In this article, we’re going to take a look at the best electric smokers on the market in 2020.
Do you love smoked foods but shy away from the very idea of making your own? It can seem like a specialty cooking method, something that requires a lot of time and culinary expertise, not to mention fire management, wood types and quantities, and more.
But it really can be quite simple, especially if you use an electric smoker.
The idea may be frowned on by charcoal purists, but the best electric smokers are capable of delivering tender, smoky food with a lot less time and effort than a gas or charcoal model.
Below, we’re going to look at how the top electric smokers work and examine what features to look for when you decide to go shopping for one.
We also make recommendations and review some of the top models in several categories, from largest to most portable, from most advanced, to some of the more affordable ones for those on a budget.
And of course, we name our top pick, because everybody loves a winner!
At a Glance: The Best Electric Smokers that We Look at in Our guide
- Masterbuilt 30-Inch Black Electric Digital Smoker
- Smoke Hollow 26-Inch Electric Smoker with Adjustable Temperature Control
- Masterbuilt Front Controller Electric Smoker with Window and RF Controller
- Masterbuilt Portable Patio Electric Smoker
- Bradley Smoker Digital 6 Rack Smoker
- Masterbuilt Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker with Broiler
- Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
- Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker
- Smokin-It Model #2 Electric Smoker
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Best Electric Smoker Reviews
- 1.1 Top Pick – Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Digital Smoker
- 1.2 Best Value – Smoke Hollow 26142E 26-Inch
- 1.3 Best High End – Masterbuilt 20077515 with Window and RF Controller
- 1.4 Best Portable – Masterbuilt MB20073716
- 1.5 Best Large Capacity – Bradley BTDS108P Digital 6 Rack Smoker
- 1.6 Best Technologically Advanced – Masterbuilt MES 130P Bluetooth Electric Smoker
- 1.7 Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker, 725 Square Inch
- 1.8 Char-Broil Vertical Electric Digital Smoker
- 1.9 Smokin-It Model #2 Analog Electric Smoker
- 2 Buying Guide – The Features that Matter
- 2.1 Top-Loading or Front-Loading?
- 2.2 Build Materials, Durability and Longevity
- 2.3 Door Construction
- 2.4 Drip and Water Pans
- 2.5 Performance and Effectiveness
- 2.6 Temperature Stability
- 2.7 Ease of Use and Provided Instructions
- 2.8 Ease of Cleaning
- 2.9 Portability
- 2.10 Height
- 2.11 Electric Cord Length
- 2.12 Warranty
- 2.13 Overall Looks and Desirability
- 3 How do Electric Smokers Work?
- 4 Electric Smoker FAQs
- 4.1 How do Electric Smokers Compare to Gas and Charcoal Smokers?
- 4.2 Is a Pellet Smoker Better than an Electric Smoker? Aren’t they Similar?
- 4.3 How Does an Electric Smoker Produce Smoke if There are no Flames?
- 4.4 Can You Use an Electric Smoker Indoors?
- 4.5 How Much Wood Chips Do They Burn Through? Does this Get Expensive?
- 4.6 How Hot do Electric Smokers Get?
- 4.7 Do You Need to Season New Electric Smoker?
- 5 Final Thoughts
Best Electric Smoker Reviews
After extensive research, we consider the following 10 smokers to be the best available on the market at various price points, to suit all uses and budgets.
We discuss the features and qualities of each individual model, as well as what we and previous owners like and dislike, so you’ll be able to make an informed decision on the smoker that best suits your needs.
Top Pick – Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Digital Smoker
Known for an extensive, varied and respected product range in this niche, you cannot discuss electric smokers without mentioning Masterbuilt. It’s the product on which they built their brand, so naturally they appear in our list of the top rated electric smokers.
This Masterbuilt 20070910 is one of their older models, is available in three colors – black, silver, and stainless steel – is a classic and still a best selling favorite of many, and a particularly good smoker for beginners.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
This is a 30″ tall, powder-coated steel vertical cabinet style electric smoker that won’t take up much space in your yard while providing delicious smoked treats with its easy cooking process.
It has an 800-watt heating element that can power the cooking chamber with its 730 square inches of cooking space spread over 4 chrome plated cooking racks, to internal temperatures between 100 and 275 F. The perfect range for all kinds of smoking from delicate fish and vegetables at the low end, to briskets and ribs at the higher end.
There’s a dual purpose removable pan that slips inside, acting as both a water pan to add moisture to the cook, and as a drip to collect fats as they fall.
This drip pan makes it incredibly easy to clean. Just pull it out and soap it down. If you’ve ever used a smoker without a pan to collect drippings, you know how grim it can be as it accumulates over time, and how hard it can be to clean once it’s baked on!
On the top of this smoker, you find a damper that helps you regulate airflow for increased or reduced smokiness of your food, and a control panel with an easy to read blue-lit, digital LED display.
This display shows cooking temperatures and times that you set with the digital control panel push buttons, with both programmable temperature and cooking time, making it incredibly simple to operate with almost no learning curve.
Wood chips can be conveniently added through a side loader, so you don’t have to open the door to add more smoke…avoiding all the issues of: ‘if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin!’ When you open the door, you suffer heat loss and this lengthens the cooking time.
