Electric vs Charcoal Smoker — Detailed Comparison
Are you someone who likes eating smoked food more often but is confused in selecting the best smoker? After years of grilling experience and months of research on the internet, I got to know which one is better. This article can help you make a decision as a detailed comparison has been drawn between the electrical vs charcoal smoker. All the differences are mentioned below so people like us can get out of the catch-22 situation. Stick around to know who wins the best smoker battle.
Electric vs Charcoal Smoker
What Is An Electric Smoker?
An electric smoker uses the heat to cook the food and allows the users to control the temperature. It has a digital panel that has all the settings and comes with a firebox as well.
This box has a tray for placing charcoal or wood chips to give that intense smoke flavor to the food. It has to be maintained as issues might occur because of the power supply.
What Is A Charcoal Smoker?
A charcoal smoker uses the smoke to cook the food and is best to be kept outdoors. It gives that traditional smoke flavor to the food which is to die for.
This smoker cannot be used by a beginner as it needs both patience and practice. It is an affordable option and is available in big sizes as well. Charcoal smokers are very reliable and do not need much maintenance.
Electric vs Charcoal Smoker
The decision can be very tough if you are choosing between an electric smoker and a charcoal smoker. If you like smokers that are easy and simple to use then you might opt for electric smokers. Whereas, if you like that actual smokehouse flavor and can manage the temperature yourself, you should definitely get your hands on the charcoal smoker.
It would be best to consider some factors before deciding as smokers are not bought every month. The maintenance and the reliability of these smokers can also have an effect on your decision. Let us compare the electric vs charcoal smoker below and unwind all the differences. The end results of both smokers are different because they have different cooking capacities.
Quality Of Food
If you are someone new to cooking, then you should buy an electric smoker. Temperature is essential when it comes to smoking and electric smoker keeps the temperature to itself. It offers consistency and makes sure the meat or chicken is cooked properly from the inside. Electric smokers give subtle flavors and you can have a hard time getting that crispy top layer.
If you have been cooking for a long time and have the hang of temperature, you can go for the charcoal smoker. It gives that intense charcoal flavor with the crispy top layer which is to die for. The quality of the food is at the top when you use the charcoal smoker. Unlike electric smokers, it does not retain moisture and has an excellent ventilation system.
The charcoal-burning produces more smoke, but the more the smoke, the more is the flavor. The smoke adds to the taste and texture of the food. If you are a foodie, you will definitely be able to differentiate between the food cooked in an electric smoker and a charcoal smoker. The taste, the smell, the texture, everything is different from one another.
Temperature Range And Control
When it comes to its temperature control and range, you do not have any of these in the charcoal smoker. Sometimes, it can get frustrating as you have to control the temperature and set the flame low to get the food cooked in a smoker’s charcoal. When using a charcoal smoker, the only solution is to set the temperature below initially to 125 degrees F and work with practice and patience.
If the fire is put up nicely you might end up with high temperatures of 350 degrees F. Now you have to manage the temperature and make sure the food does not gets burned and has that rich flavor. However, if you have an electric smoker, you do not have to worry about the temperature range and control. Electric smokers come with a specific temperature range from 100 to 275 degrees F.
You can set the temperature according to the food you are making in the smoker. You can also adjust the temperature in between while the food is being cooked. There are very less chances that your food might get burned by an electric smoker if you know how to operate it. It is easier to control and is considered ideal for beginners.
When it comes to convenience, we can see that both smokers are easy to use and do not need proper arrangements. You can fire up the charcoal smoker anywhere you want. Similarly, for using an electric smoker, you just need a plug, and that’s all. But when we look into some technicalities, we will get to know that using either of them isn’t easy.
When firing up the charcoal smoker, you have to control the temperature, adjust air vents and rely on the heat from the charcoal burning only. It is a complicated process and one needs to have practice. Whereas electric smokers are more convenient to use when compared.
But what if you plan to cook at night and the power source fails you? A power cut is the only inconvenience that can be caused by electric smokers as they rely on electricity for cooking. It has all the digital elements that can manage the ventilation, temperature control, and time itself.
