People love great barbeque, but not everyone enjoys fiddling with charcoal and spending too much time on the grill while others are having fun. So, you’re better off buying between an electric or propane smoker. However, choosing the best smoker purely depends on your expectations, conditions, and cooking style because there’s no real winner in an electric vs. propane smoker debate.
If you can’t decide between electric vs. propane smokers, read on to learn the differences as well as the pros and cons of each to find out which charcoal smoker alternative is the best for you.
Let’s get started!
Electric Smokers General Overview
An electric smoker uses electricity to slow cook your food. They have heating elements that you can control and set the required temperature. It operates similarly to an oven, with the only difference being the addition of wood chips to get the smoky taste in your food.
Pros of Using Electric Smokers
- Easy temperature control. All you have to do is turn the dial and set it to your preferred temperature. However, cheaper models might only have basic settings such as low, medium, and high.
- Electric smokers are perfect for apartments and homes with no outdoor spaces.
- They are safer than propane smokerssince there are no combustible gasses or materials that should concern you.
- You can convert them into cold smokerswith ease.
- They are more suitable for more delicate proteins like fish and soft vegetables.
- Overall, they are great for beginners.
Cons of Using Electric smokers
- Electric smokersdon’t generate less heat than charcoal or propane smokers.
- Requires electricity,so they offer limited mobility and are not suitable for camping or other outdoor activities.
- Maintenance and repairsare more complicated and expensive due to their high-tech nature.
Propane Smokers General Overview
Most propane smokers come with propane tanks, while others use natural gas. Due to this, you have more control over the heat, as you can increase the gas to your preferred temperature relatively fast. You can find a burner at the bottom, with a shelf above for wood chips that add the smoke flavor to your food.
Propane smokers replicate charcoal smokers more closely, not just in the way they cook the food but also in the flavor profile and textures they accomplish. This is why most commercial barbeque restaurants prefer them over electric or charcoal ones. However, nothing can beat the authentic flavor of charcoal smoked food.
Pros of Using Propane Smokers
- You don’t have to worry about power outlets so you can position them anywhere.
- Propane smokersare not complicated, so their maintenance is much cheaper. Plus, you can carry out repairs yourself.
- They are usually cheaper thanelectric smokers.
Cons of Using Propane Smokers
- Cheaper models will require babysitting for a consistent temperature check.
- Propane smokersare usually poorly insulated, so they might cause problems when it’s windy or cold outside.
- Some residential buildings will not allow you to use a propane smoker.
Differences Between Electric and Charcoal Smokers
Out of all the different types of smokers, electric and propane smokers have the most in common. They are available in different price ranges depending on their build quality and performance. As their names suggest, these smokers run on different fuel sources to smoke your food – electricity and propane gas.
Electric smokers offer great temperature control and ease of use as long as there are no power outages. They are great for delicate proteins and low-temperature smoking, while propane smokers can reach significantly higher temperatures and are portable. However, they’re not as easy to use as electric smokers.
Electric vs Charcoal Smokers: A Head to Head Comparison
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a smoker. Let’s look at a brief comparison of electric vs. propane smokers to help you decide accordingly:
Ease of Use
Electric smokers are more convenient. Once you set the temperature, you can carry on with other activities. Temperatures in a propane smoker can fluctuate, so you need more practice to get good results.
Since most mechanisms in an electric heater are hidden inside, they’re much safer to use. Besides, when using propane smokers, you’re working with open flames that are more dangerous.
In both cases, propane and electricity have zero impact on the food flavor, which is why you use wood chips that produce smoke. Without wood chips, there’s no difference between an oven and a smoker.
Temperature Range and Control
Electric smokers offer a better temperature range, which is suitable for cold smoking. However, a propane smoker burns much hotter. Hence, you can also use it as your primary grill making it more versatile. Both smokers offer temperature control via a burner knob or a thermostat. However, electric smokers control temperature more accurately.
Neither electric nor propane smokers leave behind ash. So, all you have to clean is grease and meat juices that drain into a tray or container during the cooking process.
Bad Weather Conditions
If you want to use a smoker regularly, you must consider how its performance in bad weather conditions. With electric smokers, you need to be careful during heavy rain since water and electricity combining can be dangerous. In contrast, gas smokers can be used without much concern, but they’re generally poorly insulated. They can ruin your barbeque on a windy day.
Our Final Thoughts
When choosing between electric vs. propane smokers, it all comes down to your preferences. If you want to produce flavor and texture profiles similar to what a charcoal smoker produces, then go for a propane smoker – but be prepared to monitor and regulate temperatures.
If you’re more into convenience and want to smoke more delicate proteins, then an electric smoker is the best choice. Either way, both smokers are smart alternatives to using a charcoal smoker.