Propane vs. electric smoker is a dilemma that most people have to face when looking for the best smoker but does not like fiddling charcoal. 

Smoking can give your foods with amazing flavor that you won’t be able to get from a grill. That’s why you need a specialized smoker to take care of the job. But which one should you get? 

Both propane and electric smokers come with their own set of unique features and advantages over the other. While an electric smoker offers plenty of conveniences, they are not as portable since it needs to be near an electrical outlet all the time.

Meanwhile, that’s not an issue with a propane smoker. It’s also a more versatile option since it can reach higher temperatures. Nevertheless, you need to keep an eye on it during the smoking process to ensure your food is cooked to perfection.

With that being said, let’s take a closer look at these two types of smokers to help you make a sound decision.

Propane Smoker Overview

Propane smokers are very convenient and will not make a mess as a charcoal smoker would. You can heat them up pretty quickly and can maintain the temperatures you want with ease. 

Moreover, propane smokers use pellets or wood chips, allowing you to add more flavor to your meats. Since most of these units are portable, you can bring them along during your camping trips. 

Smokers running on propane are reliable and with mechanisms that are simple to operate. On top of that, you’ll be able to achieve results as close to what you can get from a traditional charcoal smoker. 

Pros:

  • You will not be restricted to where you want to place it since you have no power outlet to worry about.
  • They’re not as complicated as the electric models. If a component breaks, you won’t have a headache with its repair.
  • You can bring on when you travel or enjoy smoked meats even when the power is out.
  • Gas smokers are more affordable.
  • In comparison to an electrical smoker, the results with a propane unit are as close to what you can achieve in a good old charcoal model.

Cons:

  • Some models may need your undivided attention to keep their temperature in check throughout since propane smokers tend to work hot.
  • In general, these units are not as well insulated. So expect your smoking time to be longer than usual if the weather outside is cold or windy.
  • They don’t have handy features like Bluetooth connectivity or apps for checking temperature just like with an electric smoker.
  • Propane smokers are not allowed on some apartment complexes.

Electric Smoker Overview

Electric smokers cook your food by utilizing heat it generates with the help of electricity. These units also come with vents to help you control their temperature. 

However, the majority of the task is done by their heating elements. Still, you need to allow your unit a bit of time for its heating element to reach the right temperature before you can start smoking. 

Basically, an electric smoker is more or less like your oven that cooks low and slow. The biggest difference is that it allows you to add wood chips to infuse with your foods with that delicious smokey taste.

Pros:

  • You can easily control and adjust its temperature with a simple turn of a dial.
  • It’s a set and forget device, which means that once you set its temperature, you can walk away while your unit cooks your meal. 
  • A safer option than a propane smoker. You don’t have to worry about flammable materials and gasses.
  • Electric smokers are normally allowed in apartments.
  • You can easily convert it into a cold smoker. Likewise, you can use it to smoke fish and other delicate foods, as well as set it to low enough temperature to dehydrate food.

Cons:

  • Does not produce high heats similar to its gas counterpart.
  • You always need to have a power outlet nearby. 
  • It’s not the ideal smoker if you want to get a smoke ring. 
  • Since these units are high more high tech, their repairs are a little more complex and costly.

Propane Vs. Electric Smoker: Comparison Of Essential Features

Cost

LP gas smokers are usually cheaper than electric smokers. Although the cheapest models will not put a dent on your budget, you have to ensure that you’re not getting a subpar quality.

Nonetheless, you can also find a wide array of very affordable electric smokers out there. But if you’re looking for cool and advanced features like Bluetooth connection, then you expect to pay more than what you’ll pay for a good entry-level gas unit.

It’s a bit hard to estimate which of the two is cheaper to operate as the price of electricity and gas varies from one place to the next. But generally, electric smokers are cheaper to run than propane.

Temperature Range

This is a feature that truly differentiates these two types of smokers. And for some people, this is the deciding factor right then and there.

Both the electric and propane smokers can reach the optimal 300 F temperature you need for smoking meats. But the biggest difference here is that propane smoke offers a higher range of temperatures. Some models can even provide you with a temperature of up to 500 F.

The biggest benefit of a smoker that can generate high heat is that aside from smoking meats, you’ll be able to sear and grill them. Nonetheless, it will not be easy to cold smoke on these units. 

So if you also like to sear and grill your foods, then a propane smoker may be the ideal one for you. But if you think that a unit with basic temperature settings is enough, then an electric model is the better option for you.

Aside from providing you with the right smoking temperature for your meats, a digital electric smoker can also achieve low heat. So this is perfect if you’re looking to do some cold smoking.

Ease Of Use

Electric smokers are known for their convenience and ease of use. Hence, they are the best smoker for beginners. They’re basically plug-and-play, which means once you set its temperature, you’re free to do anything while waiting for your meal to cook. 

On the other hand, propane smokers will require a little more effort on your part. It’s learning curve is not as steep as a charcoal smoker. Still, you need to monitor and control its temperature to ensure it doesn’t fluctuate. 

But that doesn’t mean that you have to have a degree in smoking to operate this smoker. Once you have the appropriate temperature down, then it’s easy from there. You simply have to fiddle with its damps and vents, as well as have some smoking knowledge to achieve the best possible results. 

Taste And Flavor

In terms of the smokey taste and flavor of your foods, there’s really not that much difference between these smokers. Nothing beats the authentic taste smoky flavor that a charcoal smoker produces. 

Having said that, both the propane and electric smoker typically comes with a wood chip tray. This component is where you can add your wood chips once you’ve soaked them. And this is what will play a key role in the flavor of your meats. 

It’s not as easy to achieve that smokey goodness from propane and electric smokers since wood is not a part of their heat source. Nevertheless, the inclusion of a wood tray gave these units a workaround on some of their significant drawbacks. 

But it’s worth noting that most smokers find that propane smokers produce flavors that closely resembles that of a charcoal model. So the bottom line here is that it all boils down to the type of wood chips you’ll use and how you’ll handle them.

Reliability

Reliability is where a propane smoker outshines an electric one. Smokers that run on propane comes with a burner attached to a regulator. The mechanical setup is pretty simple and there’s not much that will get damaged. However, the biggest issue you have to face here is the rusting of the floors.

In contrast, all decent electric smokers have an electric control panel as its heart and soul. Preserving the good working condition of an electronic system amidst a hot, greasy, and moist conditions is not a recipe for success. 

So if your unit’s control panel or any of its connections fail, then you’ll be faced with costly repairs. Or you may even have to replace the unit itself altogether.

So Which One Is Better?

In this propane vs. electric smoker battle, the winner will still depend on your needs. Both allow you to control its temperature to your preference. Also, you can confidently enjoy your smoked meats since these smokers offer a healthy way of smoking foods.

If you want a quick way of achieving a smoky flavor as close to what you can get from charcoal as possible, opt for a propane smoker. However, you have to keep in mind that you have to babysit your unit and tweak its temperature often. 

But if you want something handy, very easy to use and you can place indoors, then an electric smoker is a perfect choice.