The 7 Best Electric Smokers
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in July of 2015. No longer solely the domain of Southern chefs or salmon producers, smoking has moved into all kinds of cuisine, using every kind of food you can imagine. Our selection of convenient electric smokers includes something for everyone, from the backyard amateur to the restaurant professional, and even the road traveler. We've rated them here by precision, durability, and overall value. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 03, 2020:
First of all, it's been brought to our attention that Masterbuilt, who also acquired Smoke Hollow somewhat recently, doesn't produce nearly as high-quality smokers as they once did. An alarming number of users are up in arms over apparently shoddy manufacturing, leading, among other things, to massive problems such as failed elements and thermostats after just a few uses, as well as finishes that bubble and flake away very quickly. Unfortunately, until these issues are resolved and new models are released, we can't in good conscience recommend any of these, so we've removed everything from Masterbuilt and Smoke Hollow.
In fact, to make sure we offered you the best suggestions, we dug deep for choices that are reliable and sure to satisfy, and what we found was questionable, in many cases. That's why we are only able to recommend seven electric smokers.
Both the Smokin-It Model #1 and Smokin-It Model #2 come highly recommended because of their stainless-steel construction and fiberglass installation. They're a little more pricey than standard consumer-focused models, but if you want a long-lasting piece of equipment, they're hard to beat. The Char-Broil Analog also offers double-wall insulation, so all three of these are great for colder climates.
The Pit Boss 77220 is a thoughtfully designed model with exterior access to the wood tray, and it's also elevated enough for easy use. If convenience isn't your main goal, the Old Smokey OSES is a good and inexpensive choice, on the other hand. The Traeger Scout, meanwhile, is great if you have an RV and can set up at a park or somewhere there's an electrical connection.
We also really like the Smokehouse Big Chief. Be aware, of course, that it's not actually designed to cook food, but only to add smoke flavor. This adds considerable work if you're working with large cuts of meat, but for things like steaks, burgers, fish, and cheese, it's a really great choice.
November 06, 2019:
There are two ways to go about smoking food. For a lot of home chefs, cold smoking is actually easier than traditional hot smoking, even though it does add an extra step. With a model like the Smokehouse Big Chief, for example, simply leave the food inside until it has the desired level of flavor, then transfer it to the oven or grill for finishing. Because it doesn't create a ton of the hottest, stickiest smoke, it's a little easier to deal with than some.
You can, of course, do that same thing with most of these items, and the Masterbuilt 40-Inch and Masterbuilt Smart Digital are two of the easiest to program; they both have different wireless connection options that give you hands-free control for the duration of the process. The Old Smokey OSES and Masterbuilt Portable are both considerably simpler than the rest, and as they're relatively lightweight, they're easy to move around, so if you throw block parties or family gatherings they're worth a look. Somewhere in the middle between the advanced units and the primitive are the Masterbuilt Smoke Hollow, and while they don't offer many fancy features, they're especially durable and straightforward, once you get them put together, that is. And if you're looking for the ultimate in smoky convenience, the Presto Indoor might be it; it's one of the very few that will fit easily in most home kitchens and it's designed to look as good as it smells.
If, like me, you're extremely enthusiastic about smoked meats, check out the Smokin-It Model #1 and Smokin Tex Pro 1400. They're a bit more expensive than the rest, but they are still a good value for the money because they're made from commercial-grade materials and offer a considerable amount of cooking space. If you need even more real estate, we've highlighted some excellent commercial-grade units in the Special Honors section, though of course those will run you a few thousand bucks or more.
Alto-Shaam Smokers If you've ever worked in a commercial kitchen before, you've almost certainly used an Alto-Shaam product. Their line of smokers is every bit as reliable and capable as any of their other appliances, and they come in single as well as dual models with well-sealing, durably constructed doors and walls, as well as premium heating elements and thermostats. alto-shaam.com
CookShack Commercial Between their SmartSmoker and Fast Eddy lines, CookShack makes something for nearly any size restaurant. They offer about as much capacity and convenience in large batches as anything, just be aware that the right one will cost you anywhere from a few thousand to over twenty thousand dollars. cookshack.com
Southern Pride SC-300 Southern Pride makes a number of highly effective propane models, and the SC-300, their only foray into the electric scene, is also a powerful tool for busy kitchens. It's designed for use with commercial electrical systems, offers a host of customizeable options, and can accommodate quite a bit of food. southernpride.com
Choosing Your Perfect Electric Smoker
It's a hands-on process that many cooks find daunting; others are unwilling to even try it.
