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This gas vs. electric smoker article will take a closer look at the two main types of smokers, including their pros and cons. Whether you’re new to smoking or a seasoned professional, you’ll find every information you need regarding the difference between them.
One of the most excellent ways to add flavor to your meat and veggies is through smoking. And your choice of smoker can help you achieve that. However, if you don’t like the idea of fiddling through charcoals (we compared gas against charcoal grills also and even electric vs charcoal grills), you can opt for either a gas or electric smoker.
Generally, both smokers are easy to use, and you can find a decent unit that will not hurt your budget. But which type is the most suitable for you? Understanding how each type works can help with your decision. So keep on reading to find out more.
Table of Contents
An Overview Of Gas Smokers
As its name implies, gas smokers use natural gas or propane (review of propane vs electric smoker was done by our side) in fueling their fire. You can find a place above its flames for your pellets or wood chips (pellet vs gas grill was also our point of interest).
In comparison to gas grills, controlling a gas smoker’s temperature is a bit different. You only need to adjust its knob if you want to turn up or turn down to get your desired heat temperature. Hence, you’ll have more control over the heat.
One of the main advantages of gas smokers is its portability, which makes the outdoor equipment pretty versatile. Nonetheless, you have to be very cautious when using your gas smoker since the temperature of these smokers fluctuates relatively quickly.
In terms of construction, this type of smoker is built with a gas burner at its bottom part. It comes with a shelf on top where you can put food chips for enhancing the taste and aroma of your food.
Gas smokers present a ton of benefits. You can often find one in use in commercial bbq restaurants because they deliver similar results to their charcoal counterpart.
Gas Smokers Advantages
- It’s a versatile option, meaning you can place it anywhere in your home since it doesn’t a power source.
- Unlike electric smokers, you can use the gas type even when the power is down. You can even take some models on your outdoor adventures.
- These smokers have a simple design that makes hassle-free repair possible.
- Gas smokers deliver almost the same results to what you can get from traditional charcoal smokers.
- They are available in a wide range of price points so you can definitely find a unit that meets your budget.
Gas Smokers Disadvantages
- Some units may need you to check its temp changes constantly since these smokers tend to acquire high temperatures fast.
- The insulation of gas smokers is usually not that good. So if you’ll smoking on a cold or windy day, both your smoking and cooking time may likely be affected.
- These outdoor cooking units are simple to operate, unlike most electric smokers. This means that in most cases, you won’t get advanced features you can find on electric models like Bluetooth connectivity.
An Overview Of Electric Smokers
Electric smokers run on electricity. It’s what powers them to smoke and cook your food, as well as keeps the entire heating process constant and with higher intensity. They have a vent, which is vital in controlling the amount of heat. Nonetheless, the unit’s heating elements manage most of the heat regulation.
This type of smoker is easier to use than gas smokers. The reason for this is because of its continuous flow of radiant temperature that cooks your meats perfectly. Likewise, it makes everything more flavorful.
Furthermore, electric smokers produce heat with the help of wood pellets, which you’ll feed to the unit at the start and regular intervals, if necessary. Meanwhile, the heat generates the smoke that provides your food with that smoky goodness and makes your food juicy and tastier.
Basically, the cooking principle of an electric smoker is the same as your over, and that is to cook low and slow. Thereby, it’s critical to give its elements some time to heat before you begin cooking.
Electric Smokers Advantages
- It allows you to easily control temperatures. This type of smoker has a dial that you can adjust with ease. Some cheaper units typically come with basic temperature control adjustments, including low, medium, and high.
- An electric smoke is pretty convenient and allows you the option to set its temperature limits. This means that you can leave it to cook your food while you do other chores.
- It’s safer than gas smokers since you don’t have to worry about fuels or gases.
- These units are the more eco-friendly options. In fact, some local governments either regulate or discourage using gas and charcoal smokers.
- You can easily convert your electric smoker into a cold smoker. This is great for smoking fish and other delicate foods. Also, if you want to dehydrate some foods, you can adjust it low enough with little to no effort.
Electric Smokers Disadvantages
- Usually, electric smokers offer a low heating range. So don’t expect your unit to deliver the same amount of heat just like you’d get from gas smokers.
- It requires a power outlet to function. This means that it has restrictions in terms of versatility, so they’re not suitable for camping or tailgating.
- Cooking with your electric smoker my not produce a smoking ring. Although you’ll be able to add wood chips to give your food more flavors, it won’t produce enough heat to burn the wood.
- Since these smokers are high tech in nature, their repair and maintenance are a little more complex and costly than their gas counterparts.
Gas Vs. Electric Smoker: A General Comparison Of Essential Features
In terms of features, several factors will play a major role in your final decisions. Below we’ll take a look at these vital features to see how each type stack up to the other to help you choose the right smoker.
Gas smokers deliver a smoky flavor that’s at par with what you can get from traditional charcoal smokers. On the other hand, smoked food from electric smokers will largely depend on your cooking skills. Still, your meat will taste great.
