The Best Electric Smokers Review of 2016 – Introduction
Can the best electric smoker really deliver in quality? It used to be that smoking meats was an exaggerated act of martyrdom: get up real early or stay up really late stoking the fires, checking the temperatures, and constantly monitoring the progress of your BBQ. It’s a rite of passage for many grill enthusiasts. Remember that first brisket? That first rib cook off that you won? Seeing their happy faces as they chow down on your finest work after all of that love and attention is worth it. Except, now we have electric smokers, and we can just sit back, drink beer, and watch football. All of that tradition is now right out the window! Let’s do some BBQ reviews electric style!
For some of us, we’ll still love our off-set grillers, and nothing beats a big ‘ole trailer rig for crowd-pleasing smoked BBQ performances. But for those of us who have limited time on the weekends, and need to be able to work on projects, take the kids to baseball, or just relax, electric smokers are just the thing.
- 1 The Best Electric Smokers Review of 2016 – Introduction
- 2 How Do Electric Smokers Work?
- 3 Why You Should Consider an Electric Smoker
- 4 Choosing The Best Electric Smoker
- 5 The Best Electric Smoker Reviews: Company Brands and Models
- 5.1 Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Black Electric Digital Smoker
- 5.2 Bradley 4 Rack Digital Smoker
- 5.3 Smoke Hollow 26142E Electric Smoker, 26-Inch
- 5.4 Char-Broil Simple Electric Smoker
- 5.5 Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker Review
- 5.6 Landmann USA Smoky Mountain Electric Smoker with Viewing Window Review
- 5.7 Little Chief Front Load Electric Smoker
- 5.8 Further Reading
How Do Electric Smokers Work?
There are two things that make our BBQ taste the way we like it: heat and smoke. The smokey flavors we like come from various wood sources, and the heat that cooks our meat may be the same wood, or it might be some charcoal. But the key thing is – get that meat cooked, and get it flavorful. Cooking smoked meat is all about flavor.
One of the challenges in accomplishing this is making sure that a consistent temperature is maintained during the process. You don’t want your meat undercooked, and you sure as heck don’t want it overcooked and tough. There’s nothing more embarrassing for those of us who take pride in our barbecue abilities.
So, in an attempt to mitigate the issue of heat consistency, electric smokers utilize electricity to heat your meats, and to create the smoke from the wood you want to use. You get the best of both worlds: the flavor you want, and the consistency you’re striving for.
There are many types of electric smokers for all types of purposes and budgets. Many require attention in that you need to add wood chips as necessary, but there are many on the market that have taken a page from the pellet grill guys – automatic feeding of “bisquettes,” a specifically-shaped wood “chip” that is fed into the electric smoker. The best electric smokers are hands-free. Combined with a control panel, and even via remote, you can make sure that your electric smoker is operating at peak performance, even if you can’t be right there to check it yourself.
Why You Should Consider an Electric Smoker
Electric smokers are flexible grilling appliances that allow you to cook a wide variety of food. Meat, fish, vegetables, you name it. They’re convenient and hassle free. Compared to gas and charcoal, they’re cheaper to operate. They also are more consistent than wood, from a heating element standpoint.
You can get into electric smokers for under 300 dollars. Some units run under 200 dollars. If you’re new to smoking meat, fish, and other food, then electric smokers may be the way to go. They do all the work, and you get all the glory. The best electric smoker will have remote thermostatic controls and timers, so you can pretend that you’ve been slaving away all day.
Want to see what you can do with an electric smoker? Check out Robert Bogetti cook up 17.5 lbs of brisket in an electric smoker!
Choosing The Best Electric Smoker
Like any other grill, there are standard features and attributes that must be included in an electric smoker that is worthy of consideration. You also should consider that not all grill enthusiasts have the same needs, so consider your own when reading comments and reviews.
Here are things to consider when deciding on the best electric smoker for you:
Material and Design
The best electric smoker will feature heavy gauge stainless steel will provide rigidity to the frame, as well as help insulate the unit. It also means that the unit won’t begin to “sag” or bend in a way during its lifetime that would keep the door from staying sealed properly. It should also be properly insulated throughout – if you can’t touch the outside of the smoker because it’s too hot, that means it’s leaking heat, and that’s inefficient.
Most electric smokers are easily powered by a standard wall AC plug. Just be sure that once you get into any professional-grade price-brackets that you don’t need to take power draw into consideration. It’s unlikely that you’ll run across that situation, but it’s always good to be aware.
