Apple-Bourbon Brined and Smoked Pork Chops
Making your own smoked meat is a joy that every meat lover in America should try. Electric smokers have made this process even easier, by taking some of the effort out of the job. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, it might be time for an electric smoker.
If you want to enjoy the delicious savory bliss of smoked meat, then read the following buying guide and reviews of a few of the best electric smokers. We expect you'll be as impressed as we were by our pick for Best of the Best, the Masterbuilt 4-Rack Digital Electric Smoker.
Considerations when choosing electric smokers
At the top of most electric smokers is a control panel with a digital screen. Some of them also monitor the temperature inside the smoker as well as control the light inside the smoker. Not all electric smokers have such a control panel.
Capacity is a major consideration when choosing your electric smoker. The majority of electric smokers can handle between 500 and 700 square inches of food. That's no small amount. However, you might want to upgrade to a unit with 700 to 1,000 square inches of capacity if you anticipate smoking food for large numbers of people.
If you want an electric smoker that's relatively easy to transport, then weight will also be a serious consideration. Most are made of materials that aren't too heavy, though the larger they get, the more unwieldy they can be. The cutoff point for an electric smoker that you plan to move often vs. one that you don't should probably hover around 60 pounds.
Every electric smoker offers different temperature ranges for smoking. Some can go as low as 100 degrees, which is perfect for smaller items, like cheeses. They can also go as high as 400 or 500 degrees for things like large turkeys. Check the specs on each electric smoker to see what their temperature ranges are.
The number of racks present in your electric smoker depends mostly on the size of the smoker itself. Most moderately sized electric smokers will have three racks. Some of the larger models may have as many as six racks.
Your electric smoker uses wood chips to smoke your food. Some smokers have a side-mounted chip loader. This type of chip loader makes it easier to keep the smoke flowing than one that is mounted in the front.
Many electric smokers come with a viewing window for keeping an eye on whatever you're smoking. A window is beneficial because continuous opening and closing of your smoker can keep it from maintaining a steady temperature. You want as few temperature fluctuations as possible when smoking.
Having a water pan in your electric smoker gives you a whole new level of control over your smoking. You can load water, beer, or any other liquid into the pan for additional flavor options. You can also collect meat droppings in the water pan for the purpose of making sauces.
Most electric smokers fall in a price range between $80 and $500. Differences in price hinge mostly on interior cooking space. For $130 or less, you can expect 500 square inches of cooking space. Between $130 and $300, smokers give you up to 800 square inches of area for smoking. If you spend between $300 and $500, you can get up to 1,000 square inches of internal cooking space.
Q. Does it matter what type of wood chips I use in my electric smoker?
A. Only as it relates to your flavor preference. Some of the most popular wood chips to use are maple, cherry, plum, cedar, and hickory. Every different type of wood chip offers a different flavor, so try as many as you want to find out what you like best.
Q. Is it OK to use an electric smoker inside?
A. No. All smokers are meant for outdoor use only. Because of carbon monoxide and other dangerous gasses created by burning wood chips, you should never use your electric smoker inside. You should also make sure it is positioned away from open doors and windows for the same reason.
Electric smokers we recommend
Best of the best: Masterbuilt 4-Rack Digital Electric Smoker.
Our take: A great looking smoker with worthwhile features, that stands on its own four legs.
What we like: Legs that keep the smoker off the ground are great for your back. The RF remote control only adds to the convenience.
What we dislike: Quality of the control panel could be better. Some warping after time.
Best bang for your buck: Smokehouse Products Little Chief Front Load Smoker
Our take: The perfect starter for someone just getting into the world of smokers.
What we like: Portable and easy to use. Between 160 and 165 degrees, it smokes to perfection.
What we dislike: Doesn't have the temperature range as larger models.
Choice 3: Bradley Smoker Original Smoker
Our take: So easy to use, anyone could do it.
What we like: Very durable, with an interesting cold smoke option.
What we dislike: Some of the units have trouble with the heating elements.
Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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