- It’s well built, from durable materials, and will be able to stand up to the rigors of being permanently outdoors.
- The build quality also means it’s well insulated for efficient heat retention.
- The adjustable top vent that allows control of the smoke levels in the cooking chamber.
- The very easy to use 24-hour timer and digital programmable temperature control panel, which makes use a breeze.
- The adjustable rack system makes for flexible cooking options, as well as making it easy to clean.
- lack of a meat thermometer probe to monitor the internal temperature of meat, which many models do have these days, (Though there are many 3rd party wireless meat thermometers available for a reasonable price.)
- The heating element, at only 800W is not the most powerful on the market, so this unit can take a while to heat up. However, it’s more than sufficient to generate the heat and smoke required for a successful cook,
- The warranty could be longer at just 90 days.
If you want a simple looking but functionally effective smoker that will provide an easy introduction into the world of smoking, this might be the unit for you.
Also, being a good medium size smoker, this model suits small families who want the ability to sometimes cook for large crowds. It’s small enough to be efficient for occasional use feeding 2 to 4, but can also be loaded up to feed a crowd of 20+ at a BBQ.
This Masterbuilt electric smoker has a great mix of build quality, effective cooking process, ease of use, and all at a great price point makes this our top pick for the best electric smoker for the money.
Yes, there are better models out there if you are willing to pay the premium price, there’s even some in this guide, but for a balance of greatness and price, you really cannot go wrong with this product.
Note:For a more in-depth study at this model, please see our our full review of the Masterbuilt 30 digital smoker here.
Best Value – Smoke Hollow 26142E 26-Inch
Compact but functional best describes this steel smoker.
It stands 35.5″ x 19″ x 16.5″ and weighs just under 40 pounds. The 26-inch refers to the height of the cooking space, not the width; this limited interior space may not appeal to some as it may require halving large pieces of meat.
Powered by a very capable 1500 watt heating element, this electric smoker generates heat and smoke with ease and has a working internal temperature range of 175 to 325°F.
It comes with two chrome-plated grids, 4 sturdy-looking legs and a single-latch, cool-touch door handle.
It has an adjustable analog temperature control, and a porcelain-coated water pan and chip tray. An extension cord is also provided.
- Great directions for assembly in the manual so you can be up and running in short time.
- The the powerful heating element for what is essentially a smaller unit, so it gets up to temperature very quickly and stays there.
- Ease of use is up there with the simplest (hmmm, I think we might become repetitive with this as ALL electric smokers are simple to use!)
- 1-year warranty
- The lack of a catch pan, which can lead to grease leaking out. Something to keep in mind if you don’t want to stain your patio!
- Because of the narrowness of the cooking space, you would have to slice very large cuts in half, such as a whole packer brisket
This should be your pick if you want to smoke on a budget, are happy to accept that it’s an entry-level model, and not a premium best of the best product. However, it works well!
Another model may be better suited if you’re looking for something a little more ‘premium’ or advanced, or if you want a smoker capable of accommodating whole packer briskets without having to halve them.
However, there are still some affordable smokers with larger cooking capacities, some of which you can find in our guide to the best electric smokers under $200.
Affordability seems to be the strongest strongest suit of this BBQ.
If the Smoke Hollow sounds like it could be your new smoker, you can read more in our Smoke Hollow Electric Smoker review, or take a closer look and see prices at Amazon:
Best High End – Masterbuilt 20077515 with Window and RF Controller
Another entry from Masterbuilt in this list, the 20077515 is arguably the most ‘premium’ smoker we feature, with the highest build quality, an extensive feature list…and a price to match.
You must have recognized by now that electric smokers pretty much all do the same thing? Well, this one stands out with the addition of an RF remote monitoring and control system.
The RF control panel allows you to monitor and control the smoker temp, meat temp, internal light, and turn the unit on and off, from a short distance away, so you are no longer tied to the smoker.
Unlike many smokers on the market, it also comes with a meat probe so you can monitor the cooking temperatures of your meat from afar too.
On the inside are 4 adjustable chrome-plated cooking plates that offer flexibility for height and configuration of different smoking foods, and providing 730 square inches of cooking area.
There is a removable, front access drip pan making grease removal and clean up a cinch once you’ve finished cooking.
This unit measures 20.3″ x 19.7″ x 32.1″, weighs 53.35 pounds, and on top is a blue-lit LED digital display with a digital control panel you use to set up temperatures and the cooking time.
This unit has an 800-watt heating element that can heat up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and has foam insulation to ensure it holds heat well, with a lockable door and viewing window so you can see your meat smoking.
Wood chips can be added with ease through a convenient side-loading system, meaning no need to open the smoker door just to refill with chips and add more smoke to the cooking process.
Finally, there are side and top vents provided, so you have complete control over airflow and smoke generation, plus a rear handle and wheels making it easily portable for you to move it just where you want to cook in your yard, and easy to move into storage.
- It’s a very good looking bit of kit, a small footprint while being spacious and able to cook for a large crowd.
- Maneuverable with the addition of a rear handle and wheels.
- Simplicity of the digital control panel to set the temperature, and easy to read blue-lit LED screen.
- Front access drip pan, and side loading wood chips all make this model a joy to use and easy to clean.