Traditional smoke cooking means dutifully adding just the right amount of this or that wood and keeping the coals at the perfect heat to ensure foods are cooked safely while remaining moist and flavorful. It's a hands-on process that many cooks find daunting; others are unwilling to even try it. Thanks to technology, gone are the days when great smoked meat meant hours spent tending a fire, not to mention years of experience. Modern electric smokers make the process of balancing heat, smoke, and timing almost effortless. And if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of the romantic charm (and a lot of the effort) that comes with a wood-fired smoker in favor of amazing, reliable flavor, then an electric smoker is a smart move.
Once you have committed to buying an electric smoker, there are two primary considerations. As with many products, these considerations are price and size. The more cash you spend, the more cooking capacity you will get. But in fact, many electric smokers are too large for some homes, so size can be as much of a liability as an asset.
There are excellent compact electric smokers that take up about three square feet of "real estate" and there are behemoths that measure well over two feet across and weigh in at nearly 100 pounds even before you add meat. Make sure you take into account where you will be putting your electric smoker, especially if you plan to move it around.
Most electric smokers use wood chip trays that are filled before the cooking session. Some units offer access to these trays during the smoking process without the need for opening the main door, and these are good options for the chef who plans for extra long smoking. If you want the benefits of a long smoke cooking session without the hassle of periodically adding fresh wood, then consider an electric smoker that can be programmed to automatically add wood. These digitally controlled options make the process of slowly smoking foods blissfully easy and essentially remove the potential for human error.
Why Electric Smokers Are The Right Choice
Anyone who has used an electric smoker will admit that they are superior to wood fired smokers in several ways.
It's imperative that you not let the coals burn out entirely, ending the smoking process, and that you not let the heat grow too intense, overcooking your meats.
Ease of use is arguably the largest benefit an electric smoker affords its user. Even the basic process of igniting charcoals and/or hardwood can be a chore, and once the fire is lit, heat maintenance becomes a constant struggle. It's imperative that you not let the coals burn out entirely, ending the smoking process, and that you not let the heat grow too intense, overcooking your meats.
And even with a steadily smoldering smoke box, the maintenance of temperature control is a delicate dance with a standard smoker. With an electric smoker, however, the process of ignition is as easy as the flip of a switch, and maintaining a desired heat level is as easy as pushing a button or turning a dial.
If you are interested in cold smoking foods -- a process that imparts smoky flavor but does not actually cook a meat, perfect for preparing foods to be cooked later or for adding taste to already cooked meats -- then an electric smoker allows you to easily establish and maintain those lower temperatures perfect for the task. You can reliably cold smoke foods at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit in your electric smoker, adding smoky aroma and taste but not affecting proteins or fats.
A Few Words On Marinades
The hours spent smoking a piece of meat are the end of a process, not the entire process itself. Making great smoked meats starts with picking great quality cuts of brisket, pork, turkey, and more. But the next step isn't putting the meat in the smoker, it's marinating that meat for hours, if not overnight or longer.
A tasty and basic brine great for poultry consists of just three ingredients: salt, sugar, and water.
The general rule of thumb is to allow a piece of meat to marinate for about two hours per inch of thickness. So if you have a slender, tender piece of fillet mignon or a few pounded chicken breasts, a two hour marinating session should be fine. For thick pork chops or a robust roast beef, you need to give the meat at least four hours to soak up the flavors. And for larger food items, such as whole turkeys or full racks of ribs, you should let the mean marinate all day or over night.
You can buy plenty of great marinades from the store, or you can make them yourself. If you do make your own marinade, plan to use it all in short order, as it does not tend to keep well. (The ingredients separate over time, and marinades made with fresh herbs and spices are subject to spoiling.)
For an amazing, easy steak marinade, combine a half cup of red wine vinegar, a half cup of red table wine, and a half cup of oil (vegetable, grape, or safflower oil all work well) with a tablespoon of park, a tablespoon of dried mustard powder, a tablespoon of garlic powder, and a tablespoon of salt. Whisk away and then soak your meat for hours.
A tasty and basic brine great for poultry consists of just three ingredients: salt, sugar, and water. Mix a quarter cup of salt and a quarter cup of sugar (brown sugar works best) with three to four cups of water. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved and then submerge the turkey or chicken in the mixture and let it rest overnight.