoker walls and bits of whatever you were smoking is likely to stick to the racks. It’s important to clean the interior and racks of your smoker after every use. Otherwise, you will get unwanted odors which are not only unhygienic, they will affect the taste of your food.
A handy tip is to line the base of your smoker with aluminum foil. Most of the fat will collect at the bottom and the foil will make it much easier to clean when you’re done.
Selecting Your Woodchips
There is an endless selection of woodchips available for your smoker and it will take some time before you get to know which work best for what. The most common smoking woodchips like hickory, alder, plum, and cedar will be available in most stores and are easy to get. Though there are a lot of options and, as you get to know more, you can become more adventurous.
If you want to know everything there is about smoking food and get amazing recipes, I highly recommend this book: Smoke it like a Pit Master with Your Electric Smoker by Wendy O’Neal
Prepare Your Meat Properly
Prepare your meat the night before. Leaving it to stand overnight after using a dry rub or placing it in a marinade will give the flavors a chance to infuse the meat.
There are no strict rules on what to use when making a dry rub or marinade. You can get an excellent variety of store-bought rubs and marinades, or you can make your own.
Smoking Your Meat
Once you’ve prepared your meat and selected the woodchips that you want to use, you’re ready to start. Unlike gas smokers, you don’t need to soak your wood chips with an electric smoker. Though opinions vary on this. I wouldn’t concern myself too much about the soaking issue, the woodchips work just fine if you place directly into the vessel that comes with your electric smoker.
Most electric smokers have a water pan, otherwise, you can use any suitable heat-proof container for the water. Adding extra flavor to the water will give your meat a distinct and unique flavor. Whiskey is a very popular one to use, but there are others.
Place your woodchips and water in the smoker and set your temperature. I recommend around 225°F for red meat, others say 200°F. I guess anywhere between 200 and 225°F is fine. Chicken wants a higher temperature (around 280° – 320° F) and you’ll want to smoke chicken for a shorter period of time because it dries out easily. Fish is complicated. Ideally, you want to cold smoke fish. Otherwise, use a low temperature for a short period of time – an hour or less. You really just want to flavor the fish and not cook it.
Before placing your meat inside the smoker, let it reach the correct temperature, so you’ll preheat the smoker. You’ll set the timer according to the amount of, and type of meat you’re smoking and this can be up to 8-hours.
It’s likely that your woodchips will burn out before the meat is ready. You may add more, but it’s often not a good idea. Some wood will leave the meat bitter if you smoke it too much, so you need to get a feel for this. Beginners should check recipes for guidance.