- The remote RF monitor and control system also means you can watch and manage your cook while away from the smoker.
- Our biggest gripe is that the 800W heating element isn’t the most powerful, so the unit can take up to 45 minutes to reach the highest cooking temperatures.
- Some owners have also stated that the assembly has many steps and could be easier if it arrived in fewer parts and was more ‘partially assembled’ in the factory.
- Only a 90 day warranty period (common to all Masterbuilt electric smokers.)
If you want a high-quality feature-packed electric smoker with a premium feel and features to boot, with ample room to cook for large crowds, this may be the one for you.
The unit looks classy, and I’m sure anybody would enjoy owning and producing great smoked food on this…if the price tag isn’t off-putting.
Another model might suit you better if you are budget conscious or have little need for such a large cooking space. I can think of no other reasons not to own this smoker, though, if an electric model is your thing.
If ‘only the best will do’ and money is no object; if you want to monitor your smokes while not actually being at the smoker; if you want a spacious, efficient, well built and quality electric smoker, then this masterbuilt electric digital smoker just may be the premium model for you.
Best Portable – Masterbuilt MB20073716
This mini-marvel from Masterbuilt is our favorite portable electric smoker.
Although relatively small, with it’s 2x chrome plated smoking racks you can easily smoke 4x medium-sized chickens, a couple of racks of ribs, or 2x pork butts which is easily enough to feed a medium gathering.
However, the main appeal of this little cooker is its portability.
It measures 15.9 x 23.6 x 23.3 inches – just under 2 feet tall – and with folding metal legs, this is a compact unit that folds away into a square shape that is easy to pack inside your trunk, making it the perfect model to take tailgating, camping, or perhaps to store in your RV for road trips.
Basically, you can take and use it anywhere that there’s an electricity supply. The compact size also makes it an excellent option for small apartment dwellers or those who do not have a lot of space for an outdoor smoker.
Surprisingly, this model comes with a 1,400-Watt heating element, more powerful than many much larger models from the same brand! It enables this smoker to get up to cooking temperature quickly, and can cook between a temperature range of 100 to 275 degrees F.
On the door, you will find a built-in temperature gauge, and to control the temperature is an analog dial, simply labeled: low, medium and high.
Somewhat unfortunately, the vague analog temperature controller does mean control isn’t as simple and intuitive as on digital models where you simply key in an exact temp. You will instead have to ‘guesstimate’ the temp with the dial, then use a smoker thermometer to measure and make fine adjustments after the temp settles to get it to the internal temperature you want.
The water and wood chip trays sit at the bottom of this smoker, just above the heating element.
They are easy to access, top-up or remove and clean, but you do have to open the door to gain access. This does mean heat will escape if you need to top it up, but this is to be expected in such a small, portable model.
- Most of the desirable, standout features relate to portability, hence it is our pick for the best electric smoker in the portable category.
- It is compact and square, great for packing and travel.
- Small but with a capacity to cook for a crowd.
- Very simple to use with minimal features, and quick and easy to clean.
- The analog control will need learning as no actual temperature scale is stated, just low, medium, and high.
- The 90 day warranty period can be considered somewhat short.
If you want a fantastically compact and straightforward smoker to take with you if camping or tailgating, or if you have minimal room in which to place an outdoor cooker, then this really is one of the best portable electric smokers you can find.
Another model might suit you better if you do not intend to take a smoker traveling and instead want a large unit that will stay at home with you.
But if it’s something small and simple you desire, you’ll be hard pushed to find better.
This is a great little travel smoker, and if you can get past the lack of features when compared to larger and more advanced units, then you won’t be disappointed with this little beauty.
Best Large Capacity – Bradley BTDS108P Digital 6 Rack Smoker
Bradley is a famous name in the smoker and barbecue industry, and this digital electric smoker is the largest, and one of the pricier ones, in this review.
This 17″ W x 14″ D x 39″ H, 60-pound smoker has a powdered epoxy steel exterior and a polished stainless steel interior.
Six removable chrome plated smoking racks make up the 780 square inches of cooking space.
This Bradley smoker features separate burners for smoking and oven; 125 and 500 watts, respectively. Together, they are capable of generating cooking temperatures up to 280°F.
It features a digital control panel which manages temperature and the amount of smoke. A pellet feeder attaches to the side of the smoker for feeding just the right amount of fuel, and an alarm sounds if the feeder is ever to jam. Once the jam is cleared, power then has to be reset.
Generally, it’s easy to use and easy to put together. You need only insert the cooking racks and connect the smoke generator.
Wood pellets burn for about 20 minutes, but with the automatic feeder, the smoker is capable of generating smoke for up to 8 hours. The manufacturer recommends a 20-minute preheat time.
- The sheer size of this unit means it can cook for a very large crowd.
- 6 cooking racks provide incredibly flexible cooking options. There isn’t a cut of meat you cannot fit inside this smoker – except maybe whole animals!
- It’s easy to operate, with push-button start, stop, timer and temperature settings. It really couldn’t be simpler.
- Bradley provides 9 different flavor woods for their bisquettes, so there are many options for adding different flavor.
- Dishwasher safe racks, drip pan, and bowl.
- The heating elements aren’t exactly powerful, particularly for a smoker of this size.
