Electric vs Pellet Smokers: Which Smoker Is the Best?
Did you know that there’s more than one way to cookout during the summer? Most people swear by charcoal grilling. It provides a distinct taste that screams family BBQ.
Over the years, however, smoking meat has taken the world by storm. It involves cooking your food slowly using smoke.
It takes a lot of patience, a specific amount of heat, and the right tool. Electric and pellet smokers both have their sets of advantages and disadvantages.
They infuse the meat with different flavors and appearances. We can help you choose a smoker that will get you through all your summer get-togethers. Check out this handy cooking guide to learn more.
What Are Pellet Smokers?
Pellet smokers use hardwood pellets to smoke meats. These pellets go into a storage chamber in the appliance.
As the machine works its magic, it dispenses the pellets into the heating pot. It’s here where they are lit on fire and produce the smoke needed to render the best cooking results.
The machine uses the settings you put it on to maintain the proper temperature, making them easy and efficient smokers to use.
What Are Electric Smokers?
Electric smokers sort of resemble a mini-fridge. They stand vertically and have shelves stacked inside to put your food on.
Whereas the pellet smokers use combustion to cook, the electric ones rely on an outlet. The machine is controlled using a thermostat system that you’re in charge of.
The biggest thing to consider in the battle of pellet vs. electric smokers is taste. It’s unfortunate, but electric smokers lose this battle every single time.
Electric smokers use a heating element to cook, much like the stove in your house. The results are good, but it’s a lighter flavor. It can’t beat the taste that’s offered by combustion.
As the meat in your pellet smoker cooks, it will be infused with the flavor of the wood pellets.
We will say that if you do decide to go with an electric device, and you find yourself missing that smokey taste, some models come with a tray that you can place pellets in. The flavor still won’t be as intense, but it will do.
Electric smokers don’t give off nearly as much smoke as their pellet counterparts. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
On one hand, your outdoor kitchen won’t get flooded by smoke. On the other hand, smoke is equal to taste in this case. It’s what flavors the meat.
So, pellet smokers win in this category as well. Like with the issue above, there is a way to combat the lack of smoke content in electric machines. You can buy smoking tubes.
No matter what kind of machine you buy, if you feel like it gives off too much smoke, you can go here to read about outdoor grill ventilation.
Due to the shape of electric smokers, they can’t hold a lot of food. They’re vertical, which means that they’re narrow.
Pellet smokers are a lot wider. They have more surface area to work with, so you can cook a lot at once.
This is another category where pellet smokers reign supreme. They have a wider temperature range. They can get up to about 500 degrees.
Most electric smokers can only reach temperatures of 250 or so. Let’s say that you want to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. They need to cook at 300 degrees to get a nice brown skin.
That’s something that an electric smoker can’t pull off. You’ll have to finish the bird in your oven if you want that crispy skin.
You can grill on a pellet smoker because they get hot enough for it. The same can’t be said for an electric device. All they can really do is smoke food.
Electric smokers produce a dry heat. The hardwood pellets inside the pellet smoker provide a bit of moisture to keep the food from drying out.
To stop food from turning into rubber in your electric smoker, you’ll have to put a pan of water at the bottom.
In some circumstances, the lower heat settings of an electric smoker are a good thing. For example, if you’re trying to smoke cheese without melting it, you have to keep your device at 90 degrees. An electric smoker will be able to do that for you.
For the most part, the minimum temperature that an electric smoker can reach is 100 degrees, but it can dip even lower in the winter.
You can pull off cold smoking in a pellet grill, but not without a little work. You’ll have to use an ice tray.
If you’re looking for a smoker that will fit on your compact patio, you’ll want to go with an electric model. Their mini-fridge design allows them to take up less room than a pellet smoker.
Most pellet smokers resemble your standard grill. They’re great until you need to save space.
Electric smokers are also more lightweight, making them easier to move around if needed.
There are a lot of components that go into making a pellet smoker. That means they’re expensive to produce.
If you’re on a budget, we recommend picking up an electric smoker. You can get a decent one for about 300 bucks.
Ease of Use
This is a rare category in which both types of smokers win it. All you have to do is set them to the temperature that you want to cook your food on. After that, you can walk away and do something else until the meat cooks.
We will say that electric smokers are a bit easier to use than pellet ones, only because you don’t have to mess with a fire whatsoever.
If you don’t have a lot of time to clean your smoker when you’re done cooking, you should consider an electric smoker.
They don’t create as much of a mess as pellet smokers. All you’ll need to do to clean your electric model is wipe it out.
When meat is hit with the right amount of gas and heat, a chemical reaction takes place. It creates a distinct pink ring around the outer edge of the food.
For many people, this smoke ring marks the creation of amazing meat. The only smoker that can’t produce the ring is the electric ones. So, if this aesthetic is important to you, you’ll need to grab a pellet smoker.
Electric smokers are the safest ones that you can get. You can let meat cook in them overnight without worrying about the appliance setting fire as long as you follow the user instructions.
While pellet smokers are a set-it-and-forget-it appliance as well, you have to remember that they use actual fire. You can walk away and do something else, but you shouldn’t travel too far.
Both electric and pellet smokers use electricity to function. Out of the two devices, the electric models use up more power. They need it to heat up the appliance and cook the meat.
Pellet smokers only need it to operate the auger, the electric controller, and the fan. There’s still a power demand to worry about, but it’s not as big of an issue.
There’s nothing that can put a damper on your cookout quite like rain. You won’t be able to light your smoker to cook unless you have a roof over your patio.
Smoking meat is almost impossible during the winter months because the metal on the appliance is too cold. The temperature inside will fluctuate a lot as you cook.
You’ll also go through more fuel when it’s snowing. Warming a frozen machine is not as easy as you may think.
That’s where an electric smoker comes in handy. You can use it no matter what the weather is like outside. Since you don’t have to light it, you don’t have to worry about fussing about keeping a fire lit on a windy day.
Electric Smokers vs Pellet Smokers
Choosing between electric and pellet smokers isn’t easy. They both have a lot of advantages to bring to the table.
If you’re looking for something that’s safe and easy to maintain, electric is the way to go. Pellet smokers pour flavor into the meat, and you can cook more on them.
No matter what appliance you decide to go with, one thing is true. Both smokers are simple to use.
For more cooking tips that will help you take your summer BBQs to the next level, visit the Lifestyle section of our blog.
- About the Author
Alex Grigoryan is a Professional Home Improvement and Lifestyle Writer. He has been in the industry for over 6 years and has been writing for Chique Home Living since 2019. His work has been featured in prestigious blogs such as Spruce Home, Better Homes & Garden, and more.