If you are someone who likes taking the smoker on a weekend into the woods, the electric unit will fall flat as there will be no power supply. The charcoal smoker can fire up anytime, anywhere as you just need some coal and have to control the air vents. It can be your go-to option when you plan a fun day with the family away from the city.
When looking for versatility in the smoker, you should definitely opt for a charcoal smoker. You can grill, roast, and smoke your food. It keeps the food soft and gives that rich charcoal flavor. A charcoal grill is a way to go for versatility and convenience. The electric smoker is only capable of making food with the help of smoke. It limits your options and you have to eat the same kind of food every day.
Cooking Capacity And Size
If you have a big family and you prefer making food at the same time, you can buy electric and charcoal smokers in different sizes. Both of them are available in the market and have many options. You can buy any of them according to your cooking capacity and storage in your home. An electric smoker allows you to cook 4 to 5 chickens at the same time while the vertical charcoal model has great space for cooking more food.
Weather conditions don’t affect electric smokers because they only need an electric supply to work. They do not rely on vents and you do not have to fire up and control the temperature. But when it comes to charcoal smokers, the weather conditions can have harsh effects on them. But if you have a high-quality charcoal smoker, it will manage to cook the food in whatever might be the conditions.
However, a cheap charcoal smoker may have a hard time retaining the heat and fire. It cannot control the temperature as the flame is not stable because of the air or rain. You have to block the wind so that the smoker works fine. Rainwater can destroy all the setup and turn the fire off, leaving the food uncooked.
In terms of reliability, the charcoal smoker works the best and lasts for many years. You have to control everything manually and it does rely on any other external supply such as electric smokers. Although it gets your hands dirty because of the smoke production but is a lot more durable. In comparison, the electric smoker can be maintained easily as it produces very less smoke but the power issues can break it down more often. You have to get it repaired once in six months or a year.
Electric Smoker vs Wood Smoker
After drawing a comparison between electric smokers and charcoal smokers, now we will unwind the difference between wood vs electric smokers. There are three main factors that you should see before buying any of these smokers. Let’s discuss wood and electric smokers below and what factors should we consider before buying.
A wood smoker is designed to cook food by placing the wood in the fuel compartment of the smoker. When it has reached the desired temperature, you can place the food on the cooking grate above. These smokers cook the food with the help of wood only and are very much similar to charcoal smokers. You can add more wood into the firebox to increase the temperature.
Electric smokers cook the food with the help of heat and use an electrical supply. The element heats the smoker and you control the temperature and the cooking time. It comes with a digital interface that gives you full control of the smoker. A compartment is also present at the side, so you can add a few chunks of wood to get that rich flavor.
Factors To Consider Before Buying
The first thing when we compare both of these smokers is the ease of use. As mentioned above, the electric smoker is easy to use as it comes with a digital interface that can help you control all the settings including the temperature.
The wood smoker requires a lot of effort to achieve the right temperature and the food should have that intense flavor without getting burned. It is difficult for a person who is inexperienced and has never used a smoker before.
Flavor And Smoke
The wood smoker when compared to an electric smoker provides better flavor as the wood releases some compounds that add up to the taste. Whether making beef, chicken, or fish, you will have a rich flavor that is not present when cooked in an electric smoker. Although you can add a few wood chunks into the firebox, it does not give the same exact flavor as cooked in a wood smoker.
Price And Maintenance
The price of an electric smoker is far more than that of a wood smoker. You can get a small wood smoker for under $100 whereas an electric smoker starts with a $150 price tag. This is expensive for an inexperienced person investing in smokers for the first time. Moreover, you have to get the electric smokers repaired because they might have power issues with time. Hence wood smokers need no repair but produce a lot of smoke and are difficult to clean.
Using Charcoal in Electric Smoker
If you are someone who prefers using an electric smoker but misses that old taste of the charcoal, you can use it in an electric smoker as well. Smoking food is the oldest craft and now electric smokers have made the process even easier.