Some of these units can get quite large, and quite heavy. Consider the amount of cooking you’re going to be doing, and the types of meat you want to cook. Do you need a larger smoker, or could you get away with a smaller unit? If you’re going to be cooking a lot of smaller cuts of meat or vegetables, you should make sure you get lots of racks with it. If you’re cooking larger cuts, make sure that the racks are adjustable. Getting the appropriate sized smoker can save you money or save you heartache in the long run. The best electric smoker doesn’t necessarily need to be the biggest. In fact, one electric smoker in our list had several amazing features coupled with incredible portability, making it the best electric smoker in its class.
Basic electric smokers have analog controls and temperature sensors. They don’t have any type of auto shut-off or easy access to refill water and wood chips. Once you step up a level or two, you get these conveniences. Spend a little more, and you have a full-automated digital electric smoker that allows you to do other things while your food cooks, which we think is the primary function of a product worthy of being called the best electric smoker. Keep these features in mind when you’re reading electric smoker reviews: what is important to you may not be important to others.
The Best Electric Smoker Reviews: Company Brands and Models
Just like with charcoal, gas, pellet, and other types of grills, anything new will eventually get adopted by the big guys, and since electric smokers have been on the market for a couple of years, we now have a large selection to choose from, and a track record to check. Here are a few of the best electric smoker models we’ve researched.
Masterbuilt is a family-owned business started in 1973, and is located in Columbus, Georgia. They manufacture one of the most popular and affordable electric smokers on the market. This stand-up smoker has a digital control so you get a consistent temperature throughout. Optional models include an advanced controller with remote functionality, and still sell for under $300.
The Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smoker is one of the top selling best electric smoker models in the world. It has stellar customer reviews, and the company is highly regarded in the community. It’s durable, feature-rich, and delivers some of the best electric smoker performance in its class. It’s a good, cheap smoker that’s handy to have around the home. Here’s what you need to know about this electric smoker:
- Cooking space: 730 square inches over four racks gives you plenty of room for large cuts of meat, full chickens, and just about any other combination you can think of. When you’re looking to smoke meat, you want to go big, because it’s a big job, and there’s no reason not to cook as much as you think your family and friends can enjoy.
- 4 chrome-coated racks: this is great because the chrome resists rust, and is easy to clean. The meat won’t easily stick to it, and the fact that there’s four of them means you can vary the distance from the heating element and wood chips to suit your preference.
- Digital temperature and timer controls: you’ll want to make sure you keep the smoker at a consistent temperature, and if you know what you’re doing, you can set it and forget it, with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the timer control will shut off the unit when it’s appropriate. That will make sure you aren’t over-cooking your food, which can lead to dry, disappointing final product.
- 800 Watt heating element: when you’re cooking large cuts of meat, the temperature tends to dip due to laws of thermodynamics. Having a powerful heating element helps bring that temperature up to a consistent leve.
- 100 to 275F operation: being able to maintain a low or high temperature gives you more flexibility in the type of food you can cook. It also allows you to keep the final product warm while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- Sideloading wood chips, removable drip pan: being able to load the wood chips without opening the front door goes a long way to keeping the heat consistent, and delivers a more consistent product. The removable drip pan makes for a very easy clean up.
- Top air damper: dampers are good for controlling the level of smoke that your meat is exposed to. This will help you get the exact flavor that you’re looking for.
What We Liked
There are more customer reviews on this unit than just about any other on the market, with many saying it’s the best electric smoker to buy. Professional reviews are a great place to start when looking for any product, but end-user customer feedback is invaluable. We also liked the fact that it’s well-insulated. That helps it maintain temperatures in all types of weather, and keeps it efficient as well. Replacement parts are relatively cheap, and the heating element is easy to swap out.
What To Look Out For
The fact a heating element is the most likely part to fail in any electric smoker is always a concern, but a rare occurrence. Masterbuilt mitigates this hassle by making their heating element easy to swap at an affordable price. They also have fantastic customer service. In addition, some consider the power cord a little short, but we don’t know a situation where one wouldn’t use an extension cord in any situation in order to place the smoker where one desired. These are minor gripes, however.
This smoker is a great option for those looking to get into smoking meats for the first time. The consistent temperature, gracious cooking space, and timed operation make for a stress-free introduction to smoked BBQ. It’s the all-around best electric smoker for its price.
Bradley Smoker has been around for years, and their latest incarnation of their best electric smoker brings some very unique and useful functionality. It’s about the most hands-free electric smoker on the market. “Bisquettes” are custom wood-chip creations from Bradley, and are used to provide consistent smoke for about 8 hours, once the hopper is fully loaded. It’s a very unique design, with two heating elements; one heats the food, the other heats the bisquettes, providing the smoke.