- The door seal tends to crumple and even separate from the frame after a time, but these are a ‘perishable item’ and to be expected from most smokers. They are cheap and easy to replace.
- Because this unit is so tall, there is a temperature gradient inside the smoker, with the bottom of the unit nearer the heating elements being hotter. Therefore, rotating the racks is necessary for a more even cooking experience.
- The timer has a max of 9 hrs 40 min, so has to be reset for long smokes, e.g., 10+ hour pork butt or brisket.
This is the best electric smoker for you if you want a HUGE cooking capacity above all else. But you’d be better off with a different pick if you will rarely, if ever, be cooking large quantities of food.
So unless you know you will smoke meat in large quantities, some of the other smokers in this list have better heating elements, comparably simple set it and forget it controls and would be better options for you.
The many cons have easy remedies, so there’s not a lot to put you off buying this if capacity is what you need.
The popularity of this Bradley smoker is probably because it’s so easy to set up and use.
If you’re interested in more details you can check out our more in depth bradley electric smoker review, or check it out along with current pricing by clicking the link below:
Best Technologically Advanced – Masterbuilt MES 130P Bluetooth Electric Smoker
If, like me, technology is your thing, then you’re going to love this next smoker from Masterbuilt: It has Bluetooth technology, enabling you to monitor and control this smoker from an app on your smartphone!
This means you can smoke meat while you can chill out elsewhere, as long as you are within Bluetooth range, enabling you to socialize with guests, or perhaps put your feet up in front of some sport while smoking food from your phone. What’s not to love about that?
The app allows you to both monitor and adjust the temperature of the smoker, to check on the internal temperature of your meat, and to turn the smoke on and off.
This unit also has another unique feature that I’ve not seen in other electric smokers: A top heating element that can be used for broiling, to put a deep seared crust on food when finishing off recipes.
The Masterbuilt MES 130P measures 19.9 x 20.7 x 33.5 inches, weighs 61.8 lbs and has 4x adjustable height, chrome-plated smoking racks, providing 720 square inches of cooking space. This is high enough capacity for, in Masterbuilts own words: “…up to 6 chickens, 2 turkeys, 4 racks of ribs, or 4 pork butts.”
If that’s not enough, then there is a 40” model, large enough to smoke “…up to 16 chickens, 2 turkeys, 8 racks of ribs, or 8 pork butts.” That is BIG.
This smoker also has Masterbuilts signature, side-loading wood chip feature, so you do not need to open the smoker to add more chips when you want to generate more smoke.
There is an 800 watt heating element that can bring the cooking chamber up to temperatures between 100 and 275 degrees fahrenheit, and there are two vents / dampers on the top that allow you to control the flow of smoke around your food.
- The standout likable feature for this unit is the smartphone app for monitoring and control, truly bringing the most modern of tech to the world of electric smokers.
- The digital, top mounted, push-button controller with lit LED display.
- The large cooking volume, so you can easily cook for a large crowd.
- The simple side loading of wood chips without having to open the smoker door is a fantastic idea.
- Its highly insulated cooking chamber for good heat retention, stable cooking temperatures and fuel efficiency is worthy of praise.
- The rear handle and wheels make it easy to move around.
- Although a fantastic feature, the Bluetooth range is quite limited. We’d have preferred to see WiFi, as then you could even monitor and control the smoker while away from home.
- Again, a 90 day warranty period is somewhat short.
Electric smokers are all about being plug n play, and that’s what you get here. It’s good at doing what it’s supposed to do. However, it’s the addition of Bluetooth that makes this smoker stand out from the crowd.
It’s not just for show, it is a great feature, with real-world benefits. But if Blueetoth enabled monitoring from your smartphone isn’t something you desire, you’d probably be better off with our number one pick above.
Anyhow, this smoker is packed with features that make it easy and fun to use, it can cook up a meal for a large crowd, and you don’t have to use the bluetooth. Just be aware you are paying a little extra for it.
This is a great little electric smoker, with many features making it easy to use, with a very generous cooking capacity making it very versatile.
If you want a good-sized, feature-packed, effective smoker with the latest Bluetooth technology, this might be the model for you.
For more information and current prices on this bluetooth digital electric smoker, please click here:
Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker, 725 Square Inch
This ‘Deluxe’ model from Char-Broil is a desirable looking, well-built stainless steel electric smoker with many features that make the smoking process as easy and almost hands-free as possible.
At just a shade over 50 lbs in weight, and 18.1″ W x 16.5″ D x 32.5″ H, it stands just shy of 3 feet. It’s a medium-sized unit, with 4x chrome plated cooking grates offering a respectable 725 square inches of grate area and cooking space.
If that’s not enough, there is a larger model with all the same specs and features, but with a whopping 1000 sq in of cooking surface area.
Onto some of the features and tech:
This smoker has an integrated digital controller on top that provides push-button control of temperature and time, as well as an easy to read LED display.
It also has an integrated meat thermometer probe to monitor the internal temperature of meat, so you know when your cook is finished scientifically, not just by look and feel. But that’s not all…
This smoker comes with a remote control that allows you to see the pit and meat temperatures remotely, as well as providing a means to change temperature, set a timer, and turn the unit on and off. This means you can monitor and control your cook while sitting enjoying time with guests instead of having to keep tending to the smoker.