It does the job perfectly and combines the old with the new. You can add charcoal into the firebox that is present at the side of the smoker. This gives the intense flavor of the charcoal in the food and gets the job done.
The main purpose of using charcoal in electric smokers is to add flavor without using the charcoal smoker as it is difficult to set up and maintained. A tray is present that can hold the wood chips as well if you are out of charcoal.
Electric smokers have reliable temperature control and a digital interface, and adding charcoal in the tray can make a bold impact on the consumers. They get the same flavor without constantly checking the temperature.
Are Electric Smokers Healthy?
With the increasing popularity of electric smokers, there arises a question that is electric smoker healthy? And the answer to this question is yes. Electric smokers are a healthy option if used in moderation.
Smoking the meat every time you eat does not retain the nutritional value of the proteins, so an electric smoker is a good alternative. You can get that rich taste of smoking by adding some wood chips into the tray of the firebox.
The traditional smoking and grilling method can be harmful as the excessive use of charcoal can add up a layer of carcinogens on the food particles. Electric smoker cooks the food, retains the moisture, and gives the traditional flavor of smoking as well. This is healthy to use and has a lower risk of harming your health.
You can cook a variety of food items in electric smokers by managing the temperature. You can have meat, fish, chicken, chops, sausages, and turkey along with vegetables. A water/drip pan is present at the bottom of the smoker, which allows the users to add herbs and spices.
The juice from the meat above drips into the pan and you can have that as a gravy with your food. Overall, the electric smoker is healthy to use when compared with other smoking methods.
Safe Design Of The Electric Smoker
When we look at the design of the electric smoker, it is all sealed and does not let any of the smoke out. This is also very beneficial as you do not have to inhale the smoke irritants especially when placed in the house. It is certified for indoor use and has an advanced insulation system that does not allow the heat to escape, hence keeping the outer surface cool. This is best if you have children at home who are curious to touch everything.
How To Reduces Risks Associated With Electric Smoker?
Just like every other method, the excessive use of electric smokers can also be harmful to health. Even if using this smoker in moderation, you should keep a track of the food that you are eating. Let us discuss a few things that you should take care of while using the electric smoker.
Whenever we smoke our food, we prepare it by rubbing it with excessive salt. As a result, you have a high sodium intake which can lead to high blood pressure. Make sure you reduce the amount of salt and increase the spices and herbs that can add to the flavor. Seasonings with lower salt contents are also available in the market which can be a good alternative.
Acids And Alcohols
When you prepare your meal to be cooked in an electric smoker, try not to marinate it in acids and alcohol. This can release PAH and HCA when the protein is cooked at high temperatures. Cancerous chemicals are produced in the smoker which is extremely dangerous for health. Stop using acids and alcohols and switch to lemons and vinegar for marination purposes.
When cooking the food in an electric smoker, make sure you cook it at low temperatures. Most of the carcinogenic chemicals in the proteins remain inactive at low temperatures which reduces the risk. Cut the meat with small holes and cook at low heat. Do not leave it in the smoker when it is cooked. Overcooking food can also be harmful to your health.
Are Electric Smokers As Good As Charcoal Smoker?
After comparing the electric and charcoal smokers in detail above, we have come to the conclusion that both of them have their advantages and disadvantages. It depends upon your cooking style and the flavor of the food you like. As a beginner, the electric smoker might be expensive but is easy to use and has digital controls that can help you cook the food.
Whereas, charcoal smokers are mostly used by experienced people who like the traditional smoking taste and know-how to manage the temperature. It does not require maintenance as well. So electric smokers are as good as charcoal smokers; it all depends on how you prefer eating your food. Both of them have a set of advantages and disadvantages.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both electric and charcoal smokers have a set of pros and cons. If you are a foodie who likes that traditional smoking flavor, you can buy a charcoal smoker. Whereas, if you like cooking cleanly without the mess and smoke, you can opt for an electric smoker.
It offers more control and precision to the users and saves a lot of preparation time. In my opinion, the best one among both the smokers is the electric smoker. It is a blend of new and old and gives an intense flavor without producing any smoke.