- 4-Rack outdoor smoker with user-friendly digital controls: easy to use, high tech controls that provides for plenty of food on four different racks. You can easily adjust the amount of smoke and cooking time.
- 500-Watt stainless-steel heating bar; 125-watt burner: two different heating elements independently control the smoking of the bisquettes and the food.
- Smoke generator automatically feeds wood bisquettes: this is one of the best features of this electric smoker. Being able to set it and forget it, with all that you need to do automatically looked after by the feeder and the digital controls gives you the peace of mind to go about getting the rest of the meal ready.
- Adjustable time, smoke, and temperature settings: make sure that you’re dialing in the results you want ahead of time, which allows you to focus on other things during the day. You can get a full 8 hours of smoke in without having to lift a finger. Just refill the hopper with bisquettes when they run out.
- Measures 14 by 24 by 31 inches; 1-year limited warranty: it’s really not that big for what you get, and how much this product can handle. The warranty is excellent, and Bradley is focused on the best electric smoker customer service.
What We Liked
Did we mention it automatically smokes your meat? The wood-chip bisquettes are automatically fed to the heating element about every 20 minutes. That’s one of the primary reasons that people flock to this product. And it’s not a new-fangled gadget that needs the kinks worked out. Bradley has been refining this platform for years, and this incarnation brings the best of the latest technology to the tablet to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth.
What to look out for
Bradley is the only company selling bisquettes, so you’re stuck with the flavors and quality that they provide. Which is fine, the product they offer is high quality and gives you plenty of options in terms of flavor. Do note that this system may have issues hitting 200F during extremely cold weather, but that’s not uncommon for smoker units. Be sure to plan accordingly.
The Bradley Digital 4 Rack Electric Smoker is an extremely unique product backed by a company that’s been in the grilling business for years. It’s the best electric smoker for those who want a truly hands-off experience. We highly recommend this unique product as one of the best electric smokers on the list.
Smoke Hollow makes one of the most popular and affordable electric smokers on the market. This 26 inch compact smoker is perfect for the beginner smoker, as a gift, or for an experienced pro that needs some extra capabilities during large cookouts. It’s no-frills; there aren’t any fancy digital controls or automatic feeders. You get a heating element, a water pan and wood chip pan, and a damper. From there, it’s all about experimenting and finding the right combination of temperature and time to get the results you want. But BBQ grilling is all about exploring, and Smoke Hollow’s electric smoker gives you the opportunity to do just that. Here’s what you need to know about this smoker:
- Includes 1500-watt heating element with fully adjustable and removable temperature control: get the unit up to temperature quickly and keep it there. The granular control will ensure that the heating element hits the temperature you need and keep it there.
- Two (2) chrome-plated cooking grids are included and can be adjusted to variable heights to accommodate various sizes of meat.
- Water and wood chip pan are included, and it’s important to keep the water pan fool, and refill the chips every hour or so.
- Commercial quality heat indicator – it’s a decent unit, but like many inexpensive units, you may prefer to upgrade this yourself down the line.
- Side handles and cool-touch spring wire door handle with latch system allow you to open the door without mitts and without burning yourself.
Smoke Hollow has built themselves a smart little electric smoker that should entice anyone looking to get into grilling. It could also make a great gift for Father’s Day. While it doesn’t feature any of the fancy controls that other, more expensive units might have, it also cooks a good piece of meat, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. The Smoke Hollow 26142E Electric Smoker should definitely be on your list of considerations when looking for the best electric smoker for the job.
The Char-Broil Simple Smoker with SmartChef Technology is a natural and user friendly smoker that is quite unique among various classes of smokers, be they intended for amateurs or professionals. This product allows you to prepare your smoked food easily without having to keep constant watch on the meat. This is because this Simple Smoker works with the SmartChef application which provides you with updates about when your food is ready.
- Integrated Meat Probe: There is an integrated meat probe which you will have to place in the centre of the meat your meat before placing it in the cooking basket. It is this probe that helps the SmartChef app read the temperature data of the meat that’s being smoked.
- Real Time Prediction: By observing the temperature of the meat being smoked and the internal chamber of the smoker, this smoker’s app helps you estimate when the meat will be done. Of course it does this with te aid of the integrated meat probe. This feature right here should be on any product wanting to claim the title of best electric smoker.