To round of the feature set, it has a glass window door, so you can see what’s going on with your cook withoput opening the door, wheels for portability and being able to move it easily around your yard, a large wood chip box that provides up to 8 hours of smoker, and removable water tray and drip pans for easy cleaning.
All in all, this is an excellent bit of kit.
- A large and flexible cooking space that can accommodate any traditional cut of meat for smoking.
- It’s easy to use, intuitive digital controller makes setting cooks up a breeze.
- The integrated meat thermometer probe saves on buying one 3rd party!
- Remote monitoring and control mean you get to spend more time with guests instead of at the smoker.
- It’s larger than average wood chip box compared to most, provides up to 8 hours of smoke without a top-up, making it even more hands-off.
- It has a desirable, dual-tone black and stainless steel look with a glass door. Not many electric smokers look this pleasing.
- It’s not wholly waterproof, so you would need to place it undercover in the rain.
- Some users have complained about a limited range for the remote control, particularly if you head inside, and the signal must go through walls. However, the unit has wheels, so it’s Maneuverable. You can move it to the closest window to where you’re sitting inside, so the remote should be good from there.
If you want a straightforward, incredibly easy to use electric smoker, that has many thoughtful features to make smoking a breeze, from setting up (it’s pre-assembled), through use (it’s plug n play), and at the end of it all, cleaning (removable grates, water tray, and drip pan), this smoker really is simplicity at it’s finest.
It’s also a good choice if you want to cook for large parties while spending time with your guests as you can control it from the remote control.
I’m happy to recommend the Char-Broil Deluxe 725 electric smoker. For me, it’s one of the better-looking models on the market, and it has a feature set and thoughtful design to rival any other at this price point.
The build quality seems decent, so the unit should last. And the combination of an integrated meat thermometer and remote control set it apart from many of its competitors when it comes to user-friendliness.
Char-Broil Vertical Electric Digital Smoker
There’s a lot to be said for the simple approach. Sometimes we can get so caught up with specialized bells and whistles, that we fail to focus on basic functionality.
Char-Broil is a commonly found brand in home improvement and department stores. Its Vertical Electric Smoker is purely bare bones.
Made of porcelain-coated wood, this 17.50 x 20.00 x 37.80 inches, 49.6-pound unit provides 505 square inches of cooking space spread over 3 adjustable, chrome plated wire cooking grates. Aample room to cook for a large party.
It has a variable digital timer with auto shut-off, configured by way of 6 buttons found near the LED display. But the internal temperature is controlled with a dial simply labelled: OFF-LOW-MED-HIGH. Not the most accurately adjustable.
The interior is stainless steel and has separate burners for smoking and oven cooks.
The nearly identical water and chip trays can be used interchangeably, and its double walls are insulated, which enables it to do an 8-hour cool smoke.
It comes with a built-in temperature gauge, but you may want to purchase a separate digital thermometer as almost all smokers built-in analog thermometers are known to be somewhat inaccurate.
- This is a highly affordable, very easy to use smoker, that almost made it to be our best budget model.
- It’s large enough to cook for a good crowd
- It’s pretty much plug ‘n’ play (after assembly), and produces fantastic food.
- 1-Year warranty
- Some people have complained of minimal ventilation, as well as too great a sensitivity to ambient air temperatures.
- We would have liked to have seen a meat probe included, and perhaps a way to add wood chips without having to open the door and letting the heat escape.
- The OFF-LOW-MED-HIGH temperature dial instead of clearly labelled measurements can mean some tweaking before you hit the temp you want.
It is if you want a simple, medium-sized, no-frills electric digital smoker that does the job, without any fancy features, this may be the model for you.
It’s large enough to cater for medium-sized parties, while not being too oversized – or energy hungry – to make it suitable for couples or a small family.
Another model might suit you better if you want to feed very large crowds, or it’s only ever you and one or two others because at this size and with a 1500w heating element, there will be more economical models to run if cooks are always small.
The company seems accommodating, the smoker is priced right for small budgets, and delicious food can be produced. Those are among the best reasons to purchase this model.
You can see my more in depth review of the char-broil electric smoker, or get current prices and more info at the following link:
Smokin-It Model #2 Analog Electric Smoker
I’ll readily admit that I’m a stainless-steel snob. There is a clean, surgical look about it and in my experience, it’s durable, and stainless steel cookware is known for its ability to quickly turn out flavorful food without the need for a lot of water or oil.
So naturally, this 100-percent 18-gauge SS Model 2 smoker immediately had my attention. I’ll try to be objective here.
This 114-pound 24 x 30 x 22 inches behemoth glides along on four 3-inch rubber caster wheels and comes fully assembled. A hanger on the back of the unit provides a neat way to store the 12-foot power cord when not in use. A handle on either side provides convenient grip when moving the unit.
It is one of the few, perhaps the only, smoker in this review with a double-latch closure on the door. While some intrepid owners report adding extra latches or replacing the existing one outright on some other smokers, the Model 2 has solid latches that ensure the door closes tightly, leading to an enhanced smoking experience.
The four SS cooking racks racks hold around 35 pounds of food on a 841 sq. in cooking surface.
