Gas vs Electric Smoker – Which Type of Smoker is Better?

Electric or propane smokers are the next two options you have besides a charcoal smoker. Lump charcoal and briquettes are cumbersome and sometimes not so easy to handle. With electric or propane smokers, all that you are required to have in your house is power supply and gas respectively.

The main dilemma, however, is which one of the two serves better than the other. When asked to decide on whether to purchase an electric smoker or a propane one, what will you buy?

Many people have found themselves in a dilemma and sometimes end up going for something they later regret buying due to a lack of proper knowledge and information beforehand.

This article contains enough information on the description, reviews, pros, and cons of each of these two. Armed with that, you will be in a position to make an informed decision during purchase.

The Difference Between Electric and Propane Smokers

Electric-and-Propane-Smokers
Photo credit: burningbrisket.com

Despite their numerous similarities, some differences between the two types of smokers are too distinct to ignore. They are made in simplicity and modesty. More often than not, electric and gas smokers will serve your tight budget, as you can find decent models for as low as 200 dollars.

As evident in their tags, smokers consume fuel that enables them to cook food by smoking. The most common fuels are charcoal and in this context, electricity, and gas (propane).

The main desirable features of electric smokers are their easy usage, reliability of electric power, and commendable control of temperature.

Before getting an electric smoker, be sure to have a reliable power source. They work by being plugged into an electric socket.

Electric smokers are less versatile as compared to propane smokers. This lowers their temperature range, making them a good choice for cold smoking.

On the other hand, gas smokers are portable and versatile. Their temperature is easy to raise and control. On the higher end, this is disadvantageous because the temperature can go higher than the targeted range if not closely monitored. Poor insulation is a common feature in some low-quality models.

From the mentioned factors, it is clear that gas-powered smokers are not as easy to use as electric smokers.

Electric Smokers at a Close Range

As mentioned earlier, an electric smoker relies on electricity to function. It contains heating elements, vents, and grates that are designed using different materials depending on the brand.

Vents act as temperature and heat regulators. They bring in cool air and offer an escape route for excess smoke from the cooking area.

Before the cooking process commences, preheating the grill is advisable.

Electric smokers can be compared to an oven whose cooking abilities are slow and low, but ever determined to give a fully prepared meal in the long run.

Wood chips are added to a smoker box which gets heated up to release smoky flavors over the food. Some electric smokers come with an inbuilt smoker box while others have none. In this case, you can either buy one independently or make one by improvising materials such as aluminum foil.

Pros

  • It has a pre-set option- You can set the time and temperature of your liking and leave the food to smoke without supervision. The only other time you can check it out is when flipping the food to the other side or adding some ingredients.
  • Allowed in many premises- Some neighborhoods and apartments have a rule against the use of highly combustible fuels such as charcoal or propane gas. Electric smokers are more embraced in such places, making them more favorable for use.
  • Suitable for cold smoking- Owing to their nature of low heat production, electric smokers are often preferred for slow, low, and cold smoking. Foods such as fish are delicate and can easily lose their desired flavors when cooked under extreme temperatures. With electric smokers, you can set the heat range as low as you want to dehydrate food and maintain its quality without overcooking it.
  • Safe to use- Since it doesn’t emit any gases during combustion, using an electric smoker is safer compared to propane smokers.
  • Easy temperature control- Temperature can be adjusted by turning the dials to the recommended unit. You can set it to an automatic high, medium, or low-temperature range as per the cooking instructions in your recipe.

Cons

  • Complicated and expensive repairs- An electric smoker unit is made using high modern technology. It may be hard to get a person who is well conversant with the designs and even harder to get the required spare parts for the repairs.
  • A smoke ring is hard to form- Combustion of gases leads to the formation of a smoke ring which gives the food rich woody flavors. This is not easily achievable when using an electric smoker as no gases are getting burnt to form the ring.
  • Low heat range- It is not suitable to prepare foods that require high temperatures because the amount of heat produced is low.
  • It requires electricity to function- As the name suggests, electric smokers must be connected to electricity or a generator to function. This makes them a poor equipment choice for camping, tailgating, or any outdoor meal-making event that requires the use of a smoker. Most camping sites are likely to have no electric power connection.
  • Inconvenient for areas with constant power outages- If the power supply in your area is unreliable and you have no backup power sources like a generator, this is a piece of inconvenient equipment to possess.

Here is a list of ideal electric smokers to buy.

Propane Smokers at a Close Range

Propane smokers rely on gas tanks for their functionality. It gives you high control over the temperature as you can turn it up or down to achieve the heat range you need. They adjust to temperature changes at a fast rate.

A burner is attached to the smoker’s bottom part, while the top supports a shelf where wood chips are placed for smoke production.

Sometimes a gas smoker can be confused with a charcoal smoker. The two are made using a design that replicates each other.

Barbecue restaurants prefer using gas smokers over the other types because they are considered economical and effective in terms of temperature control.

Pros

  • It can be used outdoors- Propane smokers can be transported to any place without considering whether there is a power supply or not.
  • Affordable repairs- Unlike electric smokers, propane smokers are made using equipment that is not complicated. Replacements of broken parts and repair costs are affordable.
  • Pocket-friendly- You can get a functional and good-quality propane smoker at a fairer price compared to electric smokers.
  • Produces commendable flavors- Propane smoker fans claim that the flavors produced by propane smokers are relatable to that of a traditional charcoal smoker. This is a major improvement compared to the flavors acquired from electric smokers.

Cons

  • Temperature can get out of control- This is common in budget models and some low-quality brands. You might end up spending a lot of time monitoring the temperature to prevent the formation of extreme heat ranges.
  • Poor insulation- Weather changes such as wind or cold weather can tamper with the temperature and the time spent cooking.
  • Low technology- Some advantages such as Bluetooth connection are not present in gas smokers, pushing you to monitor their progress manually.

Here is a compilation of top-notch propane smokers.

Comparison of Propane and Electric Smokers Based on Other Factors

If you are still unsure of what to choose, here are more pointers to put into consideration:

Food Flavors

This factor of comparison may not be the same for everyone. However, grill masters such as Goldwyn do not shy away from displaying their opinion about electric smokers and how they offer better flavors compared to propane smokers.

On this one, you have to sample food prepared using both types of smokers to know which one you prefer.

Usage

Compared to propane smokers, electric smokers are easier to control and operate. They are more suitable if you don’t wish to spend too much time babysitting the food in the smoker.

Cost

Gas smokers are relatively budget-friendly compared to electric smokers. The extra dollar spent on the latter compensates for the high technology used in their manufacturing.

Quality

The quality of either of these smokers depends on their cost and brand.

Char-Broil and Masterbuilt electric smokers are listed high among the most reliable smoker brands.

On the other hand, Smoke Hollow and Camp Chef are the brands to check out when buying top-quality gas smokers.

Conclusion

With the information provided above, you are now equipped to make better decisions on which one you prefer between propane and electric smokers. Always pay attention to the features, pros, cons, and quality of any equipment before purchasing.

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