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Electric vs Charcoal Smokers: Which is Best for You?

Electric vs. charcoal smokers is a great debate among BBQ lovers. While both have their benefits, in most cases, it all boils down to personal preferences. Some people prefer the convenience of an electric smoker, while others love getting their hands dirty by smoking meat the most authentic way using a charcoal smoker.

 

If you’re a beginner and can’t decide between electric vs. charcoal smokers, then read on to learn the differences and find out which one is perfect for you.

 

Let’s get started!

 

Electric Smoker General Overview

Electric smokers use a heating element instead of an open flame. After setting the wood chips or pellets, the heat and smoke generated cooks the meat or vegetables you set on the upper chamber. It’s no different than operating an electric oven. Opting for a digital model is a great decision for beginners, so they don’t have to worry about setting the temperature.

 

Charcoal Smoker General Overview

Charcoal smokers are the most basic types of smokers in which charcoal burns at the bottom to generate heat, and wood chips burn on top of it to create the smoker. Even though this sounds basic, it’s not easy because the smoker requires more attention and manual temperature control. But in the end, you get an unmatched, intense smoky flavor.

Broil King 923610 Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Comparing Electric vs Charcoal Smokers

Nothing is better than a charcoal smoker for true barbeque enthusiasts. There will be a huge difference in results when you use both smoker types. Anyone with grilling experience can easily identify the distinct flavor that only a charcoal smoker can produce. If you’re looking for convenience, then nothing beats an electric smoker.

 

For many people, an automated cooking process is everything and will allow them to focus on other activities or chores during the barbeque. Undoubtedly, both these smoker types have their benefits and drawbacks. So, it’s all about what’s important to you.

 

Are you looking for speed and ease or authentic, top quality barbeque flavor? Are you fine with waiting for the charcoal to burn, regular vent adjustments, and consistent fuel and temperature control? Or would you prioritize speed and convenience over smoke flavor quality and intensity? These are the questions you must answer before choosing.

Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker, Black

Benefits of Electric and Charcoal Smokers

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a smoker. Let’s look at a brief comparison of benefits and factors to weigh before you make your decision:

 

Health Effects

In terms of health aspects, an electric smoker is a clear winner. When using charcoal smokers, the fat from the meat drips on the coals to produce the smoke that flavors the meat. However, the fat dripping on the coals can develop carcinogenic particles within the food before consumption. So, your charcoal smoker isn’t going to help you in plating a healthy recipe.

 

Which One Fits Your Budget?

One of the best features of an electric smoker is that you can find one in different price ranges. You can opt for the best models in the market or manage with a low budget model. But if you’re looking for a cheap smoker, then it doesn’t get any cheaper than a charcoal smoker.

 

Versatility

An electric smoker isn’t as versatile as a charcoal smoker because it only serves one function – smoking. However, a charcoal smoker is also good for grilling or roasting.

 

Convenience

Electric smokers are designed for convenience. The main function of these models is to allow you to set the temperature according to your requirement and leave it. During this time, you can interact with your guests or do other chores. Hence, you don’t get involved in the cooking process at all times by monitoring temperature or adjusting air vents.

 

Quality and Consistency of Finished Foods

The ultimate purpose of a smoker is to provide a smoky flavor to your barbeque.  While a good electric smoker will hold a constant temperature, when it comes to quality, charcoal smokers win every time. It only takes some practice to become consistent with one. Electric smokers don’t do a great job at crisping skin or a complex flavor profile bark to lack of ventilation.

 

Temperature Control

Another advantage of using an electric smoker is choosing the temperature with precise measurements. This means that you don’t have to experiment and prepare wholesome dishes consistently each time. All you need to do is set the temperature once, and the smoker will maintain it throughout the cooking process.

 

Safety

Electrical smokers are more suitable for safety because they don’t require wood or charcoal for cooking your food, thereby reducing the risk of any burn injuries and accidents.

 

Ease of Transport

You must consider the size aspect before deciding between these two smokers, not just for space management but for mobility during outdoor events or camping. While both smokers can come in small packages, electric smokers don’t have parts such as vents or fuel room because they can regulate the heat on their own.

 

However, portability might be a deal-breaker because electric smokers need a power source to run. So unless you’re planning to keep it at home where you can plug it in, it’s not a great option, especially if you’re dreaming of that campfire scene.

 

Cleaning

Because you’re not burning anything to smoke meat when using an electric smoker, it’s much easier to clean. Meanwhile, cleaning a charcoal smoker is more complicated and includes a wait time for the fuel to burn itself out. You will also need to clean up the grill to ensure the next batch is ash-free.

Broil King 923610 Vertical Charcoal Smoker

Our Final Thoughts

When choosing between electric vs. charcoal smokers, it all comes down to your needs. If you want authenticity and an outdoor experience, it’s best to go with a charcoal smoker. But if you need something easy to learn, fast, and convenient, then an electric smoker is the way to go.

 

About Frank

Frank is a BBQ lover. Every chance he has is spent barbecuing for the family and friends. There's nothing like a summer of hanging out in the back yard, relaxing, playing some games, having a nice cold brewski, and barbecuing up a delicious meal. Frank created Grill Ace to share his passion and knowledge with you.