The 800-watt heating element manages a temperature range of 100 to 250°F, while fiberglass insulation holds in heat and keeps the exterior from heating up.
If this sounds like more than a casual smoker would need, the Model 2 is certified for professional restaurant use. It is one of the few models in this review to have a drip pan underneath the unit too.
The weight, material, design, and cost all signal that this is a model for those who are serious about smoking.
- It has a relatively large capacity for such a small footprint.
- Easy start-up and operation.
- 100% stainless steel construction.
- No gaskets to wear out and need replacing.
- An extra-long power cord – which many competing products fail at!
- Configurable shelf positions so you can cook food of varying heights
- Removable water and drip pans that are dishwasher safe making cleaning simple.
- 3-year warranty – the longest of any model in this list.
- Finally, being certified for professional restaurant use makes this the best electric smoker in our list for commercial use.
- It could be argued that the thermostat is placed too close to the heating element, instead of up near where the food is.
- We prefer digital controls instead of analog, but this does keep the cost down and is fewer things that can break or go wrong.
- It’s very low to the ground without purchasing a cart as an accessory. All the bending down can be a pain. Literally.
Many people say, “bigger is better.” But, the Smokin-It Model #2 proves the alternative saying that: “good things come in small packages.”
You can pack a whole of meat to smoke in this tidy little unit. It’s intuitive and straightforward to use, and with build materials and construction that’s made to last. What’s not to like?
If you like a combination of user-friendly features and excellent construction, in fact, restaurant-grade and certified build materials, then this is potentially the pick for you.
This unit will also appeal to you if you like a more industrious looking, ‘this means business’ type of appearance, rather than a product that’s been beautified and dressed up to look nice. However, you might want to consider other models if you want something that looks a little more modern and sleek.
The Model 2 isn’t the cheapest option in this list, but anyone interested in investing in something that will consistently perform for more than a few years should consider this a good option.
You can learn more about this compact unit in our smokin-it model 2 review, or click here for further details and prices at Amazon:
Buying Guide – The Features that Matter
The best electric smokers are widely known as the perfect entry point for beginner smokers. They are very easy to use, with simplicity and ability to produce quality smoked meat without any steep learning curve being a huge selling point for beginners.
But being easy to use, doesn’t necessarily mean they should be featureless. There are still features and qualities that some models have that make them stand out against the crowd and worthy of recommendation.
This buying guide should help you better make sense of which model you prefer, by focusing on the importance of various features you can find when buying an electric smoker. Let’s take a look.
Top-Loading or Front-Loading?
Top-Loading Smokers – Also commonly known as ‘vertical water smokers,’ suspend food over a pan of water that sits over a heating element. The design uses water as a thermal mass stabilizer to hold a steady temperature for a long period., and to create a moister atmosphere. Water captures smoke, so the more moisture food has, the more deeply ingrained the smoke flavor can become.
Top-loading is the original design of smokers. A barrel or can-shape with a fire on the bottom, a pan to keep drippings from meeting the fire (and possibly creating a larger, unwanted fire), and a rack or two to hold the food: simplicity at its finest.
Vertical water smokers are considered to work well in warmer weather, but can struggle to hold a steady temperature in colder seasons. So it can pay to consider your local climate, or what time of year you shall be cooking. However, because the heat works its way up from the bottom with no window or door seams to leak air, the temperature tends to hold steady for longer.
Some disadvantages to this design though, are it may be necessary to remove the top rack to get to the bottom rack, while both racks may need to be removed to replenish the wood chips. This can make maintaining long cooks a bit of a chore. Front-loading models are far easier to use.
Front-Loading Smokers – These newer, more popular style of electric smokers offer access as simple as opening a refrigerator. Many have a glass window for viewing, or the entire door can be made of glass. A thermostat is often included, along with water pan and wood tray.
Not every door has a sensible handle. Some models have to be pulled from the top or side after throwing back one or two latches that hold the door to the body. How tightly these two are held together can impact temperature regulation and cooking speed.
Build Materials, Durability and Longevity
The materials used in the construction of a smoker can dictate how well it can hold an optimal temperature and overall durability. Commonly, the materials used are:
- Powdered steel
- Stainless steel
The racks can be made of:
- Stainless steel
When it comes to the body, stainless steel and Aluminum have better rust-resistance and should last a lot longer.
When it comes to the cooking grates, stainless steel will have the best longevity, but it comes at a pretty price. Chrome plated are more common as they are easy to clean and long lasting enough to be a good balance of cost and longevity.
When it comes to durability and longevity, how long an item will last is a sensible consideration when spending a few hundred dollars.
Product reviews are a good resource for getting an idea of how long you can expect to enjoy your smoker. You may also get an idea of what to expect based on the environment where you live plus the material used (e.g., light metal and high humidity probably equals a short life span).
Also, consider the number of parts which can breakdown. Sometimes, especially for more budget models, simpler can often be better.
The doors can be either solid metal, may have a thermostat or window set in, or can be entirely made of glass.
- How well the seal keeps out cold air and prevents smoke and warm humid air from escaping.
- Whether there is a door handle – some models have latches that are awkward to use.
- Whether the small view afforded by a window is worth the potential for air leakage, or the loss of thermal insulation.
