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Pellet vs Electric Smokers: Which is Best for You?

The popularity of smoking meat never waned among BBQ enthusiasts, but it has become more visible in recent years. This is due to these enthusiasts sharing videos and photos of their huge smokers and delicious smoked creations, inviting others to try it as well. As a result, more people are looking to get their hands on a smoker. If you’re not looking for a gas or charcoal smoker, you have to choose between pellet vs. electric smokers.

 

Pellet vs Electric Smokers

But how do you choose? In this guide, we will compare and contrast a pellet and electric smoker to give you enough information to pick the right smoker for you.

 

Let’s get started!

Masterbuilt MB20070421 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker, Black

Pellet Smoker Overview

Pellet smokers are one of the newest types of smokers on the market. They combine different elements from an oven, gas, and charcoal grill and use 100% hardwood pellets from the storage container (hopper). These pellets provide indirect heat to the food in the cooking chamber after they’re ignited through combustion. However, all this happens at the press of a button since it uses electricity to run.

 

The main reason pellet smokers are so popular is that you can cook in so many different ways, including baking, smoking, charring, roasting, and grilling. People who love to smoke meat buy it specifically for the wood smoke flavor. Pellet smokers offer the convenience of using an electric smoker and provide unique flavors similar to those produced by traditional barrel wood or charcoal smoker.

 

Pros

  • Just like electric smokers, they’re easy to use and offer set-and-forget smoking.
  • They’re ideal for cooler climates and wet conditions when well insulated.
  • They provide authentic wood-fired flavor profiles.
  • You can use pellet smokersfor grilling too.
  • They are incredibly fuel-efficient and great alternatives to use in apartment complexes where open flames aren’t permitted.

 

Cons

  • They need a power source to run, which makes mobility limited.
  • They’re much more expensive than electric smokers.
  • The cooking chamber generally holds less food than the vertical-style electric smokers.
  • Unlike electric smokers, pellet smokers produce ash, so they require more cleaning.

 

Electric Smoker Overview

Both pellet and electric smokers need electricity to run but in different ways. An electric smoker uses electricity to cook your food, whereas pellet smokers only need electricity to ignite the pellets and use combustion to heat the food. You can control the heat using the thermostat or a rheostat, depending on the product.

 

Instead of using pellets, electric smokers primarily use wood chips placed in a metal bowl and smolder them to produce the smoke that flavors your food. However, since the smoking process doesn’t involve a real fire, the smoke profile of cooked food is not the same as you’d get in charcoal or pellet smokers.

 

Pros

  • Easy to use with set-and-forget smoking and adjustable temperature control.
  • Relatively cheaper than pellet smokers.
  • Since there’s no residue from the combustion, it eliminates the need to clean up ash.
  • Usually, only the food resting area requires cleaning.
  • Electric smokers are suitable for use in apartment complexes where open flames aren’t permitted.
  • Great for smoking delicate proteins like fish and cheese and generally hold more food than pellet smokers.

 

Cons

  • Electric smokers need to be continuously hooked up to power to run, limiting their mobility and versatility even though they’re much lighter and usually require less space.
  • You cannot use an electric smoker for grilling.
  • The results are good but not as good as you’ll get on a pellet smoker.
Traeger Grills TFB88PZBO Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill and Smoker, 884 Sq. In. Cooking Capacity, Bronze

Contrasts and Comparisons of Electric vs Pellet Smokers

The following are some of the factors you must consider before choosing between pellet vs. electric smokers:

 

1. Flavor

The purpose of buying any smoker is to enhance flavor. While both use electricity to heat an element, the way they heat food makes all the difference in flavor. If you think about it, the only differences between an oven and an electric smoker are smoke and steam. In contrast, a pellet smoker uses combustion that produces different gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

 

This is where the authentic smoke flavor comes from. Even though electric smokers make some incredibly tender and juicy food, they still won’t produce the combination of gases that impart the smoke flavor, smoke ring, and bark, no matter how much you spend on one.

 

2. Initial Cost

Electric smokers are generally cheaper than pellet smokers. However, they’re still more expensive than charcoal or gas smokers. If you’re on a budget, then this is something to consider. If you have no grill at home, a pellet might eliminate the need if you don’t mind firing it up just to grill a few burgers. No matter how much you spend on an electric smoker, you won’t change the heat source or the results.

 

However, more expensive models usually offer some additional perks, such as Bluetooth connectivity, flexible temperature adjustments, and see-through glass.

 

3. Operating Cost

There’s a pretty significant difference between pellet vs. electric smokers in terms of operating cost. Creating smoke on an electric smoker typically requires three to six ounces of wood, and using electricity can be cheaper depending on the area. A pellet smoker uses electricity to ignite the pellets, but all the heat comes from combustion. So, you’ll need a pretty hearty supply of pellets to produce the required heat.

 

Even though an electric smoker will save you some money, it’s up to you to decide if the flavor difference is worth it.

 

4. Ease of Use

Both smokers are easy to use and require minimal maintenance. They’re both set-and-forget, so you simply have to load the meat and wait while they do all the work. Keep in mind that you’ll have to remove the residue from the pellet smoker every time you use it.

 

5. Versatility

Deciding which smoker is more versatile depends on what you intend to do with it. For folks who like to smoke delicate proteins like fish, nuts, and cheese, an electric smoker provides you the ability to maintain low temperatures. However, if you need an all-in-one solution for baking, smoking, roasting, and grilling, a pellet smoker can provide you an all-in-one solution.

 

Our Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing between pellet vs. electric smokers, it’s all about what you’re looking for. Ultimately, it’s a choice between flavor (at a higher cost) and convenience (at lower cost). If you live in a building where they don’t allow open flames, then your only choice is an electric smoker. However, if your budget allows it, choose a pellet smoker.

 

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.