- Capacity: For a small, simple smoker, the Char-Broil Simple Smoker is very capable. It does not have multiple cooking shelves but its cooking basket can contain some 16-lb of chicken. Now this is formidable if you are looking for quite some space for something so simple.
- Flexible External Smoke Box: This feature makes it possible for the user to refill wood chips before or during the cooking process.
What We Liked
Truly, the comfort of ‘smoking my meat from a distance’ is really worth the price of the smoker and the SmartChef app concept. For one, there will be no need to check the meat from time to time as would have been the case in the days of the cave dweller. All you have to do is attach the meat probe, connect to the app and hang on till the end. The heating element is 750 watts, which is good for a unit this small. This The smoker is capable of very consistent temperatures since its designers featured its heating elements strategically on its sides, not the bottom.
What To Look Out For
Just like I found out after several days of trial and errors, you may have to devote some time to studying the SmartChef application. For instance, once the cooking starts, you will be unable to edit the programmed instructions. You have to abort the cook before you can edit anything. This smoker has cooking baskets, as opposed to the many flat racks that are characteristic of most advanced smokers. But if you are fine with some little extra cleaning, this should not be a problem. Lastly, you will be a bit disappointed if you are a fan of water pans.
This smoker is a strong contender for consideration of being the best electric smoker for you if portability is a concern. We think it’s a great option for anyone who is just starting out with electric smokers, but you’ll have to refill the wood chip box every hour. Though it may not have the capacity of bigger smokers or the reputation of industry leaders when it comes to electric smokers, it offers you virtually all that a smoker has to offer in a compact, basic, and user-friendly package. Its the best electric smoker for users who value portability above all else
The Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker is designed for the smoking enthusiast who wants to cook for large groups, without the hassle of traditional charcoal smokers. This product features Char-Broil’s Smart Technology, making it the perfect choice for chefs of all experience levels. With 725-square inches of cooking space and 4 adjustable smoking racks, you can easily entertain large dinner groups.
- Washable and Removable Integrated Meat Probe: Before you begin cooking, simply place the probe into the meat. The probe tracks the internal temperature of the meat. Once it has reached a pre-determined temperature, the smoker will alert you that it has finished cooking. This takes the guess work out of smoking, and ensures your meat is done to your liking.
- Premium Insulated Double Wall Construction: This smoker is designed to lock in heat for maximum efficiency. When the wood chip box is filled, it will produce up to 7 hours of uninterrupted smoke.
- Large Cooking Capacity: This smoker features 725 square inches of internal cooking space. It also contains 4 cooking racks that you can easily adjust to fit almost any type of meat. This large cooking space is ideal when you are cooking for large groups.
- Digital Controls and Portable Remote: This model is equipped with a portable remote that allows you to program your temperature settings, and monitor your meat while it smokes. You can also choose from two different cooking modes: by time or by internal temperature. With the remote, you don’t have to constantly run back to the smoker to check it’s progress.
What We Liked
This smoker is incredibly easy to use. Like the Simple Electric Smoker that’s also from Char-Broil, this model is equipped with their Smart Technology and integrated meat probe. This feature makes smoking your meat nearly foolproof since it removes all the guesswork. This one also features a great amount of cooking space for large families, or for people who love to entertain. This smoker also has a large wood chip box so you don’t have to constantly refill it.
What to Look Out For
The remote is not quite as convenient as it could be. Call me lazy, but unfortunately the remote does not come equipped with an audible alarm. You have to remember to monitor your meat in order to see the alarm. This model has also received mixed reviews in terms of reliability. Some customers have reported problems regarding heat regulation inside the unit. This can sometimes be due to a faulting heating element, which is a very easy fix. Overall, however, this system has a 4/5 average review on Amazon, which puts it near the head of the pack and contender for best electric smoker. It’s also a top-seller, so any issues will be more apparent online than for products that do not sell as well.
This is a great smoker for someone with little smoking experience, and who wants enough room to cook in larger quantities. This product’s price tag also makes it ideal for someone who is looking for an affordable model with a large cooking capacity. Its Smart Technology makes the smoking process pretty much foolproof. It’s the best electric smoker for accurate meat temperatures in its price range.
The Landmann USA Smoky Mountain Electric Smoker with Viewing Window has a price tag that makes it very attractive for those looking for an entry-level model. Although it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of more expensive models, this product still gets the job done. It provides optimal temperature ranges for the most common smoking applications.