Drip and Water Pans
Water pans can seem a simple thing, but those provided with the smoker can be remarkably inadequate.
Some cooks will simply purchase a roasting pan or use disposable aluminum baking pans to capture drippings and be deep enough to reduce the number of times water has to be added.
However, the smokers featured in this guide have all done a great job with their water and drip pans. Made to fit, easy access and cleaning, you shouldn’t have to let this factor into your decisions too much.
Performance and Effectiveness
Performance is determined by so many factors, but the key one is power. Power determines how long it takes to get up to temperature, how long the smoker can sustain it, and how much food can be handled at one time.
Wattage ranges between 500 and 1500 watts, with 800 watts being about the sweet spot and best compromise between sufficiently capable, yet not too power-hungry and costly to run.
Be aware that the lower the wattage, the longer a unit will take to come up to temp before you can cook. You should be willing to accept 30 to 45 minutes of the smoker coming up to temp, this is somewhat the norm and a standard that many aim for.
Many electric smokers come with temperature probes, and some even have wireless thermostats enabling you to monitor the temp on your smartphone. These are great features, so you know the temp of your cooker, and can monitor the temperature of your food, ensuring everything goes smoothly until your desired cooks ‘doneness’ is achieved.
Depending on the construction, be aware that the following can impact the stability of the temperature:
- Power capacity of the smoker – ability to reach and sustain a temperature; how long it takes to recover from a temperature drop caused by opening the door.
- External temperatures – especially dependent on the density of metal the smoker is made from.
- Type of insulation – governs how well internal temps are held and protection from outside weather conditions (wind, rain, ambient temperature changes, etc.)
- Seal integrity of doors – and window, if one is present.
With many cheaper models in the electric smoker, users complain of the inability to hold a good smoking temperature of 225 to 250 F once the weather outside hits freezing or below. So pay attention to design features aimed at temperature stability.
Ease of Use and Provided Instructions
Clear instructions can impact the usefulness of any product. Especially if the smoker has to be assembled, then clear wording and pictures are a must. Luckily, comprehensive instructions isn’t a deal breaker with so many resources to be found online, but it is a consideration for some people.
Other important information can include use of automated wood chip feeders; the need to replenish water; electrical capacity; use of vents; and setting digital timer, temperature, and smoke level settings.
People look toward electric smokers for their ease of use, they want plug n play, set and forget it functionality, that produces wonderfully smoky flavored foods. Therefore, ease of use should be a determining factor in the buying journey.
Ease of Cleaning
How hard (or easy) to clean your equipment is important because it can affect the longevity of a product, and how much enjoyment you get from it. Especially dealing with water, components can rust if not properly seasoned and cleaned after use.
And realistically, if you know you’ll be a long time scrubbing, scraping and wiping afterward, your smoker isn’t going to get as much use as it otherwise might.
So look for easy to clean products…and keep in mind that some on this list have dishwasher friendly components. It doesn’t get easier than that.
This may not be a concern if you decide to dedicate a spot in the yard or patio for your smoker. If not, you’ll want to be able to easily move it from storage to cooking spot (which can vary depending on weather and yard logistics).
Look for sturdy handles for picking up the smoker or, even better, hefty wheels to provide manoeuvrability without heavy lifting.
Height may not seem like a big deal when looking to buy an electric smoker, but a lot of stooping or crouching to see what’s going on or when removing food could be bothersome, possibly painful, depending on your overall health and range of movement.
This can be easily remedied by placing the smoker on a raised surface, while some models have legs or, for an additional cost, will provide a stand. These will raise the unit about a foot and a half off the ground.
Electric Cord Length
These can be 3 to 12 feet in length. Proximity to an electrical outlet has to be considered. This can be remedied with the use of an outdoor extension cord of sufficient amperage.
Be sure the outlet has a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), an electrical device that protects against severe electrical shocks. If an extension cord has to be used, it should state that it’s for outdoor use, be a 12/3 or 14/3 grounded cord of at least 15 amps.
This may matter a lot or a little, depending on how many things can go wrong with your smoker. Automated wood chip feeders, rheostats – the more and relatively complicated the parts, the more things there are to go wrong.
Some manufacturers will go beyond the mostly standard one-year warranty. Some may even offer extendable contracts which you may consider worthwhile based on how much you invested and how much use of your smoker you mean to be regular in your life.
Overall Looks and Desirability
Function is the main thing but, if offered, why not go for the pretty too? After all, we eat with all of our senses, eyes, and touch, and that can include what we use to prepare food. Manufacturers recognize this and will offer things that, while not necessary to the mechanics of properly smoking food, can make it more pleasing.
A few examples of nice touches included can be: Windows to see what’s cooking, remote control and monitoring, and a recipe book
How do Electric Smokers Work?
You can pretty much equate them to your kitchen oven.
Whereas charcoal smokers and wood-burning offset smokers burn solid fuel, and have their temperature controlled by intake and exhaust vents that limit airflow, electric smokers quite simply have an electronically controlled, electric heating element.
On the outside of an electric smoker, you have a controller on which you set the desired temperature. On the inside in the base sits the heating element, which heats up until turning off when the desired temperature cooking temperature is reached.
This is all done electronically, with no input required from the cook. No fires to manage, no vents to control. There are usually one or two vents, but this is to allow smoke to escape before it goes stale, it is not for temperature control.