Food Quality and Consistency
The key to a perfectly smoked food is maintaining a steady temperature as you cook. Hence, electric smokers are ideal if you’re new to smoking. It offers the convenience of almost doing nothing once you’ve set your unit up. However, once you’ve mastered a gas smoker, the results you’ll get are much better in comparison to the electric model.
An electric smoker usually doesn’t come with a lot of ventilation slots. This means that your food will retain much more moisture, resulting in tenderer meat. Nevertheless, you won’t get a nice bark of brisket or crispy chicken skin.
A gas smoker, on the other hand, works well in drying out your smoked food, which gives it a crispier flavor that you won’t achieve in an electric unit. And although you need to pay careful attention to ensure safe temperature, it’ll be worth it once you took a bite of your meal.
Convenience and Ease Of Use
It’s a bit tricky to learn how to use a gas smoker. There is a learning curve before you can become an expert at it. Aside from regulating its temperature, you need to know how to adjust its dampers and ventilation to the appropriate level. But with patience, you’ll get better at it.
If you want to take the easy route and don’t want to go through all these troubles, then an electric smoker is your best bet. The smoker is plug-and-play, so once it’s plugged in, just turn it on, tap a few buttons, and it’s ready to smoke its heart out.
Some more advanced models even come with a built-in digital thermometer that allows you to measure temperature and thermostat for controlling heat. Aside from these, some also include a handy remote control so that you can control your smoking even from a distance.
But the biggest advantage of a propane unit is that it can produce fire and smoke a lot quicker.
All gas smokers can produce enough heat to cook and grill any type of meat at about 400F and with tons of delicious smoke. Additionally, you can grill and smolder at the same time with an offset gas smoker.
On the contrary, you only get one function out of an electric smoker, which is smoking food at low temps. Some models even come with low temperatures for your cheese, jerky, chips, and quasi-cold smoked nuts.
Both of these smokers allow you to cook a wide variety of foods. However, when it comes to flexibility, your best option is the propane model.
The typical temperature range of an electric smoker is between 100 to 275 F. This is just right to meet all your smoking needs, including for those recipes that require a low and slow cooking process. Nonetheless, these numbers are not enough for searing or roasting.
Meanwhile, the temperature range of a gas model is wider at 175 to 400 F. Thereby, you can do a lot more types of cooking with these units, from grilling to searing.
So if you’re looking for a more versatile cooking appliance, you may want t go for a gas smoker. Still, this will depend on what you want to get out of your smoker. If you only want to smoke your foods, an electric smoker is enough to get the job done. But if you’re looking to try various recipes, a gas unit is the better choice.
Whether a gas smoker has a horizontal or vertical built, it will provide you with a larger cooking surface than their electric cousins. The reason for this is because unlike the electric models, this type of smoker is available in a wider range.
You can find both of these smokers available in various sizes. When it comes to footprint, vertical models will leave a smaller footprint since they’re more on height.
You can even get some models that are small enough for your tabletop to accommodate or bring along on your camping trips. These models have an average footprint of about 24 by 24 inches. However, bigger units can go as high as 4 feet.
When comparing footprint, electric units take the cake here. They won’t eat up plenty of space since they don’t come with any fuel tank. If you’ll opt for an offset smoker, you need at least a space of 3 by 5 feet.
No matter what type of smoker or grill you own, it’ll break down or have certain issues at some point. Nevertheless, buying the best smoker from a reputable brand will ensure you’ll get a quality, long-lasting product.
But electric smokers are more difficult since they are constructed with more complex electronic components. Those handy features can become more of an inconvenience when they need some repair or if you encounter an error with the electronic device. Because of this, you may find gas smokers to be more dependable.
Gas smokers use highly flammable gases, meaning they always possess a risk if you’re not cautious enough when using it. On the other hand, we use electric appliances and equipment every day. Therefore, electric smokers are much safer to use. Likewise, you can store it for years unattended and will not cause any safety issues.
When considering price, electric smokers are the more affordable option. But you must always consider the quality of its materials and construction.
You can find a plethora of budget-friendly electric smokers out there. However, if you want to get your hands on a unit packed with the latest technology and advanced features, you may need to shell out more in comparison to purchasing a standard gas unit.
Both smokers do not require much upkeep. In most cases, you only need to wipe their grates and exterior once you’re done with smoking. Doing so can help corrosion or rust. They’ll also leave ash that you need to dump. Likewise, the amount of grease that’ll drip down into their drip pan is the same.
This gas vs electric smoker guide and comparison has all the essential information you need to help you decide which smoker best suits your needs.
If you’re looking for a quick way to smoke your food and achieve similar results as a charcoal unit, consider a gas smoker. It also offers a wide variety of cooking. Nonetheless, make sure you’re up for the challenge of constantly checking and adjusting its temperatures.
But if you only want a convenient way to smoke delicate foods, then an electric smoker may be the right choice for you.