- 3-in-1 Compartment for Easy Access & Clean Up: This model features a 3-in-1 compartment that holds the wood chip box, water pan and grease tray. This makes adding wood chips and water very easy. It also allows for a hassle free clean up.
- Independent Plug-In Temperature Controller: Set the smoker to your desired temperature with simple controls.
- Capacity: Features 443 square inches of cooking space, as well as 3 chrome plated cooking grids.
- Double-Wall Door with Viewing Window: With a large viewing window, you can easily monitor your meat’s progress. This stops you from opening the door and letting out smoke and heat.
- Adjustable Feet: This model features 4 adjustable feet so that you can level the smoker on uneven surfaces. It also has wrought iron handles so you can easily transport the smoker as needed.
What We Liked
This is a great, no-fuss electric smoker. It is incredibly easy to use, which makes it great for anyone who is new to smoking. Although it does not come with any integrated metal probes like the Char-Broil models, you can compensate for this easily. The viewing window allows you to monitor your meat. It also allows you to use any old oven proof thermometer. Simply stick the thermometer in your meat, and keep an eye on it through the window. It’s not exactly fancy, or the most convenient way to do it. But it will save you some money if you’re not ready to leap into a higher end smoker.
What to Look Out For
This model lacks the “automatic” cooking features of some of the higher end models. You don’t get any fancy apps or remotes to check your smoking progress with this model. The only way to check your meat is to do it the old fashion way – getting up from the couch and peeking through the window. You will also want to consider the amount of meat you plan to smoke. This model only gets up to about 225 degrees. So don’t plan on using this smoker for a large turkey unless you have a ton of time to spend refilling the wood chips and water.
It’s important to understand that with a model like this, you truly get you pay for. Similar to the Smoke Hollow 26-inch Electric smoker, this model takes a no-frills approach. If you’re new to smoking, and looking for a model to test the waters, this is a wonderful place to start. The Landmann model will smoke a great piece of meat, however, you should expect to do a bit of experimenting to perfect your technique. If you want to simplify the smoking process and benefit from the convenience of smoking technology, you should look into purchasing a higher end model.
If you are a beginner or you just want something basic and convenient, you may be satisfied with the Little Chief Front Load Electric Smoker. The Little Chief is the medium sized version of a series of front load smokers made by Smokehouse Products. This smoker is light, convenient and efficient. The Little Chief smoker can easily cook up to 25lbs of any meat, fish, beef, pork, poultry or any other game.
- Capacity: The Little Chief Front Load Electric Smoker has the capacity to grill up to 25lbs of meat or fish easily. The Little Chef is the medium version size so it is not the biggest type of smoker you want to purchase to cook to large groups of people. However, with a capacity of 25lbs, it is more than enough for daily life and family meals.
- Racks: There is 4 chrome plated grills that are designed for easy slide-in and out of the smoker. Even though there are 4 racks, inside the smoker, there are 5 grids you can slide the grates in order to give you a little extra space for bigger pieces of meat.
- Aluminum construction: This is probably the best feature of this smoker. The Little Chief is built almost entirely with aluminum so the material is not easily rusted and can last for decades. Also, aluminum makes the smoker extra light so you can easily pick it up and carry it around.
- Heating: 120-volt burner and 250-watt heating element. Only one non-adjustable heating option at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
What We Liked
What we like most about this must be the simplicity of this smoker. No fancy feature, no extra attachments that weigh the smoker down. It is basic, simple and to the point. Since the first moment with this smoker, we already figure how hassle-free this smoker is. There is no assembly needed. You open the door in the front, easily slide in the racks then plug it in. There is no need much to customize or adjust anything. There is only one set temperature and no extra feature. You may move the racks between the 5 grids inside, but that’s it and you are ready to smoke away.
Also, as mentioned earlier, the aluminum construction is a great feature. Many smokers built from other types of materials are thrown away after a while because of heavy rust. The aluminum helps the Little Chief avoids a decent amount of rust over the years of usage. Furthermore, aluminum makes the smoker very light which is easy to carry around. For an outdoor only smoker like Little Chief, the ability to be picked up easily sure is a plus.
What to look out for
The great point of this smoker is its basic and simple in function. However, that may work for some people but not to many others. Having basic function also means missing out on many other extra features that other smokers can offer but Little Chef could not. There is only one temperature setting. The racks are non-adjustable so you can only fit in pieces of meat as big. Depending on your need and experience, you need to consider whether or not the simplicity or the lack-of-functions of Little Chief is for you.
Little Chief is a good product, it’s not necessarily the best electric smoker for everyone. Its price is attractive, however, and that means something.