Once an electric smoker reaches the desired cooking temp, it’s a simple case of turning on the heating element if the temperature drops, and turning it off when it’s back to temp. As I said, exactly like your kitchen oven!
To generate smoke, sitting on top of the heating element will be a wood chip tray. The wood chips get heated by the element until they smolder and produce smoke. The wood chips do not burn with a flame, they smolder. They are not to provide heat, they are for adding smoke only.
Electric Smoker FAQs
How do Electric Smokers Compare to Gas and Charcoal Smokers?
They differ quite wildly, but there are some good reasons to buy an electric smoker.
Electric smokers have a lot more technology compared to basic charcoal or even gas smokers. This is both a benefit and a disadvantage.
The technology makes electric smokers by far the easiest of all smokers to use, but it also means there is more that can break and go wrong. A charcoal grill may last for decades. An electric smoker will likely last only a few years with consistent use, or at least need parts replacing.
When it comes to the food produced, which is best is an entirely personal thing. Most people will say you cannot beat the flavor produced by a charcoal smoker. But it does come with more learning to do, and more managing of the cooker to produce food. You can learn about the differences in our guide to electric vs charcoal smokers, and in the following guide can pick up some electric smoker tips.
If you want a low maintenance and push-button easy operation, go electric. If you want max flavor, go charcoal.
But where do gas smokers fit in? Somewhere in the middle.
They tend to produce a similar end product to electric, while not having to be tethered to an electricity line, though you do have to make sure you have a ready supply of gas. Check out gas vs electric smokers for a comparison between them.
Is a Pellet Smoker Better than an Electric Smoker? Aren’t they Similar?
Although both require electricity to run, they are entirely different beasts and produce food with altogether different flavor profiles.
In an electric smoker, the heat is produced with electricity, and wood chips are only there to provide smoke for added flavor.
In a pellet smoker, the electricity is there only to ignite the wood pellets. It is then the wood pellets burning with a flame that provides both the heat to cook with and the smoke for flavor.
Electric smokers run on electricity to provide heat. Pellet smokers burn wood for heat, but use electricity to light the wood. The smoky flavor from a pellet grill is stronger and more defined.
They are entirely different types of cookers.
How Does an Electric Smoker Produce Smoke if There are no Flames?
When smoking, we do not want a roaring flame from our wood, we want just a gentle smolder. It is the smoldering that produces smoke. If fully alight, almost no smoke is generated from properly dried wood.
In the electric smoker, there is a wood chip tray that sits at the bottom of the cooking chamber, just above the heating element.
This tray gets hot enough to cause the wood chips to smolder, but not to fully combust and produce a flame. And hence smoke is created.
Can You Use an Electric Smoker Indoors?
No. It is a smoker, and you do not want and cannot have a smoker inside in your house! It will choke you out.
OK, that’s a bit simplistic. You could install a commercial style extractor to remove the smoke generated, but this will be a huge expense and quite a significant addition to your kitchen. A bit unsightly even.
Or I guess you could use it inside without adding any wood chips so there will be no smoke? But then, why get such a smoker? It will be just like your kitchen oven in this instance.
So no, do not use it inside. It’s an outdoor smoker only.
How Much Wood Chips Do They Burn Through? Does this Get Expensive?
I cannot put an exact figure on this as it will vary wildly, but it’s not as much as you might think or fear.
The wood chips are only to provide smoke, they are not for providing heat. You only need a handful or two at the start of the cook, that will provide smoke for anything from 1 to 6 hours, depending on the model of smoker you have, how hot you cook and the capacity of the wood chip tray.
Also, once food exceeds 145 degrees Fahrenheit or so, it stops taking on smoke anyway, so you do not use wood chips for the entire cook, only at the start.
How Hot do Electric Smokers Get?
Most only get up to about 275 F at the high end, though some can go as high as 350 F.
Generally speaking, they work between 200F and 275 F for most models. Plenty hot enough for low n slow smoking, which is the purpose they are made for.
Do You Need to Season New Electric Smoker?
You do, yes. All new smokers should be seasoned before first use, to burn off oils and contaminants from the manufacturing process.
You will find that all manufacturers have instructions on how to do so written in their manuals. And we also have a guide which you can find here: How to season an electric smoker.
There’s a lot to be said for electric smokers!
They produce tender, smoky goodness without a lot of fuss. But I find it disturbing that so many owners find it necessary to make design improvements, replacing or adding hinges, drilling holes, and adding handles, epoxy for the door seals and several remedies to keep smoke from escaping.
If I’m paying for something, the price had better acknowledge the need for these “after market” fix-ups.
Of these 9 products reviewed – and snobbery aside – the Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Digital Smoker is our top choice.
It’s sturdy, is simple to use, has a wealth of useful design features, is well-insulated, easy to clean, and is backed up with great customer support. And it also looks impressive.
Perhaps you’ll find another model more suited to your taste but for us, the Masterbuilt is an investment worth making. You can find more details and check current prices here:
What’s your experience with electric smokers? Do you have anything to add to the above, or perhaps a question or two you’d like answered? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below and will answer every one!
Here’s to years of electrically powered, smoky flavor and goodness!